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.