Malorie Blackman

A feature on my favourite author.

World Book Day 2003, at age 14, I picked up my very first Malorie Blackman book. It was An Eye for An Eye, a short story from Malorie’s Noughts and Crosses Series.

I had not read Noughts and Crosses at that point. I hadn’t actually heard of it or Malorie herself before. In fact, that day in Easons bookstore in Bloomfields Bangor, I wanted to pick up an entirely different book.

I’ve said before that, prior to going to university, I was not really a reader. I likely would have been, because I was in love with the idea of books, but it was not encouraged.

That day in the bookstore, I had picked up a novel I wanted to use my £1 book token towards but my parents refused to buy it. They would not add money to my token, so if I wanted to use it, I had to pick one of the £1 short reads produced specifically for the day.

A somewhat unlikely beginning, but I got that short story, read it, and loved it. And when I finally had a little freedom and some of my own money, I walked into Waterstones in Lincoln, aged 18, and came out with my very own copy of Noughts and Crosses.

The short story had stayed with me that long. My curiosity about the rest of the series had been piqued for four years. And so, not long after I devoured book one, I worked my way through the rest. At that point, Knife Edge and Check Mate (books two and three) were out and Double Cross (book four) was in the pipeline. I was one of the first people to preorder it, and I actually have a clear memory of the day I picked it up. Continue reading

Black Books on my TBR

I said I was going to read more books by black authors, and I love a good list, so here are some specific books on my TBR (to be read) pile I plan to get to soon:

Poetry

Novels

Non-Fiction 

I generally like to consume my non-fiction on audiobook, so I have my upcoming Audible credits earmarked for both of these.

Other

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy my other recent blog post about ten books by black authors I’ve already read and loved, which you can find linked here.

10 Black Book Recommendations

I have not read a lot of books by black authors – this is something I will be consciously focusing on from here on out – but of the titles I have already read and loved, here are ten I really want to recommend:

  1. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – This is a YA novel that took me by surprise. I heard about it all over booktube for ages before ever picking it up, but am so glad I finally listened to the hype and gave it a shot because it’s now one of my favourite books of all time.
  2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – A classic novel told via the medium of letters. Heartbreaking at various points (trigger warning for all kinds of abuse) but handled so wonderfully. The characters are so fleshed out, they read like real people. It tells you not just what it’s like to be black, but specifically a black woman, and someone who questions their sexuality too.
  3. Becoming by Michelle Obama – Memoir/non-fiction from the former first lady of the USA. I listened to this on audiobook, which is read by Michelle herself.
  4. My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal – The story of a mixed-race boy who gets taken into care alongside his baby brother but is separated from said brother because the baby is white and therefore more likely to be adopted. Again, heartbreaking, touching, and very human.
  5. Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi – A poetry pamphlet about belonging, masculinity, identity, and coming of age.
  6. Tree Trunks That Hide the Elephant and the Whale by Willetta Fleming – More poetry here, this time from a woman local to me here in Northern Ireland.
  7. Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman – When I first started thinking about this list, I knew for certain I’d have to include Malorie but I had a hard time picking one of her many, many titles (she’s so prolific and so well-loved, I’m actually gonna do a separate post all about her and her books in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that). This YA novel (about a teenage boy who discovers his ex-girlfriend had a child by him and now expects him to raise the child) isn’t one of Malorie’s most well-known books, but it really touched me. There is also some queer representation.
  8. Unheard Voices – An Anthology of Stories and Poems to Commemorate the Bicentenary Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, edited [and including a powerful short story] by Malorie Blackman.
  9. My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay – This is a memoir about growing up in care, being abandoned, and finding yourself. When Lemn was taken from his mother, he didn’t even get to keep his real name. This is a startling look at what it’s like (or, at least, what it was like) to be raised within the ‘system’ in the UK, and how the system is (or was) so very broken.
  10. Terror Kid by Benjamin Zephaniah – Benjamin is primarily a poet, but this is one of his novels. It’s middle-grade (aimed at a slightly younger audience than YA), about a boy who is torn between wanting to address the injustices he sees around him and trying to stay out of trouble. Soon, he discovers, trouble finds him and he is thrust into a situation well beyond his handling. There are some important topics and issues raised in this book, my only wish is that explored them a little deeper.

Coming soon: a list of ten books by black authors I plan to read next. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.

Top Ten Most Read Authors

As much as I dislike the fact that I was denied the joy of reading as a child, the small consolation such a situation brings is that I know – and have therefore been able to list – pretty much every single book I’ve ever read. With that knowledge at my fingertips, I was curious to take a look and see which authors I had most read. Below is what I discovered. (If you are curious, I’ve finished a total of 472 books in my life so far.)

1. Jim Butcher – 17 Books

All of these books are in the ‘Dresden Files‘ series, all of which I have devoured on audiobook, because all of them are narrated by the fantastic James Marsters. For the unfamiliar, it’s urban fantasy (wizards and vampires, but set in our world. Chicago, to be precise). And I cannot praise them enough. Probably the fact that I’ve read so many tells you how much I love them.

A Favourite Author: Yes. Planning to Read More: Double yes!

2. Malorie Blackman – 13 Books

Malorie’s ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series were some of the first books I’ve ever read. She is my OG favourite author, for sure. Aside from her series, I’ve checked out a couple of her children’s books (for very, very young children, because they’re awesome and I have no shame. Noughts and Crosses is Young Adult, for context). I’ve also read ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ by her, as well as a gender-bent YA Othello retelling (‘Chasing the Stars’) and a collection of short stories on slavery she edited (and had one of her own stories included in).

Will I read more by her? Most definitely. I’m actually planning to re-read all of the N&C books again soon. Continue reading

Reading and Writing Update

It’s been a while since I updated this blog with reading and writerly things, so I’m here today to fix that.

Books read so far this year: 11/65 – 17% complete – 1 book behind schedule

Currently Reading: Jumping in Puddles by Claire Allan

I got a lot of words in February – 28,997 in 29 days, to be exact. And for the most part, the momentum seems to be carrying over until March. Long may it last!

27th of February I had a short story published by Visitant Lit. It’s called Earworms, is a horror/fantasy piece, and might not be suitable for overly squeamish readers. Read at your own discretion. (Apparently I gave my beta reader nightmares.)

Going forward, I’m going to have a piece published in volume two of The Bramley – the literary journal of Flash Fiction Armagh. I’m even getting paid, which is a first! It’s only a token fee but, even so, it feels like a milestone.

The short story I had published online in August last year will be coming out in print in April 2020.

And, in other news, I’m doing a little bit of client work at the minute, and Belfast Writers’ Group things are moving forward again. We hope to have the third anthology out this summer.

Events

I’m due to read a selection of my work at The Secret Bookshelf at the Courtyard, Carrickfergus for World Poetry Day on Saturday 21st March. It’s a bit of a ‘pop up’ event, but I believe I’ll be ‘on’ at 1pm (maybe 1.30) I’ll confirm on social media closer to the time.

Camp NaNoWriMo April: I am all signed up and planning to redraft an existing work-in-progress ‘Death Girl.’ (Previously titled Born of Death.) At this stage, I have most of the main plot points but don’t know if it’ll turn out to be a full-length novel or more of a novella.

April is also challenge month for the fan fiction site I’m part of, so I’ll be writing a story for them, too.

That’s everything for now! (I think.)

Goals for the New Year

A lot of the goals I have for this new year are directly inspired by my progress (or lack thereof) from last year.

In 2019, for example, I set myself a reading target of 60 books and I successfully completed 68 so, this year, I am setting my target to 65.

Also last year, although it wasn’t something officially on my list, I got into the habit of posting to this blog every week. Therefore, it is my intention to keep this up and have 52 blog posts on here by the end of the year.

September last year, I started studying an A-Level in English Literature. So my next goal is to complete that course.

Three things that showed up on a number of lists for me last year but I wasn’t able to tick off were: weight loss, admin for my writing group, and an anthology for our writing group. These things now have top priority. I hate having things hanging over me.

On that note: for the longest time, I have been going through my old fan fiction and archiving it to Ao3, so I have a goal to finish that this year. I also want to send more short story submissions, complete five fanfic works-in-progress, as well as all (five) of my short story works-in-progress.

I want this to be the year I finish my trilogy. So, between National Novel Writing Month and the two ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’s, I need to get book three finished.

Later in the year, I plan to move house. Which leaves me two last things for my list: completing a tax return and (hopefully) organising a second event with Books, Paper, Scissors.

Let’s see how this goes!

October Reading & Writing Update

What I Wrote in September: 7,000 Words Total

  • 2 Poems (100 Words)
  • 2 pieces of Micro-Fiction (400 Words)
  • 3 Blog Posts (2,000 Words)
  • 900 Words of Non-Fiction
  • 1,000-word Essay
  • 2,700 words of Fan Fiction

What I Read in September:

Currently Reading: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My ‘To Be Read’ List for the Next Four/Five Weeks: 

The Dogs of Humanity by Colin Dardis

I have something a bit different on this blog today for you, folks: an interview with local poet Colin Dardis about his new poetry collection, the Dogs of Humanity. Without any more preamble, let’s get into it!

Can you tell us a little about the themes of the collection? 

I’m not a massive fan of reducing a collection down to themes; for a poetry book, it’s almost an injustice, although it has to be done. I don’t read collections due to the themes mentioned; I read because I want to be subjected to strong, startling poetry. For example, I have no interest in beekeeping, but I absolutely adored Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal.

To be absolutely drawn on themes, the poems use dogs and other animals as a central motif to look at how people treat each other in an increasingly toxic world, touching on bullying, self-identity, chauvinism and mental health. But there’s also so much more. As Mary O’Donnell kindly said in her blurb, there is “an avoidance of zeitgeist poetry, what really sets the work apart tonally and in subject is its assumption of a counter-position at all times.” That counter-position could be the schism between the individual and society, between perceived norms and personal attitudes; but it’s equally a stance that allows any subject matter to be explored, as long as it is well written. That’s what poetry validates.

Why did you feel drawn to the themes? How did it all come together?

The poet, at the starting point, is drawn to every poem they write as they are compelled to write them. In some ways, your best poem is always your most recent poem, as that has been the one that allows the poetic muscle to continue flexing. Only with time and distance however does the poet realise which pieces will continue to speak to them, and for them. Therefore, almost all the poems in Dogs have been about for a while. Only the closing poem would have been written from scratch in the past year. Many predate poems that were in ‘the x of y’, my previous collection.

Fly on the Wall Press had a call out for chapbook submissions at the end of last year. I knew I had a number of poems mentioning dogs; a few years ago I had done a set at a reading exclusively of dog poems. The collection bloomed out of that, and Isabelle Kenyon at Fly on the Wall Press was immediately on board with the idea. She’s made the whole process very easy, and has been incredibly supportive and motivated in spreading the word about the book.  Continue reading

Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

2019 Goals Part Two: Summer

Back in January, I changed things up a little and only set myself one goal for the entire year. That was my 2019 Goodreads challenge to read sixty books. By the time this post goes live, I should have completed twenty-two of those, which means I’m on track.

With regards to other goals, I wanted to focus on things in the shorter term so I decided to plan things a few months at a time and no further. Although it’s not fully accurate, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve split my 2019 into three segments which I’m calling Spring (January to April), Summer (May to August), and Autumn/Winter (September to December).

My Spring was pretty good, all in all. I had my second wedding anniversary in February and my thirtieth birthday in March. I spent a lot of January catching up on all of my accounts for my freelance work so I could get my tax return in before the deadline (which I did!). The rest of that month and part of February was spent doing voluntary work and, when I stepped back from that, I threw myself into decluttering the house following the Kon Mari method.

It felt good to get rid of things and, in the process, simplify my life (simplicity being a big theme of mine, the past few years). The end tally was: 4 bags of clothes (between my husband and I), 1 bag of bedding, 1 [big] bag of books, 8 boxes of komono/miscellaneous items and an untold number of trash bags and recycled things. I also paired down a lot of my social media profiles. Continue reading