pulling on those space boots

When the Society of Authors asked me to organise an event and let me choose Science Fiction as the theme (my last theme was comics), I had such fun pulling together this fabulous group of writers for our Worlds of Tomorrow panel. It’s the first time the Society of Authors has hosted an SF event and they were very excited! And other bloggers have beat me to the write-up: check out fab blogs by writers Jeff Norton, here, Teri Terry, here, Rebecca Earl, here, and Jonathan Green, here, and if you’re on Facebook, Candy Gourlay has posted a bunch of photos (many of which I have nicked for this post). To be honest, I was so caught up in hosting the event that it’s all a bit of a blur now and I’ve forgotten most of what we said, but these bloggers took good notes.

So last Tuesday, I zipped up my space boots and joined the panel in front of a big crowd at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Oo, I was not the only one in interesting footwear! Who could these belong to?

Photos by Candy Gourlay

…Yes, Queen of curious gadgetry and small press Kim Lakin-Smith and this year’s Costa Award winner, post-apocalyptic-western writer Moira Young! Kim and Moira both have fascinating histories if you look around the Internet; here’s Moira on BBC News, talking about her beginnings in comedy, tap dancing and opera, and how breaking both wrists turned her into a writer.

Photo by Candy Gourlay

Thanks to Philip Reeve for being a fabulous event host! Here you can see him lobbing good questions at the panel.

Photo by Candy Gourlay

And here I am with good chum Steve Cole, who’s written a zillion books, taught me lots about doing events, and really understands how kids’ minds work. (He’s wearing the Jamie Smart t-shirt I gave him for his 40th birthday.)

Photo by Candy Gourlay

And some of our lovely books! It made me laugh, thinking that I could be part of an SF panel because I have a book about a princess going into space. And we pretty much stuck to talking about books for young adults, or ‘Ya’ books, as Philip called them. But I was chuffed to have someone come up to me later and say that she’d been hoping we’d also talk about SF in picture books, so perhaps that is a good subject for another event.

Jared Shurin and his partner Anne Perry run The Kitschies awards, and Jared was able to come and give a talk about the award ‘for intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic’ and how they’re building community among lovers of Science Fiction with their parties, blogging and independent publishing.

Photo by Candy Gourlay

Before the event, I’d had fun finding out all the speakers favourite books as children. Several people mentioned A Wrinkle in Time, but that was Moira’s pick, then clockwise: mine with The Runaway Robot, Jared picked Dominic, Kim – The Hitchhkiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Philip – The Martian Chronicles, Steve – Stories from the Twilight Zone and Anne – I, Robot.

One thing I do remember from the panel was mentioning the great ways young YA bloggers are reviewing books across genre lines, and introducing SF books to people who might not necessarily dive right into a SF section of a shop. Here’s Rhys Jones, who was sitting in the front row, and runs a great review blog called Thirst for Fiction. I had a chat with him about it after the event, and said how I’m always telling kids that a great way to get into books and publishing is to start up blogs and review other people’s books. Reviewing books for Write Away helped me look more critically at picture books and meant I got lots of invitations to book launches, which is where I met loads of publishers and fellow writers and illustrators (including Philip, whom I met for the very first time while reviewing the Carnegie Greenaway Awards). If you’re a kid and love books, get a free blog, start reviewing books you love, and if you do a half-decent job of it, you’ll find that publishers start sending you free books to read, linking you on social media and inviting you to events. You may even get your name and quotation on the back of a book by one of your favourite writers. Publicists love reviewers. …Think about it, people. *taps side of nose sagely*

We had loads of writers in the audience! Including a good showing from the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, another fab way to get stuck in to the world of making books, and who were a huge help to me in finding out about the industry. Here are Candy Gourlay, Anita Loughrey and Teri Terry (whose new book Slated with SF themes did the SCBWI rounds with all our faces substituted for the original face on the jacket, see here.)

Photo by Candy Gourlay

This year’s winner of The Kitschies Red Tentacle for A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness, is always good for raising shackles with a controversial, hard-edged comment.

Photo by Candy Gourlay

A huge thanks to Neil Jackson at Foyles for being instantly excited about the idea of doing the event, and helping us so well along the way. Neil’s a star. You can follow most of the gang on Twitter: Neil Jackson @devilslibrary, Philip Reeve @philipreeve1, Kim Lakin-Smith @KimLakinSmith, Moira Young @Moira_Young, Society of Authors @Soc_of_Authors, Foyles @Foyles, Jared Shurin @pornokitsch (and no, it’s nothing to do with porn, but Jared, please get a better name so I can link you more happily!), Anne Perry @thefingersofgod and me @jabberworks.

Photo by Candy Gourlay

Some photos from the signing session:

Here’s Jeff Norton, blogger and author of METAWARS a ‘high-tech, dystopian, action-thriller’ coming out this summer:

Lovely to see some familiar faces! Here librarian Apryl Hammett and her family, and librarian/writer/reviewer Rebecca Earl, whom I met earlier this year at the Kempston Library Children’s Book Festival.

Photo by Apryl Hammett

Here’s Becky with one of her fellow Kempston librarians, and Dark Parties author and active SCBWI member Sara Grant just behind her.

Thanks so much to our speakers for coming fairly long distances for the event, Foyles for hosting, and Jo McCrum and the CWIG committee for helping organise it! Do consider joining the Society of Authors if you’re already published and want to see more of this sort of thing, and consider coming along to our conference in September where you’ll have plenty of chance to meet Britain’s finest talents.

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