Category Archives: Blogging

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.

How my addiction for Urban Fantasy led me to Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

So, I have to admit something: I am a fan of urban fantasy, there I have said it! I have been carrying around this secret for over a decade now and I am glad to get it off my chest.

It is all Laurell K. Hamilton’s fault! When I first began working in libraries in the UK (Thamesmead Library to be precise), I had a massive commute, and one evening as home-time beckoned I found myself in need of a book – nothing too strenuous as I like to relax on my train journeys so I picked up Guilty Pleasures by the aforementioned LKH as the cover looked suitably cheesy and fun. Rich in snark, witty repartee and lashings of human on monster violence I loved it and had finished it by the time I got back to work the next day.

I read all the Anita Blake books up to Narcissus in Chains where the increased raunch of the stories began overshadowing the elements that made me fall in love with the series in the first place – the books are still massively popular and I support anything that attracts people to reading but sadly I felt that they were no longer for me! I have recently read Dead Ice and mostly enjoyed it (I am tempted to tentatively pick up the series again when I have more reading time).

Post LKH I discovered the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher who remains one of my go to authors for fun action and adventure but (as many fans discover) waiting for the next book seems like an exercise in eternity!


Fortunately just before I was fully up to date with the adventures of Harry Dresden my buddy Shaun introduced me to Ben Aaronovitch at an all-day board-game session, Ben as many will know is the author of the best-selling Rivers of London series which became the next fix of urban fantasy that I was desiring (and The Hanging Tree is out in October – yay).white barrier

It was through Ben that I discovered the works of Paul Cornell, specifically London Falling; the first novel in the Shadow Police series.

white barrierLondon Falling was amazing, combining the grunt work of metropolitan policing with a team of the Met’s not-so-finest dealing with having unexpected and unwanted abilities to discern magic thrust upon them.

The follow-up Severed Streets was good but left me feeling as if something was missing and I was on the verge of giving the series a break when awesome PR person Jamie-Lee Nardone sent me a copy of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? as I was unable to make the launch due to dad duty.

What can I say about Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? except that it gave me a new appreciation of Severed Streets and a greater respect for Paul Cornell as a novelist!

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? tied together everything that came before in the first two novels and it made so much more sense! I realised that what bothered me so much about Severed Streets was a lack of understanding on my part rather than anything to do with the novel itself!

Opening with the murder of the fictitious ghost of Sherlock Holmes WKSH? drops us in the midst of an intricately plotted murder-mystery drawing in lightly fictionalised actors from the BBC’s and CBS’s television shows based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as giving the reader more insight into the revelations of Severed Streets while drip-feeding more information about London’s underground magical community while the team struggled to come to terms with what they have learned so far.

The only downside to being dazzled by such an intricately imaginative novel is waiting for book four*.

So if you find the need to get some of the filth of London under your nails and see how they cope with policing magical crime pick up London Falling, start the story at the beginning – you will not regret it, and you may just learn something new about London in the process!

*On the plus side I still have to catch up with Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series…

An Article from the Archives: Volunteers and Libraries

I wrote this piece on volunteers and libraries for the Teen Librarian Monthly newsletter just over five years ago:

I have been a long-time fan of the idea of using volunteers in libraries, specifically using teens as volunteer assistants where possible. Due to a number of reasons, my work with volunteers has been limited but that is fortunately starting to change!

The recent and disturbing suggestion on having libraries run by volunteers has led to a bit of an outcry . Andrew Motion summed it up very well in a recent article in The Guardian which can be read here: http://bit.ly/akfWOx.

Libraries are currently facing uncertain times, as are many public services. With rumours of budget cuts and staffing cuts floating around it is an unsettling time for us all. I have attended a number of talks in local authorities about volunteer use in libraries and been involved in discussions on how to proceed with using a volunteer service in my previous library service. In all of these talks and discussions the role of volunteers was very clear, they were not permitted to perform duties that were usually run by paid members of staff.

In a time of staff and budget shortages we may become more reliant on volunteers to help us provide the level of service that we have always offered to the public. I would be interested in hearing from librarians that have had experience in working with volunteers and also anyone that has pro or anti-volunteer views.

World Book Day Idea: Songs and the Books that Inspired the Musicians

WBD takes place next week Thursday, and to celebrate I have been putting together a play-list of songs based on or inspired by novels.

You can listen to a partial list on Spotify



The songs and the stories that inspired them are here:

Elton John – Rocket Man
Book: The Rocket Man by Ray Bradbury
Nirvana – Scentless Apprentice
Book: Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil
Book: The Master And The Margarita by Mikhail Bulgarov
Klaxons – Gravity’s Rainbow
Book: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Led Zeppelin – Ramble On
Book: Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Strokes – Soma
Book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Gary Numan – Are Friends Electric?
Book: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Radiohead – Dollars & Cents
Book: No Logo by Naomi Klein
Joy Division – Atrocity Exhibition
Book: Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
Book: Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
Book: Paradise Lost by John Milton
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Book: The Bible
Rick Wakeman – Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
Book: Journey To The Centre Of The Earth by Jules Verne
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Yertle The Turtle
Book: Yertle The Turtle by Dr Seuss
Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Leonard Nimoy The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
Book: Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien
The United States of America – Cloud Song
Book: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Breathe – U2
Book: Ulysses by James Joyce
Frankenstein – Lenny Kravitz
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
One – Metallica
Book: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
The Invisible Man – Queen
Book: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Alt-J – Breezeblocks
Book: Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls
Book: For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Ramones – Pet Sematary
Book: Sematary by Stephen King
Wintersmith – Steeleye Span
Book: Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

A General Moan about Library stuff

When I saw that Ed Vaizey was the poster boy for the 2016 National Libraries Day I wondered briefly if he had had a Road to Damascus type conversion and thrown his weight behind the Save Libraries Campaigns.

Sadly no, I did post a flippant tweet (see below) that has become one of the most popular things I have said online for ages.

I understand that CILIP has to work with the Tory Party in Government (PIG) and needs to keep lines of communication open since Vaizey is now speaking to them again after the vote of no confidence against him in 2013 but it does leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.

Over the years CILIP appears to have made a habit of saying and (not) doing things that have upset a lot of members, former members and those librarians that have never joined. I have been a member of CILIP for well over a decade – since I came to the UK in fact and have been a relatively loyal supporter (although not completely uncritical) and have had discussions and arguments with friends and colleagues trying to see the positives in things that CILIP has done.

I will state for the record that I am currently on the CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG) London Committee as the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals Judging panel representative. Now the CILIP CKG Awards is an example of something brilliant that CILIP has run for donkeys years, as is the YLG and many of the other excellent Special Interest Groups that find a home in CILIP.

I have faith in Dawn Finch the new president of CILIP, but I do not know if one person will be enough to change things. That being said I do think that the new CEO Nicholas Poole has also been doing well!

2016 is probably going to be the year in which I decide to stay in CILIP or chuck it in and become a Library dissident.

My mood was not helped by this news:


Considering that I used to work in some of the Libraries on offer and worked with some amazing people in Enfield it was more depressing than these bits of news generally are.

Also what is up with Banks getting their claws into library users? Part of me thinks Barclays with their Digital Eagles is doing it to improve their frankly crappy image, as well as hook vulnerable people that do not know how to use computers or the internet. Plus why are is the UKSCL supporting Halifax and their Digital Friends scheme? I am not even going to mention the risk of internet banking on public computers, so there you go.

On the plus side this coming Saturday is National Libraries Day (thank you Alan Gibbons) and I have heard nothing this year about library staff members being prevented from celebrating it.