The Carnegie Feeling

I have never been one of life’s winners when it comes to sport, barely even scraping third in the 1979 St Mary’s Primary sports day yoghurt-pot-and-umbrella race (actual race, involving running wildly around the field with an empty Ski pot skewered on a black umbrella, also featuring the ‘doughnut race’ in which we fought to eat a dangling doughnut in as short a time possible, in the days when Jamie Oliver was eating school chips a few miles down the road, not outlawing them). But, while our esteemed headteacher seemingly had little regard for a) health and safety and b) what is considered a standard athletic test and what is not, what he did value was words. And, just a few months after this staggering sporting non-achievement, I felt the thrill of my first publication when, having written an extra verse for one of our school hymns, Rev Roe typed it up for me, photocopied it, and stuck it down in every single copy of Come and Praise.

I have been chasing that feeling ever since, getting the same flush of achievement when I type ‘the end’, when I see my first page proofs, when I walk into a bookshop and see the first print run on the shelves, when I see someone reading – actually reading – one of my books. And, more rarely, but equally thrilling, when I see a title on an award longlist, or shortlist, or, as today, amongst the nominations.

For Everybody Hurts to be up for the CILIP Carnegie Medal (the Olympic gold of children’s publishing) is not something either Anthony McGowan or I entertained when the seeds of Matt and Sophia’s story were sown in a few minutes of snatched conversation in the South Bank Centre. We were uncommissioned, and unsure where we were going most of the time, writing for the sheer joy of words on the page, ping-ponging chapters back and forth over weeks and months, and eventually three years. So, regardless of how much further we get, today is the icing on the cake. It is the thrill of a typed-up hymn verse glued down with Copydex, and so much sweeter than that dangling doughnut would ever have been.

For the full list of nominations for both the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals, click here.

To buy the book, click here.

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