Thursday 26 September 2013

Exclusive Q&A with Jane Ray, Children's Author and Illustrator

What gave you the idea for this collection of stories?

I’ve always been a collector – not expensive things like vintage cars or crystal ornaments, but everyday bits and pieces: shells and feathers, useful pieces of string and jam jars. I also collect stories and when I had so many that I’d run out of space in my head to keep them, I decided to write them down and turn them into books.

What did you like most about working on this collection – the stories or the artwork?

It was a delight to retell these stories – some old and traditional, some mythic and legendary, fairy tales, folk tales and made-up tales. The variety of characters is immense: good and bad, trickster and magician, prince and pauper. It was wonderful to be able to illustrate them too, and I decided that instead of working in watercolour and collage as usual, I would return to a technique that I had first tried as a teenager.

All the illustrations in these books are done on scraperboard or scratchboard, where board is coated with finely ground white clay and then covered in a layer of black Indian ink. The image is created by scratching, with a sharp stylus, through the black ink to the white clay layer below. The result is almost like an engraving. The pictures are very small, which leads you, as an illustrator, to think in terms of tiny details that might be missed in a bigger picture.

You’ve described the scraperboard technique, but there is a fantastic variety of artwork in the book – with amazing colours. How did this come about?

The stories come from many different countries and cultures, and this gave me the added creative thrill of incorporating traditional patterns from Africa, Inuit animal carvings or elements of Japanese woodblock prints into the illustrations. David Bennett at Boxer Books then worked his magic with the images, enlarging, adding colour, cropping and generally ‘playing around’ with both the illustrations and the look and ‘feel’ of the books, until we felt we had made something really special.

What is your favourite story in the collection and why? And favourite picture?

I really like Mulungu Paints the Birds – it's funny and charming and I’d never seen it before I researched this book. My favourite picture? I think it’s The Owl and the Pussy Cat dancing together hand in hand by moonlight on p.47. I love the simple happiness of the image, and I was quite pleased with how I managed to get the cat's stance and the moonlit edges of the creatures.

What do you think makes a good story?

Light and shade - contrast. The stories that hold your attention are the ones where you want to know what happens next, where you care about the characters and their destiny. You want them to overcome danger and attain happiness or peace. A story that is too happy is often bland and uninvolving – we all like a bit of drama! Having said all that I realise that my favourite story – Mulungu – isn’t  really dramatic at all!  I guess humour and an acknowledgement of human/animal failing makes a good story too.

Where can fans of your work find out more about you and your work?

I have a website which I have rather neglected recently but I am about to update it. It's still worth having a look because there is a lot of stuff there. Also there is information about me on my publishers website – Orchard Books, Walker Books, Frances Lincoln ...

Can you sum up ‘The Story Collector’ is only 3 words?

Book of Delights!


‘The Story Collector: The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales’

By Jane Ray
Published by Boxer Books
RRP £12.99 (large format hardback)
ISBN 9781907152597
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

This is the first edition in a new series of tales re-told and illustrated by Jane Ray. And what a great collection it is! There are fairy tales, myths, traditional tales, folk tales and legends, some you’ll know as classics or favourites and some that are lesser known – something for everyone!

What makes this book amazing is the artwork. Just wow! Jane has used a scraperboard technique for the first time to illustrate a book. These are originally black and white minature pieces of art, which have been blown up and produced in a variety of colours throughout the book to a dramatic and beautiful effect! It looks and feels like a very special book, you can see the care and attention that has gone into it. It's like holding a little bit of art!

This is a great book to read and would also make a fab present for any avid reader.

Highly recommended for readers aged 8+

Thanks to Jane for answering our questions!

New Open Mic Night 'Fen Speak' starts in October with Venues in Ely and Wisbech

In association with the Fenland Poet Laureate Programme and Atelier East, and with support from ADeC, Elaine Ewart and Leanne Moden are starting up a brand new open mic poetry evening in North and East Cambridgeshire.

Fen Speak is a free spoken word open mic night designed to support and nurture local poets and writers, and help them develop their performance skills. It's a friendly and supportive space for people to read their poetry out loud, and Elaine and Leanne will be encouraging writers of all ages and abilities to have a go at performing their poetry!

Fen Speak events will be held every third Wednesday of the month, alternating between venues in Ely and Wisbech, and the first open mic night will be on Wednesday 16th October at the Babylon Gallery, Waterside, Ely CB7 4AU -meeting at 7:30pm for an 8pm start. There will be refreshments available, and there's absolutely not obligation to performance, so if anyone wants to come along to listen, that's absolutely fine. Elaine and Leanne hope to see you there!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Poetry Book Review: 'Brand New Ancients' By Kate Tempest

'Brand New Ancients'
By Kate Tempest
Published by Picador Poetry
RRP £9.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781447257684
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Brand New Ancients won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for Innovation in Poetry and has been published by Picador Poetry.

Rather than a poetry collection, with lots of individual poems, Brand New Ancients is an epic poem, that was written to be read aloud – as a spoken word piece. It’s really interesting to read something that is a performance piece as the way you read it, isn’t always the way the poet would deliver it, yet reading the piece makes you really appreciate the story-telling element. (Check out this YouTube Clip:!)

Brand New Ancients tells the story of two families and their lives that Kate originally told over an orchestra’s score. The tales is set in the city but has myths woven into it – gods are in the betting shops and cafes! It cleverly shows how myths live on in modern society, in every day acts whether that be bravery, love or violence. It’s dramatic, thought-provoking, enchanting and quite marvellous.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages.

Visit Picador Poetry's website for further information or to buy the book.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

The Man Booker Prize Announces Global Expansion

The expanded prize will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai. ‘We are embracing the freedom of English in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries’

The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation announced that the Man Booker Prize is to expand eligibility for entry for future prizes to include novels originally written in English and published in the UK, regardless of the nationality of their author. This change will come into effect for the 2014 prize.

The Man Booker Prize, which was launched in 1969, is widely regarded as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world. But, paradoxically, it has not allowed full international participation to all those writing literary fiction in English. 

The trustees have made their decision to expand the prize after an extensive investigation and evaluation, with the help of specialist independent consultants. Research and consultation began in 2011 and, over the following eighteen months, the views of writers, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and others were canvassed on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

Initially, the thinking was that the Booker Prize Foundation might set up a new prize specifically for US writers. But at the end of a lengthy process, the trustees were wary of jeopardising or diluting the existing Man Booker Prize. Instead, they agreed that the prize, which for over 40 years has been the touchstone for high quality literary fiction written in English, would enhance its prestige and reputation through expansion, rather than by the setting up of a separate prize.  
The basic structure of the prize (the number of judges; the fact that only UK publishers can submit; the requirement that all the judges consider every book submitted; the contemporaneous nature of the submissions; the longlist and the shortlist) will be maintained. However, mindful of the increased pressure that the expansion will place on some publishers of literary fiction in deciding which books to submit, the trustees have approved a modified basis for submissions to recognise literary achievement; this will be by reference to longlisting within the previous five years (details of this process are below). At the same time, the prize will remain open to all UK publishers, existing and emerging, all of whom will be entitled to enter at least one novel as well as proposing up to five other novels for the judges to consider.

The trustees are confident that their decisions are in keeping with the increasingly international nature of publishing and reading. They believe that these changes will encourage traditional and new publishers alike, and bring yet more excellent literary fiction to the attention of readers around the world.

The changes to the annual Man Booker Prize will in no way affect the structure and objectives of the Man Booker International Prize, which recognises a writer for his or her achievement in fiction. It is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.

Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the trustees, comments: ‘By including writers from around the world to compete alongside Commonwealth and Irish writers, the Man Booker Prize is reinforcing its standing as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world.' 

‘We are excited by the opportunities that extending the Man Booker Prize will bring for readers and writers worldwide. The expanded prize will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai. The wide geographic spread of the year's shows that this is a process already underway. We are embracing the freedom of English in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries.'

‘The number of books publishers are allowed to submit has also long been a concern. Our new model, in recognising literary achievement, should encourage the traditional literary publishing houses while ensuring novels from new green-shoot publishers continue to be included.’

Manny Roman, CEO of the Man Group comments: ‘Man is delighted to be the long-term sponsor of the pre-eminent prize for literary fiction and we welcome its extension to include works in English from all round the world. This promises to enrich the debate around quality fiction.’

For further information please visit

Thursday 19 September 2013

65 Years Windrush Celebration Black History Month Special Performance by Victor Richards

"Streets Paved with Gold" performed by Windrush Specialist Victor Richards
Listen to the streets that were paved with gold
She said it's a story that's never been told ...
Augustus Cleveland Johnson disembarks at Tilbury Docks in London on a cold, grey and wet November morning in 1948. This is the story of his new beginning in a foreign land. Share his dreams, hopes and aspirations.

It was 65 years ago the first African Caribbean Windrush passengers stepped onto English soil at Tilbury Docks, London in June 1948 and ignited a cultural revolution that shaped and defined the landscape of British society today.
London ShowDate: Saturday 5th October 2013
Time: Doors Open 6.30pm (Food Served) Show Starts 8pm
Venue: Trussler Hall
(78 Grundy Street Poplar London E14 6ND)
Tickets: £10 (Show and Food)  Contact: Christine Dormer: 0845 148 0018
Wales ShowDate: Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Lyric Theatre
(King Street Carmarthen Carmarthenshire SA31 1BD)
Tickets: £10   Tel: 0845 2263510

YOUTUBE video clip Book 'Poetry Trilogy' by Victor Richards

You can find out more about Victor Richards here.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Call For Submissions - Free Poetry Competitions & Magazine Content Required!

Global Feel Good Cultural Competition 2013

This competition is open to all and any type of poetry. The judging criteria is how 'feel good' the poem is as the whole point of the competition is to raise the nation's spirits and to gather together a resource of feel good culture. Prizes: TBA - a minimum of £50 - the criteria for judging will be how 'fun' and 'feel good' the poem is. 
Judges: Laura & Mark Tong - a third judge TBA.
Entry Fee: £0

See website for contact details and to enter:

Closing Date: 30th September 2013

Basil Bunting Young People's Award 2013

Categories: 10-14 years and 14-18 years.
First Prize £50. Second Prize £30. Third Prize £20. There will be 3 commended works. 

Judge: Andrew Motion Prizes:
Entry £0

Further information and entry:
Closing Date: 30th September 2013

Sassafras Literary Magazine      

Type of submissions: Poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, artwork, audio, lists, prose poetry, flashling. All things minimalistic and mind-slicing wanted.
Submission guidelines: Poetry: 1-2 poems of 1-20 lines   Prose poetry: 1-3 pages per submission. Fiction:  Flash fiction up to 1000 words, flashling 10 to 500 words. Nonfiction: Narrative, interview, fact box (make it count!), memoir moments (one scene) creative lists and first pages of novels to come.  Other: Science illustration, amazing  Q&As, music playlists with caption, time documents. Art: Digital collage, photo, drawings, letterheads, selfies (if unique), doodles and charts, if artful.
Submit to:
Publication frequency: Weekly, published Mondays. During the initial month, September, one issue every two weeks. Editor: Miranda Holmqvist.

Closing Date: 30th September 2013

Monday 16 September 2013

Literature Wales Writers' Bursaries 2014

Literature Wales Writers' Bursaries 2014

Application forms for the 2014 Literature Wales Bursaries are available to new and published writers. Bursaries are awarded to support writers creating new work in the following genres: novels, short stories, graphic novels, poetry, children’s literature, teenage fiction, literary criticism, biography/autobiography and factual prose of literary merit.

Bursaries are available for writers with disabilities in need of specialist equipment and assistance. Buying Time Bursaries are also available, and the Miscellaneous Fund can offer small-scale support to help cover the travel or research costs of specific writing projects.

Applicants must be resident in Wales at the time of application and throughout the period of the bursary.

Closing date for applications: Friday 25th October 2013

The guidelines and application forms for the 2014 Literature Wales Writers’ Bursaries
are available to download from the Literature Wales website, or contact Literature Wales: / 029 2047 2266

Sunday 15 September 2013

Poetry Book Review: 'As Far As I Know' by Roger McGough

‘As Far As I Know’
By Roger McGough
Published by Penguin Books
RRP £8.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9780241962275
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Roger McGough is one of the UK's best-known poets; there is an anticipation, an expectation even, of what his latest poetry collection ‘As Far As I Know’ would deliver ... I loved it, it certainly doesn’t disappoint!

The book kicks off with ‘Take Comfort’, a poem about looking on the bright side of things, finding a positive in a negative and appreciating your situation isn’t as bad as others - “not a letter from the hospital. The results devastating" and “a child’s arm thrust from the rubble” ... “you have a book in your hand. Take comfort from this”. This sets the theme, of looking at life, past and present, from a different viewpoint and other’s viewpoints too It’s nostalgic yet fresh at the same time. McGough’s poems often have a twist in them, cleverly used word play that seem dreamy at first before packing you with a punch of emotion.

The poems vary from youthful memories to modern events, such as ‘They Came Out Singing’, to getting older and those around you ageing to and how this affects life over time, such as ‘A Cold Calling’, which is such a simple but hugely effective poem, it is one of the poems that stood out to me from the whole collection. If you are also a fan of art, the Surrealists selection of poems are for you! There is a great selection of poems – some witty, some humorous, others thought-provoking, all in balance and all of which were immensely enjoyable.

Highly recommended for readers aged 14+

You can find out more about 'As Far As I Know' and order it here

You can find out more about Roger McGough and his work at

Thursday 12 September 2013

London Welsh Literature Festival From Wales, Bloomsbury And Beyond 3rd to 5th October 2013

Thursday 3rd - Saturday 5th October
London Welsh Centre,
157-163 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8UE

This October, Literature Wales will catch the London train to the London Welsh Centre, where the inaugural London Welsh Literature festival will be held. As the hub for promoting social and cultural activity within the Welsh community in London, the Centre will host the very best of Welsh writing across three days in the heart of the city.

As the festival take place during the week of National Poetry Day, they’ll be sending both their Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Martin Daws, and Bardd Plant Cymru, Aneirin Karadog to the centre to meet with school children for a poetry and performance workshop. Both laureates will also join up with poets Joe Dunthorne, Rufus Mufasa and Molly Naylor on the Saturday for an afternoon of quick-paced, punchy performances.

As a preview of Wales-wide and world celebrations of the centenary of Dylan Thomas in 2014, the festival will host an event with Thomas’ granddaughter and honourable Patron of DT100 Hannah Ellis. She’ll be joined by leading Welsh poet and novelist Owen Sheers for this Saturday evening event.

Other highlights of the festival will include a discussion on Welsh identity with this year’s National Eisteddfod Crown winner and former Londoner Ifor ap Glyn, journalist and author Jasper Rees and writer Peter Daniels; a conversation with BBC News presenter Huw Edwards; music from acclaimed string quartet The Kane Players; and an evening to remember the Senghenydd Mining Disaster featuring Boyd Clack.

Click here to read more on this story on the Literature Wales website.

To book tickets for events taking place on Saturday 5th October call 0207 837 3722.

The London Welsh Literature Festival is organised by the London Welsh Centre in partnership with Literature Wales.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

The 2013 Shortlist is:

'We Need New Names' by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
'The Harvest' by Jim Crace (Picador)
'The Lowland' by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
'The Testament of Mary' by Colm Tóibín (Penguin)

When Robert Macfarlane, the chair of this year's Man Booker Prize judges, announced the longlist he called it the most diverse in recent memory. He was right, and the same is still true of the shortlist he and his peers have just selected. The 151 novels they started with represented a tour d'horizon of contemporary fiction, a grand vista that encompassed everything from the epic to the miniaturist. The longlist distilled the numbers but kept the flavour and now the shortlist has intensified it further.

The six books on the list could not be more diverse. There are examples from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste. They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeki). The oldest author on the list, Jim Crace, is 67, the youngest (indeed the youngest ever shortlistee), Eleanor Catton, is 28. Colm Tóibín has written more than 15 books, The Luminaries is only Catton's second.

What does such a list say about the taste of the judges? Messrs Macfarlane, Douglas-Fairhurst, Haynes, Kearney and Kelly have now read each of the books at least twice. Any book that bears re-reading has merit. A book that then stands out above its peers is special indeed. The judges' arguments will have been impassioned – no one invests the time and energy to read 151 books without the enterprise mattering to them. The shortlist is a consensus: it is one that shows that the judges have wide-ranging tastes; that they are unswayed by reputations (many big names didn't make the longlist let alone the shortlist); that they have no predilection for one particular genre; or books by one gender (there are four women and two men on the list); that they like new voices as well as familiar ones; that historical fiction has no more precedence than modern; that form is less important than quality.

And what does the list say about the writers? It is clear that the perennial complaint that fiction is too safe and unadventurous is a ridiculous one; it shows that the novel remains a multi-faceted thing; that writing and inspiration knows no geographical borders; that diaspora tales are a powerful strand in imaginative thinking; and that human voices, in all their diversity, drive fiction.

The shortlist, in other words, is fiendishly difficult to categorise. And that is exactly what you would hope from a list selecting from the best that contemporary fiction has to offer. Quality comes in different forms and in 2013 there is plenty of it about.

For further information, please visit the Man Booker Website.

Source: Man Booker Prize Website

Monday 9 September 2013

Mischief and mayhem at the RSC: Roald Dahl’s daughter plus very special musical guests celebrate eighth annual Roald Dahl Day

In celebration of the eighth annual Roald Dahl Day, Puffin is to host Roald Dahl Day Puffin Virtually Live, an interactive webcast streamed live on Friday 13th September at 2pm from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon where the multi award-winning production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical premiered before transferring to London and New York.

This year’s Roald Dahl Day celebrations pay tribute to the MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM within the work of the world’s number one storyteller. We all love Roald Dahl’s more villainous characters, whether it’s the terrifying Trunchbull, currently wowing audiences in the glorious Matilda The Musical at London’s Cambridge Theatre, or the Grand High Witch – about to be immortalised in a new audiobook read by Miranda Richardson. And when it comes to MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM, nobody does it with more aplomb than Mr Willy Wonka, whether in the original book or played by Doug Hodge in the smash-hit musical which has just opened at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

So what mischief and mayhem will take place at the RSC on the 13th September?

Hosted by Michael Rosen, former Children’s Laureate and author of children’s biography Fantastic Mr Dahl, Michael will be in conversation with Roald Dahl’s daughter, Lucy Dahl, the inspiration for Matilda, finding out about the mischief and mayhem her father got up to at home and in the writing of his work.

There will be a live performance of “Naughty” from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical by one of the four young actresses who share the much-coveted title role at the Cambridge Theatre in London.

Cherry and Jerry, the unforgettable news reporters from the spectacular new musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, present an EXCLUSIVE video that provides eye-opening video interviews and behind the scenes insights that will guide pupils through the incredible creative process of this gigantic production!

Behind the scenes footage of all the fun sound technicians had making the sound effects for Puffin’s brand new Roald Dahl audiobook recordings at the world famous Pinewood Film Studios will be aired for the first time.

Viewers will also have the opportunity to put their questions to Michael and Lucy and to send in their stories and anecdotes of mischief and mayhem to be read out during the course of the event.

Francesca Dow, MD of Penguin Children’s, said, ‘Puffin’s programme of Virtually Live events demonstrate our desire and our ability to reach hundreds of thousands of children worldwide with rich and varied content from some of our greatest authors and illustrators. We are extremely proud of our multi-platform events programme which aims to connect as many kids globally as possible to the authors and illustrators and help bring stories alive.’

Registration is now open at and Roald Dahl fans from across the globe are invited to join in this exclusive webcast. Last year’s PUFFIN VIRTUALLY LIVE reached a quarter of a million young people all over the globe, from Ipswich to India; from Huddersfield to Hong Kong.

Sunday 8 September 2013


The Poetry Book Society is delighted to announce that it will be running a ten venue national tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first T S Eliot Prize, set up in 1993 to mark its 40th anniversary and to honour its founding poet.
The tour will visit Portsmouth on 17th September, then Winchester, Oldham, Halifax, Ludlow, Glasgow, Norwich, Liverpool, Durham and finally Sheffield on 15th October. For the first time audiences outside London will have the opportunity to hear poetry from the T S Eliot Prize shortlisted poets - who have made the Readings in the Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall the most thrilling as well as the largest event of the poetry year - alongside emerging local voices.

17th September

David Russell Theatre, Portsmouth Grammar School

George Szirtes, Penelope Shuttle, Tim Liardet & Maggie Sawkins

18th September

Discovery Centre, Winchester

David Harsent, Annie Freud, Daljit Nagra & Stephen Boyce


19th September

Oldham Library

Jen Hadfield, Jane Draycott, Ian Duhig & Shamshad Khan

25th September

Square Chapel, Halifax

John Burnside, Christopher Reid, Fiona Sampson & Zaffar Kunial

27th September

Ludlow Assembly Rooms

Philip Gross, Gillian Clarke, Frances Leviston & Luke Kennard

30th September

Mitchell Library Main Hall, Glasgow

Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Robert Crawford & William Letford

3rd October

The Curve at the Forum, Millennium Library, Norwich

George Szirtes, Sean Borodale, Moniza Alvi & Helen Ivory

11th October

The Bluecoat, Liverpool

George Szirtes, Maura Dooley, Sam Willetts & Andrew McMillan

12th October

Durham Book Festival, Durham Town Hall

Philip Gross, Sinead Morrissey & Deryn Rees-Jones


15th October

Off the Shelf Festival, Arundel Room, Millennium Galleries, Sheffield

Sean O’Brien, Paul Farley, Esther Morgan & Helen Mort

The T S Eliot Prize 20th Anniversary Tour is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

The 2013 T S Eliot Prize shortlist will be announced on 24th October.

The 2013 T S Eliot Prize Shortlist Readings will take place on Sunday 12th January 2014 at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and the winner of the 2013 Prize will be announced at the award ceremony the following evening. The PBS will also be running the T S Eliot Prize Shadowing and Reading Groups Schemes.

For further information, please click here.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Poetry Book Review: 'Lifting The Piano With One Hand' by Gaia Holmes

‘Lifting The Piano With One Hand’

By Gaia Holmes
Published by Comma Press
RRP £7.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781905583270
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Gaia Holmes’ new collection is quite readable; I found a lot of it was like reading a stream of consciousness, which elegantly flows and makes the theme of loss and hope something special. I love the titles, such as ‘I Turned My Heart into a 2-Star B&B’ or ‘The Man Who Dripped Digitalis’ – they are intriguing and conjure up great imagery. If you like poems that adhere to a strict format, then this isn’t the collection for you. Its free-flowing musings are enchanting and I urge you to give it a read.

Highly recommended for readers aged 14+

You can find out more about Gaia Holmes and purchase her books here.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - Ninth Author Announced ...

Eleven Doctors. Eleven months. Eleven authors. Eleven stories.
A year long celebration for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who!

‘The Beast of Babylon’
By Charlie Higson
Published by Puffin on the 23rd September 2013, EBook, £1.99
ISBN: 9781405913300
Suitable for readers aged 9+

The ninth instalment in a sensational series of stories celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is written by Charlie Higson – actor, comedian and author of the phenomenally successful Young Bond books and the cult thriller series, The Enemy.

Doctor Who is the longest running sci-fi TV show in the world and celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013. To celebrate, Puffin – in partnership with BBC Worldwide – is publishing an exclusive series of eleven ebook short stories each based on one of the Eleven Doctors, priced at £1.99 and released on the 23rd January to November 2013. Each story is written by a different author, bringing together some of the most exciting names in children’s fiction, from commercial blockbusters to literary award-winners. These authors will each bring their own interpretation and re-imagining of their chosen Doctor to create a unique Doctor Who adventure in their own inimitable style.

Following on from short stories by Eoin Colfer, Michael Scott, Marcus Sedgwick, Philip Reeve, Patrick Ness, Richelle Mead, Malorie Blackman and Alex Scarrow, Charlie Higson has written the ninth adventure in the series, based on the Ninth Doctor played by  Christopher Eccleston.  Charlie Higson commented: “I grew up with Doctor Who and have always been a massive fan so it's a great honour to be involved in this anniversary celebration. Russell T Davies did a great job of rebooting the series with Christopher Eccleston so to be able to write the Ninth Doctor story was a great opportunity to say thanks to the Doctor and thanks to Russell.”

Synposis: When a girl called Ali pockets a silver orb that falls from the sky, little does she realise it’s her ticket to seeing the universe! Desperate to retrieve the mysterious object, the Ninth Doctor agrees to let her join him on a dangerous trip to ancient Babylon. Together they must join forces to stop a giant Starman from destroying Earth before it’s too late!

About Charlie Higson:
Charlie Higson is a successful author, actor, comedian and writer for television and radio.   He wrote the phenomenally successful Young Bond series which has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and been translated into over 24 languages.  The first novel in his bestselling cult thriller series, The Enemy, was published to critical acclaim in 2009. It was followed by The Dead (2010), The Fear (2011) and The Sacrifice (2012). Charlie is a huge fan of horror films and books and even studied gothic literature at university.

Charlie Higson started writing when he was ten years old but it was a long time before he got paid for doing it. On leaving university he was the singer in a pop group (The Higsons) before giving it up to become a painter and decorator. It was around this time that he started writing for television on  Saturday Night Live.  In partnership with Paul Whitehouse, he went on to create hugely successful comedy series  The Fast Show, in which he also appeared. Other TV works include The Harry Enfield Television Programme,  The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Shooting Stars, Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, the film Suite 16 and Swiss Toni.

His work for radio includes the award-winning spoof radio series  Down the Line (BBC Radio 4), which became the television comedy series Bellamy’s People (BBC 2). Charlie’s other books include the thrillers King of the Ants (1992), Happy Now (1993), Full Whack (1995) and Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen (1996).  He lives in North London.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Featured Poem for September 2013

'A Half Mashed Spud' by Penny Pepper

A memory of '86
Old new London moans,
  - in my kitchen there's a saucepan
  - boils up an argument
as potatoes jeer and jiggle
to the sound of Ian Dury
and assorted punk on-goers.

I'm looking at tomorrow
and thinking of more sex.
Young, twitchy, greedy.
Stillettoes pinch my toes;
   - not for walking much,
   - they're worth it for the shock
on the social worker visits
and for the scolding sour grannies
who skulk my Leyton streets
where I'm quite the freaky presence.

I broke out from my holding pen
marked et al for flid, spaz, crip;
   - not merely seen and hardly heard
   - out bold with red hair sharpened,
Mini skirt ruched to punky thighs
exposing meanest fishnets
as I slouch roads in my chair.

Still, the potatoes will not soften
   - and we're gloomy as we starve,
   - me and boyfriend Alan
dreaming of mash and mothers
in old institutions of home.

Alan strokes my tight-bright skirt.
Tells me I'm plastic fantastic
   - but we can't cook two potatoes
   - and nothing else matters
but the thought of buttered mash
sliding salty smooth pleasure,
oozing an utterence of spuddy cream
down our naughty churlish throats.

Later Ann would tell us.
You have to chop them first
   - not throw them in like knobbled bricks
   - to be baffled in an exercise
   - of unschooled endurance.

Aeons moved, light fell, light rose.
It came to pass there was a mountain.
A mash everest, I pulped myself
badly with a broken fork.
Stiff little fingers find their methods always,
and later, Al unpeeled me
   - lust cooked us to a carefree brew
   - alert to our baby wants and dreams.
Laughter, like we believe it's worth it,
at the half mashed spud
on my red ripped tartan skirt.

© Penny Pepper 2013
Please do not use without the poet’s permission.

For further information about Penny Pepper and her work please visit Penny's page here.

Top 5 Supernatural Reads by Justin Richards, Children's Author

Justin’s Top 5 Supernatural Reads

I’ve always loved ghost stories, tales of the supernatural – the weird and the mysterious.  I grew up in a haunted house, so maybe that’s why. Or perhaps I’m just like that…
Choosing a mere five supernatural reads is tricky. More than tricky – it’s almost impossible. But I’ll try.  I have too many favourites to really describe this as a ‘top 5’, but they are certainly 5 of the best.  I’ve tried to think of stories that aren’t obvious contenders – for example, I love Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, but I suspect that would make it into most Top 5 lists. So I’ve deliberately left it out!  I’ve also veered towards the more traditional and ‘classic’ works, which sadly excluded some of my favourite writers of the supernatural like Stephen Gallagher – as a bonus 6th choice, read anything of his!
In no particular order then:



By Bram Stoker

A real classic, from 1897, and – unlike Frankenstein – written by an experienced author with flair and talent as well as imagination.  A novel that deserves its reputation, if you think you know the story and reading it won’t add anything to your understanding of vampires – or chills – then think again.  Strange to think that when he died, Stoker’s obituaries didn’t even mention Dracula. Now, despite his other achievements, he’s remembered for nothing else…


Anything by M.R. James

The absolute master of the disquieting ghost story.  All his tales are beautifully written, relying on atmosphere and character rather than shock and gore.  The best-known of his works are as you’d expect the most impressive – including Casting the Runes, and “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”. But I particularly like The Haunted Dolls’ House (first published in 1923).


Something Wicked This Way Comes

By Ray Bradbury

Bradbury at his best and most unsettling… First published in 1962, this is a story about two young boys, just into their teens, coming to terms with the stark realities of the world and with encroaching adulthood. But the backdrop against which they reach their understanding – a bizarre, dark funfair – combines fantasy and horror in a parable about the conflicting natures of good and evil in us. It’s an obvious, and impressive, influence on so many other writers – most notably Stephen King.

Fevre Dream

By George R. R. Martin

An unusual choice perhaps, especially given that Martin is now most famous for his Song of Ice and Fire series (filmed as Game of Thrones).  But this earlier work (from 1982) is for me this his best novel.  Set against the landscape of the Mississippi and taking place largely on gambling river boats, it’s a vampire tale that is both traditional and avant-garde in its treatment of the creatures. It reinvented vampires long before that became a popular device…

The Hound of the Baskervilles

By Arthur Conan Doyle

The perfect combination of detective fiction and ghost story – perfect!  There are terrific set pieces of both genre – Sherlock Holmes’s assessment of a mysterious note assembled from newspaper clipping, and the attack of the hound.  The atmospheric moors and mire and an apparently haunted house ramp up the atmosphere of supernatural threat.  Of course, we know there must be a rational explanation, and the juxtaposition of the rational and the unexplained forms the central premise of the book.  First published as a serial in 1901-1902, this is another novel that lives up to the hype.  And again if you know the story but haven’t actually read the book, then you’ve missed a treat.  

About Justin Richards
Justin is the author of the popular children's series The Invisible Detective, and also the series Time Runners. For younger children, Justin writes the Agent Alfie series - about a boy who finds himself at a school for the children of spies and secret agents. Though Alfie's own dad is a postman.

Justin's novel for older children - The Death Collector - was first published in 2006, followed by The Chaos Code in 2007 and The Parliament of Blood in 2008, with The Chamber of Shadows following in 2010. His series The School of Night also started
in Autumn 2010.

He has co-written several action thrillers for older children with the acknowledged master of the genre Jack Higgins. Justin acts as Creative Consultant to BBC Books' range of Doctor Who titles, advising on the commissioning and editing of all the company's Doctor Who titles as well as writing quite a few himself. 

You can find out more about Justin at his website - and follow him on Twitter @JJCRichards.

Justin's new book 'The Wolfstone Curse' is out now, published by Templar Publishing and available from all good bookshops and online. Here is a review by one of our teen reviewers, Sophie-May Hopkins:
'The Wolfstone Curse'
By Justin Richards
Published by Templar Publishing
RRP £6.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781848775510
Reviewed by Sophie-May Hopkins, aged 15

This is a chilling story of werewolves and other supernatural happenings that lie behind this tale of the dark secret woven into the village of Wolfstone.

Peter thinks his holiday will be dull and boring. How very wrong he is ... a trip to Wolfstone, an old town in the middle of nowhere, is not Peter's idea of fun. Peter's dad is busy down at the "dig" and Peter just wants to go home. When Peter meets Carys and takes an interest into the myths and legends surrounding Wolfstone his holiday starts to get more interesting ... very, very interesting ...

The Wolfstone Curse is a book suitable for all teenagers. The characters are interesting and bring the book to life. The book does not contain a dull moment and this book is good for people who like mystery and werewolves.

**You can also download the free Wolfstone app for your smart phone. Active the app, then point and scan the cover to reveal hidden content!**

Highly recommended for teen readers +

A huge thank you from Book a Poet to Justin Richards for his guest blog and to Sophie-May Hopkins for her review!

Monday 2 September 2013

Call for Submissions: 2014 iOTA shots Awards for Short Poetry Pamphlets

Two, and up to three, poets will have their shorter 'poetry shots'  published by Templar Poetry in 2014 and publication will be accompanied by launch events as well as the opportunity to appear at live Templar Poetry events and other venues.

An iOTA shot will be whatever you make it as a poet. It may be a series of sonnets, haiku, a sequence, a single narrative poem, a mini-epic or a short collection on a theme; it is both an invitation and an opportunity to produce an innovative, original and imaginative short piece of work.

Templar Poetry  is a publishing house with a reputation for developing new audiences for poetry through its fresh and unfettered approach to discovering excellent new writers and presenting their work to a wide range of readers and listeners.


  •     Two, and up to Three submissions selected for publication by Templar Poetry
  •     Each winning poet receives £100 and fifty copies of their iOTA shot pamphlet
  •     Each winning poet will be offered the opportunity to record their work for our
  •     forthcoming online poetry carousel
  •     Each winning poet will be issued with a Templar Poetry publishing agreement which
  •     will include the option to submit a full collection for consideration
  •     All poets who submit receive a complimentary Templar Pamphlet
  •     CLOSING DATE for sending submissions – 18th November 2013
 For further submission guidelines and fees please visit Templar Poetry's website.