Cristy Burne


Book Cover Wars! Win a copy of Charlie Higson’s The Enemy

Takeshita Demons – The Filth Licker is part of the Book Cover Wars at the fabulous Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books. Head over there, check out the covers, and vote for your chance to win a signed copy of Charlie Higson’s The Enemy. You can vote and win wherever you live: awesome!

Round one books are:

Book One: Cristy Burne – Takeshita Demons: The Filth Licker (June 2011)

Book Two: Tom Percival – Tobias and the Spooky Ghost Book (Sept 2010)

Book Three: Steve Feasey – Changeling: Zombie Dawn (2011)

Book Four: Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson – The Familiars (Sept 2010)

To win, all you need to do is:

  • vote for your favourite book cover
  • leave a comment or send a tweet about the Book Cover Wars through Twitter
  • sit back, watch the voting develop and wait to hear whether you’ve won!


The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award

Takeshita Demons was the winner of the inaugural Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award for diversity in children’s fiction.

And this year’s award shortlist is nearly due to be released! Woo  hoo! Good luck everyone!

Did you enter this year?

If no, you totally should enter next year, especially if you tick any of these boxes:

  1. I want to take positive steps to increase the representation of people writing from or about different cultural perspectives
  2. I want to promote new writing for children, especially by or about people whose culture and voice are currently under-represented
  3. I recognise that as children’s books shape our earliest perceptions of the world and its cultures, promoting writing that represents diversity will contribute to social and cultural tolerance.
  4. I am interested in winning £1,500, plus working with Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish my children’s novel

Here’s some tips if you’re thinking of entering

The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award is for a manuscript that celebrates cultural diversity in the widest possible sense, either in terms of its story or in terms of the ethnic and cultural origins of its author.

The prize will be awarded to the best work of unpublished fiction for 8–to-12-year-olds by a writer, aged 16 years or over, who has not previously published a novel for children.

The work must be written in English and it must be a minimum of 10,000 words and a maximum of 30,000 words.

The winner of the Award is chosen by an independent panel of judges. The distinguished panel of judges includes:

Trevor Phillips – Chair of The Equality and Human Rights Commission

Jake Hope – Children’s Librarian for Lancashire Libraries and a freelance consultant

Geraldine Brennan – Journalist and former Books Editor at the TES

Mary Briggs – Co-Founder of Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books

Janetta Otter-Barry – Janetta Otter-Barry Books at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books


More on Frances Lincoln and the Diverse Voices award
The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award was created in memory of Frances Lincoln (1945 – 2001) , the founder of London-based publishing house Frances Lincoln Limited. Frances Lincoln died, aged 55, in February 2001.

Frances was described by Julia Eccleshare in the TES as “the publisher best known for pioneering multicultural books for children.” Michael Rosen, the Children’s Laureate, commented that,” Publishing has lost a brave and innovative person who has left behind her, much too soon, a thriving legacy.”

Frances’ husband, John Nicoll, now runs the company. Frances Lincoln publish well over 100 new books a year, and have nearly 1000 in print. Their turnover is around £7 million per annum and they employ about 40 people.

The award is held in conjunction with Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books, an innovative cultural centre for children’s literature and funded in part by Arts and Business.

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More cool writing competitions

Good night.

I’m absolutely exhausted…

Way too many weeks spent living in three houses (almost down to two), buying a car (almost bought), wrestling a dog (gone to my parents’), juggling a baby (now asleep), trying to strip paint (stripped) and paint paint (one coat down), trying to eat healthy (does fruit bread count?) and stay sane (how many tins of peas can I fit up my nose?)…the usual.

But, just cause I’m falling over in my chair, doesn’t mean the world’s not full of great news!

More great news!

1) I got my first royalties, somehow. They seem to be fees from photocopying (?!), and I don’t pretend to understand how or why, I just nod and get excited.

2) Keren David, author of the awesome WHEN I WAS JOE, has some great news at her blog.

3) TAKESHITA DEMONS is 9/10th of the way to being finalised. WOO HOO!

4) There are HEAPS of great opportunities for young writers and free competitions for unpublished writers (and published writers!).  I encourage All Of You Out There to write for me (since I haven’t written at all this week!), and enter heaps of competitions… Most of them can be entered by email, many of them are free. What’s not to like?

Go gettem! (And I will go to bed).

More writing competitions to enter:

You are:

An unpublished fiction writer aged 16+: Enter your novel and synopsis (by email) in the FREE Read More competition

Aged 7-12 with a great bedtime story idea: Try the Book at Bedtime competition, also free to enter (and probably helps if you live in the UK, although the rules don’t state you have to)

Aged 8-16 and a UK resident: Enter the free microfiction competition at

A nature lover aged 18+: Check out this awesome opportunity for nature writers from the BBC

Aged 5-25 and living in the UK or Northern Ireland: WICKED! You can enter this free competition with any kind of writing you like: poems, theatre, you name it. And there are 20 prizes in each age category, so get writing!

An emerging writer of natural history, nature and place and probably living in Australia: The Watermark Fellowship is awarded this year and could see you resident at Varuna House in the Blue Mountains.

A childrens or YA writer or illustrator either unpublished or with just one publishing credit: CYA Later Alligator has a competition for you, and all entries get specific feedback.

Let me know if you win!!!

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My #1 Recommendation for your #1 New Year’s Writing Resolution

Fergus pokes out his tongue at New Year Resolutions

Fergus ponders his New Year Resolutions: learn to eat, learn to crawl, learn to walk. What a year!

What’s my #1 Recommendation for your #1 Writing Resolution?

I’m going to cheat here: my #1 recommendation for your #1 writing resolution is half-way down this post, so skip straight there if you’re keen.

It’s all in the words

My #2 recommendation: kick any non-specific resolutions out the door: they doom you to failure.


My big writing goal this year is very clear:

– In 2010 I will finish the next two books in the Takeshita Demons series.

…which is a truckload more motivating than…

– “In 2010 I will write more.”

“More” is all so vague. It leaves me with a consistent uneasiness, a wondering about whether this week’s writing was “more” or “less” than last week’s. So I’m never happy with myself, which is blerch. Instead, I have a very specific goal, which is more motivating, and ultimately, more rewarding.

So what’s my #1 Recommendation for your #1 Writing Resolution?

If you’re an unpublished writer of children’s books, your #1 writing resolution this year should be to enter the  Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices book award.

  • It’s free to enter
  • It’s open to any unpublished writer, living anywhere in the world.
  • You can enter by email.
  • You can win 1500 pounds *PLUS* a publishing deal complete with advance and royalties

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?? So, dust off that old manuscript or get your head down writing a new one (15,000 to 35,000 words). Entries are due around February each year.

Not a children’s writer?

Give it a shot anyway…you could find a new voice! Or…check out these writing competitions instead:

Here’s to 2010! Twenty-ten. Two-oh-ten. Year of Grabbing Opportunities. May it be a good one!!

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Dogs, babies and more cool writing competitions…

This week we’re settling in to our new digs

We’re housesitting a two-bedroom place near heaps of parks and shops and guess what?

The house comes with a great dog too! Roo is a 2-year-old Kelpie and has been around babies heaps. He’s very generous with his patience when Fergus is wailing and also very interested in Fergus’ smells and toys. Roo has loads of dog toys ripped apart about the place, but so far hasn’t touched any of Fergus’ toys. Instead he quietly sniffs and then settles on his mat (or at my feet when I’m feeding Fergus).

We’re going to keep a constant eye on them while they’re together, but so far it looks to be a great friendship in the making. Fergus loves Roo and is learning already to pat him “nicely” (instead of yank out a fistful of hair!).

Roo’s an inside dog, and lots of people have told us we should shut him outside now that there’s a baby in the house. Turns out that’s not the accepted logic when it comes to introducing babies to dogs…

Roo as a pup...awwwww

Introducing Roo to Fergus

I googled “dog” and “new baby” and found lots of nice tips, mostly:

1) Plan early and bring your baby home to a well-trained dog
Roo walks well on a lead, responds to basic commands, has been around babies before: we’re well ahead on this one, so “tick”!

2) Don’t stop loving your dog when the baby arrives
The dog will associate the baby with bad things. Instead, love your dog a little big extra when the baby is around. He’ll learn to love the baby too. We’re now working on developing this positive relationship, so “semi-tick”.

3) Don’t leave dog and baby alone, ever, even if everything is going A-OK
I put Fergus in his cot and then left the room so see what Roo would do. As soon as I was gone, Roo stood up and approached the cot, sniffing gently, then he left the room and went to Fergus’ play gym, sniffing the edges of that too. He didn’t do anything aggressive, but he did show extra interest when he thought I wasn’t looking. We love Roo already, but we’re planning to be ever-vigilent just the same. So “tick” on this one too.

And the writing?

Still haven’t done any writing :-/ But I did find some more cool writing competitions, including:

a songwriting competition where you can win a Gibson Guitar

a travel writing competition (300-700 words) where UK residents can win a trip to Istanbul

a free-to-enter journalism competition for Canadians wanting to cover the Winter Olympics

a song-lyric and short story competition for New Zealanders (with a special section for young writers aged 15-24)

a free-to-enter travel-writing compeition to win a scholarship writing travel for Rough Guides in Japan

a series of writing competitions for Muslim writers (including sections for young writers from age 8)

a script competition for scientists and technologists or artists exploring science and technology

And of course, don’t forget to get your entry ready for the 2010 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices children’s book award. It’s free to enter, anyone around the world can enter, and you can win 1500 pounds plus a publishing deal. Go gettem!

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6 cool writing competitions for young writers (and more!)

Fergus picks up writing tips from Dad

Fergus picks up writing tips from Dad

I love winning: ever since I was a tiny mite doing colouring-in contests, I’ve been a sucker for competitions, especially skills-based comps.

I’ve won a silver horseshoe (colouring-in), a tube of propolis toothpaste (colouring-in), and a stuffed kiwi (colouring-in). (Perhaps I should’ve turned professional?)

In the last couple of days I’ve been tweeting links to some ace writing competitions, for children and adults.

But tweets are easily missable, so here they are, all in a juicy list:

Young writers competitions

  • Finish what your favourite author started in the Usbourne writing competition and win a trip to London, free books, an author event, and free magazine subscriptions. Open to UK residents aged 14 or under.

Competitions for no-longer-young writers

  • Think you’re funny? Enter “The Sitcom Mission” and write a 15-minute comedy. No children, no animals. The top 16 scripts go through to a public knock-out final.


My theory is an old one: you’ve got to be in to win. Just by giving it a shot and sending in your writing, you get a chance to do and win all sorts of cool stuff.

I’ve had this philosophy a long time; it helped me score my first pay cheque as a writer (I think it was about 12 New Zealand dollars and I was about eight years old).

I wrote my first book, One Weekend with Killiecrankie, just so I could enter a competition. I didn’t even get shortlisted. But I didn’t give up.

Instead, I did some rewrites, then entered One Weekend into a Young and Emerging Writer competition.

Bingo! I won a week at Varuna House in New South Wales’ beautiful Blue Mountains, all expenses included. After a week working with Varuna’s Creative Director Peter Bishop and five other writers from around Australia, and months more work with my Varuna alumni mentor, Julia Lawrinson, I entered One Weekend into the same competition.

This time I was shortlisted, and won! The cheque was for a lot more than twelve dollars.

So what are you waiting for? Dig out your manuscripts, twiddle your pencils, scratch your heads and create some winning writing. See you on the shortlist!

Do you love writing? Are you searching for games, activities or cool Japan-related teaching resources? If your answer is YES, you should check out the resources section of my website. Have fun!

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80,000 words in a week: Alexander Gordon Smith

AlexanderGordonSmithWhat a champion! The endlessly energetic Alexander Gordon Smith took some time out from working on his new series to talk to us about getting his big break, marketing kids books,  running a publishing company and film company, and writing 80,000 words in a week. It’s exhausting just reading this interview: inspiring stuff!

Take it away Gordon!

Hi Cristy, thanks for the invitation to answer some questions on your blog!

  • What kind of stuff do you write?

My first series was called The Inventors, and I wrote it with my little brother Jamie. He was nine when we started, which was brilliant as we set out to write exactly the sort of book that somebody his age would enjoy. The Inventors is about two young inventors (there’s a surprise!) who win a scholarship to work with the billionaire genius Ebenezer Saint, and who ultimately have to out-run, out-wit and out-invent the world’s greatest inventor! Jamie and I both love adventure stories, they’re so much fun to read, and even more fun to write. It’s that spirit of adventure, of excitement, that I find so compelling when I write, I just love it!


Gordon and his brother and co-writer of The Inventors, Jamie Webb

I also love horror, I always have done, and my new series Furnace definitely falls into this category. It’s a very dark story about a fourteen-year-old criminal called Alex who is framed for murder, and who is sentenced to life without parole in Furnace Penitentiary, the world’s most secure prison for young offenders. Very soon Alex realises that the sadistic guards and bloodthirsty gangs are the least of his worries. Something very bad is happening in the prison, something that is turning the inmates into monsters. And he knows that if he doesn’t find a way out, he’ll be next… Furnace is a dark, relentless and violent book, but at its heart I guess it’s all about the adventure, the thrill of a prison break. It certainly isn’t for squeamish readers…

I have a couple more books planned once Furnace is finished (it’s a five-book series), and they’re all very different. That’s one of the brilliant things about writing: you have the spark of an idea and it just grows and evolves inside your head, and you really have no idea where it will take you until you sit down and start to write. As cheesy as it sounds, every blank page is a passport to a new adventure, and the feeling is addictive!

  • Why did you start writing?

To use a much-loved cliché, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. In fact it’s the only thing I can remember ever really wanting to be (apart from the usual childhood fantasy list of helicopter pilot, policeman, ninja assassin, truck driver and emperor of all the world). I used to love reading, but I guess like most very young kids I thought that books were these magical things that appeared in shops and libraries by themselves. It was only my mum and dad telling me their own stories that made me realise normal mortals could write books. My Uncle Frank went one step further and actually printed out his dragon stories on paper, which was just like a book! From that moment on I wanted to see my own stories in print, so I just used to write all the time and make little books by myself.

My first efforts – masterpieces like ‘Super Carrot’ and ‘The Valleys of Olaf Karnoff’ – weren’t up to much, but I kept at it and wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. It was a horror novel, funnily enough called ‘Furnace Asylum’ (very different plot to the new series), and every agent and publisher I sent it to bounced it right back saying it was too gory! I guess that put me off for a while, but I kept playing with ideas and harbouring that dream of being a writer, and came back to it in my mid-twenties. It was the chance to work with Jamie on The Inventors that really made me fall in love with writing children’s books.

  • Your first book, The Inventors, grabbed the attention of publishers when it was shortlisted in the 2005 Wow Factor Competition. How important was this for your career as a writer? Had you already tried other ways of drawing attention to your writing?

We were so lucky with the Wow Factor Competition, and it almost didn’t happen. Jamie and I wrote the first three chapters of The Inventors in the summer holidays of 2005, and Jamie spotted a competition in Waterstones to find ‘the new J. K. Rowling’. We entered our chapters on the last day, with about ten minutes to go, and although we carried on plotting the book, and developing the characters, and even building loads of the inventions ourselves, we didn’t get around to writing any more of it. A few months later we got a call from Waterstones to say The Inventors had been shortlisted, which was amazing! But we had to get the rest of the book to them exactly one week later or it wouldn’t be shortlisted. At first I thought it was impossible, but then I realised that this was our best shot at getting published. So we sat down and wrote 80,000 words in a week! Luckily we already had so much of the book planned out in our heads, otherwise we never would have been able to manage it. But it did almost kill us!

Covers for some of Gordon's books

Covers for some of Gordon's books

We didn’t win the competition, Sarah Wray’s excellent The Forbidden Room did. But Faber loved The Inventors, and offered us a deal the week the winner was announced. It was the best news I’d ever had! There’s no doubt that the Wow Factor was my big break, and I was luckily enough for it to be my first proper shot at drawing attention to my writing. The great thing about competitions is that they are a way to fast track your manuscript to an editor’s desk, which is far and away the most difficult and frustrating part of the publishing process. But more than this, if the competition had never pressured us to finish The Inventors then I doubt we ever would have – the first three chapters would probably be lying forgotten in a drawer somewhere.

With The Inventors, Jamie and I did quite a bit of the publicity stuff ourselves, which was great fun but extremely time consuming and expensive. Fortunately with Furnace Faber took over and had the website and game built. I had quite a lot of input into it, especially with the game and the editorial content. The best thing about it was seeing the Furnace in my head suddenly come to life on screen, especially with the game and the images. It was a very, very small taster of what writers must feel when their books are turned into films – watching something extremely personal to them suddenly grow into something much larger, something communal. It’s a great feeling!

Generally I like to lock myself away and write the books, it’s what I love to do. But the marketing stuff is so important, especially with children’s books. Websites, promotional items, school visits, authors tours, blogging and social networking, communicating with fans – these things may be the total opposite of the introverted writing process, but they are absolutely vital. You’re not just promoting a book, you’re promoting yourself. I find it difficult, as I’m not a natural extrovert, but I know that if I get myself out there and build up a presence then readers won’t just recognise the names The Inventors and Furnace, they’ll recognise the name Alexander Gordon Smith. It’s what so many of the most successful children’s authors have done.

FeardrivenfilmsI hate being bored! I guess part of it is that ever since I learned that ‘ordinary’ people wrote books I realised that even the most extraordinary things are done by normal, everyday people. Which essentially means that anything is possible. I’ve heard so many people say that they’d love to do this or that, but that they just can’t. But they can! I started Egg Box when I was at university, because I loved books and I wanted to publish them. I used my student loan to set it up, and to publish our first book. We publish new poets, so there is no money in it, but it’s great fun, and very satisfying. I don’t really have much to do with the company any more, it’s run by my great friend Nathan Hamilton, but it’s still fantastic to see new Egg Box books on the shelf every year.

Fear Driven Films came about in the same way. My sister, Kate, wanted to make a horror film, and so we said ‘why not?’ Yes it’s hard work, and at times it seems impossible, but it’s an adventure, and it’s fun. I get that same tickle of excitement starting a new project that I do starting a new book. I just love that sense of being at the beginning of something, of facing a challenge. It doesn’t always work out – I’ve had plenty of failures – but so long as you learn something from it then it’s never a total loss.

I would say to anyone who’s got a dream but is nervous about going for it – just go for it! Adopt the ‘why not?’ philosophy. It may be tough, but it’s never impossible.

  • How different is it writing a series from writing a one-off (like The Inventors first was)? How much of the series do you plot out in advance, and how much do you make up as you go along?

I never really set out to write a series, usually it just turns out that way! With The Inventors, Jamie and I got to the end of the book and realised that although part of the tale was complete there was another half of the story to tell, so we left it on a cliffhanger. The same thing happened with Furnace. It’s really a 1,500 page story that is being split into five books. I just reached a point with the first book, Lockdown, where it felt natural to have a break. The same thing happened with the rest of the books, which is lucky!

There’s also something really nice about being able to return to the same characters for another book. Writers get very attached to their characters, and I know I’m not alone when I say that finishing a stand-alone novel can be upsetting because you know you’re never going to get into the heads of those people again. Writing a series really gives you a chance to see how characters develop and evolve and grow.

I have to confess that I don’t spend much time plotting. I haven’t got the patience for it! I just like to leap right into the writing and let the story tell itself. I used to try and plot, but it’s amazing how much changes when you’re actually writing – characters tend to do their own thing and throw your carefully laid plans out of the window. I absolutely love that, though. It turns what would be writing-by-numbers into a wild ride where you have no idea what’s going to happen! Saying that, I do have a rough story arc of key points when I start writing. If I didn’t then I’d end up getting totally lost!

furnaceThanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a great day. I haven’t done very many workshops, I tend to do events with larger groups which makes sessions like that one quite difficult. I’d love to do more of them, though, so if anybody is interested in organising a workshop at a school, club or library, or a larger talk, then just email me at!

  • Favourite part of being a writer?

It’s a dream job for so many reasons, but the best part for me is the writing itself. The moment that you start a new story is unlike anything else. It grabs you and carries you along with it and even though you’re writing it you feel like you’re part of it, like this is your adventure as much as it is that of the characters you have created. It’s like you’re right there alongside them. And for the next few weeks I’m just utterly absorbed – the real world might as well not exist – until I fight my way out the other end of the story. It really is an incredible sensation, and I’d do it now even if nobody was publishing my books!

  • Least favourite part of being a writer?

I hate editing! For me it’s the opposite of writing – stilted rather than spontaneous, crawling along instead of flying, and just so boring! But it’s essential, every book needs edits, so I just put my head down and do it.

  • One bit of advice to new writers?

Have fun. Pick a story that really appeals to you, an adventure you wish you could have. That way you’ll be engrossed by the story, and it won’t really feel like you’re writing at all. You’ll be living it. Don’t do what so many writers do, and pick an idea you think will sell, or that you think will fit the current fiction market. Your heart won’t be in it, and a reader (and a publisher) will sense that. Be brave, go with the ideas that you find exciting, let yourself be carried away.

Also don’t worry about making it perfect first time. Let the story pull you along at its own speed, get the first draft finished, and there will be plenty of time to polish it. The writer and the editor inside your head don’t work well together – if you let them do their jobs separately it will lead to a much more rewarding experience, and a much better book!

And read! As much as you can!

THANK YOU GORDON!! We can’t wait to check out the rest of Furnace!

And PS: Fergus is nearly one month old! Amazing! He’s growing out of the “size 1” nappies and several of his cutest outfits (not that he cares what he wears, nappies included).