Category Archives: People We Like

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!


Meeting Maureen, a GOLDEN opportunity!

Today’s blog is by Charlotte from the fabulous Stoke Newington Bookshop. Charlotte is a big Maureen Johnson fan, and had the chance to meet the woman herself last month at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival! Here’s how it went down…

I found out about Maureen Johnson through another author, John Green. The first book of hers I read was 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES and was hooked from the go. Her writing style is comedic, detailed and all round entertaining. When I found out that she was coming to the Stoke Newington Literary Festival to promote the publication of her book THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD, I have to admit I was extremely excited.


As daughter of the Stoke Newington Bookshop owners and volunteer at the festival, I subtly suggested to my Mum that I thought it would be a good idea for me to work the event. Having someone who knows the books could really help and I just happened to be free that weekend. My subtlety was like no others, so soon I was packing up boxes of THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD and heading to the venue.

Before the event started I was given the opportunity to meet Maureen and Sarah Rees Brennan with whom she was doing the event, and I obviously took it. My plan was to be confident, cool and casual. I’m pretty sure I was shaking when I shook their hands but that definitely didn’t take away from my confident, cool and casual approach.  Neither did stumbling on my words and talking about giant disco balls. I wished them good luck and went to hide behind my bookstall at the back of the hall.

Sara Manning, me, and Maureen!

Sarah Rees Brennan, me, and Maureen Johnson!

If asked to describe the event in one word, I would undoubtedly say it was hilarious. They told anecdotes about how they had started writing, other authors and their families. Questions were asked and answered with off-topic chatter, but the audience didn’t seem to mind. Maureen and Sarah were incredibly entertaining and the event was everything I’d hoped it would be.

We started with a table full of books, and by the end we had almost no stock. THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD sold the most, as it was Maureen’s newest, and it definitely deserved it. It is a fantastic novel written in Maureen’s iconic style, with humour and emotion laced throughout.

If you missed the event at this year’s literary festival – bad luck you missed out; but you can still read the book!

Head over to Stoke Newington Book Shop or your local indie to celebrate Independent Booksellers Week and grab a copy of KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD!

Favouring FRIDAY on a Wednesday

Today’s blog is from Charlotte Morris, another amazing Independent Bookseller who can be found at The Book House in Oxfordshire. Charlotte picked FRIDAY BROWN by Vikki Wakefield as her staff choice for the summer, and here’s why she chose it…

This summer my staff choice is FRIDAY BROWN, the heartrending new novel by Vikki Wakefield. From the very first page, Friday grabbed me by the hand and pulled me along on the tsunami of her journey – a definite contender for favourite book of 2013.


How far would you go to outrun a curse you aren’t sure you believe in? Named to avoid a tragic fate, Friday was raised on the open road of the blistering Australian outback and her mother’s hazy campfire stories. But when her mother is the latest in a long line of women in their family to drown mysteriously on a Saturday, there seems to be nothing left to do but run. Friday sets out to the city determined to find her father. Lost and alone, her plan soon derails and she finds herself trying to stay afloat, surrounded by dangers and haunted by her memories, stumbling onto a train platform that changes her life forever.

It is the endearing Silence who captures your heart from the moment he appears at the train station. He scampers through life with an ageless quick fingered agility, rescuing Friday in her time of need. Mute but with a loud personality, the ferocity of his love and Silence’s loyalty and determination is just as likely to lead him into trouble as out of it.

He leads you to the powerfully seductive clutches of Arden, a girl who collects runaways like modern day Lost Boys, except far from holding on to the innocence of childhood, Arden’s children are forced to grow up fast and face the harsh realities of living on the streets. Together they form a found family, bound together by their individual circumstances and dark pasts, tangled in Arden’s web. Friday can’t help but follow Arden and her gang as the need to endure leads her ever deeper into murky waters.

Follow Silence and fight for survival with Friday in this scorching, fast-paced psychological thriller that will leave you gasping, but reluctant to fetch a glass of water. Vikki has written a dazzling story filled with unforgettable characters and death defying twists.

With writing so vivid you can feel the heat of the campfires and the outback sun burning you as you read, Friday Brown is a story of revenge, justice, myth and identity. But with a cast full of liars, be careful what you choose to believe. Friday’s band of misfits leave marks on their surroundings, lingering on in the mind of the reader long after the final page. In a world of inescapable adversity, the threat of an ancient curse pales in comparison to the horrors of surviving everyday life, and tragedy strikes when you aren’t careful.

Drink some water, grab some tissues, prepare to feel your heart race, and make sure you read Friday Brown this summer.

“No more tears now, I will think upon revenge.”

And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, check out what THE BOOK HOUSE is doing for Independent Booksellers Week and for a fun summer promotion:

One lucky customer will win a rare illustration drawn exclusively for The Book House by Helen Craig, the author of Angelina Ballerina. This competition has been running through June, and the winner will be announced on Friday. To enter, just buy any of Helen’s illustrated books and write your name on the clipboard, and we’ll put that name in a hat for the prize draw!

We’re also celebrating the long lazy days of summer with our special summer reading scheme. Every year, The Book House selects top titles from new releases and smacks a gold star sticker on the back of the book. Buy any combination of three gold star titles and get a £5 Book House voucher to put towards your next read. (No expiry date on the voucher and the scheme runs until the end of August.)

From the YA books I’ve asked to include FRIDAY BROWN and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and there are lots more to choose from! Hope to see you at The Book House soon!

Check out THE BOOK HOUSE on Twitter and Facebook too!

Head in the clouds, book in the hands

Happy day 2 of Independent Booksellers Week!

Today’s blog comes from George Hanratty, manager of the magical, award-winning Tales on Moon Lane children’s bookshop in Herne Hill, south-east London. Here she reveals a guilty pleasure of  Independent booksellers – working out what book suits which type of customer – as she reads THE CLOUD HUNTERS by Alex Shearer.

THE CLOUD HUNTERS was sent to me with the very first set of Hot Key proofs over a year ago; I thought it sounded great but amidst a growing pile of ‘must-read’ proofs, it ended up languishing in my to be read pile. Out this week in paperback, it seemed like the perfect excuse to move it right to the top of said pile!


Christien lives on Sovereign, one of an unknown series of islands floating in the sky spread over thousands of miles – the remnants of a long ago destroyed planet earth. The skies all around are filled with Sky Fish, trader ships and Cloud Hunter boats – traveling wherever they can to find clouds to convert into water – this world’s most valuable resource.

Christien is fascinated by the Cloud Hunters, a fascination which only grows with the arrival of Jennie at his school – beautiful, mysterious and bearing the ritual scars particular to Cloud Hunters. Enthralled with Jenine and her family, he longs to join them on their adventures and finally gets his wish to travel with them, encountering an adventure the likes of which he never expected. At its heart, THE CLOUD HUNTERS is a classic fantasy adventure but is given depth by the fantasy world Alex Shearer has created – a world spread across the disparate islands with all the complexities of our own: religious intolerance, warring nations, environmental issues and prejudice in all its forms.

THE CLOUD HUNTERS is a novel that is perfect for hand selling. It is ripe for discussion and so I will be recommending it endlessly to teachers and librarians.

But then comes the favourite part of my job, and the part that I suspect all Independent Booksellers love, reading a book and figuring out which of my regular customers it will be perfect for: those with a fantasy and/or sci-fi interest are obvious choices, but then there are those who love books with a strong female heroine, or the avid readers who always want something a little different. I’m also adding the members of my children’s book group (see our events page) to this list, as THE CLOUD HUNTERS is being added straight to the pile as the next book we will be discussing.

The amazing Judith Kerr will be visiting Tales on Moon Lane on Thursday 4th July at 4pm as part of the celebrations for her 90th birthday and IBW. For more information go to:

GRINNY: A new old favourite

It’s a huge week! Not only is it July pub week, but it is also Independent Booksellers Week! To celebrate, we’ve invited a few fantastic independent booksellers to write about our books publishing this week, and to let us know what they’re up to for IBW.

Today’s blog is from Katie Clapham, who helps run the fabulous Storytellers Inc. in Lancashire. Katie writes below about discovering the newly republished classic GRINNY for the first time. Katie also shares a bit about the activities for she has planned for IBW, so make sure you drop by Storytellers Inc. if you’re in the area!


For some, that name recalls a deep-seated fear from the depths of their youth, wedged somewhere between an inexplicable worry about the threat of UFO’s and that natural repulsion that some old ladies just seem to incite.

‘You Remember Me’ is both Grinny’s hypnotic catchphrase and the name of the story’s stunning sequel. Actually, Grinny, I don’t remember you at all. Grinny isn’t a book from my childhood – but it’s a book I’m hoping I can invade other people’s with, so I’m delighted that Hot Key Books are reissuing it for a new audience (me included!) including both stories and an introduction from the lady of the hour herself, Malorie Blackman.


These two short stories offer a strobe of disturbing violet light that basks in that original fear of aliens – namely that they’re intent on world domination. Turns out they are, but they didn’t bank on Timothy Carpenter and his dramatic sister Beth trying to stop them. Twice!

The set-up in both stories is fabulously chilling; Grinny invites herself into the Carpenter household as their Great Aunt Emma, then reveals herself to be something quite different after a series of seriously suspicious events, while the second story moves into the future to see Tim and Beth battle the follow-up attack, this time led by a glamorous celebrity that seems to have captured the nations’ heart (and minds! Arrghhh).

Reading it today, it feels like quite a retro idea but its delicious simplicity makes it quite radical and refreshing in amongst today’s offerings. No one’s looking to make friends (or date) the aliens, this isn’t science fiction that is heavy in theory or technology and like all the best sci-fi, it raises real questions about our society – questions that remain important 40 years after they were written.

I don’t read a lot of science fiction – it too often leads into fantasy territory that I struggle to stay interested in, but I’d happily read more from Nicholas Fisk after this. The text is smart, snappy and funny. Even the format – a diary/letter style (with Fisk himself featured as a correspondent) adds another layer of interest. I can’t wait to sell this horrible little gem in my shop; GRINNY and YOU REMEMBER ME, I certainly will now!

What are you doing to celebrate Independent Booksellers Week?

Here at Storytellers, Inc. we’re celebrating Independent Booksellers Week with a series of events including two author visits, parties, games and offers.  We are delighted to have the IBW Collectibles available in-store including the recent Carnegie winner, Maggot Moon. You can read our full schedule of events on our website and we’ll be posting updates throughout the week on our blog where you can also view our IBW poster series.

We love any excuse to shout about indie bookselling so we’re thrilled that for one week the whole country could be listening. Bookshops on the high street are really important and its exciting initiatives like IBW that can energise booksellers and book buyers everywhere.

What are your memories of Grinny? Share them below or tweet at us using #grinnymemories.

DO judge a book by its cover…you may be pleasantly surprised!

LauraLaura (@lauracholawka) is a Philosophy and Theology graduate who originally trained as an Early Years Professional. She has recently made the move to London from Manchester to pursue a career in publishing. She also writes a blog about her adventures in publishing and reading, which you can check out by clicking here.

A little background first, if I may.

I’m Laura, I’m 24 (and as such a little older than your average intern, I fear) and as a result of a whirlwind series of circumstances that make my life sound more like a romantic comedy than I’m entirely happy with, I decided to haul myself half way across the country to begin a new career.

I used to work with children, mostly the under-two’s, which was fantastic, albeit a bit sticky. I’m a self-confessed book nerd, and various other types of nerd as well, and publishing has always been the little dream career that was in the back of my head, pushed aside in the name of practicality.

But about six months ago, I decided that the time had come to find out whether or not I could do it. It has taken lots of research, a ton of hard work and just a little bit of bravery to even get where I am now, but I have found that my week here at Hot Key Books has proved two things:

  1. I have reasonably good instincts; a career in publishing is DEFINITELY right up my street.
  2. No matter what your working environment, everyone loves cake.

I don’t want to bore you by descending into giddy overstatement, but I have LOVED working here. My confidence in my own abilities has risen immeasurably thanks to everybody’s support. Let’s face it, I’ve never studied or trained for this kind of job until the last few months, it is just something I thought I would be good at, and was sure I would enjoy. So far, so good. (Unless, of course I’ve had everyone tearing their hair out and they’re all just too lovely to say anything.)

In preparation for my week here, I obviously had a good nosy around the titles Hot Key have coming out, and one in particular caught my eye. Not the kind of book I normally would have picked up, Paper Aeroplanes’ beautiful cover art drew me in, and Dawn O’Porter’s familiar name piqued my interest.

Paper Aeroplanes

It has been a bit of a resolution of mine to read more outside of my usual fantasy/adventure comfort zone, and Paper Aeroplanes has helped to prove why that is such a good idea. Set on the island of Guernsey in the 1990’s, the book follows two fifteen year old schoolgirls, Renee and Flo, as they forge a friendship of the kind you can only have in your teens. The girls help each other through family dysfunction, broken relationships and the cringe-inducing ravages of puberty, revealing a story that is poignant, insightful and so shockingly true to life that I kind of hope my mum never reads it.

Paper Aeroplanes is a shining example of the power of this variety of YA fiction which allows us, as adults, to look back on a time when we were so convinced that our problems couldn’t get any bigger, and a tampon was the most embarrassing object anyone had ever encountered. The book dragged me straight back to that brick wall in Greater Manchester against which I had my first kiss (no gory details-sorry) and brought forth a comforting wave of nostalgia which will stay with me for a long while.

So, what does the future look like for Laura Cholawka, publisher extraordinaire? Well, first, I need to find a place to live, and then I need to find a job. You’d be forgiven for thinking I should be panicking, but I’m taking it one step at a time. The skills and experience I’ve gained this week, not to mention the fun I’ve had, mean that I am itching to get my CV out there applying for lots of exciting positions, and I’m sure I can find at least one vacant room in London…wish me luck!

The pen is mightier than the mobile

This year, we have been working closely with the fantastic Platform youth hub in Islington, building an author-led creative writing programme for young people aged 13 to 19 called Write Ideas, which runs every Tuesday evening in term time. Two fabulous authors, Sarah Mussi and Sara Grant, have helped the young authors along their journey from first draft to publication.

To celebrate the culmination of this programme, we will be featuring three of the students’ pieces on the blog starting tomorrow. Today our blog is from Sarah Mussi, who spent a bit of time reflecting on the experience.

When teenage writers pick up a pen with the intention of becoming writers they certainly mean business. And if those teenagers come from Islington and know there is an author-led, community-based, publishing-industry-supported venture for them to take advantage of; hosted in a state of the art venue; then not rain nor snow nor GCSEs (even!) will stop them from attending.

Last week saw the culmination of just such a venture. On Tuesday night, two authors and the young writers’ group from the Write Ideas writing programme presented their writing to the world!   They performed at Platform on Hornsey Road as part of the Islington WORD13 festival, and I was there!

Yes, I was one of the very privileged authors who worked alongside this amazingly dedicated group of young writers, and I was thrilled to be present to applaud their projects at the Express Yourself event last week.

And what’s more, I was there at the beginning too!

I first met the young writers of Islington at the launch party. Along with Meg and Livs, from Hot Key Books; Sara Grant, a fellow author from CWISL (Children’s Writers & Illustrators in South London) and member of the Edge writers’ group; youth facilitators from Platform, stakeholders from the community and Key Coordinator of the Write Ideas & All Change Arts project, Rachel; with them all, I signed up for the journey.

From then on, fortified throughout by delicious (and amazingly huge) cup cakes (with marshmallows and sprinkly bits – O YAY!), we met – through wind and hail – every week for two months! We brainstormed ideas, crafted plots, drafted chapters; we edited and critiqued them. And we set about preparing a presentation of each piece for a culminating evening of celebrations.

And I can’t tell you what a BUZZ-ting and a WOW-ting it was! Stories of disappearances, of explosions, of teenage first love, of families in crisis, of home and of being lost – all came together in that evening of readings and questions and talks and reflections.

Working with such dynamic, enthusiastic and creative youngsters has reminded me exactly why I write for the Y.A. audience. They have an eye for detail, a natural feeling for suspense, a straightforward kind of genuineness, they have all the energy of being young plus the integrity of age: in fact they are totally awesome and fun and quirky too.

So fresh from working with them – and refreshed by their take on life, I think I better get back to my laptop and make sure I can write some thing BOOM and WOW and SO SICK too!

Because like they say, it’s totally worth switching off the mobile for!