Before They Were Famous!

Can you tell these literary aficionados from their childhood pics? Let us know if you think fame has made them even more quaffed, or if they’re a shadow of their former selves.


  1. I am the inventor of LongPen who has taught at the University of British Columbia. A frequent visitor to Oxford, I delivered the Clarendon Lectures in 1991. It took a publisher two years to consider my first manuscript. I also enjoy a good bit of cosplay.

2. No one has given us more nightmares, but this world famous author suffers from triskaidekaphobia—fear of the number 13. I own three radio stations in my home state of Maine. I once told fellow author Neil Gaiman, ‘If I had the chance to live my life all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. Apart from appearing in an American Express advert.’

3. When I was 16, I started a magazine called Metro with my mates. I keep bees and used to have a talking cat. My favourite Filipino mythological character is the manananggal. I believe books have genders and my favourite cheese is Wensleydale.

4. My mother didn’t want me to learn how to read, but finally let me go to a finishing school in Paris when I was 15. My first novel was written on a dare and my most famous character is based on a real person. I wrote six romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott. I’m a big fan of surfing.

5. I wrote four collections of poetry under the pseudonym of Clive Hamilton. When I was four, sadly my dog ‘Jacksie’ was run over with a car. After that, I would only respond to ‘Jacksie’—later Jack. I never learned to type and always used pens. I died on the same day as Kennedy’s assassination.

6. I am a comic book fanatic—particularly Marvel! I avoided the Vietnam War draft as a conscientious objector. I worked on numerous TV shows including Beauty and the Beast, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits. I own a library tower and an indie cinema in New Mexico. My most famous collection would not exist without chess.


7. I wrote my first story at the age of six and own a Jane Austen first edition. My first marriage felk apart within a year when my Portuguese journalist partner forced me out of my apartment at five in the morning. My father sold a collection of my rare signed first editions in 2003 when I refused to settle his £100K business debt. When I was a secretary, I had a habit of writing my stories at work which led to me being fired. My clinical depression inspired the creation of some of the villains in my novels.


8. I was born in Norwich, but had to move to Australia when my mother remarried. My pilot father died in a plane crash when I was seven. Paradise Lost inspired me to write one of my famous novels. I resigned as patron from a literary festival over lack of pay for authors.

9. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford, I changed my name because people found Chloe hard to pronounce. Upon entering the first grade, I was the only child who could read. My college thesis discussed suicides of famous authors. I used to be an editor at Random House and my home caught fire the year I won the Noble Prize.

10. I published my first work at nine and at 12 my IQ was recorded at 160. I worked my way through Smith College even though she had been accepted to Wellesley for free. I worked on a farm doing manual labour and later reflected on this in my work. My novel was rejected by American publishers and was later published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.

Let us know how many you got!

  1. Margaret Atwood; 2. Stephen King; 3. Neil Gaiman; 4. Agatha Christie; 5. C. S. Lewis; 6. George R. R. Martin; 7. J. K. Rowling; 8. Philip Pullman; 9. Toni Morrison; 10. Sylvia Plath

The Great Outdoors

Summer is here! So we’d highlight a few good reasons to grab your brolly and factor 30 to head outside.

Twelfth Night at the Globe

When and where: 18 May – 5 August

Why to go: Nothing better than the Globe at sunset and tickets are very reasonable. Great to stroll along the bar strewn Embankment afterwards too!

What to wear: If you opt for the cheaper standing tickets, make sure you take comfy shoes and ditch the clutter from your handbag.

Emerald Street Literary Festival

When & where: 10 June at The Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR

Why to go: The Festival is turning two and includes amazing authors; the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist will debate about why we love to talk about books; and much more! Tickets to amazing A-list events are still available. Check out the programme now!

What to wear: Crack out the Louboutins we’re off to Kensington.

Oxford Shakespeare Festival

When & where: 19 June – 12 August

The appeal: Fancy watching The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet, or Macbeth? Book tickets fast!  

What to wear: Going to a castle in Oxford? Best opt for coat and tails!

A Tale of Two Cities at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

When & where: 7 July-5 August at Regent’s Park

The appeal: Nestled amid the splendour of London’s prettiest park, this unique theatre hosts a full programme of plays every summer.

What to wear: It’s a London park in the summer. Pile layers over summer sandals.

Latitude Festival

When & where: 13-16 July in Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk

Why we want to go: Need we say more than a glittering lake and fairy-lit woods? Lots more still to be announced across many stages, including Mumford & Sons, Goldfrapp, Cabaret, Literary & Poetry, Theatre, Pandora's Playground, The Faraway Forest and so much more! Check out the line-up here.

What to wear: They spray paint their sheep, so anything goes.

Port Eliot Festival

When & where: 27-20 July St Germans, Cornwall

The appeal: ‘Like falling from the sky into a magic garden where you will be constantly surprised and delighted’. This year’s literary line-up brings you a glorious mixture of big names and more than its fair share of surprises, including Matt Haig. See the rest of what they have to offer here.

What to wear: According to The Guardian a floral maxi-dress / plaid shirt and an artfully battered straw hat.

The Literary Tent at Wilderness Festival  

When & where: 3-6 August in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

Why to go: Who can say no to a bit of trapeze, Hip Hop Karaoke, or Veuve champagne bar? The Wilderness Festival will help you prep your literary taste buds before Edinburgh Fest or escape to chaos that is central Oxford in the summer! There are some great talks lined up already for the Literary Tent, including ‘How Not to Write a Novel’! Check out the jam-packed programme here.

Edinburgh Literary Festival

When & where: 12-28 August 2017 at Charlotte Square Gardens

The appeal: Too many reasons not enough time! It’s the Literary Festival of the year. (I may only be saying that because I’m from there.) Programme launches on 13th June.

What to wear: A parka and a scarf while all the Scots go topless.

Oxford Cult Screens

When & where: 23-25 August at a mixture of venues around Oxford, including Pitt Rivers

The appeal: Who doesn’t want a bevy of classic films at an open air cinema? 23: Jurassic Park; 24: Rogue One; 25: Moulin Rouge.

What to wear: Comfy cushions provided, so avoid the cocktail dress and heels and bring jeans and flats.

Festival No. 6

When & where: 7-10 September in Portmerion, Gwynedd

Why to go: Head to the north-west Welsh coast, to visit this festival dotted around numerous venues. Fancy a chance to meet Irvine Welsh or dance in the carnival? See you there! Check out the programme here.

What to wear: Join in the Sgt Pepper themed carnival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles hit.

And the Winner Is: Hachi’s Guide to the Bailey’s Prize

First Love by Gwendoline Riley

A little book which wallops you with hefty imagery, walking you ‘into the throat of the wind’ and taking you home to the toxic relationship with the master of passive aggressiveness who says, ‘Just so you know, I have no plans to spend my life with a shrew. Just so you know that. A fishwife shrew.’ Even his baby-talk of ‘my little compost heap’ borders on sociopathic, but however brutal the language, like Neve, you don’t walk away from Edwyn. You listen to Neve dissect and reflect on what’s happened in her life to reveal the present.

30-odd Neve drops readers into past and present with abrupt informality—or rather the timeline can be slightly difficult to follow. Often Edwyn will accuse Neve of ‘reenacting her own family dysfunction’, as cruelty is the only thing she understands resulting in her own viciousness. He’s harping back to her crude and abusive father who literally ate himself to death. We are also shown her tragically brief relationship with her occasional lover, Michael, for further insight into her attraction to toxicity. Her relationship with her mother is the only comic relief, and even then it’s not that funny.

On finishing Gwendoline Riley’s fifth novel, part of me was unsure of what appealed to me as I tried to piece together a storyline, even a character arc. Instead I was content in the knowledge that I was confronted with a first-person narrator spouting pithy Haiku-like dialogue while trying to find who she is in the grand scheme of things—without the narcissistic diatribe. Able to set a scene in a few words, Riley is economic with her prose and snaps Neve’s dialogue away from wallowing with injections of humour, ‘Don’t let your mind get colonized . . . don’t act like a baby. Don’t be a cat . . .’

Many critics have touched on the fact Riley is also a 30-something married to an older man, that the dysfunctional family dynamic has been a recurrent theme in her novels, each story is narrated by ‘female writers who aged in step with Riley’, and it isn’t the first time her novels have featured a ‘tyrannical’ father. She responded to one such reviewer, ‘Well, in order to make statements like that you’d need to know the first thing about my life’, so in the spirit that I don’t know much beyond posing cute puppies in pictures let’s stay away from the topic of auto-fiction . . .

Suitable for lovers of A. L. Kennedy’s Indelible Acts, Janice Galloway’s Foreign Parts, or Ali Smith’s Autumn.

Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

I was led to this novel slightly pessimistic. Another Great American novel? (I haven’t even cracked the spine of most of the others!) The cover, topic, and extent were slightly unappealing until I realized this book is as much about horse racing as To Kill a Mockingbird is about aviculture. Through dense, complex language, Morgan indulgently crosses the centuries to unveil the history of Kentucky through stories of race and horse racing. Spanning from the Revolutionary War through 2006, we focus on Henry Forge, his daughter Henrietta Forge, and one of Henrietta’s lovers Allmon Shaughnessy. There is no nutshell. The multifaceted plot would take a good 2,000 words and plenty of plot spoilers.

It’s hard to believe this was Morgan’s second novel, as she expertly weaves the story using a mixture of literary devices blending first, second, and third-person narratives with several narrative forms—sermons, dialogue, stage plays, flashbacks, etc. Unapologetically in-your-face, the language is suggestive and slightly ostentatious: ‘viburnum in the yards, pungent as an ovulating woman, pink labial pistils, the leaf bottom shaped like a heart’. The only real qualm is that it does feel that the characters’ fates are slightly contrived.

Although the novel ends before Obama becomes president, it shows that the outcome of the forthcoming election does not mean the end of centuries of oppression. The ambitious novel has received some criticism for its portrayal of racial divides by a white writer. However, Morgan candidly noted that one should ‘approach [race] apologetically, even deferentially, without agency, power, and passion that define mature artistry’.

Drawing on references from literary legends—notably Fitzgerald and Twain—Morgan should be applauded for this beast of a novel. You should read if you like Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

‘In China you learn a lot from what people don’t tell you.’ Madeleine Thien

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Thien’s heart-rending third novel crosses seven decades of history. Beginning in Vancouver in 1991, we meet ten-year-old Marie (Jiang Li-Ling) and her mother who invite refugee Ai-Ming into their home. Thien hooks readers from her seductive opening line, ‘In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life.’

While considering turbulent decades in China’s history from the beginning of Mao Zedong’s reign in 1949 to the present day, the novel is about so much more than politics. Thien masterfully interweaves stories, which focus on four eras: the land reform campaign, the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square protests, and ‘the present’. At the core of these tales are the triage Sparrow (composer), Kai (pianist), and Zhuli (violinist) who come together through their passion for classical music during the Cultural Revolution.

Fragmented with forget and Marie’s inability to speak Chinese, we quickly learn from Thien that you learn a lot from what is not said—strikingly so as to be translated into Chinese, Thien will need to cut the third part of the book focusing on Ai-Ming’s involvement in Tiananmen Square. While there are several characters to grapple with, Thien’s effortlessly lyrical writing guides the reader by forming a new narrative through the stories that have passed between generations with linguistic simplicity. The author’s craft is particularly apparent when she discusses the effect that music has on Sparrow: ‘the notes collided into him. They ran up and down his spine, and seemed to dismantle him into a thousand pieces of the whole, where each part was more complete and more alive than his entire self had ever been.’

It shows how prevalent censorship is in our time and makes one question the significance of Sparrow’s unfinished symphony. Is this about censorship and what is not said, or does the novel hint that the story will never really be completed? The world (or rather China’s) history cannot be understood in absolute terms. History is not always linear or transparent, and does not have a fixed end point. Instead, as Marie discovers, ‘It’s taken me years to begin searching, to realize that the days are not linear, that time does not simply move forward but spirals closer and closer to the shifting centre.’

This book is for you if you liked We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, or The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. In fact, read it regardless, it’s a beautiful story! Want a little taste before you commit?

Read the first chapter in full at:


Dark Circle by Linda Grant 

WW2 is over in theory, but not in essentials. Food remains rationed and London is grimier than ever. It’s 1949, 18-year-old twins Lenny and Miriam Lynskey both have TB and have been taken to a modernist sanatorium. The venue is deliciously appealing. The NHS has emerged with the promise of free treatment and regular meals regardless of social status.

Previously an Orange Prize winner, it’s no surprise that Linda Grant’s hypnotic novel was a longlist contender. The Jewish Lynskey’s claustrophobic confinement pulls the reader in, as the sanatorium begins to have the eerie feel of a concentration camp: ‘the solid world of London dissolving on them [. . .] Everyone looked . . . half-dead, skeletons in pyjamas and slippers’. (Religion doesn’t feature prominently.) While rich in metaphor, the language can also be bitingly simplistic: ‘everything is short, joy is short, sex is short, and no one on the street was laughing so the jokes must be short too.’

There is a strong cast of characters: the teens, an aristocratic woman, a car salesman, a German lady, a uni graduate, officers, a lairy American, and a nurse. However, they avoid confrontation ‘keeping a low profile’ while falling ‘into lassitude and boredom’. Although the twins clearly have a bond, the lack of connection can make the story slightly stilted at points. Instead, Grant sweeps the reader up to show the palpable fear of TB at the time. Several critics have questioned whether this timely novel allows us to reflect on the state of healthcare today by looking at the emergence of the NHS.

While Grant won the award previously, this novel didn’t allow for the same level of reflection as the rest of the shortlist. Not that this isn’t a compelling read—quite the opposite. This is purely subjective and it could be that the genre didn’t appeal to my particular tastes—I watch Gilmore Girls reruns religiously people! But I think the aftershock of the other novels will make this a beautifully crafted runner up, and even though she doesn’t need more kudos I’m in two minds as to whether Atwood’s Hagseed should have been stricken from the shortlist.

You should read if you liked The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant or All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. In fact, Doerr’s novel will make you cry like a baby; Grant’s won’t.

Read the first chapter at:

The Power by Naomi Alderman 

‘It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.’

A story framed within a story, Alderman’s The Power is intoxicatingly visceral. I approached this novel with an embarrassingly prejudice mindset, thinking how trite for a YA novel to be about harnessing the power within. I considered quotations from popular novels like Divergent, ‘Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.’ But it’s hideously understated to say this novel is about coming-of-age changing bodies. Instead, teenage girls begin to acquire supernatural abilities, making them unstoppable forces causing revolutions and palpable fear across the world.

Alderman allows readers to feel the transformation like an incision, ‘[She] feels the thing like pins and needles along her arm. Like needle-pricks of light from her spine to her collarbone, from her throat to her elbows, wrists, to the pads of her fingers. She’s glittering, inside.’ (Not the Twilight kind of glittering!) Each chapter alternates between four main characters Roxy, Tunde, Allie, and Margot. While in third-person narrative, it doesn’t mute the voices as each character is articulated with skillful precision.

The pace runs at a gallop. The novel will make you feel dominated, paralyzed, and painfully out-of-control. Roles are reversed as boys are warmed ‘not to stray too far’, made to lick glass off of the ground, or viciously raped and murdered. Call it speculative/dystopian/sci-fi, the novel is for readers of Atwood or Gaiman alike. Alderman has crafted a tinglingly vivid world. 200 pages in, I thought she was the clear winner, but the writing became uncomfortably invasive and in the end the judges will have a difficult decision.

Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò

‘But the biggest lies are often the ones we tell ourselves.’

The tagline should read, ‘Just when you didn’t think it could get any worse it does!’ Offering a window into Nigerian culture, at the heart of the story is Yejide relationship with Akin and their inability to conceive after four years of marriage. The narrative subtly flits between the two characters perspectives. The heartache is delicately understated, but produces a numbing effect.

Yejide longs for a miracle—a child—and despite running a successfully business, she is chastised by those around her for not being able to fulfil this ‘most basic’ of wifely duties. Instead, she encouraged to conceive by the arranged marriage of a second wife for Akin. An entirely different world, we are confronted by superstition, bigamy, and nauseating family pacts. Yejide is so desperate to give birth she even breastfeeds a goat, ‘the goat appeared to be a newborn and I believed’, leading to a two-year phantom pregnancy. The story is peppered with the political chaos in Ilesa, Osun, in the 1980s, but Yejide and Akin’s relationship (and living nightmares) are at the forefront showing that life and love is seldom simple, ‘even when it's in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn't mean it's no longer love’. The fragility of their relationship and conflicted feelings are expertly exposed, ‘“Hold it. Just hold it there. Please don't sweetie me again this morning.” But I did want him to call me sweetie again, only me and no one else. I wanted him to reach across the table, hold my hand and tell me we would be all right.’

The women exhibit strength in the novel, and while praised by their Moomis (mothers) the men make shockingly flawed choices. While in hospital with her son Sesan, Yejide notes: ‘His hand gripped mine with pain-induced strength that crushed my knuckles together. I welcomed the pain in my hand, aware that it was only a tip of what he was feeling. I hoped that by holding me, he could transfuse his agony into my body and be free from it.’ With every death of her child, Yejide accepts the cards fate has dealt her, and at times the bleak plot felt contrived. It would have also been useful to see Akin and Yejide’s earlier life together at university, as well as what happened in the fifteen year gap towards the end of the novel.

I loved this novel. It was breathtaking and I struggle choosing between The Power and Stay With Me. Well, luckily I’m not a judge and don’t have to choose, but I do wonder if Alderman’s ability to push me out of my comfort zone clinched the deal.

Read Stay With Me, you’ll enjoy it, particularly if you’re a fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.

Thanks for listening! That was exhausting!

A shout-out to YA fiction

On Tuesday 18th April Blackwells bookshop hosted the Oxford Writers’ Circle’s event on Young Adult fiction. The panel consisted of three prominent YA authors; Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Girl of Ink & Stars and The Island at the End of Everything; Melinda Salisbury, author of The Sin Eater's Daughter series; and Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season series.

The audience was treated to an insight into the origins and inspirations of each writer’s work. Kiran spoke about a particular assignment during her MA course in Creative Writing which had begun with a young girl running away from something; the idea stayed with Kiran and in time developed into something bigger, ultimately forming the basis for The Girl of Ink & Stars. Although she didn’t initially plan to write something for a YA audience, Kiran said she went on to base the main character of her book on her 12-year old cousin.

Melinda, however, said she always planned on her writing fitting within the YA category. As her favourite category of books to read, she felt it was the only possibility, having seen young adult as the primary area of fiction which explores new avenues and pushes boundaries. She went on to say that her ideal readership to write for would be 10-12 year olds and those aged 75+, jokingly calling for a new category of ‘super-senior fiction’ to be launched!

A discussion of age in YA novels was then explored, especially after Samantha Shannon spoke about her protagonist, at the age of 19, who does not really fit the rules and age limits of YA fiction. Instead, Samantha said, the Bone Season teeters on the edge between YA and adult fiction, perhaps best-placed in a recently-formed category known as ‘new-adult’. However, it was mentioned during the event that the biggest readership of YA fiction tends to be in the over 25s – a number which suggests that it is not necessary for the protagonist to be of a similar age to the reader. Melinda made an interesting point that YA fiction as a category was not necessarily available when over 25s were teenagers, and sees this as the reason those readers are such big fans of the category today. This prompted discussion of the belief that the first book written by a young adult author is the book that they needed in their life as a teenager, an interesting point for us to ponder!

When discussing readership, each author agreed that teenagers, as the intended audience of their books, do not get much of a voice in the debate about YA content. According to Melinda, teenage girls are one of the biggest devourers of fiction, but as a group they are often undervalued as readers. Additionally, Kiran shared that as a teenager, one of her favourite books was One Hundred Years of Solitude because she was craving a lushness in writing that wasn’t available to her age group. But with the growth of the YA fiction category, writing styles and topics are becoming more varied and diverse now, yet as Samantha stated, teens need to be heard in the debate about what makes good YA fiction in order to appeal to the current trends and needs. With most marketing nowadays taking place on social media, many young readers are not yet participating on these platforms and so their views are not being vocalized as strongly as adult opinions. All three writers seemed to share the view that it is difficult to get immediate, honest feedback from their intended readership and the people whose views matter most to them.

When speaking of major themes running through the YA category, Samantha said she felt teenage readers were probably attracted to the dystopian feel of her writing because it offered tangible threats that they could relate to, especially in light of the somewhat bleak outlook we face today in political and societal aspects.
Kiran commented on the theme of hope and how publishers would ask for an optimistic ending and request the toning down of anything overly dark or nasty, or even sexually-charged. However, today some YA writers are pushing these types of boundaries, and Samantha cites Sarah J. Maas as one such author.

Melinda went on to point out that fan fiction is changing the rules in YA fiction, allowing authors to find out what teenagers want to read and realizing that they in fact want the boundaries to be crossed. It’s becoming more apparent that teens want to see the harsh realities they can relate to reflected back at them in the books they read, and Melinda believes that is something that needs to be honoured. As Samantha pointed out, darker themes are much more popular in all types of fiction at the moment, as an echoing of the times we live in, and she believes implementing these themes into YA writing can be cathartic. As Neil Gaiman wrote, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” In this way, the darker themes of YA fiction can provide hope in demonstrating the overcoming of barriers and threats experienced during the transition from childhood to adulthood. As Kiran stated, being a teenager has always been difficult, and it is important that the books teenagers are reading at this age are true to life. As Melinda argued, it can be treacherous to imply everything has a happy ending, and while YA fiction moves away from this, hope can be shared in ‘moments and snatches’ rather than a happily ever after.

When asked about the difference between YA and adult fiction, all three authors agreed it is much more plot-driven, which is necessary as teenagers lead rather plot-driven, action-packed lives, punctuated by the significant physical, emotional and academic milestones they experience. As Melinda states, teens live life at a faster pace, while adults can afford to lead more meandering lifestyles; the stakes are higher and more immediate for teens as there are so many big impactful decisions to be made in a very short space of time, so reflecting this in the pace and content of the fiction they read is vital. Interestingly, Kiran reflects on the moment her readership was determined and the ‘brutal’ editing that had to take place in order to make the novel much more concise.

Discussion moved on to the question of whether it is damaging for a book to be labelled ‘Young Adult’. The authors argued that, while it can lead the book to be treated less seriously, it is in fact a category which is bringing in a lot of revenue. Kiran suggested that YA as a category could actually be propping up the rest of the industry without reaping the merits.  Ultimately, while publishers remain passionate about the YA category and marketing does endeavor to get authors the publicity they deserve, it is perhaps the market itself which enables the category to be treated in a dismissive manner. How YA fiction is discussed can be an enabler of treating it frivolously; while authors of adult literary fiction might be interviewed about their characters’ motivations and developments throughout the story, Samantha mentions a question she repeatedly gets asked is why she chose to write a strong female character. Similarly, Melinda quotes the irritating adage of “when are you going to write a real book”, something she claims to have heard many times and a statement that obviously diminishes the worth of young adult fiction.

The three authors had three pieces of advice for aspiring YA authors; Write the book you need to write and don’t worry about whether it is going to fit neatly into a genre or category; Experiment and don’t be afraid to break boundaries; Finish your first draft, and don’t compare it to someone’s published book; the final product is a result of the author and publisher collaborating in order to make it work. Your first draft will not be perfect, so just get it written!


*All three authors have new books recently published last month: The Scarecrow Queen, the final installment of Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin Eater trilogy, was published by Scholastic Press. Samantha Shannon’s third book in the Bone Season series, A Song Rising, was published by Bloomsbury. The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and published by Chicken House was released early on account of her winning the 2017 Waterstones Children's Book Prize.


Michelle Fisher @miche1988

1001 Stories: Stories and Mythology

We're excited about this event at the Story Museum and to help you share our enthusiasm we're offering a free ticket to a lucky re-tweeter.

The Story Museum have lined up an expect panel to explore the roots of mythology and stories, and its echoes through the ages. The panel includes Dr Justine McConnell, Lecturer in Comparative Literature, King’s College London and performance storyteller Anna Conomos.

When: 7-8pm on Thursday 4th May

Where: The Story Museum, Rochester House, 42 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP

1001 Stories: Stories and Mythology

London Book Fair 2017

This year’s London Book Fair was another over the top event, with publishers from all around the world exhibiting and the tradition of focusing on a foreign market continuing with Poland. The Society of Young Publishers hosted three events this year at the fair and a post-LBF social. The afternoon started off with a networking event where students and professionals from British universities and publishers met with representatives from the Junge Verlagsmenschen (JVM), our sister-society from Germany. This was a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn a little about what publishing in Germany is like.

Our second event ‘How to Get into Publishing’ was aimed at delegates who are looking to get their first job in publishing, with a panel of experienced publishing professionals including Eleanor Helsby, HR Adviser at Hachette, Helen Youngs, Senior Consultant at Inspired Selection, Judith Watts, Senior Lecturer, Kingston University, and Ellie Pike, Resourcing Manager, Penguin Random House. A lot of great tips were given which can be read on Twitter using the hashtag #syppub.

A follow-on from that was the ‘How to Get Ahead in Publishing’, with panellists Nick Barreto, Co-founder of Canelo, Kathryn Taussig, Senior Commissioning Editor at Quercus, and Bryony Woods from Diamond Kahn & Woods Literary Agency Ltd. Some of the best tips to come from that session included promoting yourself through networking, doing the legwork as a junior employee, and taking advantage of any professional development opportunity available. More tips can be read on the hashtag #syphead.

There are plenty of round-ups of all the panel sessions held the fair, so make sure you read the follow-up literature to get an idea of what 2017 was all about. And hopefully see you at Frankfurt!

Red Nose Day Mania: Comic Covers

To celebrate the wonder that is Red Nose Day, we wanted to test whether you can tell these bookshelf pics past their noses.

Let us know how you get on!

  1. angelas ashes
  2. Da Vinci Code
  3. horton hears a who
  4. great gatsby
  5. animal farm
  6. five
  7. hp
  8. gold
  9. hunger games
  10. clockwork orange
  11. moby
  12. midnight
  13. misery
  14. witches


Stop cheating! Get back to the top!


1.Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt; 2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown; 3. Horton Hears A Who! by Dr Seuss; 4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; 5. Animal Farm by George Orwell; 6. Five Forget Mother’s Day by ‘Enid Blyton’; 7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling; 8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; 9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; 10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; 11. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville; 12. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt; 13. Misery by Stephen King; 14. The Witches by Roald Dahl


Just for fun: What’s your literary tipple?

‘I’m an occasional drinker, the kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.’

         - Raymond Chandler

irish pubs


We hope you have a fantastic St Patrick’s Day.

After a few cheeky Guinness, we feel in the mood to test your drunken prowess.

Can you read between the boozy lines to guess the novel?  

1.Good people drink good beer.’


2. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever drunk champagne before breakfast before.

With breakfast on several occasions, but never before before.’


3. ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go/ To heal my heart and drown my woe/

Rain may fall, and wind may blow/ And many miles be still to go/

But under a tall tree will I lie And let the clouds go sailing by.’



Albert: Oh, yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.’


5. 'We were not hugging people. In terms of emotional comfort it was our belief that

no amount of physical contact could match the healing powers of a well-made cocktail.'


6. ‘Next to music, beer was best.’


7. ‘As far as I’m concerned the only thing to do is sit in a room and get drunk.’


8. ‘Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.’


9. ‘I tell you, Mr Okada, a cold beer at the end of the day is the best thing life has to offer.

Some choosy people say that a too cold beer doesn’t taste good, but I couldn’t disagree more.

The first beer should be so cold you can’t even taste it. The second one should be a little

less chilled, but I want that first one to be like ice. I want it to be so cold my temples throb with pain.

This is my own personal preference of course.’


10. ‘It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.’


11. ‘I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything,

but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me

feel powerful and godlike.’


12. ‘She was the third beer. Not the first one, which the throat receives with almost tearful gratitude;

nor the second, that confirms and extends the pleasure of the first. But the third, the one you drink

because it's there, because it can't hurt, and because what difference does it make?’


13. ‘If you ever know a man who tries to drown his sorrows, kindly inform him his sorrows know how to swim.’


14. ‘It says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the effect of which is

like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.’


15. ‘Sublime is something you choke on after a shot of tequila.’


16. ‘So much the worse for those who fear wine, for it is because they have some bad thoughts

which they are afraid the liquor will extract from their hearts.’


17. ‘I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains.’



1.Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson; 2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote; 3. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein; 4. The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett; 5. Naked by David Sedaris; 6. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers; 7. On the Road by Jack Kerouac; 8. The October Country by Ray Bradbury; 9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami; 10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; 11. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; 12. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison; 13. The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore; 14.The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; 15. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; 16. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; 17. Othello by William Shakespeare

And next year’s Oscar goes to…

Now that the mayhem of the Oscars is over for another year (Envelopegate notwithstanding), it’s time to take a breath, get over the drama, and start looking ahead to the next crop of cinematic masterpieces!

Hollywood in particular isn’t often accused of excessive originality and this year’s nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay were a diverse bunch, including two films based on plays, two inspired by works of non-fiction, and one developed from a short story. With Moonlight’s victory, a burgeoning trend seems to have been bucked, as all of the winners over the preceding five years were based on works of non-fiction or memoirs, with the exception of 2011’s The Descendants. So, does this bode well for fictional forays into the big screen at next year’s Academy Awards?

Happily, there’s no shortage of source material, and while the first couple of months of the year have already seen a fair few such adaptations, these seem to be just the tip of the iceberg. With that in mind we’ve put together a rundown of literary adaptations that look set to hit screens over the coming months so you can stock up your bookshelves and pick next year’s winner!


If you’ve missed the big-screen incarnation of Dennis Lehane’s gangster epic Live By Night or the Fifty Shades sequel isn’t quite up your street, then don’t panic, as March will see the release of Logan, the most recent installment of the X-Men franchise and the last to feature Hugh Jackman. Inspired in part by the Wolverine: Old Man Logan graphic novels, it sees an older, disillusioned Wolverine drawn out of hiding to aid a fugitive young mutant with whom he shares a troubling connection. Far from the only graphic novel/comic/movie mash-up on the horizon, this year will also see the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman movie and the live-action film version of seminal manga Ghost in the Shell (already generating controversy over its casting).

Julian Barnes’ enigmatic Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, might seem a difficult prospect for a film: an elliptical study of memory and fallibility, it manages to be profoundly shocking while still retaining much of its mystery. Audiences intrigued to find out how this masterful work translates from page to screen will be able to see for themselves when it’s released on 14 April: Jim Broadbent leads the cast as Tony, a man confronted with a legacy which forces him to question his own past and the repercussions of his actions.


Dave Eggers’ The Circle stirred up controversy on publication with its sinister perspective on the insidious incursions of Internet corporations into our lives. Emma Watson stars as a young worker hired by a powerful tech company who starts to have doubts about its leader’s (Tom Hanks) ostensibly philanthropic motives, while John Boyega gives a notable turn as a mysterious possible ally in one of his first major roles since his Star Wars breakout. Unsettling parallels with Brave New World and 1984 suggest a possible new classic of dystopian sci-fi.


Reaching screens in June is The Shack, in which Sam Worthington plays a man grieving the loss of his daughter who receives a mysterious invitation from God to revisit the scene of her abduction and likely murder. An evocative meditation on loss and faith based on the self-published phenomenon by Canadian author William P. Young it’s likely to draw comparison with Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones and also offers a chance to see Octavia Spencer, one of this year’s nominees for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, shine in a leading role.


Sofia Coppola adds a bold new twist to her filmography with The Beguiled, due for release on 23 June. Based on the 1966 Southern Gothic novel A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan, previously adapted in 1971 and starring Clint Eastwood, it tells the story of a wounded Union soldier’s catalytic effect on a group of sheltered Virginia schoolgirls and their caretakers during the American Civil War. While the Western genre is a point of departure, Coppola’s preoccupation with female sexuality and desire also takes a dark new direction in concert with frequent collaborators Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.


Summer will also see the release of My Cousin Rachel, the second film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s mystery-romance novel and the latest in a long line of adaptations of her work. The plot revolves around Philip, a young man intent on proving the involvement of his enigmatic and beautiful cousin in the death of his guardian while falling ever more deeply under the spell of her charms. Rachel Weisz stars with Sam Claflin in this mesmerizing study in dangerous infatuation.


Fans of Stephen King and Idris Elba are in for a treat this summer with each enjoying not one but two literary adaptations for the big screen. In October Elba will star opposite Kate Winslet in an adaptation of Charles Martin’s The Mountain Between Us, after taking up the mantle of The Gunslinger in The Dark Tower, scheduled for release on 28 July and based on King’s series of novels of the same name and self-described magnum opus. Upping the ante on fear, 8 September will see the release of a film version of the author’s horror classic, It, previously adapted in 1990 as a television mini-series and now back to terrify a whole new generation as the Losers Club regroup to take on the nightmare that hunted them down as children.


If it’s more graphic novels you’re after then make sure you don’t miss the big screen debut in August of Valérian and Laureline, heroes of the eponymous French comics written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. In Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Luc Besson returns to the same brand of science fiction action-adventure as his 1997 hit, The Fifth Element, with Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne’s space-and-time-travelling agents tasked with the investigation of a intergalactic empire.


DeHaan’s profile will rise further with the long-awaited film of Deborah Moggach’s 1999 bestseller, Tulip Fever, expected this year after delays in editing. Set during the height of the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s, it recounts the illicit romance between a young artist and the married woman whose portrait he has been commissioned to paint. Those expecting another Girl with a Pearl Earring should brace themselves for an extra helping of sex, deception, and betrayal, though the line-up is similarly starry with Tom Stoppard on screenwriting duties and Academy Award winners Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, and Dame Judi Dench among the cast.


Along with period drama, the YA film genre is in for a strong year, especially with the release of Before I Fall, based on Lauren Oliver’s 2010 novel. Samantha, an American high-schooler, seems to be living a charmed life until what should have been just another day turns out to be her last: miraculously able to relive it over the course of a week, she begins to untangle the mystery of her death and to discover the real value of everything she is in danger of losing. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and a UK release date is hopefully on the cards for later this year.

One disconcerting YA trope is about to get much more familiar to movie audiences with not one but two treatments of severe combined immunodeficiency expected to air this year: while Asa Butterfield encounters a related predicament in The Space Between Us, Everything, Everything more straightforwardly takes up the storyline of a medically confined teen falling in love from afar. Nicola Yoon’s 2015 novel has seen an impressively quick transition to film and with voice-of-a-generation Amandla Stenberg on board it looks set to be a both a box-office hit and an emotional touchstone of The Fault in Our Stars magnitude.

2 - fassbender

If there’s a Scandi-noir-shaped hole in your life, look no further than the upcoming adaptation of Norwegian crime author extraordinaire Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman, directed by Tomas Alfredson. Starring Michael Fassbender and slated for release in October, The Snowman is the seventh of Nesbø’s series of books following Inspector Harry Hole but the first to be adapted for the silver screen. The disappearance of a woman whose scarf is found wrapped around a snowman by her son and the discovery of a pattern of missing wives and mothers stretching back years promises chilling viewing heading into winter.

2 - julia

If something slightly more affirming is what you’re after, then R. J. Palacio’s multi-award winning children’s book, Wonder, is getting the big-screen treatment on 17 November and follows August ‘Auggie’ Pullman, a 10 year old boy with a facial deformity experiencing school and all the challenges it brings for the first time. Though helmed by YA leading light Stephen Chbosky, who most recently directed the film adaptation of his own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s not just for the kids – expect valuable insights on prejudice, fitting in, and embracing yourself and others no matter what your age.

1 - ken

Though some way off with a release date of 24 November, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is already firmly on the radar: the cast is about as eclectic as they come, with Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Willem Dafoe supplying Hollywood clout alongside cream of British talent Dame Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, and Daisy Ridley. For anybody concerned about Depp’s (or Dafoe’s) Belgian accent, Branagh himself will be taking on the mantle of Christie’s treasured detective, Hercule Poirot, in this dark tale of murder and deception.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy, head over to IMDb for the latest news as it’s released and don’t forget to stop by the SYP Book Club to see what we’re reading! Happy page-turning/popcorn-munching, and here’s to #OscarsSoLiterary next year!

Hey fussy! All dates and film information taken from IMDb and correct at the time of writing.

Just for Fun: Emoji-lit

Emoji quizz - literature


Can you guess the classic novel by the emojis?

  1. Doc1144_Page_01
  2. Doc1144_Page_07
  3. Doc1144_Page_04
  4. Doc1144_Page_09
  5. Doc1144_Page_08
  6. Doc1144_Page_03
  7. Doc1144_Page_02
  8. Doc1144_Page_14
  9. Doc1144_Page_13
  10. Doc1144_Page_15
  11. Doc1144_Page_16
  12. Doc1144_Page_12
  13. Doc1144_Page_05
  14. Doc1144_Page_10
  15. Doc1144_Page_11

Easy right? How many have you actually read?

1.The Catcher and the Rye; 2.Middlemarch; 3.To Kill a Mockingbird; 4.Of Mice and Men; 5.Midnight’s Children; 6.Little Women; 7.Lords of the Flies; 8.The Time Traveller's Wife; 9.The Silent History; 10.Life of Pi; 11.The Old Man and the Sea; 12.A Tale of Two Cities; 13.Dracula; 14.Heart of Darkness; 15.The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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