This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Awards for Wasted

I know I'd laid this blog to rest but the story doesn't feel complete without awards details! Yes, in 2012 Wasted won the RED Book Award, the Coventry "Read It Or Else" award and also the Scottish Children's Book Award (older readers' category.) Runner-up in the North East Book Award. Shortlisted for ten awards and nominated for the Carnegie. All that made me very happy indeed.

Still doing lots of school events. No more teenage novels in the pipeline, though, as I'm focusing on younger fiction and also more teenage brain stuff.

My new blog and website are here.

And thanks to everyone for lovely support for my last YA novel.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

ANGUS BOOK AWARD and UPDATE

I know this blog is meant to be sleeping but I wanted to add something. This week I was at the Angus Book Award ceremony. I didn't win but I had a lovely time, especially with the other authors and organisers. (Keren David won again! Clever lady.)

I just wanted you to see these two alternative covers for Wasted, designed by pupils as part of a competition.

This one is by Allanah Hendry of Carnoustie High School, who won the first prize.


And below is the one by Danni Robertson of Forfar Academy.

Clever!

Thank you to everyone involved in the Angus Awards - it's a fabulous one to be on and the organisation is PERFECT. Mmmm, lovely sandwiches, too.

Wasted is now on two more shortlists - I can't say which ones but that's seven altogether! Hope my publishers are pleased. They haven't said so, but I'm assuming.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

SO LONG, FARE WELL...

Time to lay this blog to rest. It was only ever meant to be temporary, and now I find myself with less and less time to keep it going. I'll leave it here for people to find out about the ideas behind Wasted. I've had such a good time visiting schools and answering emails about this book and I thank you all for your fabulous support. I'm very proud of how well Wasted has done, despite the fact that it has not been a heavily promoted title. For the shortlists that it is on, I am so grateful for the enthusiasm of lovely librarians and I thank them hugely. I also thank all its supporters on Twitter and through my other blog, and schools that I've visited or who have contacted me. And then there are the booksellers, who have worked so hard and successfully to hand sell it. Thank you all.

And finally, I thank my agent, who is currently very excited about my next proposed novel. Of which more later, I hope!

Thank you all and do keep in touch through my Facebook Author page. I'll put bits of news there from now on.

May good luck accompany you and keep you safe - but not too safe, because risk is essential in our lives. I took a risk in writing Wasted. I like to think it paid off.

Friday, 18 February 2011

LIKE BEING PITCHED AGAINST TWILIGHT

Well, as some of you know, WASTED has made it to the final two in its category for the Coventry Awards and there are only a few days left to vote! I am frankly amazed that it's still there but incredibly grateful, too. It was such a strong shortlist and the book I'm now up against was always looking like a likely winner - Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater. Someone said to me, "OMG, that's like being pitched against Twilight!"

So, if you'd like to help WASTED win its very first prize, even if you've voted already, please vote! The idea is that the more enthusiastic the readers, the more often they will vote, so repetitive voting is what the organisers want. If you're not at a school you just put n/a in the school bit and you do not have to put your postcode, either.

I'm also supporting lovely Keren David's When I Was Joe, in the Simply the Book Category.

To vote for WASTED, go here.

And to vote for WHEN I WAS JOE, go here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And thank you to the fab librarians who generate such enthusiasm. I am forever going on about how important librarians are but it can't be said often enough.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

FIRST VIDEO REVIEW OF WASTED - very interesting

Imagine how amazed I was when someone alerted me to this video review - the very first book chosen by Inbali Iserles and Joe Craig for their talking treatment.



I think what they've done is very clever indeed. I like how natural and informal it is. And I love the Schrodinger's cat section - watch Inbali's face!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

TWO EXEMPLARY BOOK AWARD CEREMONIES

Award ceremonies can be full of angstiness for the short-listed authors but the RED Award and the North East Book Award were wonderful events and I just wanted to say a tiny bit about them. Or, really, to make a list of the good things about them:
  1. Lots of preparation of the pupils by teachers and librarians in participating schools. This means a good number of book sales before the event and lots of useful publicity locally. But it's also the best way to do things and the fact that authors and publishers do nothing to "push" their books makes it all so much fairer.
  2. Lovely treatment of the authors with a real care for our comfort and welfare. We are made to feel like stars for the day!
  3. The feeling that we were all winners for being on the shortlist, with all of us doing talks and having presentations made about our books during the lead-up to the announcement.
  4. A fun and festive air without it being manic and shouty. 
  5. Our travel expenses paid. Sometimes, there's accommodation and a dinner, too, though the timing of these ones meant that that wasn't needed.
  6. Book sales at the event.

    I should point out that, sadly for me, I wasn't able to get to the RED one, as I was ill, but I sent a photo of my red boots (red, you see - theme of the award) and it was displayed. Apparently, my boots got a round of applause! So, I was amazed and delighted to receive a parcel later with prizes, even though I wasn't the overall winner. ALL the authors received the same prize, including a cheque, and the winner received a plate by local artist, Barbara Davidson. How lovely is that? (Big congrats to Cathy MacPhail for her win with Grass!)

    I did, however, have a ball at the North East Book Award in the Centre for Life in Newcastle. (Also wearing my red boots...) I was thrilled to be the runner-up, Highly Commended, after Keren David's wonderful When I Was Joe. And it was lovely to meet the other authors. Keren and Paul Dowswell and I are all on the Angus award, too, so we'll see each other again soon. It was lovely to see Anne Cassidy again and to meet Cliff McNish, who has the same agent as I do.

    My favourite thing was the groups of readers who came up to me before the event - actually, mobbed was the word - and said the most fab things about Wasted. (Some of their comments are on the NETBA blog here.) Oh, and getting the whole audience, including adults and authors, playing Jack's Game, was a lot of fun!

    My thanks to the librarians who made all this possible at both events - Yvonne Manning at Falkirk and Eileen Armstrong in Cramlington and both their teams. Librarians are absolutely my heroes.

    Sunday, 23 January 2011

    LOOKING FORWARDISH TO THE NORTHEAST BOOK AWARD

    On Friday this week I'll be heading off to Newcastle for the award ceremony for the North East Teenage Book Award. With mixed feelings.

    On the plus side:
    1. It's amazing to be shortlisted and I'm very proud of that.
    2. I am looking forward to meeting the other authors, some of whom I know (Anne Cassidy and Keren David) and others I haven't met.
    3. The NEBA is a brilliantly organised event and I've been before, with Fleshmarket. It's one of the best awards in the children's book world.
    4. Some of the pupils have interviewed me on Twitter and I'm really looking forward to meeting them. Here's a link to the interview.
    5. One of them has written a Wasted rap and they will perform it!
    6. There's a party. There might be chocolate.
    On the minus side:
    1. I get quite stressed being the centre of attention. It's exciting but tiring.
    2. I've damaged my voice and have been told not to speak loudly or much. I will have to speak loudly and much.
    Because of that last point, I have a special plan! And I'm not saying what it is until I get there but one person in the room is going to be very, very lucky....

    I will come back next week and tell you what happened!

    Thursday, 30 December 2010

    DON'T VOTE FOR ME

    Back on October 4th, I asked you to vote for Wasted in the Coventry Awards. It's a scary knockout X-factor-style voting system and the deadline for the first knockout is earlyish January sometime - I can't remember when - so I should be asking you to vote for me again. Otherwise I'll be the first to be knocked out.

    But I'm not asking you to vote for me. I would feel really uncomfortable if I did. You should vote for Wasted if you think Wasted is the best book on the list. And unless you've read the others, you can't really know, unless you think Wasted is so good that none of the others could compare. Which is a bit unlikely. I haven't read most of the other books so I don't know either.

    Don't get me wrong: I love that librarians create awards and generate enthusiasm for books and I know that schools and young readers in Coventry will really benefit. (I wish I'd been able to come and do a talk.) And gosh, I'm HUGELY grateful and proud to have been short-listed. But I am just pleased to be shortlisted, so let's leave it at that. Really, if I'm voted off at the first hurdle because I couldn't face asking you and all my friends and family to vote, that's fine.

    So, don't vote for me. Unless you feel that Wasted really is the best book on the list. If so, go here. If not, not a problem. Seriously.

    And to all the lovely readers in Coventry, have fun with all the fabulous books on the various shortlists! Thank you, Coventry librarians, for all your work, and to the readers who've commented to me already. It made me happy!

    Monday, 20 December 2010

    SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT 3: ST. PAUL'S CATHOLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL


    Here's a link to a really lovely newspaper article about an event I did in Manchester at St Paul's Catholic Secondary School. I had a lovely time and, as I said in the article, they were GREAT questions.

    One boy asked if there was rivalry and jealousy amongst authors! No, of course not... Actually, as I said to him, there seems to be very little amongst children's authors. We all get on pretty well, some better than others, of course, but some of my best friends are technically my "rivals" and I don't feel we really do jealousy.

    With thanks to the Catholic Herald for permission to use this photo, which appears in that article.

    Tuesday, 14 December 2010

    INTERVIEW FOR DUNDEE HIGH SCHOOL'S "THE KWYLL"

    I was interviewed by pupils at Dundee High School recently and the interview has been written up in their school creative writing magazine, The Kwyll. They've kindly given me permission to reproduce it below. I had a great day and was looked after beautifully. In fact, I blogged about it HERE.

    Who or what first inspired you to become a writer?
    I think it was a way I could express myself. I was a shy child and HATED actually performing, but writing was a way of “performing” without having to act or blush or forget my lines. I always loved making people laugh or cry with words. I’m probably a little power-crazy and language is THE power!

    How did you feel when you had your first novel published?
    Thing is, it happened so slowly that in the end it didn’t feel as special as I’d expected. First a couple of agents were a bit interested and then more interested; then it took a while before I signed the contract with my agent, then a while longer before the agent actually sold the book to a publisher, and then over a year more before it was actually published. So, by the time I saw my book on shelves I’d pretty much got used to the idea. But I LOVED the moment when I first saw and touched the real book. Mind you, I feel that exact same pleasure when I see and touch the first copy of each of my books. I stroke it and carry it around for a few days!

    Who are your own favourite authors?
    That question is very similar to “What are your favourite foods?” It just depends what I feel like at the time. I have lots of favourite authors. Here are a few: Kate Atkinson, Bernice Rubens, David Almond, Kevin Brooks, Ian Banks, Joanne Harris and Robert Cormier. They are all very different. Ask me on another day, and I’d probably have some different ideas.

    Did you have a favourite book or books when growing up?
    Different books at different ages. I was a pony-mad girl, so anything with ponies, even if it was really badly written! ‘The Little White Horse’ was a huge favourite for ages. Another that I loved and read over and over was ‘The Black Tulip’ by Alexander Dumas and I loved the Willard Price books. I needed books all the time, and lots of them were “easy” ones, like Enid Blyton, and others were “harder”, like Thomas Hardy and Graham Greene. I didn’t really mind, as long as I had a good story in my hands. I liked to be ill, so I could read all day in bed!

    How does it feel to have your novels studied in schools?
    I have slightly mixed feelings! First, I’m really, really proud when teachers choose my books, because it means that they think they’re good and they think you will like them, too. But I also wince a bit because I know that some of you will end up hating the book. Thing is, I believe we should read for pleasure, and my books are written for you to enjoy more than anything else. But I also believe that studying books in class is really important – especially for those of you who want to be writers, but also for anyone, to get the greatest possible understanding of how stories work. Stories and literature are so important to us as humans – recent research shows that reading novels develops our emotional intelligence, tolerance and wisdom, and I have to be proud if I’m even a tiny part of that.

    What is your new novel ‘Wasted’ about?
    Chance, luck, fate, risk, danger, obsession, passion, alcohol, quantum physics, Oedipus, imperfect parents, bereavement, grief, love, hate, mistakes, and why leaving the house ten seconds earlier could change your life.

    Can you tell us about what you’re working on just now?
    It’s top secret! Even I don’t know! I’m working on several things but I’m waiting to hear from my agent which one I should go with. It’s an exciting time in my career just now and I’m writing some adult non-fiction about how to write, so that’s a new direction, too. Watch this space!

    How would you encourage pupils at the High School to read more books?
    It depends on the pupil. There are millions of books out there and I believe there are books which will inspire everyone, if you can only find the ones that suit you. So, this is what I’d say:
    1. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re a “good” reader; or whether you read slowly or fast – it’s not a race.

    2. Although reading IS very good for us, don’t think about that: just aim to find books you enjoy. When you’ve enjoyed some, then try something different. Reading is a journey and it will take you to places you’ve never imagined.

    3. The only people who say reading is stupid or boring are people who don’t understand, or who haven’t managed to find the book for them, or who are afraid of it. Reading is everything you want it to be, because books are everything you want them to be – funny, scary, exciting, weird or simple, deep or light, gory, shocking, relaxing – anything at all.
    What top tips would you give to teenagers who want to get into writing?

    1. Read hungrily.
    2. Practise – it takes years, just like trying to be a professional musician, dancer or footballer. So, do it! You don’t have to show it to anyone until you want to.
    3. Start small – don’t think about writing a novel until you are desperate to. Don’t worry about the length of what you’re writing. Just make it as long as feels right.
    4. Do it because you enjoy it. Writing is for pleasure, even if it’s hard, and because it’s hard you have to get pleasure from the result. So, enjoy it!


    Thanks, everyone! I loved your creative writing magazine - I was reading a copy in your reception area while waiting to come and see you. Excellent stuff!

    Thursday, 9 December 2010

    DERBYSHIRE'S ADVENT CALENDAR OF BOOKS

    Some great reads on this list and I'm really delighted to see Wasted as one of the few teenage ones on it.

    Thank you Derbyshire librarians!

    Actually, I do keep seeing Wasted in all sorts of unexpected places, which is very happifying. And I've had lovely emails from teenage readers. I always reply to emails so if you want to contact me, do: asknicolamorgan@hotmail.co.uk is the address.

    Saturday, 4 December 2010

    FIRST TWITTER INTERVIEW - CRAMLINGTON LEARNING VILLAGE

    I've just had my first ever Twitter interview with a school - and it was a first for them, too. Cramlington Learning Village in the North East of England set it up and for a hectic 40 minutes on Thursday we batted questions back and forth. Such fun! And I didn't even have to leave my house, which is an advantage when outside it looks like this.

    Anyway, I thought I'd try to transcribe the gist of the conversation here.
    Me (A couple of minutes before we started): I keep thinking this is a radio interview - keep clearing my throat!
    Them: Cramlington Learning Village says Hello to @nicolamorgan

    Me: yikes, a twitter interview is a strange feeling. Hello Cramlington Learning Village!

    Kirsty & Sophie: What's your best thinking and writing place? 

    Me: thinking: outside, walking with dog & no ppl! Writing: desk, home, no ppl... 

    Chris: what sort of dog do you have and what's it called?

    Me: Hi Chris - yellow lab, called Amber. Eats snow & is completely mad! 

    Jaz: Have you ever put her in a book?

    Me: Yes! She appeared in Mondays are Red, my first one. She behaved well, for a change Also, btw, ...(continued)...there's a character called Jaz in Chicken Friend. Unfortunately, she's not very nice. (Sorry!)
    Jaz: LOL
    Kirsty: What was your favourite moment in writing Wasted?

    Me: Kirsty - yikes, I'm not sure. Usually my favourite moment is writing the last line ;) but with Wasted I had some more...(continued)...like the beach scene & the spiked drink & Jess going to Jack's room first time, OH and Kerry puking on a gnome...

    Chris: Will you be at the North East Book Award party in Jan?

    Me: Chris - YES, I will def be at the #NETBA party! try to stop me! Will u all b there?
    (Much screaming, apparently, in the library)

    Timi: did u like our rap? (They'd sent me a rap they are going to perform at the award ceremony.)
    Me: I was jst about to say, rap is AMAZING & I can't wait to hear it! 

    Jazz: Are u musically trained? great description when Jess sings Jack's music

    Me: am musical FAILURE. Useless! All from my imagination, I'm afraid...

    Me: Jaz,  thanks re comment about the descrip of Jess singing Jack's music 1st time - lots of ppl like that bit!
     Me: Can u tell me what all your favourite scenes were?

    Them: Jess going in Jack's bedroom, the spiked drink, Jack dying

    Me: You are cruel! Poor Jack (and Jess!)

    Kirsty and Danielle: What are u writing now? Or is it a secret?
    Me: it's called Brutal Eyes, set in London; very gritty, tough, brutal, very shocking. Is that good or bad??
    Chris (or Timi - I can't remember): shocking is good, not frightening!
    (I also asked them if they'd all tossed a coin for the ending and if the pigeon scene gave them a fright, but their answers have vanished off Twitter. I'll ask them in January.)

    Them: We all have to go to class now. See you in January!

    Me: Thank you!! See you in January. Fab questions.
    When they go back to school on Monday, they are going to play a coin-tossing game and one of them will win a book. With many thanks to Christine Athey for setting up the event. And I am really looking forward to the North East Teenage Book Award party. I was there once before, with Fleshmarket, and it was such good fun.

    Friday, 3 December 2010

    SAVE OUR MINDS: SAVE OUR LIBRARIES

    Beware: I'm angry.

    Got my Oxfam gift catalogue recently. Bought a few things for some people I know who don't need anything bought for them and are delighted to have something bought on their behalf for people in places where they really do need things.

    One of the more expensive things in the Oxfam catalogue is a library, which you can buy to help lift people in developing countries out of poverty. Because libraries are the mark of development, of self-esteem, of open minds, of growth, of strength and of humanity.

    Which makes it all the more sickening, grotesque and ignorant that our politicians, in our so-called developed country, are closing libraries. They call it economic. It's not economic. We can afford libraries. We must afford libraries. No, this is not economic; it's political. It's stupid, too.

    Only someone with a closed mind closes libraries. Or, perhaps, someone so ignorant, so arrogant, that he thinks that everyone can buy books. Or that "it's all on the internet, innit?"

    No, it's not all on the internet. It's all in books. And minds. And without books, minds are empty.

    So, Mr Cameron, Mr Vaizey, and all you other foolish, empty-minded, treacherous politicos: don't rob us of our libraries, because in doing so you show nothing but your own ignorance.

    ______________________________


    Please, everyone, don't let this happen. Blog and rant about libraries and cuts. Write to politicians. I did last night. And if you know people who have already blogged, please put links to them in the comments below. I'll then transfer them into this post.

    Here are some to start you off:

    Join Alan Gibbons' Campaign for the Book Facebook page
    Notes From the Slush-Pile
    KM Lockwood- an open letter
    Philip Ardagh writing on FB

    Friday, 5 November 2010

    CARNEGIE LONGLIST 2011

    I'm a very happy writer today. I have dreamt of moments like this and finally it happened. Yes, Wasted has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal, the king of all book awards. Now, the longlist is always a long list, but the Carnegie longlist is special enough that writers put it on their books and websites, even if they never get further. It's a prize in itself and I am absolutely thrilled. The big names are all there and I'm so pleased that Wasted is with them.

    Unlike some other awards, publishers don't put books forward for the Carnegie, so it's a much fairer system. Other prizes, such as the Booktrust Teenage Award, rely on publishers deciding to put a book forward, and sometimes publishers don't enter the books you might expect. But the Carnegie is entirely down to enthusiasm from librarians around the UK, the people who really understand books and young readers.

    So, to the librarians who loved Wasted enough to choose it for the prestigious longlist, I am hugely, hugely grrateful. I did actually scream when I saw that it was selected. And you've stopped me being able to concentrate ever since, so thanks for that...

    Thank you to everyone who has given me such encouragement during what some of you know has been a difficult year. Things are really looking up now.

    Sunday, 31 October 2010

    SIGNED BOOKS FOR SALE THIS CHRISTMAS

    Would you like to buy signed copies of any of my books? For Christmas? For presents? For yourself? Your school? For November only, I'm selling signed copies, while stocks last. That's Christmas sorted for your book-loving friends and family, anyway!

    These are the books I have available, with the cover price. Please see my website for details about content, but I've added some very brief extra guidance to help you choose. All the teenage ones are also considered as cross-over, enjoyed as much by adults.

    NB: I can only accept UK money in payment, unless you are prepared to cover the rather annoying commission that banks charge to change the currency. I will post overseas, but need to charge a bit more for postage - ask for details.

    So, here are the books I have available:

    Teenage / cross-over
    • Fleshmarket - now described as a "classic", probably my best known book, used widely in schools as a set text; it's the shock and gore that teenagers like, and the evocative history that adults like - £5.99
    • Deathwatch - a sinister thriller with a sad twist - £6.99
    • Wasted - the new one that people are going about, currently on four award shortlists; I don't recommend for under 12s - £6.99
    • The Passionflower Massacre - if you liked Wasted, you'll like this - £5.99
    • Blame My Brain - non-fiction, explains teenage behaviour, written FOR teenagers but grabbed eagerly by their adults - £5.99
    • Sleepwalking - I only have a few copies of this but it is many people's favourite, especially for keen teenage readers and especially girls - £5.99

    Slightly younger but also enjoyed by adults
    • Know Your Brain - non-fiction, shows how the brain works and how your brain in particular works - £5.99
    • The Highwayman's Footsteps - thrilling historical adventure set in 1761, based on Alfred Noyes poem, The Highwayman; suitable for 10+, including teenagers. It's quite long, so for the younger ages they'd need to be keen readers - £6.99
    • The Highwayman's Curse - sequel to the above, same two central characters but this time set in Scotland, and dealing with the aftermath and hatred of the Killing Times - £6.99

    8-10s
    • Chicken Friend - light-hearted and funny but with a serious core; the cover, á la Jacqueline Wilson, makes it look girl-oriented - £4.99. 
    UK Postage & packing: £1 for up to three books. £2.50 for more. Sorry I have to add a bit on, but this is not the full cost.

    So, would you like some / one? Here's what to do:
    1. Email n@nicolamorgan.co.uk with details of your request - titles, who you'd like each signed to, name and address for delivery; how you'd like to pay. (Cheque or UK bank transfer. If Paypal, I need to add on the Paypal commission, of just over 5%.)
    2. I will email you back to confirm whether I have the books in stock and give you my address for payment, or bank details if you want to use paypal or bank transfer.
    3. If you're ordering four books or more, I'll need payment in advance, and I'll post them as soon as I receive your payment. For orders of fewer than four, I'm happy to post the books and you can pay when the books are on their way.
    4. Last orders November 30th.

    And THANK YOU for every order! I am seriously grateful. Do let anyone know who might be interested.

    Christmas, sorted!

    Thursday, 21 October 2010

    CHESTERFIELD LIBRARY + CROSSING THE GENERATIONS

    A quick post about a recent visit. I partly want to mention it because it was a model visit in terms of organisation by the librarian in charge - Ruth Kaye. A nice overnight stay for me, a decent fee - thank you! - and a lovely reason for the event: it was a special project involving an adult book group getting together with a teenage book group. Everyone knew why I was there and there felt like a real point to the trip. I know that funding for things like this is difficult and I'm just very grateful to everyone involved.

    They all asked some great questions. I also mentioned some other authors whose books I admire - Gillian Philip and Keren David, were your ears burning?

    Cheterfield Library, Intergenerational Book Group, Oct 8th
    Here we all are. I'm the Woman in Black, third from the left. Ruth is to the far right, with blonde hair. 

    I was amazed to discover that I was the author chosen to do this. I had assumed that it was an ongoing project with several authors, but it was a one-off and just with ONE author. It's the first time they've done it and they picked me when they could have picked a load of other people.I asked Ruth why they'd picked me and she said, "Because you're a cross-over author, and because your website said all the right things."

    I think getting adults and teenagers together to read and talk about books is a wonderful idea. Which is why it's rather sad and frustrating to hear that when Ruth had asked all the adult book groups which one would like to do this project, the others weren't interested. Seems they thought teenage books were beneath them. I wonder if they've read any. The number of times I have told someone I'm a teenage author and they say, "Oh, what, like Jacqueline Wilson / the Harry Potter books." No, no, no. Open your eyes to what's out there, people. There's a world of teenage books and some of them will make you think more deeply and more interestingly than many adult ones.

    Someone recently said to me, "I wish you'd written Wasted for adults." Thing is, I did, because I don't care how old you are. If you like Wasted, then I wrote it for you and I am blind to your age.

    Thank you to the Chesterfield adult and teenage readers. It was lovely to meet you and I loved your questions and your enthusiasm. And the hat...

    Sunday, 17 October 2010

    A BOOT PUZZLE FOR THOSE WITH A LOGICAL BRAIN

    This is nothing to do with Wasted but I have a conundrum for you, which illustrates just how weirdly my brain works.

    Today, I bought a new pair of boots. (It happens.) And they had £20 off. Which was lovely, especially since I'd have bought them anyway.

    Then, I went into Lakeland and bought three things for a total cost of £20. So, I decided that what I bought in Lakeland was, in effect, free.

    But, the three things I bought were in a "buy 3 things and get the cheapest one free" offer. So, the cheapest was free.

    Does that mean that the cheapest was free twice?

    Or, was a proportion of a boot free, while two of the Lakeland items cost me and the third was free?

    I know where the problem in this argument is, but I'd love to hear what you think!

    Meanwhile, if you're of school age, don't forget to enter the new competition HERE; and if you're an oldy but know some keen reading/writing young readers, do send them over there. It's the perfect brainy task for a half-term break.

    Tuesday, 12 October 2010

    WASTED THOUGHTS COMPETITION

    To celebrate the fact that Wasted is on another happifying award shortlist - a secret just now ;-) - I am announcing a competition, open to all readers aged under 18 and living in the UK. Would you like the chance to see your writing published on this blog and to win a signed book?

    The best entries will be published here and the best three will win a signed book. You may think hardly anyone reads this blog - actually, they do, because I can see the stats! Lots of people come over from Twitter as well, so your words could be read by hundreds of people.

    So, what is the task? Simply tell us what you thought of Wasted. Like a review, but don't say what it's about - just your feelings and opinions. Anything you want to say about it. Try to capture the mood of the book and try to say the things you think are most important or interesting about it. You can be as creative as you like: it could be a diary or a poem or a conversation or just a brilliant piece of writing which gives your thoughts. I'm looking for something special, something that captures what I think Wasted is like, but also shows something of your personal response. You don't have to say everything you thought - choose the bits you feel like saying. Let your personality shine in your writing.

    Here are the rules:
    1. Two age categories: 11-13 and 14-17. (On November 1st 2010.) Please put your age on your entry.
    2. Your piece should not be longer than 100 words. (I won't be picky about this, but try not to go over 80).
    3. Email your entry to me at talkaboutwasted@hotmail.co.uk and put REVIEW COMP in the subject line. Don't send the review as an attachment - put it in the email, please.
    4. I will reply to the email you send your review from so make sure it's an address you will be able to check. 
    5. Please include a name in your email. It can be a made-up name if you like. I will NOT publish any names until I have had your permission but I will ask that later. Do NOT send me your postal address at this stage.
    6. If you are one of the three winners, I will contact you and ask for an address. If you are under 16, you will need to check with an adult before you give me your address. It will be possible to give a school address instead. Again, we will work this out later.
    7. If you are one of the writers whose piece is chosen for publication on the blog, I will contact you and ask your permission and then I will ask what name you want to use.
    8. The DEADLINE for entries is NOV 1st.
    9. I will ask another adult to be the judge. His or her decision will be final.
    10. Each of the three prize-winners will be able to choose from any of my books and I will post it, signed, to any UK address.
    Any questions? Add a comment below.

    PLEASE tell all your friends. If you're an adult, please tell any young people or schools that you are in touch with. I hope for lots of entries and lots of interest!

    Now, get writing... And enjoy it! I want you to have lots of fun and freedom with your thoughts on this.

    Friday, 8 October 2010

    SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT 2: Dundee High School

    On Monday I visited Dundee High School to do some school events. So, a lovely train journey across the Forth Rail Bridge to Dundee, accompanied by my usual tomato and cream cheese on health seed bagel from the Bagel Factory in the station, and there I was on a gorgeous sunny day, ready for the first talk.

    120 keen-faced S1/Year 7 pupils seemed stunned when I showed them my Thomas the Tank Engine books. I shocked them with Fleshmarket, which half of them will be studying as a set text next term - which happens a lot, and always makes me a) proud and b) nervous. And I prepared them for Deathwatch by establishing that about 75% of them hated insects, before moving onto Wasted.

    We played Jack's Game - see pic on the right - with the prize of a signed copy of Wasted. My nervous moment was when I told them that I only wanted them to enter the competition if they REALLY wanted the chance to win a copy. (Imagine if only three of them had.) Luckily, they ALL did. So, we played Jack's Game and the lucky winner was ...a boy whose name I am just checking with the librarian and she's going to get back to me! Much cheering. In fact, much noise altogether. And much book-buying afterwards.

    Then to the library, where the senior book group  - Chloe, Kirsty, Isabella, Rebecca and Ailsa - shared sandwiches, millionaire shortbread and opinions of Wasted. (Except that we seemed to keep coming round to the subject of Twilight. Why does that always happen??) I asked what they thought of the cover - of Wasted, NOT Twilight - and we all agreed that red was a great colour, despite the fact that my publishers didn't want it - ha! - and that one other good thing about it was that because the cover doesn't tell you much, it makes you want to read it to see what it's about.

    They asked me about the title, and I told them it was because originally the book was going to be much more about alcohol and that, when it wasn't, I still wanted the title because it had a "sit up and take notice" factor, which they agreed with. Luckily. Bit late to change it now.

    We also talked about how annoying it is that so many books are series now. (You hear that, publishers??)

    Oh, and they asked me if I'd ever played Jack's Game for real. Yes, I have: I asked the coin whether I should write for teenagers or younger from now and the coin said younger. I have today decided that the coin is wrong. I will not let my life be ruled by a coin. So, as of today, I am going back to teenage writing and a book I started a few months ago before having my temporary change of plan. It's a very shocking book, and I was a bit worried about it being too shocking, but several people have convinced me that I should do it. Including my agent, so that's a good start. If you hang around on this blog, I might even tell you the title.

    Then, back into the hall to talk to 120 S2/ Year 8s. If possible, they made EVEN more noise playing Jack's Game and the winner this time was a girl called Eve. Much cheering. And much book buying. By this time it was very hot in the hall so I told them I'd only sign their books if they fanned me while I was doing it. A good ploy. Two girls - Sasha and Eve - are having their names in another book I'm writing now. (I didn't promise that nothing nasty would happen to them, though...)

    Lots of teachers came to talk to me afterwards. I say this because often teachers take no interest in an author event. I give credit to Catherine Owens, the librarian, who had done everything to make the event go well. She'd prepared pupils, staff and me. She had made sure I had everything I needed. AND she let me go and get some fresh air between the events. I am a person of simple tastes and I just need a bit of space to recover and get my brain in gear for the next talk. So, thank you to Catherine, all the staff and all the fabulous pupils from Forms 1 and 2 of Dundee High School.

    Catherine told me the next day that she'd had a delighted email from a parent who said that her son had been so keen to buy Fleshmarket that he'd used money that he was supposed to buy a dance ticket with and that night he'd gone to bed early to read it - which was the first time he'd actually shown enthusiasm for a book. Hooray!

    So, all in all, a happy day. Until I got home to find a workman hadn't come to the house, the dog-sitter had forgotten to come and feed and walk my dog at tea-time, and my husband had accidentally turned the fridge-freezer off.

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT 1: Auchinleck Academy

    As a writer for young people, I LOVE school libraries. And their librarians. And all the clever projects they have to help kids find books they'll really enjoy. So, I have decided I'm going to give space to some schools that I've come across who are doing great things for teenage reading - and who have some fans of Wasted! Today in my very first School Spotlight, I want to give a shout-out for Auchinleck Academy, in Ayrshire, SW Scotland.

    I first came across them when I discovered a lovely review of Wasted by a girl called Rachel - hello, Rachel! - on their library blog, so I contacted the librarian to thank her. She passed the message to Rachel; Rachel was happy; and then several other S2 pupils decided to read Wasted to see what the fuss was about. I like that idea!

    To encourage pupils to give their opinions of books, Janice McGill, the libarian, puts slips in each library book and pupils can comment. She then types the comments up on the blog and leaves the slips in the books for others to read. GREAT idea!

    Anyway, I wanted to show you their library blog - here - and also tell you about their special fund-raising day TOMORROW (Thursday Oct 7th). They are holding a disco for school funds and a load of pink activities for breast cancer charities. It's the day before the school half-term so I'm guessing there will be a lot of excitement in school that day and not much work done!

    Auchinleck pupils: hello, and have a great October holiday! Read lots of books and if you like Wasted, please VOTE in the Coventry awards. I need you badly! It's like the X-Factor - the book with the least votes gets voted off first. :-(

    NOTE to other schools: do some of your pupils love Wasted? Would you like your school to feature on the Wasted blog? Perhaps you've been running a competition or challenge and you'd like me to announce the winners here? Got some fun pictures from your library events? Contact my assistant and I'll see if I can fit you in. All you have to do is say why you think I should feature you on the WASTED blog.

    Monday, 4 October 2010

    WASTED shortlisted for the COVENTRY BOOK AWARD

    I am delighted to announce that Wasted has been shortlisted for its third award, the Coventry Award, in the category called Read It Or Else! What a lovely category!

    The horribly scary thing is that this is done by public voting. And it's like the X-Factor because books get voted off if they have the least number of votes. PLEEEEEEEASE help me not be the first book voted off :((((((

    Here's the link - do go there and make nice comments about any of the books you like. And if you choose Wasted, I will love you for ever. Or even longer.

    Oh, and apparently you can vote as often as you like. Erghhhh, I HATE this! I don't expect to win but I'd love not to be voted off first time.

    If you like Wasted, please tell your friends.

    Thursday, 30 September 2010

    WASTED on KINDLE

    Hooray - by popular demand, there is now a Kindle version of Wasted!

    Its here: WASTED on Kindle

    Enjoy! I can't, because I don't have a Kindle :(

    The other e-formats will be available soon.

    Friday, 24 September 2010

    I NEED TO SPEAK LOUDLY

    I write for teenagers. I do that because I like them and respect them. I want to tell their stories, which are my stories too, because I was a teenager and I remember it.

    That's why I am so so very angry about the people in America who are trying to ban the amazing SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson, from schools. They say it's pornographic. It isn't. It's the story of a girl, screwed up, driven mad and silenced by the apalling memory of having been raped. Which she blames herself for. It's called Speak because she can't. She chews her lips, makes them bleed through her tension. And she is saved in the end by the wisdom of a teacher who helps her tell her story through art.

    Yeah, right. Pornography.

    I'm just appalled.

    I'd like you to watch a video. I'll put it at the end of this post. Laurie Halse Anderson reads a poem that she wrote about the book and the reactions she has had to it, not the reactions from ignorant people who misunderstand it, but reactions from young people who have dealt with rape or other terrible things they can't talk about, things I didn't suffer but which I wish no one suffered.

    Let the book speak. Let them speak.

    Here it is. It's called LISTEN.

    Monday, 20 September 2010

    BOOKS FOR KEEPS

    Very thrilled to find a 5 star review of Wasted in Books for Keeps - they don't give out 5 stars too often.

    BUT, I find it really strange that people keep saying that the reader is asked "to take an active role in determining their fate" Now, I know you are asked to do this at the end, but that's not what the reviewer means, as you'll see from the context. I find this intriguing because actually the reader has NO control over their fate up till then.

    What do you think? Did you feel in control? Because you shouldn't have!!

    Here's a bit I will treasure: "In Wasted, Morgan creates sympathetic, intelligent characters you really care about and when the book ends, you can hardly bear to leave their stories behind."

    Thank you, Lois Keith! If I ever meet you, please introduce yourself!

    Thursday, 2 September 2010

    THE NORTH EAST BOOK AWARD

    Some lovely news for WASTED today - its third shortlisting! And it's a particularly lovely one: The North East Book Award. Books from all over the UK but voted for by teenagers in the north east of England. It's a daunting shortlist but I don't mind because I know the party will be fab! (I know this because I was there with Fleshmarket seven years ago and it's where my favourite quote from a teenager comes from: "People who say teenagers don't read haven't seen us!")

    The full shortlist is:
    The Dead House by Anne Cassidy
    When I Was Joe by Keren David
    Auslander by Paul Dowswell
    Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn
    Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish
    Wasted by Nicola Morgan

    I'm really pleased to see Keren David there. I met her for the first time last week and really liked her. I think it's her first shortlisting, or at least it's her first book. Hooray! And Anne Cassidy is a friend too, so it will be lovely to see her again, and to meet the others.

    The result is announced at a ceremony and party in Newcastle at the end of January. But I honestly am just delighted to be on the shortlist. That's the clever bit - the rest comes down to chance. But I hope no one actually tosses a coin to make their decision.


    Tuesday, 17 August 2010

    THRILLERS BOOK FESTIVAL EVENT

    Really enjoyed by Edinburgh Book Festival event yesterday. The Bookwitch wrote about it here, if you're interested. I didn't know if the audience would be mostly teenagers or more adults and I was really pleased to see that it was almost all teenagers and even a bit younger. All of them listened brilliantly and asked some great questions.

    The only difficulty was trying to manhandle the microphone while turning the pages of my book when I was reading two short bits, but no one laughed at me, which was a help.

    I had some lovely chats in the signing queue afterwards, too. Two people were there because I'd been mentioned on another blog months ago; and one girl had seen me at a school event; another girl said, "I hadn't heard of you but my aunt always picks me a random person." LOVE IT! And, considering that Wasted is about randomness, what better proof could I have in the power of luck, chance and randomness?

    I was also really pleased that some South African teachers, who'd brought their keen readers to compete in the Kids Lit Quiz final, came to see me afterwards and we are talking about the possibility of my going over there to do some school talks and inspire reading. I would love that! I've done foreign visits to Switzerland and Paris, but never as far as SA. I really hope we can get this organised.

    Meanwhile, if your school would like me to visit, let me know.

    PS Weirdly, I had four separate conversations with South African people yesterday. It's a sign.

    Thursday, 12 August 2010

    FACEBOOK PAGE - DO SIGN UP

    Started a Facebook author page - an experiment. There's a competition going on there now. Do get lots of friends to join the FB page - the more who join, the more prizes there will be! I'd especially like teenage readers to join.

    Facebook page here.

    Sunday, 8 August 2010

    NEWS, REMINDERS, SIGNED BOOKS AND EVENTS

    Scottish schools go back soon - apologies for the reminder... So, now seems like a good time to remind you of the idea for schools that I suggested here.

    I've got a number of events booked up for Wasted, in Glasgow, Dundee, Fortrose, Manchester, Derby and elsewhere. Happy to take another booking or two in November and a couple each in January, February and March. See the events page of my author website.

    I also have copies of my books to sell so if you fancy a signed copy, let me know. I do not charge postage and packing!

    I'll be doing some events at the Edinburgh Book Festival. They're all sold out, I'm afraid, but I'll be around to meet any readers or writers after each one. For details, go to my other blog - Help!I Need a Publisher! - and click on the Edinburgh Book festival meet-ups page.

    Enjoy the rest of your holidays!

    Monday, 2 August 2010

    WASTED ON SHORTLISTS

    I am proud and thrilled to tell you that Wasted is on two lovely shortlists for awards. One is a secret for absolutely ages but I will tell you when I can. :((

    The other is a complicated one. It's the Manchester Book Award, but it's not going to be like previous years, which is a real shame. Apparently, funding has been withdrawn so there won't now be any voting or winners. That's a shame for readers in Manchester schools, who normally have such fun voting in this prestigious award. On the other hand, it's good because we're all equal and equally pleased! (Also, I believe there will be various ways that Manchester schools can get involved and some of us will probably do school events - if anyone invites us. Hint, hint...)

    The reason it's complicated is that we aren't really sure how to describe it. It's not exactly a shortlist, because there's no further voting, and it's longer than a normal shortlist would be. It's sort of a list of recommended books, as far as I can make out. It's lovely, though.

    Anyway, huge thanks to whoever liked Wasted enough to choose it. These are awards where publishers don't nominate books, so it's entirely down to the librarians involved. Thank you, librarians!

    Another book on the Manchester list is the wonderful When I Was Joe, by Keren David, whose blog I visited on the Wasted blog tour. We've become friends on Twitter, which has been lovely. Hooray for us! (And WIWJ is a very very good book, btw.)

    Thursday, 22 July 2010

    WASTED BOOK OF THE WEEK FOR "ULTIMATE BOOK GUIDE"

    I knew I loved The Ultimate Book Guide, edited by Daniel Hahn, Leonie Flynn and Susan Reuben. Now, I love them even more, as they have made WASTED their book of the week and put a wonderful review there. Do go over and see their blog and read some of the other books recommended over the weeks.

    I've been lucky enough to have a lot of lovely reviews for Wasted, but this is one of the ones that most cleverly captures what I was trying to do. If you read it, you'll see what I mean.

    Meanwhile, the Scotsman also did a lovely review which isn't online and the Times one is here. I won't bother listing the others, because you've got better things to do than trawl through them, but if you happen to need any - for a school project, for example - an internet search will find them. And there are lots on Amazon here. I never ask anyone to write a review, as I hate anyone to feel they should, but I am always so grateful to anyone who takes the time.

    Hope you're all enjoying or about to enjoy your summer holidays. It's raining here. :(((

    Wednesday, 14 July 2010

    WHAT MAKES A GOOD ENDING?

    Something writers worry about is how to end their books. Readers get very cross with us sometimes! Thing is, some readers like neat endings and others like everything to be more mysterious. What do you think? What do you like or not like about types of endings?

    I've made a poll for you here - please vote! And (or) just comment in the comments section below.





    By the way, a very nice person in contact with schools in Australia, told me that she knows several classes who enjoy this blog, but that they aren't able to comment because of school internet policy. I quite understand and I just love the idea that you're out there reading this. So, helloooooo!

    Thursday, 8 July 2010

    AN IDEA FOR SCHOOLS

    The beginning of the school summer holidays is perhaps not the best time to attract the attention of teachers and school librarians with an idea! But, hey, I like to live dangerously.

    Anyway, if you are a teacher or school librarian or if perhaps you run a teenage reading group, this might interest you. If you would like to use any of the following creative writing ideas in your school, I would love to help by a) offering a signed book (or perhaps more), which you could either offer as a prize or else just have in the school library b) providing some posters and cards for your participating pupils c) be available to answer questions and engage with your pupils in any way I can. I'd also love to come and do an event, but I'm afraid I have to charge for that - though if we combine with other schools this can work out very reasonably.

    So, here are some creative writing ideas, but you could also have your own - just let me know what you want to do.
    • There are a couple of points in Wasted where I write two alternative scenes, toss a coin and one scene vanishes. WHAT IF I'd tossed the coin differently - how would the story have turned out?
    • A "favourite scene" competition - say why you like a particular scene.
    • Write the conversation you'd like to have with Kelly (the bad girl!)
    • Write about a time when a chance event changed your life - perhaps an accident that almost happened, or actually did happen, thanks to a chance event.
    • Write a story where the events depend on a tiny chance event.
    • Do you think we can make our own luck or are we quite powerless? Discuss.
    • Is it possible to predict the future?
    Anything else you can think of? Really, I'm up for anything that gets pupils writing and enjoying writing.

    Please email me on talkaboutwasted@hotmail.co.uk

    ALSO - does anyone have any other good ideas for school-appropriate activities based on Wasted? Add in the comments below!

    Tuesday, 29 June 2010

    OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF TEENAGERS

    I have just come back from Inverkeithing High School and I have a story to share.

    First, though, I had a great time - two large events, each with around 150 pupils, 14-15 year-olds, and a few 13-year-olds, huge hall, microphone that worked, eager faces, really attentive. And some good questions, including some very good questions.

    Second, it was lovely to see some 6th form pupils there completely voluntarily, mostly boys. And to see them inspired to buy books when they hadn't planned to and to have them say it was nice to meet me, and to thank me. 

    Third, it was a new experience for me to see some pupils actually reading from their own copies of Wasted while I was reading from it - their faces were a picture of excitement, even though they'd already read that bit!

    But what I want to share with you is a comment by a girl who came up to me afterwards. Now, this will only make sense to you if you have read Wasted, but this is what she said:

    "You know how you were talking about how everything could be different if something before it had happened differently? And you know you were talking about failing to get published for 21 years? Well, just think: if you hadn't had those years of failure, your mind would be different and you might never have come up with the idea for Wasted."
     WOW!

    She was so right; had so very got it. I was gobsmacked. That required some seriously deep thought, some thought-experiment, out-of-the-box thinking.And she was one of the younger ones.

    NOW do you see why I write for teenagers??

    Anyway, to the librarian, Angela Macari, her lovely daughter, Nicole, and all the pupils of Inverkeithing High School whom I met today, have a lovely summer holiday and enjoy your reading - you never know how it might change your life.

    Tuesday, 22 June 2010

    HOORAY - SOME COMPETITION RESULTS

    I've kept you waiting long enough. It's time to announce some competition results.

    GUESS THE NAME
    This was where you had to guess whether Jess was originally going to be called Josie, Laura or Izzy.

    There was an interesting result to this. First, only one person got it right. Second, of those who got it wrong, everyone apart from one thought the correct answer was Josie. And third, something a bit odd and Wastedesque has happened. See, when I thought of the two wrong options of Josie and Laura, I thought I was doing it purely randomly, just picking names out of my head and they could have been anything. Then I forgot about it. A few days ago, I started writing a new book. I couldn't think of the character's name at first, and then the name I chose was...Josie, again thinking it was just any name. Only when I looked at all the competition entries last night did I realise that a) Josie was one of the false options I'd given you, and b) that everyone apart from two of you would think that was the correct answer.

    Are you spookily reading my mind, or what?

    Anyway, the winner of that competition is the only one who correctly guessed that Jess was originally going to be called Izzy. And that clever person is...Isla Donaldson! Well done, Isla! (This is not the first time Isla has won a book from me - she won a writing comp on my other blog a while ago.)

    FARANTELLA'S NAME
    And then there was the competition to say what Farantella's real name was. Surprisingly, there were only two entries to this. And, amusingly, the entries were from Isla and her mother, Clare! They both got the right answer - Doreen - so I had to choose which of their reasons for picking them I liked better. I liked them both a lot because they were witty and very nice to me, but I chose Clare, simply because I couldn't have her being beaten by her daughter AGAIN!

    So, Clare and Isla both need to tell me which of my books they'd like and who they'd like them signed to.


    THE RANDOMNESS COMPETITION
    This was a fascinating one. Check out the entries here. I asked each entrant to suggest a method whereby I could pick as randomly as possible. I would then choose the method I preferred and then use it to determine the winner.

    So, first I had to decide whose randomness generator I preferred. Because I'm lazy, I looked for the easiest method and Captain Black's was the one. It was also, basically, magic. Utterly cool to someone of my little brain. Try it. You copy and paste this code into your browser:

    javascript:alert (1 + Math.floor (Math.random () * 100));

    (Replace the 100 by whatever number you want - in my case 15 because there were 15 entries.)

    When I applied Captain Black's method, I got the number 5. Which means that the winner is.... Lacer! Well done! So, Lacer, please email me your address and say which book you'd like and to whom you'd like it signed.

    So, thanks to all of you for being good sports and amusing me and better luck next time.

    Meanwhile, there's still the chance to enter TWO competitions. Go here and check out the two last competitions. Go for it!

    Sunday, 20 June 2010

    FLASH FICTION RESULTS

    What a lot of entries I had for this competition! And the standard was quite extraordinary, in both age categories. I'd like to make a special point of thanking and praising an Edinburgh school, George Watson's College, for sending in so many entries and for producing the winner and several commended entries.

    As I'm a chicken, I decided to choose an expert guest author as a judge. My first choice, and a very easy one, was the talented and delightful Nik Perring, and I was so pleased that he accepted. I knew he'd take it very seriously and consider the stories carefully, which I knew they deserved. But I knew how busy he would be, as he has just had a book out, and so I was all the more grateful to him for accepting. To make it fair, my assistant, Catherine, sorted all the entries into a document and removed the names, so that Nik wouldn't feel awkward if he recognised any of the writers.

    A bit about Nik Perring:
    1. He's had loads of stories published, plus a children's book, and most recently a brilliant collection of flash fiction pieces, published by RoastBooks and titled Not So Perfect. It's beside my bed just now and I am horribly reluctant to finish it because each one is such a gem. If you look on Amazon you'll see some amazing reviews and I will be adding mine.

    2. He has a great blog - http://nikperring.blogspot.com/ If you're at all interested in the process and art of writing, do check it out.

    3. You can follow him on Twitter as @nikperring

    4. He's lovely.

    And now I will hand you over to Nik.
    Before the winners are announced, I’d like to thank Nicola for asking me to judge the fabulous WASTED flash fiction competition – it was an honour and a privilege. I’d also like to explain a little about how I chose my winners.

    What I look for in a good piece of flash fiction is, mostly, a good story. I want to be able to read something that’s believable and affecting and that moves me in some way; I want it to make me laugh or cry or think. And I want, ideally, the story to last long after the final word, to stay with me after I’ve put it down.

    And in reading all of the entries (many times over two days!) I found that pretty much all of them fitted that, in one way or another. The quality was brilliantly high and I was impressed, not only that so many people had written flash fiction pieces, but that they’d written them so well.

    Of course, that left me with a problem: picking winners.

    And it was a BIG problem. So I ended up drawing up a short list, for both categories, of six. And from there, after much head scratching and frowning I eventually picked a winner. Eventually.

    Congratulations to all who entered. And I’m not just saying this - but every entry was good.

    I hope you all keep writing short fiction because you’re all rather good at it!
    I second all that! And now, here are Nik's decisions. The winner in each category gets a signed copy of Wasted, or any other of my books. (By the way, you may notice that occasional punctuation or small errors have often not spoilt the overall enjoyment of the reader. I would also like to point out that I happen to know that most of the school entries were done in one lesson, without warning, and with no time to proof-read or do much tweaking.)

    CATEGORY A – school age (including 6th form college students)

    WINNER: Ellis Smith (13)
    My head was pounding, everyone was unnoticeable, out of focus. The monitor was bleeping powerfully. The hospital bed was brick, my cuts and bruises were agonizing. Thoughts came and gone in my head, was it luck or fate for Marcus? Was he in the same position as me?
    (Nik says: An excellent piece of flash fiction which does what flash should – it delivers a brilliantly affecting story which lasts far beyond the last word. Excellent.)

    COMMENDED STORIES BY
    Eve Kelsey (17)
    A girl lay in the field, her lover lay beneath her. They’d always dreamed of visiting Paris, and now they finally had the chance, after years of turmoil and disaster. She smiled, then suddenly wept- and reached out a trembling hand… to caress the broken cross, amidst the poppies.
    (Nik says: I love the way this works as a whole story in such a small amount of, very cleverly used, words. Excellent and touching ending without being too obvious.)

    Jonny Urquhart (13)
    Harris was a boy, the luckiest boy alive. It all started because once he walked into a shop and bought a lovely chocolate ice-cream and won the prize of the thousandth person to buy it. He was very lucky because the boy in front of him had decided on vanilla.
    (Nik says: I really liked the narrator’s voice in this. And it made me laugh. Excellent work!)

    Heather Philp (age not known but I think 13, as in same school class as the other 12/13 year-olds)
    FATE
    She bowed her head as a river appeared to flood from her eyes, drowning her black patent shoes in tears of sorrow.

    I wanted to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be all right. That mum would get better. I was wrong, fate just wasn't on my side.
    (Nik says: A story packed with emotion which was brilliantly and concisely told. And a killer ending.)

    Daniel Baird (12)
    My Stolen Jet
    The alarm sounded to tell us there was a Luftwaffe attack. I ran outside to find my plane but someone was already at my jet.

    "Oi! That my jet!"

     He never heard and was taking off.

     I saw my jet in the sky. It was a giant ball of fire.
    (Nik says: Excellent and atmospheric with impressive dialogue.)

    Hannah Nicholson (13)
    Looking back on Chance.
    There was once a boy.  An unusual boy.  You were never certain of what he was up to, in fact you were never certain of where he was.  He was never around in daylight.  He only showed up, creeping in shadows at midnight. Maybe it's chance I never knew him.
    (Nik says: A lovely, mysterious short tale)

    CATEGORY B - adults...

    WINNER: Tanya Byrne
    Cats and dogs
     
    Mum says that rain is God crying.  Actually, it’s me.

    It rained the day she died; at the funeral; at the foster home while I waited for someone to tell me that I was going to be a hero, that my powers would save the world.

    It rained and rained.
    (Nik says: This is a perfect example of what flash fiction is and can do. The word count’s tiny and yet there’s SO MUCH here, and it echoes long after the final word. And when all that’s coupled with smooth writing and an excellent and believable voice it has to be my winner. Brilliant and affecting. Congratulations.)

    COMMENDED STORIES BY:

    Stephanie Butland
    He shouldn’t have left. Not tonight.

    Sharp shadows spike from his feet as he runs, runs, lungs wailing, to a wired white room where her breath barely shivers the air.

    He is almost here, but corridors, lifts, stairs sprawl between them.

    Her cold hand suddenly colder.

    He’s too late.
    (Nik says: A brilliant piece which captures so much in such a small number of words. Full of atmosphere and excellent writing.)

    Barbara  O Connor
    FATE

    I always said, “It won’t happen to me”.  I was wrong and you were born.  It’s strange that we can produce another life, yet can’t always save our own.

     I feel that part of you, so unselfishly given, filling me with life. I am so glad you happened to me.
    (Nik says: I love the language used here, love how the writing’s to the point and all the words are the right ones. There’s a lovely, honest tenderness here too.)

    Kate Kelly
    Fate

    Keep playing, bows on strings. Don’t stop. All paths converge on this moment. Nothing could have changed that. Fate.

    The sky is starlit clear, the air filled with screams. They can’t drown our music with their panic. But the music will drown. The deck tips. Titanic sinks.
    Keep playing.
    (Nik says: Brilliant in its brevity and it captures a moment we’re all familiar with wonderfully. It’s what’s unsaid that makes this work.)

    Dan Metcalf
    Revelation.

    “If you got pregnant now, would you keep it?”

    We’d been arguing.  I guess I wanted ammunition.  I just wanted to know if she loved me.  We’d been dating for years, but I wasn’t convinced.  It was a cheap trick.

    She turned, eyes glistening:

    “What do you mean ‘if’?”
    (Nik says: A perfect snapshot of a life-changing conversation. Well written. And it made me laugh.)

    José Kilbride
    "So, what do you think it was? Luck?"
    "No."
    "Chance?"
    "No."
    "Fate."
    "No."
    Frowns.
    "Okay, what then?"
    "Sheer bloody stupidity on my part and an extraordinarily forgiving
    universe."
    Silence.
    "Oh."
    (Nik says: Another piece that made me smile. I especially like the form of this – I think the writer’s been brave and that (s)he’s produced something believable, funny and moving.)

    Congratulations to all the named authors and especially, of course, to the two winners, Ellis Smith and Tanya Byrne! Catherine will be in touch to ask where to send your prizes and I will sign the books and write to you personally.

    To the others: remember, all fiction reading is about personal response. A different judge might have made a different choice. I might have made some different choices. If Nik had eaten something different for breakfast, HE might have made a different choice! That's what Wasted is about, after all, the tiny things that make us do what we do.

    The choice you made, the thing you could and did control, was to enter the competition. And in doing so, who knows what positive changes you have created in your life?

    So, whether or not you were lucky this time, well done and thank you for contributing to a wonderful standard of entries. Oh, and on Tuesday I'll be announcing some winners of other competitions. Meanwhile, there are still two competitions to enter. Go here and check out the last two on the page. If you don't enter, you can't win!

    PS - the librarian at George Watson's has just emailed me to say that "by chance" (as always!) my email telling her about all their success came on the morning of the year prize-giving, so the pupils had their achievement read out in front of the whole year group. Lovely!!

    Friday, 18 June 2010

    MY MYTHIC VISIT TO SCRIBBLECITYCENTRAL

    Today I am over at lovely author Lucy Coats's blog - ScribbleCityCentral - talking about myths. I was brought up on a rich diet of myths of all sorts. They are stories that permeate all cultures and affect and influence writers all around the world. They are gory, shocking, violent, scary, passionate, exuberant and just great fun.

    So, if you'd like to see Lucy's piercing questions and what she managed to make me say, head over there!

    The Greek and Roman myths, which are the ones I know best, are so much about fate and chance and luck that I think it's highly likely that they influenced my thinking in Wasted and caused the obsession that I have with the part that chance plays in our lives.

    And, of course, the Oedipus story is firmly at the centre of Wasted. Lucy got me talking about that in a different blog post, too - if you want to know why I hate the Oedipus story so much, go here. There was some pretty hefty discussion after it, too!

    Saturday, 12 June 2010

    WASTED, DEATHWATCH AND A CRY FOR HELP

    This week I've been around the UK doing school events for Wasted and I've had a lovely time answering superb questions from pupils who have really engaged with the ideas behind the book. When I set out to write it, I worried that because it was such an unusual book lots of people would find it TOO unusual, but if they have they haven't told me! (Long may that continue...)

    Bizarrely, I also heard this week that my previous novel, Deathwatch, was the No 1 best-seller for the year June 2009 to June 2010 in the Edinburgh Children's Bookshop, outselling JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Michael Morpurgo and everyone! I can hardly believe this and I'm wondering if the bookshop owner, Vanessa Robertson, might have made a mistake but she assures me she didn't. So, Vanessa wonders, can she do the same for Wasted? I hope so. She's certainly selling it well already.

    But, I need your help, since if Wasted is to sell well it's going to need word of mouth success. It is actually achieving that at the moment, thanks to you and to some fabulously supportive friends. When a book is not a "highlight" title for its publishers,  the author has to work extra hard, and that's what I'm doing - nothing special: all authors have to do this, unless they're big commercial sellers with big marketing budgets. So, if you enjoyed Wasted, please do one thing for me: tell a librarian. Librarians are very important when it comes to spreading the word about books and without them authors are dead. There's a press release which you can give them to explain about the response the book has had - if you want one, let me know and I'll email you a copy.

    Do I sound desperate? I am! I've had the most fabulous response to the book on Amazon, Twitter, blogs and in The Times, among other places, and I just want it to have the best chance. Until I know I've done my best for it, I can't get stuck into writing my next one.

    It's an emotional roller-coaster being a writer!

    Friday, 4 June 2010

    I AM INTRIGUED BY READERS!

    There's something funny going on when people read Wasted. I have lost count of the number of people who, in reviews or comments, have said something about the reader having control, or the reader getting to choose an outcome or path.

    Now, don't get me wrong: I'm NOT cross or criticizing them but in fact they are ...um...wrong! There are two reasons why I want to point this out and talk a little about it.
    1. It may make people who haven't read it think it's going to be like one of those "quest" books from the 1990s, where the reader could choose different paths. Anyone who has read Wasted knows that nothing could be further from the truth. I tell the story and the reader has no choice at all until the end (and I'll come to what sort of a "choice" that is in a minute.)
    2. I find it interesting that some readers subconsciously feel in control when they are not, and I want to think about why that might be.
    I think that's because the unique narrator / narrative voice in Wasted allows the reader to see what it (the narrator) sees. So, in a way that you don't often find, the reader is fully aware of everything, looking down on the characters from exactly the same viewpoint as the godlike narrator.

    So, because you assume that the narrator (or author) is in control, you assume that the reader also is.

    But no, the reader has no control. In fact, the narrator doesn't have much either. The narrator simply directs you as to what to see, but is entirely at the mercy of what happens. The narrator is little more than photographer and wise spectator combined.

    So, what about the "choice" that the reader is supposed to have at the end? Some people have called this a choice of endings. No, you have no choice of endings! You have only one choice: whether to toss the coin and follow it to the ending that it gives you, or to refuse to toss the coin and just read both endings. (Of course, I fully expect that even if you do toss the coin, you will read both endings...).

    And it's this funny thing about choice, too: do we really have choice? (I believe we do, but it's hard to explain and prove.) When you chose to toss the coin or not, was that really your choice or have I influenced you and primed you so much that, when combined with either your natural curiousity or your natural refusal to do what you're told, you really have no choice at all? Is an author really more godlike than you suppose? Have I manipulated you into believing that it makes any difference at all whether you spin the coin or not, so that you either decide you must or that you mustn't?

    DOES it make any difference at all whether you spin the coin or not?

    Why is it that we can KNOW that an author is making a story up and yet believe in the characters and their situation so fully that we seem to believe and feel their pain? So fully that we even have to consider whether spinning a coin is the right thing to do to find out what happens to them?

    DOES it make any difference at all whether you read Wasted or not? Will it make you think differently? Will that be a good thing or not? 


    But then, you know, every book changes you. Everything you hear or read or see or think changes you. In ways you can't predict or control.

    Which is what Wasted is, essentially, about. Probably the only choice you have is whether to read it or not - after that, you are putty in my hands! Yay for author power! That's why I write: I'm power-crazy...

    Monday, 31 May 2010

    I ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS

    I said I'd spend today answering your questions from the post on Friday.

    When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
    At some point during school, I knew I wanted to be published, but I didn't immediately think of this as a job or career. I can't explain why that was. At university I got some bits published in newspapers and magazines, and I knew I wanted to do this much, much more, but I still didn't think of it as a career, though I did consider being a journalist. (Which sounds the same but isn't.) In my final year at uni, I decided, grandly, "I want to be A Novelist". (I wrote a letter to my parents saying this, and my father kept the letter!) I started trying straightaway, and 21 years later I succeeded...

    As a kid, did you have a teacher or aunt or someone like that who continues to inspire you today?
    No. No one ever, ever suggested that I become a writer. The people who inspire me now are the friends I've made as a writer, the readers who say nice things, and my husband who continues to allow me to earn a pathetic income doing what I want to do. When I was failing the get a novel published for so long, my mother-in-law was hugely supportive and used to get terribly annoyed on my behalf every time I failed again. She was dying in hospital when the news started to come through that my first novel might be published. I think she understood and knew before she died, and my first novel, Mondays are Red is dedicated to her. I wish she were here now to see what happened next.

    Which novel or author has influenced you the most?
    Reading Skellig by David Almoond is what made me decide to write for teenagers. I've never looked back. And now I know him!

    What's your favourite kind of weather?
    Warm (but not too hot) and breezy, with me sitting in the shade of a huge tree.

    What thing would you use to describe yourself and why?
    I think I'm quite like a cat. I can be aloof; I'm independent; you don't know what I'm thinking; some people are frightened of me but others like me (I hope).

    Can you sing?
    Not well. A lot of people think that from my descriptions of Jess's feelings while she sings, I must be a singer. No. I used to sing in choirs, reasonably well, and was also in madrigal groups, which requires a fair amount of skill, but I was never good enough to be a soloist, and never confident enough. I never wanted to, either. And now my voice has gone - I'm pretty rubbish now!

    What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
    I have strong tastes in foods, so I love anchovies, strong stinky cheese, pickles, olives, and Brussels sprouts. Probably the oddest thing (to you) is that during the winter, when Brussels sprouts are in season, if my husband is away (because he hates them) I will have as my evening meal a plate of sprouts, doused with a little lemon juice, butter and black pepper, and then sprinkled with cheese!

    If you could bring one character to life from one of your books, who would it be?
    Jack, in Wasted. I'd tell him that he's a wonderful guy but that he mustn't think so much. I'd tell him he had nothing to feel guilty about. I'd tell him just to live his live.

    If you joined the circus, what act would you perform?
    Something on horseback. Except that I don't like animals in the circus. So, maybe fire-eating. Or juggling. Except that I can't juggle. Mind you, I can't fire-eat either.

    Do you collect anything?
    Shoes! And boots.

    Did any of your characters give you a lot of trouble? i.e. did they just refuse to do what you wanted them to?
    The bad girls, the Kelly Gang, were difficult at first because I couldn't get what they looked like in my mind. In the end, I had to resort to looking at pictures on the internet, after googling the phrase "bad girls". I found some that looked just as I wanted, and then I was fine. But otherwise, no, my characters ALWAYS do what I tell them!

    What is immediately to your right hand side at the moment?
    The computer mouse and a cup of coffee. As always.

    Catdownunder, who is actually a cat, wants to ask some questions of Spike, the cat in Wasted. So, Spike will answer.

    How do you feel about being such an important part of Wasted? 
    Can't you hear me purring?

    Was it a comfortable experience fitting in to a book? 
    It was my idea to be in the book, because I am brave and inquisitive, but I found it strangely disconcerting how much I cared about Jess. I worried for her a lot, even though I kept telling myself she wasn't real. I admire the human for making it feel so real. [Spike, you are lovely. Have a sardine - NM.]

    Did you have problems getting that human to understand you as a cat?
    The human is incredibly clever [thanks again, Spike] and really understood my feelings very well. I think she has known cats herself and she tuned in remarkably well, disconcertingly so, in fact. I tried to hide my feelings from her most of the time but it was impossible, so I decided just to relax and go with the flow.

    Do you think it is difficult for humans to portray animals in books in this way?
    It is very annoying when humans make them wear clothes or speak in human language and so often we are portrayed as having human characteristics because humans are so narrow-minded and think the universe revolves around them. So, I think this human did a wonderful job [oh, Spike... NM] in not falling into that trap. I'd actually be quite happy to live with her. [Spike, that's a lovely idea but I'm terribly sorry: I currently have a ... ahem ... *whispers* ...dog with me, so I'm not sure you'd be happy.]

    Spike turned away at this point and began washing himself, so we cut the interview short.

    Thanks everyone for your questions. If you have any more, just add them here and I'll answer them another day.

    WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? Nowhere - I've finished! In real life I'm going to Dunbar this evening, to talk to a group of teenage readers about Deathwatch. I may also find a way to talk about Wasted...

    Everyone, this has been such fun. We've come to the end of the main blog marathon, but, as I said the other day, I'll still blog here, just not every day. In fact, very soon I'm going to talk about something that a lot of people have been wrong about when they've talked about Wasted...

    Come back every now and then for news and competitions. And when you read Wasted and have anything to ask or say, just say it! Add your reviews to the link on the reviews page above, and/or to Amazon.

    Be bold in your lives. Don't be afraid of failure - next step: success. Good luck and take care but not too much care. Life is for living and it's yours to live.

    Sunday, 30 May 2010

    NEARLY THE END AS WE KNOW IT

    We're getting so near the end of this 39-day blogathon. I said I'd be posting something new every day from April 23rd till the end of May and I have enjoyed every bit of it (except the few days when I was away from internet access - grrrrrr - and I couldn't join in comments).

    Let me tell you what's going to happen next.

    Tomorrow, the last day of the main show, I will answer the questions that you started asking me yesterday. If you'd like to add your questions, go here and see what other people have asked, then add your questions to that post. Those that I don't manage to answer tomorrow, I will come to another day.

    After tomorrow, I will still keep blogging here but more occasionally. Do stick around, because sometimes I will have news, reviews, thoughts and opportunities for you.

    When I do school events, I will blog about these.If you'd like me to visit your school, ask your librarian or English department. I travel a lot and am delighted to visit anywhere I can. I can do (and have done) overseas trips, too, but obviously the finances of that may be difficult.

    What can you do?
    • If you liked Wasted, tell people about it. Adding a nice review somewhere like Amazon or Goodreads is always hugely appreciated.
    • Tell people about this blog.
    • Stick around and leave comments - then I know you're out there! It's lonely being an author sometimes!
    • Keep buying and recommending and valuing books of all sorts - not just mine. Writers need you! We need you to buy, borrow from libraries and talk about our books. The recession is hitting writers very hard - and not just the recession: the habit of slashing prices, the pirating of books, illegal downloading, and the difficulties that we have in continuing to earn in an environment when too many people think that words should be free. Violins, please!
    Back to today...

    ...and I have a little snippet for you now. I thought I'd tell you my favourite lines from Wasted. I think all writers have their favourite lines in a book. Here are mine - they made me think or cry or laugh.

    "He feels so small now. A fractional part of something vast and unknowable. Because everyone, everyone in the world, has an equal loss. Everyone has a billion things that haven't happened. He is nothing special."

    "It is the sound the future would make if it slipped through a gap in the skin of time."

    "...frankly I'd rather be kissed by an eel."

    "She'd puked on a gnome..."

    THE WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? Nowhere, but tomorrow I will be in South Africa, at Absolute Vanilla. Sunshine!