Author Archives: saraho

Love Your Local: Sublime…Clerkenwell’s one-stop shop

Moving to Clerkenwell after nearly fourteen years of working in the heart of Soho was a bit of a cultural leap for me.  I was nervous.  What would I do at lunchtime?  How would I manage without Liberty and indeed Fenwicks to wander around for a bit of retail entertainment? Where was the nearest Boots?

Clerkenwell is probably the epicentre of epicurean London, but it is not the retail heart of the city. I soon discovered that actually I didn’t need the distraction of shops as much as I thought I did, and instead I have enjoyed exploring the neighbourhood’s ancient churches, museums and parks which are surprisingly abundant.

But we all know that on occasion you just have to go to a shop. You always need to buy that last-minute birthday present, a new baby gift, a card or an author present, and here in our little corner of Clerkenwell we have the suitably named Sublime.


Sublime is a wonderful shop with just enough of a little bit of everything to offer and a range of choices on most things from scented candles to Frye boots, greetings cards to earrings.



Sublime is perfect — they even have a wonderfully named dog, Bliss, who can be found pottering around keeping an eye on you as you peruse the stock.


Bliss, sleeping on the job.

Arranged over two floors, everything on sale is lovingly and carefully hand picked and reflects the tastes of the managers in its delightful boho chic sensibility.  There is a wonderful range of clothes for women and a delightfully varied selection of gifts.



All our publication day cards that we send to authors come from Sublime, as do most of the office birthday presents we buy.  I can also now confidently assert that anything new that I wear, from a shirt to the aforementioned boots, is picked straight from the Sublime stock. No more department stores for me. I am a dedicated fan of the small and local, and Sublime answers all my retail needs.

Almost.  It is still a long walk to nearest chemist.

Sublime is hard at work right now on their web site and social media streams. Soon, you’ll be able to shop online on their brand-new web site! For now, bookmark their site, and  follow them on Twitter.

Have you been to Sublime? Or do you have a local Sublime-type shop you just can’t live without? Let us know below or give that amazing store a shout-out on twitter using #loveyourlocal!


The Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize is back!

The 2012 prize winners, publishing this September - this could be you!

The 2012 prize winners, publishing this September – this could be you!

Calling all young writers! Entries are now open for the Hot Key Books Young Writer’s Prize competition, supported this year by Kobo! If you are between the ages of 18 – 25 and have a story to tell to young readers, this competition is for you. For more information, click here to visit the Young Writers Page 2013 page and here to watch a video about the prize.

Hot Key Books Managing Director Sarah Odedina has written a blog below about why we chose to do this prize, in a world full of wonderful literary prizes…

Why another writing prize?  There seem to be an abundance of them, so what is different about ours at Hot Key Books?

When we were first planning to launch Hot Key Books, one of the things we very much wanted to do was publish fiction with real child and young adult appeal.  Books that would quench the reading appetites of lots of different sorts of readers, with lots of different sorts of interests. We were ambitious to publish books that really spoke to those readers from writers who had something new and exicting to say.

In thinking about the prize, we also very much wanted to encourage young writers.  Writers who were perhaps still reading the sorts of books we want to publish or had very recently stopped.  We are also very aware of how hard it is to get noticed as a young writer, without an agent and without any track record. So we wanted to offer aspiring authors the opportunity to have dialogue and interaction with a publisher.

The prize is simple in its ambitions.  To publish new, unpublished un-agented authors between the ages of 18 and 25.  Young writers who might find it hard to get their work noticed in the slew of submissions to agents and publishing houses and who are still learning their craft.  That is also why we reserve the right not to publish a winner, but to work with the best authors to help them learn the process of editing and the particularities of improving their work.

Hot Key Books is a list that aims to communicate directly with our readers and our authors and to make sure that there is dialogue between authors and readers.  The prize is another way in which we can build the dialogue and encourage young writers and readers to see the world of books as something that they can be involved in and in which they have a legitimate voice.

Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize is a way for us to share our knowledge of publishing and to encourage young writers as well of course to find great new talent for the list.  Our first year resulted in two great books being published.  We very much look forward to seeing what this year holds.

Visiting the world, via the Horniman Museum

In the heart of South London is the Horniman Museum, one of London’s most precious museum treasures.  The Horniman Museum is the legacy of  Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader and philanthropist, who began collecting objects, specimens and artefacts ‘illustrating natural history and the arts and handicrafts of various peoples of the world’  in about 1860. His professed mission was to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill’ and educate and enrich the lives of the local community.

And for 153 years his collection has been doing exactly that.

His travels took him to many fabulous destinations such as Egypt, Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Japan, Canada and the United States. He collected objects that ‘either appealed to his own fancy or that seemed to him likely to interest and inform those who had not had the opportunity to visit distant lands’.  Soon word of Mr Horniman’s interest as a collector spread and travellers also approached him to offer specimens and curiosities.

By the late nineteenth century, his artistic collection had accumulated to such an extent that he moved out of his house, and it was opened full-time as a museum. It is reported that the move was precipitated by his wife, who is claimed to have said,  ‘either the collection goes or we do’. The family moved to Surrey Mount, the grounds of which adjoined those of the former residence.

There are 350,000 objects in the collection and they all tell a marvellous story.  There are musical instruments, Ancient Egyptian mummies, a vast taxidermy collection, artefacts from the indigenous cultures of North America, fish hooks, arrows, a monkey skeleton . . . the list goes on and on.

Of particular interest to me is the African collection with some of the most wonderful masks to be seen anywhere.  There is the spectacular Igbo Ijele, one of a tradition that makes Africa’s largest mask, and the only one of its kind on display in Britain. This  sits alongside other impressive Dogon and Bwa masks from Mali and Burkina Faso, which are about 5 meters high. Then there are the beautiful Gelede masks from the Yoruba region of Nigeria. Much of the African collection has been put in place since the 1950s and it is accompanied by wonderful video and documentary footage. There are also sessions where the visitor can learn the stories behind the many exhibited pieces, and numerous fabulous activites and tours to join in with. All the information can be found on the Horniman’s website.

The museum is very focused on all its visitors, what ever their age (or height) and the museum’s aquarium in particular has been designed with children in mind.  Low-level viewing windows allow younger visitors to see directly into the wonderful aquatic world, offering a really enchanting learning opportunity.  The Horniman also undertakes and supports work around the world to preserve the types of habitats shown in the aquarium.

And there is more – the garden!  The Horniman gardens are home to a fine collection of trees, some of which existed before the museum, and formed the field boundary markers when Forest Hill was populated by farms. Other trees on the site were originally found in the gardens of the Victorian houses that were pulled down in the 20th century, and include a crazy monkey puzzle tree.  It is a perfect place for a picnic after the stimulation of the museum.

What I absolutely love about the Horniman Museum is the nature of the exhibited pieces.  This is not a collection of art created by artists.  This is a collection of art made by people to enhance their lives, to manifest their belief, to make tasks possible, to hold water, gather crops, catch fish, cope with the elements.  It is a life-enhancing collection of art that shows the visitor how ‘other’ people do things, and with that the collection communicates the normalcy of lives lived far away in very different environments. A visit to the Horniman museum is a truly an experience to treasure.

To keep up with all the exciting things happening at the Horniman Museum, follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, or like them on Facebook.

Bologna 2013: Thinking about design…

Spotted: This stunning Brazilian cover

Spotted: This stunning Brazilian cover

Bologna Book Fair is a wonderful showcase of beautiful design. From Pre-School and Board Books up to New Adult, the books here are presented to showcase the best work of their publishers.

There are classics like the Miffy books for babies and toddlers, rubbing shoulders with new and challenging jackets for young adults like Asylum by Madeleine Roux to be published by HarperCollins.

Classic iconic design

Classic iconic design


Prepare to be lost in…

And along the way wonderful examples of design that mark out their publishers as brave and innovative.

The Big Picture list to be published by our sister company Templar was the talk of the fair with one French publisher telling me that it was one of only two things she had seen during the week that really excited her. Great praise from Gallimard.

Beautiful picture books coming soon from Big Picture Press

Beautiful picture books coming soon from Big Picture Press

Tara Books from India won the prestigious Bologna Prize – Best Publisher of the Year for Asia.  Up against stiff competition, notably Kalimat in UAE, they were triumphant because of their stunningly beautiful books and their international reputation built by the hugely talented Gita Wolf. Their books are available all over world and are consequently treasured by readers everywhere.

Beautiful Tara Books

Beautiful Tara Books

It is never too late to learn and after four days of looking at other people’s inspired and thoughtful designs you realize that we have to absorb ideas and influences from around the world. Not only from wonderful books but art, product design, shop signs, graffiti … The list can go on and on.

Bologna is a place which allows you to really open your eyes to different cultural approaches to visual representation. I know I am going to try to keep my eyes open.

A quick trip around the (publishing) world

Question: Where can I go to visit Lebanon, New Zealand, United States, Brasil, France, Ireland and Finland, in that order, all in one day?

Answer: A book fair.


Well, OK, strictly speaking, I don’t actually ‘visit’ the countries, but I get as near as possible by visiting their publishers, whose books represent and carry the values of the cultures.  The Bologna Book Fair is 50 years old this year.  In 1963, its inaugural year, there were 44 exhibitors from 11 countries.  This year, on its grand birthday, there will be around 1,500 exhibitors from about 80 countries.

And it is now, in this week before Bologna, that I anticipate those meetings with ever-growing excitement.  Partly because I am going to be getting back in touch with friends with whom we do business.  People whose opinions I value and whose recommendations I follow when thinking about which titles to consider for publication on the Hot Key list.

Hot Key Books' catalogue, ready to meet friends from all over the world.

Hot Key Books’ catalogue, ready to meet friends from all over the world.

And partly because, in four days of walking around and looking at stands representing the publishing works of publishers  from all over the world, one gets a sense of the complexity and diversity of our business.  A sense of how incredibly important our production is.  It is thanks to all these publishers from all these countries that stories are read, listened to, shared, given, borrowed from libraries and enjoyed.  We are each part of the wonderful baton-handed business of creating readers.

A book fair is an opportunity to do business, find great authors for the list and find great homes around the world for our authors. It is also a truly affirming experience that reminds us that we are not in this business alone and that the trials and tribulations we each face we also share and that our success as an industry has impact on people all over the world.

Writers on Writing

The best people from whom to learn anything important and significant are those who are already very good at doing that ‘thing’ that you want to learn.  For writers wanting to hone their craft and skills there is no better source of information than writers talking about writing.

On Sunday’s ‘Open Book,’  Mariella Frostrop was talking to A.L. Kennedy, the Scottish author, who has just published ON WRITING – a book about writing.  She brilliantly points out that it is not enough to write, ‘The man walked into the room.’  You have to know who he is, where the room is, what else is in the room, and why is he walking in.  Some of the answers to these questions will be back story and will inform the writing in terms of atmosphere and mood and some of it will be told.

The author must be entirely in charge of all the facts.  And there is no escape, even in fantasy.  J.K. Rowling so brilliantly illustrates the confidence of knowledge whenever she talks about her Harry Potter novels.  She knows all about her characters.  Where they came from, their extended family and relations and lots more.  She knows how the magic works and why sometimes it doesn’t.  She has the world of the books completely clear in her head, and while it is not all on the page in ink, it is all on the page in terms of the meaning and logic of everything she writes.

Stephen King’s classic book ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT is also packed full of advice amassed over decades of writing.  Part memoir and part straight masterclass-type advice, this is a book that investigates the meaning of writing for Stephen King as well as the practical way he approaches his work.

Then there is the more academic and philosophical rather than entirely practical, and E.M. Forster’s ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL or Margaret Atwood’s NEGOTIATING WITH THE DEAD: A WRITER ON WRITING do so much to place the practice of writing, and the results of the toil, in a wonderful wider context.

Sydney J. Harris, an American journalist, said, ‘Never take the advice of someone who has not had your kind of trouble.’  Writers on writing talking to writers – what could be better?

That Carnegie quality

Huge congratulations today to the eight authors whose books have been shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie Medal.  And a really wonderful shortlist it is too.

I have had the amazing good fortune in the past to have worked with three Carnegie-winning authors (Sharon Creech, Jennifer Donnelly and Neil Gaiman) and two further Carnegie shortlisted authors (Laurie Halse Anderson and Gennifer Choldenko) and the sense of wonder and admiration that each of those authors work elicits is profound.

Now I am delighted to see three more authors whose work I have been lucky enough to have had something to do with recognised on the shortlist.  Nick Lake’s Prinz-Medal-winning novel IN DARKNESS, Sarah Crossan’s THE WEIGHT OF WATER edited by Ele Fountain (both published by Bloomsbury) and our own starkly original brilliant MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner.

As an editor you look for, and aim to publish the books that move you and thrill you and introduce you to aspects of the world that you had not previously known about.  You look for books that touch you in an important way and affirm great values.  The Carnegie list consistently seeks to recognise those same qualities and we know that any book that is recognised by the Carnegie judges as being good enough to be shortlisted, never mind to win, is a book that generations of readers will find pleasure in and fulfilment from for years to come.

There can be no greater reward for an editor than to see one’s choices reflected on that list.  This year is a bumper year.