Christopher Edge

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Science and fiction

Posted by Christopher at 11.17am

Last week I appeared on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours talking about the popularity of science-based children's fiction and you can listen to the programme again here. My interview starts at the 30 minutes mark.

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Both The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and my forthcoming novel The Jamie Drake Equation were inspired by science, but, as I say in the interview, science lessons for me in school were mostly a battle for control of the gas taps between the kids who wanted to blow up the Science block and those of us who wanted to live. Any experiments we did get round to performing involved rolling marbles down slopes or heating salty water to boiling point and usually went wrong anyway as most major scientific laws didn’t seem to apply in Salford in the 1980s. In the real world, the Voyager spacecraft was flying past Saturn whilst the space shuttle zoomed in and out of orbit, but science in school kept my eyes firmly fixed to the blackboard and didn’t spark for me any sense of wonder about the universe.

It was a different story on my paper round. There, at the bottom of a bag bulging with tomorrow’s chip papers, I discovered 2000AD. This weekly comic was filled with stories of space exploration, alien invaders, genetically-engineered super soldiers, and time-travelling paradoxes. In comic strips such as Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog and Tharg’s Future Shocks, I found stories inspired by theories and discoveries at the cutting edge of science, and used to paint exciting and terrifying pictures of the future. And every week, I’d eagerly flick through the pages of 2000AD as I traipsed round my paper round, my mind whirling with thoughts of alien life and parallel worlds, until the time came to push the rain-spattered copy of the comic through the letterbox of the poor kid who had ordered it.

Unfortunately the interest in science sparked by 2000AD wasn’t enough to prevent me getting a grade D in my GCSE Physics exam, but it did lead me to E.T., The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Back to the Future and Doctor Who. In the world of fiction, I found real scientific ideas sparkling with a sense of wonder that science in school had kept hidden.

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On Saturday 11th February, courtesy of prize tickets from Geek Syndicate, I made a pilgrimage with my brother to London’s Hammersmith Novotel for 2000AD’s 40th Anniversary Festival to say thank you to the writers and artists whose imaginations lit up my childhood in the pages of the galaxy’s greatest comic and helped plant the seeds of an interest in science that eventually blossomed into the books that I write. It was a real thrill to meet Pat Mills, the Charles Dickens of British comics, whose vision for 2000AD and timeless creations have helped to inspire generations of readers. 

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So thanks for the inspiration 2000AD and here’s to the next 40 years! 

Labels: The Jamie Drake Equation, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, You and Yours, Radio 4, 2000AD, Pat Mills

A belated thank you

Posted by Christopher at 12.47pm

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Last week the nominations for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals 2017 were announced and, thrillingly, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017. At the time of the announcement I was buried under an avalanche of deadlines, so didn't have time to write this blog then, but to say that I was thrilled about this news would be a serious understatement as you'll see if the video ever leaks of the Intergalactic dance moves I busted out when I heard about the nomination.

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards are described as 'the gold standard in literature and illustration for children and young people' and one of the key reasons for this is because they are chosen by the experts in children's literature and illustration - librarians

Every writer is a reader and the books that turned me into a writer were the ones I found on the shelves of my local library, as I explained in this blog post from five years ago where I talked about the inspirations that set me on the path to becoming an author.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know about authors; my brain was full to bursting with their names. I was the Incredible Book Eating Boy before Oliver Jeffers had even drawn him, devouring the shelves of my local library. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, John Wyndham, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Cormier, Ursula Le Guin. With every book I took out, a new favourite author could be discovered and I’d then eagerly seek out everything that they had written.

At a time when even the idea of the library seems to under attack like never before, and librarians battle against cuts and closures, I'd like to thank every single librarian for the vital work that they do in inspiring new readers and writers, and the way they still make time to celebrate children's literature with the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals and help share the amazing worlds that can be found in its pages with young readers everywhere. As I tweeted when I first found out about the Carnegie nomination:

 

Labels: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals, Children's book awards

Festivals, feedback and a shortlist

Posted by Christopher at 11.46am

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As the snow falls in April, thoughts inevitably turn towards summertime and festivals!

I'll be at the Hay Festival on Thursday 2 June at 2.30pm, taking part in a fantastic event with Time Travelling with a Hamster author Ross Welford, where we'll be exploring the wonder of science as a way to explain some of the mysteries of the world. Tickets are £6 and you can book these here.

On Monday 25 July at 2.30pm I’ve got an event at Octavia’s Bookshop as part of the Cirencester Children's Book Week festival, talking about quantum physics, parallel universes and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.

I'm also proud to be a part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Schools Programme and will be appearing at the Garden Theatre on Tuesday 23 August at 12.30pm, where I’ll be talking about the real-life science behind The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.

As well as these literary extravaganzas, I'll also be representing the world of children's books at some fantastic music festivals this summer.

I'm back at the Wychwood Festival this year, and if you head to the Kids Literature tent at 6.00pm on Friday 3 June, you'll find me explaining exactly how to travel to a parallel universe.

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I'm also incredibly excited to have been asked to appear at Tim Peaks Diner at Kendal Calling and Festival No.6. In case you haven't heard about it, Tim Peaks Diner is a festival within a festival, created and curated by Tim Burgess from The Charlatans. In this unique space you'll find amazing bands, book readings, DJ sets, science talks, dance classes, great tea and coffee, and now children's literature! Read this interview with Tim to find out more and if you're at Kendal Calling or Festival No.6, I hope to see you at Tim Peaks Diner.

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Since its publication back in January, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright has been receiving some wonderful reviews. As well as being chosen by The Times as their Children’s Book of the Week, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright has been described as “heartwarming” and “a touching story” by The Guardian, "Moving, and exploding with scientific ideas and wonder" by The Herald, and has also received some lovely comments from authors I admire.

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"Back to the Future for the Large Hadron Collider generation. Hilarious and full of heart." Piers Torday, author of The Last Wild trilogy

"I'd love this book in all the worlds. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, heartstopping. Amazing." Holly Smale, author of the Geek Girl series

"A beautiful thing. Moving, funny, twisty, wise and deserves to be remembered." A.F. Harrold, author of The Imaginary

"A delightful story to excite children about quantum mechanics - and adults should learn a thing or two as well." Robin Ince, comedian, writer and co-presenter of the BBC Radio 4 comedy and popular science series 'The Infinite Monkey Cage'

“Christopher Edge’s warm-hearted writing sucks you in from the start with a sparkling take on parallel worlds, fuelled by a delightfully fresh understanding of quantum physics and a fearless ability to take on life, loss and dreaming big while never talking down to his readers. Bananas will never be the same again. I have one complaint about this book. I wanted it to be longer.” Samira Ahmed, writer, journalist and broadcaster

You can also read a round-up of the latest reviews of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright on the Toppsta Children's Books website here and I loved taking part in the #KidLitReaders chat about the book which is storified here. I’m so grateful to all the reviewers who have shared their thoughts on The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and if any reviewers felt able to cross-post their review on the websites of online retailers such as Amazon, Waterstones etc. I’d really appreciate this, as sometimes these websites are the places where readers learn about new books for the first time.  

Finally, I’m thrilled that The Many Worlds of Albie Bright has been shortlisted for the New Children’s Fiction Awards, run by Teach Primary magazine. It has been shortlisted in the KS2 category alongside some wonderful books and authors, so please keep your fingers crossed for Albie! The winners and runners up will be announced in the June edition of Teach Reading and Writing magazine.

Labels: Hay Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Cirencester Children's Book Week, Wychwood Festival, Kendal Calling, Festival No.6, Tim Peaks Diner, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, New Children's Fiction Awards

The 2016 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Posted by Christopher at 1.23pm

On Sunday night I flew back from Dubai where I had spent the previous week as part of the 2016 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Attending this festival has proved to be one of the most inspirational experiences of my writing career to date and I just wanted to write this brief blog post to share some of my thoughts and feelings about the experience.

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I arrived in Dubai in the early hours of Tuesday morning and that evening attended an Oasis in Time, an event to celebrate the opening of the festival with readings from Carol Ann Duffy, Anthony Horowitz, Meera Syal and Robert Lindsay to name but a few. This event contained two highlights for me. The first was listening to the eight-year-old Emirati author Abdullah Ali Hassan speaking from the stage with such youthful power and vigour that he put authors five times his age (i.e. me!) to shame. The second was listening to the astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield talk about the power of books and imagination. He spoke about his childhood dreams,  of humanity’s greatest achievements, the wonders of the universe and the power of inspiration. “It begins with the spark of an idea,” he said, “It begins with literature.” And over the next few days at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, I saw for myself how true these words were.

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On Wednesday morning I had an event scheduled at the Nord Anglia International School in Dubai, where students from twelve different schools were due to hear me talk about Twelve Minutes to Midnight and the Penelope Tredwell series, but as monsoon rains fell and the car sped through flooded streets, I wondered whether even one student would be able to make it through the chaos that the rain in Dubai brings. Luckily, I had reckoned without the indomitable thirst for books that students in Dubai possess and managed to speak to an auditorium of over 150 students about where I found inspiration for Twelve Minutes to Midnight, exploring with them the world of 19th century stories from Sherlock Holmes to The War of the Worlds, and talking about how Penelope Tredwell fights against the expectations of her age to succeed in her endeavours. After the event I had the chance to chat to the students, who seemed to come from every corner of the world, and it was an honour to share in the love of books that they had. Huge thanks to the staff at Nord Anglia school for looking after me, especially Jasmine Ismael who is the wonderful librarian there.

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Racing back through flooded streets to the festival site, I quickly got myself ready for my first How To Write Your Best Story Ever event, a creating writing workshop for children aged 9-11. In these sessions I talk about the process of writing a story, helping children to develop story ideas from initial sparks of inspiration, create characters and settings and finally write the openings to their own stories. There was a great mix of children at the event with a panoply of ideas and we had great fun developing their story sparks into some fantastic stories.

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One prompt I give children if they have trouble coming up with an initial spark of inspiration is to take down a book from the shelf and flick through this until they find a line that could inspire their own story. The example I used in the session was a line taken from The Adventures of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie:

“By and by there was to be heard a sound at once the most musical and the most melancholy in the world: the mermaids calling to the moon.”

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In the workshop, we talked about the stories this line might inspire. An eight-year-old Emirati girl suggested that the mermaids might be singing to their cousins who lived on the moon, moon mermaids made of sand and dust who were longing to visit the Earth. I asked the girl where in the world the sand mermaids would want to visit, and, of course, the answer was Dubai. This girl then wrote the opening to the most magical story: a story about a young Emirati girl who walked out into the desert one day to discover a sand mermaid who had fallen from the moon. It was a real honour to share in this girl’s creative process and see how a line written in England over a hundred years ago could inspire a 21st century Emirati girl to create the most wondrous tale.

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I took part in several other inspirational events as part of the festival: a creative workshop for teen authors, a panel event talking ‘scintillating science’ and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright alongside the amazing authors Nick Arnold, Rachel Hamilton and Rehan Khan, and a ‘Now There’s a Scary Thought’ panel moderated by Jo Wroe where I appeared alongside the fantastic authors Curtis Jobling and Darren Shan talking about fiction that chills and thrills. And in every event I was reminded of the power of books: to engage and open minds, to share ideas and to inspire.

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After the final panel event, I had the chance to meet Hanna Ladha, an eight-year-old girl from Dubai who had been prevented by the rain from attending my Education Day event, and she presented me with a piece of art that she’d created inspired by Twelve Minutes to Midnight. This beautiful gift brought home for me the wonder that can be found in stories – how the solitary act of writing can create connections that span the continents.

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Perhaps more selfishly, another way in which the festival inspired me was by giving me the chance to meet some incredible authors. From chatting about the writing process with Ian Rankin to letting Simon Armitage know that I owed him money from my days as a student when I bought his collected works for 20 pence from a bookshop which priced books by their weight – a debt now karmically repaid – the writers who I met reminded me of the inspiration that books have given me, taking me on a once unimagined journey into another life.

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Apart from the wonderful readers that I met, the people I spent the most time with at the festival were fellow authors from the world of children’s books: Jonathan Meres, Holly Smale, Lauren St John, A. F. Harrold, Curtis Jobling, Chris Haughton, Rachel Hamilton, Gill Lewis, Petr Horacek, David Melling, Garth Nix, Lauren Child, Sean Fay-Wolfe, Darren Shan, Jacqueline Wilson. Thank you one and all for being such great company.

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The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature hasn’t been without controversy this year, with several people calling for a boycott of the festival. The author Chris Cleave writes here why he decided not to boycott the festival and his reasons echo my own – although they’re much more eloquently expressed. But one experience crystallized for me what I think the festival achieves.

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On Thursday night I was in the audience for Desert Stanzas, a night of poetry from John Agard, Simon Armitage, Harry Baker, Nujoom Al Ghanem and Grace Nicholls. As I listened to these incredible poets from all around the world, I was reminded of these lines from William Blake’s poetry:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”

And as these poets scattered their words like grains of sand into the desert night, I thought to myself this is what is happening here. Writers and readers being brought together to share in the wonder of words. Sparks of inspiration, worlds of stories and ideas, scattered like dust into thousands of minds.

It was a real honour to be part of the 2016 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Isobel Abulhoul, Yvette Judge and everyone else involved in the festival, from the organisers to the volunteers. Thank you for inviting me to scatter my grains of sand.

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Labels: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2016

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