Thursday, 22 May 2014

Leeds Book Awards 2014

The winners of the Leeds Book Awards for secondary school children were announced today at a ceremony attended by about 200 Leeds students at Leeds Civic Hall. Geek Girl by Holly Smale and Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher won the 11-14 and 14-16 year categories respectively.

Holly Smale
The winners were voted for by Leeds’ school readers from a shortlist selected by the Leeds Book Awards organisers. Master of ceremonies for the day was poet Andy Craven-Griffiths who is always entertaining, and does a brilliant job of improvising when necessary. Only he could prove that 14-16 year old teens can’t roarrrrr!!!

Smale and Pitcher answered questions from the school audience alongside other shortlisted authors: Gillian Cross (After Tomorrow), Paula Rawsthorne (Blood Tracks), Alison Rattle (The Quietness), CJ Flood (Infinite Sky), Sarah Mussi (Siege), Lucy Christopher (The Killing Woods). Other shortlisted authors couldn’t make it (and that’s why there were no male authors there!).

Questions from the floor followed a pattern and there were many about influences and inspirations, and sequels!

I was delighted to hear that Lucy Christopher (The Killing Woods), a previous Printz Honor award winner, loves visiting South Africa. Interestingly, if you buy a US and a UK copy of her novel you will find that they are slightly different (now, how about that for narrative and textual analyses!).  If she could choose a mentor it would have been Shakespeare whereas Holly Smale’s mentor of choice would have been the late Sue Townsend. Smale is also very tall!

Both Paula Rawsthorne (Blood Tracks) and Alison Rattle’s (The Quietness) novels were inspired by court proceedings and trials! Rawsthorne wants to be excited by her own story whilst she is writing whereas Rattle really doesn’t enjoy the writing process – but loves editing her work.

CJ Flood’s first name is Chelsea and the character Iris, in Infinite Sky, is an idealised version of herself as a child. Sarah Mussi (Siege) had lived in Ghana for a number of years and I was very pleased to hear that she can’t remember all the books she’s read (ditto!). Gillian Cross (After Tomorrow) has always been a writer and says she's never had a 'proper job'. She thinks awards like these are precious to writers like her as they boost their self belief.

I was very interested to hear that Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds was first written as a straight narrative and not through letters. She’s also a self-confessed perfectionist. Also, she had a very young guest with her – a babe in arms (and what would have happened without good old Nina D being there to step in when he refused to sleep).

I left all the smiling authors to sign away with queues of chattering school children and their teachers. How many of them noticed all the Leeds’ owls, do you think?

You can read our reviews of:

-        Ketchup Clouds here (M & Little M joint review) and here (teen book club)

-        GeekGirl

-        The Quietness

-        HostageThree (by Nick Lake who couldn’t make it)


You can read our interview with:

- Annabel Pitcher



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