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24-year-old debut author wins Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize

Début author Sally Nicholls has scooped one of the most valuable and prestigious children's books awards in the country at the age of just 24.   Now in its fourth year, the prize was created to uncover hidden talent in children's writing, and is one of the most valuable children's book awards in the country.

Sally, a graduate of the Writing For Young People MA at Bath Spa University, was just 23 when she wrote Ways To Live Forever, a powerful, inspiring and courageous story told in the voice of 11-year-old Sam, who is terminally ill with leukaemia.

Ways To Live Forever was announced as the winner of the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2008 by Children's Laureate Michael Rosen in an evening ceremony at Waterstone's Piccadilly on 13th February. As well as a £5,000 cash prize, Sally receives the promise of ongoing commitment from Waterstone's 325 nationwide branches.  Beating off stiff competition from a nine-strong shortlist, Ways to Live Forever is set to be the début of the year -- foreign rights have already been sold in seventeen countries and rave reviews have been flooding in.

Sally Nicholls was born in Stockton in 1984. Tragically, she lost her father when she was just two years old.  She spent most of her childhood immersed in books, and dreamt of becoming an author from a young age. After graduating in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick, she took and MA in Writing For Young People at Bath Spa University, where she won the prize for the writer who showed the most potential. 

Sally is a practicing Quaker and a member of the Society of Friends and loves the theatre and reading - especially the works of Sartre, Kafka and Dostoevsky. She now lives in London and is writing her second novel, based on the pagan myth of the green man.  The Midnight Hunter is due for release in January 2009.

After winning the award she said:  "I am so excited to have won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize. The experience has all felt very surreal, not just having my first novel published, but hearing how much my book has affected and moved the judges. There were some amazing novels on the shortlist, so it's a real honour to have won".

Ways To Live Forever is a scrapbook of lists, stories, pictures, questions and facts put together by 11-year-old Sam. He's a boy who collects facts and loves looking things up on the Internet. He's curious about ghosts and UFOs - and also death. Sam has terminal leukaemia. He is going to die. And dying is a fact of life. His unsentimental view of living and dying sweeps aside our fears of death, and the pure, clear voice in which Sally Nicholls tells his story also speaks of the discovery of an astonishingly accomplished and powerful young writer.

The nine shortlisted authors competing for the 2008 award were as follows:

  • Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn (5-8 years)
  • Stone Goblins by David Melling (5-8 years)
  • Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls (9-12 years)
  • Shadow Forest by Matt Haig (9-12 years)
  • TIM, Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven (9-12 years)
  • Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (teenage)
  • Blue Sky Freedom by Gabrielle Halberstam (teenage)
  • Ancient Appetites by Oisin McGann (teenage)
  • Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen (teenage)
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