My friend Donna is the Grand Master of giving personalised gifts. For Christmas, she gave me the mouse mat in the picture on the left. When I removed the wrapping paper and looked at what was inside, I started to laugh. Donna started laughing too. She said, ‘Is it cheesy?’
‘A bit,’ I said, truthfully. And then, still laughing, I thought, if anyone sees this, they’ll think I’ve got a head the size of a planet. But then I thought of something else and it stopped me laughing. I said, ‘Those books in the photo – are they all yours?’
‘Yes,’ said Donna. ‘From my own personal collection.’ Then she said, ‘Is the mouse mat alright? Do you like it?’
‘I love it,’ I said, truthfully. ‘Sweetest present ever. Thank you.’
‘You can always update it when you win,’ said Donna.
‘Let’s not go there,’ I said.
As it happened, this mouse mat will serve superbly because I didn’t win. And although that’s disappointing for a moment, it really is no more disappointing than that. And then the amazement comes back and you think, Flipping heck! I got shortlisted for a Costa Book Award. A Costa Book Award! Again! And what’s the point of feeling disappointed about that?
So I want to use this first blog of 2016 to do a big thumbs-up wave to Sally Nicholls and Andrew Norriss who were on that shortlist with me for their marvellous books, An Island of their Own and Jessica’s Ghost, and of course to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to Frances Hardinge who won with her brilliant book The Lie Tree. Also I want to say a massive THANK YOU to Martyn Bedford, Andrea Reece and Melissa Cox who put me on that shortlist in such great company. From any angle, the Costa Book Awards are SO exciting! Writers of adult fiction, kids’ fiction, biographies and poetry are all placed together in the arena to slog it out in Hunger Games-style until only one book remains.* And because the cannon has sounded and my face has already been flashed up in the sky, I’m now going to lay my cards on the table and say this: I’d like Frances Hardinge to win. For the kids. For everyone who reads fiction for younger people. For everyone who writes it. And publishes it. And promotes it and sells it and loves it and values it and thinks that it deserves a few more seconds on the TV and radio and a bit more space in the newspapers.
And you know what? Being on that shortlist was one of the best Christmas presents ever. Ta J
*OK, it doesn’t quite happen like this. No deaths are involved.