Indigo glow

ya prize 2018

On the first day of March, the shortlist for The Bookseller YA Prize was announced. It’s World Book Week this week – originally a day, but sort of expanded – which means that many children’s and YA writers are shuttling between schools, being sliced at by the wind and tripped up by the ice. Consequently, I missed the original announcement. I’ve come to learn that all schools are constructed from mobile signal-proof materials and no tweet will ever make it in, or out.

As I slowly defrosted over the bus from Ham to Richmond, I checked my phone.

Indigo Donut has been shortlisted for this year’s prize along side last year’s fellow shortlistee, Alex Wheatle and many wonderful authors. (I actually already have five of those books and the rest were on my to-buy list). There was also a very well-deserved special award for Stripes publishers for the A Change Is Gonna Come anthology.

Last year, my debut YA book Orangeboy won the prize. I was stunned, grinning and downright overjoyed. I also hoped that it would push the door open even wider for stories written by and about young men and women of colour. Marlon’s story is just one of thousands. However, with less than ten books by UK YA writers of colour being published in the UK this year, the door feels a little stuck. I am constantly reminding young people that their voices are important. The fact that the English exam curriculum does not celebrate a diversity of voices should not make young people think that they don’t matter. They do. They are funny and creative and full of their own stories.

Orangeboy shouted. Indigo Donut is quieter. It is about enduring love, belonging, trust and grief. The characters have families with roots around the world, just like the people I see every day. ‘Race’ isn’t explicit, but there will be readers who completely get the moments when who you are makes a difference from the exoticism projected on to mixed heritage people to the humour that young Muslim people may use to negotiate a sometimes hostile world. Though, most of all, it is about being a Londoner.

I am startled and downright pleased to be on a shortlist that includes Philip Pullman and Patrick Ness, writers that I read long before I had a hope of being published. But once more I hope that Alex Wheatle and I and publishers like Stripes can help push that door open even more.




Random trigger songs

It’s that moment when you have one ear on the radio and the other – well, it shouldn’t be on anything at all. You should be writing. IN SILENCE. Often, if asked to remember a song that reminds us of a specific moment or puts us in a certain mood, we can raid our memories and come up with something.

But what about those ones that take us completely by surprise? You hear the first few notes and you are thrown back to your childhood or a forgotten moment? You never knew that you remembered it? I use music a lot in my YA books – Blondie rules the soundtrack in Indigo Donut.

What are random trigger songs? These are mine.

Firstly, this. My Aunty Flo who lived above my foster mum took me to see this at the cinema. It must have been a re-show because I was only one when the film came out. I LOVED this scene. My primary school laid on a production of ‘Oliver’ – child abuse, prostitution and domestic violence, what’s not to like? My best friend, Lucy, was Nancy.  Me? I was the flower seller, of course.


This one – I have no idea why. I think it’s because my daughter was little and we put together a little mixtape and this was on there. Luckily, I have no cool to lose by singing along. (Just any friend who may be in close vicinity to witness it.) What became of 3 of a Kind?


When I was little, we spent summer holidays in Ceriana, near San Remo with my stepdad’s family. The first time I went, two English-speaking songs were big. One was Don McLean’s Vincent aka Starry, Starry Night. The other was this. It throws me back to wandering down La Strada stopping for ice cream at Antonia’s and eating watermelon and tomatoes and olive oil on San Remo beach.


Now over to the calypsonian, Lord Kitchener, known to anyone who has seen the news clip of the SS Empire Windrush docking in Harwich. I must admit, I had no idea he was on it until recently. I discovered him through my Aunty Baby in Arouca, in the mid-70s. I loved this. Though, to be honest, the casual mention of slapping his wife really does bump me. Oh, that golden era way back before women demanded equality.


And, finally. ‘Do I know where hell is? Hell is in ‘hello’.’ This. I can not remember a time before this existed. My mum had the double album. I think the film was long and either Clint Eastwood or Lee Marvin were in long johns. Still, rediscovering this is what You Tube was invented for.

Why I am a privileged writer …

This is the piece I have written for Luna’s Little Library Diversity Month. It was hard to choose a subject this year. I felt stuck for choice. I sometimes feel that all we need is a reboot of the Black And White Minstrels Show for the full 1970s flashback to be complete. Or perhaps I should stop channeling my inner pessimism. Perhaps.

Although it took me a while to get published, I never doubted the fact that I could write. I also know that I have an upbringing that, eventually, has endowed me with confidence in certain settings.

So, before we celebrate an increase in UK-based writers who are not white, I want to explore why people like me get through and others may not.



Ten Things I’ve Learnt from Literary Festivals …










So, two weeks into freelance life, I’ve spent the last three weekends travelling to or at literary festivals.

The thought of being on a panel at lit fests had always felt overwhelmingly exciting. I’d see them advertised in the broadsheets with the slow reveal of authors I’ve read and enjoyed. Then at last! the invitations started coming my way.

I have worked out that in the last 18 months, I have participated in:

  • two Young Adult Literary Conventions (YALC)
  • two Hay Festivals
  • two Edinburgh International Book Festivals including two Booked! outreach festivals
  • one Brighton Literary Festival
  • one Oxford Literary Festival
  • one Bath Literary Festival
  • one Cheltenham Literary Festival
  • one YA Shot
  • one YA Xtravaganza
  • one ArchWay With Words
  • one South Bank YA Literary Weekender
  • one Deptcon
  • one Stoke Newington Literary Festival

And still pending this year …

That’s a festival or two.

I’ve been invited to talk primarily about Orangeboy and Indigo Donut, but also to promote the A Change Is Gonna Come anthology published by Stripes Publishing.  This is what I’ve learnt so far.

Contemporary YA is a tough sell in mainstream literary festivals. The targeted readers rarely come to events. (Personally, I can remember most gigs I went to as a teenager, but I did not step foot in a single literary festival.)  For my type of book, school outreach is the most effective way to directly engage with the young people I write about and who I hope will be our future writers. Steph at ArchWay with Words persuaded the local school to bring their students. They were impressively interested bearing in mind it was 5pm on a Friday. And two young women were so delighted that I’d heard of Wattpad that it made my day.

However, SCBWIs rule. Wherever there are Scoobies, they will come out to support you. Special thanks to the Scottish crew and their families who came to my Edinburgh public event with Jared Thomas.

Thankfully, festivals appear to have ditched the diversity panel. I loved this year’s YALC panel theme of unconventional romances. At Stoke Newington, I was on a light-hearted mixed genre panel chatting publishing experiences. At the South Bank Festival in a couple of weeks time, the panel focuses on truth – a wonderfully topical subject. The Deptcon panel though sort of about families, was a beautifully laidback chat about everything.

Green Room #1: The idea of prosecco on tap is not just a metaphorical concept. It exists in reality in Stoke Newington.

Prepare for book signing with a month long intense meditation course.  At YALC, the signing table is very long as are the queues. But – um – not for me. The second year wasn’t so bad, but it’s hard not to feel like the small part players in 1980s obscure sci fi films sitting beneath their posters in the Comicon below. But these days I feel confident enough to have invested in appropriately coloured Sharpies. And I love chatting to people – Manga, Fall Out Boy and Guns N Roses have featured in some particularly enjoyable conversations.

Green Room #2: It’s hard not to be starstruck. The sight of Mary Berry signing an Everest of books could turn anyone’s head. I was also slightly discombobulated by Benedict Cumberbatch’s ear at Hay.

You may wish to stay quiet if you haven’t read Harry Potter. I have disclosed this to authors and publishing folk a couple of times and been met with stunned silence followed by gasps of incredulity big enough to blow my earrings out. Or nearly. This is not a reflection on the books – I love the films and deeply admire the author. However, I was born 1967. When Philosopher’s Stone came out, I was just finishing my third year as a mature student studying English and History of Art. A whole new world of reading, some of it deeply pretentious, had been opened up to me. But I had also discovered Stuart Hall, bell hooks, James Kelman and Earl Lovelace.  And I was still discovering London. If it was a choice between Metalheadz in Hoxton Square or Hogwarts – SORRY, HOGWARTS!

Green Room #3: Even if starstruck, you can meet your heroes. At my first YALC, I walked into the Green Room and felt terror. Everyone seemed to know each other and I knew no one.  And then I saw Malorie Blackman. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have written about black families. Should I say ‘hello’? She saw me, greeted me by name and we sat down and chatted. And chatted. I also met Nadiya Hussain at Cheltenham. I was very happy. So was my daughter and my mum. It’s very rare that three generations of Lawrences are in synch like that. 13613658_10153677842416373_5902497029742774633_o

You get to meet the people who are bigging up your book. YALC, especially, is a big event for bloggers who were so encouraging and enthusiastic when Orangeboy came out. They read books for the joy of it and help push it out into the word if they like it. As a debut writer, this is invaluable.

I am still excited by hotels. I’ve been lucky enough to travel from quite an early age, but we often stayed with family in Italy or Trinidad. So pottering around a room that someone’s paid and booked for you still makes me grin. At the hotel in Dublin, they refreshed the room while I was out and left a chocolate on my bedside table. Life can’t get any better than that.


Who needs security? Aka Swapping a life of employment to be a freelancing writer.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. As is any day, to be honest.  For the generation before me, I am at the age when you should be counting down – ten years, nine years, eight – to claiming your state pension.  Whereas I am embarking on a life of insecurity, hustle and potential impecunity.

Friday was my last day at the wonderful Spread The Word, in Deptford, working with London’s writers. (If you’re ever short of a writing prompt, can I recommend Deptford Market? The clash of bike speakers between the Rasta guy cycling by booming dub and the old white guy blasting Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ is a play waiting to happen.)

From tomorrow, no more Pay As You Earn tax deductions. No more prepaid National Insurance. No more contractual hours.

Why am I doing this? It’s time. I have wanted to write all my life, but only now feel able to be a writer. Nearly every job I have had since teenage years has fed into my writing, from a two-week stint cleaning St Francis psychiatric hospital (previously Brighton County Borough Asylum) where my parents, stepdad and virtually everyone else I knew worked to my jobs in London with families involved with social services or affected by imprisonment. St Francis

The stint in Brook young people’s sexual health clinics was particularly insightful and rather useful for Indigo Donut

But also, I’ve had a chance to reflect on Orangeboy and the potential for Indigo Donut. I wrote about subjects I care deeply about and they have given me a springboard and platform to explore those topics in different ways with young people – creative, innovative and knowledgeable young people, that never fail to impress me.

So what’s next?

The pragmatic stuff – sorting out income and expenditure spreadsheets, being way more rigorous about keeping and storing receipts and organising an effective invoicing system. Oh, the excitement.

I need a proper website. I’ve been putting that one on hold for a while. A horrible amount of while. But at the moment people contact me in different ways – via my agent or Sarah, my publicist, at Hachette. Some come directly via Twitter, Facebook or email. It’s hard to keep up. I need to be way more strategic.

Hachette have offered to help me put together a school leaflet. It’s time, it’s time.

And this week – up to Bath tonight for two school events in Bath and Bristol tomorrow supporting the Bath Literature Festival. Then a meeting on Tuesday with the fabulous Hackney Museum to talk about how Orangeboy, a Hackney-set book about a young, black geeky guy who gets pulled into an underworld, can be used as a discussion point for a project with local men. 20170629_084127.jpg

There’s a meeting with my agent, Caroline Sheldon, to discuss freelance opportunities – we are both excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. And a rather wonderful opportunity to talk Black writing and activism in Writing in the Age of Black Lives Matter at Brixton Library on 4th October with Patrick Vernon and Jackee Holder.

I also need to do a bit of writing …

So, come on this new journey with me! I’ll be keeping you posted.

Patrice x



Orangeboy – A year on in pictures.

Well – it has been an interesting few months. My second book, ‘Indigo Donut’, is published on Thursday. Time to have a look back.

My debut novel, ‘Orangeboy’, was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Award for Older Fiction and The Bookseller YA Prize. It was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for regional awards.

I’m sitting hear on a Sunday morning, listening to Gemma Cairney on BBC 6 Music, writing these words and it still feels like someone else’s story.

But I have proof it happened. And lessons have been learnt. Here they are in pictures.

1. Launches are ace! I was lucky enough to have two.

patrice launch1

Launch number 1: Sharing a moment of pride with Caroline Sheldon (my agent and dress twin) and Emma Goldhawk, my editor.

And if you ask folks casually if they’ll wear something orange – they do!


Launch 2: The youngest guest sports  a top t-shirt.

2. It’s surprising who will help promote your book, if you ask nicely.

‘Orangeboy’ is set locally in Hackney. Here are my two local MPs. And Reggie Yates. There’s also an army of book bloggers who spread the word for free, because they love books. They have my eternal gratitude.

3. Schools research you.

I am grateful my partying days were pre-camera phone and speedy upload.  Though it’s also like an unexpected archive of hairstyles past.20161202_091427

4. Folks from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) are the peer support I didn’t realise was possible.

They look out for you. They’ve got your back. They come to and take pictures at your launch. They summon up cake toppers.


Whooo! Cake toppers!

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Writer, actor and You Tube dance stars Odette Elliott and Don


Authors Tania Tay and Peter Bunzl












5 It’s searingly lovely sharing a table with authors you admire.

It’s an odd feeling going into bookshops, seeing authors’ names and realising that you’ve stood next to them drinking wine.


Fen and Kerry from Letterbox Library with a selection of wonderful reads from Chitra Soundar, Candy Gourlay, Catherine Johnson, Malorie Blackman and many more

6. And, you get to meet your s/heroes. Forget the old adage. Meet them. Seriously, MEET THEM.


7. Ben Bailey Smith AKA Doc Brown does a wicked Yoda.

My daughter, my editor and I sat in on the recording session. Up until then, I’d only heard Marlon’s voice in my head. Suddenly, his words were coming out of someone else’s mouth. And they sounded like how Marlon should sound. As you can gather, he was also very funny. Find out more about the Audible book here.


8. You make fantastic friends.


Me (coming perilously close to manspreading), Sue Wallman, Eugene Lambert, Kathryn Evans, event chair, Michelle Toy and panel originator, Olivia Levez.

Writer, Olivia Levez, had the wondrous idea of assembling a panel of debut authors to tour the country to chat about publishing, editing, writing and buckets of self-doubt. One of me happiest memories is  the last twelve months, is sitting in a Premier Inn room next to a roundabout in the outskirts of Liverpool, quaffing fizzy wine and realising that the Lost and Found panellers are wonderful people. They are also SCBWI folk. So it figures.

9. Sometimes second hand shops, including over-priced ones in Brick Lane, East London, call you in at the right time.


10. Finally, one of the happiest day’s of my life, was when my daughter was born. This young person who has inspired me so much was standing next to me when my name was called out at Waterstones.


A very, very happy day!

Indigo Donut, my second book with young adult protagonists, is published by Hodder on 12th July 2017.






































Book tour! First stop with the Lost and Founders

The debut of the debutantes – five writers, five books, an appreciative audience and a statue of a bull.

Kathryn Evans Author & Public Speaker

The Lost and Found tour kicked off in the ENORMOUS Birmingham Waterstones – that’s it below, the tall building being faced down by the famous Birmingham Bull of The Bull Ring.


It was busy, first they moved our room to a bigger space, then they had to bring in more chairs – Thanks Midlands , you rock ( and thanks Cousin Clare whose photo’s I have stolen)!


Michelle Toy was a brilliant chair but then, she knows her books being a brilliant book blogger on Tales of Yesterday

We had so much fun!

All credit to our awesome audience who asked some fantastic questions – a real mix of readers and writers. I think it went pretty well!   Author Juliet Clare Bell said:

I genuinely thought that was one of the best authors-talking-at-an-event I’ve ever been to. Just great.

Come and see us at our next stop!


And don’t…

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