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Hello and welcome to my autumn newsletter.
As I write, the low sun is lighting the hill outside my window, and the sycamore leaves are just beginning to turn. It’s sad to see the end of summer, but I do love this golden time of year.
Things have been pretty busy since my last update in February. The most exciting news is that my adult novel, Requiem, is back in print. Hooray! It has a beautiful cover, as you can see. It is published by Cybermousebooks in paperback and as a Kindle ebook. If you go to the Requiem page on this website you will find out more about it. It was my first adult novel and is still my favourite of all my books, so I’m really happy to see it back in print.
On 28 October, I appeared at the Quaker Meeting House in Sheffield as part of the Off the Shelf festival, where I spoke to Trisha Cooper and read passages from Requiem. Carys Bray also appeared. A video of the event can be viewed on YouTube.
Also back in print is my poetry collection, Walking on Air, with a new striking cover. This is also available both as a paperback and as a Kindle ebook. Most of the poems in the collection have been anthologised many times, and some, like ‘Quieter than Snow’, ‘Badger’ and ‘I’m Frightened in Dark Caves’, are often used in national speech and drama exams. Walking on Air is a mixture of poems for younger and older children, and recently students from Freiburg University used it to inspire their poems about childhood. It’s lovely to see it back in print. You can also hear me reading from it if you visit the Poetry Archive.
More book news: my ghost novel, The Company of Ghosts, published last autumn, was shortlisted for the Stockport and the Sheffield awards, it won the Oldham Brilliant Book KS3 award and was runner-up for the Tower Hamlets award. It is currently shortlisted for the Warwickshire SLS award and the Wirral paperback of the year award, and is longlisted for the Carnegie medal. Here is a video about the book that Oldham libraries asked me to make. The video was made by Kirsten Johnson.
I have contributed short stories to two anthologies published this year: War Girls, published by Andersen Press (my story is called ‘Sky Dancer’), and Watch and Wait, published by Cybermousemedia (‘Crossing the Glacier’). All proceeds from Watch and Wait will go to the Lymphoma Society.
Earlier in the year my picture book Snowy was published. It is about a real barge horse who worked the Chester canal. In May I had a lovely day at the heritage canal festival in Chester, signing many copies and chatting to people who remembered Snowy with great affection. The barges and narrow boats made a beautiful sight in the sunshine.
And yes, the big publishing event for me in early 2015 is the long awaited companion book to Street Child. In response to your many queries, I can now tell you that it’s called Far From Home, and can be pre-ordered from HarperCollins and elsewhere. Here's the lovely cover. I’ll tell you more about it in my next newsletter.
In the summer, children from the High Peak took part in a summer school project based on my picture book Blue John. With the help of the High Peak Arts team they wrote and performed an opera based on it. I went to the second performance, which was at the Pavilion Theatre in Buxton, and was enchanted by the performance. Thank you High Peak Arts, Derbyshire Libraries and all the Queens of Darkness, Blue Johns, dancers and singers and devisers of this lovely production.
I always love to read your letters, and though I always respond, I’m sorry that some letters arrive after the end of term. Teachers please note!
Here are some of the people and schools I’ve heard from recently:
Elise Bergshoeff from Holland, an art therapist, has been reading Abela, and sent me some amazing photographs of drum classes and dancing with children from Gambia.
Yr 8 girls from Oldham Hulme Grammar School have read Holly Starcross and sent me some very appealing and interesting alternative endings.
Abi Fox from Offmore Primary School in Kidderminster sent me some of her own lovely stories. Good luck Abi.
Isla, Jasmin and Katie also sent thrilling stories for me to read – I’m sorry I don’t have your surnames or school addresses, but thank you for letting me see them.
Children from Westways School in Sheffield sent a bundle of letters thanking me for a visit. I particularly liked Maddie’s question: “Have you ever spelt anything wrong in a book that has been published?” I think that came from the heart, Maddie! Well, I do sometimes make mistakes, or typos as we prefer to call them, but luckily I have a spellchecker on my computer, and the proofreaders at the publishers try to make sure that everything is correct before the book goes to print.
Yr 6 Children from Quarry Brae Primary School in Glasgow sent lovely letters about Street Child. They had some amusing stories about their visit to the Scottish Museum Victorian Class. They were a bit scared!
Aneta Chomcewicn (My apologies if I’ve misread your surname, Aneta), of St. Joseph’s Primary School in Poole said she loves all my books and especially Street Child – “One of my favourite masterpieces” – thank you!
And from the Yr 5 children of Nancy Reuben Primary School in Hendon – a stunning collection of beautifully written and illustrated letters. It’s always hard to choose my * star letter, but I liked this one from Eden Field in particular:
Dear Berlie Doherty
While I was reading Street Child it had to be pulled out of my hand because it was so unputdownable. Every chapter had something special and emotional. I was thrilled to hear that you are going to write a sequel! Throughout the book I was placed in Jim’s shoes.
You described Jim and the other characters beautifully. My favourite character is Rosie because she was put in many situations and in every one she took a risk through every task she was given. Easily I can imagine the scene and the characters because it was written fantastically the way you gave everyone an accent.
Tremendous is the only word to describe Street Child. The connection you gave between Jim and Shrimps was so affectionate and lovely. Spirits in my heart were lifted because of you.
Best wishes and good luck on the sequel.
Eden Field, Year 5, Nancy Reuben Primary School
Thank you Eden. I’m sending you a copy of Walking on Air.
Here are all the books that came out this year:
And next year there will be three more – a re-publication for adults, a story book for younger readers and, of course, the long-awaited companion to Street Child!