Follow the Yellow

Some awards news!

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I’m so thrilled that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016!

It’s on the shortlist for the Younger Fiction category of the prize, along with five other fantastic books:

  • Bird by Crystal Chan (Tamarind)
  • Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty (HarperCollins)
  • Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder (Bloomsbury)
  • The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (Puffin)
  • My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons (Nosy Crow)

There are also lots of brilliant books shortlisted for the Illustrated Book and Older Fiction category of this year’s Prize – including lots of my favourites!

It’s particularly special to me that Clockwork Sparrow has been shortlisted for this prize, as the shortlist is chosen by booksellers in Waterstones stores. I’ve written here before about how much I love Waterstones: it’s so important that we have a top quality high street bookseller, with knowledgeable booksellers and a wide range of books.

I was inspired by Mel Salisbury who wrote this lovely blog post about being shortlisted for the Older Fiction category, to write a bit about my own relationship with Waterstones. We didn’t actually have a Waterstones in Chorley, the small market town closest to where I grew up (though these days you can find a great indie bookshop there – the lovely Ebb & Flo). But a trip to the big Waterstones in nearby Preston was about the most exciting thing I could imagine, and I can remember spending HOURS in the children’s section, luxuriating in the deliciously difficult task of choosing which books to buy with my Christmas or birthday money.

When I was 11, my mum and I moved a little further north to Lancaster, and I was thrilled to realise that we now lived just 10 minutes walk from a big Waterstones. I could go there as often as I wanted – and I did, feeling extremely grown-up and sophisticated. I knew that bookshop inside out, and spent a lot of time choosing a new Baby-Sitter’s Club title, or eyeing up the Judy Blumes. Lots of my favourite books came from that shop – I especially remember buying The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, A Little Love Song and Cuckoo Song by Michelle Magorian, and The Quantocks Quartet by Ruth Elwin Harris – which was one of the series that first made me interested in the Edwardian period.

It was apt that a few years later, I ended up doing work experience in that very same Waterstones, where the lovely booksellers were so welcoming and embraced my enthusiasm for all things bookish! A year or so after that, when a Saturday job became available, I was lucky enough to get it. I loved being a Waterstones bookseller, and had such a great time there that I even carrying on working occasionally during my holidays after I went away to university.

These days, Waterstones bookshops are some of my favourite places in London – from the glorious flagship store, Waterstones Piccadilly, to the gorgeous new Waterstones Tottenham Court Road where I recently went to hear Juno Dawson talk about her latest book Mind Your Head.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize ceremony for the last few years in the company of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, who has the job of presenting the prize to the overall winner. I’ve always loved having the chance to meet the authors and illustrators on the shortlist – it’s a dream come true to realise that this year, one of those authors will be me!

In other very exciting prize news, I’ve also recently found out that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2016. This is another really lovely prize, and one of the things that makes it special is that it’s not just a prize for a book’s author, but for its editor too – so I share my longlisting with my two wonderful editors, Ali Dougal and Hannah Sandford.

The prize is named for author Henrietta Brandford and her editor Wendy Boase: I love that it reflects the fact that a book is a real team effort, and recognises all the hard work of the editors as well as the author in creating the finished work.

Check out the 2016 Brandford Boase longlist here.

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth is coming soon!

Hello again! It’s been a little quiet here over the last few weeks because of a few pesky technical issues. But I’m back today with some very exciting news – the very first advance copies of The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth have been winging their way out into the world to journalists, book bloggers and booksellers.

Here’s a quick peep – isn’t it a beauty?

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As with The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, the glorious cover and interior illustrations are the work of the amazing illustrator Júlia Sardà (check out more of her beautiful children’s book illustrations here!) The design is by Benjamin Hughes at Egmont, who once again has done an incredible job of making a spectacular package. Just look at that lovely silver foil!

The book went out accompanied with a press release in the style of an invitation to a fancy-dress ball, plus a mysterious costume mask, which is especially appropriate for this new story. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

The honour of your company is requested at Lord Beaucastle’s fancy dress ball

Wonder at the puzzling disappearance of the JEWELLED MOTH! MARVEL as our heroines, SOPHIE AND LIL, don cunning disguises, mingle in high society and munch many cucumber sandwiches to solve this curious case! APPLAUD THEIR BRAVERY as they follow a trail of TERRIBLE SECRETS that leads straight to London’s most dangerous CRIMINAL MASTERMIND, and could put their own lives at risk…

It will be the most thrilling event of the season!

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth is published on 25 February – less than a month away (eek!)

You can pre-order now on Waterstones The Hive or Amazon

2015 in Pictures: The Year of the Book

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This time last year I wrote this post – 2014 in Pictures – summing up what had been an eventful year. At that point, I predicted that 2015 was going to be even more exciting… and I was right.

The Year of the Book, as I called it then, has certainly been a memorable one. The pictures above are my ‘best nine’ of 2015 from Instagram, and as you can see, the last year really has been (almost!) all about The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Here’s what happened…

It seems appropriate that the year began with the arrival of proof copies of Clockwork Sparrow. It was amazing to see it looking like a ‘real book’ for the first time…

The proof was soon winging its way to journalists and bloggers, complete with a clue to solve with the help of a miniature magnifying glass, and a tasty Clockwork Sparrow biscuit conjured up by my publishers, Egmont. They were (almost) too pretty to eat…
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Meanwhile I celebrated my birthday in the traditional fashion – with cake, drinks and friends!

Lovely birthday presents!

Lovely birthday presents!

 

Spring

March brought the publication of my lovely friend Anna McKerrow’s fantastic young adult novel Crow Moon. We celebrated at Anna’s book launch at Tales on Moon Lane, complete with crow cupcakes and tarot-card readings…

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March is also, of course, World Book Day time! This year I got involved in World Book Day’s Teen Fest, and had a lot of fun interviewing ace young adult authors Non Pratt and Holly Smale on Google Hangout.

It was also time to reveal the final cover for The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow with artwork from incredible illustrator Júlia Sardà – how gorgeous!

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In April, I was very excited to visit the Bologna Book Fair for the first time. Bologna is the biggest children’s publishing industry fair, and I was there with Malorie Blackman for the grandly-titled ‘International Laureate summit’. Malorie joined a host of other Laureates from around the world to talk about issues including children’s books, literacy and education.

Of course, there was also plenty of time to explore the Fair, look at many books, eat a lot of food (including quite a few gelatos!) and track down a Clockwork Sparrow proof on Egmont’s stand – check out my adventures here.
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Back in the UK, I had a busy few weeks, including giving a talk about YALC at the London Book Fair, and organising an event to celebrate Malorie Blackman’s Project Remix, not to mention working on the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork SparrowThe Mystery of the Jewelled Moth – in between everything else.

But in May it was time for a break – and a very exciting holiday! I haven’t been away on a ‘big’ holiday for a few years, but as a belated honeymoon, Duncan and I headed off to New York.  We stayed in the Upper West side in an apartment in a gorgeous brownstone, and spent an absolutely amazing week exploring the city, and basically eating everything in sight.

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Duncan had to head back home after New York – but my adventure was not over yet. My next stop was Palm Springs in California, for my friend Katie’s wedding!
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Palm Springs was absolutely incredible – nothing like anywhere else I’ve been before. Katie and Kevin had a gorgeous wedding in these spectacular surroundings, and it was so lovely to be there to celebrate with them.
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Back home in London, finished copies of Clockwork Sparrow arrived ahead of publication! I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the shiny, beautiful finished copies looked when they arrived in a big exciting box.

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And my first proper ‘author interview’ was also published in The Bookseller magazine!

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To celebrate all this, Egmont arranged a lovely afternoon tea at Harrods – what better place to raise a glass to Clockwork Sparrow?
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Next up it was time for my first ever author event, at the Hay Festival, where I also espied a finished copy of the book on a bookshop shelf for the very first time! Eeek! I teamed up with Robin Stevens for what turned out to be the first of several fun events about our shared love of mystery stories. And as well as doing my own author event, I was lucky enough to chair some events with the fab Mel Salisbury and Cat Doyle, Maggie Harcourt and the Bookshop Band, and US YA superstar Sarah J Maas.

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Katherine signs her very first book – lucky George! #hayfestival #clockworksparrow A photo posted by Robin Stevens (@redbreastedbird) on

 

Summer

In June, Clockwork Sparrow was published!

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We had such a fun launch party at the appropriately Edwardian bookshop Daunts on Marylebone High St to celebrate – complete with dressing up in lots of hats, and of course, cake!  

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Some fantastic children’s book bloggers took part in the Clockwork Sparrow video blog tour to mark the book’s publication.

I was overjoyed and so grateful when Waterstones made Clockwork Sparrow their Children’s Book of the Month for June. It was incredible seeing the book in so many bookshops, and even more brilliant to see the fantastic displays that booksellers had made for the book. Check out this Pinterest board of all their incredible creations.

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At around the same time, I was also delighted to be included on The Bookseller’s list of the Rising Stars of the book industry for 2015!

After all that excitement, organising the announcement of a new Children’s Laureate was positively relaxing! After two fantastic years, Malorie had come to the end of her term, and in June, she passed on the baton to wonderful author and illustrator Chris Riddell who was announced as the Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2015-2017 at a special event at BAFTA.

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Later that month, I headed up to Lancashire for some more author events. I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in A Midsummer Mystery at Storytellers Inc in St Annes – a fantastic, fun day of mystery-themed events for kids.

A Midsummer Mystery

As part of my trip, I visited a St Annes school with Storytellers Inc and met children from a local Cub Scout group, as well as doing some school events in nearby Chorley with Ebb & Flo bookshop. Doing my very first school events in Lancashire felt very appropriate as it’s where I’m from! We even went to Abbey Village School, my own old primary school. It’s a really small school in a little Lancashire village up on the moors, and going back there to talk to the children felt really special.

Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!

Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!

Back in London it was time for lots of summer fun, including of course, YALC! This year’s event was crazy, fun, and (I think!) even better than the last.

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After three completely intense but fantastic days, Duncan and I headed off to the countryside for a few days of relaxation! We went by train and bicycle to the same spot in a pretty Kent village that we had visited the previous year – it really was the perfect place to relax and recover with a few good books.

Kentish Weald A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on


August was a bit momentous as I finished working at Booktrust after just over six amazing years. I was so sad to say farewell to working on the Children’s Laureate, which has been an immense privilege, as well to lots of other fantastic children’s books projects that I was lucky enough to work on. In particular I was sorry not to have more time working with Chris Riddell on his laureateship, which I know is going to be brilliant. And most of all I was sad to say goodbye to my lovely team. But I was excited to be able to spend more of my time focusing on writing, and to have the opportunity to take on some freelance projects. We celebrated my departure with prosecco, doughnuts and a quiz!

  So this just happened…   A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on


But before I had much time to get used to my new freelance lifestyle, it was time to whizz up to Edinburgh for this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival. I love Edinburgh, so I was really excited to be part of the festival programme, taking part in a joint event with fab debut author Gabrielle Kent.
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Autumn

Autumn got off to a pretty good start with the announcement that there were going to be two more books in the Clockwork Sparrow series. I also shared more exciting news that the rights to the first book had been sold in Germany and the USA – and there’s going to be an audio book version too!

Another exciting autumn announcement was Mystery and Mayhem – a new anthology of middle grade mystery stories coming from Egmont. I was so delighted to be asked to contribute to the book, alongside a list of fantastic mystery authors aka the Crime Club – the book will be published in May 2016.


Mystery and Mayhem front cover

To celebrate all this good news, I went for a lovely day of boating on the Serpentine and afternoon tea with Louise and my editors at Egmont, Ali and Hannah. (The boating was inspired by the sequel to Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth… although it turned out that it’s possibly easier to write about rowing than it is to actually do it… The below photos of me and Louise putting our boating skills to the test are undoubtedly two of my favourites of this year!)

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Meanwhile, I had a very busy autumn, packing in all kinds of author events. As well as a fantastic visit to the Isle of Man for the Manx Literature Festival, I took part in the Cheltenham Festival, STREAM and YA Shot, as well as school events and a visit to Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge. I’ve had such a great time doing author events this year – huge thanks to everyone who has invited me to visit them!

Helping out at the pop up bookshop!

Helping out at the pop up bookshop!

 

Author reading face at #yashot (photo by @kwebberwanders) A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on


I’ve also been busy with some freelance projects, including writing about children’s books for a brand new children’s magazine The Week Junior, and perhaps most excitingly of all, continuing to look after YALC working with Showmasters, who run London Film and Comic Con. I’m so pleased that I’ll be able to keep working on YALC, which is  one of the things that I’m most proud of from my time at Book Trust – bring on 2016’s event!

Of course, Down the Rabbit Hole has been keeping me, and my collaborators Melissa and Louise, very busy throughout this year too. We’ve had a lot of fun on Resonance FM, with some great shows, fantastic guests and amazing author interviews. Our DTRH Christmas special felt like the perfect way to finish off the year! Check out all our episodes from 2015 here.

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In the studio

Also to conclude the year, we revealed the cover of The Mystery of the Jewelled Mothanother gorgeus creation from Júlia Sardà. The book also got its first review – from Fiona Noble in the Bookseller who chose it as one of her picks for March 2016 – a great conclusion to a fantastic year!

First review for The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth and it’s a cracker! One of the picks for March in The Bookseller ✨   A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

 

Phew – this has turned into an essay. And that’s without even mentioning all the great books I read, the fantastic events and launches I attended, the exhibitions, films etc. etc. This blog has had a lot of different incarnations – from its early days as very much a personal blog, to the times that I’ve used it to write about books or visual art-  but this year, more than any other it really has been a space to document the process of becoming a published author.

It seems quite appropriate that today Serendipity Viv has published my contribution to her fantastic Debuts of 2015 & 2016 series, which offered me a chance to reflect further on The Year of the Book – check out the whole series here.

Next year I’d like to write more here about the ‘behind the scenes’ process of writing, which I’ve started to do a bit in the last few weeks, sharing some of the historical research behind The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow with this post about real-life Edwardian department stores, and this one about how the real Mr Selfridge helped inspire my own Mr Sinclair.

And I’m looking forward to writing too about everything else that 2016 has to bring – publishing two more books (Jewelled Moth and Mystery and Mayhem), getting to grips with my new freelance/author life, lots more writing, and hopefully lots more adventures too.

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and Clockwork Sparrow in 2015. Happy New Year, thanks for reading, and here’s to a great 2016!

Merry Christmas from Sinclair’s!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

It’s been a brilliant 2015 – thanks for reading and hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

This Edwardian Christmas card is exactly how I imagine Christmas Eve would be like at Sinclair’s department store…

[Image via Pinterest]

Down the Rabbit Hole Christmas Special

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This year’s Down the Rabbit Hole Christmas special was an hour-long festive bonanza! We were joined in the studio by three former DTRH guests: Nadia Shireen, Tom Bonnick and Non Pratt.

Our Christmas show included not only some discussions of our favourite books to read at Christmas (listen out for the gorgeous reading from One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith from Nadia, complete with lashings of hot buttered toast) and answering listeners’ Christmas shopping questions, but also our favourite books of the year. You can read about all the books we discussed in the programme on the DTRH website here.

The show also featured an interview with Brian Selznick about his book The Marvels – one of the DTRH team’s favourites of 2015 – and a lovely reading of Refuge, a very special picture book by Anne Booth, illustrated by Sam Usher, from Anne herself.

Listen again here:

Clear Spot – 15th December 2015 (Down The Rabbit Hole) by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

In other festive news, I recommended some of my favourite Christmas reads for the Guardian here – the picture above is from the original dust jacket from Enid Blyton’s The Christmas Book, which was one of my choices.

I also told them about one of my favourite books of the year for their best children’s books of 2015 feature. It was so lovely to see Clockwork Sparrow pop up in some of the other authors’ lists of their favourites too!