Posts Tagged ‘awards’

When the competition becomes cutthroat

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Hello, friends. I have some particularly lovely and extremely immodest news to share with you, this week: The Traitor in the Tunnel has been shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award! I’m especially excited because this is Traitor‘s first possible award. As some of you know, A Spy in the House was nominated for three awards and won the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s inaugural John Spray Mystery Award in 2011. The Body at the Tower was shortlisted for Australia’s Inky Awards. And now it’s Traitor‘s turn! Mary Quinn is three for three! I can’t tell you how exhilarated I am.

The awards will be presented in May. Can you picture it? A gala evening in Toronto for, say, two hundred. Forty or so mystery authors, all vying for prizes. A winner is announced. A blood-curdling scream tears through the audience. The lights go out. Pure mayhem ensues. And, perhaps best of all, I now have the opportunity to make appalling jokes like this for the next six weeks.

In other news, my friend Vee sent me a link to a fascinating article about Victorian walking sticks. Yeah, yeah, walking sticks, I hear you mutter. You will have to read it for yourself and Be Amazed. I would link it here, but it contains some graphic descriptions that I don’t want to impose on those under 18. I will simply offer you my favourite paragraph:

Last Saturday, the Kimball H. Sterling Auction Gallery in Tennessee held a sale of more than two hundred vintage canes, including a great number of what collectors call “system canes.” One was designed for midwives and had a baby scale hidden within it; others concealed a picnic utensil set, opera glasses, an ear trumpet, a perfume bottle, a detachable baby rattle, a blow gun, a winemaker’s thermometer, a folding fan, a telescope, a flask with cork top, a pocket watch, a sewing kit, a compact and mirror, a full-length saw blade, a microscope, a pennywhistle, a set of watercolors and paintbrush, a whistle for hailing a cab, and gauges for measuring the height of a horse. (Wayne Curtis, “Pimp My Walk”, The Smart Set.)

My first thought on reading this was of Amelia Peabody, Elizabeth Peters’s Victorian/Edwardian Egyptologist and sleuth, who carries a specially made cane that conceals a sword, custom-made to her dainty proportions. Did Peters know, or is this a splendid coincidence? My second thought: how can I work one of those into a book? MU-hahahaha!

And that was my week. How was yours? What are you up to?

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Award-winning (since Tuesday night)

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Hello friends! Please pardon my lateness in blogging. I’ve been shuttling to and from Toronto with a wee infant, who, while being the best baby companion imaginable, is still a bit boggled by her late nights and lack of routine. (As am I.)

We were in Toronto for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s annual awards gala, and I came away with the best news possible: A Spy in the House won the inaugural John Spray Mystery Award! Here’s what the judges had to say: ““In A Spy in the House Lee has got Victorian London right; this is what Dickens’ world really smelled like, literally and morally… Interesting and unique, Mary Quinn is a strong character who can think on her feet… I loved this book from the first line to the very last… A great read for a young adult of any age…”

I’m astounded, and thrilled, and humbled, and so grateful to a long list of people:

– John Spray of the Mantis Investigation Agency, who created and funds the award;

– My husband, Nicholas Woolley, who is my first and best and most ruthless reader;

– My agent, Rowan Lawton of PFD, who first envisioned the book as a YA novel;

– My editors, Mara Bergman of Walker Books UK and Deborah Noyes Wayshak of Candlewick Press, for honing my manuscript to its present form;

– All the booksellers, librarians, and teachers who are its passionate advocates;

– And finally, I am so very grateful to you, my readers, who are fervent about Mary Quinn and her circle. It’s a joy and a privilege to write these books. Thank you for your support.

Warmest congratulations to my fellow finalists Jan Markley, Allan Stratton, Marty Chan, and Norah McClintock. Long may mystery novels for young people continue to flourish!

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A short delay

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Hello, friends. I’m in Toronto for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s annual awards gala and will blog all about it here tomorrow!

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The Agency 4!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Hello friends! I have lovely news to share with you today.

First, A Spy in the House has been nominated for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s brand-new John Spray Mystery Award! Can I possibly hold my breath from now until the winners are announced in October?

Second, I’ll be reading, signing, and talking about the Victorians at the Mississauga Public Library on August 27, as their Teen Summer Reading program concludes. I’ll post more details here closer to the event.

And finally, I’m absolutely overjoyed to announce that there will be a fourth and final Agency novel. Its working title is Rivals in the City. There’s no publication date yet (I have to finish the book first!), but I’m so thrilled to be immersed in Mary Quinn’s world, one last time. I hope you’ll agree.

Happy long weekend, Canadian and American readers!

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Red Maple!

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Hello, friends. This week, the Ontario Library Association’s Festival of Trees gala takes places at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. As one of the finalists (A Spy in the House is shortlisted in the Red Maple category), I should be there. I really, really, really want to be there. Trouble is, I am THIS close to my due date and it would be exciting and memorable in all the wrong ways if I were to go into labour in Toronto. (Also, I don’t think the first aid tent is equipped for that kind of emergency.) So here I am in Kingston, thinking wistfully of the hundreds of voracious readers gathered in Toronto for the celebration.

I’m so glad that the organizers gave me a chance to say a very quick hello to the audience. A student will read the following greeting to the audience but I thought I’d post it here, too, so it reaches those who weren’t lucky enough to score tickets to the gala.

Several years ago, my mother asked me whether I’d rather have a baby or publish a novel. I didn’t even have to think about it: “novel” was my unhesitating answer, and The Agency: A Spy in the House, became both my book and my baby.

I’m a doubly lucky person, though. The reason I can’t be here today, celebrating with you in person, is because I’m in Kingston, Ontario, awaiting the birth of another baby – and I don’t mean the fictional type, this time. I’m so sorry to miss this party, and I hope it’s a shining day for everyone. Thank you for being such passionate readers.

Congratulations to all my fellow finalists, and especially to the students who read their way through the shortlists with such verve and enthusiasm! It’s been such a pleasure hearing from you.

I can still do local events, though, and on Friday, May 13, I’ll be reading at Indigo Books & Music as part of the United Way’s Success by 6 Week. I’ll be reading from two of my favourite picture books, starting at 11.20. See you there?

All next week, I’ll be chatting with members of Bookurious, where the Book Club is reading A Spy in the House. The discussion thread opens today, so if you have burning questions about Mary Quinn (oh okay, James Easton – everyone always asks about James!), do join in.

And finally, are you a Kingston-area high school student? There’s a writing contest designed just for you by Kingston WritersFest 2011. (Ahem: cash prizes.) Details are here. Good luck!

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Researching the Victorians

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

I promised last week to share some favourite research resources for the Victorian era. But first, some news that despite being 6 days old is still enough to make me jump up and down! A Spy in the House is shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s 2011 Red Maple Award! Yes! Let me throw in a couple of extra exclamation points, like so!!

This is a reader’s choice award for ages 11-15, it’s linked to a great reading-promotion program in Ontario schools, and the whole thing culminates in a 2-day gala at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. The craziest part, though? Being in the company of writers I think of as superstars, like Kelley Armstrong. And Gordon Korman, for crying out loud, whose work I loved as a kid. Plus, there are writers on the shortlist whose work I don’t know, but am really looking forward to discovering (click here for full shortlist). It’s all a bit dizzying.

But enough diva-ish fluttering. There are thousands of resources, both print and online, that I used when writing the Agency books. This is because my research began long before I thought of writing a novel, back when I was working on a PhD thesis in Victorian literature and culture. And that’s the beautiful, maddening, addictive thing about research: you start in one place and end up light years away, with pages upon pages of facts and anecdotes that probably won’t make it into the finished work. And it doesn’t matter, because you’re the richer for having read them. It’s brilliant.

But it’s also a pretty unhelpful thing to say here. But there are some books and sites that I go back to very regularly, and those are the ones I’ll share here today. Without further ado:

Online Resources (no particular order)

I adore Lee Jackson’s Dictionary of Victorian London, a compilation of primary sources (that is, sources from the Victorian era). It’s addictive reading; I dare you not to spend four times as long there as you’d intended. Don’t miss the “Flash Dictionary” of slang!

The Old Bailey Online archives the proceedings of London’s central criminal court, from 1674-1913. Again, utterly addictive and a fantastic window into Victorian crime. My friend John Nicholls first told me about to the site. Thanks, John!

The Times Archive is just that – a searchable archive of every article published in that newspaper, from its launch in 1785. You have to pay for access, unless you belong to an institution (eg, university) that subscribes.

The Victorian Peeper (I know – sounds vaguely rude) is an truly wonderful blog written by Kristan Tetens, “a historian of nineteenth-century Britain based in twenty-first century America”. It’s an endless delight and offers links to previously unknown sources, such as the one below.

Hidden Lives Revealed is a sometimes heartbreaking archive of case files and photographs of orphans at the Children’s Society, 1881-1918. The photographs are particularly illuminating.

The Victorian Web is an academic site with about 40,000 short articles on the Victorian period. Many of these were written by Brown University undergraduates and some aren’t 100% reliable, but it’s a terrific starting point and most of the essays have a partial bibliography for further research.

Print Resources (alphabetical by surname)

Ackroyd, Peter. London: The Biography. 2001. An authoritative history of the city.

Flanders, Judith. Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain. 2007. Wonderful social history and a window into real people’s lives.

—. The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed. 2004. You wouldn’t think a book about domestic life could be gripping, but this is. One of my favourite non-fiction books, period.

Picard, Liza. Victorian London. 2005. A lively general overview, but if you’re already deep into the era, you can skip this one.

Ross, Ellen, ed. Slum Travellers: Ladies and London Poverty, 1860-1920. 2007. Letters and reports from reform-minded ladies of the period. Great for contemporary flavour.

Smith, Stephen. Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets. 2004. Useful chapter on Victorian burial practices.

Sweet, Matthew. Inventing the Victorians. 2002. Debunks a lot of tenacious myths about Victorian culture and morals.

Tomalin, Claire. The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens. 1990. Definitive biography of Dickens’s long-time mistress. It’s also a sparkling social history and portrait of theatrical life.

Wilson, A.N. The Victorians. 2002. Authoritative, sometimes infuriating, interesting.

Wilson, Bee. Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee – The Dark History of the Food Cheats. 2008. Gripping stuff – the chapters on “food adulteration” are wonderfully, horribly vivid.

This is a longish blog post but a very short bibliography. Don’t forget the goldmine at the back of nearly each of these books: the notes and bibliography, which will lead you in all kinds of wild new directions. I hope you have a blast!

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