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A Night With Our Stars: 20 West Australian authors and illustrators celebrate childrens books

Authors and illustrators in WA childrens book industry celebrateSee WA’s hottest writing talent for 2010, all in one place!

As well as being a great childrens book store, Westbooks hosts the annual Night With Our Stars extravaganza, celebrating West Australian writing and illustrating talent in the childrens book arena.

And guess what? This year some of that hot talent is me! Plus there’s heaps of other great names and titles on the line-up. Yippee!

So what are you waiting for?

Snap up your Night With Our Stars ticket and head on down to Westbooks for a night of fun and celebration. The evening promises to be terrific, with more than 20 authors and illustrators set to take the floor.

This year’s childrens book authors and illustrators include:Cristy Burne, James Caffey, Jenni Woodroffe, A Night With Our Stars at Westbooks

  • A.J. Betts
  • Cristy Burne
  • Raewyn Caisley
  • Deb Fitzpatrick
  • Elaine Forrestal
  • Mark Greenwood
  • Frané Lessac
  • Geoff Havel
  • Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
  • Mike Lefroy
  • Dave Luckett
  • Kate McCaffrey
  • Meg McKinlay
  • Shirley Marr
  • Shannon Melville
  • Lara Morgan
  • Sally Morgan
  • Sally Murphy
  • Jan Ramage
  • Ken Spillman
  • Michael Thompson

Want to attend? More details below:

When: Thursday 10 March 2011; 6:30 for 7:00 pm

Where: Westbooks Children’s Book Centre; 396 Millpoint Rd Victoria Park

How much: $20 CBCA Members $25 Non Members; drinks and nibbles provided

RSVP: Jenni Woodroffe (08 9367 4759) by Friday 4 March

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The new Booked Up site is live!

The new Booked Up site is live! Woo hoo! Over the next week three Booked Up arcade style games will be added to the website as well as e-cards and competitions. There will also be a message board for Year 7s to talk about Booked Up and the books on offer.

Schools have until Friday 22 October to place their orders and all books will be delivered by the first week of December. What a great Christmas Present! The Booked Up DVD is also available on the website and you can see my bit of the DVD by clicking here and scrolling down to the video viewer on the Takeshita Demons Booked Up page:

Last term over 5,000 schools, hospices and home educators in England registered for Booked Up and this week they start receiving their sample set of books, guide for teachers, posters, a DVD and magazines for children. AWESOME!

In July just under 2,500 public libraries in England received a set of the Booked Up books, bookmarks, stickers and information for librarians. Booked Up also featured in information for 11-year-olds in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge.

There is also a pilot Booked Up program running in Northern Ireland. The pilot is based on the Booked Up England model of delivering through secondary schools and adding value to the programme through partnership working with Public Libraries. Booked Up Northern Ireland is spread across the whole of Northern Ireland with 68 pilot schools and 95 public libraries taking part.


So things are really very exciting at the moment. AND, in especially cool news, I spent a lovely evening last night at the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre for 123YA, a series of talks by three authors for Young Adults: Deb Fitzpatrick, author of 90 Packets of Instant Noodles; A.J. Betts, author of Shutterspeed and Wavelength; and Kate McCaffery, author of Beautiful Monster and others I’m too lazy to hyperlink (check out her website instead). It was great fun and very inspiring. If you live in Western Australia (or have a massive travel budget and lots of time) I recommend subscribing to Fremantle Press’s blog to find out when other, similar events are on. AND get yourself on the mailing list for the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre: they do great stuff and always have something interesting lined up in their calendar.

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Interviews with shortlisted writers

Over the last few weeks Tom Avery, the winner of the 2010 Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award, has interviewed writers shortlisted for the prize. The interviews give a great insight into what goes on behind the scenes in a writer’s life, and include some great advice for anyone keen to break in to the childrens writing market: keep at it!

The interviews are with:

Remi Oyedele – author of Goal Dreams

Karon Alderman – author of Story Thief

Sue Stern – author of Rafi Brown and Candy Floss Kid

Two of these three stories were inspired by newspaper articles, the third by real life, so it just goes to show that fact and non-fiction are powerful ways to spark your imagination and to explore new ideas.

I’ve got a horrible cold at the moment so will keep this post short…



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Who made the shortlist? 2010 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award

Yesterday I was stoked to report that Tom Avery is the winner of this year’s Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award. Today, we take a look at other writers recognised at the award ceremony:

There was a shortlist of six titles discussed by the judges, and three other writers were invited to the Award ceremony to recieve awards and constructive feedback.

So who were these three other writers?

Highly Commended: Goal Dreams by Remi Oyedele
(Goal Dreams also recieved an Honorable Mention in the Literary Storm Novel Competition, so watch this space for further success for Remi Oyedele!)

Synopsis: Goal Dreams is a coming-of-age story about Ade Coker, a 12-year-old aspiring footballer from south-west Nigeria.  Ade’s pursuit of football glory sets in motion events that see him acquiring a new family, suffering from exploitation and travelling across the globe before discovering that dreams can be realised in various forms.

Commended: Rafi Brown and the Candy Floss Kid by Sue Stern


Synopsis: Rafi Brown and the Candy Floss Kid is the story of two children misunderstood by adults: mildly dyslexic Rafi draws brilliant cartoons, but is bullied by his teacher, Horrible Hegarty. Carer of a mother with M.E, Candy defies the educational welfare officers. The two bunk off to the People’s History Museum, where Rafi is inspired by a photograph of child printers during the Russian Revolution to draw an exciting graphic story. Back at school, Mrs Hegarty collapses at her desk, but Rafi saves her. Truth is revealed, Rafi’s gift is acknowledged, and Candy joins him and his mates at school.

Special Mention: Story Thief by Karon Alderman

Synopsis: Story Thief is the story of an 11-year-old failed asylum seeker called Arlie.  She tells the story of the days following the arrest and detention of her family as she tries to hide from the authorities.  She is supported by her friend Louise and two boys who have their own reasons for staying in hiding.

Tom Avery, winner of the 2010 award, will be featuring more from these talented writers on his blog: Too Much Avery.

Congratulations to everyone shortlisted, and to everyone who entered! Keep entering, keep writing!! I seriously think the best way to keep writing is to keep getting little drip-drops of encouragement, especially if it comes in the form of someone in the industry picking your manuscript as being worthy. If they’re not your mother or your spouse, and they still think you can write…then it’s probably true! So go for it and keep writing!

I didn’t place anywhere in the first writing competition I ever entered, but I won that same writing competition two years later, and with the same manuscript (only I’d been working on the manuscript for those two years, so it was a pretty different book by thhen :-))(and MUCH better!). So….hang in there, keep writing. Keep trying. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it.



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Witch doctors, crocodiles, magic and treachery: The Gift by Gemma Birss

Gemma_BirssGemma Birss’ The Gift was Highly Commended in the 2009 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices children’s book award.

Gemma is a fabulously warm and energetic writer who has lived in Iran, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Japan, France, India and England. She says she has “millions of stories from different countries and cultures in my head, all jostling with each other to be told.”

Here we interview Gemma about The Gift, her writing, and the magic of good cup of Tetleys.

The Gift tells the tale of Chipo, who wakes up one day in a strange place. She has no memories and has lost the ability to speak. The story follows Chipo through the African bush on an adventure involving witch doctors, Tokoloshes, crocodiles, snakes, magic and treachery. With an extraordinary ability to read the sky, Chipo’s adventures finally lead her to discover her true identity and the harrowing truth of her past.


‘I want to show you something,’ Tendai said, jumping up.

I followed her towards the lucky bean tree.

‘Do you think you can remember to climb?’ she asked.

I nodded.

Tendai climbed quickly. Her feet knew all the knots and ledges. I followed her carefully, putting my feet where her feet had been and using the same hand grips she used. She stopped at the top of the trunk where the branches split out in different directions. There was a hollow in the centre of these branches, which was big enough for us both to sit in. I clambered up after her.

An excited grin spread across Tendai’s face as she reached her hand into a small hole in one of the branches. I thought nervously about the boomslang that had fallen from this same tree. Pungwe’s warning rang through my head; I didn’t have my magic anymore. I no longer knew how to sing to snakes and I couldn’t protect either of us as I used to. I hoped that Tendai realized this too. She didn’t pull out a boomslang, though. She pulled out a handful of necklaces. My mouth fell open with surprise. There were necklaces made from lucky beans, necklaces made from bird feathers, necklaces made from small bones. I reached out to take the one that caught my eye. It was made from thousands of yellow, jagged teeth. My fingers closed around the sharp edges.

‘That one is made from crocodile’s teeth. It is to protect you from the crocodiles in this river. It is a Tokoloshe necklace. Pungwe gave it to you.’

What do you usually write about and who do you write for?
I usually tinker away at a little diary, which means I write mainly for me. In my diary, I write about my life. I like to capture all those millions of fleeting moments. It’s like a photo album but with words. I’m always pottering about in my diary, and I don’t ever leave home without it. I write whatever pops into my head so it’s a kaleidoscope of my thoughts. I suppose I use some of these ideas and expressions in my books, so in that way, I’m writing for everyone.

Why do you write?
I have to confess; when I’m writing a book, I don’t actually write it. The book writes itself; the words spill out onto the page as they please and I don’t have much say in the matter. When I wrote The Gift, it was incredibly exciting because I didn’t know how the story was going to unfold. Chipo was having all these brilliant adventures and I had to keep writing to see what would happen next! The main reason I write, though, is that when I write, I am superlatively happy. Happiness for me is a cup of Tetleys, a notebook and a black pen.

Where and when do you write?
I write everywhere, but I spend a lot of time writing on trains and buses. Long journeys are the best for writing – watching the world unravel past your window, you have all the time in the world for ideas to unfold.

What was your favourite book as a child?Kpotheleopard
Kpo the Leopard by Rene Guillot. It was the first book that I chose for mum to buy me.

Who is your favourite children’s author either writing today or from the past?

I still have a deliciously soft spot for  Quentin Blake’s work, particularly his Lester goes to the Seaside. My favourite character from this book is Otto. Lester and Otto are at the beach and Otto picks up a stick to write his name in the sand. Then he tries to write his name backwards. It comes out as Otto. So he tries again, Otto, and again, Otto, and he gets very down in the mouth because, unlike Lester, his name is the same both forwards and backwards. Finally, an ingenious idea dawns; he grabs his stick and writes ‘Toot’! And then he dances about with glee at his cleverness. I also love Mini Grey and Oliver Jeffrey.

Some of Gemma's amazing artwork...

Some of Gemma's super-cute original artwork...

What are your plans for the future and for The Gift?
Whilst getting my story published, I’m also illustrating my picture books and training to be a Kundalini yoga teacher.

I’m working on a grown-up book at the moment too, which is a bit of a ‘spiritual journey’ kind of book… it’s taking its time to work its way out and is a challenging but really worthwhile process.

Who knows what the future holds – but if my past is anything to go by, it’s going to be an interesting ride!


Good luck with your writing and illustrating!!

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The Queen of Sheba’s feet: interview with Clare Reddaway

ClareRedawayToday we publish an interview with Clare Reddaway, an accomplished writer of plays and short stories who earned a Special Mention for her book, The Queen of Sheba’s feet, in the 2009 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices book award.

The Queen of Sheba’s feet follows the adventures of Bilkis, the Queen of Sheba’s handmaiden. Bilkis is travelling with her mistress across the desert to visit King Solomon in 980 BC. She can solve a mystery as old as the bible: is the Queen the daughter of a djinn, and does she therefore have goat’s feet? But she can only discover the truth if she gets through the desert alive…

There’s an extract from Chapter 5 at the bottom of the post, but we kick off with some questions: Thanks to Clare for helping us out!

What do you usually write about and why?
I’m not sure that I have something that I usually write about. I have been inspired by so many different topics and characters: an exiled Ethiopian Emperor in wartime Bath; a Victorian boy on a canal boat; a stone-age girl who is not allowed to go on a hunt. I like to delve into times and places that I am not familiar with, and to try to find a point of connection with the people there and then. I suppose if there is a common theme, it is that I am interested by characters who are outsiders, uncomfortable in their place or in themselves. I am interested in exploring how they change and grow.

Why do you write?
I like telling stories. I always have, and I always will. If someone wants to publish them, all well and good. Otherwise it’s me and my increasingly weary guinea pig.

Where and when do you write?
I write in my study, which has a view over the hills of Bath. I can see our golden Georgian terraces with their slate roofs, and Ralph Allen’s Palladian mansion, Prior Park, which he built as an advertisement for his stone quarries (a successful ad campaign, I’d say). Sometimes, ridiculously, a steam train puffs across the valley. Most gloriously though, and so rare in England, I can see the edge of the town, and fields with cows where the countryside begins. I write here whenever I can.

What inspired you to enter the Diverse Voices Award?
I think it is such an admirable award. It is so important for children to experience other cultures through stories. Children’s authors seem to me to be happy to portray other worlds, whilst rarely portraying other countries. I hoped that this award might nudge authors – and indeed myself – to explore our world differently.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I didn’t have one favourite, but a selection: The Secret Garden, The Treasure Seekers, When Marnie was There by Joan G Robinson, the Narnia Chronicles, the Swallows and Amazons books, Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea, The Woolpack by Cynthia Harnett.

Who is your favourite children’s author either writing today or from the past?
There are so many. As a parent I have experienced a whole sequence of books that are new, and that I missed. I like The Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynne Reid Banks. I like Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus. And for the completely contemporary, I like Michael Morpurgo, Eoin Colfer, Philip Pullman, Frank Cotterell Boyce, Michelle Paver – I believe we are in a golden age of writing for children. I particularly love the theatrical adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, which I took my daughter to last year. I wept and wept.

What does the future hold for you and your writing?
The Queen Of Sheba’s Feet is currently with Frances Lincoln, and all my fingers are crossed that they like it enough to publish it. As for my other writing, I’ve had a number of stories, both for adults and children, published in anthologies this year. I am a member of live short fiction group Heads and Tales, and perform with them across the south west (come see our next show!). My latest project with Heads and Tales has been We’ve So Many Things in Common. I was commissioned to write a children’s trail inspired by the local history of Horfield Common in Bristol for this event, and I am hoping to use the same format elsewhere. I also write scripts. Have a listen to Laying Ghosts, an audio play at Wireless Theatre Company. My latest play, New Religion, has been selected for a reading by The Group at Theatre Royal Stratford East in October.

“It’s a mirage.” Darih was lying on the top of the dune staring into the distance with Bilqis.

“A mirage! Don’t be ridiculous!” Bilqis looked at him in disbelief. He could see what she could see. A city, with golden spires and turquoise towers, with palaces and temples, palm fronds and cedar trees, more glorious than any she had imagined existed before. It couldn’t be a mirage. “A mirage is water. I’ve seen a mirage. We all have. That. Is. Not. A. Mirage.”

Bilqis’ voice was becoming shrill. She had tears in her eyes. “I know why you are saying this. You’re jealous. You’re jealous of my dancing and you’re jealous because the Queen has never noticed you. And now you’re jealous because I saw Jerusalem first.”

Darih shrugged. “Please yourself,” he said and he got up and started to slide back down the dune. Bilqis looked back at her beautiful, wonderful city. Was he right?

“I’m going to look,” she shouted down at him, but all he did was to hunch his shoulders and carry on down into the camp. Bilqis set off towards the city.

The way was difficult. The sand on the camp side of the dune had been soft like flour. The sand on the other side had a crisp crust that cracked under her feet, plunging her up to her knees. She felt like she was wading. It was hard work.

When she reached the base of the dune, the saffron sand stretched in front of her, rippled like water on a lake when you throw in a pebble. Bilqis looked at the towers in the distance. She imagined the praise she would get from Tamrin for her sharp eyes. The Aunts would be proud of her, even Karabil might smile. She started to run. Although she was soon a long way from the first dune, the city seemed as far away as before.

Bilqis slowed to a walk. She had a stitch in her side from running and she was hot, although it was still early. She took off her shawl and dropped it on the sand. She’d pick it up on the way back. Ahead of her she could see a ridge, higher than the dune she had climbed before. I’ll just get to the top of that ridge, she thought, and then I’ll really be able to see the city. The ridge had been the colour of ripe apricots as she had set off, but now it was the warm rich yellow of honey.


Do you love creative writing? 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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Motley’s Got Talent : Halina Boniszewska

HalinaBoniszewskaToday we interview Halina Boniszewska, a finalist in the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices book award, and her novel, Motley’s Got Talent.

Motley’s Got Talent is about twelve-year-old Ola, who moves to England from her native Poland with her mum, her auntie and her fitness-obsessed cousin, Marek. With little English and less confidence, Ola is delighted when a new friend, Blanka, invites her to take part in the Motley School Talent Show. When Blanka lets Ola down, Marek comes to the rescue with a rival routine for the talent show. But when the tables are turned and Marek needs help from Ola, she finally gains some much-needed confidence and independence.

I awoke much later to dry lips and a pounding head, the alarm clock raging, louder and louder… I reached out to hit it, knocked it over, sent the battery flying; yet still it rang, then stopped, then rang again. I wanted to kill it, took another swipe, missed again, then under my hand, felt the pulsating vibe of my mobile phone.

Suddenly I was bolt upright, my heart pounding. Mum? Auntie Ela? Blanka? If this was Blanka’s idea of a joke, then it wasn’t very funny.


‘It hurts…’ I felt him wince.

‘What’s up, Marek?’

‘I’ve done something to my foot…’ I heard a sharp intake of breath. ‘I can’t walk…’ He winced again.

‘Where are you?’

There was a pause while he caught his breath; then he answered rapidly: ‘Kenilworth Castle.’

Kenilworth Castle? What are you doing at Kenilworth Castle?’

‘Seeing the Queen! What do you think? Ola, can you help me?’

He was starting to whimper.

‘Marek, Kenilworth Castle…that’s miles away! How could I get there?’

‘For God’s sake!’ he hissed. ‘Take the bus!’

‘The bus..?’ My heart was racing.

‘The bus!’ he snapped. ‘You know what a bus is!’

What do you usually write about and who do you write for?

I write about all sorts of things – anything that takes my interest; it might be something funny; something unusual or something important. I write for adults as well as children, but I also write to please myself. I write the sort of stories that I would like to read myself.

Why do you write?
I write because it makes my happy; I am never happier than when I am writing. I enjoy making up stories and getting to know the characters in them. I get attached to the characters – even those who are not so very nice – and I miss them when I have finished a story.

Where and when do you write?
I write wherever and whenever I can: before work, after work, at the weekend. I write at the bus stop, on park benches and in cafes. I write when I should really be asleep!

What inspired you to enter the Diverse Voices Award?
As soon as I saw the notice about the Diverse Voices Award, I immediately wanted to write a story that was set in a mixed comprehensive school and had, as its main characters, children from ethnic minority and black backgrounds, whose voices are under-represented in children’s literature in the UK. In my day job I work as a teacher of ethnic minority and black children, many of whom are new arrivals in this country. These young people encounter all sorts of issues when they arrive in this country. I wanted to write a story that would help people understand how these children feel when they move to a new environment. I also wanted to show that these children are essentially the same as children everywhere – sometimes they feel happy; sometimes they feel sad; what they all have in common is a desire to belong and a need to be loved.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I most enjoyed Dr Doolittle; Little Women and Paddington Bear. Little Women made me cry and Dr Doolittle and Paddington Bear made me laugh. I think that one of the reasons why I enjoyed Dr Doolittle so much was because my teacher at junior school read it out loud to us; it reminds me of happy times sitting on the carpet at junior school.

Who is your favourite children’s author writing today or from the past?
I have a number of favourite authors: Michael Bond, Magdalen Nabb, Adele Geras and Philip Pullman. I love the humour in Michael Bond’s Paddington books. I think that we can learn a lot from Paddington and his adventures. He can help us understand how puzzling the world might seem to people who are new to a place and see it with different eyes from the rest of us. Another of my favourite children’s authors is Magdalen Nabb, creator of the Josie Smith books. I think that she truly understands how children think and feel and manages to convey real emotion in her writing, so that, even now, several years after reading the Josie Smith books to my children, I can still feel my heart thumping like Josie’s did when she struggled to do some difficult sums in class. I enjoy books by Adele Geras. I particularly like her Golden Windows and My Grandmother’s Stories. I find her writing warm and full of hope and her descriptions vivid and multi-sensory. I find so much to admire in Philip Pullman’s books: the clever plots, the sparse style of writing — He never uses two words where one will do, and he always manages to choose just the right one, so an image sticks – the atmosphere and the moral questions, and so much more…

What does the future hold for you and your writing?
I am currently finishing the first draft of a sequel to Motley’s Got Talent. Once I’ve reworked this, I’ll go back to working on a novel for adults, though I’ll almost certainly take a break from that to write a short story or two, or three…

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Penguin Australia picks up shortlisted book: Oliver Phommavanh and Thai-riffic!

Time has been getting away from me…suddenly I’m 38-weeks pregnant (how strange!) and the days are filled with washing baby socks and moving things into non-existent drawers and wondering how we’re going to function on fractional sleep. Oh well 🙂

olliehighresIn terrific news, Oliver Phommavanh, one of the writers shortlisted for the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices book award, has had his novel Thai-riffic! picked up by Penguin Australia! Way to go Oliver! This is the first in what I am sure will be many successes for the shortlisted crew. Below is a short interview with Oliver c/o the Seven Stories Children’s Book centre, and an excerpt from the book…

Thai-riffic! revolves around Albert LENG-VIRI-YA-KUL, a cheeky Thai kid who’s embarrassed to be Thai, thanks to his crazy parents who run Thairiffic! restaurant. Albert’s sick of eating Thai food and hates speaking Thai in public. The only thing he likes about Thai New Year is the water fights. To make matters worse, he’s also stuck with Mr Winfree, a weird and wacky teacher who talks to toys. And Albert thought he had problems. Albert’s all Thai-ed up! He’ll do anything for a normal life (and a juicy meat pie) and that means trouble for anyone who gets in his way!

All the teachers have trouble with my surname. I’m Australian so I should have an Aussie surname, something easy like Smith or Jones. But I’m stuck with Lengviriyakul. It looks like someone ate alphabet soup and threw up some letters. Mum says I should be proud of my surname because people will know that I’m Thai. Yeah right. Wong sounds Chinese. Nguyen sounds Vietnamese. Lengviriyakul sounds like I’m either from Mars or my parents are dinosaurs.

What do you usually write about and who do you write for?
I write funny stories about everyday situations and exploring the weird and crazy side of life. My stories are for little kids and big kids AKA adults.

Why do you write?
I love making people laugh and smile. I always have wacky thoughts in my head and it would explode if I didn’t put them down on paper.

Where and when do you write?
I spend mornings in the bedroom with my laptop, post it notes and lots of tea. I also carry my notebook with me everywhere, jotting down ideas when they appear. I’ve perfected the skill of writing without looking at the page!

What inspired you to enter the Diverse Voices Award?
My Thai tales allow readers to gain an insight in a fascinating and relatively unknown culture.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I have to cheat here and say any title with an ‘Un’ at the start by Paul Jennings. Unreal, Unbelievable, Uncanny…

Who is your favourite children’s author either writing today or from the past?
I’m a huge fan of Andy Griffiths.

What’s in store for Oliver Phommavanh?
As a Thai-Australian author, I want to be a proud and positive voice for young readers who share two cultures. I love making kids of all sizes (including the big kids, aka adults) laugh. I’ll continue to write stories that explore the ‘cHEwY’ and wacky side of life. There’s so much untapped humour in everyday situations. I also have these voices in my head, cracking me up with all their personalities. I can’t wait to let them loose on the page!

Thanks Oliver, and congratulations on the Penguin contract!

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Steve Tasane and Fly Kids

I’ve been getting into performance poetry lately, so who better to feature next than Steve Tasane, an awesome poet specialising in fast and funky word-twisting for children. Steve is another of the writers shortlisted in the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices book award for his book Fly Kids.

SteveSteve’s website calls him “the master of tongue-twisting, mind-boggling alternative poetry” and a quick shop around the web (for example, check out Steve’s poems for the Battersea Dogs Home including the YouTube vid at the bottom of this post) or some of Steve’s children’s poems, proves him entirely right. Steve will be performing at the 2009 Glastonbury Festival in Kidz Field, where they reckon “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood, to to enable someone else to”…how fab! And isn’t that why so many of us write for children?

More on Fly Kids…

So what’s Fly Kids all about? It’s a mix of the harsh reality (refugees, immigration, xenophobia) and wild fiction (woo hoo! who hasn’t wished they could fly?). In a nutshell: Riki and his brother can fly – but only in their bedroom. Riki’s father was a refugee. Uncovering details of his father’s flight to the UK, Riki realises that not everybody is so happy about people’s differences. The Ministry of Safety and Health (MOSH) begin investigating families rumoured to have flying children. Then Riki’s younger brother is forcibly taken by MOSH. Riki and his friends must undertake a daring rescue mission, confronting the agents at MOSH and endeavouring to let the world see – and celebrate  – the fact that there are those amongst us who are not the same.

My titchy little brother Mikk has a special gift. And I believe in him.  True, he is always borrowing my things without asking, and managing to bust them. He always has food smudged all over his face, and sticky fingers, and he picks his nose too much. He is a first-class pest. But he really does have a special gift. I’ve seen him with my own eyes. I’ve watched him bouncing on his bed. I mean, really really really bouncing. I swear he bounces higher than anyone could ever jump. And it takes a little too long for him to drop back down. He is magic.

And a quick interview with Steve, courtesy of Seven Stories, host of the Diverse Voices awards night…

What do you usually write about and who do you write for?
Usually I write performance poetry, sometimes for children, sometimes for adults. I believe poetry is something to be enjoyed in schools and at festivals, clubs, on TV and the internet – everywhere! I like my poems to celebrate language and also to encourage us to live better lives. My poems are about our world today, and all the people who share its space.

Why do you write?
I love the sounds of words and I like to imagine them dancing out of my mouth. I think of my poems as representing different types of music – soul, party anthems, hip hop, and pop. I think about what I enjoy reading and hearing, and try with my writing to capture this for others. Often, I write because some things make me angry – like greed and bullying – and I like to make my opinions heard.

Where and when do you write?
I write a lot of my poems when out walking, and often when I’m lying awake in bed at night. I wrote my children’s novel entirely longhand, on trains travelling to and from children’s poetry workshops.

What inspired you to enter the Diverse Voices Award?
An actual dream – about flying – and a dream of having my own voice heard.

What was your favourite book as a child?
Superhero books!

Who is your favourite children’s author either writing today or from the past?
Philip Pullman

What does the future hold for you and your writing?
I’m presently working on short stories for submission for other children’s anthologies, and preparing for appearances in the kid’s fields at both Glastonbury and Big Chill festivals. I work primarily as a performance poet, and as an Associate Artist for the Live Literature Consortium I’ve been commissioned to produce a set of polyvocal poetry. So I’m presently exploring possibilities for doing the same with my children’s poems.

And below, check out Steve’s hilarious and sweet tribute to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home:

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Rahala Begum: The Winning Ticket

Our next featured writer is Rahala Begum, with her shortlisted book The Winning Ticket.

Rahala Begum was among ten writers shortlisted for the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices book award with her book The Winning Ticket, a story about 12-year-old Zaina who lives with her illiterate single mother and is deprived of her basic desires. When a life-changing opportunity comes to Zaina in the form of a lottery ticket, she faces a major set-back: her mother, for religious reasons, is against gambling and therefore will not accept the winnings. But Zaina is desperate and determined. She goes on a journey of anguish and uncertainties until she meets a stranger who shows her another obvious yet simple way to fulfil her needs.

Below we feature Rahala’s answers to a questionnaire produced by Seven Stories – the centre for children’s books.

Excerpt from The Winning Ticket
I had escaped up here from the chaos downstairs, just to get a calm glimpse of this moment. Soon my eyes caught the sight of the black shrouded coffin, elegantly decorated in golden Arabic writing, being carried out the house. My father was in it.  I didn’t know how to feel. My heart didn’t ache and my eyes were dry.  He was my father but I didn’t know him. They had brought him into the house for people to pay their last respects, but I didn’t want to. He had been absent most of my life so how could I miss him?

What do you usually write about and who do you write for?

I have kept a personal diary of 11 years which I update with details of incidents, descriptions of emotions and information about my family. Also I scribble down ideas for stories.

Why do you write?
I remember as a child listening to my grandparents telling me stories from their childhood. It used to feel amazing to travel into their world. I get the same pleasure of experiencing a different world when I write.

Where and when do you write?
I stay up in my bed till late at nights when both my young children are asleep and I’m totally free from household chores.

What inspired you to enter the Diverse Voices Award?

There’s no fun in telling a story when there’s no audience so I felt this competition was an obvious ear eager to listen to me.

HotzenplotzWhat was your favourite book as a child?
The Robber Hotzenplotz (by Otfried Preußler)

Who is your favourite children’s author either writing today or from the past?
There are so many good authors out there but Jacqueline Wilson has a unique style of entertaining.

What does the future hold for your writing and your book?
I’m already putting ideas together for my next novel, but before that I would like to publish my current novel which I’m continuously polishing up.

Thanks Rahala for sharing your inspirations and ideas: I look forward to reading your book!!