2020 Submissions Window Announcement

2020 Submissions Window Announcement

We are very excited to announce that we will be holding a submissions window for diverse and LGBTQ+ authors, as well as authors with a disability, on Sunday 30th August 2020. We will also be holding a short submissions window for all authors on Monday 31st August 2020. The window will run from 00:01 until 23:59 on 31st August 2020, and any manuscripts submitted outside of these times will not be accepted.

Imagination has no borders. No culture has a monopoly on the way children think or feel and this is why we actively encourage new voices from anyone – regardless of where you are from (and where you’re going). Our focus is on our readers: children long to see themselves in books but are also more open than many of us to new characters and notions. With this in mind, we are advertising our submissions window to promote fairness and we will be accepting manuscripts for any genre.

Firefly Press will be accepting submissions for:

·         Younger readers, ages 6-9

·         Middle grade, ages 9-12

·         Teen and Young adult, ages 12+

Please note that we do not publish picture books or any fiction or non-fiction books for adults. Before submitting, make sure that you read and follow our guidelines for submission.

Submissions should be sent, within the windows outlined above, to submissions@fireflypress.co.uk

Perfect Place for a Plot, writing Too Dark to See by Chloë Heuch

Perfect Place for a Plot, writing Too Dark to See by Chloë Heuch

Too Dark to See by Chloë Heuch is a beautifully written coming of age YA novel that perfectly captures the intensity of being a teenager. Themes of grief, first love, sex and resilience are sensitively explored against a forbidding landscape, with characters and nature that are both benevolent and violent. We loved Kay and Siôn’s blossoming relationship, as they help each other find hope after trauma. It is a novel that has all the wildness and passion of a contemporary Wuthering Heights.

Too Dark to See publishes on 2 July. Read a blog post from Chloë about the landscape that influenced her writing.

Carreglefain, above Nefyn/Uwchben Nefyn on the Llŷn Peninsula

For me, wild landscapes are a place where life and death are thrown into relief. The Landscape in Too Dark To See is central to the plot. The protagonist, Kay, literally and symbolically has to climb a mountain to gain perspective and see things in a different way.

Landscape has always been important to me. As a child, my artist parents would often whip out sketch books, painting or drawing the views around them, whether we were back home in Derbyshire, or on holiday in Wales. I enjoyed painting and drawing too, and I learnt to see the landscape in a painterly way, that I guess affects the way I write about place.

The natural landscapes in Wales, in Snowdonia, and where I live on the Llŷn Peninsula, dominate everything. You get a real sense of nature’s power and might when walking among the hills and mountains here. It sometimes feels as though the rounded back of a mountain is a slumbering giant or creature half nestled in the earth.

It can feel a bleak or dangerous place when you are high in the hills alone, and weather changes bring rain and mist obscuring your way. Siôn is much more at home in this environment than Kay, and he understands the cycle of life better through his observations. This environment can seem harsh, cruel even, when we see predators attacking prey, or stumble across the remains of a kill.

When alone, such a landscape has a habit of bouncing back your thoughts, like an echo, returning them to you. This can mean if people are low, or unhappy, like Kay, the dominating aspect of nature can scare and intimidate. Even with so much space, you can suffocate on yourself! But when you stop being afraid of all that space, it becomes an amazing place to reconnect with yourself and what matters.

You realise that we share our world with amazing plants and animals and can learn a lot from them. Understanding the natural world is ultimately an uplifting experience, as we feel connected to the planet and more in touch with our own amazing life force: our heart beats, our beautiful breath. It makes you want to live every moment to the full! It was this reason I wanted to set Too Dark to See in a more remote and wild landscape, to give Kay and Siôn this backdrop, for their story. I hope you like it!

Find out more about Chloë at her website: www.chloeheuch.co.uk


Too Dark to See by Chloe Heuch

Reviews 

‘I was impressed by this beautifully told story of love and survival… Grief, sex, destructive behaviour, resilience and the natural world are all handled with great sensitivity.’ Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

‘A beautifully written portrayal of teen grief. The characters are very real and draw you in.’ Kelly McFarland, TBHonest

‘An evocative story of a teenage girl coming to terms with loss and finding hope and light in the untamed landscape of her new world, Too Dark To See is stunning. Each page oozes with a purity of raw emotion. … Remarkable, genuine, heartfelt and so very real.’ Fallen Star Stories

Buy Too Dark To See here

Firefly Celebrates Empathy Day 2020: Read Connect Act

Firefly Celebrates Empathy Day 2020: Read Connect Act

In recent weeks we’ve all seen how empathy is more important than ever, to help us listen to and understand others, enable us to help those in need, and to stand against injustice. Today, Empathy Lab is asking us all to encourage children to READ empathy-boosting books, CONNECT with others by listening, and ACT by putting empathy skills into practice – all as part of Empathy Day 2020.

At Firefly Press, we’re proud of our wonderful authors and illustrators who work so hard to create and share stories for children which will help them to empathise with others. This year, we’re delighted that Vanessa Harbour’s powerful middle-grade historical story Flight is an Empathy Lab selection in their Read for Empathy Guide 2020. 

Flight is ‘a nail-biting adventure about children who manage to save Lipizzaner horses in the Second World War. Gripping, and excellent for exploring and understanding relationships (and history), with strong characters.’

Empathy Lab UK

You can read a special blog post by Vanessa about the importance of developing empathy for (and between) the characters in Flight, hosted by the brilliant Library Girl and Book Boy

Other Firefly authors are taking part with Empathy Day too…

Miriam Halahmy is the author of Behind Closed Doors, a moving Young Adult novel which tells the story of two teenage girls on the brink of homelessness. Watch her special Empathy Day message here.

‘At this time of pandemic the whole world has had to dig deep and show kindness and empathy to each other and to strangers. Empathy is literally saving lives.’

Miriam Halahmy

Kate Mallinder is the author of feel good teen reads Summer of No Regrets and Asking for a Friend. Watch her special message for Leicester Libraries here. Kate is also taking part in #ukteenchat on Twitter from 8-9pm.

And Wilde author and Children’s Laureate Wales, Eloise Williams, has created a terrific Authorfy ‘10 Minute Challenge’ especially for #EmpathyDay. Watch it here.

Empathy Reads for Years 2 – 4

Empathy Reads for Years 5 – 6

Empathy Reads for KS3+

Empathy Day Firefly KS3

Here are some ways you can get involved with Empathy Day

  • Share your recommended #ReadForEmpathy books 
  • Take part in the Empathy Day virtual programme
  • Read a book from the Empathy Lab’s Read for Empathy Collection 
  • Take part in one of the activities in the Family Activity Pack

There are loads of brilliant resources to inspire and help parents, teachers and children get involved with Empathy Day over at www.empathylab.uk. including this downloadable Empathy Day Resolution poster.

Empathy Lab is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to build children’s empathy, literacy and social activism through a systematic use of high-quality literature. Each year, they organise Empathy Day and create a guide for schools, libraries and parents.

@EmpathyLabUK #EmpathyDay #ReadForEmpathy

The Importance of Baking Cupcakes by Anna Mainwaring

The Importance of Baking Cupcakes by Anna Mainwaring

On 2 April my first novel, Rebel with a Cupcake, is being reissued by Firefly Press with a beautiful new cover by Niki Pilkington. It’s about a confident teenage girl, Jess (short for Jesobel), who loves to cook for her friends and dysfunctional family. But one fateful Own Clothes Day, a wardrobe malfunction sets off a chain of events which leads Jess to re-consider everything she has held dear. Jess has to learn to make her own way through a family, school and society that seem to think she’s just a bit too much

I’m not a great baker but I do love to try. Whereas Jess can make a gingerbread version of her school in one afternoon, if my cakes were to appear on The Great British Bake Off they would definitely be described as ‘rustic’ if the judges were being kind and ‘a total mess’ if they were being honest. But what Jess and I do share is a belief that food is a great pleasure and a brilliant way of bringing people together. Food and life should be full of flavour! All the best celebrations, whether personal, cultural or religious, all seem to centre on the sharing of tasty dishes and treats. So Jess bakes cupcakes for her friends, throws an impromptu party for her grandmother who rarely leaves the attic, and helps mend her sister’s broken heart. 

To celebrate the publication of Rebel with a Cupcake, if you have time, inclination and most importantly in these strange times, the ingredients, perhaps you might like to bake a cupcake or two to share with those you love. Here’s a basic cupcake recipe that has never let me down. Jess would probably make elderflower and rosehip cakes, for me lemon and poppyseed are my favourite. What would be your perfect cupcake flavours?

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

110g softened butter or margarine

110g golden caster sugar

2 large eggs 

½ tsp vanilla extract

110g self-raising flour

Optional food colouring of your choice … go subtle or go bold!

Ingredients for the buttercream:

150g softened butter

300g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp milk

Optional food colouring … possibly match the beautiful colour of Rebel with a Cupcake’s spine!]

To decorate:

Sprinkles or any edible decoration you prefer

Optional pin badge (just don’t eat!)

Method:

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and fill a 12 cupcake tray with cases. White ones are fine but coloured ones are best.

Beat 110g softened butter and 110g golden caster sugar together until pale and fluffy then whisk in 2 large eggs, one at a time. An electric whisk saves time but using a spoon is a great work-out!

Add ½ tsp vanilla extract (or alternative flavour), 110g self-raising flour and any colouring, whisk until just combined then spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. Aim to fill each case half way or just over. If you fill to the top, then the mixture with expand in the oven.

Bake for 15 mins until golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. (I don’t have a wire rack – I just improvise)

To make the buttercream, whisk 150g softened butter until super soft then add 300g icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract (other flavours can be substituted). Whisk together until smooth. You might want to do this really slowly to start off with as the icing sugar has a tendency to create a cloud. Now would also be the time to add the colour if you want. Of course, you can always use ready-made buttercream to save time and washing-up if desired.

When ready, either spoon on or if you’re up to the challenge, use a piping bag for a more professional look. You can add sprinkles and/or other decorations. Then present to those you love and see how much they enjoy them! 

Writing The Darkness for Young Adult Novella Collection Three Strikes

Writing The Darkness for Young Adult Novella Collection Three Strikes

by Lucy Christoper

This was a lovely project to be involved with. Here my novella, THE DARKNESS, is part of a collection of three darker-themed YA novellas, together with authors Kat Ellis and Rhian Ivory. It’s quite long for a novella at about 32,000 words. I even toyed with the idea of making it a whole novel by itself.

Here’s how publisher Firefly Press summarises Three Strikes:

The Darkness by Lucy Christopher: Kasha has answered the advert for The Tribe. Now she sits writing alone in the darkness of the jungle. Is she the only one left? Then she spots a red light blinking at her from the darkness. Cat’s eyes? A camera?

The Twins of Blackfin by Kat Ellis: Every evening Bo visits her best friend Sky’s grave. One night she hears a girl’s voice. Following it leads her to a journal and a crypt.

Matchgirl by Rhian Ivory: A modern YA retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl. Busking, runaway Nia is mugged and left badly hurt in a tunnel. All she has is three matches, and she starts seeing pictures in the light… A story of grief, love and music.

I really love my story in this collection. In some ways, I think it’s the best story I’ve written! I wrote this version of it very fast, over the course of one hot summer month.  But that doesn’t mean this story was easy to write! I actually started it almost a decade before while on a trip to Cross River National Park in Nigeria. I wanted to write about a reality show going wrong; I wanted to talk about the dynamics of troubled teenagers dealing with this. I also wanted to explore another story: a teenage girl’s grief, confusion and guilt over the death of her mother. I wanted to do all this with the backdrop of the most amazing natural environment – the rainforest of Nigeria. I think I sat on this story for so long because I didn’t know how to tell it; I also didn’t feel like I knew this environment well enough for the story I originally wanted to write. When I found the trip journal device, together with Kasha’s voice, the story suddenly was released in a torrent of words and emotions.

Find out more about Lucy on her website: www.lucychristopher.com


Reviews 

“The Darkness’ by Lucy Christopher is such a beautiful story – mysterious, exciting, deeply emotional and with a rare spiritual depth. It stays in the mind like a prayer.” Melvin Burgess

“A raw tale, reminiscent of Black Mirror, with compelling characters stranded in a stark landscape, all bound together in gritty, gripping writing.” Joanna Nadin

“YA as it should be – dangerous, dark and daring. I loved it.” CJ Skuse

To celebrate Crater Lake, Leonie looks back at sci-fi with Firefly

To celebrate Crater Lake, Leonie looks back at sci-fi with Firefly

by Leonie Lock (Bookseller and Firefly Intern)

Join Lance and his friends Katja, Chet and Maksym on their spooky school trip to Crater Lake. Tense but hilarious, Jennifer truly lives up to her reputation as a fantastic author exploring complex themes of truth, friendship and bullying as the gang team up to save the day.

Strange and scary things are happening … whatever you do DON’T FALL ASLEEP.

I absolutely adored losing myself on this school trip with Lance and his friends, Jennifer’s writing is so inclusive and tangible that you become a part of the story.

To celebrate the launch of Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick, Firefly are offering a fantastic deal on upper middle-grade / teen sci-fi trilogy Lost on Mars, The Martian Girl and The Heart of Mars by Paul Magrs. All three books are £5 each, or only £11.99 for the set which you can buy here. Limited time offer.

The Lora Trilogy

Paul Magrs, author of several Doctor Who books, creates a well-defined world for settlers on Mars in this exhilarating story of survival. I’ve always been a fan of Paul’s amazing characters and I fell in love with Lora and her family immediately. From Grandma leaving behind her cybernetic leg (and the funeral that ensues) to Toaster, the family’s loyal servant and friend, this is such a vivid world and story that will leave you longing for more. And, fortunately, there’s two more to sink your teeth into. 

And here’s some other great sci-fi titles from Firefly, all just £5.00 for a limited time only…

Mo, Lottie and the Junkers

Selected for the Summer Reading Challenge 2019, this is the hilarious tale of peculiar neighbours and missing persons. Recommended by Chris Callaghan, Jennifer Killick doesn’t disappoint. Mo moves into his new stepdad’s house with his mum and has to learn to get along with his new stepsisters, Lottie and Sadie. But the new occupant of their old house, just across the road, becomes increasingly peculiar and Mo suspects that not everything is quite as it seems. Perfect for children craving mystery and giggles. Click to buy.

Purge

In a world where punishment for bad behaviour is a purge from resistance, you have to follow the rules. But what happens if you have a habit of getting into trouble? With Harrow Lake being published by Penguin Random House this summer, this is the perfect time to explore this futuristic thriller from Kat Ellis. I adored this brilliant story following Mason and Noah, thrown from very different worlds into each other’s lives. Alone, they’d both surely be purged, but together… they might just stand a chance. Click to buy.

Alien Rain 

Requested for a mission back to Earth, Bree finds herself stripping the planet of its resources and must make a huge decision between home or Earth. With gorgeous descriptions of a post-apocalyptic Cardiff, this is a must for any sci-fi fan, from author Ruth Morgan.

Click to buy. Signed copies are also available at full price (£7.99) here.

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