This week I had the huge pleasure of attending the Leeds Book Awards. I know from experience that the ceremony is beautifully organised by Kirsty Fenn and colleagues from Leeds Library Services, an event full of excitement and warmth and love of books. I was met at the station by Matt Stoppard, my friendly librarian minder for the day, and got to hang out with the other lovely authors on the shortlist, whose books I’d adored - Christopher Edge, Natasha Farrant, Vashti Hardy and David O’Connell. (Sophie Anderson wasn’t able to come this time, but we missed her!). As authors we don’t get to see our colleagues very often, so this is a real treat, to compare notes and find out how others approach this writing life!
The ceremony was hosted by author Jason Beresford with perfect comic timing - it takes a true professional to convince teachers and students to enter a quiz involving custard pies. I think I was so busy laughing at that, I’d totally relaxed and forgotten all about the announcement. I’d convinced myself ahead of time that I had no chance of winning and was just having a lovely day out.
Even when the drum roll began, I felt totally calm, just waiting to hear which of my colleagues I’d turn to with my congratulations. So when I heard Dragon Daughter had won, it was a surreal moment of shock and delight. The award is voted for by children who’ve read the shortlist. This means, wait a moment while I process this… This means that children loved my book enough to vote for it? Wow. That’s just wonderful. That makes me so happy! That’s what I’d always dreamed of - writing stories that children could escape into, just as I used to escape into stories when I was ten and eleven years old.
I hadn’t prepared an acceptance speech, but managed to mumble my thanks and say something about how when you read, the brain activity is the same as when you actually do a thing - brain scans have showed this. This means reading is like living many lives. You get to fly dragons, do anything!
The next few hours are a blur of lovely memories, signing books and stamping them with dragon stamps, meeting readers and having photos taken. I got to talk to Leeds TV - here’s the link! - and I think you can tell just how happy I am here.
Big thanks are due, to Leeds Libraries and School Library Services for all their hard work and dedication. Thanks to all the teachers who got involved, thank you to every single student who read and reviewed Dragon Daughter. You’re amazing! And thank you to everyone who’s supported me along the way, most of all, everyone at David Fickling Books who believed in me and my stories.