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.




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.



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.







































The Apartheid of Children’s Literature – in the USA

A beautifully written and poignant article from the Sunday Review of  The New York Times about the impact of the lack of young, African American children in books.



The pink, sparkly cover – a confession

A story for a compilation for girls.  No magic, no princesses. This was one of my first paid commissions and my type of story.

I sent in proposals for two stories.  One was about two young sisters who made their arthritic grandmother a robotic arm out of an extendable mop handle.  The the was a short, sweet tale about a girl who is inspired by the shape and tones of a bees wing to enter the school carnival costume.  See?  No magic.  No princesses.

The proposals were duly submitted and accepted.  I wrote the stories and eventually received a big envelope with a copy of the book. My daughter and I, eagerly tipped it out on to the sofa and instantly flailed around searching for our sunglasses.

Treasuries: Stories for Girls

This picture does not do justice to the pinkness, the glitter and – well – the pinkness.

My daughter, who has nothing to do with ballet, or horses (after being bitten by one) gave me a ‘sell out’ look and disappeared upstairs.   It was a good lesson in a) how to write short stories for publication in children’s anthologies, b) gender-specific marketing and c) how parents start to disappoint there children so, so soon.



Boys read books with female protagonists – let’s prove it!

Help the ‘Guardian’ collect the evidence here.


Scottish Book Trust list: 10 books about prejudice

Scottish Book Trust list: 10 books about prejudice

Any missing?