This time I made a video. 😀


My five favourite books I’ve read in the last few months are:

The Bees by Laline Paull

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

Dandy in the Underworld by Sebastian Horsley

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith


Suffragette – My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

All these and four hundred and ninety-five other books I adore(!) can be found on my Five Hundred Fine Books list, on my LibraryThing profile. Seeking some more summer reading suggestions? Step this way.

A belated but heartfelt THANK YOU to Grace Igbekele and the fabulous Children’s Creative Writing Group she runs at C.L.R. James Library in Dalston, Hackney, where I came and gave a talk last Wednesday. Whether it was the warmth of the welcome I received or the fact that it was the hottest day of the year and I was waving my arms around as usual, I must admit that I, ahem, ‘glowed‘ a bit — so much so, shamingly, that one young person there pointed to the black stains on my black shirt and told me loudly and directly that she hoped I was wearing deodorant. I was, and told her so. She looked visibly reassured. 😀

It’s a great group, containing – as I saw from the work displayed on the library wall – some serious writing talent. I hope they found helpful things in what I had to say, moistness notwithstanding. ;p

Fine write-ups of last week’s brilliant launch of Big Green Education and the Haringey Chapter of Patron of Reading here and here. I was a bit nervous about speaking after Michael Rosen but I think I got away with it. 😀

This is my copy of Doing It by Melvin Burgess:


In October 2004 being an unaccompanied adult at a book event for teenagers was an odder thing than it is now. I’d received some curious looks by the time I reached the front of the signing queue – not least, since I was also the tallest person in it, from Melvin himself.

I explained I was an aspiring author as well as a massive fan. He shook my hand, wished me luck and wrote this lovely message in what – typically for his work – is a truthful, passionate and thrillingly fearless book that still causes trouble to this day.

More of the Books Beside Me coming soon.

More fabulous events these last few weeks: my thanks and best wishes to everyone I met at Northumberland Park Resource Centre in Tottenham, William Farr School in Lincoln and The Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year Awards. 😀

I’m still fizzing from my visit yesterday to Alexandra Park School – my second as their Patron of Reading.

The first visit back in December as a Book Doctor was deliberately low-key, to help me find my way into the role. This…


…was much bigger.

In two sessions I spoke to the whole of the school’s Years 7 and 8 – introducing myself, taking questions, talking about how I became a reader, and putting forward my next idea: a Free Readers Manifesto.

What I would like to develop is a way of encouraging students to read by thinking about the differences between reading you have to do for school and reading you do for yourself – which is what I mean by Free Reading.

APS students can – and did! – give me comments, questions and suggestions about how this manifesto could end up – because it’s not finished. When it’s done I would like it to be theirs as much as mine – something we’ve come up with together. For now, however, the draft version I gave them to consider and work on with me looks like this…

The Free Readers Manifesto – First Draft

1. We are free to read whatever we want.

2. We are free to skip bits we find badly written or boring.

3. We are free to give up on reading that does not give us what we want, and find other reading that does.

4. As Free Readers we will not be measured, tested or questioned on our reading – unless we want to be.

How can this manifesto be developed and improved? I can hardly wait to find out. Meanwhile, my thanks and best wishes to Alexandra Park School’s staff and students for what was another thrilling and inspiring visit.

Being a Patron of Reading is brilliant. 😀

This is my copy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:


It looks slim because it’s printed on thin paper. The whole book is there. Ask my father, who gave and read it to me as a bedtime story.

It took him four years. Even in the context of what so far has been a very lucky life, it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

This is my copy of The Princess Bride by William Goldman:


The sticker on the front cover used to say its price – three pounds. I bought it to celebrate the arrival in the post of the contract for my first book deal.

The advance wasn’t big but it was going to be much appreciated: that night (18th Feb 2005) I had about two pounds left in the bank but enough in my pockets to pay for a bottle of tonic and this book that I knew and still love.

I was very happy, and whenever I’ve picked it up since I remember that feeling.

More of the Books Beside Me coming soon.

My five favourite books I’ve read so far this year are:

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

Nemo: River of Ghosts by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill


The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

Of the films I’ve seen lately, my three favourites are:

The Fall directed by Tarsem

Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio De Sica

-and the thrillingly unhinged-

Blind Woman’s Curse directed by Teruo Ishii

BTW: The whole of my book Crawlers is now up and free to read on Wattpad here. A delighted THANK YOU to @dmitrixyz for all his comments as he read it and my smug smile when he was caught by one of the twists. 😀

Happy holidays,


I haven’t admitted this officially before because I’m still raw about it, but here goes: the big book I’ve been working on these last four years? I’ve put it aside.

Last October, after we’d gamely knocked three drafts back and forth without agreeing what we wanted, my publisher cancelled my contract. My agent – before she quit the business – told me that she didn’t think she could sell the book to anyone else. Now my new agent has gently but definitely confirmed to me that the book has fundamental problems and ‘needs a lot of work.’

I can take a hint. ;p

One problem with the book is that I’ve put so much time and love into it that now I’m too close to it to see or accept what I would have to do to take it further. So, until/unless I get the distance and objectivity I need, I’m doing the next best thing I can do: I’ve stopped working on it, and started writing other stuff.

I’ve got a brand new novella out under consideration, I’m working on another short project right now, and my next full-length book is already underway. Meanwhile, for the time being, I’m sad to say that all that anyone else will hear or see of my broken but beautiful, crazy-ambitious, utopian SF rock-and-roll epic is its title and this gorgeous cover by genius illustrator Barnaby Richards:


To those brave, kind few who have read the book as it currently stands, my thanks.

To VELVET, au revoir.


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