Eoin Colfer

dlr Writer in Residence Diary September 2016

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From now until June 2017 I have the great privilege of being the dlr Writer in Residence. I have a lovely room on the top floor of the Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire and I'm hosting lots of fun book clubs, writing clubs and events. Here is my September diary:

September was a very busy month in the Lexicon library. Our Children's Book Club kicked off and we talked about the work of Roald Dahl in honour of his 100th birthday on 13th September. This month we are reading Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan and looking at its wonderful artwork. This is one of the images from the book:

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I also hosted Baby Book Clubs in both Blackrock and Dalkey libraries. We read Farmer Duck (and made some wonderful farm animal noises) and glued and drew some great ice lollies to celebrate the lovely September weather.

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We had a very successful Dahl Day for schools, with a show and workshops. Thanks to all the teachers for bringing their students.

Here's Grainne Clear as Little Red Riding Hood and below are Enda Reilly and Erin Fornoff as The Twits.

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Three Canadian writers visited us in September and spoke to local school children about their work, JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith and  Katherena Vermette.

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Here's the cover of JonArno and Sydney's book, Footpath Flowers

I also took part in Culture Night with Alan Nolan and we created a story with lots of families who were visiting the library for the night.

Me and Alan on Culture Night
Me and Alan on Culture Night

Writing Club also started in September and our young writers are working on some great stories already.

Towards the end of September we had a very special day for Irish children's writers - our Lexicon Lunch for Children's Writers. I invited children's writers from all  over the country to join me in the Lexicon and I was delighted that so many turned up to talk about books and writing and to see my Writer in Residence room. I got the chance to interview Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin and Marita Conlon-McKenna on camera - watch out for those videos soon. Pictured below are Sheena Wilkinson, Judi Curtin, Siobhan Parkinson, Erika McGann, Natasha Mac a'Bhaird, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Alan Nolan and Ruth Long.

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The Teen Creatives had a visit from the amazing Dave Rudden who told them all about writing, creating characters and plotting a brilliant book.

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And finally I launched two books, one by Judi Curtin, the other by ER Murray and I hosted the first of my Drop In sessions for writers and was delighted to meet some wonderful young writers, and some adults who are writing for children.

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ER Murray at her launch in Eason

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Judi and I comparing our 1980s debs dresses at her Eason launch

During September I wrote the first draft of a picture book for very young children in my Writer in Residence room, worked on two other picture book ideas, and did some research on a new novel. The library is an ace place for research as I'm surrounded by wonderful reference books and ultra helpful librarians.

October is busy too - stay tuned for my next diary in early November and for the first of the Writer in Residence video blogs. To find out more about any of the book or writing clubs email: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie. To book a Writing Clinic slot email me: sarahsamwebb at gmail.com - next clinic is Wed 26th October between 3pm and 5pm.

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

A Day in the Life - the CBI Conference and Thoughts for Writers

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Right, because I love you all and I know many of you could not make the Children’s Books Ireland Conference today in the Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire, here are some notes and thoughts on the day. The title was: A Day in the Life

Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer and Friends
Eoin Colfer and Friends

Eoin Colfer kicked off the proceedings in a lively manner with a funny and thought provoking talk about writing, his love of Ireland, how ‘place’ informs writers’ books and how his Laureate-ship is shaping up so far.

On writing he said: ‘It starts with character for me. My criminal mastermind, Artemis is based on my brother, Donal.’

‘People often say don’t write a local story. I think write a local story with universal themes.’

He said for him, having a new book out never gets old and he never takes it for granted:

‘It’s amazing to be published – to hold a new book in your hands – it’s always fantastic. Whatever else happens in your life, you’ll always have that.’

His aim with the Laureate events is to visit ‘tiny schools on remote islands who don’t normally get author visits… As a child I didn’t realise that writers were real people.’

He said: ‘Reaching that one kid, planting the seed of story in their head, that’s what the Laureate’s all about.’

On why Irish people are such good storytellers and writers:

Eoin explained that it’s in our blood. We grow up hearing stories.

‘Myths and legends are on the curriculum in Ireland. I was surprised to find this wasn’t the case in other countries.’

Alan Nolan

Next up was Alan Nolan who talked about the books he had written and the comics that had influenced him as a child.

‘The way to get children reading is to get them hooked on a series,’ he said. His job as Illustrator in Residence in the Church of Ireland College of Education is to ‘remind trainee teachers how much fun children’s books are.’

Monster Doodle

During lunch there was a wonderful Monster Doodle for adults – where everyone got stuck in.

Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan
Sarah Crossan

Next up was Sarah Crossan in conversation with the wonderful Colm Keegan, Writer in Residence at dlr Libraries.

She spoke passionately about engaging teens with poetry and why she writes novels in verse for teens. Her new novel in verse, One (and not Won as she pointed out) will be published in August and is about conjoined twins. It sounds great.

Next up where the New Writers – many new writers took to the stage to share their books with the audience in 5 minute sessions.

This was an interesting insight into the way people approached being asked to do this. Some gave some background to the book, others gave a straight reading without any intro. The ones that worked the best I think did a little of both. The ones that stood out for me were Dave Rudden who is an excellent reader of his own work and gave a short intro which set the scene well and Moira Fowley-Doyle. She read with a lot of passion and it’s my kind of book – a family/friendship drama with a clever and fresh premise. It’s called The Accident Season and it’s about a family who for one month a year are horribly and tragically accident prone. She read the perfect section (from the start of the book so it didn’t need an intro) and I really enjoyed her reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them all (other writers included Patricia Forde, Kim Hood, Shane Hegarty and a lovely picture book guy), but it did make me ponder the importance of professional development for writers and how new writers need help preparing for readings and events. I am going to write a series of blogs on events/readings and how to write and deliver them when I get a chance as I think it might be helpful to newer writers.

I was a nervous wreck when I started out doing events! I love doing them now, as long as I am well prepared. You can throw me in front of any age group from babies and toddlers to teens and I'll have something to say, but it wasn't always the case. It's taken me years to be confident in front of an audience. I would have loved to shadow a writer before I started doing events. And I would have loved some guidance on how to put a good talk together. So I'll share what I can soon, I promise!

I'll also post some publicity and marketing tips and interviews with publishing pr people this year - remind me if I forget!

Julia Eccleshare

Julia Eccleshare
Julia Eccleshare

Finally after a very nice coffee break – with biscuits – was the inspiring Julia Eccleshare, Children’s Books Editor for the Guardian. I thought she was FANTASTIC and spoke such sense. Of course, she did say that writers made extra-good reviewers as they understood things like a writer’s intent and theme, so I may be slightly biased.

She spoke lyrically about her job – how she has to sift through over 10k children’s books a year to select the 45 books she can review in the Guardian.

She is passionate about books and stories. She said ‘I never go anywhere without thinking about a story.’

And ‘Everything in my life is coloured by the stories I read.’

She explained how these days writers have to be advocates for their books. Gone are the days where you could write a book and sit back on your laurels. You have to get out there and do events. ‘You cannot sit at home and be shy.’

She told us how JK Rowling’s books were game changers – how after the Harry Potter series, children’s books became cool and people started talking about stories and children’s books like never before. She mentioned Philip Pullman winning the overall Whitbread Award with The Amber Spyglass and quoted him: ‘Children’s books are the home of the story.’

She spoke about the importance of children’s books: ‘Children learn things from children’s books that their parents don’t want them to know… There is no serendipity for children anymore. They are the most watched children ever. How do they learn that things go wrong (if they are always being watched)?’

Books help them explore dangerous worlds and allow them have adventures and decide what kind of people they would like to be, she explained.

It was a wonderful talk and she’s a powerhouse.

The day ended with a drinks reception where I talked to Julia and many writers and readers and ate some very fine finger food.

So ended the CBI Day – thanks to all the speakers, to Marian Keyes who provided the wonderful venue and to the girls at CBI, Elaina, Jenny and Aoife for a cracking event.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

PS If you read my blog and find it useful, do let me know via the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. :)

sarah crossan book cover
sarah crossan book cover

Spring 2016 Children's and Teen Highlights

This piece originally appeared in the Sunday Independent. This year looks all set to be a stellar one for children’s books and Irish YA in particular will blaze a trail in 2016. There are new titles from ‘brand names’ such as Julia Donaldson, Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, plenty of interesting debuts, and some intriguing books from ‘grown up’ bestsellers, Cecelia Ahern and Sheila O’Flanagan.

crystal run
crystal run

The current Children’s Laureate, Eoin Colfer’s Ironman novel for children is due in the autumn from Marvel. According to Colfer, the billionaire playboy Tony Stark is all set to get the ‘Dublin treatment’. Penguin Random House Children’s lead title this spring is Dave Rudden’s The Knights of the Borrowed Dark (March), the first in a trilogy featuring Denizen Hardwick, a boy who doesn't believe in magic until he's ambushed by a monster created from shadows.

HarperCollins is very excited about Cecelia Ahern’s  debut YA (Young Adult) novel, Flawed, set in a society where perfection is everything (March); and Hachette is publishing Sheila O’Flanagan’s fantasy debut for age 10+, The Crystal Run (May). Gill and Macmillan has their first YA novel ever in April, from a writer who is only a teenager herself, sixteen-year-old Eilís Barrett. Her book, Oasis is set in the future and follows a group of teen outcasts turned freedom fighters.

needlework
needlework

Little Island, the children’s answer to Tramp Press, has been making waves with their strong fiction list, and 2016 is no exception. First up in February is Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan for young adult and adult readers, a novel about child abuse and its aftermath which I read in one sitting. It’s not an easy read for obvious reasons, but like Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It, it’s an important and beautifully written book.

Also from Little Island for older teen readers is Anna Seidl’s No Heros (March), the story of a school shooting and its aftermath, a publishing sensation in its native Germany; and in May they launch The Best Medicine by Belfast woman, Christine Hamill. Twelve-year-old Philip’s mum has breast cancer and he writes to Harry Hill for advice.

Kim Hood’s debut YA novel, Finding a Voice was shortlisted for the prestigious YA Book Prize in the UK last year and her second novel, Plain Jane is out in April from O’Brien Press. The story of a sixteen-year-old girl whose sister has cancer, it’s one I’m particularly looking forward to as I love her fresh, vibrant writing voice.

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (Macmillan, May) follows 17-year-old physics prodigy Gottie Oppenheimer as she navigates a summer of both grief and rips in the space-time continuum; and The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Macmillan, April) is a World War II story set in Amsterdam about a young woman who gets involved with the resistance.

Puffin Ireland Editor, Claire Hennessy’s YA novel, Nothing Tastes as Good is published by Hot Key in July and is already creating quite a stir. Annabel is a recently deceased anorexic teen who finds herself assigned as a ghostly 'helper' to Julia, another girl with an eating problem. Brian Conaghan’s The Bombs That Brought Us Together (Bloomsbury, April), dealing with terrorism and war, also sounds promising; and Derek Landy is back with the second book in his Demon Road fantasy-horror trilogy, Desolation (HarperCollins).

darkmouth 3
darkmouth 3

For readers of age 9+, there’s book three of Shane Hegarty’s Darkmouth series, Chaos Descends (HarperCollins, April);  and the latest novel by Brian Gallagher (O’Brien Press, April) called Arrivals, about a Canadian murder mystery in 1928. Ger Siggins is back with another book in his popular sport series, Rugby Flyer (O’Brien Press, February); and Matt Griffin tackles a war between the humans and the ancient fairy race in Stormweaver (O’Brien Press, April).

It’s great to see Cork man, Kieran Crowley back with The Mighty Dynamo (Macmillan, May), about a boy who dreams of being a professional footballer;      and I’m currently reading the exquisitely written Anna and the Swallow Man by New York based actor and writer, Gavriel Savit (Penguin Random House Children’s, 28th January), set during World War II.

And finally for this age group, the outstanding American writer, Kate DiCamillo returns with Raymie Nightingale, a novel about three girls and a friendship that will change their lives (Walker Books).

Poolbeg will add Maebh Banrion na Troda (February) and Sceal Naomh Padraig  (March) to their Nutshell library for younger readers; and the ultimate staying-between-the-lines challenge has to be the Where’s Wally? Colouring Book coming from Walker Books in June.

Sarah Bowie’s picture book, Let’s See Ireland (O’Brien Press, April) has striking artwork; and finally Julia Donaldson’s Detective Dog, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Macmillan, June) about Nell, a dog with an extra keen sense of smell sounds just the book to make both children and parents smile.

A Spread from Let's See Ireland
A Spread from Let's See Ireland

Sarah Webb’s next book for children, The Songbird Cafe Girls: Aurora and the Popcorn Dolphin (Walker Books) will be published in March. 

Aurora Book Cover
Aurora Book Cover

The Kids are All Write - the Irish Children's Book World

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Divergent - the movie

Sarah Webb – Published 18 May 2014 in the Sunday Independent

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THERE has been a lot of doom and gloom about the state of the Irish book trade in the press recently. Happily, however, children's books are holding their own and now account for up to 25 per cent of overall book sales, a figure which is increasing year on year.

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Irish writers are in great demand internationally, and rising star of the Irish children's publishing world David Maybury has just been appointed to the important post of Commissioning Editor of Scholastic Children's Books, UK.

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Watching Back to the Future with my children last week, I was amused to see the flying cars and insane clothes predicted to be all the rage in 2015. Books were also a thing of the past, with all children reading electronically. Many thought this would indeed be the case, that children would be the first to switch over to e-readers. However, we underestimated children's love of physical books.

The supremely talented Eoin Colfer, who was inaugurated as Children's Laureate na nOg last week, put it perfectly when he said: "Every 50 years something comes along and people say 'That's the end of books'. We'll have to adapt, but physical books will definitely endure... Books will never die."

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"Books are tactile," he told me. "You can hug a book. You can sit down with your dad or mum and read a book together. Books are a badge of honour. A way to be identified. What is on your shelf says a lot about you. I had The Lord of the Rings and all my Batman comics (on my shelves). If anyone came into my room they knew who I was."

Colfer is right – books define who children and teenagers are. My own daughter is an avid fantasy reader and her shelves are crammed with Skulduggery Pleasant and Manga books. She has never expressed an interest for an electronic reader. Many of her friends own them and use them only when travelling. The statistics are there to prove that children love physical books: less than eight per cent of children's books are read electronically.

"Only four per cent of our children's book sales are electronic sales," says Ivan O'Brien, MD of O'Brien Press. "There's still a huge appetite for good, strong children's titles and potential for books to break out." O'Brien has had great success with its translation sales and has sold books by Irish authors like Judi Curtin and Marita Conlon-McKenna into many different territories.

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Books for our younger readers now account for 22-25 per cent of the overall book market, according to David O'Callaghan, Children's Book Buyer at Eason. "They've really entered the mainstream," he says.

"The big trends for us at the moment are Minecraft and Divergent. I think reality based YA (young adult) novels like John Green's The Fault in Our Stars are definitely going to be the next big thing. And the new Irish writers coming through the ranks, like Shane Hegarty are worth watching."

The spotlight was on Hegarty recently when the news of his "substantial six figure deal" hit the headlines. Darkmouth, his first book for children with HarperCollins, will be published next year.

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Last month, 26-year-old Cavan man Dave Rudden signed a deal with Puffin for his YA fantasy adventure trilogy, The Borrowed Dark, due in 2016; and journalist Darragh McManus's debut YA novel, Shiver the Whole Night Through, will be published by Hot Key Books in November.

And it won't just be little people reading their work. Adults are reading YA and crossover books like never before, and many authors are reaching rock star status.

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US writer John Green filled the RDS last year with more than 800 screaming fans. Who says teenagers don't read? Titles like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the Harry Potter books, Twilight, The Hunger Games and most recently, the Divergent series are openly read by adults on the DART, and discussed at book clubs.

Colfer is an inspired choice for the third Children's Laureate. A brilliantly funny speaker, his love of words is infectious. He says, "I want to tell a story to every child in Ireland." He has exciting plans to put together a show based around stories and books and to tour it internationally.

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"Ireland's history is story," he says. "We've always been a nation of storytellers. It's in our blood."

Previous Laureates Siobhan Parkinson and Niamh Sharkey are tough acts to follow. Parkinson set up a Laureate Library which still travels the country, introducing books from all over the world to Irish children.

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Niamh curated the Pictiur exhibition, work from 21 Irish illustrators which has travelled to Bologna and Brussels and was recently seen by more than 45,000 people at IMMA. You can catch it in Lismore Castle Arts, Waterford, in September, the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, in October and finally in the new Library and Cultural Centre in Dun Laoghaire at the end of the year.

Children's Books Ireland is also behind the prestigious Children's Books Ireland Award (previously the Bisto Award), which was announced last Tuesday. The overall winner of this year's Award was Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick for Hagwitch, a novel about theatre, puppets and magic, set partly in 16th-Century London. Oliver Jeffers won the Children's Choice Award for The Day the Crayons Quit; and Honour Awards went to Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, P J Lynch and Paula Leyden.

The next big event on the calender is the Children Books Ireland Conference, where our newly minted Laureate will be joined by fashion illustrator and milliner turned book guru David Roberts (Dirty Bertie), spoken word darling and best friend of Adele (yes, that Adele), Laura Dockrill, and US picture book maker, Leslie Patricelli.

Taking place at the cool Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin, next Saturday and Sunday, it's a must for anyone who wants to find out more about children's books.

For further info about the world of children's books visit www.childrensbooksireland.ie

Sarah Webb is a writer and a children's book commentator. She is the Children's Curator for the Mountains to Sea DLR Book Festival

Long Live the New Irish Children's Laureate, Eoin Colfer!

eoin colfer
eoin colfer

Eoin Colfer was announced as the third Laureate na nÓg, Children's Laureate of Ireland, at a special event at the Arts Council today. He was awarded his Laureate’s ‘medal’ by Minister Fergus O’Dowd who said Eoin was a ‘magical’ writer who would open up the minds of young people over all the world in his new role. Laureate na nÓg is an initiative of the Arts Council with the support of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Children’s Books Ireland, Poetry Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The honour was established to engage young people with high quality children’s literature and to underline the importance of children’s literature in our cultural and imaginative lives.

Eoin Colfer was born in Wexford in 1965. Having qualified as a primary school teacher, he worked in Wexford before travelling and working in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy. His first book, Benny and Omar, was published in 1998, based on his experiences in Tunisia; it has since been translated into many languages.

He attained worldwide recognition in 2001, when the first Artemis Fowl book was published and became a New York Times bestseller. His latest novel, Warp: The Reluctant Assassin has been nominated for the CBI Book of the Year 2014. He currently lives in Wexford, Ireland with his wife, Jackie, and two children, Séan and Finn.

Speaking about his appointment as Laureate na nÓg, Eoin Colfer said: ‘I feel incredibly honoured and incredibly petrified to be taking on the Laureate mantle after Niamh (Sharkey) and Siobhan (Parkinson). I feel I am representing my family and my county and indeed all book people in Ireland which is not something I mean to take lightly. I intend to spend my time spreading stories to every nook and cranny in the country. Nobody is safe. It doesn't matter where you hide – I will find you and tell you a story.’

At the announcement he quipped that the Laureate medal gives him special powers. ‘All writers have to do what I say,’ he said. ‘Sarah and Niamh have to swap (the type of books they write) and John and Derek have to swap . . . I look forward to reading John Boyne’s new Skulduggery Pleasant book in the future.’ He also added ‘This is the proudest moment of my professional life.’

Elaina Ryan, Director of Children’s Books Ireland said: ‘Laureate na nÓg stands for so many things: honouring the talent of Ireland’s extraordinary writers and illustrators; celebrating children’s literature and recognising its crucial place in the lives of children; and bringing people together in Ireland and internationally to talk about children’s books and the possibilities they represent. Children’s Books Ireland is thrilled that Eoin Colfer will be Ireland’s third Laureate na nÓg – his imagination, energy and accessibility to so many audiences are among the many attributes that will make Eoin a wonderful Laureate.’

Sheila Pratschke, Chair of the Arts Council, said: ‘The Arts Council is delighted to award this honour – the highest to be awarded to a children's writer or illustrator in Ireland – to an artist of such high achievement and with such generosity of spirit.’ And Nóirín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland added her support for the new Laureate: ‘Following in the trail-blazing footsteps of Siobhan Parkinson and Niamh Sharkey, Eoin Colfer is an inspired choice for the third all-island Children’s Laureate.’

Spotted at the announcement: the team from Penguin Ireland; Eoin’s agent, Sophie Hicks; children’s book commentator, Robert Dunbar; Director of Children’s Books Ireland, Elaina O’Neill; RTE’s David Murphy; and columnist and writer, Martina Devlin.

If you’d like to invite Eoin to your festival or event, the Laureate na nÓg team will be inviting invitations during the month of June from arts organisations and groups to suggest projects for the new Laureate. See www.childrenslaureate.ie for details. A great opportunity to hear from an amazing writer.

I would like to congratulate Eoin on his appointment and I look forward to the next two years of his reign! Long live Laureate Eoin!

Sarah Webb is a writer and children’s book commentator. She is the Children’s Curator of the Mountains to Sea Book Festival.

All Star Irish Line Up - Beyond the Stars - to Support Fighting Words

Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle

Harper Collins Press Release HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISH ALL STAR IRISH LINE UP IN SUPPORT OF RODDY DOYLE’S CREATIVE WRITING CENTRE AND SEEK NEW TALENT TO COMPLETE THE COLLECTION HarperCollins is delighted to announce the acquisition of Beyond the Stars, a collection of short stories from a stellar line up of Irish authors and illustrators, edited by bestselling author Sarah Webb. World rights were acquired by Publishing Director Ruth Alltimes from Philippa Milnes-Smith of the Lucas Alexander Whitley Agency.  All profits will go to Fighting Words, the centre for creative writing set up in Dublin in 2009 by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. Based on David Eggers’ US-based 826 Valencia project and run by volunteers, it offers free creative writing tuition to children. Beyond the Stars features twelve tales of adventure, magic and wonder, written by some of the most outstanding talents in children’s fiction today, including John Boyne, Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin, Roddy Doyle, and Derek Landy, with stunning illustrations from the likes of Chris Haughton, Chris Judge, P. J. Lynch and Niamh Sharkey. It will be published as a gorgeous hardback gift edition in October 2014. The Irish authors have contributed eleven short stories and to complete the book HarperCollins is launching a search for the twelfth and final winter-themed tale, to be written by a child between the ages of 8 and 16. The competition closes at the end of June 2014 and the final choice will be made by a panel of experts and illustrated by Irish Children’s Laureate, Niamh Sharkey. The winner will have the chance to work with an editor and see their story published; their school will also win a selection of books for their school library. Full details can be found at http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/beyondthestars. Ruth Alltimes said, ‘We are proud to be able to support the wonderful work done by Fighting Words and to bring our publishing passion to a project which builds on the strong relationship we have with Irish talent. Sarah Webb and the writers and illustrators involved have been extremely generous with their work and time – it is truly a creative writing project from the heart, and we’re delighted to be part of it.’ Sarah Webb said, ‘It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with some of the best children’s writers and illustrators on Beyond the Stars. I am extremely grateful for their support. I can’t wait to see the competition winner’s story nestling alongside their stunning work – what a prize!’ Roddy Doyle said, ‘Fighting Words is not state funded, and our existence is dependent on people who believe passionately in what we do – like the writers and illustrators of these brilliant stories. We are especially grateful to a great friend of Fighting Words, Sarah Webb, the creative and driving force behind this wonderful collection.’

Issued by: Mary Byrne, Publicist, HarperCollins Children’s Books T. 020 8307 4541  E. mary.byrne@harpercollins.co.uk Rights Enquiries: Carla Alonzi, Head of Rights, HarperCollins Children’s Books T. 020 8307 4289  E.  carla.alonzi@harpercollins.co.uk NOTES TO EDITORS • HarperCollins UK publishes a wide range of books, from cutting-edge contemporary fiction, to block-busting thrillers, from fantasy literature and children’s books to enduring classics. It also publishes a great selection of non-fiction titles, including history, celebrity memoirs, biographies, popular science, dictionaries, maps, reference titles and education books, and its digital business is thriving. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins publishes some of the world’s foremost authors, from Nobel prizewinners to worldwide bestsellers. In addition it publishes the works of Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It was the first major UK trade publisher to go carbon neutral in December 2007. HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s books, recognised for nurturing new talent as well as boasting a reputable list of established best-selling authors. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many children’s classics, including The Chronicles of Narnia, Hello Kitty, the Paddington stories, The Cat in the Hat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and to some of the biggest names in children’s literature past and present, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Dr. Seuss, David Walliams, Derek Landy, Louise Rennison, Lauren Child, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers and Michael Morpurgo.

Oliver Jeffers and Eoin Colfer - Together!

Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers

Exciting news from Bologna - 2 of my favourite children's book talents, together in one book! Here's what Harper Collins say:

BESTSELLING TEAM OF EOIN COLFER AND OLIVER JEFFERS SIGN MAJOR GLOBAL DEAL —

IMAGINARY FRED publishes in the UK & LONDON/NEW YORK/ BOLOGNA

HarperCollins UK & US have joined forces to acquire Imaginary Fred, an extraordinary collaboration from Irish dream team Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers. A World Rights deal was concluded by Rachel Denwood Publishing and Creative Director at s Books UK, alongside Kate Jackson, Senior Vice President, Associate Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief, and Nancy Inteli, Editorial Director, HarperCollins US with Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor Ltd. Oliver Jeffers is represented by Paul Moreton at Bell Lomax Moreton. Imaginary Fred is a unique take on the concept of imaginary friends. It’s the story of two little boys and their shared love of movies, music and comic books. It is about how a little bit of electricity, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of magic can spark a friendship like no other… The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffer’s artwork will make for a dazzlingly original colour gift book. The launch date for Imaginary Fred is set for Autumn 2015, with HarperCollins publishing simultaneously in the US. There will be two formats on launch, a hardback aimed at the picture book audience and a special small format hardback for the wider gifting market. A major global marketing and PR campaign will support these spectacular publications. HarperCollins Children’s Books has published Oliver Jeffers since the launch of his 2004 debut, the award winning and bestselling How To Catch A Star. Celebrations for the 10th anniversary of How to Catch a Star will kick off at the Bologna Book Fair this week. Internationally bestselling Eoin Colfer is welcomed to the HarperCollins list for the first time.

Rachel Denwood said “An Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers collaboration is pretty much the stuff of dreams – they are simply two of the finest children’s book creators on the planet. Imaginary Fred is a complete one-off – it’s funny, poignant, original. It’s genius.” Kate Jackson added “We’re thrilled to help bring to life Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers’s IMAGINARY FRED, a story that’s sure to become an instant children’s classic, with its unforgettable characters and clever storytelling. It’s filled with hilarity and heart, and we knew right away we wanted this dream team on our list.”

Eoin Colfer is the internationally bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series as well as several standalone novels including the highly acclaimed Airman. His newest series is W.A.R.P. Eoin was born and raised in Wexford in the south-east of Ireland, where he now lives. Oliver Jeffers is an outstanding talent and has won many high-profile awards, including the Nestle Children’s Book Prize Gold Award, the Blue Peter Book of the Year and the Irish Children’s Book of the Year.

(Information from the Harper Collins Press Release)

CBI Book of the Year Awards 2014 - Predictions

CBI FINAL FINAL Logo
CBI FINAL FINAL Logo

It's that time of the year once more. The Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards shortlist will be announced on 18th March and the final Awards will be announced on 13th May.

Last year's winner was Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded, which also won the Children's Choice Award. Who will win this year? Here are my predictions (there are usually 10 books on the shortlist, including 1 or 2 Irish language books - I have left these off as I haven't read them yet):

1/ Overall Book of the Year Award: Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

2/ Eilis Dillon Award for First Book: Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Which Irish book from 2013 have I thought about and remembered more than any other book? The answer is Back to Blackbrick. A gripping novel about Cosmo and his grandfather who has Alzheimer's, it's a touching, cleverly plotted time shift novel that deserves the overall Award AND the Eilis Dillon. No, it's not perfect, there are a few plot problems and there is one particular scene that just does not work (I won't spoil the book for you), but it's written with such conviction and such heart, that you overlook these small things. An exciting new talent.

3/ Honour Award for Illustration: Oliver Jeffers for The Day the Crayons Quit

What can I say? It's Oliver and it's perfect. Could win the overall prize as the illustrations are legendary.

4/ Honour Award for Fiction: The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy

If Derek doesn't win an award for this wonderful book, there is no justice. It's beautifully plotted, full of larger than life characters and crackles with tension and wit. Yes, it's funny, but funny is very hard to pull off. Give him an award, please!

5/ Judge's Special Award: Pandamonium at Peek Zoo by Kevin Waldron

Waldron is simply brilliant. His muted, retro illustrations are a joy to look at.

Shortlisted Titles:

6/ The Sleeping Baobab Tree by Paula Leyden

Another magical African adventure from this talented writer.

7/ Tall Tales from Pitch End by Nigel McDowell

Published by Hot Key, this debut is one to watch. Could be a surprise shortlist contender.

8/ Death and Co by D J McCune

Another impressive debut for older readers of 12+ featuring spirit guides and lots of dark doings. Atmospheric and memorable.

9/ Heart Shaped by Siobhan Parkinson

Sharp, moving and funny, this is Parkinson at her best.

10/ Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

A wonderful World War I novel that had me in tears.

10/ Improper Order by Deirdre Sullivan

Even better than the first book. Funny, sweet and quirky. Primrose rules!

Also shortlisted could be:

Rebecca Rocks by Anna Carey

Yes, it's funny, but it's also beautifully written and a timely look at teens, peer pressure and sexuality. An important book by an author to watch. Deserves to be on the shortlist, but as it's such a charming, easy read, it may not be. Ditto, Judi Curtin, Oisin McGann and Derek Landy. However as Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, 'Easy reading is damn hard writing.'

Ratrunners by Oisin McGann - Gripping dystopian thriller. About time McGann is credited for his stellar and wide ranging work.

The Brave Beast by Chris Judge - Strong illustrations and a sweet story make this a real contender.

Little Owl's Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney - Wonderful design and illustrations.

Sanding in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh - I have a huge soft spot for Mackintosh's work - it's so original.

Also: The Trials of Oland Born: Curse of Kings by Alex Barclay and The Keeper by Darragh Martin - 2 strong debut fantasy novels; The Milo Adventures by Mary Arrigan; Eva and the Hidden Diary by Judi Curtin; Too Many Ponies by Sheena Wilkinson; Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac A'Bhaird and Wormwood Gate by Katherine Farmer; WARP by Eoin Colfer; Hagwitch by Marie Louise Fitzpatrick and finally, Storm Clouds by Brian Gallagher.

What was your favourite book of the year? I'd love to know.

Yours in books,

Sarah

PS Although I am on the Board of CBI, these opinions are my own.

Mad About Books - Raising a Child Who Loves to Read

I'm at the Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival in March. I'm giving a talk to parents on raising a child who loves to read. This is the recommended book list for that talk.

 Mad About Books – Raising a Child Who Loves to Read

Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival 2013

Recommended Titles

1/ Babies and Toddlers – Birth to Age 2+

Sing them lullabies, read them nursery rhymes

A good nursery rhyme book – with art work you love – eg Sally Go Round the Stars (Sarah Webb – Irish)

Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli (Board book)

Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill (Board book) 2/ Toddlers of Age 2 +

Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (Irish)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton – (Irish)

Other books to try: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen Farmer Duck – Martin Waddell Alfie’s Feet – Shirley Hughes Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell

3/ Younger Children – age 3 or 4 +

Fairy Tales – invest in a good collection

Oliver Jeffers – Lost and Found, The Heart in the Bottle (Irish)

Chris Judge – The Brave Beast (Irish)

Mo Willems – Knuffle Bunny, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Niamh Sharkey - Irish Children's Laureate  and picture book maker

Other titles to try: Clarice Bean, That’s Me – Lauren Child Olivia by Ian Falconer There are Cats in this Book by Vivian Schwarz Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans Lunchtime by Rebecca Cobb (a new picture book maker) Wolves by Emily Gravett Dogger by Shirley Hughes Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Jill Kerr I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klaussen Marshall Armstrong is New To Our School by David Mackintosh (Irish) Busy Busy World by Richard Scarry The Brave Beast by Chris Judge (Irish) The Gruffalo and other picture books by Julia Donaldson

4/ Early Readers – Age 5/6+

Series books for very first readers:

Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems

The Cat in the Hat and other books by Dr Seuss

Books for young readers to read for themselves:

Roddy Doyle’s The Giggler Treatment (Irish)

The Worst Boy in the World by Eoin Colfer (Irish)

Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald

The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy 5/ Books to Read Aloud to Age 5+

The Secret Garden, Ballet Shoes and any of your personal favourite classics as a child.

Charlotte’s Web by E B White

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearse

The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo

Roald Dahl - Fantastic Mr Fox and Matilda – pick the Dahl titles that you love the most

If they like Dahl they might also like David Walliams – who has written books like Mr Stink

6/ Confident Readers of 9+   J K Rowling Eoin Colfer (Irish) Anthony Horowitz Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan Derek Landy – Skulduggery Pleasant (Irish) Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney The Tom Gates series by L Pichon – great for Wimpy kid fans

Family/friendship books: Cathy Cassidy Jacqueline Wilson Ask Amy Green series by Sarah Webb – age 10+ Judy Blume – Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Judi Curtin (Irish)

Award winners: Wilderness by Roddy Doyle (Irish) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – age 10+

Other titles to try: Holes by Louis Sacher Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

7/ Older Readers of 11+

Wonder by R J Palacio

Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls The Knife of Never Letting Go

John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (Irish)

Other titles to try: Skellig – David Almond Maus by Art Spigelman (graphic novel) Coraline by Neil Gaiman The Hunger Games series Sabriel by Gareth Nix 8/ Books for Reluctant Readers

Audio books Where’s Wally? Quiz, joke and puzzle books Non fiction – sports biographies Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey The Wimpy Kid books Sports magazines Playstation magazines 9/ Books for Tired Parents

That’s Not My series – published by Usborne

Hug by Jez Alborough

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell 10/ Books for Parents Who Want to Know More

The Ultimate Teen Guide The Ultimate First Book Guide Both published by A and C Black

Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler

Mad About Books: The Dubray Guide to Children’s Books by Sarah Webb www.dubraybooks.ie

More about Irish writers and picture book makers: www.childrensbooksireland.ie

Remember:

1/ Choose books that YOU love to read aloud to your children 2/ Be seen reading 3/ Talk about books with your children 4/ Make books part of your family’s history and everyday life

When Are You Going To Write a Proper Book?

amy5
amy5

This piece first appeared in the Sunday Independent

When are you going to write a proper book - a book for adults? It’s a question every children’s writer is asked at some stage of their career. I started out writing for children, switched to adults, and now write for both. When the inevitable question was put, I'd explain children are the most discerning audience of all, children’s books are challenging and fun to write, and any author who doesn’t try it at some stage is missing out.   I am only one of a host of authors who write for both children and adults. J K Rowling’s debut adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, a dark comedy about local politics will be published on 27th September, quite a risk for someone with such a successful track record in the children’s book world.

Roald Dahl also wrote for adults and children, as do contemporary award-winners Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and most recently, Philippa Gregory. The American crime writers like James Patterson are all at it; and ex-SAS man Andy McNabb has produced a popular action/adventure series for younger readers.

shoestring1large
shoestring1large

Under the Hawthorne Tree was an international hit for its creator, Marita Conlon-McKenna, followed by seven further bestsellers for young readers. Her latest book for children, Love Lucie (Simon and Schuster) has just been published and she is currently working on her next adult novel, The Rose Garden. So why did she turn to adult fiction after so much success in the children’s world? “The Magdalen (Marita’s first adult novel, about the laundries for unmarried mothers) was a story I’d always wanted to tell,” she explains. “But because of the harsh subject I couldn’t write it for children or even teenagers. It was very successful and my publishers asked me to write another book for adults.”

“For me,” she continues, “the story decides the age group, not the other way around, I’m driven by story; and my publishers give me great freedom to write what I want. Irish writers don’t seem to get labelled or pigeonholed as much as other writers – they can write plays, musicals, screen plays and it’s very acceptable. In other countries they seem to like their writers to stay in their box. Irish writers are an unknown quantity, no-one knows they will do next.”

Like Marita, Wexford man, Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame always wanted to be a writer first and foremost, not a ‘children’s writer’. “I have had different stories in my head,” he says, “some suitable for kids, some for adults. I think because I have such an outlandish or maybe juvenile imagination some of my stories are definitely only for children, but recently some of the more complicated stories have been pushing themselves to the front of my brain. I also will admit to feel a little pressure (self-imposed) to write a book for grown-ups.”

Switching from writing for adults to writing for children is more usual and Judi Curtin, author of the popular Alice and Megan series did just that. Her first book Sorry, Walter was for adults but after finishing her second adult novel she wanted to write something that her daughters could read. “It was supposed to be a temporary change,” she says, “but it snowballed.” She has now written thirteen children’s books but is also exploring the adult world again. “There’s a story I’d like to tell which isn’t for children,” she says.

The Giggler Treatment, Roddy’s Doyle’s first book for younger readers was written to entertain his children. “I wrote a few pages towards the end of every working day,” he says, “and read them to them at bedtime, starting at the beginning every night.  It gradually became a book.” When asked will he continue to write for children, he says “I’m not sure.  My books for children have always been aimed at particular children - and children, I've noticed, tend to grow up and stop being children.  But if the ideas are there and, more importantly, the urge to put them on paper is there, I'll still give it a bash.”

John Boyne had never thought about writing for young readers until the idea for The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas came into his head. He says “The experience I had with that book – going into schools, getting children interested in reading – opened up my imagination in a new way and I found that I wanted to write for both audiences.” Like Roddy, he will continue to write for both audiences. “In fact I've just delivered a draft of my next adult novel to my editor. I'll be rewriting that over the next six months or so but I've just started a draft of a new children's book too.”

Master of children’s horror, Darren Shan also started out writing for adults. His first adult book, Procession of the Dead was published in 1999, a year before Cirque Du Freak (his first children’s book). “I had written a lot of first-draft books by that stage,” he says, “all of which were aimed at adults. I thought that was where my career lay, but I’d always wanted to try a children’s book. One day I had the idea for Cirque Du Freak and by the time I had finished the first draft, I had already decided to write another book for children.”

Darren now writes for both children and adults. “I’ve learnt so much about pacing and editing while working on my children’s books, which has fed back into the books I write for adults. I love the dichotomy of moving between the two worlds (adult’s and children’s publishing),” he adds, “and I would love to be able to continue doing that far into the future.”

When asked which adult writer he’d like to see writing for children, Darren immediately says “Kurt Vonnegut – he could have been a great children’s author if he had been that way inclined.” Roddy Doyle’s choice is Anne Enright. “Any book for children by Anne would be magical.” Marita Conlon McKenna suggests Marian Keyes, and John Boyne would love to see David Mitchell tackle children’s literature. “Knowing his extraordinary imagination and linguistic abilities, I think (it) would be something very special,” he says.

And finally Eoin Colfer nominates Colm Toibin. “I would love him to be forced to call me and ask for advice on pacing,” he says, “so I could churlishly hang up. It's the auld Wexford-Enniscorthy rivalry!”

Will Eoin ever get his chance? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sarah Webb has two books out this month, Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze for young teens (Walker Books) and The Shoestring Club for adults (Pan Macmillan).