I am so fortunate and happy that this year, 2015, the year I turn 50, my very first published book, ‘Girl with a White Dog’ has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Hooray!
In true Oscar fashion I would like to thank my agent, Anne Clark, my publishers Catnip Books, editors Non Pratt and Liz Bankes and distributors Bounce Marketing who worked so hard to get it out there. I want to acknowledge the cover designer Philippa Johnson and cover illustrator Serena Rocca. I want to acknowledge the Waterstones booksellers who put my book forward and most of all my children and my lovely husband Graeme for all their support.
Now, bearing in mind the other books listed, I am not expecting to win. They are too sickeningly good. Here is the list, if you are interested in anything NOT WRITTEN BY ME. (Offended face)
You see? Disgustingly excellent. By people who I have a shrewd idea are younger than me. How tactless and inconsiderate. Now you will understand why I am expecting to use my ‘no- really, I don’t mind AT ALL’ face. I am rubbish at hiding my real feelings and am hoping I won’t look embarrassingly distraught. I have, I admit, even thought about what I would say if I did win. I really REALLY want to say it. I know most people don’t give a speech just for being shortlisted – but hey, I’m 50 this month and it seems a shame to waste it.
So – rather than post this after not winning, and look really strange, I think I’ll post it before and look…well, never mind how I look. I’m 50 this month (I think I may have mentioned this?) and I’m finding it’s a HUGE liberation. This way I can go the ceremony and relax and enjoy it, once I’ve got this out of my system.
First of all – (I would say) Thank you so much everyone. No really. You can sit down now. Please – enough with the flowers. Seriously – it’s enough with the flowers. We’re going home by train after this and we just can’t carry THAT many roses. Or bottles of champagne. Please post them. Or cheques. It’s a massive honour. Every person on this shortlist knows other equally good books which haven’t been included, so we mustn’t let this go to our heads. On the other hand, how nice. How lovely and spiffing and LUCKY we are to be at this wonderful (I have great hopes here!) reception.
The reason why I am glad ‘Girl with a White Dog’ won (work with me) is that I wrote it. It’s my story.
Is that OK for the start of a speech, do you think? Not a little ego-centric? Is it OK for a writer to be attached to a story because they wrote it? I’m hoping it is. Because then I would say
I’m glad I wrote ‘Girl with a White Dog’ because I feel it is my contribution to today’s political debate, and because of that I’m ever so glad people are reading it and talking about it. I wrote it to be read. I’m not a politician or reality TV star and I’m not a super model (pause for unbelieving gasps) so nobody invites me onto Question Time or Radio 4, and this is my way of trying to present a different perspective. To tell a different story. I’m 50 this year. (Note to self. Pause for more shocked gasps and muttered ‘no, no she can’t be’ from other attendeees. Allow time for any necessary First Aid.)
I believe The Nazi Holocaust started with stories. Stories, for example, in children’s books (as kept by the Wiener library in London)
and in adults’ newspapers about ‘us and them’. If someone lights matches in a dry forest and causes a fire we rightly hold them to account if the fire gets out of control. So I would like to say to the politicians in the upcoming election, to the newspapers and journalists, to us all : LET”S BE CAREFUL WHEN WE TELL STORIES – WORDS CAN INFLAME AND IN A TIME OF AUSTERITY THE FOREST IS DRY.
OK. So that’s the speech out of my system. And now I can really enjoy going to Waterstones and thank all the booksellers for giving me such a lovely honour. I can enjoy meeting all the lovely story-tellers there and telling them how much I enjoyed their books. I’ve already read many on the shortlist (that’s why I know I’m doomed!) and I’m going to try to read them all. Just because that’s what life’s all about really – reading good stories – and I’m 50 this year – did I mention that? And Waterstones say I’m ‘new and emerging’ and that, after thinking my writing life was going nowhere, is a prize in itself!
The books shortlisted are all good stories. (I know that is cunningly including my book and thus complimenting myself – but I do know – like the other writers & illustrators – how much my agent and editors were involved too, so I think it’s OK and I AM proud of ‘Girl with a White Dog’! )
Whoever will win has told a good story. It could be a story about a sea tiger or a cow girl or a witch or little birds singing dawn choruses or murder mysteries or any of the others – the stories we tell don’t have to make an explicitly historical/political point to be good, to make an important difference, to make the world a better place.
So my appeal to all storytellers, writers and illustrators – but also everyone else reading this is – awards are wonderful – and if I do win it will be AMAZING for me personally – (and I’d love the money!!) but ultimately it’s the stories we tell every day that count – it’s the stories we tell that can save the world – we don’t even have to be published or even writers – it doesn’t matter -the important thing is that we choose to tell good stories (they may be sad, they may be disturbing, but they have no inherent hate and they do not lie) and we have to keep telling them. Here I am living the life of Riley in an impromptu ‘Hooray we’re on the shortlist party’ by lovely Catnip.
PS Shameless plug. My next story with Catnip involves young carers, a pop star, a vintage clothes shop, a baby called Jack and a very nice dog called Timmy. It’s called ‘Dog Ears’ and is out on April 16th!