Young Walter Scott Prize

If you’re aged between 11 and 19 and interested in history and writing, the Young Walter Scott Prize is ready to take you on an adventure! This is the UK’s only creative writing prize specifically for budding historical writers. 

The Prize runs a series of Imagining History workshops in amazing historical sites throughout the UK, where experts guide you in active historical research, and show you how to start putting your ideas down on paper. Find out how to take part in a workshop near you, or even how to host one, on our website! 

If you have a story of between 800 and 2000 words, set in a time before you were born, you can enter the Young Walter Scott Prize – now open for entries, and the closing date is 31st October 2018. Entries are judged in two age groups – 11 to 15 years and 16 to 19 years. Any kind of fiction is accepted – prose, poetry, drama, fictional letters or reportage.

You could win a £500 travel grant, an invitation to one of the UK’s best book festivals to meet published authors, and a chance to see your own work in print. Full terms and conditions, tips for writing and research, and details of the Imagining History workshops are all on the website. 

people coffee meeting team

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on


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Honorary Life Member…

…that’s me – and the School Library Association surprised me with a generous Hon Life Membership which rather took the wind out of my sails when I recently attended the SLA Conference in Glasgow.  For a start it was quite odd being ‘just a delegate’ at the conference I had a hand in putting together (that was inevitable due to the time of year that I left SLA) but it was delightful too.  I got to see and chat with lots of friends, and didn’t have to dash off to be somewhere else!  I managed an off the cuff thank you speech – as well as (I hope) adding my voice to the call for the Great School Libraries Campaign.  Plus, the Ceilidh band that evening turned out to be a great success too – just right – with lots of help in the dances!


Copyright Minh Nguyen

Seriously though, if you can do back the Great School Libraries Campaign – it is vitally important, especially in these times of closing or de-professionalised public library services, that children have access through their schools to a great library.  Their literacy, ambition, health and well-being will all suffer if they have no access to good quality reading and information resources when they need them.

Since then it has been a bit of a flurry of activity which has included writing an article, completing a series of reviews, attending our first Youth Libraries Group Virtual meeting plus a few days away.  Will was working taking taking photographs for his new book but I was really just enjoying the scenery, catching up with local friends and enjoying Stratford Upon Avon.  We were anxious our newly laid lawn and the patio plants would survive in the heat – but all was well.

This week has been a glorious mix of work and and publisher events – including a sneak preview of the work of Chris Riddell in illustrating The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J K Rowling.  We are in for a real treat there (publishing Bloomsbury, October 2018).  Then off to the Branford Boase event – a celebration of the best in new writing for children and young people, but that also recognises the important role of the editor in the process.  It was won this year by Mitch Johnson for Kick with his editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker – published by Usborne – their third important book award win this year!

Last night was a fascinating discussion event hosted by Alice Curry at Lantana Publishers called ‘Inspired by India’ an evening of picture books and conversation from Chitra Soundar, Poonam Mistry, Ranjit Singh and Mehrdokht Amini at the Nehru Centre.  I had never been to the Nehru Centre before but check it out as it has a programme of events and exhibitions that are varied and interesting. IMG_0237

After 3 late nights in London – and Saturday there for my first FCBG National Executive meeting I am having a quiet day at home – a little light housework, followed by some reading and then a welcome catch up with friends from the village in the pub tonight!



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Early Summer activity

FCBG 50th

Anne Wood, FCBG Founder, at the Golden Party by David Bartlett

What a lot has happened in what seems like a short space of time.  As I am now an Executive member for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups I was delighted to be involved with the latest of FCBGs celebrations.  The first was a celebration of 50 Golden Years with the founder Anne Wood in the space at Foyles Charing Cross Road – a lovely friendly meet with lots of support from publishers, authors, illustrators and members of the FCBG across the ages.


Steve Cole, photo by TA

This was followed very quickly by the Children’s Book Award – celebrated in London with book group members from around the country.  It was fantastic to see so many book loving kids in one room – all chatting nineteen to the dozen with the authors sitting on their tables!  Results are here – with the overall winner  Katherine Rundell with The Explorer. A very popular win with everyone in the room.  Steve Cole served as master of ceremonies keeping everyone amused with his jokes and ukulele playing!

The panel discussion on Empathy Day, 12th June – featuring Lauren Child (UK Children’s Laureate), Benji Davies (illustrator) and Professor Robin Banerjee (Univ Sussex) made for fascinating listening – arranged and hosted by Empathy Lab. The whole event was an exploration of how books help children understand other people better – held at Waterstone’s flagship store in Piccadilly – there was an interesting mix of stakeholders and partners in the hall.  Discussion touched on how feeling, understanding and caring (all parts of empathy) are encouraged by reading and that the follow up to that – of book talking – promotes empathy too.

From other news!  It was an absolute delight to visit the Royal Albert Hall recently to see Art Garfunkel.  He sang a mix of old (lots) and new songs, as well as sharing some of his poetry with us.  Loved the evening!  Daughter Sarah has been busy too – she was all over the media as she conducts the Manchester Survivors Choir and they sang at the One Voice commemoration to mark one year on from the bombing – a very emotional experience for everyone.  Then she has a big gig coming up this weekend with her band Canter Semper – really looking forward to seeing them.  Will has been busy helping elder daughter Becky as an extra (with a couple of friends from DTs) in the final few scenes that needed filming for ScreenNorthants first feature film – Macbeth.  Watch out for the release at the end of the year.

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Every Child deserves a Great School Library

The School Library Association and CILIP’s School Libraries Group have launched a three-year school library campaign.

Supported by CILIP, the campaign will focus on the importance of school libraries and librarians and the benefits they bring to children, staff and schools. Aside from raising the profile of school libraries, the campaign will have three specific objectives:

*The recognition of School Libraries/Librarians in Ofsted Inspection Framework.
*The creation of a School Library Strategy for England.
*Specific investment into School Library development.

The campaign will look to Scotland and its success in creating a National Strategy for School Libraries. The Government-backed initiative will be implemented in Scotland this August as schools in the country return from the summer break.

The Great School Libraries campaign will build on lessons learned from Scotland helping to unite stakeholders in a common goal of improving school library provision across all four nations in the UK. The campaign will look to engage with school librarians, supporters and school library champions and other allies to help push the message that: “Every child deserves a Great School Library.”

The aim is to create strong evidence-based advocacy messages tailored to various stakeholders including politicians, the Department for Education, Ofsted, schools – including teachers, parents, leadership teams and governors. There will also be media and public focussed awareness campaigns, helping to build an understanding of the importance of school libraries in supporting the curriculum and achievements amongst pupils.

CILIP Chief Executive Nick Poole said: ““This is a truly important campaign and one that has the potential to transform lives. Great school librarians not only support students, but also teachers – helping to raise standards and results across the board. They inspire people, improve literacy through a love of reading, and help teach lifelong skills like information and digital literacy. Teachers can call on them to help find information and resources when they are planning lessons.

“Through this campaign we will provide evidence that clearly shows the value of school libraries – not just to pupils, but also for teachers, schools and wider society. That is why we are saying Every Child deserves a Great School Library.”

Alison Tarrant, Managing Director of the SLA, said: “This campaign is an opportunity to celebrate and discuss school libraries and librarians, and to promote understanding and engagement with the profession. We will be working tirelessly to achieve the aims set out.”

Caroline Roche, Chair of CILIP’s SLG, warned that school libraries were being undervalued and often faced cuts as head teachers felt increasing budget pressures, saying that the campaign is a “chance for school librarians to stand up and show the value of a good school library, professionally run by a school librarian.”

She added: “ We believe that the impact that a school library has in a school, not only on literacy and reading for pleasure, but also on mental and emotional health, providing a safe haven for vulnerable children, a place for study, a place where students can find books to enlarge their world view or to find they are not alone, is inestimable.  Such value cannot be measured in terms of money or figures – a good school library, professionally run, is the gift a school can give to every one of their children, for very little cost.”

Sign up to keep informed about the campaign and find out how you can get involved at


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Klaus Fugge Bursary to attend the Youth Libraries Group Annual Conference

The Youth Libraries Group are delighted to announce, thanks to the generosity of honorary member and champion of the group, Klaus Flugge from Andersen Press, we will be offering a bursary to attend the annual Youth Libraries Group conference. The 2018 conference will be held in Manchester, newly named UNESCO City of Literature. It will run from 21 to 23 September and is titled Reading the Future. Keynote speakers include Philip Pullman and Jackie Morris, 2018 winners of the British Book Awards. The conference is sponsored by Enid Blyton Entertainment.

To apply for this bursary, please e-mail providing your name, profession and also outlining a short statement not exceeding 300 words of how you would benefit from attending conference and the ways you intend to use and share the learning.

Applicants should be a member of the Youth Libraries Group. The successful applicant will be expected to write a blog article for the group on their conference experiences and learning. Applicants are able to include their Twitter handles or Instagram usernames when applying and posts about conference using the hashtag #YLGConference will be viewed favourably in support of applications.

The bursary will cover the cost for a residential place at the #YLGConference 2018, and will also cover travel booked standard class travel booked at least 4 weeks in advance in the UK mainland.

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Empathy Day 2018

image001Children’s Laureate Lauren Child and a host of award winning children’s authors and illustrators will be flying the flag for Empathy Day on Tuesday 12 June.

Charlie and Lola creator Lauren Child will appear at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, along with psychology expert Professor Robin Banarjee and Oscar’s First Book Prize-winner, author-illustrator Benji Davies, between 7 and 8pm on Tuesday 12 June – while other authors will be promoting the day on social media and through blog tours.

Empathy Day first launched in 2017 as part of not-for-profit organisation EmpathyLab, created by ex-Reading Agency founder Miranda McKearney – as a response to troubling statistics on hate crime around the world and concerns over how we teach empathy to our children.  Empathy is one of the most crucial of the social and emotional skills children need to thrive. Neuroscientific research shows that the brain can develop empathy through reading; it is this intersection of literacy and empathy that is at the heart of EmpathyLab’s work.

A hotlist of children’s fiction has been compiled for use in schools, libraries and the community, to help teach children gain an understanding of the world as seen from other perspectives. And scores of children’s authors have got behind the campaign. Miranda McKearney comments: “Books are a hugely important way of allowing young minds to imagine lives beyond their own; how they would cope in a crisis; if they were a refugee, an orphan, or had just lost someone they loved. They are scientifically proven to help children and adults to develop empathy and grow up to be concerned and caring adults.”

‘Empathy through Stories’ event at the Hay Festival on Saturday 2 June 2018.  Ahead of Empathy Day, Miranda McKearney will appear at the Hay Festival on Saturday 2 June 2018, 4pm alongside 3000 Chairs-unaccompanied child refugee campaigner and author of The Day the War Came, Nicola Davies and Nigerian storyteller Atinuke in an ‘Empathy Through Stories’ event.

What’s happening on Empathy Day 2018

  • Massive social media #ReadForEmpathy campaign
  • Empathy Lab pioneer schools, from Carlisle to the New Forest. Bringing the children’s work during the year to a head
  • Empathy Awards. Range of authors involved: Morag Hood, Ross Montgomery, Sue Hendra , Shoo Rayner, Robin Stevens, Joseph Coelho, Jo Cotterill, Sita Brahmachari, Alan MacDonald
  • 4 special projects designed with the community in St Helens, Sheffield, Essex and Devon. Community has highlighted issues where more empathy is needed – two key themes, loneliness and inter-generational contact. Empathy Café sessions in the run up, families will work with librarians and authors (Bali Rai, Sita Brahmachari, Helen Moss, Gillian Cross) to run activities exploring and addressing these issues
  • 37 library services doing activities and displays. Manchester doing special rhyme times and x across all 22 city libraries
  • Experimental Swap Your Reading Life pilots: psychology/literacy academics; prison staff/prisoners
  • Bookshops taking part for the first time, in partnership with BA
  • Lots of other schools taking part

I was delighted to have had a very small part in this for 2018 – by helping in the selection of books for the Read for Empathy guide linked above – a very inspiring process and one which I hope may be repeated.

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I’m rather enjoying this…

…semi-retirement.  It means that on lovely sunny days like today I can sit in my garden listening to the birdsong whilst doing my emails.  I also have had lots of time for reading – check out my Goodreads updates on this blog!

That doesn’t mean to indicate I haven’t done any work – I have and am – but choosing one’s own timetable and working late into the evening, if I want to, are lovely freedoms to have.  Don’t get jealous – I have worked and saved all my life to get to this stage – it is possible and it is achievable!

Meanwhile, I have enjoyed several book launches and events with different publishers – Otter-Barry Books, Hachette, for the Carmelite PictureBook Prize, and enjoyed a really full day seeing many publishing people at the London Book Fair.  This was followed really quickly by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups very enjoyable conference at Queenswood School in Hertfordshire.  These are always full to bursting with author and illustrator talks – all with opportunities to ask questions and get lots of books signed!  What a luxury!  This year was extra special as the FCBG is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary. I am honoured to have been asked to join the FCBG National Executive – so I’m looking forward to becoming more involved with this very energetic reading organisation.   Watch out for the Golden National Share-a-Story month activities during May.

This past weekend I have been at the Raunds Music Festival – dedicated to roots music in East Northants.  The programme, as always, was varied with highlights for me being  Mawkin, Carter Dolby, Granny’s Attic, Steve Turner, and Greg Russell.  The festival is organised and run entirely by volunteers but has a good extended community support – which is great to see in these often less than community minded times.

My pile of books to review for School Librarian has just arrived – so I think it may be time to do some more reading…


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