Chat · Days Out · Round-Up

Event Round-Up: Abi Elphinstone at the Edinburgh festival.

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Her books are bestsellers, she’s sledded through the arctic in search of eagle hunters and her ancestor (according to the fun facts ahead of the event) plotted with Guy Fawkes. Abi Elphinstone writes middle-grade fantasy full of magic and animals and vast, untameable landscapes. I loved her writing from the word go and was delighted to see her at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 24.08.2018.

Elphinstone says her dream job – aside from being a writer – is to be a Blue Peter Presenter. I reckon they’d have her in a second. Her enthusiasm for her audience and her spirit of adventure made me think of Blue Peter long before she was asked her dream job by a member of the audience.

Her resounding message was you don’t have to be the cleverest person to be a writer. At the age of seven, Elphinstone’s life-ambition was to become a unicorn and it wasn’t until she was older that she found her way into writing through the places visited and things she saw in the natural world.

A slide-show of places which had inspired Elphinstone’s writing proved that adventures can be found closer to home as well as further away – from Tromso to some water off the M25, the outdoors has been a starting point for different aspects of Elphinstone’s writing.

I have never seen children so excited about reading. From pop-quizzes about arctic animals (with signed bookmark prizes) to the chance to try on a fox-fur hat, Elphinstone grabbed the attention of each and every child in her audience. This is what a book event should look like – excitement and chatter and children bouncing on their seats because they are so desperate to ask the next question.

Elphinstone’s final message was that she wrote four novels had had 96 rejections before publication. The people who get there, she says, are the ones who keep going no matter how many times they appear to fail. Failure is not finite. It is a stumble along the way. The audience (young and not so young) were left with more confidence in themselves and their eyes open for adventure. 

Following the event there was a signing. Having books signed and meeting authors is one of the most special and inspiring things about being a bookworm. Thank you very much to Abi Elphinstone for signing my books and for a memorable and uplifting talk. 

 

 

 

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Chat · Days Out

Event round-up: Northern YA LitFest – The Supernatural and Fantastical in YA

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NYA Literature Festival 

You may remember how much I enjoyed the first Northern YA Literary Festival back in March. Lots of other people did too, so much that the organisers held a spin-off event. The Supernatural and Fantastical in YA was held on Saturday 21st July 2018 at 53 degrees in Preston. 

The day was centered around two panels, with a merchandise stall, book stall, face painter and book-swap to keep everyone entertained. There were author signings following each panel and everyone in the queue got their books signed. 

Author Panels 

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Fantasy: Melinda Salisbury (chair), Sally Green, Taran Matharu and Alexandra Christo. 

The first panel discussed fantasy-fiction – worldbuilding and infleunces and the place of fantasy YA in the publishing industry. 

The authors the importance of real-world themes in fantasy fiction. Stories are about issues and experiences from the real world whatever their setting. There was also some discussion abut how to keep a setting believable.  Melinda Salisbury suggested that even the most fantastical world should have real-world ‘touchstones’ and rules to remain believable. She used the example of a polar-bear in a jungle to suggest breaking certani rules would make a story difficult to beleive. Alexandra Christo reminded the audience that authors create stories, not worlds. The world exists to serve the story. 

Fantasy YA may be a bestselling genre, but consensus was it is seen as something lesser by the publishing industry. Melinda Salisbury suggested that people sometimes forget to take the real-world themes away from a fantasy story. 

The authors talked about their forthcoming work and current writng projects. Taran Matharu is working on a series with dinosaurs and Sally Green wants to write contemporary fiction. 

I have read Alexandra Christo’s novel and two of Melinda Salisbury’s series, and wait straight to the bookstall for my first taste of Sally Green and Taran Matharu’s works. Taran Matharu likened his series to a cross between Pokemon and Harry Potter. Sold, sold and sold. 

 

 

Supernatural: David Owen (chair), AJ Hartley, Melvin Burgess and Sally Green (standing in for Marcus Sedgwick.) 

What is the difference between fantasy and supernatural? Melvin Burgess summarised it very succinctly – fantasy is about worlds outside our own while the supernatural is about things from outside a world coming in. As in the first panel, the authors thought it was important for a story to feel as realistic as possible. AJ Hartley spoke about anchoring aimg_6576 story in reality. The more ordinary it feels, the more a reader is prepared to believe. 

Melvin Burgess and Sally Green spoke about exposition – revealing information which is relevant to the story without overloading it with irrelevant facts. 

David Owen asked possibly the most interesting question of all time -do zombies exist in the same world as ghosts? The reason this rarely happens is that both answer the question of what happens when we die. 

 

A big thanks to the organisers, University of Central Lancishire and all the authors who took part in the event. A large number of book events take place in London, and are out of reach to many people. Getting authors up North important and exciting. 

I can’t wait to the next NYA Literature Festival in March 2019. Rumour has it some stellar authors have already signed up and the publishing swag stall will be back. See you there? 

Chat

Five Things I Learned In July

July is an odd month. Summer has barely started and yet it isn’t so long until autumn. At home, we are coming to the end of a three-week heatwave. I have been working in the summer house with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees. 

The format of this post was inspired by Anne from the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy. Anyone who hasn’t found this blog needs to get on board ASAP. It is the epitome of all things bookish and it is one of my major blog-crushes. Anne proves that bookish posts can sit alongside lifestyle content. 

I want to bring more chatty content to my blog. To tell you what I’ve been up to and to hear from my readers. We learn so much over the course of a month – we learn about ourselves. We learn big, life-changing philosophies. We also learn small things like our latest favourite dessert and book-gossip from the publishing world. What have you learned this month? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. 

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Still here reading 

Posing is a misleading word

 

Regular followers might have noticed there are very few pictures of me on either my blog or my social media. While I believe in maintaining a level of privacy, I would love to include more photographs of myself. There is only one problem: I have never found it easy to pose for a photograph. With ambitions to grow my blog, I decided this was something I wanted to overcome.

Several hundred awkward selfies later and I have realised that posing is a misleading word. Tell me to pose and that’s exactly what I’ll do – pull my face into an overdramatic expression. A parody of a smile. Instead of posing for the camera we need to simply be. Be as if the camera isn’t there. How would you smile for your friend? How would you look at a book?

This journey is going to be long-haul but I’ve figured out what’s putting me off.

 

Kids need reading role models

For the first time in a thousand years, I watched football. 

 My interest in football is limited to major tournaments, on the occasions when England reach a stage worth talking about. And that’s fine. I have my hobbies, you have yours and we can all get along together. 

What’s not fine is sporting personalities bashing readers. Not when the audience includes millions of children. Sporting figures seem happy to put their names to ghost-written fiction. Perhaps they could tell children about the place reading has in their lives.  It doesn’t seem too much to ask. 

During the World Cup quarter-finals, Martin Keown, former Arsenal defender and BBC co-commentator, told anyone reading a book to ‘get a life’. It’s a sad precedent and the exact opposite of what children need to hear. No, I’m not suggesting we interrupt the football with book trailers, but casual comments like that affirm negative beliefs children hold about literacy. Kids need role models to promote the joys of reading.

 

Finishing a draft is only the start

I am about to write the immortal words the end under a 40,000-word draft. More than that, this one is worth editing. I already have a list of changes I want to make and I am looking forward to developing the characters. At the moment they are more like sock-puppets. They need fleshing out with characteristics. 

The rough draft is finished. Now the hard work begins. 

 

In with the old 

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Time to catch up 

New releases are a delight. The biggest change my blog has brought to my reading habits is my reading calendar. I often promote books several months ahead of their release. By the time their release date falls I have heard a lot about the title in question. It’s amazing … but it sometimes comes at the expense of other books on my shelves.

No longer. I have vowed to work in other books even if my blog schedule falls a little behind. This month I have been catching up on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series and I have a mental list of books which I have been staring at for the past eighteen months. It’s time to catch up on my unread novels. My blog will be better for it.

 

Evanesco money

Evanesco is the vanishing spell in Harry Potter. The Lego Company are, once again, about to perform a vanishing spell upon my life savings. Aside from the new Harry Potter sets, a new series of minifigures is set to focus on characters from the Harry Potter universe. The lineup includes figures never before seen in Lego such as Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. There are also six figures from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which, as you will find out later this year, rules my world. 

My skills as a blind-bag feeler will once again be put to the test. 

blog tour · Chat

Blog Tour: Memories of His Dark Materials stage production

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Today is my blog spot on the Theatrical blog tour. The story follows Hope, who dreams of working behind stage at a theatre. My favourite thing about the story was the atmosphere. It captured the unique experience of watching a stage production. 

To celebrate the book, bloggers have been asked to recall their memories of going to the theatre. Let me take you back to 2005 and the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials. 

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His Dark Materials premiered at the National Theatre in 2003 and was revived between November 2004 and April 2005. It condensed Pullman’s trilogy into two three-hour plays. I saw the production in March 2005.

Theatre Critic Michael Billington described the experience as a clipped hedge compared to Pullman’s forest but that’s not how the play appeared to my young eyes. It was like being swept inside Pullman’s magic. It was the closest I will ever come to cutting a window into the fabric of the universe and stepping into another world.

The story began at the end. Will and Lyra sat on a park bench. Although they spoke to each-other, they were having separate conversations. They could neither see nor hear each other. It was a fantastic hook. If you hadn’t known Pullman’s work you would have been intrigued about Will and Lyra’s circumstances.  

The adaptation brought out Will and Lyra’s character arcs. It is the story of their quest to embrace knowledge and reason against the rule of the Church. Side-stories and characters who might take the reader’s attention from this central arc were cut from the theatre production. Although this meant whole sections of the trilogy were lost – notably the sections which follow Mary Malone – it made a tighter story within the six-hour time-frame.

The actors I remember particularly are Adjoa Andoh as Serafina Pekkala, David Harewood as Lord Asriel and Lesley Manville as Mrs Coulter. The complex relationship between Coulter and Asriel was dramatised to perfection. Their final sequence in which the pair entered an eternal fall was met with standing ovation.

The puppet Joey from the National Theatre’s production of WarHorse has gone down in British cultural history. His Dark Materials deserves a similar legacy. The puppets were designed by Michael Curry, the same person who designed puppets for the stage version of The Lion King. The puppets used for the daemons and armoured bears did not recreate a whole animal but suggested their movements and behaviours. It would have been worth booking tickets twice-over -once to follow the story and once to watch the puppetry with wonder.   

Michael Billington’s criticism, which I referenced at the start of this post,  compared the production directly to the books. A play is never going to be the same as a novel. It is a different form of storytelling which embraces visual and audio magic to draw the audience into the story. Accept that a play will never replicate a novel and it is fair to say that the stage production of His Dark Materials was magical. It was an experience which will stay with me for life.

 

Have you seen a theatre production which stayed with you for life? Let me know in the comments below.

Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Bath, book, bed by Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland.

I am delighted to welcome Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland to my blog. A Cup Of Wonderland is a beautiful bookish blog with amazing photography and great reccomendations. If you haven’t found Hannah’s blog already, do check it out

Back in April, I wrote a post in support of BookTrust’s bath, book, bed campagain. I suggested adults and teenagers would do well to adopt this routine too. Hannah kindly agreed to give us a look at her own bath, book and bed habits. A big thanks to Hannah for your time. 

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Bath, Book and Bed.

 A while ago on BookMurmuation, Louise published a post which was inspired by the Booktrust recent campaign of Bath, Book and Bed routine. Louise wrote about the importance such a routine has not only for children but for adults as well. I found her post incredibly insightful as Louise illustrated the importance of this routine by discussing her own. Now I happily admit that I am quite an inquisitive person, which perhaps is just a polieter way of saying incredibly nosy, so I quite enjoyed her post. Which is why I was equally delighted when Louise invited me onto her blog to write this post presenting my own Bath, Book then Bed routine.

I feel that before I begin this post, I should include a disclaimer. The majority of the time my routine is quite chaotic and probably not good because I am a phone addict and will watch YouTube videos or Netflix instead of going to sleep. But at least once a week or a couple of times a month, I like to set some time aside especially for this routine. I think it’s a great way of recharging your batteries, allowing yourself a break which is incredibly important if your a bit of a workaholic like me. Now onto my Bath, Book and Bed routine.

 

The Bath:

hannahbathIn my household I live with both my parents so normally when I plan to have one of these types of evenings, I make sure I get in the bathroom last as it means I can happily spend an hour or two in the bath with a nice bath bomb with no complaints or someone (my dad) banging on the door telling me to get out. At the moment my bath bomb of choice has been Lush bath bombs which I love immensely which is due to the fact that it’s one of the few types of bath bombs which don’t irritate my skin or psoriasis. The one which I used for this bath in particular was the Monster one which Lush released for Halloween and it’s my favourite which is why I been rationning the ones which I have remaining.

Once in the bath, I always have a book in hand. After all I will happily spend an hour or more enjoying a good soak with a good book and a cup of tea too.

 

The Book:

hannahbookThe most important part of the evening. Now I normally read in bath for a good portion of time before I get out and light some candles, dry off and then dive right back in. The book in choice for this post was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I saw the movie adaptation when it was released. I adore the film but reading the book made fall entirely in love with every single character, place, and aspect of the novel. If you haven’t read it then I would definitely recommend you purchasing it. 

 

Bed:

hannahbedNow if the book is really really juicy, and I’m unable to put it down. I blow the candles, get my pjs on and slip into bed and continue reading. Which is better than normal as it means that my phone is not being used and I’m not working at all. Now when I finally put the book down and decided to go to sleep, unfortunately the plan deviated a little because my 6 month old pup Oscar, decided to bring his Micky Mouse up and wanted to play. So it was almost completely perfect then? Eventually I’ll to sleep.

 

Huge thank you to Louise for inviting  me to write this post as I too think it’s incredibly important to use your bedtime routine as a way of relaxing and having an allocated downtime.

 

Chat · Young Adult Reviews

Floored blog tour: ‘It’s grim up North’

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Floored is a collaborative novel written between seven young adult authors. The story is told by six characters and a narrator. This post is about wealthy, inconsiderate Hugo. Hugo is one of my favourite characters in the novel because he personifies an issue which has become apparent in recent years – the contempt held by the metropolitan elite for the working class outside of London.

Hugo’s opening line – It’s grim up North – is a snapshot of his character. He believes that people begrudge his privilege because they can’t be bothered to work for it themselves. He has no understanding of opportunity or inequality. Things go downhill as Hugo treats one of the girls as a cheap one-night stand.

 It’s grim up North is where Hugo starts. A cliché which he has never bothered to challenge because it doesn’t affect his life. This is where Hugo starts- but Floored is a story, and stories begin with a promise that our protagonist will not be the same person by the end. All stories, at their heart, are about transformation. Hugo may be entitled and arrogant and cruel but he isn’t content. The way he lives gives him no pleasure.

I hope people reading Floored will take note of Hugo’s disdain and start to see his attitude in other places. In the politicians who take photo-ops in deprived cities at election times then fail to provide the jobs and infrastructure those cities desperately need. In the national newspapers which continually pitch their work to a metropolitan middle-class readership. In the public-school educated television personalities who make jokes at the expense of working-class Northerners.

 

Catch everyone in my Floored group blog tour: 

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Chat

Chat: Updating My Instagram

 

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I’ve finished spring-cleaning and there is no dust in sight.

 

Cleaning is an accepted part of spring. I have unhauled books, dusted the shelves and sorted my desk area. I thought I had a good job done. Then I logged on to my blog. A tired header, a boring Instagram feed and a whole host of misplaced commas.

 I may have finished cleaning my shelves, but my digital spring-clean has barely started.

This week I have worked on my Instagram feed. Instagram has never been my strong-point, but it had never occurred to me that it might be about more than the individual photographs. A quick Google suggested that I needed to think about the order of my feed. Google, that wise old genius, was right. My feed showed book after book after book, often in the same position.

Top tip: There are heaps of apps which allow you to preview your photographs as if you have loaded them to Instagram. Download one and play with different layouts. 

My first change was to mix book photographs with other objects. Bath-bombs, biscuits, and sunsets. I’ve got them all on my iPhone. I chose to use regular splashes of pink – one of my favourite and most photographed colours – between the book pictures. This broke up the book pictures but was still fairly restrictive in terms of subject. I chose to add a free choice for every fourth photograph.

I have been delighted with the response. I’ve had a couple of compliments, and more comments in a day that I used to get in a week. My Instagram may not be swoon-worthy, but it looks less sorry for itself. It allows more flexibility in terms of subject and reflects my ethos that being bookish goes beyond books themselves.

 

Are we following each other on Instagram? Check mine out at  @BookMurmuration, and leave your handle below. Look forward to seeing your pictures.