Monthly Archives: December 2012

And finally…

…There is nothing left to say, but one thing, one BIG thing..


For everyone who has supported us, written for us, sold books for us, bought books from us, reviewed books by us, talked about books with us…this is for YOU!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! We will see you all in January!

hot key christmas


Class is in…at Hot Key Books

My name is Louise Griffin and I’m sixteen years old. I’m currently completing my GCSEs at school and, although I’m one of Hot Key’s younger interns, I would love to have a future career in publishing.

When I was told in a school assembly that I was to complete two weeks of work experience, I thought of publishing for two main reasons. Firstly, as a book lover, I knew I wanted to do something related to books. So, I considered three options: a book shop, a library or a publishing house. Publishing, I thought, seemed the most interesting (and impressive) of those options. The second reason was that, after I asked friends, various family members and teachers about the publishing sector, I realised that (although, of course, they did not want to admit it) they did not know much at all about publishing.

To complete my work experience at a publishing house would be to venture into the unknown, so I started emailing publishing houses immediately. I came to Hot Key Books with the hope of learning more about the publishing process and what the different types of jobs entail, but not really knowing what to expect or even if I’d like it or not.

Hard at work, reading another submission.

Hard at work, reading another submission.

I realised quite early on that I do like it. I like it a lot. I’ve loved seeing how the publishing process works and how each person contributes to create something that they’re really proud of. I’ve loved seeing how the best creative ideas are formed through a conversation and how no one’s opinion is more or less important than anyone else’s. I’ve even loved sitting in on the meetings and seeing how everything pieces together in the end and I’ve especially loved the never-ending amounts of chocolate in the kitchen!

It was a lovely change to be able to come to Hot Key Books every day for two weeks rather than going to school, and there are things that I’ve learnt from my experience here that I would never have learnt at school, such as what happens in the meetings and the different types of tasks that have to be completed to get a book published. Being at Hot Key Books has been very different to being at school–I’ve had a lot more freedom and I’ve felt much more part of a team.

Naomi explains my next project.

Naomi explains my next project.

During my work experience at Hot Key Books, I have learnt so much about the different types of people and the different tasks that are required to publish a book. After seeing just how much hard work goes into it, I will never look at a book the same way again.

Although I came to Hot Key Books not knowing what to expect, as my fortnight here comes to an end, I am almost certain that, in the future, I will pursue a career in publishing.

More boys, more blogs and one year at Hot Key Books

The very first photo. Look how fresh faced we look!

The very first photo. Look how fresh faced we look!

It’s a year ago this week that we had the idea to start this blog, to track our progress in the first year of Hot Key. To provide a written record of what we have done. Back then, I could not have imagined that a year later we would be so many diverse voices writing about subjects that have made me laugh, well up, find things out about people I never knew, and I hope in the most part, entertain our readers.

I have been overwhelmed by the passion expressed my many hot keyers, authors and guest posters who have written something for this blog, so I want to personally say thank you to all of you who have done so. Thank you for being so interesting! And to everyone that has read, shared, or commented on a blog post – thank you all so much too. When we imagined this blog, I never really thought people apart from a few of us would care enough to read it. So we are genuinely excited every time a comment comes in or we see a spike in our traffic.

There have been a few personal favourite blog posts for me over the year, the kind of blog posts that I will re-read occasionally (yes, sad I know) when we’ve had a busy week, day, etc to remind myself what a great team I work with. I wanted to highlight some of them briefly for you too, in case re-reading/reading is what you also fancy. So here goes, hope you can indulge in this short retrospective of almost a year on this blog:

Kate’s January post – 10 Things you never knew when started a publisher – really made me laugh, a lot.

Cait D – who knew you used to wanted to be a vet, until this post.

The Week of Woo – it had to be mentioned. Nerdfighters, we love you for helping John find a UK publisher, even though it wasn’t us.

Becca’s inspiring Matilda post , has lead to an office wide love of that musical (and Becca’s blog posts in general)

Meg and Jan’s series of blogs about graphic novels were some of our most read and discussed. And we loved the cartoon strip!

Amy Orringer, your – Awesome Doesn’t even Cover it – blog post, while interning for us, is widely considered a big reason we hired you.

Sara O’Connor – your print and digital post is something I’ve read many times. Partly for the Princess Bride reference, but mostly for your love of the written word, in whatever form we can publish it.

One Ring to find them,– was a genius title for a blog to launch our Hot Key Ring in May.

Oh, and I loved this drawing of our “substantial canapes” after our launch party.

I outed myself, and several others, as screen addicted and wondered if daydreaming is a lost art here.

Sarah O’s launch day post pretty much made us all cry.

Naomi blogged beautifully about print vs digital and sparked a great debate about how we all like to read.

We Stare Because We Care – oh, this was fun to do! And thanks mostly to Maureen for playing along.

And that brings us almost up to date, and tomorrow, we have a final blog treat for you coming up. Watch this space, as ever.

So, what about next year? We won’t be so new anymore, but that’s okay. Publishing in general is always an exercise in “new.” This year we were a new publisher, but next year we’ll be new books, new authors, new videos, new events, new reviews, new digital projects…etc. New should never go away, and that’s why it never gets tiring working in this industry – there is always something new, and wonderful waiting in someone’s submission pile.

One thing that won’t be new though, is that we will still be here, writing every day – I can assure you of that. But how about some new things I’d like to see next year?  MORE guest posts from our readers, writers, parents, booksellers, librarians, teachers, really anyone – please get in touch, we love hearing your views on here. And…the boys, the elusive Hot Key Boys, who we occasionally get on camera, but less often on the blog – we won’t leave you alone until we have hooked you in!

We’re nearly there then. One year is almost done, and it has been a blast. We are off to celebrate at our Christmas lunch, where we’ll probably concoct all sorts of other crazy videos and blog posts, and gush at each other in an embarrassing way.

I wish you all a lovely, restful Christmas – and we will see you all, on January 2nd for more new and fun things.

Merry Christmas,

Sarah B x

A little piece of a big, big universe

(This is a special post because it has a soundtrack – so hit play and read on!) Once There Was A Hushpuppy

As the BIG DAY draws nearer, and the hunt for the perfect present grows more urgent, more frantic, around the nation people are getting ready to gather around a tree/table/fire/TV and immerse themselves in a day of myth, fantasy and fiction.

For the religious, a visit to the church to witness the nativity story, one of the most amazing and most well-known stories. For others, a Dr Who special will serve up a different, but similarly captivating narrative. Leaving behind any debate over ‘the real meaning of Christmas’ it struck me that the 25th December is a day where, more than any other, our lives are so deeply entwined with creation, imagination and story-telling as to be totally reinvented.  Whether that is rehashing old family sagas or carefully constructing intricately woven winter themed festivities we sow story alongside our day-to-day so that the holly and fir trees, the twinkling lights reflect the magic of a baby in a manger, an ancient fleet-footed gift giver and reindeer-nibbled mince pies.


New Pyjamas, mulled wine, stolen, ribbon and robins – these are constructs with which we inter-lay our cultural story with our narrative. Christmas is a season of Magical Realism – where fantasy is entwined with reality so that they are integral to each other. But this is not confined to December. Magical Reality is the process by which we weave stories in order to construct an optimistic human truth (stay with me….)

I recently watched a film that got me sobbing heartily within the first five minutes, and left me staggering home on the tube weeping inconsolably. Reliving certain scenes still has me welling up at inopportune moments. It was a story of joy and desperation and if you haven’t seen Behn Zeitlin’s  BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, do. It is genuinely one of the most moving, inspiring, heart-breaking stories I have ever had the privilege to witness.

In BEASTS, the lovely Quevenzhane Wallis plays the heart-strong Hushpuppy. A six year old with the whole universe dazzled in her hands. She lives with her father Wink in the Bayou, a community in the Deep South of America that is absolutely poverty- stricken but rich in love and story. There is a storm, and a flood and a catastrophe. There are also the Aurochs, terrifying prehistoric monsters that are slowly making their way towards the little girl as she fights for her Daddy, and for her town as they float on a giant raft through a chaos of water and devastation.

The Aurochs are both real and they are fantasy. They are the imagined creations of a child who is terrified, but fiercely brave. But they are also real monsters, fear, loss, a need for safety and stability. They are threatening but they are majestic – they terrify Hushpuppy, but they are also part of her. They are her fears, and her fearlessness. The Aurochs are the kings, but as Hushpuppy yells ‘I’m the man!’

Just like Hushpuppy, we spend our days weaving stories together to better understand our realities. Terrible things happen, awful gut wrenching tragedies that decimate families, and communities. They happen every day – and if we were to face this brutal truth how we would we justify our existence? But truth is not held solely by the rolling news channels. Perhaps our fictions are better truths than our realities. They are more honest, more articulate constructions of ourselves. Of what we wish for and are capable of. Stories are society’s statement to the universe. Even when terrible, awful, heart breaking things happen we know that human kind has a heart that can absorb bad and dream big, that can know sadness and still hope for better things.

Here’s to 2013 and making our stories reality.

Find your voice at the HKB Writers’ Workshop

As Hot Key prepares for its very first Weekend Writer’s Workshop, thoughts turn to WHY a budding novelist should sign up for it…

Even Dorothy Parker needed to spend time with other talented colleauges — why not you?

I mean, what’s to really know about writing a book? If you’re talented, you’re talented, right? Well, yes…right, but even the most ‘talented’ of writers have been overlooked when it comes to the selection process by agents and publishers: very busy people who may take fright at single spacing and paragraphs that are not inverted, or at a higgledy-piggledy plot with no direction (and no synopsis!) and loose ends flying in all directions. Those vivid characters you have created will not even get a look in, if your concept is tired and familiar and pitched as such, or your first chapter is frankly, dull.

The right mentoring teaches you how to approach your work – from the moment you get an idea for the story, to the last line of your novel. How to plot, how to begin, how to pace – and propel your reader along, how to delight rather than annoy with the unexpected, how to end, and how to find the right agent for you.

Most importantly we can help you how to do all of this without losing your identity, your voice, as a writer. Nobody can really tell you how to write, but we will certainly help you stand out.

The deadline to apply for the first ever Hot Key Books Writers’ Workshop is December 20 — just two days away! To apply, Please email a sample of prose – from a novel or short story (max 2,000 words) – to with ‘Writers’ Workshop’ in the subject field. Click here for more info.

The Fantastic Swedish Library Experiment

Sarah Odedina medium

When Sarah Odedina was in Sweden a few weeks ago, she had a chance to stop by an amazing children’s library. She was inspired by the model, and thinks this project could have incredible applications in the UK as well.

In the Kulturhuset in central Stockholm is a remarkable and inspirational library for young readers, Tio Tretton.  Open for visitors between the ages of 10 and 13, no adults are allowed.  No parents, or teachers, or helpful advisors.  This is an environment in which young people can go to read books, make films, play music, cook in the kitchen, do origami, draw graphic novels or just hang out.  There are members of staff to answers questions but the mission of the ‘permitted’ adults is not to get between the child and what they want to do in the space in anyway at all.  Including by offering advice on what to do!

The space speaks for itself.  From the ceiling hang books, a Christmas tree made of books takes central space, there are shelves everywhere, covered in books and the books are shelved according to subject (body and mind, adventure, historical and so on) rather than by age range.  This way a young reader can find something they want to read without being steered to ‘appropriate’ books.


There are tables too for visitors to use if they want to paint or play chess or use the iPads and technology that is available and wonderful seats to curl up in for some more private space.  People are invited in to speak to the young visitors  and the speakers are very varied in their backgrounds from authors to software designers and musicians. When there is a speaker, children don’t have to sign up in advance to attend, they can just turn up on the day and should not feel under any pressure to go if they don’t want to.
Launched just under two years ago, the library is entirely funded by the government, and all a child needs to use the space is a valid library card from any library in Sweden.  It was a great pleasure to meet the inspirational Lena Thunberg who told us all about the work of the library and some of the challenges they face as an organisation running such an egalitarian and open service. Her biggest issue seemed to be the systems surrounding the use of the kitchen and people wanting to cook things that they didn’t have time to finish working on before they had to leave.  In her idealism and utter dedication she made light of any issues to do with organising and sustaining the energy of the vibrant and unique environment.


The kitchen

It seems to me that Tio Tretton is a benchmark for what can be provided to young people in a reading environment.  It is a high benchmark that would be excellent for many other libraries and organisations to aim for, and indeed for governments to realise that they should support.

9 Days of Hot Key: REDUX!

Just when you thought the sale was over — just when you thought, SHOOT, I MISSED MY CHANCE TO BUY MY FAVOURITE HOT KEY TITLE FOR 50% OFF, just when you were crying about not getting a cute key card on your Christmas present, we’ve pulled this trick:

Today, for one day only, ALL, yes, ALL 9 of our books will be on sale for 50% off, with free gift wrap and shipping (for UK addresses) included. Orders MUST be placed by 11:59 PM GMT, otherwise the packages won’t make it to you in time for the big day!

Click on the covers below to order your books:










And check out how all these lovelies look on our office Christmas tree (they look good underneath the tree too!):