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.

Showing posts with label competitions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label competitions. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


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 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.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


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 - 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.)

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)
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.)


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

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

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

“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?"
"Okay, what then?"
"Sheer bloody stupidity on my part and an extraordinarily forgiving
(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!!

Saturday, 29 May 2010


Which is your favourite bit of Wasted, and why?

If you would like to win a signed copy of any of my other in-print books, just answer that question in no more than 60 words and email it to with the words FAV SCENE COMP in the subject line.

Closing date: June 30th 2010
I will email the winner and ask for an address and your choice of prize after June 30th.

I'll tell you my favourite scene, but you don't get extra points for having the same favourite as mine! The competition is all about how you explain why your favourite is your favourite. And I'm looking for a perceptive take on the scene, something that gets under its skin a bit.

My favourite is the beach scene near the end. For those who haven't read it: it's after the Leavers' Prom and Jack, Jess and lots of friends go to the beach for a late night party. They light fires, toast marshmallows and drink. They talk and mess around. I love the atmosphere, the wood smoke, the dizziness, the euphoria of the end of their schooldays, the feeling as Jess and Jack wrap their arms around each other; and the readers' horrible knowledge that something terrible is about to happen, that this is the end of innocence, the end of peace. They are hanging onto every moment of pleasure, and I hope the reader does, too. I was when I was writing it. I could hardly bear to end it. But end it I did. I'm sorry.

I'm dying to hear what your favourite bit is.

Good luck!

WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? Over at Fairyhedghog's place, talking about cats. Join us.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Pick ME!

Sometimes what we call luck is about being noticed. People who are too pushy can be really irritating and that makes others not want to choose them or do good things for them. These over-pushy people can sometimes be really successful at first, but they fall hard and painfully when people cotton on to the fact that their heads and mouths are bigger than their talent. But not being pushy enough means you don't get noticed. A lot of the whole art of "getting on" in life is about treading the line between being too pushy and not pushy enough.

What is my point? My point is that I'm giving you a chance to attract luck by being just the right amount of pushy. I'm asking you to ask me to pick you to receive a free copy of Wasted. So, if you'd like to win a signed copy, sent** anywhere in the UK, (sorry!), then add a comment to the bottom of this post, a comment which must include the words "pick me". So, wow me, amuse me, impress me, tell me something I won't forget, intrigue me, lie to me, persuade me, bribe me - it's your choice. Push the right buttons.

Also, whether or not you're entering the pick me comp, I NEED YOUR HELP to fill a space in my diary for May 31st. So, what I'd like you to do is ask me some questions. I'll answer them all in a post on May 31st. I'll need tham by Sunday, please. Hurry!!

** or possibly handed over personally - see below...

Over to you!

WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? At Iffath's place - and I was nearly late - sorry, Iffath!

In real life, I'm at home, partly writing - I've got two books on the go, one fiction and one non-fiction - and partly indulging in my favourite hobby: cooking. I'm having a lunch party for Wasted next Tuesday and I want to get some puds in the freezer. My patent lemon cheesecake and a tiramisu gateau, plus some meringues marbled with raspberries. (Experiment suggested by my agent, who is one of the guests).

Yesterday, I found myself on Talli Roland's blog, accidentally. Talli's blog is amazing and she is a lovely person and a talented writer. I met her recently, when I handed over a copy of Wasted that she had won. It turned out to be very lucky for me that she won it, because she loved it and wrote about it. She was also, over on my other blog, my first blog baby.

And, inspired by my meeting with Talli, here's a suggestion for you:

EXTRA: If by any chance you live in London and can manage to meet me on June 8th (as long as we can agree a time and place that will suit us both) I will actually hand over your copy to you personally and buy you a coffee! (If you are under 18, this might not be appropriate - we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.)

Sunday, 23 May 2010


I'm having a little rest today but you'll find me over at Kath Eastman's lovely blog, The Nut Press, where I did an interview.

Also, if you haven't entered any of the competitions in the blog, why not do that today? The Flash Fiction comp has lots of fab entries in both age categories - goodness knows how the judge is going to decide the winners. But the other easier competitions have only a very few correct entries so you have a real chance. Click here for all the comps so far.

Good luck!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


I do loads of school visits - I couldn't really guess how many different schools I've visited but we're talking hundreds. And some stand out as being exceptionally exciting.

One school like that is St John's Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre in County Durham. I did a school visit there a few years ago as part of the Northern Children's Book Festival and the response from the pupils was really special. They had incredible ideas and dynamism and the questions were fantastic. Actually, one boy asked my favourite question ever:

"How does someone as nice as you write such nasty books?" Love it!

Anyway, as I went back home on the train, I got thinking about how I could respond to their enthusiasm. To cut a long story short, I handed over the promotion of my next book, The Highwayman's Footsteps, to them. They did the most amazing job, involving the English, art and history departments for the whole of Years 7 and 8, and it culminated in a launch in front of 700 pupils, with press and photographers and all sorts of coverage. The project was led by two remarkable pupils, Brogan and George, and Brogan even mentioned it in her personal statement when applying to Oxford University - she got a place, she told me recently!

What has this got to do with Wasted? Well, the connection continued and about a year ago I had a vibrant and excited email from another pupil there, Amy, who had remembered being in Year 7 and in the audience when HF was launched. We got chatting. (You can't not get chatting with Amy...) And I thought, hmmm, it would be wrong to ignore such enthusiasm - what could we do? I asked Amy if she'd like to be my teenage marketing person (along with another vibrant teenager from the other side of the country, Iffath at lovereadingx). Amy is known for her enthusiasm and her reply kind of went off the scale of excitement.

Amy and her friends have been reading and planning and talking and thinking and getting their school involved. I'm going to report on that later - but for now, suffice it to say that I am in awe of them and St John's.

But there are some interesting chance happenings to do with this, and since Wasted is about Chance, I thought you should know them.
The St John's librarian, who has been hugely important in all this, is called Miss Heads. Considering this is about a game with a coin, don't you think that's quite a coincidence?

It gets more spooky.

The pupils and Miss Heads were trying to think of a game involving a coin that they could get the whole school to play, as a way of sparking interest in the book. At this stage, most of them hadn't read it so they were a bit in the dark, but they kept thinking. The night before the copies of the book were due to arrive, Miss Heads's husband went to a fund-raising event of some sort and there they played a game called ... Heads or Tails.

Result! And that is the game they played in assembly for the whole school on Publication Day for Wasted.

Here's the game. You need a room full of people, and one coin.
  1. Everyone stands up.
  2. On the count of three everyone puts their hands either on their heads or on their hips / buttocks / whatever. 
  3. Everyone keeps their hands where they've chosen until the leader tosses the coin and calls out the result.
  4. If the coin landed heads up, all those with hands on head remain standing. Everyone else sits down.
  5. This is repeated until only one person is left standing. That person wins a copy of the book!
Do you fancy doing this in your school? If so, the school could win a signed copy. All you need to do is get your school librarian or teacher to contact me if your school would like to do this. I have three books to give away as priazes. If more than 3 schools sign up, I will pick 3 at random. The only conditions are: that you agree to spend a few minutes explaining to the assembly / class why you are doing this; that you agree to receive some posters of Wasted and recommend Wasted to readers who you think will like it. The book will be bought and posted at my expense so I hope you don't mind my asking this.

Pass it on!

Meanwhile, if you'd like me to come to talk to your school about Wasted and my other books, the page about my events is here. I love doing events so I'd love to hear from you. I have some vacancies in the autumn and lots of space next year but I do tend to be booked far in advance so don't delay!

WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY?  Over at the remarkable Jesse Owens's blog - Books4Teens - where, by chance, you'll see a picture of me after a school event.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


What is randomness? We take it to mean something like "without physical cause or mechanical explanation". We say, for example, that tossing a coin or rolling dice shows randomness, but it actually doesn't. Because, as Jack knows, the coin lands one way or the other depending on physical reasons. Just because we can't see them, doesn't mean they're not there.

When I was at university I was a member of the Psychic Research Society, and our aim was to set out to try to prove or disprove, find evidence for or against, various supernatural phenomena, such as ghosts or clairvoyance. We even tried to test a ouija board. "Amazingly", we did get some actual answers from the ouija board - the glass really did move around and spell out letters.

Erm, actually it wasn't that amazing. I know perfectly well that someone round that table was making it move. How do I know? Well, it was me. I just couldn't help myself. (Which you might call being possessed but I'd call just being a trouble-maker.) And if it hadn't been me it would have been someone else.

Anyway, forget ouija boards. And don't mess around with them - either there'll be some idiot like me trying to freak everyone out, or nothing will happen, or something will happen which you won't be able to explain.

So, what's this got to  do with randomness? For various bits of scientific research we had to find a way to generate random numbers. So that we could make sure psychology didn't come into it and it was pure unbiased science. Now, I am no mathematician - trust me - and I thought it would be easy: you could maybe stick a pin in a list, blind-folded; or you could ask a computer to generate "any old numbers"; or you could write numbers on bits of paper, throw them in the air and see which landed face up. Or something.

But the clever people explained to me that those methods would not create true randomness. All those things are like tossing a coin: they depend on physical cuases, not randomness. Unless we redefine randomness to include quantum uncertainty, but I don't know how that would work and I certainly didn't know about quantum mechanics then. (Not much new there.)

Now, frankly, I became very bored with this and pretty much gave up and left the Psychic Research Soc. But it did get me thinking about randomness, in a vaguely interested way. I never came to any conclusions and I'd quite like to know what you clever mathsy people think.

Meanwhile, let's apply some pseudo-randomness and let's have a competition. If you'd like to win a signed copy of one of my books (sent anywhere in the world because I've had a good day and am feeling happy), simply add a comment below, with your name. Then, suggest how I will apply some kind of randomness to picking a winner. There's no prize for the person who gives me the best suggestion but I will then apply it and we'll see whose name wins the book!

Deadline 30th May.

Monday, 10 May 2010


Did you read about Fantastic Farantella yesterday? If not, go here.


I’ll give a signed copy to the (UK resident) winner of the following competition. All correct answers will be put in a hat and I’ll draw the winner at random on May 30th. If you live outside the UK, you can nominate a UK resident to receive your prize.

Farantella is not her real name. Her real name is given in the book so you can either find a copy or guess. Here are your choices:
A. Maureen
B. Noreen
C. Doreen
To enter, add your guess to the comments below - just say your answer and give a brief reason why I should pick you if you get the answer right! I want to be amused, entertained, surpised or all three. Flattery will also help. I'm only human.

Deadline is May 30th, midday UK time.

Good luck! (Though of course, only one person will actually have good luck... Why do we always says "good luck everyone" when only one person can win???)

WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY?  Over at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, talking about luck in publishing. Join me there on Kath Langrish's great blog.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Fantastic Farantella the Famous Fairground Fortune-Teller
Your Future Foretold for a Fiver:
She Can See It Coming!

I had such fun writing this scene. It’s funny but sinister at the same time.

Jack and Jess are in a fairground, running from some lads who want revenge. The only place they can hide is a fortune-teller’s caravan. But Fantastic Farantella is on her tea / cigarette-break and is not best pleased to have her smoke interrupted. Eventually, they persuade her to tell their fortune.
Farantella sits down at the table and signals to them to sit, beckoning with a swooping, dramatic arm. She slowly drapes something like a piece of net curtain over her head and pulls a crystal ball from under the table, sets it on a saucer covered in crumpled tin foil and finds the plastic switch on the side. The ball starts to moan and glow. Jess feels Jack begin to shake with laughter and she
refuses to look at him.

Fantastic Farantella closes her eyes. A hum comes from her nose, vibrating. It goes on for a long time, but then Farantella starts coughing. She takes a slug of tea. Opens her eyes.

Stares at them both. They stare back, wide-eyed, every muscle frozen to trap the laughter. “You are drawn together,” she says, in a drony voice. “Am I right?”

They nod. Well, it’s hardly rocket science. She’ll need to do better than that.

Farantella’s hands are hovering above the crystal ball. It stops moaning, begins buzzing and then the light goes off.

“Bugger,” says Farantella. “I knew that was going to happen.”
So, FF gets a new battery for the plastic ball and then tries again. But she can’t seem to get any vibes. And she really needs a cigarette. She keeps trying but Jack and Jess are not that interested any more, since they know that the lads who were chasing them have gone. Jack teases FF that it’s really just a bit of a joke anyway and FF gets quite narked with him and is determined to prove him wrong. She asks them to give her something close to each of them and she’ll see if she can get some vibes from it. Jack gives her his lucky coin – the one he plays the Game with. Up till this point, the scene has been comical, light-hearted. That’s all about to change.
Jess and Jack watch carefully, thinking she may have a secret talent for disappearing tricks even if she’s rubbish at telling fortunes.

For a few long moments the scene goes still. We can look down on them and see the dark red room with the tacky glowing crystal ball moaning away on its new battery. There’s the incense swirling, the mug of tea, Farantella with her net curtain. The distant sounds of the fairground are still outside and we have no idea where Simon and Joe are but we don’t have to worry about them just now. There’s a Post-it note reminding Farantella that she has a dentist’s appointment tomorrow.

And into this unlikely setting, a sinister spirit enters. If we believe in such things. Or if we don’t, then something else we can’t rightly explain. Jess shivers. Jack finds her hand. For some reason, they do not feel like laughing now. Both of them stare at Farantella. Her eyes are screwed shut but suddenly across her face flies something that clutches at her, twisting the muscles of her mouth. She bends forward quickly, her shoulders hunching.

A small noise slips from her mouth. Or the noise could come from somewhere else – it is hard to say. It is the noise a spirit would make. If such things existed. It is the noise that the future would make, if it squeezed through a gap in the skin of time.
Shivery. Well, I shivered.
Have you ever had your fortune told? Would you, for a laugh? But what if you were told something important? Something bad. Would you believe it? Even a little bit?

Fantastic Farantella gives Jack and Jess a sinister warning. The rest of Wasted hinges on whether they (and you) believe the warning or whether, when aspects of it turn out to be true, you decide that the truth was merely coincidence. Or whether perhaps Farantella had a more mysterious power than even she thought.

Come back tomorrow for a light-hearted competition to do with Fantastic Farantella... 

WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? Nowhere! resting. But thrilled to see that there are so many 5-star reviews on Amazon. I think some of them were written by readers of this blog so thank you very, very much. You are very kind to take the trouble.

Also, Amanda Craig did a great review in the Times yesterday. This means that even my parents might think I'm doing ok...

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Recently, I was doing some sorting and clearing before moving house, and I came across the first notes I made about WASTED. I had forgotten that originally, Jess had a different name.

So, guess the name!
Was Jess originally going to be called:

1. Izzy
2. Josie
3. Laura

How to enter:
  • email your answer to with the words NAME COMP in the subject-line
  • on the closing date (May 30th), I will put all correct answers in a box, pick out a lucky winner and announce it on the site
  • then I'll ask the winner to email me with a postal address (if you're under 18, please get permission for that)
CLOSING DATE: May 30th 2010

THE PRIZE? A signed copy of Wasted OR one of my other books - your choice (as long as it's still in print).

Good luck!

What do you think, by the way? Is Jess a better name than any of those? Do you like the names Jess and Jack? In the comments below, tell me what you think and whether names are important to you in books.Can you think of a book where you've hated the main character's name? My younger daughter had a problem with Hermione in the Harry P books because all the time she was reading the first book she was saying the name wrong in her head - Herm-eye-own!

Comments and questions in the comments box below. Competition answers to the email address, please.

WASTED BLOG TOUR: WHERE AM I TODAY? Nowehere. I thought I was over on fab writer Katherine Langrish's blog, talking about whether you need luck to get published...but we changed the date so I'm there on Monday 10th.)

Physically, I'm on my way back from London today but this evening I'm visiting the teenage reading group of the Cat's Rrar blog, chatting to them about my books. I'll be posting about that on May 13th - and so will the Cat. And somehow, I've got to find time to vote...

Monday, 26 April 2010


This for all the writers amongst you - young or not young, published and unpublished. A flash fiction competition. Flash fiction is a very very very short story.  I wrote about this on my other blog here.

Stories can be told in a tiny number of words. Ernest Hemingway once wrote a story in six words which he considered to be his best ever:
"For sale: baby shoes, never used."
I wrote one once, in four words:
"Certainly," said the inn-keeper.
These stories are obviously not very satisfying for readers. But they open your mind to ideas and possibilities. How would history have changed if there'd been room at the inn? What is the story behind Hemingway's unworn baby shoes?

My challenge to you is to write a story in not more than 50 words, inspired by any one of these three words:
Luck, Chance or Fate.

Two age categories:
A - school pupil (at today's date: April 26th 2010)
B - left school (however long ago!)
  1. Closing date 15th June 2010 - winners announced before end of UK school term.
  2. Prizes sent to UK address only - if you're overseas, do enter but nominate a UK resident to receive the prize. You'll still get the glory!!
  3. Category A entrants - please indicate the name of your school on your entry and ask permission from school or parent. Also please indicate your AGE.
  4. Email your entry to
  5. Put the words FLASH COMPETITION in the subject line.
  6. Give an email contact but not your postal address - I will ask you for that if you're a winner.
  7. 50 words max. Hyphenated words count as one. I will not disqualify a writer for writing 51 words accidentally. But I might for 52 or 53...
  8. I will use independent judges and their decision will be final.
  9. One prize in each category: the winner's choice of any of my in print books, signed. Runners-up will get honourable mentions on blogs.
  10. By entering, you give permission for me to publish your entry or part on my blogs.
Off you go! I will publish some of the best on this blog and on my other blog -  -  and I'll use Twitter to publicise them so loads of people could read your work. Take time to polish, polish and polish. In flash fiction, every word counts so make every one work really hard.

And as Wasted shows, you never know where any action might lead you. Your decision to enter this competition could have unpredictable effects and one thing is certain: you'll never know unless you try.

Tomorrow I am going to attempt the impossible: to explain quantum physics. For someone who was as useless at science as me (according to my teachers - thanks for the support anyway), that is a very difficult task.

I need coffee. And probably chocolate.