Category Archives: BUS STOP BABY

My own experience of Bookbuzz

I’ve been lucky enough to have three books picked for the Booktrust’s Bookbuzz programme.  Dear Scarlett in 2013, Murder in Midwinter in 2017, and now Bus Stop Baby in 2018.  The scheme is for children entering secondary school, and is all about choice and reading for pleasure.  Schools buy into it at a subsidised cost of £3 per pupil – and the children get to choose a book to keep from a selection of carefully selected titles.

Each time my books have been part of the scheme, I’ve done stacks of school visits and have seen first hand the effect of choice and ownership.   I’ve  signed battered copies of Bookbuzz books that a child has read over and over – because it is the only book that they own.   I’ve met kids who don’t read but who have found in the Bookbuzz selection something that chimed with them – because they found it themselves.  I’ve found that school libraries that haven’t got many books and have been poorly funded are enriched by the selection that they automatically get.  I’ve noticed that schools that do Bookbuzz often seem to put reading for pleasure at the heart of their ethos.

bookbuzz

If you are a secondary school teacher, librarian or parent – do look it up, here – you can sign up until the end of this month.

And actually, year 6 students can do it too.

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Writing from the heart…

busstopsignJust about a year ago, when the world seemed a more innocent place than it does now, I had a conversation with my editor at Piccadilly Press, Tilda Johnson.  It wasn’t the first conversation we’d had.  In fact it was probably the last in six months of conversations by phone and email that had been circling around what kind of book I would write next.

Before Tilda, I’d been having that conversation with Sara O’Connor, about the same book.

It had been going on for the best part of a year and it felt like the third wish. The last book in a contract, what was is going to be? It needed to be good, heartfelt, emotionally true, compelling, funny in parts, sad in parts.  I needed to believe in it, Tilda needed to believe in it.

The date was 16th July, and I started, once again to put down an idea on paper. But this idea was different, it came from somewhere else, definitely not my head. It came too fast to ram into a synopsis, it was running out of me like sand and I felt the need to tell Tilda really quickly before it disappeared.

I spewed out Amy’s story, Zelda’s story, the book’s story – and Tilda listened.  At the end there was a silence and she said: “I sense that you really want to write this?”

I realised that I was going to write it anyway, whether or not she liked it.

“Yes,” I said. “I really do.”

It had to go to various channels, editorial meetings, sales chats in which an incomplete synopsis and a hasty first chapter stood their ground. It was called Phone Box Baby.

By 29th July it had a new title. Bus Stop Baby.

I promised it would be written by the end of September – ” Hurrah!” replied Tilda, “I knew this was special as soon as you started pitching it on the phone – it feels very real already somehow.”

I began writing on 3rd of August and by the 19th August, there was a first draft.

Even for me that’s fast.

It wasn’t the end of drafting – that went on for months, and backwards and forwards it went, some parts getting bigger, others smaller, but a remarkable amount of it went through just as it was written – straight from the heart.

Bus Stop Baby is published today.  £5.99 Piccadilly Press.

 

 

Finding the Foundling.

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Foundlings have always fascinated me.  I think, as a small child, I confused them with Changelings, and thought that they had something to do with the fairies.  Children who arrived on doorsteps from nowhere.  Often at night, often only found by the sound of their cry. I thought it was romantic.

I was much older when I realized that the word hid a world of sadness.  That to be “found” you had to be abandoned.  That the story of Moses in the bullrushes had been cleaned up and sanitized for us at school. That the Importance of Being Earnest was more than just a comedy.

When I had my own children, I started to collect the stories. I visited the Foundling Museum, I read Kate Adie’s book, Nobody’s child.  I reread Tom Jones with a new attention to detail.

I remembered that a man I knew claimed to have been found on the doorstep of the village policeman on Christmas day.  The policeman and his wife went on to bring him up.  I have no idea if it was true, but it captured my imagination.

I cut out the moving story of a baby found in a phone box, that was published in The Guardian, again, at Christmas. (read it here)

More recently, my eye was caught by the increase in the numbers of babies abandoned across central Europe as the refugee crisis grew.

I became a bit of an expert on the awful statistics surrounding abandoned infant mortality.

What I noticed was that with the exception of the Lewes story, the foundlings themselves, tended to have the voice.  They were pictured with their cardboard boxes or the hand knitted cardigan they’d been left with. They’d mostly be seeking information about their origins.   Sometimes, there were happy stories about being re-united, but often not.

But just occasionally, there’d be a picture of the person that found the baby.  Usually looking bemused, with very little information to offer, but they universally expressed a sort of almost parental love for the grown up baby.

And it occured to me that the story I was reaching for was not the tale of the foundling, but instead, it would be about the person who found the foundling.

And so Amy came along.

Bus Stop Baby is published July 28th by Piccadilly Press