Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017

Last week, The Girl of Ink & Stars was awarded the Younger Fiction Prize, and was announced as the overall winner for Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017.

I’ve sat down to write this post every day since Thursday’s awards ceremony. And every day I’ve felt overcome, though it’s all I’ve talked about in person and online. Even now, at a distance of five days, it still makes me well up. It feels too impossibly wonderful.

The ceremony itself was a beautiful evening. I’d felt very strange in the day preceding it. I had resigned myself to not winning, and while I was fine with that, especially when the shortlist was so strong, I was also not relishing it. Clutching a bag full of books, I wandered around asking other authors to sign them.

So when James Daunt announced my book as the winner of the Younger Fiction category, it did not sink in until I was actually on stage and realised I hadn’t prepared a speech. So I burst into tears and rambled instead. Luckily for you, my fiancé recorded it (listen out for the sobs, he is also crying). He equally was not expecting it, so had positioned himself behind a tall man.

Lizzy Stewart won the Illustrated Book category with There’s A Tiger In My Garden, and the searing, brilliant Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence took home the prize for Young Adult. There was a ten minute break in which I managed to haul myself to Patrice to say congratulations, before retreating back to a corner with Tom to gawp wordlessly at each other. Needless to say, we were both too far gone when it was announced The Girl of Ink & Stars had also won the overall prize, so thankfully there is no recording of that particular embarrassment. After the initial shock wore off, there were photo calls and interviews, and the joyous surprise of my parents rushing up to London to celebrate.

The excitement was far from over – as we left Waterstones Piccadilly, the windows had been changed to look like this:

And this was my reaction (pictured with the lovely Anna James, who led me out blindfolded to maximise the surprise):

…which pretty much sums up my feelings about the whole situation. I am so grateful to everyone responsible, from my friends and family, to Chicken House, to the booksellers, to Florentyna Martin (the children’s buyer), and everyone in between.

Florentyna Martin and me.

Author and friend MG Leonard and me.

Tom and me with trophies!

What an utterly unexpected, utterly wonderful thing to have happened. Practically, it means we can make our roof structurally sound after Storm Doris made it dangerous, and we can be a bit more ambitious about our honeymoon. It also means GOI&S is Book of the Month again, and Waterstones booksellers are already doing an amazing job of windows and sales.

Waterstones have supported me in so many ways, as a reader as well as a writer, and they have given me an incredible gift in choosing me as their winner. Life-changing, really, and certainly perspective-changing. Since the win, I have felt so happy, and have written more than I have in weeks. In the immortal words of Nadiya – I’m not going to say I can’t anymore. Because I can, and I will.

Branford Boase Award Longlist

The Girl of Ink & Stars has been long listed for the Branford Boase Award! This is an especially special award, because it’s not only me acknowledged, but my editor too. Rachel Leyshon nurtured GOI&S through five (of a total of ten) enormous re-drafts, putting up with my cycle of rejecting her suggestions, before trying them and sheepishly emailing to say ‘That works much better actually’. It’s because of her it’s in the first person, and her and Barry Cunningham that Lupe has such a central role – plus Miss La was bulked out their insistence! In short, my book would not and could not have been what it is without her, and it’s lovely to be up for an award that values that.

Chicken House has three books up for the prize: James Nicol (ed Kesia Lupo) for his beautiful tale, The Apprentice Witch, MG Leonard (ed Rachel L and Barry C), for her bug-tastic success Beetle Boy, and me (ed Rachel L)! Plus my wonderful agent Hellie has three authors in the running: Amber Lee Dodd for We Are Giants, Nat Luurtsema for Girl Out of Water, and me. Full list and more details here.

Sheffield Children’s Book Award 2017

Overjoyed The Girl of Ink & Stars has been shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award, in the ‘Longer novels & YA’ category!


Sheffield is one of my favourite cities and I’m so pleased to be considered in such amazing company. Sarah Alexander is my agency-sister at Janklow & Nesbit UK, so I’m especially proud to be alongside her! More info when I have it…

Waterstones Children’s Prize Shortlist

The Girl of Ink & Stars has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize!

The other shortlisted titles in the Younger Fiction category are Beetle Boy by fellow Chicken House author (and friend) MG Leonard, Cogheart by Peter Bunzl, Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, and Captain Pug by Laura James. I’ve read and adored all but the last, which I intend to read ASAP – it’s an honour to be considered alongside them!

I love what the Waterstones announcement said about books offering optimism:

The worlds of fantasy too offer their conflicts, as Kiran Millwood-Hargrave – also seeing print for the first time – offers us the rich allegories of a young girl fighting for truth against oppression in The Girl of Ink and Stars. So many books in our chosen eighteen mirror much of what we see beyond our doors. For our Children’s Buyer Florentyna Martin, “whilst reading has always encouraged an element of escapism, this year’s shortlists provide a guiding light of optimism in the face of uncertain times… we’re delighted to celebrate these inspiring books.”

Full announcement here.

Waterstones have been incredibly supportive, as they are renowned for being towards debut authors. It’s lovely to have this public affirmation of their belief in the book. Between this and the Jhalak Prize shortlist yesterday, I may just burst. This is surely the best part of being considered by a prize: when you have been recognised by the judges, and all the possibility is ahead.

Jhalak Prize Shortlist

Here’s some news I never thought I’d be able to write about, because I imagined the chances of it happening were too small to consider – The Girl of Ink & Stars has made it onto the Jhalak Prize shortlist, from a long-list of eleven incredible books. It is the only children’s book on the list, and I feel so grateful and proud to be flying the kids’ lit flag amongst such company. Here are the books in the running:

I’ve read all but David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History, and Jacob Ross’ The Bone Readers, which I intend to buy, borrow or steal as soon as possible. The shortlist has been covered by The Bookseller and The Guardian so far, and from these articles I’ve gleaned some of the lovely things the judges have said…just never read the comments.

For a prize with such hopeful and positive aims, it’s been a depressingly contentious process so far – I personally found Khorsandi’s decision to withdraw because her book is not about ‘ethnic issues’ – nor is mine – bewildering (great blog about it here) – and there have been gleeful accounts of how low the submission numbers were (51 the week before deadline, though this then more than tripled). The latter is surely an inditement of how much we need such a prize, that so few books fall into the criteria.

All prizes have selection criteria: in a way this one is less restrictive as it accepts all genres, from non-fiction to science writing, kids’ lit to short stories. In my view, the Jhalak Prize is surely a wholly wonderful thing: it aims to raise up the voices of writers of colour, whatever they choose to write about it. I am incredibly proud to be part of it.

Happy birthday take two


Today you come out across the pond. I am sorry I’m not there to take selfies with you in bookshops, or hover near displays to see if you’re on tables, or go into libraries and request you in funny voices as if the librarian knows what I sound like.


I’m relying on my friends and family to do these things for me, and the fact you are already down to two copies on Amazon.com (other retailers available*) gives me assurance that they have been preordering as frantically as my UK-based family did.

Happy birthday, dear thing. I hope to see you in the wild soon, and that you have a wonderful start to your adventures Stateside.

Kiran x

BookTrust’s #TimetoRead campaign

Overjoyed to announce that THE GIRL OF INK & STARS has been selected as part of the BookTrust’s Time To Read campaign, and so will be promoted in every primary school in the UK. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of children’s reading for pleasure, and of course literacy. It’s easy to sometimes get caught up in the myth of ‘being a writer’ – but really, that’s what is important.

More info on the campaign can be found here.


Some changes…

One thing I’ve loved most about my writing journey so far is the support you get, not just from your publisher and agent, but from fellow authors, reviewers, and bloggers. I just joined the Sweet Sixteens – a community of authors with debut novels coming out in 2016 – and have been overwhelmed by the kindness and friendship already shown to me.

I am especially amazed by the hard work and generosity of bloggers and reviewers such as YAYeahYeah, Mr Ripley, and Fiona Noble. And I also realised I’m a little jealous of them.

Since finishing my degree a year ago, I’ve all-but-stopped writing critically, and I miss it like hell. I’ve continued to read voraciously, but have gotten so caught up in self promotion I do little other than rate the titles I read on Goodreads. As a debut author, I know how important it is to have people reading, reviewing, rating and talking about your book. I want to support that.

So, from now on I’m going to be reviewing some of the titles I read on this blog as well as continuing to talk about life as a person-who-writes. These reviews will have particular emphasis on middle grade and YA (though of course if a new Jeanette Winterson/ Margaret Atwood/Helen Oyeyemi comes out I will be straight on that). I am also hoping to set up a mini-interview series with a focus on 2016 debut authors (middle grade, YA and beyond). If it picks up speed, I may move onto a dedicated site but for now I’m testing it out!

Will keep you posted, but today I will be uploading my first review (or two!) Please do get in touch on twitter or via my Facebook page if you would be interested in having your book reviewed/have your debut coming out in 2016.



Guys, big news. Two years after finishing my first draft and a year after getting a book deal, I just sent the copy-edited The Girl of Ink and Stars (formerly The Cartographer’s Daughter and still titled thus in the US) to my publishing manager. Which means next time I see it, it will be laid out in all its finery, in ACTUAL BOOK LAYOUT.

Ok, so maybe it’s not THE big news i.e. publication, but as the writer it’s possibly the biggest step in this process so far. It’s in essence my final draft. More for my geeky benefit than yours, let me take you through the number of drafts my little story has been through, with word counts and all for extra keenness.

Draft 1: 82,934 words – completed September 2013
Draft 2: 107,379 words – completed December 2013
Draft 3: 68,223 words – completed March 2014 (ms sent to agents and accepted)
Draft 4: 70,530 words – completed May 2014 (ms sent to publishers and accepted)
Draft 5: 55,225 words – completed March 2015
Draft 6: 48,109 words – completed July 2015
Draft 7: 48,590 words – completed September 2015
Draft 8: 47,185 words – completed October 2015
Draft 9: 46,881 words – completed November 2015 (copy-edited version)

As you can see, my ms has never been shorter but it is definitely in the best shape it can be. Being my first ever attempt at writing fiction, let alone a novel, I basically threw everything I had at it – and what I had was an obsession with One Hundred Years of SolitudeThe Northern LightsLighthousekeeping and Skellig. So not the most cohesive of inspirations. I’m lucky to have found an agent, then a publisher, then an editor, then a copy-editor that understood what I was getting at.

In a future blog post, I’ll compare my beginnings because they shifted a lot, as did the number of myths/stories told within the text. I also didn’t start knowing that it would be a book primarily for children, though it quickly became clear that this was what I was subconsciously most interested in. It was a real challenge, as my natural ‘voice’ in poetry – and life – is quite adult in theme and language, but I think restriction can often be where you find the most freedom when writing.

ANYWAY, the point of this blog post is to say: ‘I’ve done it.’ And that it didn’t come out perfect first, second, or even eighth time. But I really think it’s as close to the best it can be now, so it’s time to let it go.