(This is my page in the gorgeous brochure the organisers put together for this year’s awards ceremony. It’s completely fabulous and I feel so honoured to be featured.)
On Friday I met the other shortlisted authors: Keren David (who I’ve known online for a while, but have never met in real life before), Jim Carrington, Joseph Delaney, Jane Eagland, Hilary Freeman (a fellow Girls Heart Books author), Sam Mills, Chris Higgins and C J Skuse. That’s nine out of the ten shortlisted authors – only Liz Rettig couldn’t make it. I think I’m right in saying there’d never been such a high turnout of authors before, so that was great.
We went over to UMIST where we had to introduce ourselves before having a Q&A with a couple of hundred teen readers. Well. I didn’t think I was nervous until I stood up to speak and then my mind went blank, my voice quivered, I could feel myself shaking. Terrible. I’ve no idea what I said and I’ve never been so relieved to sit back down again.
I had no plans for the afternoon and was vaguely thinking about going to stroke Jessie in Waterstone’s (on the table – thanks Raimy for the photo!), but ended up chatting to lovely Sam Mills for about two hours… and then it was time for the celebratory dinner. Lovely food (and wine!), more book chat, amazingly articulate and passionate readers and local dignitaries!
From there it was back to the hotel for more gossiping with all the other authors. It’s so good to talk about writing (or rather avoiding writing), books and publishing. It made me wish, not for the first time, that I had a group of local writers I could hang out with and, maybe, write in cafes with. And then I found one, which is pretty fabulous. Here’s hoping that when we do meet up we can manage more writing and less chatting 😉
After a good night’s sleep, a lie-in (only to 7.30, but Harry woke David at 12, 3, 5 and 6 so it was all right with me) and breakfast, we were off to County Hall for the presentation ceremony. If anything it was even more intimidating than Friday since the room is so formal. The teen judges and readers were incredible yet again – I was absolutely terrified of speaking (again, I spoke, but have no clue about what I said) and there is no way I could have done it with such confidence and poise at age 14. Amazing. (I also met Cara, who’s read Della Says: OMG! four times. Fab.)
We already knew that Keren had won for her completely wonderful book When I Was Joe, and she was presented with an original artwork and a cheque and then gave a lovely and inspiring speech. From there it was on to lunch (more wine, more book chat) and then lovely Alison from Lancashire Libraries gave me a lift home (cos she lives near me).
I honestly can’t put into words how amazing the whole event was – yeah, I know, I’m supposed to be a writer – but it really was all a bit unreal. From when I heard I was on the shortlist, I was delighted, but I felt lucky to be on it, rather than that I deserved to be on it. I felt like the organisers had been casting around for a tenth book and had thought, “This’ll do.” Turns out, that’s not the case at all. There was a longlist of 84 titles. Phenomenal books. And the shortlist is entirely chosen by teenagers – there’s no adult involvement at all.
I still can’t quite believe I was shortlisted, but I’m absolutely delighted that I was. I had a great time and met many people I hope will become good friends. This writing lark’s turning out to be rather amazing…