A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke

I hope you read our guest post from Lisa Lueddecke as part of a blog tour promoting her second book, A Storm of Ice and Stars, earlier this month. I was also sent a copy of the book to read and review.

Ice, myth, magic and danger in this bone-chilling, page-turning, beautifully written fantasy novel set in the same world as A SHIVER OF SNOW AND SKY. Blood-red lights have appeared in the sky over the frozen island of Skane, causing a cloak of fear and suspicion to fall over the village like a blanket of snow. In a desperate attempt to keep out the plague, the village elders barricade its borders – no-one, no matter how in need of help, will be permitted to enter in case they bring infection with them. Teenager Janna refuses to turn her back on people seeking refuge and is banished to the swirling snow and lurking darkness beyond the village. Can she survive?

The opening paragraphs gracefully introduce us to the vast, quiet, cold island of Skane and the dangerous sky that promises death for many. Our main character has long been considered odd by the village and, when something terrible happens the night after the villagers close their borders for fear of plague, these whispers of witchcraft turn into loud accusations and she is forced to leave. I was turning the pages at speed at this point, fearing what was coming, but once her trek from the village begins it became (for me) less tense and more clearly pre-destined, turning into a quest to plead with the Gods to save those who were kind to her. The writing is truly atmospheric, it is a very wintery read. Well paced, with character building flashbacks that do a lot to explain her behaviour, and a satisfying end.

Follow the Funny

Those of you who attended the YLG national conference in Manchester last month will remember the panel discussion about funny books for children and writing comedy. In response to an audience question about judging the quality of comedy, one of the panellists, Dave Shelton, recommended some podcasts about the mechanics of writing comedy. Afterwards I asked if he’d be able to share them for the blog and, after a gentle prod, he has!

Barry Cryer is fond of saying that analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog: nobody laughs, and the frog dies. And Barry Cryer has been extremely funny for about three centuries now, so he knows a thing or two. But personally, possibly because I don’t have funny bones like Mr Cryer’s, and because I’m naturally a bit nerdy, I quite enjoy taking a scalpel to a joke and figuring out how it works. I wouldn’t want to do it all the while: I’d hate to lose the pure joy of laughing at a great gag, or a sketch, or a bit of slapstick, and not worrying about the craft that went into it. But some of the writing I do is meant to be funny, and I want to be good at my job, so I do like sometimes (to switch metaphors) to open the bonnet and take a look at the engine. And happily, in the Age of the Internet, there are some pretty good comedy Haynes manuals available for those of us who take an interest in the mechanics. So here, for anyone similarly interested in poking about in the inner workings of all things funny, are my favourite podcasts on the subject.

The Comedian’s Comedian podcast, with Stuart Goldsmith

Stand up comedian Stuart Goldsmith interviews (mostly) other stand up comedians and nerdily analyse their craft. Goldsmith (not a comedian I was aware of previously) is a knowledgable, enthusiastic and thoughtful host and (at time of writing) there are 265 shows to choose from, including an excellent two-parter with the aforementioned Mr Cryer. Well worth a dig through his archives. http://www.comedianscomedian.com/podcasts/ 

The Adam Buxton Podcast

Adam Buxton (of former Adam and Joe fame) casts his net a little
wider, occasionally interviewing film directors, actors and other creative
types, but the majority of his interviews (or “ramblechats”) are with comedy
types (comedians, writers, comedic actors) and Buxton’s personable interviewing
style often takes an idiosyncratic approach that gains insights that a more
straightforward approach would fail to reveal, especially when the interviewee
already knows him (as is sometimes the case). Less analytical and technical
than Stuart Goldsmith’s show, but more likely to be funny in itself. http://www.adam-buxton.co.uk/podcasts 

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP)

Another interview podcast (the guestlist of which overlaps
somewhat with that of Adam Buxton’s) in which Richard Herring (also formerly
half of a double act – Herring used to work with Stewart Lee in the ‘90s)
interviews mostly fellow comedians for about an hour in front of a live
audience at the Leicester Square Theatre (as you had perhaps already guessed
from the title). Gloriously wayward, sometimes gleefully childish, and
occasionally stomping over the boundaries of good taste, Herring won’t be to
everyone’s taste, but he knows his stuff and he’s an insightful interviewer,
especially when the chemistry really clicks with his interviewee. http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/richard_herring_lst_podcast/ …

Sitcom Geeks

Hosts James Cary and Dave Cohen discuss the art of sitcom
writing for TV and Radio, either between themselves or with a guest. I
personally find this one a little more hit and miss than those above, but
there’s plenty of gold amongst their (so far) 90 episodes, not least the two
part interview with my particular current radio comedy writing hero, John
Finnemore. http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/sitcom_geeks/ …

Rule of Three

I’ve saved the best till last: this one is the baby of these
choices, having only begun in April 2018, but it’s my particular favourite.
Hosts Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley (creators of those irritatingly successful
and hilarious spoof Ladybird books, and jobbing writers for all kinds of folk
across radio, TV and film) take a different, more focussed, approach to the
other four shows. To quote Joel’s introduction to the show: “We’re joined by
someone who makes comedy to talk about something funny that they love. By
taking it apart maybe we’ll learn something about how comedy works. Or we’ll
just quote bits from it and giggle till we’re finished. Both approaches are
valid.” Subjects chosen range from Armando Iannucci’s groundbreaking On the
Hour (the radio forerunner of The Day Today) to Father Ted, via a Monty Python
LP and cartoonist Leo Baxendale (creator of The Bash Street Kids). All great,
hugely entertaining, and deeply interesting. http://www.ruleofthreepod.com

Dave writes and illustrates books and comics, including the unsettling ‘Thirteen Chairs’, ‘Good Dog Bad Dog’, and contributing to The Phoenix. His latest offering, ‘The Book Case‘, is a gloriously madcap tale beginning the adventures of a trainee Assistant Assistant Librarian (there are more to come, hooray!). Honestly, one of my favourite books since ‘A Boy and a Bear in a Boat’.

 

 

The Hate U Give – the film

Have I mentioned before what a privilege it is being involved in the CILIP YLG London committee? Because the book by Angie Thomas was shortlisted for the 2018 Carnegie medial, we were invited by Walker books to a special preview of the film at 20th Century Fox in London last week.

Having read the book multiple times during the judging process, I was pretty nervous about how a film might live up to the source material. When we got into the small screening room there were bags of popcorn and packets of tissues waiting for us on the seats and boy were they needed (the tissues, although the popcorn was much appreciated)! In some respects it is very different to the book, lots cut out or rearranged in order to tell the story in 132 minutes – but the bits they kept the same were brilliant and the bits they changed worked. In fact <spoiler redacted> was completely different to the book and such a shock that I cried so hard I couldn’t stop a strange noise escaping my throat…and I still want to cry thinking about it. It translated the core message of the book superbly. But it is also funny! And sweet! Lots of reviews have focussed on the Dad character, Maverick, who is played to perfection by Russell Hornsby, but the whole family was amazing. I especially loved Sekani, that boy really is joy personified.

This is one of those rare occasions where the film is as special as the book, and I highly recommend you make your way to the cinema to see it when it is released. And if you haven’t read it yet, well I just don’t know where you’ve been…

A STORM OF ICE AND STARS by Lisa Lueddecke – Guest Post

How I Write

By Lisa Lueddecke

 

If you’re interested in how I go about writing the books that you read, then this is the place for you. Let me just caveat this post by saying that this is a description of my normal writing life, when I’m not pregnant and repulsed by coffee, etc.

My writing days always start very early. I have long been a morning person, far more inspired by the dawn than the dusk. Particularly when I was writing A Storm of Ice and Stars and living in Cumbria, England, I would set my alarm for five or five thirty am every day, when it was still very dark outside (I wrote most of the book over winter), and after feeding the cat and making my first cup of coffee, I would get into my writing room just as the sun was starting to come up, or close to it. For me, especially when writing fantasy, I find that early morning, pre-dawn time more inspiring than anything else. I even mention it from time to time in my writing, those early hours when the sun is just began to yawn and wake up.

In addition to coffee and mornings, one thing that I usually cannot write without is a scented candle. For A Shiver of Snow and Sky and A Storm of Ice and Stars, I most often wrote with a forest/pine/evergreen/fir scented candle, with the occasional Christmas one sprinkled in. Writing, for me, needs to be a very immersive experience, so I can really feel and see and smell and hear the world. Alongside my candle, I would play some sort of ambience to fit whatever scene I was writing, like an icy cave or crashing waves on a beach. I find that by doing my best to recreate elements of the scene that I’m working on, I can better immerse my readers in the world. I find more details, more descriptions, more bits and pieces that make the world seem real. My fantasy stories have always been very setting-based, and I think that’s why I need so many elements to have a successful writing day. I have to believe in it in order to make other people believe in it.

Although I have moved to America, my writing routine has not changed. I still write very early in the morning, and I try not to set word count goals for myself unless I’m on a very tight deadline. I have to just let the words and the scenes flow, or I feel like my brain stops working with me. I write until I start to get distracted, or I realize that I’m forcing the words out, and then I just let it be for the day, or until the afternoon when I’m feeling fresh and revived. I’m not one of those people that thrives when writing somewhere like a coffee shop. I wish I was, because I usually love coffee, but I’m not. I need mostly quiet, save for my ambiences or my wordless music, and I write either at my desk, or sitting my my couch.

Even if my country and my writing space changes, the way that I write does not, and I’m not sure that it ever will. Scented candles, relevant ambiences, and coffee have always been necessary for me, and I suspect they always will.

 

A STORM OF ICE AND STARS by Lisa Lueddecke out now in paperback (£7.99, Scholastic)

@LisaLueddecke      www.lisalueddecke.com

#ICEandSTARS

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals: a change has come

Full disclosure: I am a member of CILIP and a former judge for the 2015 & 16 CILIP CKG Medals.

I knew it was coming, and was even expecting it, but what with some changes in my life and location, the announcement that the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards Independent Diversity Review Final Report was published on Thursday 27th September still managed to catch me by surprise.

As an ardent fan (although not an uncritical one), follower and commentator of the Medals, I was excited to read the recommendations, but still approached them with a sense of trepidation; owing possibly to the sense of ownership I felt as a librarian and as a member of CILIP and the Youth Libraries Group. Nevertheless I shook off these feelings and approached the report with a cautious optimism and told myself that the Awards do not belong to me, that I know they are a living thing that can and have changed in the past and that change is good.

The ten recommendations made in the final report are:

  • Explicitly champion diversity through the Awards’ strategies, development plans and messages including a statement of a robust and proactive strategy for the Awards that clearly states a commitment to diversity and inclusion with clear vision, objectives, and positive action towards stated intended outcomes.
  • Recognise a diverse range of voices and perspectives in the nominations, longlist, shortlist and prize winners.
  • Expand the diversity profile of the judges by increasing the variety of backgrounds and lived-experiences amongst CILIP’s panel of librarian judges.
  • Establish an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to accelerate the embedding of diversity and inclusion throughout the Awards.
  • Strengthen the diversity training that librarian judges receive to instil heightened awareness of diversity and inclusion and understanding of the impact of power dynamics, as well as acknowledgement of inevitable personal biases in all members of the panel.
  • Review the Awards criteria through an open and collaborative process that includes a diversity of perspectives and lived-experience. Consider the inclusion of criteria for innovation, shifting perceptions, or writing about different backgrounds and experience as indicators of quality and excellence.
  • Empower and celebrate the children and young people involved in the Awards through the shadowing scheme by giving them a significant voice and visible presence in the process and prize giving.
  • Strengthen the governance that supports the Awards’ strategic direction, calling on internal and external experts to lead the Awards through a sustainable change process over the short and long term.
  • Raise greater awareness of diverse books amongst librarians and identify opportunities for further championing of diversity with the library supply sector.
  • Increase outreach by opening up and amplifying the nominations process, discovering and recognising new and diverse talent and forging new partnerships.

  •  
    CILIP’s immediate actions are to:

  • Creating a new mission for the Awards: To inspire and empower the next generation to create a better world through books and reading.
  • Opening up the nominations process to external nominating bodies as well as librarians including BookTrust, CLPE, Commonword, IBBY, Inclusive Minds, National Literacy Trust and RNIB.
  • Creating a list of eligible books by diverse authors and illustrators, to raise awareness amongst CILIP members.
  • Expanding the judging panel to bring in a broader range of perspectives and experiences into the judging process.
  • Setting up an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to bring greater representation and lived experience into the Awards process.
  • Providing judges with enhanced diversity training including coaching sessions, bias testing and guidance notes on identifying inclusion in children’s books.
  • Introducing a new children’s choice prize to be presented by participants of the Shadowing scheme at the June Awards ceremony.
  • Celebrating new and emerging talent though a quarterly publication of top 10 new voices eligible for the upcoming Medals.

  •  
    The recommendations and actions that give me a sense of joy and elation are that future Awards will include recognition from the Shadowing scheme, I and many other judges and observers over the years have asked for and pushed for this, or something like it to be included in the ceremony. The already excellent training that judges go through before they sit on the panel is to be improved with diversity training to assist judges in identifying bias and inclusion.

    I must admit to feeling a bit smug at being ahead of the curve when I read that CILIP is curating a list of eligible diverse books for the 2019 awards as that is something I was working on for the 2018 Awards; such lists are important, for, as I wrote then: I believe that it is possible for books to slip past fairly easily, due to the sheer volume of books published for children and young readers and the limits that publishers publicity departments face with regard to budget, many books are released with little or no official fanfare at all.

    Maintaining awareness of new books is an on-going struggle for library workers, this is made more difficult with services such as supplier selection which removes choice from staff in libraries; often popular titles and authors are purchased to the exclusion of new authors and illustrators or small and independent publishers. I will just say that many of my best sources of information about new and diverse books are librarians that I know personally and on-line as we are passionate about discovering new authors to enable us to put books in the hands of readers who will enjoy them.

    Allied with this is the inclusion of new nominating bodies, including IBBY, CLPE, Booktrust, Inclusive Minds, the RNIB, CommonWord and the National Literacy Trust. At first I was skeptical of opening nominations to outside organisations but after some reflection I have come to realise that the organisations involved are all allied in some way with CILIP and may catch and nominate diverse titles that are missed by librarian nominators.

    Expanding diversity and experience among the judging panel is a process that has already begun with judges being recruited from a wider pool within CILIP, the first judges recruited in this way will be judging the 2019 Medals.

    I am curious as to why the panel is being enlarged to 14 judges; in previous years judges have represented the 12 YLG regions in the UK. I am assuming that the extras will be chosen from the pool of applications for the original 12 places. An added point of concern is that it will place more pressure on finding judges, as I am aware that in the past filling slots on the panel has been a bit fraught due to a lack of available librarians. I wonder whether the extra judges be chosen in rotation from the different regions every two years in the interests of balance and equality?

    The call to review the awards criteria is one that I feel may be redundant, as the criteria are already regularly reviewed and updated when short-comings are discovered. The most recent example of this is the addition of the illustrator’s name to illustrated novels nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2016 . I do however recognise that the explicit language used may be needed to inform those unaware of how the criteria are governed and updated.

    Adding an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to the panel that already exists to advise and monitor the awards process can only assist the judges in their deliberations and making the strongest possible selections. I will watch with interest and look forward to discovering who will make up the panel.

    The championing of new voices is a great idea and one that will lead to a closer working relationship between CILIP and publishers & authors in the UK and abroad.

    The creation of a new mission for the CKG Awards firmly embeds the purpose of the awards and extends it to make them two of the most inclusive book awards, and not just for books and illustration for children and young people:

    Mission

    To inspire and empower the next generation to create a better world through books and reading.

    We will do this by:

  • Celebrating outstanding writing and illustration for children and young people.
  • Recognising a broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices.
  • Championing the power of librarians to connect children and young people with outstanding books that represent their identities and help them shape a better world.
  • Encouraging authors, illustrators and publishers to create more books for children and young people that reflect all identities and promote diversity.
  • Promoting a readership and market that values diversity, representation and inclusion in books for books for children and young people.
  • Challenging children and young people with a diversity of ideas and perspectives to promote empathy, tolerance and understanding.
  •  
    The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards have been in existence for over 80 and 60 years respectively, and under the stewardship of the Youth Libraries Group and CILIP they have grown in prestige and awareness over the decades. I trust the stewards to do the right thing for the awards, to make them stronger and ever more inclusive; in supporting the judges as the work that they do grows ever harder with no end in sight to the growth in publishing for young people.

    I look forward to watching the awards progress in coming years, to see how the largest changes in over a generation affect them; but remain confident that it will be change for the better, as their defining purpose, the recognition of outstanding writing and illustration for children and young people, has not changed!

    Links

    CILIP post on the Final Report

    Independent Diversity Review: Final Report

    Bookseller article: CILIP makes changes at Carnegie and Kate Greenaway following diversity review

    Guardian article: Carnegie medal promises immediate action over lack of diversity

    Updated (but always incomplete) list of UK BAME authors and illustrators

    Just a quick note to say that there are new names on the list but, as ever, let us know who’s missing!

    An Updated (but still incomplete) List of British BAME Authors for Children & Young People

    Stay a Little Longer by Bali Rai – Review

    Aman’s dad is gone, leaving her feeling lost and alone. She struggles to talk about it, but it’s a fact and he isn’t coming back. It just seems to be her and mum against the world, even against their family. When a lovely man called Gurnam moves into her street, it looks like he might fill a little gap in her life. But Gurnam has his own sadness. One that’s far bigger than Aman can understand and it’s tearing his life apart…A touching and evocative tale of unlikely friendships and finding happiness in the hardest of times.

    It is set in the outskirts of Leicester, Bali’s hometown, with a diverse and *real* cast of characters. Bullies try to intimidate Aman and Gurnam, who recently moved onto her street, comes to support her. Thus begins the friendship between him and her family. Aman and her mum aren’t religious but they go to the gurdwara for a friend’s blessing as well as celebrating Christmas both in their home and with their community in a new garden project. I don’t want to spoiler the story too much but the hard hitting emotional impact of this book comes from its sensitive portrayal of poor mental health and grief, as Aman tries to understand why Gurnam may have left his family and how she can make him realise that it is worth staying a little longer. There are some beautiful lines about loss and feeling sad, and some really heartbreaking scenes.

    Bali Rai has written a number of titles for Barrington Stoke (you all know how much I love Barrington Stoke) since their inception, all of which are perfectly pitched at their target audience, as well as a number of engrossing YA and entertaining younger readers for other publishers. Stay a Little Longer is, I think, one of his best so far.

    Peace and Me by Ali Winter and Mikael El Fathi – Review

     

    What does peace mean to you? This illustrated collection of inspirational ideas about peace is based on the lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai. A must for anyone interested in exploring this essential issue of our times, this child-friendly exploration of what peace means to you and me is a book for every bookshelf.

    Amnesty International endorses this book because it shows how standing up for other people makes the world a better, more peaceful place.

    This book is Lantana Publishing‘s first foray into non-fiction, and is both interesting and beautiful. Twelve Nobel prize winners each have a double page spread with a brief but fascinating snippet about their life and achievements, written by Ali Winter. It is targeted at 7-11year olds but I honestly think older children (and adults) will get something out of it too, I certainly wasn’t aware of all the laureates chosen to be included, they are a really diverse selection of people from all over the world.
    It is so colourful and eyecatching. The textures and layout of each page really make it stand out, but they fit together perfectly. Mikael El Fathi’s illustrations really give you a sense of what made/makes each person special.
    Definitely one for every school library, and hopefully lots of homes too! It is being published next week on 21st September 2018, The International Day of Peace, very appropriate.

    Children’s Rights to Read

    To mark International Literacy Day an important campaign has been launched by the International Literacy Association. Learn more about ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read initiative on their website.

    The 8th of September was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO at the 14th session of UNESCO’s General Conference on 26 October 1966 to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies, and you will find lots of information about it on the UN website

    #TeenLibrarian Monthly September 2018

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