Category Archives: Blogging

Splitting the Atom Carnegie

Please note this post is a flight of fancy possibly brought on by the rather strong medication my GP gave me yesterday, or just a stray thought that hung around in my brain…

Scientific history note: The atom was first split in 1919 by Ernest Rutherford at the University of Manchester

The Carnegie Medal has been awarded to the most outstanding Children’s Book almost every year since 1936 (except in 1943, 1945 & 1966 as no titles were considered suitable).

In recent years the Medal has been awarded to books aimed at an older readership, this has prompted a number of comments over the years from observers that perhaps it is time for the Medal to be split into an older and younger award.

In 2015, then Chair of the CKG Judges panel Agnes Guyon penned a wonderful post on why splitting the Medal is not an option, you can read this here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/cilip-carnegie-kate-greenaway-award-message-2015-chair-judges

Currently all books published under the umbrella of “Children’s Books” are eligible to be nominated for the Carnegie Medal, but until the publishing world starts differentiating between Children’s Books, Middle Grade, Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction it will not be possible for CILIP to even consider dividing up titles into Children’s & MG for a Carnegie Junior and Teen & YA fiction for a Carnegie Senior.

Let us say for the purpose of this post that publishers and authors did agree to start adding these sub-headings into Children’s Fiction, then it is conceivable that the Carnegie could be split.

Once all eligible titles had been nominated for a particular year, the first year judges could read towards a long-list for the Carnegie Junior Medal and second year Judges could read for long-listing the Senior Medal.

Once both long-lists had been announced the short-listing process could involve the entire Judging panel or perhaps it would be best to wait until the short-lists have been announced for the combined panel to choose the most outstanding books.

With the ever-expanding list of nominated titles this is a way that the lists could be kept manageable.

Anyway as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is just a stray thought that I considered as an intellectual exercise, I am a supporter of a single medal for all Children’s Books! At least until a workable alternative can be developed

This Beats Perfect blog tour

Working as a Music TV Producer for Rockfeedback was easily the most fun, exciting and exhausting job I ever had in television. What could be better than traipsing the world filming your heroes and being occasionally paid for it?

I spent countless hours backstage at festivals running around arranging interviews and live filming for bands and one of the things that never ceases to surprise is how dreary backstage areas can be.

The image of wild, all night parties is not generally the reality (although these do definitely exist!) Firstly, bands are often on gruelling tour schedules and they are often tired and jet-lagged. They’re also wary of strangers and especially film crews, so you have to be respectful of their space and grateful for their time.

And a lot of artists don’t drink at all these days –since touring became the bread and butter for a lot of artists, they simply can’t afford to put on a bad show. It’s not unusual to see them hunched round their tablets and phones, updating social media and catching a bit of shuteye before the show.

And you might not see the bigger artists AT ALL, as they stay with their dressing rooms firmly shut and only come out to perform, but there is always some group who are on the up and super excited to be there and to play and party.

The best ‘backstage’ area I ever went to was at Fuij Rock Festival in Japan. You can see the hotel we stayed in overlooking the campsite (perks of the job). It was partially shut since the resort is mostly used for skiing, and at night we ran round all the cordoned off areas –sneaking into ballrooms and huge empty restaurant areas. It was super creepy.

Backstage, the atmosphere was really friendly and upbeat – and just look at that 2007 line up!

Red Hot Chili Peppers , The Strokes , Franz Ferdinand , Jet , The Raconteurs , Sonic Youth , Wolfmother , Snow Patrol , The Hives , Dirty Pretty Things , KT Tunstall , Jason Mraz , The Cooper Temple Clause , Madness , Mogwai , Scissor Sisters , Yeah Yeah Yeahs , Super Furry Animals , Gnarls Barkley , The Zutons , Ore ska band- and many others.

~ Rebecca Denton

My Top Five Fictional Librarians by Andy Robb

In writing The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker, I replaced the stereotype of the bespectacled, cardigan-wearing librarian with a crack-team of highly-trained, gun-toting, stogie-chomping misfits. These librarians operate outside law, tracking down books that have been banned by the government. Think bullet, blood and books.

Whenever I write a book, I tend to think that I’m the first person on Earth to have that particular idea. And then remember I’m not. The idea of librarians kicking butt, slinging guns and being as far away from the ones down your local library isn’t a new one and a few have come onto my radar before I wrote this particular tale – and some after. Here, in no particular order are my top five fictional librarians.

romneyRomney Wordsworth
I was a big fan of The Twilight Zone as a kid and, after wracking my brain for this post, I realised that I remembered this one really well; this one and the William Shatner one. In fact, now I think of it, I wonder if this one, The Obsolete Man, had more influence on the book that I thought. Romney Wordsworth is a librarian, who’s on trial for obsolescence. The powers-that-be have banned all books and being found guilty of being a librarian is a capital offence. However, Romney is allowed to choose the method of his death, and he goes for an assassin to kill him in a particular way. Being The Twilight Zone, Romney manages to turn the tables on the State and sort of wins in the end. The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker was written around about the time our government was starting its first major swathe of library closures, was making noises about banning certain texts from the National Curriculum and preventing prisoners from accessing books. Not good. With all that going on and The Obsolete Man living somewhere in the back of my head, I think Romney Wordsworth had more than a little to do with the story.

barbara-gordonBarbara Gordon
Yes, I’m a comic-head. While I love Marvel, DC was my introduction to comics, through the world of Batman. I got into Batman in the early 70s around about the time they started rerunning the Adam West series. Suddenly I could get double-Batman: in the comics and on the telly! The Caped Crusader was always my favourite, but who could forget Batgirl? Librarian by day and super-hero, by night! As a young boy, back in the Stone Age, heroes and heroines tended to be aimed at their respective genders: boys liked the male heroes and girls liked the female ones. But Batgirl is one of the first female heroes I remember that cheerfully walked the line between the two, probably paving the way for future characters, like She-Hulk and Spider Woman. I wanted to write a female character that was the female answer to Clint Eastwood, to the point that her gender became unimportant. Tam is a product of her environment and her thoughts, words and deeds belong to both heroes and heroines.

gilesRupert Giles
I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was first broadcast, in the 90s. Personally, I didn’t get on with it. There were a few things that narked me – but possibly because I’m a bit stuffy about certain things. I didn’t like the way the vampires were reduced to being stupid creatures that hung around in groups. I like my vampires uber-intelligent and solitary. I also wasn’t a fan of the continual wise-cracking between Buffy and her buddies; for me it reduced the peril and the threat. However, I watched it and, amidst my narks, I found a character I really did like: Rupert Giles, the high-school librarian. Rupert was the stereotypical librarian: bookish, shy and impeccably-mannered. For me, he was a welcome antidote to the smart-mouth attitudes of the other characters and it was a genuine surprise when you saw him going toe-to-toe with a supernatural being or two. As an aside, I worked with Anthony Head years later and can confirm that he is as nice as you think he is.

pratchett-librarianThe Librarian
An orangutan who protects the world’s knowledge and can travel through L-Space. What’s not to like? I’ve got to be honest, I’ve only read two of Pratchett’s books: The Hogfather and The Colour of Magic and I read these because I was cast in the TV adaptations (check out Kring, the Magic Sword – that’s me!). However, the idea of an ape as a librarian is so good, I had to give it a mention!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

rex-librisRex Libris
If you haven’t read the Rex Libris comics, get out there and get some. These are new to my radar; I discovered them after writing the Tam Barker book – and I’m glad it happened in that order. Rex is the librarian at Middleton Public Library and a typical day for him involves dealing with zombies blocking up the building, chasing aliens who haven’t returned their books on time across the universe and defending the Dewey Decimal System. These comics are brilliant and have played on the stereotyped librarian superbly; his super-thick, jam-jar specs are useful tools in his unwavering hunt for lost books. Alongside his fists of steel and formidable arsenal of weapons.
 

However, when all’s said and done, librarians are real and they are heroes, guiding us to the right portals through which we can escape the real world or learn something mind-bending. Real-life librarians don’t need guns or fists or costumes, but the odds they face are just as stacked as the ones you’ll find in books, movies or on your TV screen. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.

Andy Robb is an actor and author, his latest book The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker is available now!

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Blog Tour: Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

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runemarks-bookIt’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.

Read the previous excerpt from Runemarks over at http://anarmchairbythesea.blogspot.co.uk/

Maddy was startled. She had made no sound; and as far as she could tell, he had not once looked in her direction. She stood up, feeling rather foolish, and stared at him defiantly. ‘I’m not afraid of you,’ she said.
‘No?’ said the stranger. ‘Perhaps you should be.’

Maddy decided she could outrun him if need be. She sat down again, just out of reach on the springy grass. His book, she now saw, was a collection of scraps, bound together with strips of leather, the pages hedged with thorny script. Maddy, of course, could not read – few villagers could, except for the parson and his prentices, who read the Good Book, and nothing else.

‘Are you a priest?’ she said at last.
The stranger laughed, not pleasantly.
‘A soldier, then?’
The man said nothing.
‘A pirate? A mercenary?’
Again, nothing. The stranger continued to make marks in his little book, pausing occasionally to study the Horse.
But Maddy’s curiosity had been fired. ‘What happened to your face?’ she said. ‘How were you wounded? Was it a war?’ Now the stranger looked at her with a trace of impatience. ‘This happened,’ he said, and took off his patch.

For a moment Maddy stared at him. But it was not the scarred ruin of his eye that held her thus. It was the bluish mark that began just above his brow and extended right down onto his left cheekbone.
runemark1
It was not the same shape as her own ruinmark, but it was recognizably of the same substance; and it was certainly the first time that Maddy had ever seen such a thing on someone other than herself.
‘Satisfied?’ said the stranger.
But a great excitement had seized hold of Maddy. ‘What’s that?’ she said. ‘How did you get it? Is it woad? Is it a tattoo? Were you born with it? Do all Outlanders have them?’
He gave her a small and chilly smile. ‘Didn’t your mamma ever tell you that curiosity killed the kitty-cat?’
‘My mamma died when I was born.’
‘I see. What’s your name?’
‘Maddy. What’s yours?’
‘You can call me One-Eye’, he said. ‘And what makes you think I’m an Outlander?’
And then Maddy uncurled her fist, still grubby from her climb up the big beech tree, and showed him the ruinmark on her hand.
runemark2
For a moment the stranger’s good eye widened beneath the brim of his hat. On Maddy’s palm, the ruinmark stood out sharper than usual, still rust-coloured but now flaring bright orange at the edges, and Maddy could feel the burn of it – a tingling sensation, not unpleasant, but definitely there, as if she had grasped something hot a few minutes before.
He looked at it for a long time. ‘D’you know what you’ve got there, girl?’
‘Witch’s Ruin,’ said Maddy promptly. ‘My sister thinks I should wear mittens.’
One-Eye spat. ‘Witch rhymes with bitch. A dirty word for dirty-minded folk. Besides, it was never a Witch’s Ruin,’ he said, ‘but a Witch’s Rune: the runemark of the Fiery.’
‘Don’t you mean the Faërie?’ said Maddy, intrigued.
‘Faërie, Fiery, it’s all the same. This rune’ – he looked at it closely – ‘this mark of yours . . . do you know what it is?’
‘Nat Parson says it’s the devil’s mark.’
‘Nat Parson’s a gobshite,’ One-Eye said.
Maddy was torn between a natural feeling of sacrilege and a deep admiration of anyone who dared call a parson gobshite.
‘Listen to me, girlie,’ he said. ‘Your man Nat Parson has every reason to fear that mark. Aye, and envy it too.’ Once more he studied the design on Maddy’s palm, with interest and – Maddy thought – some wistfulness. ‘A curious thing,’ he said at last. ‘I never thought to see it here.’
‘But what is it?’ said Maddy. ‘If the Book isn’t true—’
‘Oh, there’s truth in the book,’ said One-Eye, and shrugged.
‘But it’s buried deep under legends and lies. The End of the World, for instance . . .’
‘Tribulation,’ said Maddy helpfully.

‘Aye, if you like, or Ragnarók. Remember, it’s the winners write the history books, and the losers get the leavings. If the Æsir had won—’
‘The Æsir?’
‘Seer-folk, I dare say you’d call ’em here. Well, if they’d won that war – and it was close, mind you – then the Elder Age would not have ended, and your Good Book would have turned out very different, or maybe never been written at all.’
Maddy’s ears pricked up at once. ‘The Elder Age? You mean before Tribulation?’
One-Eye laughed. ‘Aye. If you like. Before that, Order reigned. The Æsir kept it, believe it or not, though there were no Seers among them in those days, and it was the Vanir, from the borders of Chaos – the Faërie, your folk’d call ’em – that were the keepers of the Fire.’
‘The Fire?’ said Maddy, thinking of her father’s smithy.
‘Glam. Glám-sýni, they called it. Rune-caster’s glam. Shapechanger’s magic. The Vanir had it, and the children of Chaos. The Æsir only got it later.’
‘How?’ said Maddy.
‘Trickery – and theft, of course. They stole it, and remade the Worlds. And such was the power of the runes that even after the Winter War, the fire lay sleeping underground, as fire may sleep for weeks, months – years. And sometimes even now it rekindles itself – in a living creature, even a child—’
‘Me?’ said Maddy.
‘Much joy may it bring you.’ He turned away and, frowning, seemed once more absorbed in his book.
But Maddy had been listening with too much interest to allow One-Eye to stop now. Until then she had heard only fragments of tales – and the scrambled versions from the Book of Tribulation, in which the Seer-folk were mentioned only in warnings against their demonic powers or in an attempt to ridicule those long-dead impostors who called themselves gods.
‘So – how do you know these stories?’ she said.

The Outlander smiled. ‘You might say I’m a collector.’ Maddy’s heart beat faster at the thought of a man who might
collect tales in the way another might collect penknives, or butterflies, or stones. ‘Tell me more,’ she said eagerly. ‘Tell me about the Æsir.’
‘I said a collector, not a storyteller.’
But Maddy was not to be put off . ‘What happened to them?’ she said. ‘Did they all die? Did the Nameless One hurl them into the Black Fortress of Netherworld, with the snakes and demons?’
‘Is that what they say?’
‘Nat Parson does.’
He made a sharp sound of contempt. ‘Some died; some vanished; some fell; some were lost. New gods emerged to suit a new age, and the old ones were forgotten. Maybe that proves they weren’t gods at all.’
‘Then what were they?’
‘They were the Æsir. What else do you need?’
Once again he turned away, but this time Maddy caught at him. ‘Tell me more about the Æsir.’
‘There is no more,’ One-Eye said. ‘There’s me. There’s you. And there’s our cousins under the Hill. The dregs, girlie, that’s what we are. The wine’s long gone.’
‘Cousins,’ said Maddy wistfully. ‘Then you and I must be cousins too.’ It was a strangely attractive thought. That Maddy and One-Eye might both belong to the same secret tribe of travelling folk, both of them marked with Faërie fire . . .
‘Oh, teach me how to use it,’ she begged, holding out her palm. ‘I know I can do it. I want to learn—’
But One-Eye had lost patience at last. He snapped his book shut and stood up, shaking the grass stems from his cloak ‘I’m no teacher, little girl. Go play with your friends and leave me alone.’
‘I have no friends, Outlander,’ she said. ‘Teach me.’

The final excerpt of this phenomenal story will be up tomorrow at http://www.bookaholicbabe.co.uk/

RUNEMARKS by Joanne M Harris is out now in hardback from Gollancz buy a copy here: http://bit.ly/RunemarksJoanneMHarris
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Lie Kill Walk Away Blog Tour

My guest blogger today is Matt Dickinson, author of the brand new teen/ YA thriller Lie Kill Walk Away

THE VOID LEFT BEHIND WHEN A MOTHER RUNS AWAY

We get horribly used to stories of young people running away from home. Statistics estimate that half of all missing people are aged between fifteen and twenty-one; many of them on the run from care homes or long-term institutions in which they have failed to settle. Out on the streets they become vulnerable to predators, and often spiral into damaging behaviours which may adversely effect their lives.
Yes, of the 300,000 ‘missing person’ calls made each year to the police, a small percentage are telling a very different story.
Mothers who run away from home.

This was one of the subjects that I researched during the writing period on my new book Lie Kill Walk Away.
In the story, one of the protagonists faces a terrible situation. Rebecca’s mother ran away from home when she was a young girl. The result is emotional trauma and psychological scars which never seem to heal.

She feels paralysed by guilt and has to leave the school she is at to be home tutored.

So how common is the situation? And why do some mothers reach a point where they have to walk away, sometimes permanently, from their children?
Up to eighty percent of people that run away from home are suffering from mental health problems.

“Particularly for people with depression, they might feel that there’s no hope, and just need time away,” says Dr Karen Shalev Greene, director of the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons at the University of Portsmouth.

Her experience is that people suffering from depression often struggle to open up about their feelings to the loved ones around them.

“They might be what we call functionally depressed. The image is that they’re fine but they’re crumbling inside, and at some point they just can’t hide it any more, so they’ll just leave.”

Searching for a lost mother in Lie Kill Walk Away

My character Rebecca reaches a point where she has to try and find her mother. Too many dramatic things are happening in her life and this teenage girl needs help. She goes on a detective trail to try and track her down, discovering truths along the way which are painful and hard.

Is this an unusual scenario? Not really. The Child Support Agency estimates there are 55,000 women in the UK who have left the family home. Often their children will try to find them, only to discover, often, that their mother does not want to be found.

I was amazed at the statistics, but that is often the case when one is researching a book. Truth is sometimes just as shocking as fiction.

Matt Dickinson’s new book Lie Kill Walk Away is published 6th October

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#ChildrenofIcarus Blog Tour: If I could have a super power it would be…

Today I am fortunate to welcome author Caighlan Smith to Teen Librarian for today’s stop on the global blog tour for hew new novel Children of Icarus

Children of Icarus high res
If I could have a super power, it would probably be something boring and generic to everyone who hears the answer—that is, flight. But there are a bunch of reasons why this would backfire on me. First, is being able to fly really that practical in this day and age? Someone would see you, probably immediately, and before you know it you’d be snatched by a secret government organization dedicated to solving the super-charged mutations plaguing our DNA. Or the world would brand you a super hero and expectations would be at an all-time high. Either way, stressful. Plus, I have asthma. I get winded running uphill. Imagine what would happen when the air is literally being ripped from my lungs in a vicious current hundreds of feet above the ground. Taking all of that into account, maybe my power could be clean-bill-of-health, incognito flying?
Children of Icarus author pic_7 (1)
My new novel, Children of Icarus, features some flying characters, but I wouldn’t exactly call their flying a super power in this context. The novel’s protagonist is a sixteen year-old girl who is made to enter a labyrinth that will supposedly lead her to the land of the angels; to paradise. What she finds in the labyrinth is a far-sight from paradise, and soon the protagonist and a group of other youths find themselves struggling to survive. They don’t get any super powers—unless you count luck—but at least they aren’t asthmatic.

Some Random Thoughts about Libraries

How many libraries that remain in local authority hands still have actual librarians running or working in them?

Public Libraries in the UK are a service arm of Local Authorities although one that has traditionally been left alone to do what they do until cuts are required then librarians are usually the first to go (most expensive staff) and more recently entire buildings and the staff that run them are cut loose.

When I worked in public libraries the majority of libraries that I worked in had a library manager (the rationale being to free librarians to do development, & outreach work & handle reference requests). I can remember one library where, after a restructuring, the Library Manager became the Customer Services Manager (CSM) and Library Assistants became Customer Services Officers (CSO) – I have not heard or seen this mentioned in library discussions (but I may be wrong), this ties in to a neoliberal view of turning library users into ‘customers’ rather than borrowers/patrons.

Going back to the perennial discussion/argument that “not everyone who works in a library is a librarian” I have recently begun to wonder when is a librarian not a librarian? If a qualified Librarian is hired as say a CSM or CSO are they still a Librarian? On the inside maybe, but the badge that they wear says differently and although they are working in a Library the nature of the job they do may be substantially different to the work a Librarian would do – at least this is what I have witnessed while working in public libraries.

It is a similar thought for schools – with so many School Libraries having become Learning Resource Centres and being run by LRC Managers doing Librarian work but with a different hat on.

Librarians have been under threat in the UK for a long time; during discussions with colleagues over the past few years several have brought up the cuts in the 1980’s and ‘90’s and how the numbers of specialist public librarians dropped precipitously. Over the last five years specialisms have been eroded further with a number of local authorities doing away with children’s librarians and having only general purpose library staff covering everything from children’s activities to senior book groups.

Lastly I am currently wondering if a library run by a local authority with no actual Librarians is still a library; the argument against volunteer run libraries is that without professional staff can they still be called libraries? I think a discussion needs to be had with regard to libraries run entirely by CSMs and staffed by CSOs, in the past there were a number of whom that I worked alongside that were proud not to be Librarians and were able to, in their own words “work anywhere within the council if required”.

It is a worry of mine that in time public libraries will become generic council services that have a few books and computers with for profit organisations plugging what they offer into so-called community services.

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fics, Non-Fics and Pic Bks*

*Fiction, Non-Fiction and Picture Books

So… this is it, for the first time in two years I am out of the club of Judges, I have handed in my badge and secret decoder ring; the codes on the doors have been changed and my e-mail address removed from the judges mailing list.

Yesterday the 2016 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards for the most outstanding books were awarded to Sarah Crossan for One and to Chris Riddell for The Sleeper and the Spindle.

This marked the end of my active invlovement as a CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Judge, having read (and reread) a combined number of 325 books over two years, and in that time winnowed them down to four outstanding books I am now free! Not that I really want to be but the CKG Awards always require fresh blood periodically.

I have worked with amazing librarians from across the country, people I previously only knew from twitter, e-mail (and some not at all), became friends and allies in the battle to recognise the most outstanding books for young people. In no particular order these stellar examples of librarian judges are (in no particular order):

Kara
Victoria
Sophie
Kathryn
Jan
Lucy
Tom
Elizabeth
Isobel
Alison
Amy
Joy
Agnes
Siobhan
Jenna
Tracey
Jillian
Jennifer
Tanja
Martha
Ellen

Thank you all! I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for making me welcome and for the experience of critically examining and discussing some of the best books published for children and young people in the UK.

I get so little time in my daily life to sit down and discuss books with other people that are as passionate and excitable about literature as I am that each time we met to discuss the nominations, long and short lists it was like a holiday – admittedly one where there was disagreement and arguments about the suitability of the books we were championing. It was pure heaven!

This year I was proud to be involved in helping to organise the inaugural CKG Judges Blog Tour, if you have not had the opportunity to read the interviews and would like some insight into the judging process you can find them (in order) here:

https://churchillacademylrc.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/ckg-2016-judges-blog-tour/

http://mythoughtsaboutbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/carnegie-judges-blog-tour-2016.html

http://www.minervareads.com/an-interview-with-the-ckg-judges/

https://picturebooksblogger.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/ckg/

https://ylgnorthwest.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/all-about-the-feels-judges-blog-tour-2016/

http://bookfairyhaven.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/the-2016-cilip-carnegie-kate-greenaway.html

http://www.serendipityreviews.co.uk/2016/06/cilip-carnegie-kate-greenaway-childrens.html

http://thedistrictcebookworms.primaryblogger.co.uk/2016/06/17/an-interview-with-ckg-judge-matt-imrie/

http://booksniffingpug.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/the-cilip-kate-greenaway-award-behind.html

I now have to go cold turkey from the judging process and am frantically looking for other awards that may be in need of an experienced judge, so if you are involved with the Kitschies, the YA Book Prize or any other national award and have a vacancy please let me know! Hell I’ll even take on the Booker!

Now, to all members of CILIP and the YLG I urge and implore you to consider getting involved with your regional committee and putting yourself forward to become a representative on the judges panel! You will not regret it!

Recognising the Importance of School Libraries

School Libraries have always had a special place in my heart (sandwiched between the pulmonary and aortic valves). For most of my school life they were a safe space and refuge from the bullying that I was subject to due to not being a sporty, outgoing sort of person and I had not figured how to stand up for myself until years later.

The secondary schools I attended had teacher-librarians, who, apart from occasionally shouting at students who were making a noise, generally left us to our own devices, lurking amongst the shelves reading.

Having been a school librarian for five years (this month) I still cannot understand why school libraries are not statutory, and have not been able to find an answer that satisfies me in any way.
CILIP has recently been more visibly active in the national conversation on libraries and their latest move in beginning an inquiry into developing a quality mark for school libraries is a move in the right direction to get senior management people in schools to recognise the value and importance of school libraries.
Quality marks have been around for a long while and I would guess that most people (in the UK) are aware that they show an organisation has been measured against set standards and has been recognised for offering a competent service.

A nationally recognised and agreed-upon set of standards against which school librarians can compare the service they offer is a move that is long-overdue.

It is fairly self-evident that not all schools are the same and thus the requirements they may have for a library service will differ from school to school but the underlying needs of teachers and students will be similar enough for set standards.
At present the inquiry is being run to determine the feasibility of such a scheme and shows that rather than acting unilaterally, CILIP is actively seeking out the views of school librarians, to include us in the decision that will ultimately affect all of us. I know two of the librarians involved, and rather than out of touch outsiders, they are professionals in good standing with years of experience in working in schools.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what libraries are and what they do amongst many people who do not use them regularly. They are looked upon as store rooms of books, with out of touch staff who patrol their territory mercilessly shushing anyone who attempts to talk above a funereal whisper. This view is sometimes held by members of senior leadership teams in schools who do not know what modern school libraries can offer to schools (there are also many SLTs who actively support and encourage school library use) and a quality mark will go some way to embedding the idea that libraries should be an integral part of all schools in the consciousness of SLTs.

In isolation I do not think that a quality mark will change ingrained misconceptions about school libraries but I do think that it is an important first step in celebrating what many school libraries already are and what they all can be!

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: Not Living the Dream

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About five years ago, I’d just graduated university with a shiny new degree and a heart brimming with hope for the future. Unfortunately, I’d gotten my degree in creative writing. And more unfortunately, I’d done so right when a recession smashed every hope my generation had of an economically prosperous future. So like many great writers before me, I went into food service.

I spent my early twenties slinging lattes for the one percent, and doing a number of other odd jobs besides. Slowly, through careful saving and a lot of luck, I turned my joke of a wage into a living. I found a good apartment, settled in with friends that felt like family, and slowly came into my own as an adult. I was a twentysomething creative in New York City, AKA the plot of at least one sitcom a year for the past three decades.

…and then I turned twenty-four and left behind everything I’d built for myself by moving to Los Angeles. And as I started to rebuild my life from scratch—learning new streets, or remembering how the hell I’d made friends in the first place—I did it while taking stock of what I’d done with my time in New York. And as I thought and remembered, I started to write. And after twenty-two days of writing when I should’ve been looking for a new job, I had a book: the very first draft of what would become Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.

My heroine, Bailey Chen, is essentially my thoughts and feelings on my early twenties, as filtered through the lens of my mid-twenties. Like me, she was a good student who spent her whole life being told great things were waiting for her after graduation day. Like me, she found her life being pulled in a different direction—in her case, bartending—which she didn’t particularly want. And like me, her biggest challenge was learning to see the worth in what she did, even if others didn’t.

Unlike me, though, her other biggest challenge was using alcohol magic to kick demons in the face until they exploded.

Last Call drew from my lifelong love of fantasy, but it also drew from my attempts to reconcile my dreams of adulthood with the reality I graduated into. When I page through it, I can still see past-me’s frustration lurking underneath Bailey’s. When she grumbles about the unreasonable qualifications needed for an entry level job (“five years experience, two Olympic gold medals, and a phoenix egg in your personal possession”), that comes directly from my hours spent filling in digital job applications. And when the world challenges Bailey to see the value in a job she hates, it’s because once upon a time I was challenged to do the same thing.

Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, and is available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit www.quirkbooks.com, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.