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Sally's Journal

April 2017

Gosh, itís been a long time since I was here. Since my last post there have been several books published and I have several more in various stages of the publishing process. Of those published we have BIG BAD TROLL (Egmont) a picture book that manages to be full of happy things, particularly considering itís set mostly among the terror-stricken people of Flat Town. BIG BAD TROLL is illustrated by the truly fabulous Tom Knight and edited by my friend Liz Bankes. Then thereís a re-telling of Cervantesí fabulous DON QUIXOTE (Oxford), set in 1500s Spain, illustrated with great elegance, dignity and humour by Andy Elkerton; THE LAND OF THE GODS (Bloomsbury) a comic adventure story set in Roman Britain, which has a beautifully wry cover image and decorations by Jex Tuya; a re-telling of Shakespeareís OTHELLO (Collins) set in 1500s Venice and Cyprus, with powerful and dark illustrations by Adrian Stone; and NOT ETHAN AGAIN! (Oxford) a family comedy illustrated with great energy by Jenni Desmond.

Currently in the publishing pipe-line are a sequel to CLASS SIX AND THE NITS OF DOOM called CLASS SIX AND THE EEL OF FORTUNE (featuring the very best school fair ever, a dormouse teacher, some important dandruff, and, of course, Barry the eel of fortune himself). Also in the works are two books which are supposed still to be secret, but I can say that one features a non-fiction section (my first ever professional piece of non-fiction, which is very exciting (especially the bit about the bird droppings)) and one set in 1790s England (a period I love, largely because of Jane Austen, but about which I found I knew not nearly enough).

At the moment Iím writing a rather scary book about an ancient tree thatís growing on a new housing estate. Itís proving very interesting indeed, and is making a change from all the comedy and history Iíve been writing lately Ė though of course that chance to go anywhere and do anything in any time period/hole/galaxy is the very best thing about being a writer there is.

January 2015

This last year has seen: two publications; a prize (hurray!); and several new books beginning to make their way through the pipeline.

The first publication was a brand-new, shiny and beautiful international edition of GOLDKEEPER (Oxford), and the second was CLASS SIX AND THE NITS OF DOOM (A&C Black). It was great fun to write this very silly book about a class whose teacher turns out to be a witch. If you like a story to have a moral, then NITS OF DOOMís must be never never never under any circumstances to try on a witchís hat. Thereís also a useful bit about eating your school dinner if youíve started growing a trunk. All, I like to think, good practical stuff. The book was edited with great skill, care, and glee by the great Kate Paice, and it has wonderfully lively illustrations by Kelly Canby.

The prize (hurray again!) was a Young Quill Award for SONG HUNTER. This prize is given by the Historical Association for best historical childrenís novel. I got invited to London Universityís Senate House to collect my junior-section prize, and a bonus was that my friend, the lovely Catherine Johnson, was there to collect her own senior-section Young Quill Award for SAWBONES.

Currently in the pipeline are: a novel set in Roman Wales, Bath and Silchester; a picture book called (at the moment) BIG BAD TROLL; a short book called NOT ETHAN AGAIN!; and a re-telling of DON QUIXOTE, a book I read for the first time in 2014 and discovered to my delight that it is a very funny pair of books indeed.

Other than that, I had good fun at my session at the Isle of Wight Festival, which resulted in members of the audience beginning several novels, and one lady sauntering out happily at the end leaving her walking stick behind.

This is (as far as I know) my first actual cure Ė and makes me wonder what on earth 2015 will bring.

January 2014

I canít help but be aware that the word journal comes from a French word meaning daily. Perhaps I should rename this section of this website my annual.

Ah well, never mind.

Since my last post Iíve had two books published, firstly SONG HUNTER, my Neanderthal novel for readers from about nine upwards, and a book of two short Roman plays.

In February I was lucky enough to go on a tour of Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol with Gillian Cross, Geraldine McCaughrean, and Tim Bowler to publicise our newly-published books: those are AFTER TOMORROW, THE POSITIVELY LAST PERFORMANCE, and SEA OF WHISPERS, respectively, and my own SONG HUNTER. It was tremendous fun, though it is quite disorientating to wake up in a different city every day only to have a hasty breakfast and then catch the next plane or train out. It was a shame that I didnít get to see much of any of the cities except from taxis in the dark, but we were made very welcome in several fabulous libraries, and the four of us did escape our minders for one glorious train journey from Glasgow to Manchester through the magnificent and snowy Lake District during which many stories were told.

Iím delighted that SONG HUNTER has been long-listed for the UKLA prize and nominated for the Carnegie medal.

My Roman plays, which are titled, collectively, How To Persuade A Grumpy Goddess, have been illustrated by the Japanese artist Cosei Kawa. Itís been fascinating to see a Japanese take on Roman costume and artefacts, and especially to see what Cosei Kawaís Roman goddess wears in her hair (more fish than I was expecting, quite frankly).

A new edition of Goldkeeper will be coming out very soon with a glorious new cover featuring Gerald the rat, and Iíve just finished doing the edits for a new book, Class Six and the Nits of Doom. Iím waiting to see what the cover for that book will look like, but Iíve heard rumours of 1950s horror. The book is going to be illustrated, which is vey exciting. I canít wait to see the finished thing.

Most of this last year has been spent writing a whodunnit for adults called THE MOB: DEATH STITCH about a slightly manic investigation of a murder by four members of the magnificent but fictional Foxmoor Womenís Institute. I had huge fun writing it, and everyone Iíve spoken to about it is very excited. Itís too soon to say whatís going to happen to the book, but I have all my fingers firmly crossed.

At the moment Iím looking at a very old manuscript Ė so old thatís itís written in fountain pen Ė about a girl who has a wizard move into the flat downstairs. Thatís proving to be good fun, too. Itís made me remember how much I love writing about dragons, especially young ones. The very best thing is that the manuscript is so old that I canít remember what happens in the end. This makes typing it up much more interesting.

Iíve just recently dipped a toe into Twitter and am to be found @sally_prue.

That is, unless I get fed up with the whole thing and decide Iíd much rather spend more time with my dragons.

December 2012

The Song Hunter blog is now live and can be visited HERE.

All visitors will be very welcome indeed.

The NITS OF DOOM have found a publisher, hurray! More details to come when I have them.

November 2012

The cover image for my Neanderthal book SONG HUNTER is finalised, now. Here it is:

Itís quite different from the idea we started with, but I hope it does its job and makes people want to read the book. Song Hunter will be published at the New Year, and thereíll be a special Song Hunter blog which will be bursting with information about the way the book was researched, and, especially, the (pre)history and thinking behind it.

The blog will go live on December 17th 2012, so please do follow the link that will be posted on the HOME page of this site to see whatís going on.

It always seems a long wait for a book to be published, and waiting for SONG HUNTER has been horrible because of my constant terror that some new piece of evidence will be discovered which undermines the theme of the book. It hasnít happened yet, but please do touch all the wood you can find:

I actually donít really think anything will be discovered, because I spent a lot of time thinking the book through. But it just might!

Journeying forward thirty nine and a half thousand years or so, as you do, my Tudor books THE QUEENíS SPY and THE VELVET THIEF have been published by Pearson, and Iím just about to do the final edit for a pair of plays set in Roman Britain. I love time travelling! The Roman plays have been read by a fact-checker, and luckily sheís pointed out that I may have been wrong to assume that Roman clothes were ironed. I was able to change the passage concerned quite easily in just a couple of strokes of a mouse, but it does go to show that you canít assume anything when youíre writing historical fiction.

I still think the togas all those Roman statues wear must have been ironed, though. I wonder how?

Away from slaving over my hot keyboard, recently Iíve visited Galley Hill School and Hemel Hempstead School, and between us weíve kick-started over a hundred novels. Letís hope that some of them roar all the way to the finishing post.

Looking ahead to next year, Iím going to be taking SONG HUNTER on tour during the week beginning the 4th February. Iíll be travelling with Tim Bowler, Gillian Cross and Geraldine McCaughrean, who have a new books coming out too, and weíll be visiting Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol. Iím looking to it all just tremendously.

More details soon.

August 2011

I've had two books published since my last update: ICE MAIDEN, which was launched with a lovely celebration in Covent Garden in February, and a small verse book for beginner readers called THE FASTEST TRUCK.

Most excitingly, ICE MAIDEN will be published in two languages new to my books, Russian and Polish, and I've already had copies of the beautiful Polish version, Lodowa Pani.

I've been busy finishing my new Tribe book, SNOW SIGHT, for Oxford. It's been fascinating to think about Neanderthal men for so many months, and a huge adventure too: mammoths, lions, blizzards, and over everything the stars turning endlessly.

I've also been writing two short novels set in Elizabethan times. They're called THE QUEEN'S SPY and VAGRANTS AND VILLAINS, and it's been great fun to jump from mammoths to martingales - and farthingales - overnight. What a job!

I've had a really interesting time judging the children's poetry competition at the Herts County Show. It was a fantastic day: not only did I get to meet some young poets, but I saw some dancing sheep and a pair of very beautiful Suffolk Punch horses.

I'll be leading a very short workshop at the Haringey Kids' Lit Festival on September 10th. Do come and join in if you can.

January 2011

ICE MAIDEN is due to be published very soon, hurray! To mark the occasion there is to be a launch and celebration in Covent Garden.

I also have just heard news of an audio tape of ICE MAIDEN, to be produced by AudioGo.

My friend Sarah van der Steeg has also produced a Facebook page for Ice Maiden, complete with interview with me, which Facebook account holders can find HERE.

I've been hard at work writing the first draft of SNOW SIGHT, my new Tribe novel. I suppose it's been lucky in a way that the weather has been entirely appropriate but, oh, I am glad to see our hazel tree hung with thousands of bright catkins.

Finally, hello to everyone in Year 6 Amethyst and Sapphire at Galleyhill School. I had two wonderful mornings at the school, and it was very exciting to be in at the birth of sixty new stories.

NB My blog, The Word Den, can be found HERE. Do visit, and join in the fun!

October 2010

First of all, the ICE MAIDEN cover is now finalised, and has indeed turned out to be spooky and strange and wonderful. It can be seen HERE. Publication is due on 1st February 2011 - I can't wait!

Very excitingly indeed, my publishers, OXFORD, have asked me to write another novel featuring the Tribe. This one will also be set in the past, though much much further back than the Second World War. This book is called SNOW SIGHT at the moment, though that may change. I've been busy researching Neanderthals and Inuit life-styles and the human genome project. And elephant recipes. I think this is the first time I've ever started writing a novel at the time of year the novel is set. This will make it easier in some ways - and will mean I won't have to keep looking out of the window to check what month it is - but usually it's nice to be able to escape the rotten weather of reality for the sunshine of a novel. Or vice versa!

NITS OF DOOM is finished, and is with my agent. It was great fun to write and think about. I mean, what if your new teacher really is a witch?

I've recently heard that a very short book I wrote over the summer called THE FASTEST TRUCK is to be published next year by Franklin Watts. It will be illustrated by the marvellous Rory Walker. Hurray!

Highlights of the summer have included several visits to schools and libraries (I loved the story about the attack rhino that Class 5 of George St School told me). I've also finally (finally!) managed to be in the right place at the right time to see a swallowtail butterfly.


April 2010

I've had another marvellous visit to the Northern Children's Book Festival and visit to the Hertford Library to talk to the very friendly CHATTERBOX group there.

My books of FLOOD and FRUIT stories were published in January. It's always great to hold a finished book in my hands and to see how the illustrations match (or don't) the pictures I had in my head when I was writing the stories. There are lots of pictures of animals in those stories, which is a particular joy.

When I was young, most of my favourite books were those with beautiful illustrations: Pauline Baines' pictures in the Narnia books, and Edward Ardizzone's in The Land of Green Ginger were notable examples. I've been incredibly lucky to have lots of marvellous illustrators for my books, including Steve May, Korky Paul, Martin Remphrey, Tony Ross and Dee Schulman.

ICE MAIDEN is at the exciting stage where the all-important cover is being designed. The rough I've seen is spooky and strange and wonderful, and I'm looking forward very much to seeing the finished thing.

I'm just about to start writing a 'request' book - requested, that is, by lots of schoolchildren when I've been visiting them. I don't know quite what it's going to be about yet, but at the moment it's called NITS OF DOOM and the plan is that it'll feature at least one VERY strange teacher.

I shall be visiting Eagle House School Festival on 16th June. Tickets are available via www.eaglehouseschool . The more the merrier!

September 2009

Phew! I see that in June I said I was at the final scary stages of writing THE ICE MAIDEN. Little did I know it was going to take another three more months of panic and hair-raising to get it ready to send off. I'm meeting my marvelloud editor Liz Cross soon ro discuss it. By the time I deliver a manuscript I'm always a bit muddled by all the changes I've made so I really do need someone to cast a fresh eye over the book for me and tell me what works, what doesn't, and how deleting Page 161 has made the whole ending completely incomprehensible.

Hurray for editors!

WHEELS OF WAR has been published at long last. Hurray for that too. Many thanks to everyone who's written to say how much they enjoyed the story.

I had a lovely time visiting the Seven Stories in Newcastle during the summer. Do go to this museum of Children's Books if you possibly can. It's full of exciting things to see and do, amd everyone's very enthusiastic and friendly.

As a bonus, I was delighted to find a kittiwake colony on the Tyne Bridge too!

June 2009

WHEELS OF WAR is due to be published any minute, which is very exciting: it was delivered to the publisher long ago - before any of the Truth Sayer books - but various complications have delayed publication until now.

WHEELS OF WAR was great fun to write. It's set in the 1820s and I needed to know lots about carpentry, cartwheels, horse driving, stained glass, soldiering and dung. I was helped greatly by Kath Worrall, who helped me with the horses, and Jerry Stone, who knew exactly what the moon should be doing at each stage of the story. My father, A. J, Ward, lent me a beautiful 18th century gardening book which was quite evangelical about the uses of human dung.

I'm at the final, scary, stages of writing THE ICE MAIDEN, my Cold Tom-linked book, at the moment. That's been interesting, too, and I've learnt a beautiful new word that I've been able to use: deasil. It's the opposite of widdershins.

I've just received artwork roughs for my FRUIT folk tales. I do admire illustrators tremendously, especially for the way they wiggle their pictures through the blocks of text. I do hope the illustrator of THE BAOBAB TREE (I don't know his or her name yet) enjoyed drawing the picture of the gods sticking eyelashes onto a very indignant ostrich.

March 2009

This summer will see the publication of two novels: THE TRUTH SAYER: PLAGUE OF MONDAYS and WHEELS OF WAR.

I've been visiting lots of libraries in my home county of Hertfordshire, which has been a great pleasure, and am just back from the Saffron Walden Festival, where I got to speak in the local cinema - a first!

Thanks to everyone who has made my visits so much fun.

I've just finished writing two anthologies of folk tales about FLOODS and FRUIT, which has been fascinating. The world is full of tremendous stories! Vietnam alone has a marvellous collection of folk tales, and I wish I'd had space in the anthology to include more of them.

My major project at the moment is a novel, THE ICE MAIDEN, which is linked to COLD TOM, though it is set in 1938. The research for this book has been extremely interesting, and I've been lucky enough to be able to consult the violinist Stefanie Logie, who's been able to tell me lots about being in Berlin in the 1930s.

THE ICE MAIDEN takes place around the vernal equinox, so my next bit of research will involve a long walk on the common around the 20th March with a notebook and camera

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