Monthly Archives: May 2013

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Manga Jiman 2013

The Embassy of Japan in the UK is once again launching their manga-writing competition, MANGA JIMAN 2013, with fantastic prizes up for grabs. Now in its 7th year, MANGA-JIMAN can be translated as ‘having pride in manga’ and the Embassy of Japan is proud to offer this opportunity to UK manga creators.

This competition is open to all UK residents aged fourteen (14)* years or over. All creations should be original and between six (6) to eight (8) A4-sized pages in length and drawn so that it reads from left to right. The manga should in some way make reference to ‘voyages of discovery’. We chose this theme because 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the first British ship to arrive in Japan and 150 years since five samurai arrived in the UK, the first Japanese to study at university in Britain. NB Your manga does NOT specifically have to refer to these two events.

1st Prize: Two (2) return air tickets to Japan, courtesy of All Nippon Airways!**

2nd Prize: A fabulous laptop computer from Toshiba of Europe Ltd.

3rd Prize: A superb digital camera from RICOH UK Ltd

Runners-up will receive and a selection of manga publications, available in the UK from various UK manga publishers amongst others prizes.

The winners’ works will also be displayed in a special MANGA JIMAN EXHIBITION at the Embassy of Japan.

For full details follow this link: Manga Jiman 2013

Talking about Half Lives: an Interview with Sara Grant

HI Sara, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! For my first question would you be able to summarise Half Lives in 10 words? (if you can- more words can be used if necessary)

That’s a difficult challenge, but here goes…

Two stories of survival; separated by time but bound by a deadly secret.

Half Lives is two stories – one set at the end of our world as we know it and the second on the cusp of a new civilisation arising – how long did it take you to write the story?

The spark for the story came in November 2009 when my editor at Little, Brown sent me a link to an article on’s Culture Gabfest. The article was titled “Atomic Priesthoods, Thorn Landscapes, and Munchian Pictograms: How to communicate the dangers of nuclear waste to future civilizations.” It discussed how a US Department of Energy panel planned to label the site of an underground nuclear waste repository.

The topic may sound dull, but the more I thought about it, the more it fascinated me. Some types of nuclear waste are deadly for more than 10,000 years – that’s longer than the world’s oldest civilization. Who knows what the world will be like even a thousand years from now? What language will we speak? What symbols will have meaning? The article sparked something in my brain and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I developed the novel on and off from the moment I read that article in 2009. The more I wrote and researched, the more I found that I wanted to explore.

(If you want to read more about the article that started it all and the issues behind the story, you can visit my web site at:

Was it difficult keeping the protagonists voices separate?

The voices, settings and time periods were so different that keeping the stories separate in my head wasn’t difficult. Also I initially wrote the two stories in Half Lives as separate novels. Once I was sure the stories were satisfying on their own then I knitted them together, endeavouring to show the reader the complete story by withholding and revealing information in each narrative.

The idea of a culture and religion based around modern day youth slang and culture is brilliant – what inspired you to come up with that concept?

It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time, maybe even since the 1995 Joan Osborne song One of Us with the chorus, “What if God was one of us. Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.”

Until Half Lives, I hadn’t found the story that would allow me to explore these ideas. What’s more fascinating than religion? Not only organized religion but also the systems of belief, faith and superstition that everyone creates to make it through the day.

Half Lives as a title works on a number of levels – the stories of Icie and Beckett, their lives being trapped by fate and circumstance and the time it takes radioactive materials to decay. Did the title come first or did you have the story planned and written before you named it?

Half Lives was the title from the very first proposal and outline. That happens sometimes; the title comes as part of the initial spark.

The covers of the British & American editions are very different – which one do you prefer?

I like both covers for different reasons. They both represent similar aspects of the novel. Both covers show the connected dark and light sides of the story. The US cover was designed to match the re-designed cover of my first teen novel Dark Parties. I must admit that my favourite detail appears on the UK cover; it’s a black cat sauntering across the ISBN bar code. (A black cat plays a significant role in the novel.) Details like this make me appreciate how much my publishers invest in and understand my work.

Did you have any involvement in the design?

I have two amazing publishers with fantastic art departments. They showed me initial designs, and I gave feedback, but they are responsible for the cover concept and design. I leave the visual art to the professionals.

The breakdown between Icie, Chaske, Tate and Marissa was as heart-breaking as it was inevitable – is it difficult to write scenes like this in your novels? I am aware that some authors have very public near breakdowns when talking about bad things happening to their characters.

Many scenes in Half Lives were difficult to write. If I’m heart broken when writing or upset or scared then that emotion often translates onto the page. Many scenes had to be written in layers. It’s easier to deepen difficult scenes over time rather than in one initial rush. I’m a planner so I know most of what will happen from the initial outline. But surprises happen along the way, and it can be devastating when you realize that something horrible must happen to one of your characters. Chaske surprised me the most in Half Lives. He was a mysterious character that revealed himself to me over the course of several drafts.

Was Half Lives written as a warning against the dangers of nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction or was that just an added extra?

The novel sprang from an article about these issues so they were fundamental to the story from the very beginning. The more I researched about these topics the more unbelievable it became. Creating a substance that will be deadly for tens of thousands of years definitely seems like science fiction, something right out of a superhero comic book.

While reading the book I had no idea how you were going to bring the two strands of the story together separated as they were by time and culture. Did you start with the idea of how they would converge or did they converge together as you wrote?

I created a grid that outlined the plot points in the two novels and noted how and where they would intersect. The difficult aspect of this novel was that if I changed something in one story, I had to consider the ripple effect it would have in the other.

The Just Sayings that prefaced each chapter of Beckett’s story are brilliant – are there any plans to put them together and make them all available to the reading public?

That’s an interesting idea. I do have a bigger list of Just Sayings. I’m a bit obsessive about details like that so I have a grid that notes the origin of the Just Saying and where it appeared in the book. But my reference documents are sometimes only understandable to me. Maybe I’ll get that organized and post it on my web site. Thanks for the suggestion, Matt!

Finally – what are atomic priesthoods?

The phrase ‘atomic priesthoods’ comes from the article I mentioned that served as the spark for Half Lives. The article discussed how the US planned to mark the site of a nuclear waste repository and the conundrum of how you communicate with future generations that most likely won’t speak the same language we do nor understand the same symbols. Here’s the extract from the article:

“In the early 1980s, the semiotician and linguist Thomas Sebeok wrote a paper for the U.S. Office of Nuclear Waste Management titled “Communication Measures To Bridge Ten Millennia,” which proposes a folkloric relay system to pass along information: “The legend-and-ritual, as now envisaged, would be tantamount to laying a ‘false trail,’ meaning that the uninitiated will be steered away from the hazardous site for reasons other than the scientific knowledge of the possibility of radiation and its implications; essentially, the reason would be accumulated superstition to shun a certain area permanently.” Sebeok further suggested a Dan Brown-like “atomic priesthood” of physicists, anthropologists, semioticians and the like who would preserve the “truth.”
” (

This was one idea for how to warn away future generations from these deadly burial grounds with only a select few – so called atomic priests – who know the truth. Thankfully this wasn’t the final recommendation. Atomic Priesthoods sounds like a great name for a rock band though.

Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed!

You are very welcome, Matt! Thanks for reading Half Lives and being my first official interview on the book.

Soul Shadows Photo Competition

Reading Groups For Everyone are excited to be running a fun photo competition with Curious Fox to celebrate the publication of their new horror book Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf. One lucky young people’s reading group will win 10 tickets to the cinema and a reading group set of Soul Shadows.

The competition:
To be in with a chance of winning 10 cinema tickets and 10 copies of Soul Shadows for your reading group, all you have to do is take a photograph of your shadow. Scare us or make us laugh, just be creative with your shadow snaps! The winning group will be chosen by the author Alex Woolf.

For full details on how to enter go here: Soul Shadows Photo Competition

Goth Books & Graphic Novels – an incomplete list


Anne Rice: The Vampire Chronicles, Mayfair Witches
Bram Stoker: Dracula, Lair of the White Worm
Ellen Schreiber: Vampire Kisses
Gena Showalter: Oh My Goth
Serena Valentino : Generation Dead
Neil Gaimal: Coraline, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere
L.J. Smith: Night World
Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast
Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher
H.P. Lovecraft: The Cthulhu Mythos
Edward Gorey: Gashlycrumb Tinies
China Mieville: Un Lun Dun
P.C. Cast: House of Night
Cherie Priest: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Barry Lyga: The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl, Goth Girl Rising
Laini Taylor: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Graphic Novels

Sandman – Neil Gaiman
Death: The Time of Your Life & The High Cost of Living – Neil Gaiman
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac – Jhonen Vasquez
Squee’s Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors – Jhonen Vaasquez
Gloomcookie – Serena Valentino
Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl – Roman Dirge
Oh My Goth – Voltaire
Courtney Crumrin – Ted Naifeh
Emily the Strange
Nemi – Lisa Mhyre
Hellboy – Mike Mignola
Locke and Key – Joe Hill
Clubbing – Andi Watson
The Crow – James O’Barr

Please feel free to suggest additional titles in the comments field.

The 5th Wave Survival Kit

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains.

After the 2nd, only the lucky escape.

And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive.

After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

In this world only the paranoid are safe. To survive on the run you have to be prepared to run before you need to.

The first thing you need is a rucksack:

click on the rucksack

Remember the SMART rules!

Silent – staying quiet is essential to survival
Moving – don’t stay in one place for too long
Accidents – avoid them, a sprained ankle is bad, a broken one is fatal
Random– patterns will make you predictable
Tracks – stay off sand or ground where you leave tracks – do not leave a trail to where you are going to lay up. If you use soap make sure it is unscented and natural – you don’t want to leave scent markers.

[soundcloud url=”” params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Follow Rick Yancey on Twitter: @RickYancey

The 5th Wave is Coming

Cover2Cover Publisher Interview

Today, Teen Librarian is proud to host an interview with Dorothy Dyer, one of the founders of YA Publisher Cover2Cover

1. Globally publishing seems to be in a crisis and companies are merging for survival – why did you decide to start an independent publishing company?
Cover2Cover didn’t start to compete with existing companies. Cover2Cover started in order to get young South Africans reading, teens who have never really read for pleasure before. So we were wanting to create a whole new market!

2. How have young adult readers responded to these books?
We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the responses of readers. We founded a literacy trust, FunDza, and as part of its work it distributes these books to schools and literacy organisations all over the country. Again and again we get rave reviews and accolades, with teachers saying they have never seen their students wanting to read like this before. I just have to quote some of our favourites, if you don’t mind..!

From a rural organisation in Kwa-Zulu Natal: The principal of Siyanda says the kids are so enthusiastic about the books that they are not even waiting to return them to the library before passing them on…She says she goes into the library now and finds kids sitting there in silence, engrossed in their reading – your books have started what we hope will be a revolution.
From a girls’ high school: I thought you would be interested to know that the books have been a huge ‘hit’ in our grade 9 bookclub . The girls are just so enjoying them. We just can’t keep up with the demand.

I think it’s incredibly powerful on all sorts of levels to recognise your life and world in a book, and for many of these students this is the first time it happens.When I do a reading aloud I can feel the ripples of excitement and recognition when there is local slang. It validates your world, to see it in a story, I think.

3. You currently publish Best Reads so far aimed at years 7,8 & 9 and The Harmony High series aimed at secondary school readers do you have plans for more series?
We are also publishing anthologies of short stories that were first published on FunDza Literacy Trust’s mobi-site – we’ve just brought out number 1. We are interested in creating new series – we have been discussing the idea of a series for 9 to 12, as we hear from literacy workers that there is a real gap here as well for contemporary local stories. Here though we would have to look at translation into local languages too to make the stories widely accessible.
Another project is trying to get our books much cheaper, and distributed in a different way. Currently books are expensive items available at bookstores. We dream to change that. We have seen that there are readers who enjoy the books. Now we need to get the books out there, possibly in a different format… watch this space!

4. The books published by Cover2Cover focus on South African youth issues – do you think they would find readership outside of SA?
We have heard that readers in Malawi and Zimbabwe have enjoyed them. They are easy and exciting reads, and although are local, the stories deal with challenges that many teens face, so yes, I think the books could find readership elsewhere. They might be interesting to people out of the country because they also do give a picture of SA that is not always reflected in the news – ordinary people making meaning out of their lives in difficult circumstances.

5. I have seen conversations recently about a lack of people of colour (POC) on the covers of YA books Cover2Cover seems to be bucking this trend are you aware of other publishers putting out YA novels featuring POC on the cover?
Our mission is overt in getting our readers to recognise themselves in books, so we think it is very important that our cover models reflect the characters in the book. I have seen various incidences in this country and overseas where the white models on the outside are no reflection of the darker skinned characters inside the covers, and I think it is distressing that some publishers are prepared to sacrifice the integrity of the novel to get more sales, and seem to think that for this white faces – or rather beautiful white faces – are necessary.

6. Harmony High is described as a soap opera read for teens – do the stories have to be read in order or are the stories self-contained?
The books are all follow characters who attend one fictional township high school, Harmony High, and there is a vague chronological order. Broken Promises and Jealous in Jozi, for example, follow one particular character, Ntombi, whereas the other books focus on other characters, such as Sugar Daddy, which follows the story of one of Ntombi’s friends. But each book is carefully written so it can be a satisfying read on its own.

7. How many authors are working on the series and how can writers get involved in writing for Cover2Cover?
There is a little team of us – five in total. Ros and I are the puppet masters, or rather the conductors, who make sure the stories fit together etc. We also always test the stories in manuscript form on young readers, to make sure we’re getting things right.
Because it is a bit like a soapie, and does have to be carefully managed, we aren’t looking for anyone to join the team at this stage.

8. Are the books available internationally and if yes how can one get hold of them?
Hard copies can be ordered from us at We are also available on Amazon now, digitally.

Teen Librarian Calendar

I have created the Teen Librarian calendar to highlight various dates throughout the year that may appeal to teens and young adults. It is a mix of serious and fun events that should hopefully appeal to a variety of library users and readers.

It is a work in progress and new dates will be added on an on-going basis. Please feel free to suggest future dates in the comments field.

Five Things that Make Me Cry by Tanya Byrne

Book: A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
I don’t want to talk about it. Don’t touch me.

Song: Who Knows Where the Time Goes – Fairport Convention
As a writer, I should be embarrassed that I can’t put into words how beautiful this song is, but perhaps that’s what makes it beautiful, that there’s nothing you can add to it. It’s enough.

Film: Blue Valentine
There are dozens of films that have made me cry more than Blue Valentine – Titanic, Philadelphia, The Shawshank Redemption – but I was expecting those films to kick me in the heart, but I didn’t know what Blue Valentine was about so I wasn’t prepared for how it would affect me. There’s no manipulation here, no one’s dying, it’s just a straight up story about a relationship unravelling. But there’s the rub: the story is so simple – and so bone-breakingly honest – that I cried for hours afterwards. I still can’t think of the last scene without welling up. It broke my heart.

Book: Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
I thought I was going to make it to the end without crying, I really did, but no. I cried myself to sleep. A remarkable book.

Song: Smother – Daughter
Again, there are so many songs that I could have added to this list but this made me cry the first time I heard it. It’s exquisite as it is, but add in the fact that the opening reminds me of Friday Night Lights and I want to wrap it in tissue and tuck it in a drawer so nothing happens to it.

Do you have difficulty in deciding which book to read next?

Then visit: or the Which Book Next? Facebook page

YALSA: Teen Space Guidelines

These guidelines were created in 2011 -2012 by a task force of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) with feedback from the library community achieved through a public comment period in the fall of 2011.
This is a tool for evaluating a public library’s overall level of success in providing physical and virtual space dedicated to teens, aged 12-18. Potential users of these national guidelines include library administrators, library trustees, teen services librarians, community members and job-seekers hoping to assess a library’s commitment to teen services. Not every element of the guidelines may apply to every public library situation, but the guidelines can serve as a place to begin the conversation about what constitutes excellent public library space for teens.
Click here to read the full YALSA Teen Space guidelines.
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a national association of librarians, library workers and advocates whose mission is to expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18. Through its member-driven advocacy, research, and professional development initiatives, YALSA builds the capacity of libraries and librarians to engage, serve and empower teens.

Target Who

So some Doctor Who fans have got their hands on thousands of Target Doctor Who novelizations and are offering them free of charge to UK School Libraries!
Sounds crazy?
it is!
But then fans are fans because they are fanatical about their passion and sometimes people want to share the joy in their love because it is so damn good!
The books are all brand new Doctor Who books that feature novelisations of the TV adventures of the first seven Doctors. (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy)
The copies we have were printed during the later 1980s or early 1990s and have been waiting patiently to be read, in storage, for the last 20-25 years before being auctioned on eBay earlier this year.
The books are FREE. There is no charge. We hope to divide the books into small sets of 6-10 books for each school we can reach. If you are interested in books for your classroom or school library please establish contact with us via email. Please note however that it may not be possible to reach schools in every area, but we will do our best. We are scattered around the country, but not everywhere. We may initially have no way of reaching you but we will endeavour to find a way if at all possible. We are only a small collection of Doctor Who fans who are celebrating the shows 50th Anniversary by sharing the books we loved as children with the new generation of fans.

Find out more here: