Thursday, 5 March 2015

Why I Can't Live Without Books | World Book Day

For as long as I can remember, World Book Day has been a massive part of my life. I have vivid memories of me walking home from primary school and asking my mum, "when will it be World Book Day again?" only to be extremely disappointed at it being months and months ahead.

Still in primary school, I remember how ecstatic I was when the day finally came that the teacher would hand out the book tokens, and my jealousy that she was allowed to hold so many in one go.

My love of World Book Day carried over into secondary school, when all of my friends would give me their tokens because I was the resident bookworm. I remember having a particularly rubbish day, and then finding a token crumpled on the floor on my way to Art, and instantly being cheered up.

As you can probably tell, I love World Book Day. How could I not, when it's a day dedicated to books that the entire world can celebrate?

This year is even more exciting than usual, because there's a new addition to the celebrations: the World Book Day Teen Fest, a free, online festival for bookish teens.

On the 4th and 5th of March from 6-8pm UK time, WBD Teen Fest will bring amazing authors including Holly Smale, Marcus Sedgwick, Malorie Blackman and Derek Landy straight to your screen! With hangouts and interviews, how-tos, blog posts, playlists, prizes and much more, each night will be packed with awesome bookish stuff as well as the chance to chat with other readers and writers. Oh, and did I mention... it's FREE. You don't even have to get out of bed if you don't want to.

I was so excited when I first heard about WBD Teen Fest because, as you already know, it's really difficult for me to get to events in person, and I have to turn down 99% of event invites that come my way. So, when I found out that this was online, I was so, so happy.

The theme this year is 'why we can't live without books'. This immediately inspired a short skit on my YouTube channel, which you can see here. I'd love for you to watch - it might be a 4-minute video, but it took an entire day of scripting, filming and a surprising amount of costume changes...

But there are more reasons for me not being able to imagine living without books that I didn't include in that video. The first is that books have made me who I am today, so if I'd never read a book in my life, who knows who I'd be? I might like maths, for a start. That would just be weird.

On a more serious note, though, I think it's books that have made me an accepting and tolerant person. It doesn't bother me if you're trans. It doesn't bother me if you're homosexual, or demisexual, or any of the rest. If you have an illness of some sort, or you have psychic abilities, or you're a wizard, I'm not going to treat you any differently. Books allow you to experience life as someone else for a little while and can help you to gain perspective.

Everyone needs an escape sometimes, but for some it's impossible to physically do that. In real life, I've been to England, obviously, and France. In books, I've been all over the world, from igloos in Antarctica to the designer streets of Hollywood, and the sunny beaches in Australia to the dusty plains of Afghanistan.

Aaaand lastly, I really want to write a book one day. So, if books didn't exist, I wouldn't be able to, and that would be sad.

Luckily for us, books do exist, and the wonderful people behind World Book Day have offered one of you a YA book bundle! You can enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
WBD Teen Fest is on the 4th and 5th of March from 6-8pm each night. That's UK time, but you can check what time it'll be in your country here. To find out more about WBD Teen Fest, check out their website for the full line-up of what's happening across the Internet for World Book Day, and why not share why you can't live without books? You can do this in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #cantlivewithoutbooks as both me and the WBD team will be retweeting and reposting some of our favourites.

Why couldn't you live without books?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

BLOG TOUR: 5 Writing Tips from Rachel Mann at Simon and Schuster

As part of the blog tour for The Case of the Exploding Brains, author Rachel Hamilton's editor at Simon and Schuster is here with 5 top tips for becoming a published writer. But first, let's take a look at  the fabulously funny middle-grade read, The Case of the Exploding Brains!

Noelle "Know-All" Hawkins has another case on her hands.Her famous scientist dad - Professor Brian "Big Brain" Hawkins - is in prison as a result of his portaloo mishaps. A trip to the Science Museum results in an international mystery involving the moon, some mindreading, and an awful lot of grumpy people. But how are they all connected? Noelle, Holly and Porter are on the case. Will they piece together the crazy clues in time to save the planet? And why is Dad walking round prison with a blanket on his head?

As Rachel might tell you, becoming a published author isn't always easy, or fun. But there's so much to love about the process (I hope – ask Rachel!) and one of my favourite things about my job is working with funny, proactive authors like her, on hilarious and inventive stories like The Case of the Exploding Loo and The Case of the Exploding Brains.

Here are my tips for aspiring writers:

GET AN AGENT: I’m sure lots of people reading this blog know that the best way to get your book to the people most likely to love it, is to get an agent who knows the industry insiders. They'll edit, advise and champion you, and keep you motivated during what can be quite a daunting process.

KEEP AT IT: If you love writing, then you must keep going. Contrary to popular belief, publishers are actually nice people who love books just as much as you do, but the market is tough. You will get rejected. A lot, probably. Try not to take it personally, and pour your energy into writing the next thing. You'll be improving all the time, and trends will shift.

WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE: Listen to criticism, of course, but play to your strengths and keep writing what comes naturally. If you try plugging into a trend, it'll be gone before your book's anywhere near finished, let alone published.

ENGAGE WITH THE COMMUNITY: We have such an exciting and positive kids' book industry in the UK. Get to know your fellow authors, support them online, and read their books. Writing can be a lonely game, but there's a great community out there that will also, without doubt, help you sell more books.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPLORE UNFAMILIAR CHARACTERS: The word 'diversity' is everywhere at the moment, but there's still much more to be done. I hear all the time that authors don't feel that they can write about identities or cultures that they haven't experienced. But Roald Dahl wrote Matilda, a book about a six year-old girl, when he was very definitely a seventy-one-year-old man... Fear of offending or misrepresenting people can make writers scared to go near issues of culture, sexuality or disability but this, frankly, is damaging our industry and your sales, let alone the confidence of lots of young people. Go for it – your editor will help you, and your readers will thank you.

My final (shameless point) is that you should all read The Case of the Exploding Loo and The Case of the Exploding Brains! Rachel is an example of someone who does all of the above so brilliantly and is a complete pleasure to work with. I hope you'll soon be joining her as a published author!

Thank you so much to both Rachel Hamilton and Rachel Mann! If you want more writing tips, check out 6 writing tips from 6 YA authors which I posted last month.

The Case of the Exploding Brains is available to buy now.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Author: Sophia Amoruso
Published by: Penguin
Publication date: 29th May 2014
Pages: 256
Genres: Non-fiction/Memoir
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

'A #GIRLBOSS is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it.'

The first thing Sophia Amoruso sold online wasn't fashion - it was a stolen book. She spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and dumpster diving. By twenty-two, she had resigned herself to employment, but was still broke, directionless, and working a mediocre day job she'd taken for the health insurance.

It was there that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Eight years later, she is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million+ online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. Sophia's never been a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she's written #GIRLBOSS for outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is winding as all hell and lined with naysayers.

#GIRLBOSS includes Sophia's story, yet is infinitely bigger than Sophia. It's deeply personal yet universal. Filled with brazen wake-up calls ("You are not a special snowflake"), cunning and frank observations ("Failure is your invention"), and behind-the-scenes stories from Nasty Gal's meteoric rise, #GIRLBOSS covers a lot of ground. It proves that being successful isn't about how popular you were in high school or where you went to college (if you went to college). Rather, success is about trusting your instincts and following your gut, knowing which rules to follow and which to break.

Let's get straight to it. I want you to read this. I want everyone to read this. Whether you're an actual girl is irrelevant, despite the title; regardless of your gender identity, you'll still be able to enjoy this book and adapt it to suit you. It's empowering, inspiring, and you don't even have to be interested in fashion to like it.

#GIRLBOSS is about business. It's about going from nothing to something. It's about getting off your butt and proving all those people who said you wouldn't succeed wrong. I was motivated from the beginning and, I swear, Sophia Amoruso might be a badass millionaire businesswoman, but we are the same person. I was constantly thinking to myself, "everyone thinks I'm weird for believing some of the things I do, but here's a mega successful person thinking along exactly the same lines."

I was going to highlight bits I related to, but that would have ended up in all of the pages becoming luminous yellow, so it's probably better that I didn't.

Not only does #GIRLBOSS take us on Amoruso's journey from dropping out of school and eating from dumpsters (that's like a skip, right?) to being a CEO with more than 350 employees, it also features other businesswomen who have worked their way up the ladder over the years. This thing is like a badass, feminist treasure trove of epic proportions, and I am so glad that this was my first read of 2015.

When I first started blogging, every book I reviewed was my "NEW FAVOURITE BOOK OMG!!!!111!!!' I haven't said that in, what, two years? You know a book is fudging phenomenal when you're only halfway through and you begin to think... this is my new favourite book. It's managed to surpass every book I have ever read. This is the one. It's right up there at the top of the list. Screw 'The Girls' Book: How To Be The Best At Everything' (I mean, really?), this is the book you should be handing down to the younger generation.

Saying that, this book has lots of swearing. On one hand, you know a person and their book must be pretty awesome when that gets past the editors. On the other hand, that might bother you, so I thought I'd throw that in there.

#GIRLBOSS will change your life. Read it.