Monthly Archives: July 2012

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YA in SA: Interview with S.A. Partridge

S.A. Partridge is the author of award-winning YA novels Fuse, The Goblet Club and Dark Poppy’s Demise.

1. I am ashamed to say that I have not read any of your books but I did pick up a copy of Dark Poppy’s Demise at Kalk Bay Books on Sunday, would you be able to introduce yourself for those that have not encountered you in print or online before.

I am a YA writer from Cape Town, South Africa. I have three novels out in the wild.

2. Your novels focus on problems that many teenagers face – bullying, living rough and so on as a South African writer do you feel that SA youth have a unique set of problems or do you think what they face is universal?

South Africa is unique in that it’s a first world country with a third world reputation. It’s home to a melting pot of cultures and one of the most interesting places you can live. But rather than focus on what makes us different, race is kind of the elephant in the room that is missing from all my novels. Instead I focus on the real world, modern problems that face teenagers in South Africa and across the globe, such as Internet predators, drug dealers, peer pressure, abuse, and yes, friends with murderous intentions.

3. You have won a number of awards for your books The Goblet Club winning the SABC/You Magazine I am a writer Competition and the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel, Fuse short-listed for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for youth literature in 2010 and will be showcased at the IBBY World Conference in August and Dark Poppy’s Demise won the MER Prize. Not only that but you have been named as one of South Africa’s best authors. Do you feel under pressure from all these accolades or are you able to ignore the expectations and just write?

I just write. As soon as I’m done with one novel, another story starts nudging for my attention and I move on to that. I don’t write with things like awards and being prescribed at school in mind. I tend to focus on the story and the characters and doing my best to translate them down onto to paper. I’m weird in the way that I believe stories exist out there in the universe and that the writer is just the medium.

4. Have any of your novels been picked up by overseas publishers?

I’m working on it. Watch this space. You can pick them up through some online vendors.

5. Are any of your novels based on personal experiences

Not really. Sometimes I overhear bits of conversation or see something that makes an impression and then add it in, but for the most part the story is complete when it finds me. For Dark Poppy’s Demise, which is about a girl that meets a psychopath online, I drew on my own experience of online dating, but only for research. It didn’t play a part of the story.

6. I read in a review that you “deliver a dystopian view of South African youth culture” why do you think that young people have such a rough time (not just in SA but globally)?

There is an urgency to being a teenager that we tend to forget about the older we get. High school is where we learn to interact with people socially, so if you think about it, it’s a little bit like the island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It’s about being the alpha dog, fitting in, finding your social status, impressing the girl, impressing the rest. It’s such an insular environment that isn’t really affected by the outside world and every problem seems more end of the world than it really is.

7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I enjoy flat out bouts of writing where I produce a massive amount of content in a matter of hours. I’m addicted to seeing a story start to take shape. It gives me a greater sense of achievement than actually publishing the book.

8. How do you think that YA writing perceived in South Africa?

YA is incredibly popular in South Africa. Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see the floating displays of latest releases. There are also a lot of dedicated YA book blogs that build excitement for upcoming releases. For example, when Veronica Roth’s Insurgent came out, there was a huge buzz among local book bloggers on Twitter. They are also hugely supportive of local writers, which is awesome. There’s an incredible atmosphere of support and encouragement here.

9. Have you had much feedback from teen readers? What have their thoughts been about your writing?

I’ve been very lucky. My first novel was adapted into a school play and on opening night I was bowled over by the kids wanting to talk to me about the book. I also get quite a few messages on Facebook from readers, and most recently Twitter as well.

10. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, Lily Herne, Cat Hellisen and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)

Edyth Bulbring is very prolific. Adeline Radloff wrote an excellent YA about a super hero and his teenage apprentice set in Cape Town that won the Sanlam Youth Prize. Lauri Kubuitsile is a YA writer from Botswana whose novel Signed, Hopelessly in Love, was also up for the MER prize. There’s also Alex Smith, Jenny Robson, Gillian D’achada, Jayne Bauling, Francois Bloemhof, Robin Malan, Fanie Viljoen. It’s a small community, but the content coming out is fantastic.

11. What is coming next after Dark Poppy’s Demise?

My next novel is called Sharp Edges, which tackles the mystery surrounding the death of a seventeen year old girl at a trance party, seen through the perspective of the five other people there. It will hit shelves in April 2013.

You can follow S.A. Partridge via her blog:

on Facebook:

or on Twitter:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Meet Celaena Sardothian.

Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, a seventeen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice, Celaena must represent the Prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or losse, she is about to discover her true destiny.

But will her assassin’s heart be melted?







I read Throne of Glass in one sitting, breaking only to make tea and then move out of the lounge as my flat-mates started watching television I devoured ToG in just over four hours.

When it comes to genre fiction my first great love has always been fantasy (science-fiction came a bit later). Tog took me back to my early teens when I discovered a book, got hooked in the fist few pages and then spent half the night reading, much to my parents consternation.

As a main character Celaena is brilliant, young, talented and loves libraries and reading (I am a Librarian ok – that kind of thing scores major points for me!) in fact the inclusion of discussions of books and the derision of Prince Dorian when he discovers a romance novel that Celaena has been reading was brilliant.

Throne of Glass is a melange of fantasy, conspiracy and politics mixed deftly together by Sarah J. Maas. Centred largely at the heart of a brutal medieval-style empire where magic has been ruthlessly stamped out although vestiges of the fantastic remain on the periphery with references to the Fae that once lived in ancient forests and the destruction of centres of magical learning and even libraries that may have held books on magic having been destroyed it takes flashpoints of our reality including massacres, oppression, intolerance & slavery and places them in a fantastical setting.

Celaena’s struggles against mostly unpleasant competitiors to become the King’s Champion made a brilliant backdrop to the story!

What really won me over was the humour contained within Throne of Glass, the characters although constrained by their surroundings and experiences banter and joke as most young people are prone to do when thrown together. The burgeoning romance between Celaena, Prince Dorian watched helplessly by the Prince’s friend Chaol who is drawn to Celaena even though he distrusts her skills as an assassin is well handled and never feels forced.

Overall Throne of Glass reminds me of the works of the late Douglas Hill (Blade of the Poisoner) but is very much its own story, the number of story strands that were left dangling at the end made me hunger to know more!

Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland




There was a country at war, and that is where this story begins.

Told from a child’s perspective Azzi in Between is a sensitively told story about Azzi and her family who are forced to flee their country to survive. Their country is not named and nor is her family’s destination mentioned. This opens the book up to readers that may have experienced forced immigration and can enable them to identify with the family thus helping them to share their stories.

This book has so much potential to be used in education children and adults ignorant of the privations that refugee families and children experience when fleeing unstable regimes.

Sarah Garland has created a beautiful and moving story about fear, loss and hope that can be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Azzi in Between is endorsed by Amnesty International UK.

Teen Librarian Monthly July 2012

The July edition of Teen Librarian Monthly is now available to download:

TLM July 2012

Read all about: The 9th annual Redbridge Children’s Book Award, Dyslexia Scotland’s new Dyslexia Toolkit, the raspberry Pi Summer Programming competition (mmmm Pi!), the Puffin Books Willard Price Leopard Adventure competition and an interview with Barry Hutchison co-creator of the Start the Story Literacy Magazine.

Start the Story Interview with Barry Hutchison (co-creator with Tommy Donbavand of Start the Story)

What prompted you to start an independent magazine to aid literacy?

We both do a lot of work in schools running writing workshops and we have a lot of fun doing it. Sometimes the kids get stuck right into it from the start, and sometimes you have to work a bit harder and think creatively to get them engaged, so we’ve both developed lots of tricks over the past few years to get even the most reluctant pupils writing creatively.
Often teachers approach us at the end of our workshops asking if they can “borrow” some of the ideas we used, and we’re always happy for them to do so. It got us thinking, though – is there a way to share the exercises we’ve developed and techniques we’ve learned with a wider audience? Can we make it easier for teachers, librarians – even parents – on a much wider scale to get kids excited about literacy? Start the Story is what we came up with.


Start the Story is an excellent idea – how long have you been developing it (and what took you so long)?

We’ve been developing the content for years without actually realising it. We’ve been running school events since about 2007, and everything we’ve come up with during those visits has been filed away in our heads to be pulled out when needed.
The idea for the magazine itself only really came about in the past few months, and as soon as we hit on the idea we swung into action. I think from initial idea to the first issue coming out was about three weeks. We were so excited about the potential it had to help gets kids reading and writing that we put aside all our other work (sorry, publishers) and focused 100% on getting issue one done.


Why do you think that literacy in the UK is suffering?

There’s no one single reason, and that’s what makes it so hard to combat. From the point of view of reading for pleasure, there are so many other demands on kids’ time these days, from video games to 24 hour cartoon channels, plus Facebook, YouTube and a million and one other things.
Parents are more pushed for time, so they’re reading less with their children, and that has a massive knock-on effect in terms of the literacy skills of those kids. We’re looking at ways to combat that with “Parent Sheets” schools can send home with kids encouraging them to read and talk about reading at home.
If the input isn’t coming from home, it’s very difficult for teachers and librarians to turn the tide. Librarians are great at keeping up to date with new books, but a lot of teachers find it more difficult, which is why we recommend a wide range of books for all interests and abilities in every issue of the magazine.
I also think teachers themselves have so much more put on them now than they ever used to. What’s expected of them seems to change every few weeks, and from speaking to hundreds of them over the past few years the general consensus is they have less and less time to actually teach.
That’s where we thought we could make the biggest difference, by supplying ready-made lesson plans, plus lots of exercises which can be easily adapted to any age group. We also provide five pupil worksheets with every issue, ready to print off and use in lessons.


Did you consider working in conjunction with existing literacy groups (for example The National Literacy Trust or the UK Literacy Association)?

At the moment, the whole thing is very much a work in progress, and we haven’t ruled anything out. Our big rush was to get issue one out before schools broke up for the summer, and now our focus is on making issue two even bigger and better than the first one. Once that’s out of the way we’re going to step back and catch our breath a bit, and see what connections can be made with other groups and organisations.
Part of the appeal for me, though, is being able to come at the problem from a unique angle – we’re not teachers, we’re not part of a government body or a literacy charity or whatever. We’re just two authors who love reading and writing, and who want to help other people learn to love it, too.


At the moment it is a two author publication – are you considering taking on partners (including authors, teachers or librarians)?

We had a couple of teachers helping advise us on the first issue, and lots of others have pledged their support. We’ve also had authors and illustrators offering to help us out, and the response overall has been great (particularly from librarians, who seem to “get it” best of all).
By and large, though, it’s just the two of us, but we’re definitely looking to grow and we’re probably going to need all the help we can get! So if you’re interested in helping out in any way, we’d love to hear from you.


Will you accept article submissions or ideas from outside professionals?

This is definitely something we’re planning to do down the line, but we want to be in a position to be able to pay people what they deserve. At the moment we’re both doing this off our own backs and taking care of costs ourselves, so by necessity we’re writing all the articles. If we start getting a reasonable number of subscribers, though, then we can start accepting – and paying for – submissions from other people.


Why should librarians, teachers and parents subscribe to Start the Story?

We’re not very good at the hard sell, so all I’ll say is this: We can make it easier for you to get the children in your care excited about reading and writing. The magazine can save you huge amounts of time and effort, and can make literacy lessons fun for teachers and pupils alike.
Schools are also free to distribute it to all staff and classes, and we even supply a print-friendly version of every issue ready to print off on desktop printers.
Oh, and if you’re one of the first 100 subscribers you’ll be entered into a competition to win £100 of free books plus a virtual author visit from one of us!


How can we go about subscribing?

It couldn’t be simpler – head along to and click the big yellow “SUBSCRIBE NOW!” button at the top.


Thank you for an amazing resource!

What I have learned after a year of being a solo practitioner (an incomplete list)

  • There are possibly five people in the school apart from me who have any idea about what I do (two of them are students)
  • I am on my own (in the school)
  • In the UK I am one of many (twitter, e-mail)
  • In the year that I have not had them I have developed a lot of respect for the backroom teams of cataloguers, book processors and those that handle orders in public libraries – I miss them!
  • It takes me approximately 10 minutes to process a softcover book – from cataloguing to covering
  • Time is NOT on my side
  • It has taken me a year to *almost* be happy with the layout of the library (I have changed it six times during the year)
  • Students will never tell you that they like a particular layout but once you have changed it and they finally notice it is different they will complain
  • The Justin Bieber biography is one of the most popular leisure reading non-fiction books in the school
  • The One Direction biography is the most requested non-fiction title (I have not bought it as my budget did not allow)
  • The English Department is my friend (but they can’t have my budget)
  • Chewing gum is the work of the devil (but I knew that anyway)
  • National Geographic magazine has not been opened in the year that I have worked at my school (bye bye)
  • Looking towards the New School Year: Warhammer 40K

    One of the Library offerings at my school for the 2012/13 school year is to run after-school clubs. The first club that will be running in September will be a Warhammer 40K Club.

    I am currently planning a recruitment drive that will start the moment the students come back into the school. With that in mind I have started working on recruitment posters, the first draft is below.

    I have been involved on the periphery of Warhammer for at least five years now but each time a club has started where I have worked I have moved on so this will be the first Warhammer group I have run and I am looking forward to it!

    I have ordered a number of tie ins – Dan Abnett & James Swallow’s novels to begin with and some of the Boom! Studio Graphic Novels as well as some of the rulebooks.