Riot announces shortlist for 2020 Royal Society Science Book Prize


  • Six game-changing reads for curious minds are shortlisted for prestigious prize for popular science writing.
  • Previous winners Bill Bryson and Gaia Vince and former shortlistee Jim Al-Khalili join three newcomers with books that take readers on a journey of self-discovery and social awareness.
  • “These books make science intriguing, accessible and exciting. Some raise awareness of the scientific process, and of our understanding that scientists are humans too. Others are a call to arms, asking us to consider our place in the universe and what we can bring to humanity in our various ways.” – Professor Anne Osbourn FRS, 2020 Chair of Judges.

The Royal Society today, Tuesday 22nd September, reveals the shortlist for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2020, sponsored by Insight Investment. This year’s shortlisted books, chosen from over 172 submissions, represent the very best in popular science writing from around the world for a non-specialist audience.

Postdoctoral scientist and debut author, Dr Camilla Pang, is joined on the 2020 shortlist by Oxford scholar and expert in women’s economic empowerment, Linda Scott, who is nominated for her first solo book. Also joining the list for the first time is journalist and author Susannah Cahalan. These three newcomers are up against two previous winners, author Bill Bryson OBE FRS (A Short History of Nearly Everything, 2004) and Gaia Vince, science writer and broadcaster (Adventures in the Anthropocene, 2015) and previously shortlisted author and physicist, Jim Al-Khalili (Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, written with Johnjoe McFadden, 2015).

The full 2020 shortlist is (in order of author surname):

  • The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili (Princeton University Press)
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (Transworld Publishers)
  • The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (Canongate Books)
  • Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang (Viking)
  • The Double X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women by Linda Scott (Faber & Faber)
  • Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time by Gaia Vince (Allen Lane)

The judges praised the six authors on the rigorous scientific content of their books conveyed through engaging storytelling. They reflected that each book showed a unique perspective on a well-known subject or uncovered little known truths about everyday interactions in an accessible way for lay readers.

Chair of this year’s judging panel, Professor Anne Osbourn FRS, Group Leader at the John Innes Centre and Director of the Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology Alliance, comments:

“This year’s shortlisted books represent carefully crafted explorations of the worlds both around and within us: the physical laws of the universe and the search for ultimate simplicity; the innermost workings of the human body (and its ultimate demise); an instruction manual for interpreting human behaviour;  the complex area of diagnosing and defining mental health;  the subordination and exclusion of women in developed and developing countries around the world, and the potential for unleashing women’s economic power for the greater good, and the evolution and potential fragility of the human super-organism Homo omnis , likened to a differentiating slime mould trying to ensure its survival by escaping an unfavourable soil environment.

“These books make science intriguing, accessible and exciting. Some raise awareness of the scientific process, and of our understanding that scientists are humans too. Others are a call to arms, asking us to consider our place in the universe and what we can bring to humanity in our various ways.  There is darkness, revelation and hope. There is inspiration.”

Four books on the shortlist explore the layered intricacies of what it means to be human. These books present unique perspectives and facts on the human body, providing illuminating insights on the history of psychiatry, human evolution, and navigating social norms.

In Explaining Humans, Dr Camilla Pang – diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight – examines life’s everyday interactions through a set of scientific principles, showing how thinking differently can be a superpower instead of a disability. Meanwhile, Bill Bryson’s The Body, explores the human anatomy, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. The book is packed with surprising facts, including the revelation that we blink so many times in a day that our eyes are shut for 23 minutes every day.

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan follows up on her debut, Brain on Fire, in which she described her experience of being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. In this new book, Cahalan investigates the troubled history of psychiatry, using psychologist David Rosenhan’s famous experiment – On Being Sane in Insane Places – as a case study. Cahalan questions whether this famous experiment is deeply flawed and, if so, what this means for our understanding of mental illness. In search of how humans came to be the dominant species, Gaia Vince’s Transcendence takes a fresh look at evolution and argues that the delicate combination of our genes, environments and cultures makes us smart. Vince shows how today we are all part of an unfolding social project leading us to a new chapter in our evolution.

Linda Scott coined the term ‘Double X Economy’ to describe the global economy of women. In The Double X Economy, Scott looks at the systemic nature of women’s economic exclusion, from the villages of Africa and the slums of Asia, to the boardrooms of London and the universities of the United States. Finally, Jim Al-Khalili appears on the shortlist for the second time with The World According to Physics. In this insightful book, Al-Khalili argues that the wonders of the universe should be appreciated by everyone, and that physics gives us the tools to better understand the universe and ourselves.

Half of the books on the shortlist come from independent publishers. Penguin Random House has titles from three imprints (Transworld, Viking and Allen Lane).

Founded in 1988, the Royal Society Science Book Prize exists to promote the accessibility and joy of popular science books to the public. For 32 years, the Prize has celebrated some of the very best in science writing, with topical subjects tackled by the Prize winners ranging from gender stereotyping (Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, 2019, and Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine, 2017) to works exploring humanity’s impact on the environment (Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince, 2015, and Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, 2008). At a time when science communication forms a central part of our daily discourse, the aim of the Prize is more relevant than ever.

Alongside Professor Anne Osbourn, the 2020 judging panel comprises: Blackwell’s Trade Buying Manager, Katharine Fry; journalist, Katy Guest; Royal Society University Research Fellow, Dr Kartic Subr, and actress and author Sophie Ward.

The winner of the 2020 Prize will be announced via a virtual awards ceremony streamed on the Royal Society website on 3rd November 2020. The winner will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.

Riot Senior Campaigns Manager James Douglas asks could 2020 prove a watershed year for games?

As we look forward to the launch of new consoles in just a few months, 2020 has already reminded us that games are about much more than teraflops and resolution. Major disruption has kickstarted a wave of change across society, and that is no less true for video games. An explosion in hardware sales means we now welcome millions of new players around the world. For the industry and its evangelists, that means new levels of scrutiny too.

For decades we’ve sought a place at the cultural table, advocating for games not just on the basis of aesthetic merit, but educational and economic grounds too. It is becoming clear, however, that we need meaningful change in the sector and its surrounding culture before we can really lay claim to that status.

We’ve seen recently that while this is a community quick to embrace technological innovation, it is often too slow when it comes to social change. Nowhere was this clearer than with the launch of The Last of Us: Part II and the nastiness that followed. The chapter summed up perfectly where we find ourselves in 2020. On the one hand, we can see a future characterised by sophisticated stories aimed at a much broader range of audiences. At the same time, there are those whose energy appears wholly devoted to making those involved in these trailblazing projects miserable.

And at studios like Ubisoft, we are reminded that the sector isn’t always the inclusive space we wish it to be, particularly for women. Amidst the anger, there is a wearying sense of déjà vu, particularly when you consider how similar injustices in film and TV were laid bare in relative prehistory.

But there is cause for optimism too. It is said that cultural change takes just 15% of a community to take root. Clearly, there is an appetite for games that better reflect society and are a little bolder in their storytelling. Let us hope such ambition rubs off. For Ubisoft, they have been quick to set out an apparently sincere attempt to right wrongs both historic and more recent. Meanwhile, women at Rocksteady attest to the studio’s efforts to create a safer environment for its staff, two years after management were accused of failing to prevent sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.

At every turn, there are those working to steer the industry in the right direction. Studios have signed up to UKIE’s #RaiseTheGame pledge in droves, committing to create more diverse workforces and greater diversity of content. Meanwhile, advocacy groups including @BlackGirlGamers and @POCinPlay grow in influence. This is a shift reflected across our culture and entertainment industries, something I’ve been involved in through my own work at Riot Communications.

So what else can we do? It feels like there are players out there who simply don’t know that women make games. For every Kojima or Druckmann, how many female game directors can we name? Initiatives like the Women in Games awards and the Women in Games conference are a good start.

The BBC’s commitment to more thoughtful discussion of games is welcome too, with major releases now getting air time on flagship arts programmes such as Front Row. That such discussions are led by young women like Elle Osili-Wood and Aoife Wilson is equally encouraging.

Few of us doubt that games can impact society as film and TV do. But the industry can be its own worst enemy. We need to be united in our opposition to intolerable behaviour, be it online or in our offices, while asking if the environment we’re creating is anything other than the inclusive haven of imagination we want it to be. If we can do that, then the recognition we crave will surely follow.

We’re hiring: Senior Campaigns Manager

Senior Campaigns Manager – permanent, based in London though currently working from home

Salary – £ Competitive

Are you passionate about culture and entertainment? Have you got a track record in comms? Riot Communications is seeking an enthusiastic, energetic, and experienced communications professional to be a part of our team.

About Riot Communications:

Riot specialises in culture and entertainment PR because, like our clients, we want to make a positive impact in the world. We are purpose and integrity driven: we passionately believe that both culture and entertainment help promote empathy, creativity, respect for others and joy. We are guided by the four principles of the Riot ethos: intelligence, passion, collaboration and disruption which drives everything we do: from the clients we choose to work with, how we deliver our work and who we hire.

We work with some of the best creatives in the world – writers, artists, actors and visionaries. Clients include Penguin Random House, Aardman, Mammoth Screen, DeepMind, Moomin Characters, The Astrid Lindgren Company, Costa Book Awards, London Review of Books, and the Royal Society. Recent work includes: hosting A-list talent such as Jennifer Saunders, Taron Egerton and Rosamund Pike at the world premiere of Moominvalley in Finland; securing Stormzy for the annual #PenguinPresents showcase at the London Palladium; masterminding the launch of the new book by the legendary His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman at London’s Alexandra Palace Theatre; getting more kids into science promoting the annual Christmas Lectures on the BBC; and finding the most exciting new fiction voice of the year.

We are an equal opportunities employer. We actively support BME PR Pros, the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Women in PR. We welcome a diverse pool of candidates and are committed to a diverse workforce. We take the well-being of our team extremely seriously and are guided by our well-being in the workplace principles, including, for example, access to an Employee Assistance Programme and Wellness Action Plans.

About the role:

You will be responsible for planning and implementing creative PR campaigns of exceptional quality that are in line with our agency ethos. Reporting to the Associate Director, you will play a key part in providing the high quality, strategic consultancy that our clients depend on, including brand management, crisis comms, media relations, reputation management. You will work directly with some of the best creatives in the world – writers, artists, actors and visionaries. In turn, you will be part of a team of highly skilled colleagues, in a supportive environment with emphasis on your personal training and career development. As part of a small, growing company, you will be exposed to a 360-degree view of what it takes to build a successful agency.

Key responsibilities:

  • Lead and project manage campaigns independently and as part of a team, delegating as required
  • Pitch our clients and their work succinctly and creatively leading to demonstrable high-quality coverage
  • Create bespoke, strategic, and creative publicity campaigns for specific projects identifying media angles and media targets
  • Negotiate scopes of work, budget, and time management with clients
  • Liaise directly with clients and manage your own clients
  • Liaise directly with and manage talent
  • Organise and attend regular journalist/influencer meetings, building, nurturing and sustaining media and influencer contacts
  • Organise and implement events
  • Help to generate and participate in new business activities
  • Manage personal administration

You will have at least four to five years of public relations experience, either in-house or at an agency. You will have a clear idea of why you work in this industry and what you bring to it. You will be highly motivated and get things done before being asked; be a passionate, curious and solutions oriented individual; have exceptional attention to detail; have outstanding multi-tasking skills; be super organised and dependable and have a proactive, can-do approach. You will be an exceptional communicator in all mediums – writing clear, creative copy is vital as is a natural social ability on the phone and in person. You will have experience of effectively delegating to junior team members. As part of an ambitious and growing company, your entrepreneurial flair to spot creative and commercial opportunities will be advantageous.

Essential skills:

  • Media relations
  • Talent and client management
  • Copywriting
  • Project management
  • Events management
  • Delegation
  • Negotiation
  • Strategic planning
  • Excellent command of written and oral English

 

Essential Criteria:

  • Minimum 4-5 years of public relations experience either in-house or at an agency
  • A passion for culture and entertainment
  • Proven media relations skills
  • Proven copywriting skills
  • Proven client-management skills

The selection process:

We are seeking creative individuals with an ambition to succeed and develop in the PR industry. Your enthusiasm for working at Riot Communications, your flair, can-do attitude and strong work ethic will be evident in your application. You will have at least four to five years’ experience in a public relations role, either in-house or in an agency.

Initial interviews will take place online. Only candidates invited to interview will receive a reply.

To apply please send us your CV and a short covering letter to info@riotcommunications.com. Please include ‘Application for Senior Campaigns Manager’ in the subject header.  

Deadline for applications is 5pm, Friday 9th October 2020.

 

Summary of main terms and conditions:

Job title:          Senior Campaigns Manager

Location:         Riot Communications, Studio 113, The Pill Box, 115 Coventry Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 6GG. Currently working from home.

Hours:              Full time 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday

Holiday:           25 days plus bank holidays

We’re Hiring: Campaigns Executive

Campaigns Executive – permanent
Salary – competitive

Are you looking to further your career in the PR industry? Do you want to expand your experience in public relations? Are you passionate about culture and entertainment? Riot Communications is seeking an enthusiastic and energetic self-starter to be a part of our team.

About Riot Communications:

Riot specialises in culture and entertainment PR because, like our clients, we want to make a positive impact in the world. We are purpose and integrity driven: we passionately believe that both culture and entertainment help promote empathy, creativity, respect for others and joy. We are guided by the four principles of the Riot ethos: intelligence, passion, collaboration and disruption which drives everything we do: from the clients we choose to work with, how we deliver our work and who we hire. We work with some of the best creatives in the world – writers, artists, actors and visionaries. Clients include Penguin Random House, Aardman, Mammoth Screen, DeepMind, Moomin Characters, The Astrid Lindgren Company, London Review of Books, and the Royal Society. Recent work includes: hosting A-list talent such as Jennifer Saunders, Taron Egerton and Rosamund Pike at the world premiere of Moominvalley in Finland; securing Stormzy for the annual #PenguinPresents showcase at the London Palladium; masterminding the launch of the new book by the legendary Philip Pullman; getting more kids into science promoting the annual Christmas Lectures on the BBC; and finding the most exciting new fiction voice of the year.

We are an equal opportunities employer. We actively support BME PR Pros, the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Women in PR. We welcome a diverse pool of candidates and are committed to a diverse workforce. We take the well-being of our team extremely seriously and are guided by our well-being in the workplace principles, including, for example, access to an Employee Assistance Programme and Wellness Action Plans.

About the role:

You will be assisting the team on the execution of various PR campaigns, as well as implementing campaigns independently as appropriate. You will assist with the agency’s own publicity and marketing strategy, creating content for and keeping our digital channels up to date. You will receive on-the-job training, the responsibility and opportunity to deliver projects and a one-to-one line manager to help guide your development.

Examples of campaign responsibilities:

  • Media, influencer, client and talent relations
  • Assisting with the planning and implementation of creative campaigns
  • Drafting of press materials
  • Attending regular journalist meetings and growing your contacts book
  • Organising and implementing event and press trip logistics
  • Social media content creation
  • Participating in new business activities, for example, contributing to creative
    brainstorms and helping to put presentations/pitches together
  • Media monitoring and management of press cuttings
  • Creating and formatting media coverage reports for our clients
  • Creating activity reports for our clients
  • Producing mailing lists using our Gorkana media database
  • Press release distribution – mailing of press releases to relevant individuals and
    outlets via our media database
  • Keeping project meeting agendas, transcribing meeting notes and taking meeting
    minutes as appropriate
  • Managing launch/event invite lists including mailings and RSVPs
  • Keeping campaign budget spreadsheets up to date

Examples of agency PR and marketing responsibilities:

  • Working with the MD to create content for and update the agency’s monthly online
    newsletter
  •  Operating the content management system of the agency’s website to update the
    site on a regular basis
  • Creating content for and regularly updating Riot’s social media channels

You will have at least one to two years’ experience of public relations experience, either in-house or at an agency. You will have a clear idea of why you work in this industry and what you bring to it. You will be a highly motivated, passionate, curious and solutions oriented individual; have exceptional attention to detail; have outstanding multi-tasking skills; be super organised and dependable and have a proactive, can-do approach. You will be unafraid of hard work and mucking in and will enjoy the challenge of working in a fast-paced, creative environment. You will have a natural curiosity for the media and be interested in the ways brands harness consumer trends, culture and current affairs to communicate and influence customers. You will be a digital native and feel very comfortable running social media accounts, for example.

Essential skills:

  • Media relations
  • Organisational skills
  • Copywriting skills
  • Communication skills
  • Social media content creation
  • Reliability
  • Adaptability
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Efficiency in managing tasks, working under pressure and meeting deadlines
  • Proficiency in Microsoft packages and Dropbox
  • Excellent command of written and oral English

The selection process:

We are seeking creative individuals with an ambition to succeed in the PR industry. Your enthusiasm for working at Riot Communications, your flair, can-do attitude and strong work ethic will be evident in your application. You will have at least one to two years’ experience in a public relations role, either in-house or in an agency.

Initial interviews will take place online. Only candidates invited to interview will receive a reply.

To apply please send us your CV and a short covering letter to info@riotcommunications.com. Please include ‘Application for Executive’ in the subject header.  

Deadline for applications is 5pm, Monday 5th October 2020.

Summary of main terms and conditions:

Job title: Campaigns Executive

Location: Riot Communications, Studio 113, The Pill Box, 115 Coventry Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 6GG. Currently working from home.

Hours: Full time 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday

Holiday: 25 days plus bank holidays

Riot Communications x Vintage x Yuval Noah Harari

Following on from our success of launching the international phenomenon SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari (2014), we are teaming up with publishers Vintage and Yuval Noah Harari once again to launch: SAPIENS – A GRAPHIC HISTORY. In collaboration with comics artists David Vandermeulen (co-writer) and Daniel Casanave (illustrator), this graphic edition is a radical reworking of the original book – which has now sold over 16 million copies and been translated into 60 languages – and will be published in four volumes starting with Volume 1: The Birth of Humankind

Preena Gadher, MD, Riot Communications said: “Promoting the original book SAPIENS back in 2014 is a personal career highlight, and since then we have had the privilege of working with Vintage and Yuval Harari on every one of his books to date (HOMO DEUS, 2016; 21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY (2018). Harari is one of our greatest global public intellectuals and so it is wonderful to see SAPIENS adapted in this graphic format, aimed at adults and young adults who might not usually pick up a history or science book. I hope we can introduce a whole new audience to Harari and his exhilarating ideas.”

SAPIENS: A GRAPHIC HISTORY is out on 12th November 2020.

Riot helps Penguin celebrate 85th anniversary


Charlie Mackesy
Coralie Bickford-SmithDapo AdeolaJackie Morris and Vashti Harrison contribute work, with all profits going to charity


Penguin turns 85 this year and Riot is helping the publisher celebrate by launching a range of fine art prints, with all profits going to the National Literacy Trust. 
 

 

Specially-commissioned from five leading Penguin artists, illustrators and authors, these beautiful prints – themed around the transformative power of books and reading – are perfect for book lovers and art enthusiasts alike.  

 

Priced £85 each, the framed prints are on sale via the Penguin Shop for a limited period of 85 days. Members of the public will have until Friday 23rd October to purchase a piece of design history. 

 

Will Smith, Head of Brand, Penguin Random House UK:  

“From its beginnings in 1935, Penguin has been indelibly associated with design excellence and visual inspiration. We’re proud to work with the very best and most loved artists and illustrators in the world. Marking our 85th anniversary with this project is a fitting nod to that heritage and supports an absolutely vital cause. At Penguin, we make books for everyone, because a book can change anyone. The National Literacy Trust effects tangible and lasting change in peoples’ lives across the country through books too. It’s hugely moving to see how this group of artists has depicted the transformative power of reading in these beautiful artworks. The saying goes that a picture paints a thousand words – these ones will no doubt inspire people to read thousands more!” 

 

Jonathan Douglas, CEO, National Literacy Trust:  

“COVID-19 is set to have a disastrous impact on the literacy and life chances of our most disadvantaged children. With widespread school and library closures limiting many children’s access to learning and books, the literacy gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is expected to skyrocket. This could hold them back for the rest of their lives – unless we act now. We have been working tirelessly with Penguin Random House to get books and vital literacy resources into the homes of children who need them most. We are hugely grateful for their ongoing support through this incredible fundraising initiative and to the artists who have contributed their valuable time and talent to capture the transformative power of reading through their creations. Together, we can continue to support the literacy of children who have been most seriously affected by COVID-19 and ensure that no child is left behind.” 

 

About the prints 

Each art print is 30x40cm, printed on matt smooth fine art paper, with a mount and a responsibly sourced solid wood frame with a smooth black satin finish. They are produced by specialist art printers, King & McGaw. 

 

About the artists  

Artist, illustrator and author Charlie Mackesy began his career as a cartoonist for The Spectator, before going on to be book illustrator for Oxford University Press. His award-winning work has featured in books, private collections, and public spaces including hospitals, prisons, churches, university colleges and galleries across London, Edinburgh and New York, and in women’s safe houses around the world. He worked with Richard Curtis on the set of Love Actually to create a set of drawings to be auctioned for Comic Relief, and Nelson Mandela on a lithograph project, The Unity Series. Away from art he’s an ambassador for Mama Buci, a honey social enterprise in Zambia. His internationally bestselling first book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, was published in October 2019.  

 

Coralie Bickford-Smith is one of the most renowned designers in the publishing industry, especially recognised and celebrated for her illustrated covers of Penguin’s clothbound classics. Her first book, The Fox and the Star, was named Waterstones Book of the Year and as one of Time Out’s 100 Children’s Books of All Time. Her design work has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times and the Guardian. 

 

Dapo Adeola is an illustrator and character designer who creates characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way. He runs illustration and character design workshops in and out of schools, to help highlight the possibilities of a career in illustration to inner-city children. Look Up!, his first collaboration with Nathan Bryon, was shortlisted for the 2019 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards. Clean Up! – the sequel to Bryon and Adeola’s Look Up! –  is published by Puffin on 23rd July 2020. 

 

Jackie Morris is a children’s author and artist. She studied at Hereford College of Arts and at Bath Academy, and went on to illustrate for the New StatesmanIndependent and Guardian among many other publications. She has created over 40 books, including beloved classics such as Song of the Golden HareTell Me A DragonEast of the SunWest of the Moon and The Wild Swans. She collaborated with Ted Hughes, and her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Most recently, The Lost Words – her collaboration with Robert Macfarlane – has become a bestselling, critically acclaimed literary phenomenon. The Lost Spells, a new collaboration with Robert MacFarlane, is published on 1st October 2020. 

 

Vashti Harrison earned her MFA in Film/Video from CalArts and BA from the University of Virginia. Her experimental films and documentaries have shown around the world at film festivals. After a brief stint in television as a production coordinator, she is now a freelance graphic designer and a picture-book illustrator. She is the artist behind a number of Penguin Random House’s inspirational Little Leaders titles, as well as Lupita Nyong’o’s New York Times bestseller, Sulwe. 

 

 

Riot Senior Campaigns Manager Hephzibah Kwakye-Saka on how to promote books by black authors

This article first appeared in the Bookseller on 24th July 2020

As a black publicist with more than seven years in culture and entertainment publicity, I have sat in many all-white creative meetings where the genuine answer to making a campaign diverse was to give Stormzy a call (before that it was Tinie Tempah).

If you are serious about diversity and inclusion, it needs to be thought about holistically.

While it has been very encouraging to hear the recent ongoing conversations about the need to diversify the publishing industry and to see a rush of acquisitions by black writers, fuelled by the Black Lives Matter movement, I am concerned that publishers are signing up black authors, without the knowledge and skill to market and promote these books to audiences that have historically been excluded.

Last month, the Black Writers’ Guild called on publishers to help tackle the ‘deep-rooted racial inequalities’ in the industry, and I was delighted to see that one of their requests called for the acknowledgement that emerging black authors need a specific and targeted marketing and PR campaign to reach audiences that are essential but are usually missed by approaching every book promotion strategy in the same way – i.e. going big on the Guardian and Radio 4. While these mainstream outlets are very important in reaching the masses (black people consume mainstream media too!), platforms like Gal Dem, GUAP Magazine and many more like them were created as a response to feeling excluded from the mainstream conversation and have now attracted dedicated audiences who feel heard and understood.

Currently, when such platforms are included in the media updates sent to sales teams, there is a feeling that these are ‘niche’ and won’t have the same impact on book sales as getting a piece on, say, Woman’s Hour. I wholeheartedly disagree! While these outlets are still relatively new and still finding their feet, they know their audiences and understand what they need, and there’s value in that. We see this in the recently launched Cocoa Girl and Cocoa Boy magazines by London mum Serlina Boyd, after spotting a gap in the market during lockdown. The magazines, targeting and inspiring black children has now sold out all 10,000 copies of the first issues, and has had over 50,000 visits on its website.

These platforms should work in tandem with coverage in national mainstream news outlets. It’s a strategy we regularly deploy at Riot. I just wrapped up a campaign for the National Centre for Writing, on the Desmond Elliott Prize, won by #Merky Books’ Derek Owusu for That Reminds Me. Making this announcement against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, we made sure to land coverage in The Voice UK and Capital Xtra Breakfast Show as well as typical places such as the Guardian, the BBC and the Evening Standard. This two-pronged approach resulted in That Reminds Me hitting #3 on the Amazon Movers and Shakers list the day after the announcement.

When working with our client, Mammoth Screen, (a leading TV production company) and Penguin Random House Children’s on the BBC’s adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses, we worked with Black Girls Book Club to curate a panel event of non-white speakers made up of some of the cast and crew to discuss the joys and challenges of taking the book to screen. We understood that for black fans of the book like me, this was one of the rare times we could see our pain and everyday struggle represented so accurately in a fictional book and now on primetime TV, making it extremely important to include and empower this demographic as part of our campaign strategy.

Major global news outlets are slowly but surely seeing the merits of investing in black audiences by creating sub-brands or sections on their wider platforms for these voices to be championed. These include Pidgin (BBC News), R29 Unbothered (Refinery29) and Cocoa Butter (BuzzFeed) to name but a few, providing even more opportunities for publicity and marketing teams (not least when mainstream media is axing supplements that have been integral to campaigns thus far). But understanding these outlets and the audience is key, and that is a specialism.

It strikes me that when publishers (by which I mean editors, designers, and sales teams as much as marketing and publicity departments) begin to value black consumers by embracing the full range of news and entertainment sources that we engage with, and which speak directly and unashamedly to us, that is when real change will be felt, not only culturally, but also positively on the bottom line.

Never-seen-before manuscript by Philip Pullman revealed on 25th anniversary of Northern Lights

 

“When I wrote Serpentine, I had no idea that I was going on to write another trilogy, showing Lyra as an adult, but she and her world wouldn’t leave me alone.” – Philip Pullman 

  • Serpentine, a new book featuring a teenage Lyra Silvertongue, will be published in October 2020
  • Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman to narrate audiobook edition 
  • BBC One and HBO’s His Dark Materials Season Two confirmed for this autumn, based on The Subtle Knife 

Penguin Random House have today, Thursday 9th July 2020, announced that they will be publishing a previously unseen manuscript by Philip Pullman this autumn. Serpentine – a novella set after the events of His Dark Materials but before those of The Secret Commonwealth – was written in 2004, but has remained under wraps until now.   

The announcement coincides with the 25th anniversary of Northern Lights, the first volume of Pullman’s ground-breaking, internationally bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy, which was published in 1995.  

The standalone short story was written for a charity auction at the request of the National Theatre’s then-director, Nicholas Hytner, during the award-winning stage production of His Dark Materials. The hand-written manuscript and printed typescript were auctioned and bought by Glenn and Phyllida Earle for a substantial sum, with all proceeds going to charity. The book is being published 16 years on, following the publication of The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two last autumn, where readers were introduced to an adult Lyra. 

Philip Pullman says: “Why are we publishing this story now? Because with the development of The Book of Dust, especially after the events described in The Secret Commonwealth, we can see a change in the way Lyra understands herself, and her relationship with Pantalaimon, which is prefigured in this little Arctic episode. When I wrote Serpentine, I had no idea that I was going on to write another trilogy, showing Lyra as an adult, but she and her world wouldn’t leave me alone. When it comes to human affairs, a billion invisible filaments connect us to our own pasts, as well as to the most remote things we can imagine; and I hope that, above all, these books are about being alive and being human.”  

In Serpentine, a teenage Lyra returns to the town of Trollesund, the setting of her first encounter with Iorek Byrneson and Lee Scoresby in Northern Lights. Lyra and Pan are older and a little wiser, and in search of an answer to a shocking, secret condition – their ability to separate – from the witch-consul, Dr Lanselius. What unfolds is a tender, revelatory scene that foreshadows Lyra’s future struggles as a young woman, and provides insight into Pullman’s own early exploration of a previously unthinkable plot development that would emerge in his The Book of Dust sequence: the idea that a human’s bond with their daemon can be irreparably broken. 

Serpentine will be published by Penguin Random House Children’s on 15th October 2020 in hardback and ebook edition, with illustrations by Tom Duxbury, alongside an audiobook edition narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman (The CrownThe FavouriteFleabag). 

Northern Lights introduced readers to the parallel world of Lyra Belacqua, the truth-telling alethiometer, the concept of Dust and the idea of dæmons, the animal embodiment of a human’s inner-life and thought. Acclaimed as a modern masterpiece from the beginning, Northern Lights went on to win numerous awards, including the Carnegie of Carnegies, has sold over 2 million copies through BookScan’s Total Consumer Market and has been translated into 45 languages. The book established Pullman as one of the greatest storytellers of our time. 

25 years on, Lyra’s story continues to grip the nation. 18 million copies of the His Dark Materials trilogy have sold in over 44 languages, and the BBC/HBO television adaptation of His Dark Materials, with its all-star cast including Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda, was the biggest new British show in over five years on any channel, with initial viewing figures of 7.2 million.  

2020 sees an exciting programme of Pullman activity, with the confirmation of Season Two of the His Dark Materials series launching later this year, as well as the publication of three new editions of Pullman titles: The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two paperback from David Fickling Books in association with Penguin Random House (17th September), Dæmon Voices paperback from David Fickling Books (1st October) and a fully-illustrated hardback gift editionNorthern Lights: The Illustrated Edition (5th November), from Scholastic. 

Derek Owusu wins 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize with “groundbreaking” debut That Reminds Me

Taylor Beidler wins the inaugural UEA New Forms Award and Michelle Perkins receives the first Laura Kinsella Fellowship

The National Centre for Writing (NCW) has today (2nd July) announced Derek Owusu’s That Reminds Me as the winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020. The novel-in-verse, praised by judges as a ‘transcendent work of literature’, is chosen as the best debut novel across the UK and Ireland this year from a strong shortlist including The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré and The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu.

In addition to the £10,000 prize money, Owusu will receive a tailored year-round platform of support and mentorship from the NCW, which is running the Desmond Elliott Prize for the first time this year as part of its new Early Career Awards portfolio.

That Reminds Me is a vivid and semi-autobiographical tale of a British-Ghanaian boy called K, whose turbulent childhood spent passing through foster homes leaves him battling with a budding neurosis. At 11-years-old, K is moved from his white foster family in a village in Suffolk and is taken back to the very different context of inner-city London after his foster mother develops cancer. Each section, told in fragments of memory, explores K’s flickering experiences of abuse, sexual awakening, depression, alcoholism, self-harm and addiction.

It was chosen as the best debut of the year by a judging panel chaired by author and previous Desmond Elliott Prize winner, Preti Taneja, who was joined by Chief Lead Writer at The Observer, Sonia Sodha, and writer and editor Sinéad Gleeson. Preti Taneja said: “That Reminds Me is written with a rare style that wrings pure beauty from every painful, absurd moment K must face. Despite the terrors around him, this young black man has an instinctive love for the world that burns at the core of the book. The judges and I were as shattered by the truths of the story as we were moved by the talent of its writer. Derek Owusu has given us a unique, profound and transcendent work of literature: we want as many readers as possible to discover it – once they do they will return to again and again.”

Owusu is a writer, poet and podcaster from north London who, before turning his hand to fiction, collated, edited and contributed to Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space (2019), an anthology of writing by 20 Black British men. He was a co-host of the literature podcast Mostly Lit up until 2017.

That Reminds Me is published by Stormzy’s #Merky imprint. It is the first title in a two-book deal for Owusu, and the first book published by the imprint to have won any major literary prize. The TV and film rights to Owusu’s second book with #Merky, Teaching My Brother to Read, have already been sold to Idris Elba’s production company, Green Door Pictures.

The new Early Career Awards portfolio also includes the University of East Anglia (UEA) New Forms Award for an innovative and daring new voice in fiction and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship which recognises an exceptional writer who has experienced limiting circumstances or is currently underrepresented in literary fiction.

The UEA New Forms Awards was judged by writer and poet Inua Ellams, with Professor Henry Sutton and Dr. Claire Hynes of UEA and NCW Programme Director Peggy Hughes. It is awarded to Taylor Beidler, whose project explores non-traditional storytelling and aims to synthesise her work as a playwright, performance artist and creative non-fiction writer.

Of Beidler’s entry, Peggy Hughes said: “This is an impressive project with exciting potential, using a personal story to powerful, measured effect.”

The Laura Kinsella Fellowship was judged by doctor and author Roopa Farooki and novelist and playwright Alice Jolly with Chief Executive of the NCW, Chris Gribble. It is awarded to Michelle Perkins. Perkins originally trained as a nurse and was the first person in her family to go to university when she studied at Goldsmiths in the 90s. After experiencing some major life challenges, she rediscovered writing as a means to make sense of her difficult family history.

Of Perkins’ work, Roopa Farooki said: “There is a poetic pragmatism that is the writer’s own, and I feel there is great potential for this writer to be a bold and brilliant voice.”

Beidler and Perkins will both receive £4,000 to support them at the beginnings of their careers as well as a bespoke programme of support provided by the NCW, supported by Arts Council England. All three winners have also been invited to choose a selection of ten books which NCW will gift to a library or school of their choice.

Running in parallel to the Early Career Awards is an online digital programme providing free resources for anyone, anywhere wanting to progress with their writing. Every two months NCW releases a bespoke support package with advice from established and new voices. Supported by the Arts Council England, this element of the Early Career Awards aims to widen the impact of literary prize culture.

Two ‘extraordinary’ books exploring survival and our relationship with nature through short stories win UK’s most prestigious book awards for children and young people

  • Third time lucky for British author Anthony McGowan, who clinches the CILIP Carnegie Medal with the fourth book in his series of short novellas
  • Academy Award-winning artist, writer and film maker Shaun Tan is the first illustrator of colour to win the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

carnegiegreenaway.org.uk / #CKG20 / #bestchildrensbooks

Today (Wednesday 17th June 2020), the winners of the prestigious CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest book awards for children and young people, are revealed.

Lark by Anthony McGowan (Barrington Stoke) scoops the Carnegie Medal for writing, whilst Tales from the Inner City written and illustrated by Shaun Tan (Walker Books) takes the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration. The winning books were chosen by 14 volunteer Youth Librarians, from a total of 162 nominations this year, as the very best in children’s writing and illustration published in the UK. The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.

This is the first time both McGowan and Tan have won a Medal in either category. British author McGowan has previously been longlisted and shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal with three out of the four books from this novella series Truth of Things (Brock, Pike and Rook). The last book in a series to win a Carnegie Medal was Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness in 2011, the final book in his Chaos Walking trilogy.

Australian author and illustrator Tan, who is of Australian, Chinese and Malay heritage, is the first illustrator of colour to win the Kate Greenaway Medal. Tales from the Inner City is a sister volume to Tan’s 2008 anthology, Tales from Outer Suburbia.  He has worked as a theatre designer, a concept artist for animated films including Pixar’s WALL-E and directed the Academy Award-winning short film, The Lost Thing in 2011. In the same year, Tan received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, honouring his contribution to international children’s literature.

This is the first Medal win for small independent publisher, Barrington Stoke, while 35 years later, Tales from the Inner City marks Walker Books’ 12th Kate Greenaway Medal since its first win in 1985.

Both books use captivating words and images to explore humankind’s relationship with nature, alongside themes of survival. Lark tells the story of two brothers, Nicky and Kenny, who set out for an adventure in the North Yorkshire Moors only to be caught in a precarious blizzard when weather conditions take a turn. Throughout the book, the brothers display a deep respect and understanding of nature, which ultimately grants them consolation as they wait to be rescued. McGowan’s prose paints nature as a source of wonder and joy, but also peril.

Tales from the Inner City, a collection of 25 illustrated stories, was borne out of Tan’s life-long love of animals and deals with the separation and tension between the natural and artificial world. Tan believes that many of the problems we face today may have something to do with the distance from nature in a post-colonial and post-industrial world, especially within urban spaces. Throughout the book, Tan reminds readers that we are all interconnected with nature.

Anthony McGowan said:

“Every writer for young people dreams of winning the Carnegie Medal. Its incredible history, the rollcall of the great writers who have won it and the rigour of the selection process, makes this the greatest book prize in the world. It is also a magnificent way of connecting with readers. The hundreds of shadowing groups in schools and libraries around the country provide that one thing that writers cannot do without: a living, arguing, debating, biscuit-munching population of brilliant readers!

“On one level, Lark is a simple adventure story. Two woefully ill-equipped teenage boys, and their old Jack Russell terrier go for a walk on the North Yorkshire Moors. A blizzard descends and their fun day out, their ‘lark’ turns into a desperate battle for survival. On another level, the book is about the unshakable love between two brothers, one of them with special needs, after enduring family break-up, poverty, bullying and cruelty. Lark is also a story about the power of stories and the way they weave through our lives. The book ends with the words ‘Tell me a story,’ and with those words we are led back again to the beginning.”

Shaun Tan said:

“I am surprised, delighted and then deeply honoured – what a wonderful thing to be! I am especially thrilled to receive the Kate Greenaway Medal in the fine company of so many brilliant artists and authors, many of whom inspired my own love of illustrated stories as a young West Australian scribbler.

“Tales from the Inner City is a strange book for strange times, suggesting that human frailty might well find expression in dreams of tigers, bears, frogs and lungfish reclaiming our cities. To know that I am not alone in enjoying such speculation – maybe even a bit too much – is no small thing. It is profoundly consoling, to feel part of a larger conversation about our relationship to this planet, particularly with younger readers, in whose imagination the future is already taking shape.”

With relatable stories that show children a range of perspectives and lived experiences, the 2020 Medal winners reflect the Awards’ mission ‘to celebrate and represent a diverse range of experiences’.

Julia Hale, Chair, CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, commented:

“During challenging times, librarians believe books for children and young people are more important than ever. The best books provide adventure, solace, inspiration, comfort, escape, rich experiences and sheer enjoyment; they are a port in a storm, a reflective mirror and an entry to new worlds. In an unprecedented year for all of us, we are delighted to reveal the two extraordinary winners of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals that highlight our connection and co-dependency with the natural world.”

“Carnegie Medal winner Lark, by Anthony McGowan is a powerful standalone novella that brings the exemplary Truth of Things series to an emotional ending. Lark picks up the story of the close relationship between Nicky and elder brother Kenny, who after surviving trauma and poverty in their past, must now endure the extremes of nature at its cruellest. This novella was admired for its clear, simple storytelling; combining authentic characters and realistic situations in pared down prose with blunt humour, genuine tension and moments of pure poetry as fleeting and transcendent as birdsong. It is incredible that such a rich reading experience is in no way impeded by its short and accessible form, indeed it is a strength.  The book leaves the reader with hope for the future; that through the bonds of love from friends and family things can and will get better.”

“Every detail of the Kate Greenaway Medal winning Tales from the Inner City mark it as a masterwork of illustration that generates an outstanding experience for the reader in every detail. In a collection of 25 surreal short stories set in a semi-dystopian dreamscape where the boundaries between urban and wildlife are close to collapse, Shaun Tan conveys the tangled, intimate relationship between humans and animals with breath-taking technique and awe-inspiring invention. Double page spreads of oil on canvas give pause for necessary reflection and contemplation. Never have the bonds between us and the beautiful creatures we share the earth with been so exquisitely rendered with such prescience. The judging panel were moved, amused and astonished by the artistry and imagination of a stunning book that should be widely shared and celebrated.”

CILIP will celebrate the conclusion of the Shadowing Scheme by announcing the winners of the Shadowers’ Choice Award – voted for and awarded by the children and young people who shadow the Medals – on 9th October 2020, during National Libraries Week.

THE WINNERS:

CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020: Lark by Anthony McGowan (Barrington Stoke)

When Nicky and Kenny head for a trek across the moors to take their minds off of everything, a series of unforeseen circumstances leaves the brothers in a vulnerable and very dangerous position. There might even be a chance that this time they won’t all make it out alive.

Anthony McGowan is the author of many critically acclaimed YA novels and won the 2006 BookTrust Teenage Prize, the 2007 Catalyst Award and has been shortlisted for a raft of other major children’s literature prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for Rook in 2018. McGowan was born in Manchester, attended school in Leeds and now lives in London.

“A painful though uplifting conclusion. The moment at which Nicky … hears the “mad, ecstatic music” of a lark’s song is especially transporting” Imogen Russell Williams, Guardian

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020: Tales from the Inner City written and illustrated by Shaun Tan (Walker Books)

A young girl’s cat brightens the lives of everyone in the neighbourhood. A woman and her dog are separated by time and space, awaiting the day they will be reunited. A race of fish build a society parallel to our own. And a bunch of office managers suddenly turn into frogs but find that their new lives aren’t so bad.

Shaun Tan grew up in Perth and works as an artist, writer and filmmaker in Melbourne, best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through dream-like imagery. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, a concept artist for Pixar and won an Academy Award for the short animated film The Lost Thing.

“When it comes to originality and genius, Tan is in a league of his own. This collection of stories and poems with an animal-in-the-city theme are intriguing, thought-provoking and at times baffling, asking as many questions as they answer, and the illustrations are sublime. One for quirky teens (or adults) who love art.” The Irish Independent