Sarah in Scotland: week one

It’s been a week since I moved to Edinburgh to start my masters in publishing and I have already learnt so much.

Like, what square sausage is. And the name of the highest mountain in Canada. I’ve met dozens of Italians. I’ve already had two Ridacards. (The current one has a much, much better ID picture than the first one did.)

Most importantly, I have learnt that I now live in the greatest city in the world (the greatest city in the world!). Admittedly, I am comparing it mainly to Coventry, but every day I’ve spent in Edinburgh I have felt delighted and lucky to be in such an amazing place.


I’ve already started work as a bookseller, joined the Society of Young Publishers, and attended an author event (with the lovely Laura Lam and Elizabeth May). I’ve met the rest of my cohort, or as I like to think of us, 40 rising stars of publishing.


Today was my first day of school. It was very strange to be sat back in a lecture theatre. I didn’t know if that would ever happen to me again, but here I am. I’m ready to learn. I’m ready to drink vats of coffee and publish some books. Look out, Scottish publishing! I’m here!


things about which I am a dork

Inspired by this blog post about the podcast The Dork Forest, my buddy Lauren challenged me to pick my top four candidates for stuff I could talk about for a really long time and not get bored even though everyone else would be super bored like whoa.

Now, I am quite an enthusiastic person. I am earnest. I enjoy things wholeheartedly. Even my ironic pleasures are actually secretly just things I really like. I like liking things!!! And this is a quality I enjoy a lot in other people. Even if I have no interest whatsoever in Royal Mail Christmas stamps since 2003, if you care about the subject so much that your eyes light up when there’s an opportunity to semi-naturally bring it up in conversation, I care about it too, okay? At least a tiny bit. (If I like you.) Fandom is a joyous thing, absolutely not to be left as an embarrassing relic of one’s teenage years. And fandom runs deep. In this blog post, I will reveal my four chosen dorkdom obsessions. In doing so I will also be revealing four fragments of my very soul.

In no particular order…

Continue reading “things about which I am a dork”

YA Shot Blog Tour: an interview with Anna McKerrow

Today I’m delighted to welcome Anna McKerrow onto the blog. Anna’s debut YA novel, CROW MOON, came out the day before my birthday in 2015, which I absolutely considered a portent of good things to come. This stormy, sexy tale of witchcraft in a near-future time of disastrous climate change proved irresistible, and thankfully I only had to wait a year before the next instalment, RED WITCH. As we count down the days (okay, weeks? months?) to the final book of the Greenworld trilogy, I took the chance to quiz Anna about writing, magic, and the wonders of UKYA.


This post is part of the YA Shot Blog Tour. YA Shot is a one-day annual festival based in the centre of Uxbridge (London). The 2016 festival will take place on Saturday 22nd October 2016. YA Shot is run in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. I was lucky enough to attend last year’s event and had a splendid time, and it’s all in support of libraries and young people too!

Anyway… on to the interview! See how quickly you can guess the theme the questions are based around…

Continue reading “YA Shot Blog Tour: an interview with Anna McKerrow”

YALC 2016 round up part three

Sarah likes books

It’s the third and final instalment of my YALC recap! HURRAY.

Post-Potter, we were both tired out, so we didn’t get to YALC until later in the morning. Probably my favourite part was seeing everyone in appropriate Hogwarts regalia! Confusingly, I, a Ravenclaw, was dressed in Gryffindor colours to be Neville (I had a toad in my pocket) accompanying my girlfriend, a Hufflepuff, dressed as Luna Lovegood. The wizarding world is complicated, man.

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some adorable Luna Lovegood at #YALC – who's that girl?!

A post shared by sarah (@slouisebarnard) on

We got lots of lovely compliments for our wands, which were both handmade by the genius pictured above. COMMISSION HER, SO SHE CAN AFFORD TO BUY ME BOOKS.

Our first event of the day was Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s Co-writing workshop. Despite some, er, encouragement from Lucy to “make new friends” and co-write with a stranger, we totally wrote our pieces together. SORRY. As with all the workshops of the weekend, it was very cool to see familiar faces (whether from Twitter or author photos) mingling with enthusiastic readers and fans. And everybody had great things to bring to the table. Except for me, cos I cheated.

After the workshop, we headed to the Morally complicated YA panel, with Melvin Burgess, Emerald Fennell, Louise O’Neill and Manuela Salvi. This was interesting on a lot of levels; I always have time for whatever Louise O’Neill has to say, as I think she’s an important voice of advocacy for young women. I’ve not read Manuela Salvi’s novel Girl Detached yet, though I’ve heard strong reviews, but I have read some of her blog posts in the run up to YALC and can’t wait to read a whole book by such a thoughtful, fearless writer. Melvin Burgess has been writing controversial books for teens for literal decades – since before I was even a teen myself – and Emerald Fennell wrote Monsters, a hilarious work of subversive genius. My favourite moment of the panel was somebody asking about censorship of bad language in YA. Manuela responded with an explanation of how fiction doesn’t necessarily replicate reality, and prose is allowed to be more elegant than our real lives without it being censorship. Emerald: “I LOVE SWEARING!” She spoke about fighting for the f-bombs in Monsters, and I reckon, for what it’s worth, they were 100% worth it. There are some laugh out loud jokes in there, where swear words form the punchline.

Aaand following the fun of that panel, IT WAS STIEFVATER TIME!

For a little background, I started reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle last year, while I was in Cardiff. While reading about the youths looking for Glendower, I was walking past pubs named after the chap. It was good. I fell immediately in love with the series: it’s creepy, addictive, moving, complex, funny, clever, inspired by things I adore (like The Dark is Rising sequence) (I feel like you could call it The Secret Dark History is Rising Cycle) and full of characters who just feel like my friends now.

In the months preceding the release of The Raven King, the fourth and final (…maybe) book, my friends and I began a book club solely to reread the series. IT WAS GREAT. I can officially confirm, these books reward a reread. The series is now one of my favourites of all time. OF ALL TIME. I care a lot about these magical nerds!!! And so there I was, with half of my book club, ready to meet the author who created the characters we’d been talking about for months.

I’m not even going to recap Maggie’s talk. It was as funny and energetic as you’d expect, and she talked about ugly babies and setting John Green on fire.

Hers was the only ticketed signing I attended during YALC. We all got numbers, and were called up to join the queue in groups of about 20. It was very efficiently run and meant we didn’t have to hang out waiting forever. Instead we wandered around until our numbers were called. We met Emerald Fennell who was lovely and ships Harry/Luna jsyk.



And that was about it for YALC 2016! We dragged ourselves and our cases back to Euston station, and I settled down to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


After Lauren James, who has SEEN THE PLAY and KNOWS WHAT TRANSPIRES BETWEEN THOSE PAGES had checked it out first, of course.

Back home, I realised just how modest my bookhaul was:


See? How restrained was that?! (Not counting the twelve or so books I took with me.)

In conclusion: YALC 2016 was brilliant bookish fun, and it’s getting bigger and better every year. ROLL ON 2017 FOR MORE OF THE SAME, SAY I.

YALC 2016 round up part two

Sarah likes books


Can we get back to YALC recaps? Please!

I slept through my alarm Saturday morning, which was actually a brilliant move because a had a full night’s sleep. I was feeling SO ALIVE. (The downside was missing almost all of the #SquadGoals panel, which I had been looking forward to.) When I got to the Olympia, toting my suitcase, I was delighted to see the ever lovely Anna McKerrow at the info point! It was so great to finally meet her and have a quick chat. And I got her to sign my copies of the Greenworld books, FINALLY.


Missing most of the #SquadGoals panel meant I got into the queue for Holly Bourne early. I knew it’d be massive because she is an absolute rock star of UKYA. I bought two copies of What’s a Girl Gotta Do? and gave her a “weird hug” so it was a pretty good fan experience all told. I also added my #IAmAFeminist mantra to the wall of feminism at Usborne’s stall. After consulting with my girlfriend, who told me “I was coercively assigned my gender at birth and refuse to let it define me for the rest of my life” was a bit wordy, I went with “Gender is NONSENSE”.

Other gorgeous and wonderful authors met on Saturday: Sara Barnard! Feast your eyes on the momentous occasion of the #BarnardSelfie:


I also met Keren David and got her to sign an already-signed copy of Cuckoo, because I am an embarrassment, and got my books signed by David Levithan and Nina LaCour.

At 2pm was the eagerly-anticipated Oseman/James workshop on ‘Authors on Social Media‘. (You can read a blog post adapted from the seminar here.) Alice and Lauren are smart, talented young women with a lot of feelings about the internet and it was interesting to hear about the sometimes fraught relationships between fan and creator that can come about as a result of social media. However, it was very difficult to hear what people were saying – sitting at the back (because I was late, because I went to Sainsburys to get my favourite sandwich) I could not hear a single word that anyone other than Alice or Lauren said. Having the workshop space open, right next to the stairs and separated from a long signing queue by nothing other than a screen meant audibility was terrible, especially on the Saturday as it was the busiest day. That’s my only grumble about what was a very slickly organised event!

David Levithan and Nina LaCour were charming and entertaining in the You Know Me Well panel, chaired by Juno Dawson who was on hilarious good form. (The live tarot reading, including Kim K and Beyoncé cards, was especially enjoyable.) You Know Me Well is such a fantastic book. The centring of queer narratives – the book is dual-narrated by a gay guy and a lesbian girl – is quietly but potently revolutionary. I’m just so grateful this book exists, and this panel was a reminder that there is a place at the table for me as a queer reader and writer. I was totally tearing up at Nina’s story of wedding dress shopping at Pride! I’m tearing up a bit typing this now! Aghh!! I’m also inspired to try cowriting now that both team LaCour/Levithan and Ellen/Ivison have advocated just writing in turns and trying to throw each other curveballs.


Then it was Poetry Slam time, which was so so so good! There was a great mix of published poets and yet-to-be-published, and everyone was amazing and radiant and talented. Also Sarah Crossan read from the end of One, because I guess she hates happiness??? I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy the slam as much as I did, but the time flew by and it was great.

Tweets of the day:


My girlfriend and I went to Wagamama!!!

And then after that we went to the Waterstones Piccadilly launch of the Cursed Child scriptbook! The atmosphere was amazing, and the shop itself looked absolutely magical. Although a lot of us YALCers were knackered by this point, everyone queued stoically for their piece of the magic. And if you weren’t queuing, there were cakes to decorate, Quidditch to play, wine to drink, props to ogle… I went to the last two or three midnight launches of the Harry Potter series, and I really can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to relive that experience as an adult. How can you not feel grateful for that? The shop was full of adult fans who grew up with Harry, but also kids (with baffling amounts of energy) experiencing the wizarding world for the first time. Harry Potter is everything. I’m seeing Cursed Child in October 2017 and I am already quite excited.

Clutching our paper bags full of Harry Potter, we made our way across the river to crash in our hotel room… ready for Sunday and Stiefvater!

YALC 2016 round up part one

Sarah likes books

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that the above is not even a picture from YALC. (It’s LFCC.) That’s because, as usual at events, I took criminally few photographs at the time. Let me paint a picture with my words.

This year I went for the whole weekend and I am STILL WEARING MY WRISTBAND AS I TYPE. I went for the Saturday of YALC 2015 and had a smashing time, but was disappointed to miss some of my favourite authors on the Friday and Sunday. Serious FOMO kicked in. There was only one possible solution. And so, this is the story of 72ish hours of UKYA excitement…


I went to Coventry’s Noodle Bar and Southend’s Mangetout on Thursday, so I’m not sure how my body was even functioning well enough to get me to Olympia before noon. #humblebrag Somehow I made it in time to catch the end of The YA Book Prize panel. I’m a huge fan of the prize, having “shadowed” it on this blog both times round, and so this was a panel where I could be assured of having read all the books being discussed! Afterwards I wandered the publishers’ stands, and spotted this tremendous stack of postcards for some obscure sequel no one’s really bothered about.


Publishing 102 was a great introduction to career paths within publishing. Having been to many talks like these already, I worried it would be a repeat of what I already knew about the industry. I actually learnt a lot. This event was the first time I’d ever heard someone refute the idea that if you just “get your foot in the door” you’ll be able to work your way from, say, production to editorial in no time. Also, Nina Douglas really got me fired up about publicity!!! I’m still not entirely sure where exactly my future lies within the industry, but I feel increasingly confident that I’m gonna be a publisher one day.

I then left the Olympia and walked down the road to the first chain coffee shop I saw, ordered a sandwich and an americano, and sat on my own for a while. I read a ton of #YALCtips posts in the run up to last weekend, mainly because I was excited rather than because I wanted tips. Plenty of people advocated these planned breaks and I found them invaluable. I don’t consider myself an anxious person, but turns out if you put me in a hot room full of strangers and people I only know off of the internet, I want to get out of that room after a while.


Back to YALC and the Fantasy London panel! I had planned to stan Katherine Webber, chair extraordinaire, at all of her panels but sadly I missed her earlier one that day. This one was great, though. VE Schwab seems to be the coolest person ever?? I love that she hung out at YALC all weekend and kept signing stuff for people and generally being friendly. Maybe I should’ve said hi. Anyway, the authors all drew from real life London to build their disparate fantastical Londons in different ways, which goes to show how inspiring the city is. At one point during the weekend, I’m pretty sure I said to my girlfriend “LONDON IS SO INCREDIBLE” with tears in my eyes. (Followed by “YOU CAN’T LIVE THERE THOUGH.”) My favourite snippets from the panel were VE Schwab recounting walking through a London graveyard as a morbid child and realising all of the graves were older than her country, and Samantha Shannon talking “dystopia on a global scale”.

Then we had Michael Grant in conversation about Front Lines. Well, mainly in general conversation to be honest. I enjoyed all of the “in conversation” events because they gave the authors the opportunity to relax a little and have a more in depth discussion. Michael Grant is always entertaining and I had a lot of fun listening to his tales of cigar smoking and autocannibalism. I also got him to sign my treasured Animorphs books and freaked out a little bit because I HAVE BEEN A FAN FOR FIFTEEN YEARS. FIFTEEN YEARS OF IT… IN AZKABAN ANIMORPHS. (Apparently Katherine was in town too??!!?!?!?!)

Despite all the cool things I saw/did/bought, I left YALC on Friday slightly down. I don’t ever expect myself to be shy or nervous, but UKYA world is so tiny and seemingly tight-knit, I felt a little lonely that day. The community prides itself on being inclusive and friendly, and is absolutely right to do so, but I think that actually makes it harder when you feel on the outside of it. I am writing this mainly because I know I’m not the only person who struggled with this at times over the weekend.IMG_20160801_232251976

However, the people I did get to talk to on Friday were uniformly lovely, including Non Pratt, who made my day by actually knowing who I was! And signing my copy of Unboxed which I read half of on the train back to Essex.

My impromptu picnic date with Christopher Moore @yablooker of the #YAtakeover was also pretty fun – we talked writing, reading, and crème pâtissière. If you’re reading this Christopher, my top books of the year so far (now I’ve got Goodreads open) are Dietland by Sarai Walker, Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. Favourite new-to-me-but-not-the-world-at-large books are Anne of Green Gables and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Okay, tune in next time for the Saturday recap. Thanks for reading if you got this far!!


#ThisIsWhoIAm – a summer time capsule


I’ve had an ARC of The Square Root of Summer for a while, but I finally read it yesterday. It’s a gorgeous summery read with a strong sense of place. You can almost feel the sunshine yourself (or, more often, rain – this is Norfolk, after all.) Gottie’s voice is lively and charming. Who better to spend a summer with than the Oppenheimers and company?

To celebrate the release of Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s fantastic debut novel, people across the bookosphere have been putting together time capsules that say something about who they are, going into summer 2016. I’m rather a fan of this sort of thing; I write a letter to my future self at the end of every year. It’s always interesting to see how I’ve changed over twelve months, though I have a remarkably consistent taste in bad jokes.

Without further ado, let me show you the five items I picked out for my own capsule.

feat. my feet (and a copy of The Square Root of Summer of course!)

In no particular order, we have

my moon necklace – my girlfriend bought me this for my birthday, and I wore it pretty much every day until I broke it. I’m even wearing it in this tweet below!

I’ve been thinking a lot about witches and the occult lately, and the moon makes me feel that little bit more witchy in my day-to-day life. So, the moon makes it.

The Raven King – I had to have a book in there somewhere. My friends and I have been holding a Raven Boys book club since the beginning of this year, so this series has been very much on my mind. I spent the week running up to The Raven King‘s release agonising about exactly how I should read it. Read it quickly and then reread immediately, or take it slow so I can savour it? Yeah. Add to this obsession the fact that I’m meeting Maggie Stiefvater this summer… Make way for the king!

Marry Me A Little sheet music – I sang this in a concert last Saturday! When my choir’s MD announced the theme as “songs from the shows” I joked about singing this song, and then weeks later found myself in front of about a hundred people, actually singing it. I had an absolute blast. It’s one of my favourites – look at Raúl Esparza singing it here, dreamy sigh – but it’s in the capsule as a representation of all the singing I do. Singing is a huge part of my life, and has been for many years.

Will Graham Funko Pop! – my tumblr tag for Will Graham used to be “the third person in my relationship” so yeah, I’m quite emotionally invested in this character. My Will and Hannibal Funkos were both presents from my brother and I love them dearly. In my capsule, Will represents my enduring fannish love for NBC’s Hannibal, as well as my general predilection for INTENSE FEELINGS ABOUT FICTIONAL CHARACTERS.

Porthcothan Bay postcard – I live far from the sea, but I go to this place in Cornwall with my family every year. My heart soars every time I come back to the vast expanse of the sea. Summer and the seaside are inextricably linked for me. It’s all about sand under my toes, reading three books a day, listening to the waves, burgers freshly charred from the barbecue. Additionally, I love snail mail and have a huge collection of postcards! (If you fancy a postcard from me, honestly, just hit me up at and I will send you like five, because I have so many.)

There you go! This is who I am. I hope you’ve learnt a lot from this post, and if you haven’t created your own capsule yet, let me be your inspiration!

9781509808281The Square Root of Summer


The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood is out 5 May 2016 from Macmillan Children’s Books.