A face for radio

Many years ago, when I still thought I’d lead a glamorous life in the meejah, I read radio news for a living. And it’s a medium I adore – the focus on words, the invisibility of it, so that, when you’re talking to thousands, it still feels as cosy as your own bedroom. Yesterday I got to be on the other side of the desk at Broadcasting House, away from the twiddly buttons and faders, and sadly without cans. But it was the most fun talking about books, and politics, and swearing in Essex as a small girl.

(It was BBC London, not Radio 1, but thanks to my friend Dave I got to play in all the studios, and wave at Scott Mills, who ignored me pointedly despite our heady halcyon days at Heart 106.2 lamenting the drive shift together.)

And you can listen here. (PG Warning: contains mild swears.)

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The Queen of Bloody Everything (including the Indy’s and Red’s Top 10)

I know the rule: don’t read reviews, good or bad. That way you don’t risk heartbreak, or ranting mintily on Twitter. But that way you don’t get the ridiculous overexcitement that comes with this: making both Red magazine’s and the Independent’s Best 10 New Novels for 2018.

This is what Red had to say: A bittersweet coming of age novel, The Queen Of Bloody Everything perfectly captures the pangs of adolescence, first love and growing up in a small town. You’re in for a treat with this one.

And the IndyDido has grown up under the shadow of her mother Edie, who swears, drinks, has sex and doesn’t mould herself into the conventions expected of motherhood or suburban Cambridge. But as Dido grows up, falls in love with the boy next door and moves on with her life, she has to wrestle with guilt about abandoning her mother and fear about her health. The book expertly follows funny and chubby eight-year-old Dido into adulthood, swinging from gentle comedy towards something sadder, and wiser. This book is a must-read for an exploration of a modern mother-daughter relationship – a topic that is all too often left unexplored in today’s fiction.

(And yes, I know Dido is six, not eight, but I think I can live with that.)

You can read the full Independent article and find out who else made the Top 10 novels here.

And Red’s picks here.

And you can preorder the book here.

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Joe in the post

In the run-up to Christmas, opening the post is always accompanied by a little frisson of anticipation, invariably dampened when I find it is only catalogues or credit statements or a card from someone I have never met addressed to someone who once lived here.  (Thanks, ‘Carol’.) But today the brown paper parcel delivered by hand contained something better than any present. Inside was a poster, and one with my name on, and Joe’s. But even more thrilling and disorientating than seeing our names in type is seeing the star himself. This is a boy who started out as a stranger in a sleeping bag outside an arcade on Rye Lane in Peckham, became a character who walked and talked in my head, and is now being conjured up by a real live boy – the brilliant Daniel Frogson, who is all the best parts of the Joe on paper, and all his own added real excellence besides. I give you the real Joe All Alone, coming to CBBC in 2018.

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The Carnegie Feeling

I have never been one of life’s winners when it comes to sport, barely even scraping third in the 1979 St Mary’s Primary sports day yoghurt-pot-and-umbrella race (actual race, involving running wildly around the field with an empty Ski pot skewered on a black umbrella, also featuring the ‘doughnut race’ in which we fought to eat a dangling doughnut in as short a time possible, in the days when Jamie Oliver was eating school chips a few miles down the road, not outlawing them). But, while our esteemed headteacher seemingly had little regard for a) health and safety and b) what is considered a standard athletic test and what is not, what he did value was words. And, just a few months after this staggering sporting non-achievement, I felt the thrill of my first publication when, having written an extra verse for one of our school hymns, Rev Roe typed it up for me, photocopied it, and stuck it down in every single copy of Come and Praise.

I have been chasing that feeling ever since, getting the same flush of achievement when I type ‘the end’, when I see my first page proofs, when I walk into a bookshop and see the first print run on the shelves, when I see someone reading – actually reading – one of my books. And, more rarely, but equally thrilling, when I see a title on an award longlist, or shortlist, or, as today, amongst the nominations.

For Everybody Hurts to be up for the CILIP Carnegie Medal (the Olympic gold of children’s publishing) is not something either Anthony McGowan or I entertained when the seeds of Matt and Sophia’s story were sown in a few minutes of snatched conversation in the South Bank Centre. We were uncommissioned, and unsure where we were going most of the time, writing for the sheer joy of words on the page, ping-ponging chapters back and forth over weeks and months, and eventually three years. So, regardless of how much further we get, today is the icing on the cake. It is the thrill of a typed-up hymn verse glued down with Copydex, and so much sweeter than that dangling doughnut would ever have been.

For the full list of nominations for both the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals, click here.

To buy the book, click here.

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First lines and first chapters

Find out how writers from David Almond to Frank Cottrell Boyce to Sue Townsend have grabbed their readers from the off, and kept them turning pages long into the night. And have a go at writing your own first page too.

I’ll be running an hour-long workshop on Saturday 2nd December at Plymouth University as part of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook day conference on getting published.

You can book tickets here.

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Stay gold, Ponyboy

There’s something almost alchemical about the moment a hard copy of your book is finally pressed into your hot hands. A strange kind of magic that has turned the base material – people and plot and places – that has swum for months in a kind of story soup in your head into, if not solid gold, something solid, and golden to you. Today I got to hold and then take home a bound proof of The Queen of Bloody Everything before it’s sent out into the world. So for today, at least, I am glittering.

Preorder the book

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The making of a mixtape…

Rob has it right in High Fidelity: “The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.”

There are a lot of rules. And I probably broke some. But here’s one I made earlier. From Soph to Matt in Everybody Hurts, and in a funny way from me to my co-author Tony McGowan.

And from Duke Ellington to The National to Elvis…

Click here to listen

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