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.

Friday, 14 May 2010


Two different things for you today. First, a big thank you to the S1 pupils of George Watson's College where I went on Tuesday. Actually, I need to tell you about this event, as it was pretty special. For me, anyway.

It was the first time I'd stood up in public and talked about Wasted. I didn't know how it would go or what I would say. Well, thanks to the pupils, it was amazing and if ever I had worried about whether this book would really grab teenagers, I suddenly realised the truth: this book would absolutely grab them.

Near the beginning, I asked them a question. I'd never asked this before and I had no idea what would happen. My question was, "How many of you know how your parents met?" More than half put their hands up. And then I asked if anyone would like to tell us what happened.

The first one was the most perfect example of what I wanted to talk about. The boy's father had been on a plane and his mother was the stewardess. He had asked for some water and she'd brought it to him. Love at first sight! I asked the boy, if his father hadn't been on that plane or his mother hadn't been the stewardess on duty, what would that mean for him? "I wouldn't exist." Bingo!

Then lots of others chimed in with stories, all different, all fascinating, all relevant, and we thought for a bit about that unthinkable thing: not existing.

I then moved them on to my next question. "Imagine you were walking along the street and a piece of roof tile or a slate or a piece of masonry fell off and landed at your feet. If you'd been a few centimetres further on, it would have hit you." I was about to ask them how they'd feel, but I could just see them all nodding and then a load of hands went up. They told me stories, unasked, of chilling things that had happened to them, near misses, car crashes that they should have been in, times when they were babies when they should have died; they talked about their parents never forgetting the moments when something bad nearly happened; they showed insight and fascination; they were excited by their stories, by the thought of how lucky they were; but it was scary to think about, too, and often quite moving.

I was also aware, very aware, that there could be someone in the room who had an example of very bad luck - any of them could, for example, know someone who'd died very unluckily; they could have lost a parent, or friend, or sibling. I am aware of that and am ready to deal with it; I will be sensitive, but I am also talking about real life and the world we all have to live in

I told them about how we all think about these things sometimes, but that it can screw us up if we think too much about "what ifs": we have to let the what ifs stay in a safe place inside us; we have to get on with our lives without thinking too much. And then I told them about Jack in Wasted, and what happened to his mothers and how it messes with his mind.

We talked about fortune-tellers and I told them the Oedipus story - they laughed at the bit where he pokes his eyes out with a stick...

And then they asked questions and were lovely. But two other important things happened - first, masses of them bought Wasted. I'd been talking about Deathwatch and Fleshmarket too, which are my usual good sellers, but no, they wanted Wasted. And that made me happy not because it means I earn a few pence, but because it proved to me that there was a point to my writing it.

Secondly, when I got home, I found 22 - twenty-two! - entries to my Flash Fiction competition on this blog. The wonderful English teacher had immediately taken me up on the suggestion that they have a shot and she must have used the English lesson that afternoon to talk about flash fiction. Good for her, I say! THAT's what school talks are meant to do - not tick boxes and make the government happy. They are meant to engage teachers and most of all, pupils.

So, thank you, George Watson's College, and well done for your amazing, varied and talented entries. And thank you to the fab librarian, Jane Shankland, for inviting me.


And second, I am bringing you a wonderful true story from Kate Kelly, about how she once used a dart to make a decision in just the same way as Jack uses a coin. Kate has a blog and, by pure chance (or not) I am over there today doing an interview. So, read her story below and then hop on over and get to know Kate, too. Oh, and Kate did a lovely review of Wasted here.

Kate's Story:
The toss of a coin or the throw of a dart

I'm not normally one for spur of the moment decisions, or acting on the toss of a coin. I'm too logical I guess, probably something to do with being a scientist by trade. But there was one time, many years ago, when I made a decision based on the throw of a dart.

I was a simple scenario, four skint students in a flat in Dundee, and a few weeks left before the start of term, the summer drawing to a close. Our various vacation jobs had come to an end, and we wanted to take off into the Highlands for a spot of hill walking. The only problem was, we couldn't agree where.

I wanted to go to Skye and 'do' the Ridge. Rob reckoned the walking around Glencoe was our best option. Jackie didn't want to go any further than the Cairngorms whilst Hamish was determined that we should go to Islay - but we all knew that he really only wanted the check out the distilleries.

And so we decided to plan our holiday on the throw of a dart.

Rob pinned a map of Scotland to the wall of the living room and we each took aim.

Well Hamish's landed somewhere in England, much to his disgust, and mine landed in the middle of the North Sea, so that was a bit of a non starter too. Rob missed the map completely, his dart jutting, wobbling out from the wallpaper, before dropping to the carpet with a thud.

Only Jackie's found its mark.

We crept closer to the map and peered at the point of her dart, and just to the side of it was the name of a place.

"Poolewe," said Jackie. "Guess that's where we're going camping."

And so we did.

To the north of Poolewe we found a wide raised beach where we pitched our tents. In front of us was a beautiful sandy beach and the sea stretching out in a wide bay. There was  a pub in the village and we found a nearby spring with sweet fresh water. We cooked our sausages on an open fire and drank beer into the early hours. The sea breeze kept the midges away, but the best thing about this raised beach was that there was nobody else there.

A magical place we would never have found if it hadn't been for the throw of a dart. In fact, some years later I took my husband back there and it was still just as lovely and just as deserted, just as magic.


catdownunder said...

Prediction: The other half of the class may/will have gone home and asked their parents how they met by now. :-)

Ellen Brickley said...

Well, they will if they read your comment, Cat :p

catdownunder said...

True. (Being wise after the event I would say that Nicola enjoyed herself!)

Nicola Morgan said...

Cat, you are indeed wise. And that raises the interesting distinction between
a)predictions that are based on psychology - eg that the rest of the class would go and ask their parents because they were interested by the concept I raised
b)predictions that have a decent statistical probability of coming true - eg that a particular football team will will their match
c) predictions which are most unlikely to come true - eg the one told in the post yesterday - and therefore have to be explained in some other way.

catdownunder said...

It is the third one which, of course, puzzles me!