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Brave New Words Award 2019 / Edge Lit

July 14, 2019 Leave a comment

Well that’s another Brave New Words Award done and dusted. The winner is Tasha Suri. The judges felt that her book, Empire of Sand, was just the sort of thing the award is far. It’s brave, it’s new and the words are absolutely lovely.

The award itself is on it’s way to Tasha. Expect to find the award’s journey appear on the Brave New Words Instagram sometime soon.

The actual statue is called ‘The Roboto’ and it modelled on the original Starburst Fantasy Award from the 70s. It’s the same model that get’s given away during the Starburst Film Festival, but with a slightly different base.

The judging process was fun. This time round we had more time go through the short list. Last year we had to work with a March deadline, as the award ceremony was a the Starburst International Film Festival. 2019’s award ceremony happened at Edge Lit in Derby, so we had ages to read all the books.

It was still an extremely tough list choice though.  The final judging process was fun though. A long chat with lovely, intelligent well read people where we beat out what we liked about each work. As the chief judge I get to say ‘why’ a lot to the jurors, which was both fun and frustrating.

brave-new-words-award-nominees-announcedThe short list was: Aliya Whiteley – The Loosening Skin , Tasha Suri – Empire of Sand, Rachel Armstrong – Origamy, Claire North – 84K, Micah Yongo- Lost Gods and Tade Thompson – Rosewater.

Genre fans might notice that some of these nominations have appeared elsewhere in other award lists; The Brave’s mission statement tends to have some cross-over with The Clarke and The Kitschies after all.  I think the nominations nail the very strong state of genre thus far, and the winner is totally spot on.

The final announcement happened at Edge Lit and was on just before the legendary raffle. Thanks massively to Del who came up with some genius slides and I think I wasn’t too boring. The audience seemed amused at my terrible puns, I think.  I did leave the Roboto on the podium and had to rescue it just before the infamous drunken raffle occured and now it’s on it’s amazing voyage.

Starburst Editorial have given the okay to do this again next year, and Edge Lit is going to be a two-day affair next year. And yes, the podcast is coming back. It’s been a busy year.

Oh, and Edge Lit itself was awesome. I got to hang out with some of my favourite people, attend a couple of useful workshops and here some of the best writers in the industry talk about their work. Looking forward to next year.

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Categories: Books, Brave New Words

On awards and clever titles

February 7, 2018 1 comment

So this Monday1 Starburst, that magazine I write for, announced the nominees for the Brave New Words Award, which can be found here.

It’s a bit exciting. It’s also a bit different, in terms of its aims. It’s not a simple best2 book award. For a start, it’s not for a work. It’s for an individual, based on their work3. It’s also based around the name; Brave, New and Words.

Before I break that down though, let me explain how the award came about:

Back in 2016, Starburst had a film festival. It was rather special. Like many of the adventures that magazine has taken me on, it wasn’t the smoothest of affairs. However, it was also pretty amazing. People came from all over the world to show quirky and different genre movies. Stuff that was new and interesting. I met a whole load of actors, directors, FX types and of course script writers. It was a ‘2am in the morning, talking nonsense with interesting strangers’ sort of affair.

And amidst the more mainstream panels and movie showings, were some brilliantly curated gems.  Features like Blood of Tribades, a valiantly silly homage to 70’s Italian horror movies. Or Good Tidings, a flick about a rampage of killer Santas.  The latter won  ‘Best  Feature’ at the festival’s award ceremony.

But what really caught my eye was the Independents Day4 Award, given to  Christian Nicolson for This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy. Nicolson’s movie is a gem. It’s from New Zealand and it’s a different sort of low budget sci-fi comedy. It does things that mainstream movies would never dare try and it’s clearly cobbled together with love and grit. Of course it won.

PapierMacheBoulder-1-1000x600

Papier Mache Boulder has done quite well at festivals

I walked away from the festival reminded that since it’s rebirth in Manchester, Starburst’s mission has been about encouraging and highlighting new talent.  After all, it’s first ever issue was founded on an indie movie, and it’s been promoting brave and clever stuff ever since. I knew then that we needed an award for people who wrote rather than people who acted or directed. Naming the award after the magazine’s book column, Brave New Words5, seemed obvious, and that helped define what the award would be about.

The ‘Words’ bit is obvious. We wanted written works. To widen it out though, the idea was to make it cross-discipline. We got a good variety of entries this year, which is encouraging as the award is in its first year and ‘what it’s for’ isn’t really set in people’s minds as yet.

‘New’ was easy as well; works from the previous year 6. But also new as in different, new as in fresh. New as in eye-catching.  New of course, doesn’t automatically mean debut. We have some quite illustrious types on our shortlist, because they’re all doing stuff that’s fresh and exciting with their writing.

‘Brave’ is perhaps the most nebulous. In a way, we mean striking. Different. Clever. Something that stretches the scope of the genre. Boundary pushing. Or simply something that needed writing that no one else seems to have written.

I think this award will fit in well with its fellow Starburst awards.  This year’s Starburst Festival should be fun.

In the meantime, I have six works to critically analyse, and an amazing panel of judges to debate with. See some of you at Starburst’s Media City Festival, for the results of the inaugural winner.

BNWshort

The shortlist for the Brave New Words Award, courtesy of the BNW Instagram.


1: As I write this.  Chances are you’re reading this in the future. Always check the dates. This applies as much to blog posts as it does to bacon.

2: There’s nothing wrong with ‘best’, of course. Except simply saying ‘best’ tends to obscure criteria. Besides, the name of the award rather tells you what it’s for.

3: Simply put, making the prize about the writer not the work makes it harder for the prize to become predictable over the years.

4: Independents Day is the name of a regular feature in the magazine.

5: Brave New Words is also the name of a podcast. Which is eligible for the Best Fancast, if you’re the sort of person who nominates Hugos. Just saying.

6: The Sudden Appearance of Hope got in thanks to the paperback version coming out in 2017. We’ll probably tighten that next year.  

Bonus Note: By the way, if want more cool book related pictures, check out the Instagram feed for the Brave New Words podcast.

Categories: Brave New Words

On Interviewing Authors

January 30, 2018 Leave a comment

I host a podcast and radio show for Starburst Magazine called Brave New Words1. It’s about books and the format can be summed up as “Ed tries to review a book. The other team members try to stop him”.2 Towards the end of the show there’s a section that’s come to be known as ‘an interview with a Lovely Author’ .

It’s an opportunity for an author to promote their work. It’s recorded separately 3, usually over skype. We’ve had a huge range of writers on the show, from Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin and Robin Hobb to a host of debut authors for whom I’m their first ever promotional interview. For all the ‘light and frothy’ nature of the show, we’re the book-business-part of a hugely popular national magazine with thousands of followers, listeners and readers4. The magazine has been around for decades, and has the cultural reach that brings.

I’ve recorded over a hundred of these conversations now, and I’ve always been delighted to help new writers get involved. With all that being said it seems time to throw out a few tips and some advice. Hopefully this will make things less nerve racking for all involved. Of course, writers tend to over think everything, so I’m not sure how much this will all help. Still, here goes:

Relax – The hard bit was writing the book. This is a chat about the book. With a stranger who’s really into books and who has already taken the time to find out more about your book. Chill. This is just a bit of promotion; it won’t make or break the book. It’s useful and important, but it’s really just a friendly chat. Take a moment to enjoy the achievement. Interviews can be fun!

Be On Time – It can be a haphazard affair, the life of a debut author. For most, it’s a hobby that’s gotten out of hand and/or the first step in pursuit of a life-long dream. Regardless, you probably have a day job and your work/life balance is likely enjoying a bit of a knock as you gear up to launch your book. Remember that most book bloggers/podcasters etc also have day jobs. So when a time is agreed on, stick to it. If it’s in the evening, make sure you’ve figured out enough time to eat/relax before the interview. Don’t try and do an interview on the bus, or while shopping, jet-lagged or anything else that will lead to you being not on the top of your game.5 As the person interviewing you, I want you to be relaxed and chill. 6

On air sign and microphone

Old photo from the old studio. Our current set up has more books

Set your expectations – A bit of media exposure is not going to catapult you into a world of glitz and glamour. Just have fun with it.

Be You – One of the most frequent occurrences from an author or their agent is a request to see a list of questions in advance. I understand the logic behind this, but it isn’t happening. Instead, I tend to reassure the author as to what the general vibe is going to be. For Brave New Words, we ask the author to talk about their work, talk a bit about why they write and then ask some ‘deep’ questions that aren’t really that deep, followed by some stupid ‘finishing off’ questions about The Simpsons or Doctor Who. The reason there isn’t a script is because we don’t want you sounding like a robot. This is a chance to meet, virtually, a bunch of amazing people who listen to the show. So we want you to be natural. It’s fine if you don’t know how to do that yet.

Plan –Here’s a useful tip; work out how to explain your book to an elderly relative. If your Nanna is going to wander off halfway through your pitch, re-think it. You’ve spent months or even years working on the book, so don’t worry about being over familiar or over rehearsed. Just figure out a way to ‘elevator pitch’ the thing. No work is so complicated that you can’t squeeze it into a pitch 7

Do-Overs are fine – Check first, but yeah, do-overs are fine. Stopping and restarting is fine. Taking a minute is fine. If you’re not up for it on the day, don’t worry about cancelling. We are here to help, so we want you to be full of vim and happy to go ahead.

Check your kit –Make sure your mic works, that Skype doesn’t need updating and that you can actually talk. If not, re-schedule.

If you are uncomfortable, stop – I’ve never had this happen to me, but if you’re not happy with a question or anything else, stop. Sanity and safety first.

Expect the unexpected – You’ll get a question that will cause your brain to freeze, or the microphone will fall off your desk. The dog will run off with your phone or a small child will suddenly decide to join in. These things go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. It will be fine. Laughter is good.

Ed and Si recording a show

Also making podcasts is really fun


1: Because it’s the season for these things: We are eligible as Best Fancast for the Hugo Award nominations. If you like the show and you do the WSFS/Worldcon stuff, gives us a nom. Fun fact : Despite being around for 40 years, nothing directly Starburst Magazine related has ever come close to winning a rocket.


2: This is doubly true for the live shows, where we get guest authors to join in as cast, rather than people to interview. The rather talented RJ Barker is especially good at stopping me in my tracks. Check out the Sledge Lit 2017 show here.


3: This is mostly due to logistics. The podcast is a labour of love and doing it all in one gulp is simply not practical. The podcast is not my proper job (*cough* hence the Hugo eligibility) but it is something I really like doing.

4: Oh, and that’s not including the radio station, Fab, which the show also airs on.

5: Avoiding excessive background noise is a good idea as well.

6: In the early days of the podcast, syncing up interviews with bigger names was tricky. I seem to recall interviewing Sarah Pinborough over the phone whilst huddling in the smokers’ shelter between shift changes. I was very lucky with the sound quality, and Sarah seemed to think it was all hilarious, which was nice.

7: That whirring sound is George Orwell spinning in his grave. Misery guts reckoned you couldn’t do a book review in under 400 words. Which is weird because I’ve heard many people review Fifty Shades of Grey in just one. Regardless, short pitches are a possible thing. Even if it’s the next Gravity’s Rainbow or The Dubliners.


Bonus foot note: The show used to be called The Bookworm. I always hated the name, and now it’s got a  cooler name with a better format.

Categories: Brave New Words