Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture

Philippa Pearce died at the end of 2006 and widespread respect and affection for her writing is as strong as it ever was. Such is the extraordinary quality of her work that it has not only been honoured by the literary establishment, but has also constantly inspired new young readers and writers. Our aim, therefore, is to encourage young readers and writers, as Philippa Pearce valued so much her engagement with them. '

We' are a small group of her friends, family and colleagues who are planning a series of five lectures, spread over five years, to be delivered by various distinguished speakers with an interest in children's books. Some of the speakers may be authors themselves; all, from their different perspectives, will provoke thought. In this way and in Philippa Pearce's honour, we seek to acknowledge and understand excellence in writing for children, and to emphasize its continuing vital importance.

On 11th September 2008, at Homerton College - an institution with which she was always happy to be involved - the inaugural lecture will take the form of a direct tribute to Philippa Pearce's work. Subsequent lectures will range more widely, over the works of others, but will tend to reflect her own wide-ranging literary interests in, for example, the short story, the ghost story, the picture book and, of course, the novel.

In 2008, her own best loved novel, Tom's Midnight Garden, will have been in print for 50 years. Also in 2008 will come the publication of her very last story, A Finder's Magic, completed just before she died. Both will be widely celebrated by children, parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and book lovers of every kind: a fitting context for the Memorial Lecture itself. Alongside the inaugural lecture, there will be a small exhibition of books, illustrations and other ephemera relating to Philippa Pearce's work in Homerton College library. We will not be charging admission to the first lecture, but numbers will be limited and from 1st April there will be a booking system in place on the website. You will need to use this to secure a seat. It will be found under the lectures link when you visit the web page

Friday, February 15, 2008

Waterstone's Children's Book Prize

Début author Sally Nicholls has scooped one of the most valuable and prestigious children’s books awards in the country at the age of just 24.

Sally, a graduate of the Writing For Young People MA at Bath Spa University, was just 23 when she wrote Ways To Live Forever, a powerful, inspiring and courageous story told in the voice of 11-year-old Sam, who is terminally ill with leukaemia.

Ways To Live Forever was announced as the winner of the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2008 by Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen in an evening ceremony at Waterstone’s Piccadilly on 13th February. As well as a £5,000 cash prize, Sally receives the promise of ongoing commitment from Waterstone’s 325 nationwide branches.

Beating off stiff competition from a nine-strong shortlist, Ways to Live Forever is set to be the début of the year -- foreign rights have already been sold in seventeen countries and rave reviews have been flooding in.

Publisher Marion Lloyd, of Marion Lloyd Books at Scholastic, said:
"I search for novels that send electrical tingles up my spine. Reading this manuscript was more like being plugged into a 1000-volt socket. This is a story for everyone, whatever their age.”

Joel Rickett, Deputy Editor of The Bookseller Magazine said:
"It’s easy to see why the judges of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2008 were hooked by Sally Nicholls’ début. Ways To Live Forever is a deceptively simple yet heart-wrenching story of a young boy dying of leukaemia, handled with grace and rare humour. Nicholls largely avoids mawkishness or sentimental set pieces. Yet readers can’t help but fill in the blanks and despair. Having deftly dodged the pitfalls of carrying such a weighty story, Nicholls is poised to follow in the footsteps of her favourite authors Hilary McKay, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Philip Pullman."

Sally Nicholls said: “I am so excited to have won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize. The experience has all felt very surreal, not just having my first novel published, but hearing how much my book has affected and moved the judges. There were some amazing novels on the shortlist, so it’s a real honour to have won”.

Sally Nicholls was born in Stockton in 1984. Tragically, she lost her father when she was just two years old. She spent most of her childhood immersed in books, and dreamt of becoming an author from a young age. After graduating in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick, she took and MA in Writing For Young People at Bath Spa University, where she won the prize for the writer who showed the most potential.

Sally is a practicing Quaker and a member of the Society of Friends and loves the theatre and reading - especially the works of Sartre, Kafka and Dostoevsky. She now lives in London and is writing her second novel, based on the pagan myth of the green man. The Midnight Hunter is due for release in January 2009.

Ways To Live Forever is a scrapbook of lists, stories, pictures, questions and facts put together by 11-year-old Sam. He’s a boy who collects facts and loves looking things up on the Internet. He’s curious about ghosts and UFOs - and also death. Sam has terminal leukaemia. He is going to die. And dying is a fact of life. His unsentimental view of living and dying sweeps aside our fears of death, and the pure, clear voice in which Sally Nicholls tells his story also speaks of the discovery of an astonishingly accomplished and powerful young writer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference, Cambridge

The Children's Writers and Illustrators Group of The Society of Authors are holding a conference at Robinson College, Cambridge over the last weekend in August - 29-31 August 2008. Booking for this is now open to non-members. The conference is intended as a forum for the exchange of ideas for published and would-be published authors and illustrators but also for those interested in the whole children's book world.

The conference opens on Friday evening 29 August and closes mid-afternoon on Sunday. Speakers include David Almond, Laurence Anholt, Anthony Browne, Polly Dunbar, Julia Eccleshare, Nicolette Jones, Graham Marks, William Nicholson and the Children's Laureate Michael Rosen. There will also be parallel sessions dealing with (on the whole) more practical matters including how to survive school visits, working in remote areas with indigenous communities in Australia, how to manage time, how to make a living as a children's poet, story-boarding, from picture book to film, historical research and more.

Robinson College is a modern college set near the Backs so walking into the centre of Cambridge is a joy - a ten minute stroll alson a footpath takes one directly to King's College. Robinson opened in 1981, built to a high architectural standard with specially commissioned John Piper windows magnificently displayed in the chapel. The standard of catering is excellent and if the weather is glorious you can take your breakfast or lunch outside. Rarely, for a Cambridge college, you can walk on the grass. Ensuite accommodation with the lecture theatre, dining hall, exhibitions, Heffer's conference bookshop and bedrooms within the same central area. There are quick frequent trains from London to Cambridge and if you choose to drive there is even parking!

Further details and a booking form can be seen on Residential rates for the whole weekend for members of The Society of Authors are £255 plus VAT total £299.62 and for non-members £295 plus VAT total £346.62. Non-residential rates for the Saturday and Sunday only are for members £160 plus VAT £188 and non-members £200 plus VAT £235.

"I was invited by an author friend to join her at the Sussex Conference in 2000. It was the beginning of all kinds of good things for me. Apart from enjoying the stimulating and inspiring talks and workshops, I met interesting people and discovered a whole world of support and information I didn't even know existed. I joined the Society of Authors and went to the conferences in Leeds and Oxford. Each conference gave me something special that has enriched my personal and working life - a friendship, an inspiration, an opportunity - so I'm looking forward to Cambridge 2008" Sally Hewitt, non-fiction author