Children’s Book Blog: The Sony Young Movellist of the Year Award
This blog is all about celebrating stories for young people. Today, I’m also very pleased to be able to use this space to celebrate stories by young people, following the announcement of the winners of the Sony Young Movellist of the Year Awards last night at a swanky – and mercifully air-conditioned – ceremony at the Kings Place Gallery in London.
A ‘movellist’ in case you were wondering, is a member of the online writing community Movellas.com, which allows young authors to share their work with other readers and writers their age. The Movella awards are open to writers aged between 13 and 19 years and the entrants had the auspicious honour of being judged by none other than new children’s laureate Malorie Blackman (who sadly couldn’t make the awards ceremony because she was ill and reportedly feared the Daily Mail headline: ‘Children’s Laureate is sick on young award winner’s shoes’). The prize, besides a pretty glass trophy, is a publishing contract from Random House Children’s Publishers – the Holy Grail for many authors whatever their age.
Chatting to a few of the 10 shortlisted writers before the ceremony was a fairly jaw-dropping experience. Many of them have been writing for as long as they can remember and some have eight full novels under their belts before they’ve even left their teens. Competition, then, was pretty stiff.
In the end, the overall award went to 19-year-old Helen Hiorns from Coventry, whose novel The Name on Your Wrist was e-published by Random House on the same day as the ceremony. Malorie Blackman praised the novel for its rebellious central character and because she ‘couldn’t predict the ending’. While Natalie Doherty of Random House said: ‘This entry instantly stood out for us, for the quality of the writing, the feisty and complicated but extremely likeable main character, and the fact that it gripped us right from the first paragraph.’
The winner herself was endearingly modest about her achievement, saying that winning the award had surpassed her previous plans for the summer, which had mainly involved finding her name on a Coca-Cola bottle and eating a hamburger in Hamburg – a feat she failed to realise due to being called back to England for the awards ceremony.
Kyra Schlachter and Emma Yeo were announced as runners up, for their novels My Corrupted Lungs and Girl With a Thousand Faces respectively. I asked Emma, who is 17 now and has been writing since the age of 12, what piece of advice she would like to share with other young novelists. Her encouraging answer: ‘Keep writing and you will get better! I look at stuff I wrote years ago and I just want to rip it up and burn it. But you just have to keep going!’
Despite the astonishing amount of talent on show, one thing was notable by its absence among the candidates: the presence of any boys. This could be explained at least in part because the sorts of novels that inspired this year’s shortlisters – which ranged from Jane Eyre to Twilight – on the whole tended to be more typically girl-friendly stories.
However, the fact that Michael Grant’s Gone and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which famously has cross-gender appeal, were also cited as sources of inspiration somewhat puts paid to that theory. Perhaps, as one parent at the ceremony suggested, boys are just too busy playing computer games. Whatever the reason, it would be wonderful to see a few boys on the shortlist next year. So girls: keep up the good work. And boys: get writing!
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author and completed her middle-grade novel, Shirley Smart and the Nix’s Curse earlier this year. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here
Follow Rebecca on Twitter @TheStoryMonsterTagged in: Malorie Blackman, Sony Young Movellist of the Year Awards
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