Monday 9 March 2015

UKYA Blogger Awards - A Thank You 'Speech'

For those of you who haven’t seen the #ukyaba hashtag on Twitter, Saturday night saw the inaugural UKYA Blogger Awards, organised by the brilliant Andy Robb, sponsored by numerous publishers, and attended by bloggers, publishing people, and authors to celebrate the work done by bloggers. This was a really lovely idea of Andy’s, and the fact that it happened at all was awesome – but seeing the amount of publishers who provided prizes and the amount of authors who attended made it really, really special. It feels incredible that so many people wanted to support bloggers and I was privileged to be nominated.

In fact, as well as being nominated for a couple of awards, I WON one!

Graphic provided by UKYABA

I was incredibly excited, and flattered, to win Champion of Diversity because it’s something I feel really strongly about and because it is, as Andy said when presenting the award, SO important. I grew up loving reading, and there are lots of childhood books that I loved (and still love!) but looking back it’s amazing just how many of them were about white, heterosexual, cisgender, British or American middle-class MCs with no health issues. The amount of great books featuring diverse characters today is truly outstanding and it’s great to spread the word about them. I was also really thrilled that, as Hot Key sponsored the award, it was James Dawson who presented it to me. James’s This Book Is Gay is one of the most important books of the last few years, in my eyes, and him being the person to present this particular award made it even more special.

I’m not going to recap the event, partly because I’m terrible at event recaps (I can live tweet quite well but struggle to do them looking back, weirdly!) and partly because Andrew’s done an awesome one at The Pewter Wolf so I’m just going to direct you over there. Huge congratulations to other winners, DarkReaders, Winged Reviews, Mile Long Bookshelf, Sister Spooky, Queen ofContemporary, Serendipity ReviewsThe Pewter Wolf, Wondrous Reads and Tales ofYesterday for their success, and to everyone else shortlists. (Check out Andrew’s recap for a full list of shortlisted bloggers and who won what!)

However, I gave an ultra-quick thank you speech and am thinking of lots of other stuff I could have said, so figured I’d write one up now.

Photo provided by Abi Elphinstone
Part of me feels that it’s a really bad idea to single anyone out for thanks, because I will almost certainly forget dozens of amazing people, but I wanted to try and express my gratitude towards some of them in particular. In general, though, a HUGE thank you to all the wonderful bloggers, readers, authors, and people working in publishing who I’m lucky enough to talk to. Also to my family, both because you should probably always thank your family at these things and because they’ve taken a real interest in my blog and in the books I push onto them.

But a few specifics – firstly to Andy Robb, partly for being the mastermind behind the awards, but also because when I had a really bad experience a couple of years ago he was one of the people who was massively supportive and persuaded me that there was value in what I was doing and that 99% of authors appreciated that.  (This was REALLY brought home to me by the amount of people present on Saturday night more than ever!)

A massive thank you to Sue and Jill at The Bookbag for giving me a chance at book reviewing over 5 years ago, and for Sue pointing out the bits of it I could improve at – I love writing for the site and am thrilled to still be involved after all this time. (Also, I’ll get you the reviews I owe you soon, honestly!)

A HUGE thank you to Debbie at Snuggling on the Sofa, who was the first blogging friend I made after moving down to London. I was looking back at old e-mails to try and find something earlier and I’d actually completely blanked out on how little I enjoyed my first few months after moving. Far from being the social butterfly I am today, I barely ever went out, had big issues which weren’t related to the blog, and wasn’t sure if I’d made the right move. She was incredibly kind and supportive in letting me DM her venting about stuff when we’d only met once or twice offline and that meant a lot to me. (Also, she was really polite and nice to me then. I’m not quite sure what’s happened since!) As well, she proof-reads a lot of posts I write that I’m worried about, and is brilliant at picking up on minor errors like unfinished sentences, people I’ve completely forgotten about, and so on.) Plus her spreadsheet (which she kindly describes as ‘ours’ even though I’ve barely done any updates for about 9 months) of UK releases is incredibly useful, and I know from experience back when I WAS updating how time-consuming it is.

Also, in addition to the UKYABA awards, Faye from A Daydreamer’s Thoughts ran some awards last weekend voted on by bloggers and other readers. I was super-thrilled to win Best Male Blogger and Best Adult Blogger there! As well as being a good friend, Faye is also a brilliant freelance publicist – check out Faye Rogers - and I love being on her blog tours as she does such an amazing job of giving authors advice on creating great content, and makes sure it’s formatted for maximum ease of use for bloggers. (Which for someone who leaves everything until last minute, like me, is INCREDIBLY useful.)

Also a shout-out to all the others in ARYA club with me, Debbie and Faye – Caitlin, Caroline, Charlie, Julianne, Stacey, Asti (we miss you!) and our wonderfully generous hostess Daphne, who I was thrilled to see win an award on Saturday, for being so welcoming to me over the last year or so, with a minimal amount of ‘token boy’ comments. They are seriously awesome ladies and you should check out their blogs and follow them on Twitter.

A couple of very quick others – Keris Stainton for inviting me to my first ever book event, Non Pratt for inviting me to my first book event after moving down here and for inviting me to the Trouble launch after which I met Louie Stowell (even though I couldn’t go to the launch itself!), Louie for being an AMAZING co-organiser of #DrinkYA – and indeed, everyone who’s come to #DrinkYA, #ProseccoYA, #PicnicYA, #DanceYA, and anything else I’ve forgotten.

Jesse for running the brilliant Bookish Peeps forum, which I think is going to have a big impact over the course of the year as more people sign up, and for recruiting me and the fabulous Michelle of Tales of Yesterday as moderators. (Also, PLEASE VOTE in our Book of 2014 awards!)

There are SO MANY fantastic authors that I’ve got to know that I could double the length of this post just by listing names. The two I’ve got to know best over the last year, though, are Abi Elphinstone, who’s super-cool and incredibly nice, and Mel Salisbury, who’s super-cool.

(Look, Mel’s a proud Slytherin, there’s no way she’d WANT me to describe her as incredibly nice!) I am thrilled to be their friend and delighted that their books, The Dreamsnatcher and The Sin-Eater’s Daughter, are fantastic. Especially the acknowledgements section of The Sin-Eater’s Daughter!

Finally, Matt, Caroline, and Jonas for encouraging me to lead a session on diverse books yesterday at the YLG London Unconference. It felt like something I should volunteer to do to help spread the word about some titles, but I was TERRIFIED, and their encouragement and friendliness made a huge difference.

I was going to do some diverse book recommendations but this is already getting incredibly long; I do want to share some recommendations for great places to find out about diverse books though.

Firstly, the other bloggers shortlisted in the category at UKYABA are obviously awesome! You should definitely check out The Pewter Wolf, QueerYA, and Luna’s Little Library! (Also, while at Luna’s site, check out her jewellery – there were several authors wearing it at the weekend and it is GORGEOUS.)

Other bloggers Debbie, Jo, and Charlie are three of the people I pick up a LOT of recommendations from – on their blogs and Twitter feeds, and via Jo’s wonderful recommendations in Foyles Charing Cross, and Charlie’s fantastic reviews at Inclusive Minds and Mugglenet. Debbie also has an awesome habit of just forcing books into my hands and telling me to read them!

American author Dahlia Adler is both passionate about diversity and phenomenal at recommending great books and you should DEFINITELY be checking her out at her blog The Daily Dahlia and at Barnes & Noble

Twitter hashtags #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #ukyachat and #ukmgchat are fabulous. The second and third there aren’t specifically about diversity but pretty much always include some great recommendations for diverse books!

If you read this far, a special thank you to you for indulging me in taking so long! And here’s to the UKYABA in 2016 – hope to see you there.


  1. Congratulations! *showers in confetti* Love the speech/post :)

  2. Brilliant post Jim and well deserved recognition of the brilliant work you do highlighting great books to readers, young and old. WHERE would book publicists be without you brilliant bloggers?!

  3. Such a brilliant post / thank you speech Jim - you totally deserved the award - congratulations again :D