Well well well. Amber is doing very well indeed over the pond: she’s just got a second starred review in a BIG journal in the US called Kirkus. That’s in addition to the starred review earlier this month in Booklist, and the very lovely five star review on Amazon given by someone who really knows his/her stuff and lives in Colorado. A huge thank you to all of the reviewers – including the others on Amazon who all gave five stars too. Dream on, Amber goes on sale in the US in October. Dara Palmer is taking her first steps too and has had an excellent first review in INIS, Kid’s Lit Ireland, although I can’t find an online version (so I posted a copy in the press and reviews section of this here website).
Dara Palmer has also been reviewed by readers at Love Reading 4 Kids and I’m happy to say, they all said very positive things about it. Dara will be published TWO WEEKS TODAY in the UK so that’s exciting, and in July 2016 in the US. Meanwhile, I think I can safely announce that thanks to my brilliant agent, I’ve signed a two-book contract with Chicken House (YAY) and I’m working on one of those stories now. It has, thus far, involved going to the seaside, riding a bike around and listening to seagulls, all of which has been a welcome and much-needed method of research. It has also involved Googling weird and questionably sane things like ‘facts about cow spit’, ‘does Pier Road have street lights?’ and ‘can people be allergic to ferret fur?’ What did authors do before Google? Honestly, I’d be lost without it.
I’ve also started doing some research for the other book but I’ve put that on the back burner for now because there are only so many hours in the day. I have lots of events coming up: the Edinburgh Festival on 23 August is first and then I’m touring and visiting schools, libraries and popping my head up at other festivals in September, October and November, including UKMGx in my old uni haunt, Nottingham, Stream in London and a conference in Glasgow. EXCITING TIMES AHEAD! Thanks to Books for Keeps for doing this cool cover for their online magazine and using it for their twitter picture in June. I’ll be in touch again when it comes out on 6th August. In two weeks! Did I mention that there are only two more weeks to go? I think I might have. In case I didn’t, that’s TWO WEEKS. OK. I think you might have got that by now.
The best best best news this week is that Amber has been given a starred review in Booklist, a journal by the American Library Association that is a) one of the top three book journals in the US (apparently) and b) read by school and public librarians, and book groups. The review comes out on 1st July and – I didn’t know this because I’m not American but (apparently) – starred reviews are very hard to get. Once they publish the review in Booklist, I’ll put it up here. Thank you to Julia Smith, the lovely reviewer who just GOT IT: the book, Amber, me – everything.
So that’s exciting.
The best best news this week is that I’ve been contacted by so many amazing people offering to help me write what will be my fourth book. It’s heartwarming to have their support and hear that they would have loved a book like this when they were young. Nothing inspires me more than hearing that. It makes me feel like I’m on a mission. From God (apparently). Blues Brothers style.
So that’s exciting.
The best news this week, which really is the best best best best best best news (x1000 squared – wait, how do you do that tiny weeny number 2 on a keyboard?) is news that I can’t share yet (apparently) but there’s a big clue in the paragraph before this one. I’m not going to say any more than that until it’s all finalised but it’s BIG NEWS and I’m very happy about it.
So that’s exciting.
Not one, not two but THREE exciting things to share this month. Cor. And if that’s not enough for you, Chris Riddell, my favourite illustrator and an all round excellent ambassador for books was made the new Children’s Laureate today. Which is great, great thing. Congratulations to Chris. May it be a wonderful two-year reign.
Plenty has been going on since I last posted: I wrote and edited and polished and fretted and finally, at the beginning of January, finished my next book. It’s called Dara Palmer’s Major Drama, and it’s due out on 6th August (whoop whoop).
I won’t tell you what her major drama is, but I will tell you a little bit about it. When we meet Dara at the beginning of the book, she desperately wants to be the lead of Maria in her upcoming school play, The Sound of Music. In fact she’s wants to be a Hollywood star and mega famous and she’s sure it’s just about to happen, but when she doesn’t get the part, she has to figure out why and what she can do to fulfil her dream of acting. Is it because her face is wrong? Or is there another reason?
It’s not ALL about acting: it’s also about squealy toad sisters and nuns and noodles and Cambodia and adoption and toast stealing and invisible cables between people and what to do if life is unfair. So it’s kind of useful because life is usually unfair. In fact, THIS BOOK SHOULD BE ON THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM, people, and taught to adults in businesses and on the reading list for Hollywood producers, governments ministers and presidents. Just saying. In fact, if – in a few months time – you see David Cameron or Barack Obama holding a copy of Dara Palmer when they step out of a plane on an official visit, you know the world is going to be a better place very soon.
The cover has gone through some huge changes. This is the first version:
and this is the current (but still not final) version:
How different???? What do you think?
When I have a finalised version, I’ll show you RIGHT AWAY. Promise.
I’m now writing another book about wasps, tortoises, a barking dog, an overweight vet and a very interesting girl called Lexi.
See you soon 😉
I’ve been busy writing and editing and I look up and it’s December tomorrow. How on earth did that happen?
I’ve also been busy answering questions like this one, from my son:
‘Mum, have you ever needed a bouncy pig?’
(You may be surprised to hear that the answer was no, but nevertheless, I now have a bouncy green pig mascot on my laptop keyboard. He also has some bouncy wolves – one pink and one green – and a bouncy monster thing, so if you’re ever in need of such things for your own computer, he’s your man. Oh no, now I have four small bouncy mascots on my laptop. They’re distracting me!)
Where was I?
Ah, yes, I’ve done some great workshops at Frances Holland School over the last two weeks and have my last (boo hoo) session this Thursday. The girls are so lovely (hi Y4!). I’m really enjoying the stories they’re writing and the memorable characters they’re creating. I hope to have some photos of that very soon. It’s amazing to see such inspired and inspiring readers and writers. I’m going to ask if they can give me some feedback and I’ll put it up here on my School Visits tab.
Lastly, I’d like to say hi to a couple of people: one is my new friend, Scarlett, aged 7, who lives in Ireland. We’ve been talking via twitter. She’s also got some great stories up her sleeve and is giving me good ideas for my next book. Hi Scarlett (and Clementine – that’s Scarlett’s little sister). And the other is Ahuva, who wrote me a great letter as part of her English class. Thanks Ahuva. Tell your English teacher I think you should get an A ++.
These bouncy pigs and wolves look like they want to attack me.
Oh no…they’re getting closer.
I have great news: at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, the rights to Dream on, Amber were sold to Sourcebooks in the US of A. WE’S GOING TO AMERIKEE!
I wish I was going and not just Amber but maybe she’ll send me a ticket. She’d better or there’ll be trouble.
And I’ve just seen the cover of the French version of Amber and it’s lovely.
I’m currently editing my next book, Dara Palmer’s Major Drama which will come out in May 2015, so it’s all happening.
Lastly, I wanted to share the most wonderful review sent to Chicken House by Arouny, aged 10, whose father is from Laos and her mother is half English and half Chinese. Arouny lives in Paris and she is my kind of girl, and with a heritage like that, we’re sure to be lifelong friends. Arouny, thank you SO MUCH.
Here is Arouny’s review.
Wow!!!! What a book! It was molto impressive (ha ha!).
I absolutely loved “Dream On Amber”. I really liked the idea of the numbers of the chapters in the three different languages Amber speaks. The doodles are cool too.
I love how she’s artistic and can conjure up a character in her mind, draw it and make him/her come to life in her head. It’s such a lovely image. And the mystery of the letters leaves lots of suspense, too…
I could really feel Amber’s emotions and worries. Emma Shevah can really communicate Amber’s feelings to the reader, which asks lots of potential and imagination woven together.
Bella may have grubby fingers but she’s so cute (though she does seem excessively annoying-but aren’t all little sisters supposed to be like that?) and her letters are so so sweet!
The moral of the story is to be glad with what-and in this case who-you have. Amber and Bella may not have their father but they have their mum and Nonna-and each other, of course.
Oops!! I didn’t realise I’d written so much! I got a bit carried away it seems!
Arouny 🙂 xxx
It’s here, it’s here, it’s nearly here!
This very Sunday, 14th September, I’ll be appearing at the Ham and High Lit Fest from 5-6pm. The Ham and High have a brilliant Kidsfest programme with great authors doing some excellent talks, all of which I intend to go to. I’m going to spend the day there, seeing as much as I can, because it’s right up my alley.
It’s at the LJCC near Golders Green, so if you’re in London, free, and fancy coming, do it. Just do it. Throw caution to the wind, grab the opportunity, seize the day and Say Yes More because YOLO and life is short and what the heck.
I’ll be there talking about life, the universe and everything. I’ll also mention Dream on, Amber and read part of it, and talk about my next book, due out next year, and we’ll talk writing and storytelling and all kinds of magic like that.
You can buy tickets here or, unless it gets sold out between now and then, presumably at the door too.
In other news, I found out what it’s like to stand in a queue to meet an author and have your book signed. It’s downright nerve-wracking, that’s what it is. I very nearly ran out when I got to the front of the line. I told the two guys either side of me what to do in case I fainted or died on the floor, right in front of the author. Not because he was scary or intimidating, and not because I was star struck or filled with hysteria anything like that. But because I’m shy. No, really. People laugh when I say that because I’m also confident, bold, fearless and could run the country single handed, but I’m also really shy. I am. And the truth is, I don’t like feeling like a fan – I don’t know why. I find it so cheesy and teacher’s pet-like and sucky-grovelly, even though it isn’t at all. Maybe I need to see someone about that.
But anyway, I did it. I got my book signed and didn’t faint or die right there on the floor in front of him and all those people in the bookshop and I’m so very proud of my signed book that I’m going to post a photo of it. I wonder if everyone feels like that in a queue to have their books signed.
The book is amazing, by the way. Not for children – there’s too much stuff that even I don’t understand about the Iraq war. But I’m enjoying it so much. Well worth the heart failure.
There are so many reasons why you should visit Edinburgh, especially in August. Firstly, Edinburgh is a stunning city. It’s built on seven hills, near lots of water, and has steep craggy cliffs and cobblestoned streets, so geographically, it’s beautiful. It also has a long and fascinating history and contains some of the spookiest architecture you’ve ever seen, so it’s worth seeing at any time of the year. It’s known for being cold, wet, windy and having porridge-skies, so summer is a better time to go, but it’s also like that in summer so be prepared.
Then, in August, its population doubles. For almost a month, the fringe festival takes place, with thousands of short acts featuring music, comedy, cabaret, theatre and lots more, all in a small (very hilly) area so you can get around easily and as they’re all quite cheap to see, the hardest decision you have to make is what to see and when. There’s an app to help – finding good Internet access though, well, that’s a different story. You can fits lots of shows in to a day and then there’s all the other stuff to see, like museums, graveyards, bars with over 200 whiskies on the menu (over 18s only, of course) and the nature and blusteriness on the outskirts of the city, not to mention the rest of beautiful Scotland.
Then there’s the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is great. It was my first time appearing at the Book Fest and I loved it. My event was with Jane Elson, who wrote ‘A Room Full of Chocolate’. We spoke for an hour about our books and did short readings, in a small tent with the rain lashing on the roof. Some lovely children and adults came to see and hear us talking about our books and some of their similar themes, and they asked us very good questions. Here we are, holding our books.
We signed books afterwards and got to meet some lovely readers and budding writers. It was utterly amazing and I had so much fun, I hope to go to Edinburgh again for a whole week next year.
If you’re around, or even if you aren’t but like the sound of it, come along. It’s fantastic. But there are no guarantees the sun will shine. Bring a warm jacket, comfortable shoes and a strong umbrella. It’s summer in the UK after all.
Oops. It’s been far too long since I last posted and so much is going on. So many that I don’t know where to start. Maybe I should start with the big things first…
1) I’ve finished my next book – YAY! – and have submitted it to the publishers. It’s a whole new story, not the sequel to Amber, although I’ve written that too. This is about a girl called Maly Palmer who wants to be an actor. The publishers are happy, which of course makes me happy, and I start working on it with Rachel, my amazing editor, very soon. It’ll be published in 2015.
2) I’m flying to Edinburgh for the book festival next weekend: my event is on Sunday 17 August at 6pm. It’s with Jane Elson, who I met recently, and liked so much. I’m glad to be going and glad to be appearing with Jane. We’ll be discussing her book, A Roomful of Chocolate, my book, Dream on Amber, and dreams of escape. I’m happy to be escaping myself – Edinburgh in August is kicking. I can’t wait!
3) I’m doing a very different type of event at the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival on 14th September. I’ll be talking about story writing and cake baking and looking at recipes. Come along! I’d love to meet you. You won’t be getting any cake though, so don’t get too excited.
4) I’ve had lovely letters and emails, the most recent (and my current favourite) is from Elizabeth in Melbourne (Hi Elizabeth). It’s heart-warming to receive feedback and hear what you think of Amber so don’t be shy – get in touch via the ‘Contact me’ tab if you want to say hi.
5) I did two school visits in July, just before schools broke up for the summer. I visited Frithwood School in Northwood and West Lodge in Pinner, where I talked about Dream on, Amber and variety of other things, like where I get my ideas from, what I did before I was an author, what being an author is like and how to create stories. I also answered lots of intelligent questions even though it was SO HOT and everyone was melting, including me. I love doing school visits and hope to do lots more in the coming year. If you’d like me to come to your school, ask your parents or teachers to look at the ‘School Visits’ tab. I’d be happy to visit your school. If you live in Australia I’d love to come even more but it’s unlikely unless my publisher arranges a book tour. You could always ask. You never know. I live in hope.
It’s coming out in Germany at the end of September with a very different cover. There it’s called ‘Amber Katastrophal Genial’, which means ‘Amber Catastrophe Genius’. I love that my name is inside a bubble gum bubble.
That’s it for now. I’ll be in touch after Edinburgh. Wish me luck!
I can finally announce that I’ll be speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August (whoop whoop).
If you’re in and around Edinburgh on 17th August, come on by. Our event is at 5pm in Charlotte Square Gardens. I’ll be talking with another debut author, Jane Elson, whose novel is called ‘A Room Full of Chocolate’. It’s a gorgeous story about a girl called Grace who has to go to live with her grandfather when her mother finds a lump and needs treatment. Although Grace is worried and doesn’t want to stay with her grumpy grandfather, she meets a new friend and a pig called Claude. It’s more about wellies and friendships than chocolate but it’s lovely and so is Jane.
Tickets to our event are £4.50 and are available here: http://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/415094-dreams-of-escape-with-jane-elson-and-emma-shevah/
There’s so much going on in Edinburgh in August: fringe theatre, comedy, music, book talk – it’s the place to be. I’ve only been once and that was years ago but we had a great time so I’m really looking forward to going again. Come if you can. I’d love to see you there.
Inspiration is one of my favourite words. It comes from the Latin word ‘spiritus’, meaning breath, which is where we get the words respire, expire and aspire. But it also means ‘soul’ – breath and soul are from the same root in Latin, Hebrew, Slavic, Chinese – there’s a whole list – hence the words spirit, spiritual, spirited.
The things that inspired me recently were certainly soulful things: Maya Angelou for one. She died this week having inspired so many with her wisdom, her writing, her ability to empower others, her strength to rise above the events in her early life and keep rising. I wish I’d known her, but I think one of her rare gifts was that she made the whole world feel as if they did know her. Through her work, through her words, through the energy she gave out and through footage we’ve seen of her, we feel her and are one with her. Her love and understanding, her compassion and empathy for humanity and her love of life infuse into my soul and somehow, she is as familiar to me as an aunt.
I was also inspired by a school – I visited Cassiobury Junior School in Watford this week and the feeling there was very special. The school itself has great facilities and grounds, but the teachers seemed happy, the children were happy and thriving, and there seemed to be the right balance of a relaxed learning environment and good management and organisation. I really enjoyed talking about being an author as part of their careers week and hope some of the Y3 children I spoke to feel inspired to be authors too when they grow up.
Lastly, I love the window in Pickled Pepper books in Crouch End – thank you so much to Urmi and Rachel for doing this. I didn’t even know they’d done it until my sister walked past, saw the window and sent me this photo. Independent bookshops back and promote authors in a way that online retailers can’t, and some of the big shops would never do unless you’re one of the five bestselling names that have been around for years, so go to them and buy your books, because you may pay a pound or two more but they’ll disappear if you don’t, and a bookshop is not only one of the most inspiring places you can spend an afternoon, you also take home in a bag (usually with a free bookmark) something that can inspire you for the rest of your life.