Saturday, 13 July 2013

The best award (and party) in children's literature!

“The best award in children’s literature - in the world!” that’s what David Fickling thinks of the Branford Boase Award. He says this because the award is all about nurturing new writing talent in children’s literature and highlights the role of the editor in shaping brilliant authors (it awards the author and editor of an outstanding debut children’s novel). It also supports the Henrietta Branford Writing competition for budding authors who are under 18. The ethos behind this award is one I readily support and I was delighted to be invited to the award party.

Well might David Fickling think this is the best award (he’s won it as an editor three times including this year!) but the atmosphere at this award party was phenomenal. Welcoming and friendly, it was so well attended that some wine drinkers resorted to French style tumbler drinking. Amidst a tumultuous climate of library funding cuts, business model and ethical challenges for publishing, and curriculum changes afoot, the mood in the room was buoyed, determined and excitedly celebratory. If this party represented the future of publishing’s ship, what an onboard journey it will be.

Speaking of journeys, because our travelling times clashed with school times, Little M couldn’t attend with me and she had to wait til the next morning for the full gossip. And from her perspective, it was good! I’ll share some of it here, for her, for you and for me.

Of course, I was delighted that Dave Shelton and David Fickling won for A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (abbreviated from her on to Boy & Bear). Of the two Daves, one is big and loud, the other is quiet and shy, but both are very funny and exceptionally talented. Their winners’ speeches were highly entertaining and meaningful.

David Fickling is big and loud and enthusiastically infectious. He chose his words very carefully when he described Dave Shelton’s Boy & Bear as being a novel full of “affection”, more so than most other writers he knows have achieved. For him, Boy & Bear was striking in its originality and by this he meant that he couldn’t imagine the world before it nor without it. He thinks it will be around for a long time. He also mentioned something being like a “rocket”. I can’t remember what but he was so enthused he almost shot us all off to somewhere fizzingly exciting. Little M was delighted to hear that he wore a red bow tie!  Dave Shelton said he was glad Sally Gardner wasn’t eligible for this award. We laughed (she pipped him at the post in the Costa and the Carnegie).

Little M was over the moon for Lydia Syson and Sarah Odedina being highly commended for A World Between Us, a novel that she loves and that we have used in one of our teen reading group gatherings. This is the first time a commendation has been awarded since 2004.
In one of the speeches (I think it was Julia Eccleshare's), the speaker gave a firm shout out to the role of editors. She said that whatever publishing comes to mean, she's convinced that the role of the editor remains essential and she doubts whether any of the esteemed and successful authors in the room would be writing as they are without their editor's encouragement.

Other information I gleaned was that Jacqueline Wilson (yes fans, she was there!) had finished two novels by the time she was fifteen but thought they were rubbish (she actually said 'rubbish'). She never won any writing awards when she was younger and her mum even threw some of her old writing notebooks away (“shock horror,”gasped her audience). So her advice to budding writers is keep going. She was full of praise for the young writers who won the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition.
Jacqeuline Wilson at the Branford Boase Award ceremony, 2013
I met Annabel Pitcher for the first time. Chatting to her was lovely and she is very mild-mannered for someone who has achieved so much with her writing in such a short time (My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and Ketchup Clouds). She did a tremendous job in introducing the shortlisted titles for this year. And, can you believe she said that winning the Branford Boase last year really made her feel like an author at last?!!

Lydia Syson was beaming, as usual, and I’m not sure if she was more pleased to have been Highly Commended or to have been presented her award by Jacqueline Wilson! I met Sophie Crockett who was a shortlisted author for After the Snow. I was especially excited to meet her because After the Snow was my favourite (remember, it was on my personal Carnegie shortlist). We also talked about Sarah Crossan's The Weight of Water, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Mara Bergman, Edward Hogan’s editor at Walker talked excitedly about the award and working with Edward who has a new book coming out soon – I think it has just gone to print. It was also heartwarming to see so many families and personal guests supporting the shortlisted authors.

I met a few book publicists in person too for the first time: Hannah Love from Walker and Nina Douglas from Orion. Funny, felt like I’d known them for ages – which I have: online!

Just before I left, I had a little conversation with an author who kindly signed a bookplate for Little M. We talked about how we wished we had more time because it’s so difficult to say no to really good projects and causes. He said he might look our blog up. Oh my, Philip Pullman.
Philip Pullman and David Fickling
Thank you so much to Branford Boase for inviting me, congratulations to the winners and all the shortlisted author and editor pairs. From my tumbler, cheers! Here’s to publishing more and more good stories, for children and everyone.

Here's an interview that Dave Shelton and David Fickling did with me. It's all about writing and editing together, covers, reading aloud and the future.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely post and I find it very cheering that there is such a positive feel within the children's literature community. The description of Boy and a Bear being a story with affection is so very true and sums up the feel of the book perfectly for me too. Glad you had such a good time.


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