BBC Young Writer’s Award 2018 & short fiction extract from Tabitha Rubens

Hello all!

Apologies for the quiet over here — I’m currently typesetting and polishing up 3 of Cups Press’ second anthology On Bodies. But I’m popping back today because I get to share something really exciting with you.

As you may know, I’m really into short fiction. I’m always on the hunt for fresh new voices for anthologies I work on, and meaty new collections to dive into. In fact, I did a post at the end of last year detailing my favourites, and those I was really looking forward to.

As such, I’m particularly fond of the BBC National Short Story Awards as they always introduce me to new voices or names I’ve seen floating around that I’ve always thought “yes, I need to read their work”.  This year, the thirteenth year of the awards, was a pretty tremendous one, because there was an all-female shortlist line up, collated in this handy pocket-sized book.


Alongside from the main award is my personal favourite, the BBC Young Writers Awards. Open to writers aged 14 to 18 years, this year they saw a whopping 962 entries! There is a huge wealth of talent and passion in our teen population, and this shortlist always demonstrates some of the best and brightest. This shortlist this year has been phenomenal — impassioned stories of mental health, loss, desperation, and a desire for change.

I have the immense pleasure of sharing with you today an extract from Oh Sister, Invisible by Tabitha Rubens, a 16 year old writer from Islington in London. Oh Sister, Invisible is a poetic story of helplessness as a sister watches her sibling struggle with anorexia. A story of grief, and of courage, it is intensely personal and conveys the unique power of writing to convey empathy an experience. 

As such, please be aware this excerpt references eating disorders.





I was always sure my sister was woven from golden thread.

I was merely yarn.

She could stop the breeze with a fingertip and catch sunlight in her fists.

One warm summer night of a distant year, she dragged me from my bed and we climbed out of the bathroom window. With one hand on the drainpipe and the other gripping hers, I pulled myself after her and stretched out on the terracotta roof. We watched the fireflies circling the moon and decided what to be when we were grown.

June Solstice arrived and my sister filled my palms with honeysuckle flowers. She taught me to tease the string of nectar from the pale yellow petals and drop the sweet elixir onto my tongue. Dreams are made of such sweetness.

When the weather turned, and rain drummed across the ceiling, I’d play the piano so that I could hear her sing. My sister could sing as if the notes were alive; as though the crescendos were rushing through her blood and the symphonies reveling in scandalous secrets, unveiling their enigmas in a flurry of sound.

When my sister sung, the whole world stood still.

In mid-July joyful melodies filled the house: Italian love songs and the occasional musical ballad. But at the dawn of August, her preference diverged to tragedy, and her voice would waver in mourning, and break apart as she choked upon each accelerando. By September, her grief grew until she forced herself to settle on silence.

On Halloween I brushed her lips with indigo ink and plastered Titanium White over her prominent cheekbones. A skeletal silhouette stared back at me.



The winner of the awards is announced on the 2nd of October at the awards ceremony, beamed right into your ears via Front Row on BBC Radio 4, and the winning story will be made available in full on the BBC Radio 1 website.

In the meantime, check out the other extracts here, available to read or listen to. You can find out more about the awards and follow them via Twitter using the #BBCYWA hashtag.


The BBC Young Writers Award 2018 is in association with Cambridge University and First Story. First Story was started in 2008 by the writer William Fiennes (author of The Music Room and The Snow Geese) and former teacher Katie Waldegrave (author of The Poets’ Daughters) with the mission of changing lives through writing. First Story exists to bring talented, professional writers into secondary schools serving low-income communities to work with teachers and students to foster confidence, creativity and writing skills. Since 2008, First Story has run almost 400 residencies in schools, given 8000 students the chance to take part in weekly creative writing workshops, worked with 400 acclaimed authors and 500 teachers and librarians, published almost 400 anthologies, and enabled over 140,000 pieces of original student writing. More information here.

Explore the stars with Kate Ling | Q&A and Giveaway!

We are continuing along the space theme this week, this time focussing on Kate Ling.

I have long been a fan of Kate Ling’s work. Her trilogy, the Ventura saga, explore space through mental health problems, new planets, sentient coral, passionate romances, chronic illnesses, post-apocalyptic Wales and the adventure of escaping the life you were born into. Her main characters, Seren and Bea, are both complex girls who know what they want in life, and hang anyone gets in their way — which makes sense, given they are related.

The third book The Truth of Different Skies, which is also technically a prequel to the previous two, was released earlier this year and I thought it was a great time to ask Kate some questions and give you guys the opportunity to win shiny new copies of all three books.

If you’re going to YALC this weekend, come join Kate’s workshop at 3pm on Friday workshop “Written in the Stars”, which will explore her love of space in fun and creative ways.

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What inspired the Ventura Saga?

I’ve always enjoyed writing love stories, and I feel like you do a better job writing what you enjoy.  So these books were always going to be about love. The sci-fi setting came from my love of all things sci-fi, and my enthusiasm for space and science in general (all of my top five movies are sci-fi).  But I’ve also always been kind-of obsessed with the real SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) program, and what would happen if they do actually make a discovery. How would humanity possibly make a journey that would take centuries?  And that’s when I started thinking about what it would be like to be born in the middle of a mission like that; to be born to die, all without leaving the ship. Wouldn’t that be depressing? So I think the idea of Seren struggling with her mental health was common sense, and also addressing the fact that we ALL struggle with our mental health at some time in one way or another was something I cared about.  This is when it seemed like everything was coming together, particularly when I began to contrast the passion and heat of first love with the cold and dark of space, and the restriction and sterility of the Ventura regime.

What was the process of designing not only the Ventura but the way of life on board like?  Is there anything about the Ventura that didn’t make it to the page that you can share?

Great question! It ended up being more complicated than I originally anticipated, that’s for sure.  It came into my head quite organically at first but, once I had my publishing deal and a great editor, she pointed out any little inconsistencies or things I hadn’t explained properly.  This meant I had to go back to the drawing board and draw maps (I did cross sections, floor plans, the works – and it turns out I’m a terrible cartographer, despite being married to a geography teacher!).  Then I had to do some sums – working out numbers, population graphs, drawing diagrams – basically thinking my way logically through the breeding program, the work assignments, all the things that would make the system onboard work.  I enlisted the help of a physics teacher I know with a couple of technicalities but I’m not sure I ever got my head round them (artificial gravity being one example!). One thing that never made it to the page was the economic system on board. It was actually a student at the school I work in who helped me figure this out, but in the end my editor felt we didn’t need it.

Who has been your favourite character to write: Seren or Bea?  Which other character would you love to write a POV from?

Hey, another great question!  I loved writing Seren because she’s so cynical and brutally honest – she always says what she thinks – and yet at the same time so sensitive and vulnerable.  As I said before, her mental health issues are something dear to my heart, and also something I have experience of, so she was a character I felt I needed to write.

But I also love Bea. She’s Seren’s great grandmother, and in many ways they’re similar.  Ultimately their stories are mirror images of each other, but they’re both just looking for a way out of the lives they’re trapped in.  What I love about Bea is that she has so many obstacles but she doesn’t let any of them stop her. She suffers from an invisible illness, which is again something I have personal experience of and really wanted to write about. Both of my heroines are raw and real and flawed and they don’t always do what’s right – just like real people. I missed Seren so much when I first started writing from Bea’s perspective – but then, in a way, I felt like Bea came to life even more so for me.

One character I would love to write from the POV of is Ezra, a major character in my first and second books.  He just has this great, sarcastic, dry wit and his voice was always so vivid to me. He also revealed himself, as much to my surprise as anyone’s, to have hidden depths and be far more complex than he first appeared.  Those are the best kinds of characters.

Was The Truth Of Different Skies always planned to be the third book?

I always knew I would write this part of the story.  What’s strange is that one of the first starting points when The Loneliness of Distant Beings was first coming together in my mind, was those one-way missions to Mars they were recruiting for. I heard about them on the news and found myself wondering who would ever sign up for such a thing – going off into the unknown, into space, and never returning. I had even written the beginning of a first draft from that perspective before, suddenly and unbidden, Seren popped into my mind – a girl born right in the middle of a several hundred year mission she hadn’t signed up to and would never see the end of.  Maybe it just felt right to start the journey with her, in the middle, with no context, in order to feel the way she does about it. But seeing it through the eyes of a recruit was something I always knew I would do. One reviewer recently mentioned the fact that, while quite a lot of books are set on space missions, relatively few address the recruitment stage, and it felt fresh and exciting when I was writing it, so I hope that comes across.

While the first two books are set in space, The Truth Of Different Skies is mostly set in Wales and Spain.  What made you choose these two countries?

Seren was always linked to Wales (her name means ‘star’ in Welsh) so I knew I would give her origins there, but I also feel like it’s a place that doesn’t get written about as often as it should. The Ventura was built and owned by a Spanish company so I always felt La Verdad (the space facility where they discovered the signal and from which they recruit for the mission) should be based there.  The behind-the-scenes reasons for these settings are that I am married to a Welshman and so have spent a lot of time there, and that I live in Spain. I love both places and loved reading a lot about what their futures might look like, as well as extrapolating my own theories.  I loved taking what I know and love about their landscapes and societies now and turning them into something new. I have taken the very road trip in the book several times so I knew it was something I could really make lift off the page, in terms of the sights and sounds and sensations of that journey.

I always like to ask writers if their characters look like anyone famous (or just a random face from Pinterest).  Do any of your characters have famous faces, or people you’d hope would play them in a movie?

I get asked this a lot and the truth is I’ve never quite found anyone to match the faces I have in my head.  I like to think that’s because the perfect people are as yet undiscovered! They would have to be pretty young (and therefore probably unknown) but I feel so sure that my books would make awesome movies that I hope I live to see the day that they do.  In an ideal world scenario, I’d love Andrea Arnold to make it – she’s such an exciting director.

What I do tend to borrow from a little is real life.  A fair few of my characters share certain characteristics with people I know, or have known.  My husband gets mad when he spots his own physical traits in my love interests, but I always point out he should feel flattered to be my muse.  Taylor Swift had Harry Styles, and I have him.

One thing I love about the Ventura saga is that there’s always something you as the author hold back until late in the book (when usually I tweet at you going !?!?!?!?!).  Does the twist come early in the writing for you, or as you go?

I adore good twists in books I read and films I watch, so I always hope to come up with a great one myself. The truth is that with those moments in all three books, I only came up with them as I went.  Weirdly they seemed to be brought about by the characters themselves in a way. In each case I began writing and seeing the way the characters interact and it suddenly became clear that they were heading towards surprising everybody, by doing this interesting, unpredictable thing.  That sounds hokey I know, but it’s true.

Will we see more from the Ventura saga?  What are you working on at the moment?

So many people have asked me now whether I will write more Ventura books and the truth is I do have ideas for several more, so we’ll see.  I hadn’t planned to. I feel there’s a completeness to the trilogy – a symmetry – but there’s also so many new directions that would be interesting to explore within the world of it, so I wouldn’t rule it out completely.

At the moment I am working on something new and I was about to say completely different, but then I realized that wasn’t quite the case.  Love stories, or at least emotive stories about human beings, are always at the forefront of what I do, but I do tend to slide into sci-fi settings, or at least somewhat other-worldly contexts, and I think that is set to continue.

What has been the biggest influence on your life as a writer?

Well, I guess other writers that I read and love are what influence me to a certain extent.  The close-up, voicey, first person narrative style that I have was really influenced by reading Kerouac and Salinger and Bret Easton Ellis as a young teen.  The more contemporary and YA writers that I read continue to help me improve my own structuring and plotting and inspire me.

The TV and movies that I love (always dark in tone, often sci-fi) also feed into my writing, which I always feel is very filmic.  Battlestar Galactica has a lot to answer for in giving me the atmosphere of Ventura!

But mostly it’s life that lends me its beauty. I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely.  I’ve lived in Australia, Africa, Latin America and now continental Europe. I’ve left everything and everyone I know behind several times to journey into the unknown… and I think you can see that influence strongly in the themes I choose to write about.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m still recovering from how much I loved Melinda Salisbury’s STATE OF SORROW and Alice Oseman’s I Was Born For This, so I’ve been on a break from YA for a month or so.  I just finished The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, which I thought was just staggering in its scale and skill, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which was truly a tour a de force.

What book are you most looking forward to in 2018?

I’m already anticipating Rainbow Rowell’s Wayward Son (even though it’s still a couple of years away!) because I loved Carry On more than words can say.  But a book we should all be looking forward to in 2018 is The Light Between Us by Katie Khan. I’m lucky enough to be reading it right now, as I got it on Net Galley, and it is just as gripping and surprising and unpredictable as her first (Hold Back the Stars).  I love Katie’s books because they’re right up my alley – human and moving and complex contemporary within an inventive sci-fi context.

You can read my reviews of each of Kate’s books here.

The Loneliness of Distant Beings

The Glow of Fallen Stars

The Truth of Different Skies

And now! Time for a giveaway! Enter HERE.

I will draw a winner at 9pm on Thursday the 26th of July, and if the winner is going to YALC I will hand them their copies at Kate’s workshop on the Friday. Else I can pop them in the post (in which case it will be UK only).

*sings* Space Books… I always wanted you to read some good Space Books (intergalactic yiiiikes) | Reading Round Up

I’m sorry but every time I went to write this post, that song came into my head. It is a problem.

Recently, I’ve had a real glut of space books. Sci-fi is a genre I do not read enough of considering my childhood diet of Star Trek and this planets interactive learning game I was absolutely obsessed with. Helpfully, while I was musing this, several arrived on my doorstep within a few days of each other. Three of four of these are mid series books (don’t worry, no spoilers here) but I hope that encourages you that several books deep, I’m still enjoying them!


Firstly, I need to tell you about The Truth of Different Skies by Kate Ling. Ling previously authored The Loneliness of Distant Beings, followed by The Glow of Fallen Stars which followed Seren and the crew of the Ventura several generations deep into their space colonisation mission. The Truth of Different Skies takes us back into the Ventura’s past to the recruitment on Earth, and one girl called Bea, trapped in poverty, unrequited love and sickness in Wales. Seizing the chance to change her life, Bea travels to Spain to sign up for the mission, accompanied by her stepbrother and the boy she loves. It is the story of opportunity, of adventure and escape, fleeing a dying world to find a future for humanity at the other end of a beacon that reached Earth the day she was born. Technically a prequel to the other books of the Ventura Saga, this book works as a standalone and I think would be as good a place to start as The Loneliness of Distant Beings. With typical Ling twists and turns, my heart was repeatedly battered. This is Ling’s best novel yet and I’m eagerly anticipating more from her.

Hive (UK) // Book Depository (INT) {aff}


Following on from the beginnings of a journey into space, it only makes sense for me to tell you about what happens at the end of that mission.  I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of Record of a Spaceborn Few, the third book from Wayfarer’s Saga author Becky Chambers. This book follows the people of the Exodus Fleet, one of the original colonisation missions from Earth, now a living relic amidst the colourful universe they call home. Told through the perspectives of six characters and the blog posts of Guh’lolean the Harmagian, the novel leads you through the uncertain future of the fleet through old and new eyes. When the immediate purpose of exploration is over, where does that leave the crew? And when disaster strikes in the fleet, everything they know about their way of life is tested; how can they move forward?

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Amelia’s Kitchen Candles made their own special marbled candle for Record of a Spaceborn Few, which you can buy here!

I fell in love with this book, though it did take me a little over half the book to understand where it was going, as from the outset the multi-POV characters don’t feel particularly connected — though of course Chambers guides you there and suddenly I found myself crying late in the book. If you find yourself thinking this, do stick with it. Following on from the intensely emotional A Closed and Common Orbit, the quietness of Spaceborn Few seems almost jarring in a way, but this is not a bad thing. One of the strengths of Chambers’ series is how flexible she is with tone and story, literally giving us a whole universe to explore along with her. As with her previous books, Spaceborn Few is a standalone book within the Wayfarer’s universe, and could feasibly be the point you start at, though I personally think reading them in order (A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet followed by A Closed and Common Orbit, then Spaceborn) works best. Record of a Spaceborn Few publishes on the 24th of July and you can preorder your copy below.

Hive (UK) // Book Depository (INT) {aff}


Moving towards the more action-packed end of the space books selection for you today is Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray, the sequel to Defy the Stars. You may recognise Gray from several Star Wars books, so you can trust that she really does know how to write a space epic. Defy the Worlds continues the action, with Abel and Noemi now split apart from each other. When Burton Mansfield captures Noemi (after she flees Genesis to search for a cure for a deadly plague), Abel finally comes face-to-face with his creator after a race through the stars. Where I felt the first book questioned morality and human nature, Defy the Worlds considers more the power of wealth and privilege, and what people will do to keep themselves alive… No matter the gruesome costs. This is another thrilling story of belonging, family and falling in love, and I’m absolutely dying for the final book in the trilogy.

Hive (UK) // Book Depository (INT) {aff}

If any of these have tickled your fancy, let me also recommend some others in the back list, such as Katie Khan’s Hold Back the Stars, a brilliant utopian novel of falling-through-space-to-our-deaths-with-the-love-of-my-life that will make you bawl, or Malorie Blackman’s gender-swapped Othello in Space, Chasing the Stars. Or Lauren James’ short but punchy and incredibly eerie The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. If you fancy something incredibly brutal, may I recommend Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, a Battle Royale in space as a working class man infiltrates the ruling class to bring them down from inside.

What’s your favourite space book?

Thank you kindly to Hot Key Books and Readers First for sending me Defy the Worlds, to Hodder Books for sending me Record of a Spaceborn Few and to Hachette Childrens for sending me The Truth of Different Skies.

Please note all Book Depository links are affiliate links, in which I earn a small commission for the sale.

The Essential YALC 2018 Guide

Here you can find out about early copies, proof giveaways, swag and fun activities at each publisher stall at YALC — you can find more information about signings, panels and workshops on their website. Keep checking back before YALC starts on Friday as there are still publishers we are waiting to hear from, or follow me on Twitter to find out when I’ve updated it.

This list was created thanks to help from Jenn at Jenniely and Lydia at Silver Wolf Reads, whose blogs this list is cross posted on. Special thanks to Jim from YA Yeah Yeah who made last year’s guide and was happy for us to go off to make this one.

For official YALC info, you can find the daily schedules here: Friday // Saturday // Sunday.

Want to add anything to this list? Email me at or DM me on Twitter.

Early Copies

Please bring enough cash for books at publisher stalls as they often do not have card machines — Orion, Harper360, HQ, BKMRK, Bloomsbury, Faber & Faber, My Kinda Book and Abram & Chronicle have confirmed they will have a card reader. Ink Road, Usborne, Scholastic, Atom Books, Andersen Press and Walker Books have confirmed they are cash only. Be aware that internet signal in YALC is unreliable, so card readers at individual publishers stalls may fail. It is recommended that you get cash out before you come to the show, as cash machines have long queues. There are several in the small shopping centre at Hammersmith Piccadilly and District line tube station (by the McDonald’s) and at the station at Kensington High Street.

What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K Arnold. Andersen Press stall.

Show Stealer by Hayley Barker (sequel to Show Stopper). Waterstones stall.

The Island by M. A. Bennett (sequel to STAGS). Hot Key Books stall.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes by Holly Bourne. Waterstones stall. Take proof of purchase to Usborne stall to get some goodies, or you can email proof of receipt to

Dark Queen by Josephine Boyce. Stall A6, labelled “Josephine Boyce” on YALC map, but is actually a stall of multiple indie YA authors. Go say hi!

The Lost Witch by Melvin Burgess. Waterstones stall. Bring your proof of purchase to Andersen press to claim a free copy of Junk, Doing It or Bloodtide.

Vox by Christina Dalcher. Harper Collins stall. Early exclusive hardbacks.

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein. Walker stall.

The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin. Chicken House Books stall.

Bright Ruin by Vic James (third book in Dark Gifts trilogy, released day before). My Kinda Books and Waterstones.

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch. Hashtag Reads stall.

Giant Days by Non Pratt. Waterstones stall. Exclusive reusable coffee cup from the Abrams & Chronicle stall with receipt showing purchase.

Colour Me In by Lydia Ruffles. Waterstones stall.

Friendship Fails of Emma Nash by Chloe Seager. Waterstones.

My (Secret) YouTube Life by Charlotte Seager. My Kinda Book stall.

The Hurting by Lucy van Smit. Chicken House.

Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton. Walker stall.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber. Waterstones stall.

It Ends With You by S. K. Wright. Atom Books stall.

Special editions

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (signed copy, film edition). BKMRK.

New Special Edition of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Walker stall.

Signed copies of The Extinction Trials and The Extinction Trials Exile by S. M. Wilson. Usborne. On general sale and there are competitions to win them.

Proof & Finished Copy Giveaways

In light of the accessibility issues raised in proof giveaways last year, it appears that most publishers are doing raffles for proofs. We will add any specific tasks alongside the proof information as we receive it, though you may need to ask at the stall for this information where not noted below. Remember, there are often a limited amount of proofs so consider only turning up for copies you really want.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. 10 copies per day will be given away to people who have purchased a book from the Hashtag Read’s stall, chosen at random.

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold. Harper Collins stall at 11.30am on Friday. This will be operated through raffle, get there on time.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. My Kinda Book100 copies available on Friday at 11am.

The Caged Queen by Kirsten Ciccarelli (sequel to The Last Namsara). Orion stall. Giveaways on Friday.

Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon. Win early finished copies at the Usborne stall. 25 to give away. Winners announced 5pm each day, on Saturday by Mel Darbon herself.

Izzy and Tristan by Shannon Dunlap. BKMRK. Saturday, giveaways between 11-12 and 3-4pm.

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox. Harper Collins. 4.30pm on Saturday.

The Familiars by Stacey Halls. Hot Key Books stall. 5 copies to win over the weekend.

The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Chicken House stall. Win copies through their competition.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Egmont/EMT.

Pages & Co by Anna James. Harper Collins. Raffle tickets given out from 12pm on Saturday, and will close on Sunday afternoon when they will announce the winner.

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes. Penguin Random House stall. 15 proof copies of will be dropped every hour on the Friday, via a raffle draw.

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa. Harper Collins. Sunday 11am, exclusive early bind-up giveaway.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. Bloomsbury. Simply post a picture of you using our A Curse So Dark and Lonely Snapchat filter on twitter using the hashtag #BreakTheCurse and we will pick 10 winners!

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger. BKMRK. Friday, giveaways between 11-12 and 3-4pm.

Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff. Harper Collins. Competition/giveaway on Friday.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. Harper Collins. Competition/giveaway on Saturday.

The Chaos of Now by Erin Lange. Faber & Faber. Can be won at the stall.

Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand. Harper Collins at 3pm on Saturday. This will be operated through raffle, get there on time.

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo. Abrams & Chronicle. 25 copies available every day between 10-12.

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu. BKMRK. Sunday, giveaways between 11-12 and 3-4pm.

Killer T by Robert Muchamore. Hot Key Books, available on Sunday.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. Andersen Press. Saturday and Sunday: Enter to win by joining in with our No Fixed Address quiz. Five winners will be selected at random each day.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. Hodder. Proofs to be given away throughout the weekend.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti. Hot Key, be in with a chance to win by tweeting the trailer to win a copy (check the stall for timings).

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. Harper Collins. Competition/giveaway of the proof on Sunday.

Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner. Atom Books. Daily giveaways.

Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Saturday 28th July, 2pm people in the signing queue will be given raffle tickets. Samantha will then be drawing 2 x winning raffle tickets for a proof giveaway and Bloomsbury will contact the 2 winners to come to the stand to collect their proof.

Beneath The Citadel by Destiny Soria. Abrams & Chronicle. 25 copies available every day between 3 and 5.

You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance. Hot Key Books stall. Roughly 20 copies available to giveaway. Tweet us your YOLO moment to win, six copies a day to giveaway.

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth. Chicken House. Competitions to win a copy.Emily Eternal by M. G. Wheaton. Hodder. Proofs to giveaway throughout the weekend.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu. Orion stall. Giveaways on Friday.


Samplers and Fun Stuff at the Stalls

Some samplers are available freely, whereas some you can win at the stalls; check at the individual stalls to confirm.

A6, Indie authors stall:

  • Free bath bombs with book purchase, limited to first 30 sales.
  • Wunderkids 2 bookmarks.

Abrams & Chronicle:

  • Samplers of Stain by A.G. Howard. Win on their stall through a lucky dip — pull a purple flower out of the box to win.
  • All books discounted by up to 25%!

Andersen Press: all paperbacks £5, hardbacks £10.

Atom Books: Samplers of Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville, Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner and of a currently unannounced project.



  • Competition to win your very own Harry Potter House Common Room print signed by Levi Pinfold. Simply post a photo of yourself with your Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets House Edition with the hashtags #HarryPotter20 and #YALC on twitter or Instagram for your chance to win!
  • Friday 27th 1pm — 5pm: free Sarah J. Maas Nail Art in the communal area of YALC with two professional manicurists. Take your nail design from the book covers on offer – A Court of Frost and Starlight, A Court of Wings and Ruin, A Court of Mist and Fury or A Court of Thorns and Roses. Limited availability, sign up at the Bloomsbury stand via a sign-up sheet as soon as doors open on Friday.

Chicken House:

  • Party to celebrate the publication of The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin, 4pm Saturday. There are a limited number of goodie bags for people who buy a copy at this time.
  • Kiran Millwood Hargrave will be signing books from 12.30 on Saturday at the Chicken House stall.

Egmont/ Electric Monkey:

  • Samplers of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.
  • Holly Jackson will be available to sign proofs and samplers Friday at 11.30-12.00 and 15.30-16.00, Saturday at 10.15-10.45 and 14.30-15.00 and Sunday at 12.30-13.00 and 14.30-15.00.

Faber & Faber:

  • Samplers of The Curses (sequel to The Graces) by Laure Eve
  • Opportunity to win short story sampler Tales of Sand and Sea by Alwyn Hamilton at 2pm Saturday and Sunday followed by signing.
  • Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton tote bags and t shirts can be won at the stand
  • In Paris With You competition for a copy of the book and other goodies
  • Laure Eve will be at our stand to sign copies of The Graces on Saturday at 12pm

Firefly Press:

  • Three Strikes by Kat Ellis, Lucy Christopher and Rhian Ivory.
  • Kat Ellis will be on the stand to sign copies of Three Strikes and chat on Saturday 28 July from 12 midday.

Hashtag ReadsAmy McCulloch will be on the stall to sign copies of Jinxed on Saturday at 12.30pm

Harper Collins (one stall for Childrens, HQ, Harper Voyager & 360)

  • On Friday at 3pm, there will be a raffle based giveaway where you can win one of 50 Alice Oseman signed prints.
  • Friday at 2pm: VOX Jumper and Hardback Giveaway
  • On Saturday, there will be a Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth print giveaway
  • Charly Cox framed poem/photo giveaway on Saturday, 1.30pm.
  • Sunday: Fantastic Beasts super prize raffle
  • Samplers of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (sequel to Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue) by Mackenzi Lee; Fierce Like a Firestorm (sequel to Wicked Like a Wildfire) by Lana Popović

Hodder: Running several competitions to win a mammoth book bundle, a set of Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares proofs, and a Jasper Fforde hibernation pack! Check at the stall for details.

Hot Key Books

  • Alexandra Christo will sign To Kill a Kingdom on the stall 10-11am on Saturday.
  • M. A. Bennett will sign copies of STAGS and The Island 12-1pm on Saturday.
  • To Kill a Kingdom themed siren makeovers on Saturday 10-2pm. Check the stall to book a slot.
  • Samplers for The Wicked King by Holly Black and The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge samplers available on stand
  • Hot Key will be running the book swap stand again!

Ink Road: Samplers of Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman.

Interlude Press: 

  • Author Julia Ember will be signing sneak peeks of her new book The Navigators Touch, the sequel to The Seafarer’s Kiss.
  • All books will be discounted!

My Kinda Book:

  • Friday, from 2pm a chance to win Floored Converse.
  • Saturday 12-2pm, Children of Blood and Bone inspired lip looks with MDM Flow; from 2pm Children of Blood and Bone cupcakes and discover your maji clan.
  • Sunday: from 10am, Ash Princess lucky dip.
  • Sunday: 1-3pm Vic James (Dark Gifts Trilogy) signing, followed by afternoon tea with Vic.
  • Double sided sampler of Muhammed Khan’s books, featuring I Am Thunder and their forthcoming release Kick the Moon.
  • Samplers of Enchantée by Gita Trelease.




  • Samplers of Oh My Gods by Alexandra Sheppard; A Storm of Ice and Stars (sequel to a Shiver of Ice and Snow) by Lisa Lueddecke.
  • Original short story in sampler format – Noah Goes Nuclear by Simon James Green!


  • Aisha Bushby will be singing copies of Change book from 1.30pm on Saturday.
  • #ProudBook cover reveal at 3.30pm on Saturday.
  • Sneak peek pamphlet from Proud Book will be available after the reveal.

Titan Books:

  • Samplers of The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman and Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin
  • Pins for A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney

Walker: Samplers of Dry by Neal Shustermann


  • Friday: Kim Curran will be holding a ‘Slay your demons workshop’ and will be available to sign copies of Slay afterwards on the UsborneYA stand.
  • Sunday: Will Hill, YA Book Prize winner, will be signing copies of winning book, After the Fire, following his appearance.
  • Sunday: All attendees of Holly Bourne’s origami workshop will receive a #KindnessIScontagious goodie bag. Help Usborne spread the Kindness virus — visit the UsborneYA stand to find out more on the Sunday.
  • Free posters with sample chapters for The Extinction Trials, Slay and Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?
  • Paperbacks are 2 for £10, or sold at RRP.

A Night at the Theatre | Theatrical Blog Tour

To imagine my life without the theatre in it would be very difficult. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time both in the seats and on the stage. When the lovely team at Usborne asked me to write a little about my love for the theatre in order to celebrate the release of Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt, I leaped at the chance.


My earliest memories of the theatre all involve my tiny grandma, Betty Little. She would pick me up in her little red Mini, which had absolutely no suspension whatsoever, and we would head over to the Rhyl Pavillion, a theatre that literally had a waterpark known as The Sun Centre attached to it for most of my childhood (I’m always a little bit surprised that other lobbies don’t have a slight odour of chlorine). We would watch all manner of shows, with a bag of Werthers Originals between us — surreptitiously unwrapping each sweet without causing any sound was all part of the experience. I loved seeing stories unfold before me, the rush of excitement knowing that anything could happen.

Throughout primary school, I was regularly on the stage — I was Mary twice, a fox cub in Fantastic Mr Fox, the lead girl in this really strange musical that seemed to be a rip off of both Rocky Horror and Petshop of Horrors (I just played the sample of Looking for the Action, a song which has haunted my memory for 20 years), and one of the ugly sisters in Cinders, amongst others. I remember playing Mary Jones, a young Welsh girl who walked miles to get a bible from Bala, more than once; the scent of the plastic fish and bread I was supposed to mime eat so very vivid twenty years later. My childhood is punctuated by learning lines, being fitted for costumes made of impossibly shiny material, the drying sensation of the heavily painted lipstick and of Jonathan Fisher-Jones and I trying to box people in during the waltz part of Cinders, just to make it a little more fun.

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My parents absolutely pegged me for a theatre kid, but as my high school had no real drama program and we couldn’t afford the local theatre school, my thespian days were over and I focussed more on my voice. Our high school put on annual summer concerts at the very same theatre I spent my childhood, in which I would usually insist on singing at least two solo pieces. I belted out I Dreamed a Dream, the intonation entirely copied from Ruthie Henshall as I’d never heard another version sung. I bounced along to the achingly sweet Walking Back to Happiness, a song I was gifted by my music teacher due to my low rich voice. I performed a definitely-too-raunchy version of Fever while wearing a plunging dress and a feather boa in my final concert, aged seventeen. And in between these performances, we ran around the backstage and its corridors, walked by so many before us. We would find hallmarks of previous visitors, consigned to history like ghosts — a rogue lipstick, a song list, a sign designating whose dressing room was whose. Those memories are some of the happiest of my teenage years, the giddy rush of performance and the camaraderie of local showbiz.

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This year, I’ve been incredibly lucky to see some fantastic shows. My dear friend Ruth and I have made a pact to go see as much theatre in the next year or so as possible, and my musical obsessed friend Lauren has promised to show me all her favourite shows when I move to South London later this year. I howled with laughter at Verity Rushworth’s performance of History of Wrong Guys from Kinky Boots. I sobbed extensively through Hamilton, a musical that occupied every waking thought of mine in 2016. I marvelled at Laura Linney’s almost chameleonic ability to switch between the characters of Lucy Barton and her mother in the monologue adaptation of My Name is Lucy Barton. I marvelled at the dialogue and playfulness of Friel’s Translations at the National Theatre, all the time thinking of how colonialism scours the land.

Each experience so different but unforgettable to all my senses; the collective held gasp of the audience, the sooty vapour of stage smoke, the change in lighting to draw the eye. Theatre’s all-sensory nature amazes me, and even a bad play can still be an interesting night.

And this is what I think Harcourt’s novel Theatrical explores so effortlessly — not only the life behind the scenes, but that brought to the stage, the life in the seats. I was completely absorbed into Hope’s story, not only her swoony romance but her work managing the stage, which Harcourt has clearly researched extremely thoroughly.

Here’s the blurb for you:

Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume-designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool…and her secret.

Theatrical is the perfect summer novel, not only for theatre lovers, but for anyone who has ever wanted to follow their passions and dreams.

You can pick up your copy of Theatrical here:

Hive (UK) // Book Depository (International)

Why not go check out the other stops on the tour and learn about other people’s relationships with the theatre.

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Thank you kindly to Stevie Hopwood for inviting me to be on the tour and for sending me a reading copy of Theatrical, and to Maggie Harcourt for writing it.

Please note that Book Depository links from this site are affiliate links.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone | 1 Minute Reviews

Sometimes, I pick up a book and instantly get a good feeling from it. It’s a specific sort of hum, as though the book is whispering that yes, you should absolutely read me.

I got this feeling from Dear Martin, a book which went on to completely exceeded all my expectations.

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Dear Martin opens with Justyce McAllister, a teenage honour student and debate team champion, finding his on-and-off girlfriend indisposed and tries to help. Of course, none of his credentials matters to the white police officer who sees a young black man with a white woman, finding Justyce in handcuffs.

Frustrated with endemic racism in society and racial profiling by the police, Justyce looks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers, choosing to write him letters that pepper the book.

But this first brush with the law is not the last, and when Justyce goes driving one day with his best friend Manny, they find their lives threatened by a white off-duty cop.

I read Dear Martin in one sitting, only stopping briefly to get a drink. It is a powerhouse of a novel; do not be fooled by its diminutive stature. From the get-go, my heart raced along with this furious book. Dear Martin illustrates how small decisions can later haunt you, especially when you are a young black man living in the America of today.

Justyce himself is a compelling, charming character, easy to support even when you can see he is making potentially dangerous choices. The rest of the cast are believable and interesting characters, resolving for a great and heartbreaking story.

The book is split up into multiple narrative structures — from the straight prose, to play script style narrative particularly during classroom discussions and the aforementioned letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This mix of style is really interesting, and from an educational point of view, represents a great opportunity to introduce young people to a varied narrative, along with such a politically timely, important story.

Where The Hate U Give followed Starr as she started a movement, Dear Martin follows Justyce as he desperately tries to get by and deal with the dangers life keeps throwing at him. Both are essential reading and compliment each other well.

If you want to know more about Dear Martin from Nic Stone herself, check out this video below from Adam Silvera’s YouTube Channel:

On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Nic Stone also gave the following talk at a Community College in America, which I think is a great introduction to her as an author and the political background of black rights that feeds into Dear Martin.

Mark out a few hours, sit yourself down and prepare for an intense reading experience.  Dear Martin is a poignant, politically charged, heart racing novel that is an absolute must read for 2018.

And, if you head over to my Twitter, you’ll find me giving a copy away!

Get your copy here:

UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Nic Stone and the team at Simon & Schuster Kids for sending a copy to me, and allowing me on the Dear Martin blog tour. Go check out some of the other stops on the tour!

Dear Martin Blog Tour Banner

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven | 1 Minute Reviews

You know when you read a book and can recognise it’s going to be a big deal to its intended audience? Yep. That.

Laura Steven‘s debut novel The Exact Opposite of Okay is a furiously frank, funny and feminist novel following teenager Izzy O’Neill, whose life is changed dramatically when someone posts explicit photos of her having sex online. Desperately trying to keep things together, Izzy also has to cope with her over-worked grandmother, her best friend Danny’s strange new behaviour, her other best friend’s new mate, her potential love-life and the fallout from being caught with a politician’s son.


The Exact Opposite of Okay focusses in on the cruelty of revenge porn, a subject very much in the limelight at the moment as YouTuber Chrissy Chambers recently won her lengthy legal battle against her former boyfriend. I found it very refreshing that Steven’s characters repeatedly affirm that there is nothing wrong with sending a cheeky consensual nude; the issues arise when people betray that trust.

This book happily sits alongside the wave of feminist young adult contemporary novels we’ve been blessed with in the last few years — the Spinster Trilogy by Holly BourneMoxie by Jennifer Mathieu, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart all immediately spring to mind. Izzy herself, with all her swagger, wit and unwillingness to be shamed for enjoying sex, conjures Hannah from Non Pratt’s Trouble and Emma from Editing Emma by Chloe Seager, both voices I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading of recent.

More than that — and light spoilers ahead friends — Steven dives deep in to the murky realm of the Nice Guys and the Friend Zone, monikers for men and a fictional space they inhabit where women refuse to have sex with them because they’re “too nice”. As a teen (and even during adulthood!), I had a few friends hit me with this card. It was extremely refreshing to see Izzy deal with this slyly-sinister behaviour openly, with Steven clearly orienting it as something to watch out for and avoid. I know that it’s going to help a lot of young people identify problematic relationships in their midst.

The Exact Opposite of Okay is not just an enjoyable read, but I firmly believe it is a book that will influence, console and help a whole generation of teenagers.  I very much look forward to what comes next from Laura Steven, another fantastic 2018 debut author.

Get it here: UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Electric Monkey for doing a proof giveaway at YALC where absolute angel Jim from Ya Yeah Yeah won a copy just for me.