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Join us to celebrate home-grown talent this spring: February-May 2014 

Read Regional is a promotional campaign that connects writers living in the North East and Yorkshire with their local readers. We partner with library authorities throughout the region to hold author events and to ensure brilliant books by northern authors are stocked in libraries.

We are incredibly excited about the 11 titles on our 2014 list, which include literary and genre fiction, children’s novels, and poetry by new and established authors. You can find out more about all of our authors and their books here.

Almost 80 events are taking place this spring at libraries, festivals, and through our book group network.

We hope to see you there!

Celia Bryce bids Read Regional 2014 a fond farewell

So I’ve hung up my Read Regional travelling shoes, breathed a very pleasant sigh of contentment with just a little wash of relief and I’m finishing off by expressing my gratitude to all who made it such an interesting journey for me and Anthem for Jackson Dawes.

I’ve had a lot of fun, met some fab young people and I applaud those teachers and librarians who are in the front line and up against it, making things happen in schools and libraries, and urging young people to read books.

Book gigs. I love them.  Especially when I can do some writing workshops along the way. Young people reading, great; young people writing, fab; young people who’d much prefer to do something else, yet produce a piece of poetry or the bones of a story in a workshop and who read it out loud, to their peers, that’s just about perfect. It happened more than once and I was mightily impressed by such creativity and, dare I say, bravery.  Not sure if I would have had the guts at their age.

But Lord, can’t rail travel be hairy? I’ve never done so much in such a short period of time, and those tickets you buy in advance, with all the warnings of penalties and punishments, should you turn up late.  Crikey. Small print. It kills me. Every single word of it. Yes folks, I read every single word. It’s almost enough to make you get behind the wheel  and drive.  But only almost.  I like to arrive on time. Erm, I like to arrive…

As it happens, I didn’t miss a single train, nobody stole my seat and there were no disasters.

Just recently I returned from another celebration of the book, which I think Read Regional is, and that was in Saarbruecken in Germany at a European Children’s Book Fair. My talks were to pupils from local schools and involved me reading extracts from Anthem for Jackson Dawes in English and then an actor reading extracts in German. Of course they had to come, the young people, because teacher said so, and it would Complement Their English Language Lessons.  But you know, it didn’t seem to be a hardship. The young people listened, they asked questions, some of which were in English, and they were engaged. Which is great. And reminded me very much of my recent experiences with Read Regional.

I was asked by one of the German organisers if I found any differences between school children in Germany and those in England. I told them about my recent trips to hitherto unexplored parts of Yorkshire, explained the Read Regional project, described the classes and the groups of young people I’d worked with, and in answer to their question, I said no, there really isn’t.

Wherever we live though, we are faced with an uphill battle as champions of books for young people.  Technology, television, computers, life in general, all compete with and often win over reading a book in the luxury that is peace and quiet, in a corner away from the buzz.  Life is busy and it’s loud. Sometimes it’s just a huge impenetrable wall. And yet, some young people still seem to be able to find their quiet corner, hacking out a small place in the wall to sit and read a book. And it’s teachers and librarians working together,  it’ s organisers of projects such as Read Regional, and Book Fairs, Book Festivals, Book Awards,  who keep providing young people with the tools to do the digging with.

As a new writer of novels for young people, I appreciate the struggle and the hard work required in any enterprise involving books. None of it is easy, it seems.  It’s a headache. It takes nerve and stamina and at times it must feel easier not to bother.

Yet people do. So there we are.

It’s just great.

Thank you.

 

 

Firsts and Lasts: my Read Regional adventure! by Niel Bushnell

Niel_Donaster_LibrariesIt’s hard to believe it’s over already! Yesterday was my last Read Regional event, at a library in Thorne near Doncaster. And what a great way to finish; the pupils from King Edward School were attentive, engaging and asked some great questions.

I’ve enjoyed all of the events I’ve done in very different ways. They’ve varied from small presentations and creative writing workshops for 20 or 30 pupils up to a 300 plus crowd of teenagers in a tiered school hall. I can imagine how comedians feel as they stare at those rows of seats, each set of eyes demanding to be entertained! I’ve certainly learned a lot doing these talks!

Young people are naturally creative and this is something that, for many reasons, they often lose as they grow up. Imagination and creativity are sometimes undervalued in school children, after all these are not things that can be easily measured by Ofsted or in a GCSE, but they are fundamental to almost every walk of life from innovation to business and even sport. The teachers and librarians I’ve met understand the value of creativity and do more than their bit to nurture it in their pupils.

But it’s not all been creative fun! I’ve had more than a few bizarre questions that have stopped me in my tracks. Most authors are used to the typical questions they might get at an event: Where do you get your ideas from? How much do you earn? What’s your favourite author? But it’s the left-field questions that linger in the mind the longest: What’s your favourite word? What do you regret most in your life? Can you do a back flip? (If you’re interested the answers to all those questions are: All over the place! About 50p per book. I have lots but I’d probably say Alan Moore, Arthur C Clarke and Douglas Adams. Follicle. Not going to University. No.)

The experience has challenged me, and I think I’ve grown into the role as I’ve done more events. The best part has been the overwhelming enthusiasm I’ve seen for books and stories, and being able to meet and talk with so many keen readers who have bought my books and asked me to sign them. Their love of reading is obvious to see.

I’ll leave you with a few stats from my Read Regional adventure:

Events: 8
Distance travelled: 897 miles
Wrong turns taken: 7
Cans of diet coke consumed: 15
Pupils at events: 615
Pupils falling off chairs: 1
Pupils with nosebleeds: 1
Questions asked: 136

 

Susan Elliot Wright celebrates the publication of her second novel

My second novel, The Secrets We Left Behind was published last week. Hoorah! I kicked off publication day with a visit to the dentist (I know how to live the glamorous life, me) then I popped into the local shop for some washing-up liquid and a packet of biscuits.

You see, I remember my last publication day. There had been a long build-up and I felt a tremendous sense of anticipation, and when the day finally dawned, I suppose I expected some sort of life-changing moment. But the reality of publication day for the vast majority of first-time authors is simply that one minute, your book isn’t in the shops, and then the next minute – um, your book isn’t in the shops!

I was pretty naive last time and I’d gone dashing around expecting to see my shiny new novel on lots of shelves. In fact, I only found The Things We Never Said in Tesco, where it was on a special promotion. It soon appeared in my local Waterstones, though, and in more and more branches over the next few months, and I’ve been extremely fortunate in that it’s ended up selling very well indeed. But although my first publication day felt very special in some ways – flowers from my publishers, a congratulations card from my agent and lots of lovely messages from fellow authors, it certainly wasn’t what I’d imagined before I was published.

So this time round, I was prepared. I would simply enjoy the celebratory nature of the day, eat some cake and maybe have a glass of fizz. And what lovely day it turned out to be! I was overwhelmed by the sheer warmth and number of congratulatory messages from my Twitter and Facebook friends, I received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Simon & Schuster, and when, despite my best intentions, I couldn’t resist nipping into town to have a nosy around the bookshelves, I’m thrilled to report that I found it in Waterstones, Tesco’s, and WH Smith! So I had another glass of champagne.

People have been asking me whether the second book was easier to write than the first. I didn’t find it easier, I’m afraid, although I do feel I learned a lot from the first one. With the second book, I was much more aware of the process of storytelling; I feel I’ve learned more about how to reveal some things gradually and keep others back in order to increase the tension. I wrote The Secrets We Left Behind in 18 months – much faster than The Things We Never Said. I had a deadline to meet, so I had to make decisions more quickly and stick to them rather than allowing myself the luxury of trying out different things to see if they worked. Overall, I’d say writing the second novel was a different experience, rather than an easier one.

One of the messages I received wished me a ‘Happy Book Birthday’ and talked about my second novel being ‘born’. I suppose writing a novel is a bit like having a baby – you plan it for years but it’s only finally born after a long gestation period and an incredibly difficult and painful period of labour. Then, for some strange reason we forget how hard the whole thing is and we do it all over again!

And I’m reflecting on this now as I struggle with my third novel!

Q&A with Niel Bushnell, author of Sorrowline

What (apart from this questionnaire) are you working on right now?
I’m working on two books – one is the third in the Timesmith Chronicles series, the other is something a bit different, a comedy fantasy!

When and where do you write?
Wherever I can! I have a home office where I work but I like to grab the laptop and work in different places. Sometimes it’s the kitchen, sometimes it’s on a train to an event.

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
Train journeys around the north are good places for inspiration. I like to stare out at the views and let my mind wander.

And to escape work?
I love a bit of retro sci-fi TV. At the moment I’m re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation from the beginning.

Tell us about one book that made you want to be a writer.
Reading comics as a young boy was my first inspiration but Stephen King’s On Writing gave me the techniques to get my novel finished.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
Read. Write. Repeat. And finish what you start.

 Have you ever tried writing in a different genre?
I’ve written some radio comedy scripts which I really enjoyed doing. The project was in development with BBC Radio 4 for a time but didn’t make it to air.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick? 
I was inspired by how The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins gripped my eldest daughter. I’d love to write something that absorbs the reader from page one and makes them forget the rest of the world.

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
King Arthur would be a great storyteller and I’d love to see him playing cards with James Bond and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. It’d be fascinating to meet JK Rowling and ask her lots of questions about her career, but I think she’s also got a great sense of humour and would make the dinner much more fun. I’d be very happy to ask Patrick Stewart or his alter ego, Captain Jean Luc Picard, along. Hopefully he might try something stronger than tea, Earl Grey, hot. Finally I’d ask Han Solo to come along, but he’d have to leave his gun at the door.

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
I’m making a conscious effort to read a wider range of books. Typically I read children’s or YA books as well as adult science fiction and fantasy. But it’s nice to try something completely different. Right now it’s Treasure Island and Casino Royale. I’m hoping to read Pride and Prejudice next.

Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.  
Dan Smith is one to watch! He’s annoyingly prolific, having already written five adult novels he’s now completed three for children! The man is unstoppable.

Q&A with Mark Robinson, author of How I Learned to Sing

What are you working on right now?
The first lines of many poems, reading some great people’s applications for Arts Council funding, and an article about failure.

When and where do you write?
I accumulate notes and scraps of paper everywhere, add them to tooth-brushing phrases scribbled on the whiteboard in my office at home, then take them all away somewhere quiet and free of family and work for a week or two. Then I see what happens. Repeat as necessary till I have something I can bear.

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
My garden. I listen to the kids in the primary school behind the house enjoying playtime. That usually does it.

And to escape work?
Southlands Sports Centre, Middlesbrough, Thursdays 8pm – five-a-side.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
Learn to sit in a chair properly and to type properly.

Have you ever tried writing in a different genre (and how did it work out)?
I write all sorts of things as well as poems, but I’ve never successfully written fiction.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick? 
Edith Pearlman

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Captain Geoffrey T Spaulding, Emmanuel Ravelli, The Professor, Mrs Rittenhouse (or the whole cast of Animal Crackers), Liz from Billy Liar and Jo from A Taste of Honey. (Yes, the dinner party will be in black and white, what of it?)

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
The Most of SJ Perelman lives by my bedside for times between other books, so it’s always on the list. I’m not a programmatic reader – it’s what I find/get given/am distracted by.

Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.  
I think Paul Summers’s Union is one of the best books by a northern poet in the last decade. Paul currently lives in Queensland, but is essentially northern no matter how far south he goes.

Celia Bryce meets students in Ripon and Bridlington

I took part in two more Read Regional events in Yorkshire this week, with a trip to Ripon and then to Bridlington. Both events were in libraries with pupils coming from Outwood Academy and Headlands School respectively. Both were good fun to do and with two different kinds of writing workshops it made for a varied time for me.

With Outwood Academy the session gave us enough time for something about me and Anthem for Jackson Dawes and for everyone to write something and have pieces read out.  Some fab writing.

Here I am with some of the pupils from Outwood Academy, Ripon.

Celia Bryce RN 3.3.14 - official photo

With Headlands, the session was shorter so I did a more general workshop for the second part of my session, using a flip chart and pen and filling it with great ideas from the pupils. I wish that the session could have been longer, but those pupils will be contacting me via my website to talk about my book once they’ve all finished reading it, and about my session, and the a reading group they’ve  been inspired to start. Isn’t that such great news! I’m hoping to hear from them very soon.

Thanks in particular to Greg Kubas and Penny Chaloner who arranged things between the respective schools and libraries and to Tamsin Fauntkane and Karen Tory, the teachers involved, but chiefly to the fabulous pupils whose ideas, writing and questions about my book made the visits such pleasant ones.

Rebecca Muddiman on that far away look in her eye

It’s a strange position for your brain to be in – juggling the lives of characters from three books as well as the real world. So forgive me if I occasionally look like I’m somewhere else.

As well as talking to readers about Stolen for Read Regional, I’m finishing editing Gone, my second novel, and just about to start writing the as yet untitled third book. Fortunately, the books are a series starring DI Michael Gardner so there aren’t too many worlds to keep straight but each book introduces new characters, new locations, and new facts about murder and working out whodunnit that I’ve learned along the way.

I do occasionally find myself talking about Stolen but referring to characters from Gone and wonder why readers are looking a little confused. I can only apologise. But as I embark on the next book, I suspect it’s only going to get worse.

It’s a nerve-wracking time just before starting a new book. Having spent months working out the plot and trying to refine it, it’s now time to take the plunge and I’m getting that familiar feeling that I have no idea how to write something new. I wonder if other writers have the same experience when starting fresh?

It’s also strange that the blank page feels so scary when I’ve spent months complaining to anyone who’ll listen that editing is so much harder compared to writing a first draft. At least with a first draft you can see your progress as your word count grows, but editing can often feel like you’re treading water. I guess it’s a case of the grass is always greener (or maybe the water is always bluer – if I’m keeping my metaphors straight).

But now it’s time for a real swim, out into the murky depths of the first draft where anything can happen.  And if I see you at a Read Regional event over the next couple of months, I’ll try to remember which world I’m in!

Q&A with Rebecca Muddiman, author of Stolen

What are you working on right now?
I’ve just finished (hopefully) editing the second book, Gone, and I’m about to start the third book in the series.

When and where do you write?
I write three days a week (two days belong to the day job) and sometimes at the weekend if the mood takes me or the deadline is chasing me. I use the box room as a study and I’m slowly disappearing under piles of paper and books. I occasionally do my editing in bed – but only if it’s really cold!

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
One of my favourite places in the South Gare especially the Bran Sands side which is usually desolate and a place where industry and nature collide. I take my dog for a walk there a few times a week and between the cold wind and chasing the dog, it seems to shake ideas out of my brain. The fact there are numerous places to bury a body (in theory!) is great for crime writing too.

Any seaside town is good too.

image

And to escape work?
I never escape work! But going to the cinema distracts me for a while.

Tell us about one book that made you want to be a writer.
The BFG by Roald Dahl. I was aware from being quite young that it was someone’s job to make up these stories but it didn’t take the magic away. Also, The Third Victim by Lisa Gardner got me obsessed with crime novels.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
Read everything you can get your hands on. And don’t worry about getting it “right” – just get something down on the page, you can rewrite later.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick?
Kate Atkinson.

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Sherlock Holmes (but only if he was coming in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation). Liz Lemon. The Doctor. Adrian Mole.

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison has been on my list for ages and I’m determined to get to it in the next few weeks. The new Elizabeth Haynes – Under a Silent Moon. There are lots more – my reading pile next to my bed is dangerously close to toppling over and killing me in my sleep.

Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.
Michael Donovan’s Behind Closed Doors is fantastic – a private eye novel with lots of nods to classic noir but set in contemporary London. Can’t wait to read the second book.

Q&A with Celia Bryce, author of Anthem for Jackson Dawes

What are you working on right now?
My second novel and a long short story for the commercial market.

When and where do you write?
I write in the back room of my house. There’s a window overlooking the Tyne estuary. It’s complete with a bamboo blind whic h keeps the morning sun out and stops me from gazing at the river, otherwise I’d get nothing done.  I write every day that I can but not always on the novel or the short story, it’s often tweets and blogs, emails and day to day stuff, which I hate having to do.

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
To the coast, which stretches from my door  (in reality, of course it doesn’t but it feels like that, so there) right to the borders. Anywhere along there for a walk.

And to escape work?
To the coast which stretches from my door, as you know, to the borders. Anywhere along there for a walk. To some of the more out of the way places where other people don’t go so much, and there aren’t any buildings  around. I don’t think I can ever escape work though.

Tell us about one book that made you want to be a writer.
It was called The First Day of the Battle of the Somme. I read it at the age of fifteen, one of my dad’s history books. It was something I just couldn’t believe, in terms of size of death toll and the shortness of the time it took to dispense with so many soldiers.  I wanted to climb inside the head of one of those soldiers and make up his story before he was killed. To give him a name and some brothers and sisters, some parents, some friends, still kicking a ball about whle he was being strafed to pieces.  It was all facts, I seem to remember, in that book, facts and maps and nothing about the soldiers, the real people.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
If what you want to do is write and enjoy the process, and not consider it as a means to gainful employment, then sit back, get writing and enjoy it, because writing is a joy.  If you want to earn money from writing, don’t give up your day job and expect to have the same income.  That might not happen for a very long time. It might never happen. Obviously, if you’re an immediate rip roaring success, it’ll be a wonderful and amazing thing and you’ll have been very lucky and I, for one, will salute you.  If it if doesn’t happen you won’t be too disappointed.  Always have something else you can do, even if it’s another style of writing, something you can earn money from. Just in case.  Whatever you decide, keep writing and enjoying, keep reading and enjoying.

Have you ever tried writing in a different genre (and how did it work out)?
Yes. I’ve written for adults for most of my writing life, mainly in short stories but also in radio drama and short pieces for the stage. I even dabbled in television writing. I managed to win a few awards in short story and radio writing, and was shortlisted to the final six in a screenplay competition. One, two and three were lucky enough to have their films made. I was fourth, fifth or sixth. Ah  well. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about script writing.

Currently I’m confining myself to writing fiction for young people as well as adults. I can’t seem to fit any more in.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick?
Eva Ibbotson. OK I know she died very recently but if I could capture her fantastic sense of humour and comedy timing I’d be happy as a pig in muck.  If I can’t choose her then I’d have to go for Susan Cooper, whose series of dark adventures for young people, The Dark is Rising, still catches my breath. Written in the eighties the language is slightly dated but it doesn’t detract from brilliant storytelling.  Her most recent novel, Ghost Hawk (2013) is on my 2014 reading list.

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Joe Darling, John Willie, Lanky Jones and Rory McAlister just a few of the characters in novels for young people written by none other than Catherine Cookson between 1960 and 1991. They are wonderfully troubled boys in fabulously crafted stories set in the place that I was born, which I love. I’d give them a bread and dripping starter, saveloys and pease pudding,main, and trifle to follow. Oh and a hundred cups of tea.

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
The rest of the novels for young people by Catherine Cookson (I have three more to find ) and as many other books for young people as I can possibly fit in.

 Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.  
Colin Mulhern. His first YA novel, Clash, about young cage fighters, is a gripping and fascinating read and his second, Arabesque, is on my list for this year. It promises to be an equally gripping and gritty read.

Susan Elliot Wright on a thrilling first year in print

An exciting first year…

When The Things We Never Said, was published in May 2013, it was a long-held dream come true, but I prepared myself for the book to have a relatively short ‘shelf life’, because this is what so often happens to debut novels. However I have been extremely fortunate in that readers are continuing to buy it, partly because it’s getting good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but also, I think, because of the exquisite artwork on the cover, which I fell in love with the moment I saw it.

Not long after the novel was published, I learned that it had been selected for Read Regional, which was wonderful news. The campaign is now well and truly under way, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my library visits. So far, I’ve been to libraries in South Shields, Stockton, and Hull. I’m looking forward to visiting Darlington, Bradford, Gateshead, Newcastle, Rotherham, and Wakefield.  It’s so nice to meet readers face-to-face, and to meet the librarians who do so much to support authors. It’s also great to have the chance to chat with other Read Regional authors at joint events.

And as if all that weren’t enough, good things continue to happen!

I was delighted (and more than a little surprised) to hear recently that the novel has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in the ‘contemporary’ category. Other categories are:  Epic Romantic Novel, Historical Romantic Novel, Comedy Romantic Novel, and Young Adult Romantic Novel. The shortlisting was a huge surprise because, while there is a strong love story in the book, it’s not what I would call a romantic story in the traditional sense, although maybe what we define as ‘romantic’ is changing?

Anyway, I’m thrilled to bits to be shortlisted, and I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony in London later this month – I get to drink some fizz, wear a new dress and chat with the other shortlisted authors.  I‘m up against some fabulous novelists, so I’m already practising my ‘good loser’ face in the mirror.

So, this was all very lovely, and then last week, I received an email from my editor informing me that The Things We Never Said has been longlisted for the Waverton Good Reads Award. This prize is awarded by the people of Waverton for the best debut novel published in the last 12 months. The prize, now in its 11th year, has quite an interesting story, so to find out more and cast your eye over the longlist, click here: http://www.wavertongoodread.org.uk/contents.html  as you’ll see, I’m in stellar company. A shortlist of five will be announced later in March. I would be ecstatic to be on it, but I won’t be holding my breath!

It’s all very exciting, and I’m absolutely loving my first year as a published novelist. I’m just worried that at some point, I’m going to wake up…