Summer posts

As usual, this blog is half-asleep, even though I’d planned a grand blog post to celebrate what is, today, my 10-year anniversary of arriving in the UK. Funnily enough, after Brexit, my anniversary enthusiasm declined a bit, and I never got round to it.

However, as the new academic year is just starting, let me  – literally in-between two supervisions – post a tiny update with some blog posts I’ve written over the summer on other platforms, mostly about (surprise!) children’s literature, some academic, some not so much:

As always, I’m much more active on my French blog. And as always, a lot has been happening on the French side. I can now announce, however, that my French YA book Les petites reines, which I’m apparently allowed to call a bestseller, and which has sold to the cinema, the theatre, and won a good bunch of major national awards in France (yeah, yeah, bragging is bad, don’t do it, etc.) – that novel, then, will come out in Britain in summer next year thanks to Pushkin Press; carefully, perhaps clumsily, and to no small degree creatively, translated by me.

It's about bikes, black pudding, rural France, and friendship.

It’s about bikes, sausages, rural France, and friendship. It won’t have that cover in the UK.

More on that, including title and cover, closer to the date.

The Sesame Seade series, meanwhile, has crossed the Channel in the other direction: it will come out in French next year with publisher Rageot. I still don’t know what they’ll call Sesame! (not translating that one)

Next supervision about to start! Till next time…

 

Back to the desktop

Hello again, after a rather long break. This summer, I had fake holidays (=conferences) and real holidays (= real holidays). After two months of June and July spent working quite intensely on my monograph (the final revisions of which I submitted at the end of July), I went to the International Bakhtin Conference in Stockholm at the end of July, disguised as a Bakhtin scholar (which I’m not). There, I was the discussant at a panel given by my colleagues Maria Nikolajeva, Eve Tandoi and Faye Dorcas Yung on Bakhtinian approaches to children’s literature.

Awful place for a conference.

Awful place for a conference.

The highlight of the conference (apart from a textbook example of mansplaining I had to endure from a charming middle-aged professor) was the re-enactment of Mikhail Bakhtin’s doctoral viva, in which Maria played one of the external examiners. All the genders were switched, so Bakhtin himself was played by a young female academic with absolutely spot-on facial expressions of weariness and annoyance at the objections s/he was receiving.

Can you imagine having your PhD viva re-enacted? Yeah, me neither. But then it certainly wouldn’t make such good drama. Despite Maria’s character’s insistence that ‘to refuse Comrade Bakhtin the title of Doctor would be ridiculous’, poor Mikhail only managed to get the equivalent of a Masters’, in part because of the non-political nature of his work. A female comrade from the audience (played by a male British Bakhtin scholar) had indeed bemoaned the shocking lack of references to Marx and to Lenin in the analysis of Rabelais.

The re-enactment

The re-enactment (with “Bakhtin” in the middle, and Prof N. in yellow)

Stockholm was staggeringly hot – pretty much 30 to 33 degrees the whole week. I actually fell asleep in an aftenoon talk, which had never happened to me before. But this meant that we got more than the usual side-tourism done – we even swam almost everyday in the beautiful bay, including on the Baltic Sea side which was petrifyingly cold.

I then went on actual holiday. When you’re an academic, talking to other academics, there’s a kind of understanding that if you’re going away somewhere nice, it’s probably for a conference. So if someone tells you, ‘I’m going to Hawaii tomorrow,’ the correct reply is, ‘What’s the conference going to be about?’. Not so in August, when I managed to spend a week in the tiny village in the North of France where we have a small holiday house, and then a full two weeks in Rome.

North

North

and South

and South

My Roman holiday wasn’t tourism-only, though, as I’d decided to spend every afternoon working on the first draft of my next French teenage novel, and thankfully managed it. I’d been working on it for over a year, but very on and off – contrary to my English work, in France I don’t get contracts before I write a book, which means no deadlines – so writing them is always very low on my to-do list, even though I enjoy it a lot. This new novel is, contrary to my first two (very grim) YA books, a comedy.

What now awaits me as I’m back in Cambridge is a daunting to-do list, both on the fiction side and on the academic side. I’ve got several ‘Revise and Resubmit’ or ‘Revise with major corrections’ articles to, well, revise and resubmit. I have to do the index for my monograph. I’ve been contracted for two more books in the Royal Babysitters series with Bloomsbury, which I need to write between now and April.

It's already in my house, making friends with its older sibling Sesame

The first one is already in my house, making friends with its older sibling Sesame

The first book, The Royal Babysitters, is coming out on September 11th and I’m going on a small promotion tour with a number of schools. I’m also doing a few festivals here and there, and going to Lake Leman next week for a big book fair, this time mostly for my French books.

I’m also bracing for what is going to be a heavy year in terms of teaching. I’ve taken on many new lectures, including in the fields I’m now branching into – sociology and philosophy of childhood and education – and I will also be teaching Creative Writing courses (on children’s fiction) at the Institute of Continuing Education in Cambridge. I’ll also keep supervising, though probably not as much as the years before as my teaching load is too big already. I will probably miss it a bit, as I’ve been enjoying supervising undergraduates more and more, and was particularly spoiled last year with some very bright, very motivated students.

I hope you all had a nice summer too, and leave you with what was, to me, the most stupefying thing in Rome – and a reminder not to forget about sensuality and beauty while in the midst of frantic term-time…

Bernini

Bernini.

Royal Cover!

Hurrah! We’ve got a cover for The Royal Babysitters! and it’s as yellow as royal jelly, and as energetic as the story inside. I’m absolutely thrilled with it – look at that!

Royalbabysitters_CVRand the whole thing:

Royalbabysitters_CVR-page-001-1All thanks to the great Becka Moor and the Bloomsbury designers…

It’s got everything a good cover needs: a prince with ice-cream cones stuck behind his ears, a very large number of royal babies, a robot sea monster, a snake and a zeppelin piloted by a mad king. Therefore, I call it an extremely successful cover.

Since it’s been approximately a very long time since I told you about this series, here’s a reminder of the story:

In another world not quite at all like our own, though very like it in other respects, but mostly not, although a little bit, the King and Queen of Britland are going on their annual day of leave to the Independent Republic of Slough. As a result, they are in urgent need of a royal babysitter for their two three four numerous little princely toddlers. Coincidentally, Anna and Holly Burnbright are in urgent need of two thousand pounds to go on an intergalactic holiday they’ve seen advertised in the newspaper. Great summer job opportunity, no?

Uh oh, it’s also the day King Alaspooryorick of Daneland has chosen to invade Britland…

The Royal Babysitters is out in September and will be followed by The Royal Wedding-Crashers in April, when Anna, Holly and Prince Pepino will be off to Francia.

And yes, I promise, I’ll update this blog soon again. I’ve been revising my monograph. I might talk about that, because it’s so thrilling it’s almost worthy of its own Buzzfeed article.

Clem

Some Royal News

Having read quite a few children’s books since I was born (they’re generally pretty good, you should try them), I recently became dissatisfied. Yes, dear readers, dissatisfied. Because none of them, no – none of the books I’d read ever gathered the following ten things all together in the same story:

  1. Windsurfing starfish
  2. Sextuplet princes (of toddlerish age) (crowns equipped with elastic bands)
  3. A foreign king obsessed with blitz invasions (finished in time for dinner)
  4. Hummingbird cannons
  5. An amazing holiday including a trip to a Mars bar
  6. A babysitting job paid one thousand pounds a day
  7. A naked porcupine
  8. A knitted parachute
  9. A lift especially designed for a cow
  10. A day of leave at the Independent Republic of Slough.

I was extremely sad about this oversight, because it appears to me that no children’s book can ever be quite complete without these ten things.

So I decided to write it!

And since other people agreed that the children’s literature world could not survive much longer without these ten things all neatly folded into a children’s book, it will be published as the first book in a series, by Bloomsbury, in September 2014!

(NB The lovely people at Bloomsbury, as a welcome present, having somehow heard from somewhere that I didn’t dislike one of their series, gave me this brand new Harry Potter box set -)

now I'll have to reread them for the 67th time... oh well!

uh-oh, now I’ll have to reread them for the 67th time. Ah well!

The first volume of my own series, meanwhile, will be called The Royal Babysitters.

Based on a true story. (not)

Based on a true story. (not)

What’s the pitch? Bickering sisters Anna and Holly, along with rather clueless little prince Pepino, have to look after six little princes for just one day – yes, but a day chosen by the bloodthirsty King Alaspooryorick of Daneland to invade the country.

A rather tough job, then, but you see, they have to earn some serious money to pay for the unbelievably cool Holy-Moly-Holiday that they’ve seen advertised in the newspaper. .

The second book in the series doesn’t have a name yet but it will be out in April 2015.

And it all takes place in a world… not quite like our own.

“But what age is it for?” asks the anxious adult. “From your description, it sounds like it could be for anyone between seven and a quarter and eight and a half! I need it to be more precise!!!”

It will be, I think, intended for children who are just getting to grips with the Art of Reading (well done them), though once again, like the Sesame books, I have written them carefully so they won’t immediately burn the neurons of anyone at a different stage of literacy.

And, what is supermuchmore exciting, it will be what I believe my friend and colleague Eve Tandoi would call a hybrid book series, that is to say a book where words and pictures both tell the story. It’s not quite a comic and it’s not quite a picturebook, but it’s somewhere in between, and I think it’s going to be hugely fun once the pictures are all drawn.

And it will be edited by none other than the extraordinary Ellen Holgate, who had already picked my Sesame at Hodder before moving to Bloomsbury. All those of you who’ve read Sesame books know how beautifully conceived and designed they are, so I’m ferociously excited that she’s working on the series too.

I hope you’re looking forward to it too. In fact I hope you’re now considering making lots of new babies in order to have an excuse to read them this series and then the Sesame Seade books. I’ll leave you to do that, then. I’ll just leave you to it.

Clem x

New job, new book, new blog schedule

The holidays have ended; I am now all splattered with freckles and full of salmon oil and maple syrup and scarred everywhere from fighting grizzly bears with my bare hands. Guess where I went to?

My holidays.

My holidays.

I am now looking forward to October which is going to come into my life with the sole intent of modifying it completely. This is because the following things are going to be happening in it:

1) New job!

I am starting on the 1st of October my very first job as an Emerging Scholar, which is a newspeak way of saying mini-researcher-playing-with-tiny-shovel-in-the-corner-of-the-big-research-beach. I’m going to be a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge. It entails doing research on my own like a grown-up, having lunches with other fellows like an adult, and still teaching the lovely undergrads (and also the unlovely ones) the mysteries of children’s literature and of the philosophy of education.

So I’m moving out of my flat, and beginning my new life of maturity as a non-student (!). In the meantime, the hardback version of my thesis, with corrections, will have been submitted to the University Library! Don’t rush there all at the same time to read it; I don’t want to cause a riot. I decided to get it bound in pretty wacky colours because every boring scientist picks red, black or blue, and what’s the point in being a Humanities student if you don’t take advantage of the fabulous freedom of submitting a baby pink thesis to the UL?

Funky coloured theses

Funky coloured theses

In my new job I’ll basically be starting a new research project, but also finishing what I’m currently working on, which is turning my thesis into a proper academic volume – to be published next year. This is proving very tricky and interesting – I’ll write more blog posts on the subject. The new project involves researching the concept of child precocity, and I’m sure I’ll write a bunch of things about that in months to come.

Another new thing I’ll be doing for the first time in October is go to a French conference and presenting my work in French. Easy, right, since I’m French? NO. French people terrify me, and I’ve completely lost my academic French. I’ll keep you updated, should I survive.

2) New book!

Gargoyles Gone AWOL (Oct 2013)‘GGAWOL’, as it is affectionately known

But that’s not all, because October also brings the release of the second book in the Sesame Seade series, Gargoyles Gone AWOL! more to come, of course, on the matter. I’ll also be doing my first big event – a talk to kids at the Bath Literary Festival.

I’ve been working on tons of projects recently. I’ve got two picturebooks in French coming out next year, as well as a YA book. In the UK as well, projects are bubbling but still in the top-secret category. It sounds exciting, but basically it’s a sexy way of saying there are no contracts yet.

3) New blog schedule!

And to celebrate all this – new life, new job, new books, new projects – and fight existential angst, I’ll be trying to stick to a new blog schedule. Since I feel slightly schizophrenic on this blog – I’m interested both in the academic and the writing aspects – I‘ll be doing one post per week, alternating each week – one roughly for the interests of academics and academic-minded people, or people who’d like to know more about research; and one about writing and specifically writing children’s books, which will probably appeal more to other authors, readers and students of creative writing. I’m thinking Wednesday, and all in a partnership with the French side of myself.

Also, I’ve been getting quite a few emails recently, from students of children’s literature in particular – either about the course at Cambridge, or about studying children’s literature in general. I’m always happy to help, so do email me at clementine at clementinebeauvais dot com (but please don’t ask me to write it for you…!)

Meanwhile

A bientôt!

Clem x

Sesame Uncovered!

… or rather, here’s the cover of Sesame Seade book 1: Sleuth on Skates, out with Hodder on May 2nd, 2013!

My first ever book in English!

My first ever series!

My first ever book with a DUCK ON A SKATEBOARD on the cover!

(etc)

And it’s also got a spine! and a back cover! and FLAPS!

Yes, there is a duck sitting on the Hodder sign on the spine.

Yes, there is a moustachioed fish in the pond near the ISBN.

Yes, the blurb sounds like I’m arrogantly praising my own storytelling talent, but it was the publisher’s idea.

And YES, a team of young ‘uns got to read the manuscript and some their words are all over the flap! (the other ones are in my Box of Things I Will Treasure Forever.)

All of the amazing drawings are of course by Sarah Horne, and all the design is by the Hodder team under the supervision of my editor Ellen Holgate. What a cool early Christmas surprise!

I printed out a tiny version of it so that the other books on my bookshelf could get used to it being part of the clan soon…

Fluffy clementine approves.

See you in a little bit less than 6 months for the ACTUAL book!

Clem x

Meanwhile, in the Ivory Tower…

I’ve been painstakingly trying to sort out the rest of my life. This is the last year of my PhD, so I need to figure out what to do with myself and all my earthly possessions when they kick me out of my flat in July.

The PhD thesis is progressing ok, with a first draft done and amply commented on by my supervisor – back to the drawing board for draft number 2.

I’ve got a new peer-reviewed article published in Children’s Literature in Education: ‘The problem of power: Metacritical implications of the concept of aetonormativity for children’s literature research.’ Yep, it’s deliciously jargonny. Basically, what it means is this: currently, children’s literature theory is very much inclined to see adult power everywhere. In this article, I ask – why does this ‘power’ have to be so all-encompassing? Doesn’t the child have a share of the big bad word of ‘power’?

I’ve also got a new review in International Research Society for Children’s Literature, on the academic volume Philosophy in Children’s Literature, ed. by Peter Costello (2012). I love writing and reading reviews of academic books – it’s vaguely addictive.

And post-doc applications, of course… I’m just sending off my 20th application today for the extraordinarily competitive Junior Research Fellowships (JRFs) in Oxford and Cambridge. So far, I’ve been rejected from one and longlisted for another; so all hope is not lost. JRFs are everyone’s dream: three or four years of funded research in a college, with some teaching allowed… and yes, the associated prestige. Chances to get one are very slight, but some people must get them, I guess.

My research proposal for those is quite different from what I’m doing at the moment: I’m trying to branch out into Childhood Studies and the philosophy of childhood, which I do a lot of indirectly in my thesis anyway. Fingers crossed that I get to do it, one way or another. The job market situation is extremely tough for graduates at the moment, especially in the arts & humanities, and I’m not too optimistic.

I’ll blog about the Children’s Literature Research Centre soon – we’ve had some exciting events recently!

Clem x

When Sarah Meets Sesame

I’m super thrilled to be able to reveal that the Sesame Seade series will be illustrated by the amazing Sarah Horne! Her artwork is perfect – bubbly, energetic and zany and the sketches she’s done so far have triggered many an exclamation of ‘that’s EXACTLY Sesame!’ at Beauvais Towers.

And this is what Sesame looks like now thanks to Sarah:

Fabulous, I know. Sarah’s worked on lots of chapter books and picturebooks with Hodder, Walker and Random, among others. Her blog is here, her website is there and her Facebook page is yonder. She also tweets ici.

I can’t wait to see the first book, Sleuth on Skates, all illustrated. The sketches for the cover and chapter 1 I’ve seen look phenomenal and it’s going to be full of quirky details and funny faces. And ducks.

Meanwhile, the first draft of Book 2, Gargoyles Gone AWOL, is all done and I’m going to start working on the edits soon. Book 3, Scam on the Cam, is slowly getting started. And the PhD thesis is also getting some attention, Maria, I promise (this is for my supervisor).

Sesame’s leaving soon for the US with the Hodder rights team, so please cross your fingers everyone that she doesn’t hit an iceberg on her way across the Atlantic… and optionally-hopefully that they’ll like her enough to want her to stay!

Clem x

Summer Summary

I’ve just come back from three weeks of epic family adventures and misadventures on the Transsiberian, from Moscow to Irkoutsk to the Baikal Lake to Ulan-Bator to the steppes of Mongolia. Eating clotted goat’s milk in a Mongolian yurt and pork liver dumplings in the deepest depths of the Russian countryside? Check. Sleeping on a tiny little train bed five nights in a row having not had a shower? Check. Still managing to talk to the rest of your family in a relatively peaceful manner? Check. Working on your Phd thesis? Hmm…

Here’s a little picture just to give you an idea…

While I was busy doing all that, my latest novel in French came out, La pouilleuse (The girl with lice). It’s a YA novel set in Paris, the short, dark story of a day in the lives of five über-privileged teenagers who out of boredom, idleness and other motives they don’t quite understand, kidnap a little girl outside a swimming-pool and decide to get rid of the lice in her hair. It’s published by the very cool Editions Sarbacane, who are famous in France for their award-winning contemporary urban fiction for teens.

Having a new book out is always half-exciting and half-underwhelming. It’s nothing like the thrill you get when the editor tells you that yes, they’ll publish it – that’s the big high. But the day the book actually comes out, and even if you’re not trekking through the Mongolian steppes, it’s not that incredible. Your local bookshop might not even have it yet. People you care about have already read it, because you’ve given them advance copies; other people are reading it but you don’t know about it. There might be a few reviews already on the internet, but that’s all. At least that’s my experience in France – I’ll let you know if it’s different in the UK.

But La pouilleuse has already got a few good reviews here and there and I’ve just learnt it’s been nominated for an award. Now it’s out, there’s nothing I can do about it apart from looking forward to seeing what happens to it.

On the Sesame side, things are getting very exciting and I’ll soon post a few updates. Meanwhile, back to the thesis…

Clem x

Discovering the New Book

It’s always an exciting moment: opening the parcel with the publisher’s stamp on it, and taking your first author copy out of the bubble wrap. Cool and relaxed writers not like me probably peel off the sellotape with a yawn, fish out a book while munching on an organic cereal bar, hmm-hmm their way through the pages, and put it down again as if nothing particularly more exciting than updating Firefox has happened to them recently.

Not so, let me tell you, on this side of author-land. I arm myself with a carving knife, ruthlessly eviscerate the cardboard box, and do not rest until every single book has been smelt, stroked and weighed. But I never open them, of course, for fear of finding a typo.

Although this time I did manage to restrain myself enough to take a picture of the box (though the blurriness shows a certain lack of control):

And here it is! my latest baby, a YA novel in French called La pouilleuse (Girl with Lice) which is coming out at the end of August. If you’re interested and well-versed in Gallic, here’s the French webpage for it.

I’m delighted with it – Sarbacane, the publisher, have done an awesome job. The cover and the pages are super thick, the blurb on the back cover is spot-on, and they haven’t forgotten the dedication to my little sis’. Gorgeous colours, too, on the front cover.

So my small family of books is growing, all French-speaking so far, but I can’t wait for Sesame Seade to meet its siblings and speak a bit of English to them.

Clem x