Friday, 12 December 2014

Reading for my writing......by Miriam Halahmy

I have been a reader and a writer all my life. Reading was so important to me when I was growing up that I refused opportunities to do English Lit A Level more than once, I didn't want to have my reading restricted in any way. I must admit I have regretted that since and as an adult did French A level with a brilliant literature tutor and learned so much about Moliere and Camus.

Currently as we dip down to the winter solstice and the evenings are long and dark, I take the  opportunity to sink myself into reading.




Books pile up in different parts of the house - by my bedside, next to where I traditionally sit in the living room, in my study, on the teapot shelf in the kitchen. I can happily read several books at once and with the reading, comes  long hours of thinking and thinking, stimulated by all the ideas which we find in books.



Currently I am working my way through Marilynne Robinson. I have read Lila, gone back to the start of the trilogy to Gilead and looking forward to Home. If you haven't yet read these novels, you have a big treat in store. They are not long books but each sentence could be pondered over for hours. Deeply philosophical, religious, political, with wondrous characters and a world which although set in America 1930s-1950s, are so foreign to our English world, they might as well be set on another planet. Yes, we know about the Dust Bowl, abolition and the influence of the church and yes, we've heard of Kansas and Iowa, but the depth of characterisation and the landscape the characters move through, is a galaxy away from England in that era. This is not The Grapes of Wrath - this is after that great book and takes us into new territory.

Once I have read the trilogy, I have another Robinson to read, When I was a child I read books. I don't even need to explain this title. I simply love books about reading by writers I admire. But before I read that I am reading - again rather slowly, to savour it - The Road to Middlemarch, My Life with George Eliot, by Rebecca Mead. Mead has written about how Middlemarch has been part of her life since she was seventeen and has re-read it every five years. Her meditation on Eliot is so absorbing I don't even notice how dark the night is outside my window.

I have read 'George Eliot, The Last Victorian', by Kathryn Hughes and most of Eliot's great novels  (curiously not Adam Bede yet.) Her most fascinating character to me is Gwendoline in Daniel Deronda, because of the enormous changes she goes through - I wasn't that interested in Daniel himself.

 I thought myself pretty well finished on Eliot and then along comes Rebecca Mead's book and I'm off again. I'll probably reread Middlemarch this winter and read Adam Bede.

Writing - who has time for it??

I also have a Selected Poems of Paul Celan which I bought at the Kiefer exhibition at the Royal Academy last weekend and a War Diary of a young woman from Austria.

So what does any of this have to do with being an Edgy Y.A. writer?
Probably I don't need to answer that because I know that to most people it will be obvious.


But perhaps its enough for me to say that when I read, I am inspired, my imagination flies off in all directions, I sit and think, I daydream and above all, powerful, strong, brilliant writing encourages me to write the best words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books I possibly can because the benchmark is high and I will always reach upwards.

Enjoy your reading this winter.

www,miriamhalahmy.com

Friday, 28 November 2014

Kids' Lit Quiz 2014!




The 2014 Kids’ Lit Quiz is in full swing!

The International Kids' Lit Quiz, founded by New Zealand quizmaster Wayne Mills, is an annual book competition for kids aged 10-13 to promote and celebrate the love of reading. Each school can enter up to two teams of four pupils, and there are 18 regional heats in the UK, then the winning team from each heat competes in a National Final, held this year at King’s College School, Wimbledon on December 4th! 
The Author Team! Adele Geras, Chris Priestley, Mark Robson,
Julian Sedgwick, and me - doing my best to blend in with the surroundings!

The national champions will then be invited to America to compete against the winning teams from New Zealand, China, South Africa, USA, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong.for the World Title - as well as enjoying an amazing tour, including visiting Mark Twain’s house and building rafts!

Last week I had the honour of being invited to Comberton Village College to take part in an Author Team. I was extremely excited – and more than a little nervous, as we were up against the top school teams from Central England! – but fortunately I wasn’t alone. I was joined by Mark Robson, Adele Geras, Julien Sedgwick and Chris Priestley.

Do you know what this symbol represents?
The heat consisted of 110 questions on children's literature, divided into 11 categories, which vary each year. This year the categories included mythology, symbols, shipwrecks, wolves, owls, and – my favourite – princes and princesses! In addition to normal scoring, each team could choose a “Joker” round before the quiz began, choosing one category in which their scores would be doubled (after much deliberation – we weren’t sure we’d be particularly good at ANY of them! – we chose Symbols).

Quiz creator, Wayne Mills
Then it was on with the quiz! Devised, orchestrated, and run by the enthusiastic larger-than-life top-hatted Wayne Mills, the questions varied enormously. Wayne reads enough books to devise several thousand questions each year - and has never asked the same question twice! Some of the questions were really quite tough, but they were varied enough for everyone to have a go, and we all found we had different areas of expertise (if you can call knowing the two princesses’ names from Frozen an area of expertise – I totally do!)

Fancy testing your knowledge? Here are some sample questions:
 
1) How many players in a Quidditch team?
2) What is special about this sentence: Never odd or even?
3) What type of creature was a Psammead?
4) What followed Mary to school one day?
5) Annabeth is the daughter of which Greek goddess?

How did you do? Answer in the Comments section below - if you can!

Between rounds, bonus questions were asked, giving the opportunity to win book tokens, whilst the winning team from each individual round won a book each, donated by sponsoring publishers, Walker Books.

The tension was palpable as the teams put their heads together, racked their brains, whispered fervently, debated, fought, and finally scribbled their answers furiously...and that was just the authors!

It was tight at the top, with incredibly high scores, but finally last year's top team defended their title with Jack, Callum, Erin and Anastasia all from Comberton Village College delighted to be going through to the London final again. In second place was Aylesbury Grammar School and in third was Queenswood School.

But the real winners of the day were books themselves. What an ingenious, fun, and exciting way to champion a love of reading. Many thanks to Wayne, Jane Hack, and all who organised the event.


For details of how to enter next year's Kids' Lit Quiz, click here.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Which is better, the Book or the Film? Edge author Dave Cousins throws down a gauntlet for a discussion on book to film adaptations.

One of our aims when starting the Edge was to provide a focus for discussion about books for young people. When I visit schools, either on my own or as part of the Edge, I'm always keen to get students talking about the books they like—and the ones they don't. On occasions though, getting students to admit that they read at all can be a struggle. However, ask who likes films and most people in the room will raise a hand. I have found that this can be a useful starting point for a discussion about film adaptations of books. This invariably leads to arguments—sorry, exchanges of opinions—about the best and worst screen versions, and of course the big question: which is better, the book or the film? Suddenly, students who didn't raise their hand when I asked "who likes to read?" are vociferously arguing that Perks of Being a Wallflower the book, is miles better than, Perks of Being a Wallflower the movie.




So, in the hope of sparking such a discussion online, here is a list of ten film adaptations and a brief word on each from me. I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on any of the films I have offered, whether you agree or disagree, and of course, please add your own titles to the list in the comments box at the end of this post.

1. Holes (Louis Sachar)—I quite liked the film, but as this book is as close to perfect as I think it's possible to get, it had a lot to live up to.
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)—Watching the film made me want to read the book, which can't be a bad thing. This was a very popular novel amongst some of our guest bloggers here on the Edge, so I'd be interested to know what people thought of the film, if they read the book first. It is worth noting that the author himself wrote the screenplay and directed the movie.
3. It's Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini)—I really like this film, and again bought the book as a result, but so far have struggled to get beyond the first few pages. For some reason I didn't connect with the voice on the page as well as I did with the character in the movie.
4. Billy Elliot (Lee Hall/Melvin Burgess)—This started life as a very good film and has gone on to be a very successful stage show, but I think the novel version by Melvin Burgess does a superb job of translating the story onto the page. As far as I remember, the book matches the film scene for scene, keeping the same grit and urgency, and Burgess' use of multiple first person narrators is really effective in keeping the emotional storyline centre stage.)
5. The Princess Bride (William Goldman)—This is one of my favourite films—a work of genius. However, I know I'm not alone in finding the book something of a disappointment by comparison. One of those times when the film is better than the book that inspired it.
6. Hugo (Brian Selznick)—This one is interesting because the original book (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is highly illustrated. There are no words for the first forty pages, which makes the opening very reminiscent of a movie storyboard, a technique that is used throughout.
7. Harry Potter (JK Rowling)—You can't argue with the phenomenal success of these books, but I have to admit I prefer the films, especially the early ones. The world and characters that Rowling creates were begging for the big screen treatment. Watching one of the early Harry Potters has become a pre-Christmas ritual in our house.
8. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Bryan Lee O'Malley)—I had to include this simply because it's one of my favourite films, inspired by one of my favourite series of comic books. I struggle to find fault with either, but maybe there are those of you out there who would disagree.
9. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)—I thought the first two books especially, were superb. I was worried the films wouldn't be able to do the books justice. My jury is still out on that one, but what do you think?
10. Stand by Me (Stephen King)—Deciding which Stephen King story to include was tricky, as so many of his books have found their way onto the screen with varying degrees of success. I think this one worked well, and is a good adaptation of a fine novella called The Body. Which Stephen King would you have picked?

I hope my list has got you talking—if you are currently ranting in disbelief over the films I left out, or pointing a finger at the screen shouting "how could he say that!", please let me know by leaving a comment below. This is just a starter for ten (there's another one!)—it would be great to compile a longer list for the Edge archives.

Thanks for watching!




Waiting for Gonzo by Dave Cousins has yet to be optioned for a movie deal, however it does already have its own soundtrack and accompanying music videos