Saturday, 22 June 2013

Hot Key Books & Red Lemon Press Summer Party 2013

Imagine this: a grown-ups party children's style. Yay! And double yay for me because I was invited!

Hot Key Books and Red Lemon Press held their authors Summer Party last week. I was invited because I’m part of the judging panel for the Hot Key Young Writers Prize 2013 (budding 18-25 year old authors, check it out!). Having had such a successful Hot Key launch year, what a party it was. And with Sally Gardner having scooped this year’s CILIP Carnegie medal the day before, everyone was literally over the moon.

Hot Key Books & Red Lemon Press Summer Party 2013 content guidance.*
Yes, glasses of bubbly, intoxicating colours and tastes, nibbles, buckets filled with bottled contents on ice, and fairy lights. There were games too: giant Jenga and Connect4. I didn’t even get to go on them because I was far too busy chatterboxing with lots of interesting, funny and excited people. I didn’t even get to speak to Viv (Serendipity Reviews), the other blogger member of the judging panel! But I did eventually have a go on the tombola – and I won a book: The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson.

Of course, Sally Gardner was there – before she rushed off to appear on Newsnight. I chatted to her about the differences between two of her books, Maggot Moon and The Double Shadow, as both had been nominated for this year’s Carnegie. Good news from her: The Double Shadow is going to be republished as an adult novel and will include scenes and details that were cut from the original YA version. From Sally’s details, this is exciting news as it will provide the binding that many of us wanted from The Double Shadow. I didn’t ask who the publisher was – I’m guessing Orion?
I chatted with friendly authors I’d met before – Alison Rattle (The Quietness) who told me some exciting personal news (I’m not the one to spill the beans on here though); Julie Mayhew (RedInk) and I got deeply sociological and spoke openly about insect bites and the taboos of how we ‘other’ people, environments, and situations: all of it scary, mucky stuff.

There were many authors I hadn’t met before and it was great to get to know some of them like Fleur Hitchcock who is on the Young Writers Prize judging panel with me. Tom Banks (The Great Galloon) was funny and endearing, and we talked not-pirate adventures and balance of gender in his novel. We also had a whale of a time talking (with Olivia Mead, Hot Key) about the ‘pacifics’ of language usage in talk and writing. And, it turns out Gareth P Jones is also funny and is as selective as me about his reading choices.

James Dawson quietly told us stories about questions that 11 year olds ask about sex (he was a sex ed type teacher once upon a time and is the author of Being a Boy, forthcoming from Red Lemon Press). Tom Easton was a pleasure to meet and I probably could have talked to him all night about South African politics, Disney, and stuff. He has written a new book and says it is a funny one about boys and knitting (forthcoming from Hot Key; private aside here – “Little M, I told you, knitting is hot, hot, hot!”).

At last I met the author who on Twitter has urged me to continue with my reading of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Nigel McDowell. He is a very, very tall and quietly unassuming man and I have a hunch he is kind. His first novel, Tall Tales from Pitch End, has just been published and it features a very richly constructed dystopian/fantasy/steampunk world. And I met Isobel Harrop who is just 18 and Hot Key is publishing her illustrated journal (take note all you young would-be-published-writers out there).


Two of my favourite surprise introductions of the night were Alex Campbell and Tori Kosara.

Earlier this year, I’d made note of a novel that Sarah Odedina purchased in Bologna. It’s called Land. I’d forgotten about it (because its publication date is quite far into my reading future) so was happily, happily delighted to be reminded of it by meetng its author Alex Campbell. The sorts of things we chatted about – including translating aspects of personal experiences into fiction - have heightened my anticipation of Land’s publication. I recommended an adult novel, Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley, to her.

Tori Kosara is an editor at Red Lemon Press, Hot Key’s non-fiction sister publisher. We chatted for ages about sex and violence in children’s books, including fiction and non-fiction, middle grade and YA. We both agreed that we didn’t like “gratuitous anything” in these books. And Little M was delighted to hear from me that Tori has worked on The Hunger Games novels!

And then I left....sort of. Nothing finishes a good night off like a controversial chat on the pavement outside with a children’s author and a literary agent! Should prestigious children’s fiction prizes be judged by select groups of adults – or by children? Should the judging process be a reflection of our democracy and involve its intended audience or do some judging criteria justify the use of adult only judging panels? What ifs, hey.....
Things I learnt:
  • Literary scouts have nothing to do with knots or birds.
  • At literary parties, most of the couples are not romantic partners - they're author and agent.
  • No matter how low, heels become killers: so take plasters or best wear flip-flops.
  • Laughter is always good.
  • Best hangover prevention tip: lots of chatterboxing means less guzzling.
Thank you Hot Key Books and Red Lemon Press for hosting such a wonderful evening.
* Yep, Little M fiddled about with the Hot Key Books' ring - without asking first!

PS. You may have noticed, no photos taken by me this time and all my notes were made post event. Memory Recall is liable, not me.

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