Sunday, 2 August 2015

A Tale of One City, Six Schools, Three Libraries, A Conference and A Birthday



On the 7th of July 2015 I travelled to London to promote my book Ways of the Doomed (The Sun Song Trilogy). Here's what I got up to.




The preparation and inspiration. I never did manage to play my whistle.



The first of my many school visits
"Moira explained her method of writing and what inspires her. Students asked a lot of questions, for example her top tips for aspiring writers: Always aim to finish a text. Always get feedback on a text. Always read many other books to get inspired. In the end students felt very encouraged to continue their own writing, we are looking forward to reading some great new stories!"  Ulrike Kohnen-Zuelzer, LRC Co-ordinator, Harris Academy, Peckham

I hummed the theme tune to The Good Life all the way to Surbiton.    




" We felt honoured to welcome Moira McPartlin in our School Library to talk about her new book 'Ways of the Doomed'. The students enjoyed her workshop and they participated with interest and enthusiasm but most importantly it made them think about words and language and how they are used to influence people."   
Mareke Martens, School Librarian, Stepney Green Maths, Computing and Science College


Harris Academy Bermondsey. The Harris Federation was set up by Lord Harris of Peckham, the CEO of Carpetright, to provide good quality education to the children of London. There are now over thirty Harris Federation Schools in London. 



"It was one of the best author visits we have ever had. Thank you especially for the enthusiasm, your positive outlook and most of all the time you were able to give to our students, which is what many of our students are deprived in.

The students were really engaged with what you had to say.  You really connected with the groups, especially the Year 9 students.  The cracking powerpoint, the evocative film, and your own story which was somewhat different from the career orthodoxy preached at the school.

I have spied badges have been on lapels all week and the books will form basis for Year 9 book groups next year and prizes for the more resilient readers and writers."   Sean Delaney, Lead Librarian, City of London Academy, Bermondsey




  Easy transport too - door to door to Walworth Academy on the Number 168 bus!




Plane, train, underground, overground, DLR and foot.


My last school visit was to Walworth Academy where I was made to feel very welcome indeed.

" It was an excellent presentation.
... a joyous experience - definitely for me and for most of the students too! After your visit the students have been happily borrowing books, totally enthused. Your visit also encouraged our students that reading can be hugely enjoyable.Cecilia Johnson, Librarian, 
Walworth Academy



One of the highlights! My London book launch at The Barbican Library.  The Library is situated in The City of London and is the largest lending library in London.  I ran a lunchtime writing workshop for adults there earlier in the day.



The very funny and talented Candy Gourlay interviewed me in front of an audience of family, old acquaintances (some I hadn't seen since primary school) ex work colleagues and many writers I've met through SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators). 





The brand new Greenwich Library where I met many Celts.  One was the grand nephew of Francis Ledwidge.  What an honour.  Makes me want to go to Ireland.


Victoria Library in Westminster.  I met a genetics student who was intrigued by WOTD's book cover.  He was persuaded to read the book. I hope he likes it.  




YALC - The Young Adult Literature Convention,
held exclusively at London Film and Comic Con, Olympia.






'Apocalypse now'. With Virginia Bergin Marie Rutkoski, Francesca Haig, Moira Young, Teri Terry and Gemma Malley.  I asked what the panel thought of the term CliFi. They agreed the genre of dystopian fiction was limiting, adding another term like CliFi was even more limiting.




'YA: The next generation'. With Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon, Helena Coggan, Taran Matharu and Samantha Shannon.  Very impressive. Nearly all these young writers had great book deals before they reached the age of twenty. Taran Matharu told a great example of how Wattpad and NanoWriMo can work.





No YA Convention would be complete without Judy Bloom to admire and some fun writing pals, Christina Banach and Chitra Soundar, to share the events with. 

Good craic with Christina Banach and Chitra Soundar

I skipped the last day of the conference because it was my birthday!   My birthday treat was a trip to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre to see Richard II.  What an amazing place.  The acting was fabulous  and the actors interaction with the audience in the pits was hilarious.  A real treat indeed. 


The globes of Shakespeare's Globe with Tate Modern in background

I was in London for 15 days. It was hot and muggy. I travelled to places I had never been to before by tube, bus, train, DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and foot.  I met hundreds of enthusiastic kids and many hard working and generous librarians. I'll be back.


I saw this in use on the day of release. The user held up the queue a nanosecond longer than usual.

#LoveLondon



Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Book Launches - Ways of the Doomed

As the publication date of Ways of the Doomed hurtles towards me I find my days filled with creating content. These are fun days; ordering cakes, writing articles and lists, updating my profiles on social media and book reviewing sites. But the best fun of all comes on the day the book is launched. The invites have gone out and I am looking forward to catching up with old friends and readers at my book launches.

Here are the details of the three Scottish launches and my first ever London launch.
  • Glasgow - 16th June, 7.00pm Argyle Street Waterstones G2 8BT
  • Stirling – 17th June, 6.30pm Central Library, Corn Exchange Road, Stirling FK8 2HX
  • Edinburgh – 24th June 6.30pm Blackwell’s Bookstore, South Bridge, EH1 1YS 
  • London - 15th July, 6.30pm Barbican Library, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ways of the Doomed: trailer

I love the trailer of my latest book due out in June.  Published by Saraband Books.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjusOj0phy4

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Marcothon in Thirty One Tweets



So what is The Marcothon? It all started in 2009, when a guy called Marco challenged himself to run every day in November. His wife then deciding to follow suit and run every day in December, dubbed it the Marcothon and before she it knew it there was a group of runners eager to embrace the winter conditions of December 2009. In 2010, the group was added to Facebook and attracted over 500 runners from across the globe.

The rules are simple you must run every day in DECEMBER. Minimum of three miles or 25 minutes – whichever comes first. The challenge starts on December 1 and finishes on December 31 including Christmas Day. It’s not a competition but a personal challenge.  If you have friends who are also doing the challenge the added support helps keep you going.

I Marcothoned for the first time in 2013 and loved it. I forced myself out the door in dark, cold, sometimes atrocious weather.  After the first week it became a habit – a good habit.
When I approached the start of December 2014 I decided I would record every run on Twitter and Facebook just to add another dimension. I ran in total over 1100 minutes which probably equates to over 100 miles in the month.  Here is my Marcothon in Thirty One Tweets

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

When Adults Grow Young

My latest novel, due out next year, began life as an adult novel. The subject is adult even though the protagonist is a sixteen year old boy.  Two years into the writing and on reflection I began to believe the subject of oppression and class struggle might be suitable for young adults as well as adults.  There was nothing else for it, I needed to read as many young adult books as I could lay my hands on.

I wanted to read only the best but I didn't know where to start.  I was staggered by the choice on offer outside the famous Hunger Games and Twilight series.  I asked for recommendation and my Goodreads friends were a great source.  Here is a small selection of some I have read in the past months.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
 ****

There are a lot of mixed reviews about this book and I can see why.  First off it would be easy to spoil the read by revealing too much of the story so I am going to say little other than it is about three rich cousins and their poor friend who always spend the summer together. A significant event occurs and everything changes.  It has a twist at the end which I had heard about and I spent far too long looking for clues and trying to work out what it could be. I shouldn't have.

There have been complaints that the writing style is choppy, annoying. I liked it, it was different and felt natural for the age of the narrator (17yrs)

The novel is short, pacey and filled with creepy tension and yet the author still finds room make some pretty heavy social comments and for this I give it four stars.


*****

Kit Watson and his family return to the mining village where his ancestors lived and worked.  He is drawn into the childish game of Death in the wilderness of old pit workings and a story unfolds of friendship, death and the meaning of belonging.
Although this is a YA book it is very dark and well suited to an adult read.
The relationship between Kit and his grandfather is particularly well drawn.
The plot has touches of a Stephen King style but this is gentler and more thoughtful. This is the kind of book I wish I had written.

Skellig by David Almond
*****

I read this in one sitting. A pace perfect fantasy, with unfolding family drama, lots of love and a little sprinkling of William Blake.  Loved it.







Clockwork, Or, All Wound Up by Philip Pullman
****


I picked this up from the library sale bin and read it right away. Philip Pullman is the master of children's' fiction. This reads like a fairy tale but is full of drunkenness and adults behaving badly. It is enhanced with very quirky illustrations and asides.  It is a short read and I loved being transported through the whole story in one sitting.


War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
***

I really hated this book in the first part. I hated horse point of view, and the fact that the horse seemed to understand everything about the world. When he arrives in war torn France not only does he understand English but German and French too. Then I reminded myself who this book is aimed at and the message it is trying to get across.  I settled into the style and stopped being an adult critic.  That's when I started to enjoy it.
It might not be perfect, but what this book does well is show man's inhumanity to man and beast then counters that by showing man's humanity to both. I found the historical aspects of the Warhorses very interesting although I'm not sure how accurate they are.  The big message is about WW1 and how futile it was.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Finding Al Alvarez

A couple of weeks ago I was in London. A sweltering, tourist crowded, sweaty, dirty London.  I jumped on the number 24 bus at the bottom of Tottenham Court Road and within thirty minutes I reached Hampstead Heath. I have never been before, had only see it on films and TV Notting Hill, Smileys People.  I expected it to be like the other London Parks, manicured and prim but it's not, Hampstead Heath is wild.
I began my walk at Hampstead Railway Station and scuffed by feet uphill through rough stubble and newly cut grass.  Benches perched randomly on the hillside,  left for anyone willing to climb the slope to take in the breadth and beauty of the trees and the odd glimpse of the city.



Two competent dog walkers with twelve dogs between them seemed comfortable with the surroundings so I followed them for a bit then swung low to meet a well-made path. This took me to a causeway where two boys fished in a pond. Notices advised against disturbing the water in respect of the swimmers.


Swimmers?   

At the far end of the pool was a jetty behind which wooden huts huddled.  In the water I noticed a bald head heading toward a string of buoys about twenty five metres from the jetty.  An elderly gentleman, the only one in the water, reached the barrier and hugged it, taking in great whoops of breath. Bravo, I thought and before I had the chance to take out my camera, he was thrashing back the way he came.    This was the Mixed Pool.
The Mixed Pool with old man swimming


From here I climbed Parliament Hill where I was rewarded with the iconic view of London only previously seen on the small screen but I was then saddened to see a dejected English football supporter, draped in his flag, gazing with awe at his green and pleasant land; wondering, no doubt, where all his World Cup dreams had gone.

A poor wee soul on Parliament Hill
I followed the path down to Highgate, toyed with the idea of looking for Karl Marx's grave but in the end caught a bus back to Kings Cross.

Walking is hungry work so I stopped off at The Quakers Friends House café for lunch. This decision was impulsive. I had been passing the place every morning for the past week, it was close to my hotel and the menu on the board outside looked tempting.   And they had a bookshop!

The lunch can only be described as OK. A dry scotch egg with salad.  The bookshop was more interesting.  I am not religious but am interested in the different philosophies religions explore. This bookshop had many on offer but one book caught my eye.

Pondlife by Al Alvarez.   


I have been familiar with Al Alvarezs work for a number of years.  I always believed he was an American climber who was also an excellent writer. I have enjoyed many of his articles, stories and poems in various climbing magazines through the years. He wrote the introduction to the iconic short story collection The GamesClimbers Play.  I vaguely remembered he played poker.

I read the blurb about his previous publications, it turns out he is British and a writer and critic who climbs, how could I have got that so wrong?  The book was subtitled A Swimmers Journal;  he had added another activity to his already full portfolio.

I almost fainted with shock when I read the authors profile and saw his photo.  The book journals the last few years of the author's swims in pools at Hampstead Heath and charts his slow decline into old age. The photo shows an old man, bald head, and grey moustache above a rather pained smile.  I was convinced the man I saw only an hour before in the mixed pool was Al Alvarez.

The coincidence made me giddy. What made me go to those pools? I had no idea they were there. What made me go to the Quaker House? The only reason I picked up that particular book was I knew the name I thought he was an American climber!   It was weirder than weird.
Of course I had to buy the book. 

The journals begin in 2002 and charts Alvarez as he stumbles from his home near the Heath to the ponds for his swim. He swims all year round and along with a daily water temperature he lists the birds and the blossom, the changing seasons.  There is a real sense and love of the place. The shifting cast of characters are wonderful, fellow swimmers (mostly ex-athletes) and lifeguards. It is like an old boys club and very companionable. The author is pained by a bad ankle that plagues his walking and as the years spread over the pages he becomes more and more debilitated, suffering a stroke and many falls.  His frustration is heart breaking but I shy from feeling sorry for him because that is what he loathes most. By the end of the book his life is a constant battle against pain and his declining years.  This is an amazing insight into what we all must face one day; this mans struggles should give us the courage to face it with dignity.

The book only chronicles up to 2011 and by the end I began to doubt whether it was Al Alvarez I saw that day. I hope it was because it means he is still winning.