How well do you know your edgy teen fiction? – Answers

1 Burke and Hare.
2 Worked in a Private Investigator’s office.
3 Ethiopia.
4 Robert Cormier.
5 Ty.
6 Cockroach.
7 A letter to my captor.
8 Robinson Crusoe.
9 Whoopi Goldberg.
10 The main characters in his novel ‘Doing it’ – Ben, Jonathan and Dino.
11. They have all been banned or challenged in American libraries.
12 Hayling Island.
13 Huntingdon’s Disease
14. Tossing a coin to make decisions.
15. Belfast
16 Patrick
17 Her sister
18. Leicester
19 Mr B
20 A snowflake tattoo

The Devil in the Details: Discussing Devilskein & Dearlove with Alex Smith

Devilskein  Dearlove cover image copyright Ed Boxall
Hi Alex, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. For those readers that may not have come across your work before would you like to introduce yourself to the audience please?

Thanks Matt. I was a teenager in the last days of Apartheid, it was a violent and oppressive society, and themes that seem to recur in my novels are alienation, escape and finding ways of dealing with injustice and trauma. I’ve spent time living in China, Taiwan and the UK, and have travelled a fair bit around Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, and so somehow also, travel/migration, culture, religion and the experience of being a stranger in a new place seem to find their way in most of my stories.

Devilskein & Dearlove is your fifth book and second title for younger readers; did you make a conscious decision to write for Teenagers?

Yes. There seems to be more creative freedom when writing for Teenagers. Perhaps that is just my perception and I’m misguided. But also, I have a son and he loves books (he’s only on picture books at the moment), and I want to write novels that he will enjoy reading.

You have said that Devilskein & Dearlove was inspired by The Secret Garden – how did you develop the idea?

The Secret Garden is one of my formative reading experiences, and to me it’s about finding happiness and magic where you least expect it. And that story has always lingered. In the last few years, South African fiction has broken out of its overly serious ‘JM Coetzee Nobel novel’ straight-jacket, and in particular genre fiction is leading the way (with the likes of Lauren Beukes whose Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award a couple of years ago). The Secret Garden has happy memories for me; and so I wanted to bring its kind of unencumbered charm to a South African contemporary context. I re-read it before I started working and then brainstormed. Travel and place are always important elements in my stories; I very particularly wanted to set the novel in a memorable part of Cape Town. Long Street is an amazing place, full of life, night and day, where past and present, and local and international influences all collide.

I have seen Devilskein & Dearlove compared to Neil Gaiman and Hayao Miyazaki’s work – are you a fan of their work?

All through writing Devilskein & Dearlove, I was imagining the characters as existing in a graphic world, animated like the inhabitants of Miyazaki’s films. I Absolutely love both Gaiman and Miyakazi – they are both geniuses, so fabulously imaginative, their stories are transporting, there is real darkness that must be overcome and but in some way it is overcome, so there is also lightness and a great deal of delight too. It was Neil Gaiman’s ‘Graveyard Book’, a kind of reworking of ‘The Jungle Book’ that first gave me the idea of going back to one of my old favourite novels for a concept idea.

arachneYour previous four novels were all published in South Africa by Tafelberg, Struik & Umuzi in South Africa? How did you come to be signed by Arachne Press in the UK?

I wrote a short story (Icossi Bladed Scissors) that was selected for a Liar’s League reading in London and then later that year Cherry Potts from Arachne Press created an anthology of stories called ‘Weird Lies’. She included that story in the anthology and during the editing process, she sent out an email requesting submissions of novels. I happened to be working on one, so I sent it to her and she like it.

Devilskein & Dearlove is also the first YA novel to be published by Arachne Press – how does it feel to be the YA standard bearer for the publisher?

That sounds a bit daunting. I like making up stories, that’s my job. Cherry has taken a big risk and I hope that Devilskein & Dearlove doesnn’t fail her. But to be honest, I don’t like to think too much about all the other stuff, although I know it’s very important.

You won Silver in the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature for Agency Blue in 2009, the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award for Four Drunk Beauties in 2011 and you were short-listed for the Rolex Mentor & Protege Arts Initiative, the SA PEN Literary Award and 2010 Caine Prize. Do you feel under pressure from all these accolades or are you able to ignore the expectations and just write?

In terms of being a person who likes to make things, in this case stories, I’m only as good as my last story. (Maybe a bit like cooking – you can make a really delicious meal, and everyone enjoys it and you all remember the good feeling, but every day is a new day, a new meal and the fun is in cooking, then the reading… I mean, eating, not so much in remembering last month’s dinner). So once something is edited and published, it’s over, there’s nothing more I can do to it, so the fun and the challenge are over. I’m always working on new things and that’s all I want – is to be in a position to keep making up stories that people enjoy (and getting paid a bit to do it).

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

The first chapter, the last chapter and editing the final draft.

The South African YA writing scene seems to be exploding at the moment, can you recommend any works by SA YA writers that you enjoy reading?

I’m a great fan of anything by S.A.Patridge, Andrew Salomon and also S.L.Grey.

What is coming next for you after Devilskein & Dearlove?

I’ve got a short story long-listed for a competition associated with the National Arts Festival – that anthology (ironically called Adults Only) is due out around July too. And the novel I’m working on at the moment is called My Little Demon but it’s getting to be too dark for my present state of mind, which, in spite of toddler-driven sleep deprivation, is surprisingly positive.

You can find Alex online at alexsmith.bookslive.co.za

Beyond the Door by Maureen McQuerry Blog Tour

Time-Out-of-Time-2
What have I learned about the world from myth as a writer and a reader? Since writing Beyond the Door and The Peculiars I’ve been thinking about why myth matters. Over the next week I’ll be blogging in the U.S and U.K. about six things I’ve learned from mythic stories that have inspired me. Plus there will be fun giveaways and a post by cover artist Victo Ngai! Follow the thread…

What I’ve Learned from Myth Part 1 (with a little help from Mr. Tolkien)

The World is not a Safe Place
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Fellowship of the Ring
Go down any road in myth and you are likely to encounter…dark woods with no way out, labyrinths with monsters at the center, fairy mounds thick with enchantment, shapeshifters and on wind torn nights, the Wild Hunt. The mythic world is not a tame place. Don’t we know this already? And yet our culture tells us logic will prevail. If we do x, then y will follow. Myth reminds us that the world can be as wild and unpredictable as “an old wives’ tale,” at one moment full of heartbreaking joy and the next as dark as dragon’s lair. Myth never denies the existence of evil. Evil is real, horrific and evil is never good. To dismiss evil easily, is to diminish goodness. The unpredictable and fantastic are just around the corner. We are separated from the impossible by the thinnest of veils.

There is No Easy Way Out of the Maze
When Theseus finds his way to the heart of the maze, he must battle the Minotaur. When Hansel & Gretel get lost in the woods, the birds eat their breadcrumbs. Struggle and conflict will always be part of the journey. We shouldn’t be surprised when the dragons sweep in. In fact, dragons are essential because struggle and conflict, change us, create our arc. Every story is propelled by conflict. Readers want conflict and tension. Myth reminds us that conflict and tension are part of a full life and help make us who we are.
“Do we really have to go through [Mirkwod]?” groaned the hobbit. “Yes, you do!” said the wizard, “if you want to get to the other side. You must either go through or give up your quest. There are no safe paths in this part of the world.” The Hobbit

We Fear the Wrong Things
When King Arthur created the round table, with his brilliant vision of right over might, he was prepared for the enemy without. He was undone by Mordred. Time and again we find the hero’s fatal flaw bringing about his downfall. Think of Achilles and his vulnerable heel. Our heel may be pride or greed or even the dailiness of life that consumes us. We fall in love with Selkies, who will always return to the sea. We fear risk and adventures and looking like fools when the greatest battles rage in our own hearts.
It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait. The Hobbit

selkie
 
 
 
That’s it for today. Tomorrow 3 more lessons from myth for writers, for readers, for living at Making it Up Follow the thread…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Time-out-of-time-blog-tour

Interview with Nerine Dorman Author of the Guardian's Wyrd

nerinepicHi Nerine, welcome to Teen Librarian. As is customary in these interviews I ask all authors to introduce themselves to the audience.

Thanks for having me over, Matt. In brief, I’m an editor and author of SFF/H based in Cape Town, South Africa. I have a passion for stories and storytelling, especially when it comes to genre fiction. Apart from that, I am nominally involved in the local indie film scene, and also play guitar. I curate the annual South African HorrorFest Bloody Parchment event, short story competition and anthology. For some reason, I’ve also been named The Vampire Queen of the South. Make of that what you will. 😉

Most of your previous works would be classified as dark fantasy for adults and while TGW is still on the fringes of that genre it is aimed firmly at Young Adult readers – why did you decide to write for teens?

Why not write for YA readers? I don’t generally make distinctions, and write what I will, when the story asks for it. I have a great love for tales that follow the progress of characters when they are still in their teens. They have their whole lives ahead of them, which gives the author lots of scope to develop their adventures and grow them as characters. If I think back to my favourite stories, most of the characters were youngsters (think Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, Garion from the Belgariad, Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, Fitz from Robin Hobb’s books… the list goes on and on). Most of those books were in the adult section when I was a kid. I think if they’d been written in current times, they may have been reclassified as YA.

GW_Cover_09_author c i (2)How would you describe The Guardian’s Wyrd in a sentence that would hook a potential reader?

Teen rebel becomes besties with a prince from a magical realm and discovers that he can wield magic.

The protagonist Jay is mixed-race which makes a nice change from the usual white protagonists in fantasy fiction. What are your thoughts on the under-representation of people of colour as protagonists in fantasy fiction?

I cannot even begin to tell you how bored I am with the standard Caucasian tropes in fantasy, so anything I can do to buck the trend, I will. I’ll mix it up, and even in my secondary world fantasy, I bring in non-standard ethnicities. I love fantasy where the template for a particular culture is recognisably non-European. For instance, I loved GRRM’s Dothraki, and I’m currently reading and loving Karen Miller’s Empress, where the people are most definitely *not* blond-haired and pale.

Good fantasy transcends traditional boundaries, and I’d like to see more authors doing that. The current climate that favours indie and small press authors is great for diversity, and I’d like to see more breaking with traditional roles. This is a difficult stance to take, because there is incredible reader resistance to non-standard settings. But I encourage other authors to be brave. The more of us that write what we want, the better it is for diversity in the long run.

Are there any books or authors that inspired you in the writing of TGW?

Definitely to a degree CS Lewis for the Narnia books. Yes, it’s an old trope to have an Earthling immersed in a foreign, magical realm, but it’s a good one. I recently reread The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was a slightly poignant experience, because I didn’t quite see the book the same way as I did when I was little. However that sense of wonder still had me in its grip. But I do pay my respects to JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin and Storm Constantine for their epic fantasy, and especially for the sense of the reader stumbling into the tail-end of a story. Mystery, magic and wonder – not to forget the danger and adventure.

One thing I noticed – more by its absence than anything else was the lack of anything remotely love triangle-y (apart from the unrequited yearnings he had for his music teacher and the snog with the bird girl). Why do you think so many authors throw tangled love-lives into their stories?

Plainly put, love triangles bore the bantha pudu out of me. How many of us actually experience them for real? My teenage years were an interminable agony of unrequited love until I had my first proper boyfriend at the age of 17. I’m sure many of us can relate. Sure, I had a pile of unsuitable boys pine after me, but I didn’t return their feelings. Real life doesn’t follow a set script, and I suspect that many writers feel that the love triangle seems to be a convenient narrative device.

That being said, sometimes a love triangle is called for – just not in this story. It’s not something I’ll put in for the sake of having the trope there, and it’s very much *what* an author does with the trope that counts. It’s reached the point that when I read YA fiction with an obvious love triangle, I start rolling my eyes. In real life, there will be people you like. Sometimes they’ll like you back. Sometimes you’ll get involved with them even if you’re not totally in love with them. Maybe you’ll meet someone else you do *really* like. They might not like you back the same way, yet they’ll dance with you and hold your hand for a bit. Then they won’t ever call you back.

When you’re young, it’s difficult to hold onto that whole “one true love” concept. Yes, sometimes there will be that one person who’ll gut you emotionally, and you’ll walk around for years with the rusty knife in your back, but life goes on. You’ll meet someone new, develop feelings for them. Hey, maybe you’ll even get married.

To be honest, I’d like to see more authors write about characters who consciously work on a relationship with someone they choose to love instead of just falling in love. Where it’s a gradual, growing fascination rather than a *Zzzzzt! instalove! Across the room!* thing. And love isn’t always simple, easy or kind.

We had a taste of Sunthyst on Rowan’s world which is shown to be an extremely prejudicial society showed pretty blatantly with the use of slaves stolen from our world and a suspicion of magic users, do you have plans to show other nations or parts of the world that may not be as unpleasant?

I’m a sucker for a “warts and all” approach to my world-building. In real life, each nation is built on the subjugation of another, and they in turn are conquered or overrun. I don’t apologise for my outlook, and believe that as an author, it’s my duty to show the imperfections in society. Or at least in a story where there are heavy fantasy elements, I strive for a degree of realism. Anything less would be writing twee, cute and fluffy stories, and I’m sorry, that’s not what I’m about. My unicorns have fangs. They bite.

Conversely Jay and Rowan make a bit of an odd couple in the real (our) world do you have any plans to show their friendship developing with school and the demands and prejudices of this side of the portal?

Book two has been plotted, and yes, our two friends do test the boundaries of their relationship. Which one of your closest friends hasn’t at some point made you want to slap them? But you stick with them because you know they’ll do the same to you when you’re acting up. You friend can say stuff to you that you’d never tolerate from a stranger. In some ways, friends can be better than family, because you get to choose your friends – not so much with family, who can be unashamedly underhanded and nasty. Especially when it comes to inheritance, or favouritism with parents.

I enjoyed the instances of SA slang in the book (in some cases it was the first time I have seen certain expressions written down) do you think that international audiences will benefit from a glossary?

I’m a firm believer in letting readers figure it out for themselves. After all, not all the books I read from the US or the UK have a glossary, and I had no idea what the words meant. Granted, if an editor asks nicely, I’ll put one in. [smiles] I feel an author should be able to communicate the meaning of the slang through the context of the word. [Go read A Clockwork Orange without referring to the glossary. It’s real horrorshow.] That being said, these days you don’t have an excuse. I ask Google if I don’t have the answer. Google is my friend… 😉

Lastly, South Africa is appears to be experiencing a boom in YA writing, are there any other authors whose works you enjoy that you would like to recommend?

Cat Hellisen, definitely. Though her books are more adult, in my mind, her debut novel When The Sea is Rising Red was released for the YA market. Then Suzanne van Rooyen has totally wowed me. Like Cat, she isn’t too concerned with trends and her writing is gritty and poignant in all the right ways. I can’t recommend Rachel Zadok enough, and would recommend her to YA and adult readers alike, purely because she writes like the secret lovechild of Nick Cave and Poppy Z Brite.

Then for lovers of contemporary YA, there’s SA Partridge, who really knows how to nail the issues that teens face, and with so much compassion too. As for other South African authors in genre fiction, I recommend SL Grey, Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. Granted, SL Grey is those two writing together, but you really can’t go wrong with them as both are utterly wicked in all the delightfully wrong ways. A recent addition to the local genre fiction scene would be Dave-Brendon de Burgh, who’s writing epic fantasy that should appeal to those who enjoy the likes of Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson.

Follow Nerine on Twitter (@nerinedorman) and sign up for her newsletter (http://eepurl.com/JoPUv). Add The Guardian’s Wyrd to your Goodreads list and purchase at Amazon or Kobo.

Neville Johnson Comic Strip Competition

Have you ever dreamed about being invisible? Ever wondered what it would be like to go wherever you wanted and do whatever you wanted?

If you or an imaginary character were invisible, how would you use your superpower? Try to imagine what kinds of scary, amazing and even humorous situations you might find yourself in…

Create a six panel comic strip of your adventure, using words and images to bring your character and his or her escapades to life. You don’t have to be an artist, just make your comic strip unique, fun and exciting.

Entries for the Neville Johnson Comic Strip Competition will be judged by Curtis Jobling – whose latest book Haunt features an invisible character – and the winner will receive a professionally designed framed print of their comic strip.
For more details and to find out how to enter go to www.mcbf.org.uk and click ‘Get Involved’, or click here.

This competition and resource have been devised by the ‘Walking in Their Shoes’ Schools’ Liaison team at Manchester Metropolitan University. See the MMU Humanities Schools Liaison website for details about the Comic Smart project (on which this competition is based) and to download resources on this and other projects.

• Entries welcome from anyone aged 8-16

• Deadline for final entries is 31/08/2014

• Winners will be announced end of September

• Download your comic strip template here

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand: Poster

I have created an A3 poster commemorating the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand for the first of my Great War displays.

The image below has a generic School Times header rather than the name of my school.

You can download the publisher file by clicking on the image if you wish to adapt it for your own displays.

franz ferdinand front page1

If you wish to change the header title and add your school name I used http://fontmeme.com/old-english-fonts/ Anglican Text to create the image.

The text is from the Manchester Guardian, June 29 1914

English GCSEs: a list of authors, poets & playwrights you are unlikely to see

After the outcry when the new English GCSEs were announced Education Secretary Michael Gove has clarified things by letting us know that no authors have been banned.

No, beyond a set of core requirements, exam boards have no restrictions on their choice of authors.

The Deaprtment of Education added that ‘…the requirements represent “only the minimum pupils will be expected to learn” and that exam boards could still include modern writers from outside the British Isles…

The AQA board conceded that ‘…technically it would not be impossible to add additional texts beyond the essential requirements, to do so would place an unacceptable assessment burden on teachers and students

This is an incomplete list of authors, poets & playwrights that you are unlikely to encounter in English GCSEs

  • Amy Tan The Joy Luck Club
  • Arthur Miller The Crucible
  • Athol Fugard Tsotsi
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie A Purple Hibiscus
  • Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart
  • Doris Pilkington Rabbit-proof Fence
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Emily Dickinson
  • F Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby
  • Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Haruki Murakami
  • John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men
  • Lloyd Jones Mr Pip
  • Mark Twain
  • Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Robert Frost
  • Robert Lowell
  • Roddy Doyle Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
  • Stephen Crane
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Tennessee Williams
  • TS Eliot
  • WB Yeats
  • William Faulkner
  • So, yes it is all good from here on out! bannings, only relegation to the sidelines where they can be added to the curriculum if time and teaching allows.