Stone Girl won the Readings Book Prize for Young Adults!! This is a huge honour. Here is a rough version of my speech.
Hello every one, thank you so much for coming.
I’ve said thank you about 3000 times since Monday when the announcement was made. I’m full of gratitude. But I have few more thank yous to express.
Readings… anyone who cares about books knows the genuine passion with which Readings staff engage with their product. Their blog never misses a beat and their books sellers always know ‘just the right book’ and I follow them diligently on social media. For those who don’t know… they even have an advisory board made up of teens who assist booksellers to ensure they are catering to their teen readership appropriately.
I met with the Teen Advisory Board last year. At the time I was attending a few different events but this was a stands out. These teens were engaged and smart. We talked about everything from politics to bullying. They asked questions and expressed opinions about Stone Girl that blew me away – Angela can attest that we could have talked for another hour. Speaking of being blown away, the judge’s comments following the winning announcement made me want to cheer as I teared up… New emotional level reached! So a huge thank you to the Readings judges and booksellers, especially Angela who supported Stone Girl from early on, and the Teen Advisory Board .
As a debut author you don’t know what to expect and how a book like Stone Girl will be received.
As I was writing it, the Milo part, the Spiral character, the drugs, the swearing, the honest portrayal of someone like Sophie, I thought to myself, this will be a battle. Some people will not want their fiction served with so much grit. However the good has far outweighed the bad.
Which brings me to my next thank you.
I envisioned the publishing/editing process as a struggle of sorts. But something very different happened. Lisa Riley publisher and Amy Thomas my editor and Marina Massiha the designer… it was as if we slipped straight into the same wave length for this story.
I was not expecting this. Lisa fought for it to be published in the first place. Marina designed that incredible cover. How lucky am I? The first time I saw it was when an email popped at the gym. Here is your cover. Such innocent words! I hurried to open the attachment. It had such an impact on me. That’s Sophie! Then there’s Amy who is so Zen, reasonable and wise I relaxed almost immediately.
Anyone here who has read story girl knows there’s some swearing. I was convinced that this would be cut.
The first edits came through and I flicked through only to find they had left it as is. Okay, I thought, next round they’ll cut these for sure. And the sex scenes and maybe some of the drugs.
Nope. The words remained.
By the final edit, my own nerves overcame me and I suggested cutting some of the swearing out.
I’m not sure how often authors work in sync like this with their publishing team but I felt very blessed. We shared the same vision for authenticity. This is their award too.
The Readings Book Prize means so much for so many reasons. There’s acceptance and recognition. I’m completely honoured to have Stone Girl chosen. In a society that largely ignores the plight of the 40 plus thousand kids in care, having a book that honestly depicts that world receive this incredible accolade means something. It sends the message that it’s okay to tell all kinds of stories and we don’t have to pretty them all up first. It raises the volume on the issue of kids in care and hopefully brings it to someone’s attention who can make a difference. I poured everything into writing Stone Girl, thank you so much for giving me this in return.