In Conversation: Slatebreakers

Sarah Sullivan and Brianna Stapleton Welch are the blogger-reviewers behind Slatebreakers: ‘finding feminism in Kid Lit and YA’. Libby O’Loghlin asks them about their feminist lens, and exactly how they manage to get through so many books …

First of all, tell us a bit about Slatebreakers: how long have you been doing the blog, and how did it start?

Brianna Stapleton Welch

Image courtesy: Brianna Stapleton Welch

Brianna: Sarah and I discovered our mutual love of books when we became friends during grad school. We both loved following book blogs and eagerly read posts by great bloggers such as Betsy Bird, the Forever Young Adult team, and the Book Smugglers. We wanted to venture out into the book blogging world, too. I recall a long afternoon at a bar when we brainstormed themes and blog titles. Finally we settled upon Slatebreakers, a feminist, Anne Shirley inspired lens for reviewing that we could both be excited about.

Image courtesy: Sarah Sullivan

Image courtesy: Sarah Sullivan

Sarah: I think a big part of it as well was this idea that we were reading all the time, and talking about it, and as feminist readers, had a really specific perspective on what we wanted to read about, both as adults and when we were young readers ourselves. When we coined the term Continue reading

Skipping the barrier

Text and images: DB Miller 

On the dark patch of pavement between the club and a line of shopping carts, my friend and I take a moment to talk strategy. The crowd is thinning, but we’re pretty sure the band has not yet left the building. We’re also pretty sure that if two starry-eyed, rain-soaked brunettes ask a roadie about the band’s plans tonight, it won’t look good.

The stage: blue light

Earlier, about the time I figure Stereophonics are rolling into Zurich, I am one big knot of words. It’s hot, almost too hot to eat, but I’m darting around, tripping over lyrics, discussion prompts, biographical minutiae and the black pug we are dog-sitting. Her snorts compete with my one-two’s as I test the pocket recorder, and her unflinching bug eyes close in like the heat – like the words. I don’t even think about the music.

In her memoir, Patti Smith describes the pull, way back when, “to infuse the written word with the immediacy and frontal attack of rock and roll”. I’m no rock and roll star, but I need the attack as much as she does. For the moment, I’m still on the other side, locked out, and stuck inside the noise of my own head.


As the evening nears, I try to be optimistic about my chances of an interview with Stereophonics’ lead singer Kelly Jones for this very publication. The odds are long, but we’ve been hoping the musician-writer-director will want to share his perspective on storytelling in diverse creative formats, or just, you know, talk. After some Continue reading

A sense of place: Charlotte Otter’s lens

Charlotte Otter portrait

Image courtesy: Charlotte Otter

Charlotte Otter’s novel, Balthasars Vermächtnis has just been published in German by Argument Verlag. Jill Marsh asks her about writing ‘place’.

Which comes first, story or location?

The two are intertwined. When the first images for Balthasars Vermächtnis began to flash in my head more than eight years ago, the setting was immediately clear: my home town in South Africa, Pietermaritzburg. BV is a post-apartheid novel and PMB is struggling to become an effective post-apartheid city. It was the natural setting for the story that was starting to unspool before me.

How do you go about evoking the atmosphere of a place?

I wrote a blog post a few years ago called ‘I am From’ [you can also read this text below] and someone said to me they would love to read a novel with those elements in. I realised that my childhood memories of monkeys in the garden, chameleons on a bush and eating granadillas off the vine were not everyone’s memories and that Continue reading

Writing for Young People

Writing 4 Young People logo

Sat 25 January 2014

09.00-17.00, Volkshaus, Zürich

Earlybird booking fee 20% off until 1st October

Only 50 places available


The Tutors:

Image courtesy: Julia Churchill

Agent Julia Churchill (AM Heath)

Julia Churchill – AM Heath

I joined AM Heath in 2013 as Children’s Agent, after four years building up the UK side of the Greenhouse Literary Agency, and six years at the Darley Anderson Agency where I started the children’s book side of the list. I’m lucky to represent some fabulous writers, but I’m always on the treasure hunt for new writing talent and consider the slushpile to be the greatest place on earth. I’m looking for debut and established authors with storytelling magic, from picture book texts right up to YA fiction.

Sara O’Connor – Hot Key Books

Sara O'Connor (Hot Key Books)

Sara O’Connor (Hot Key Books)

I began as an editorial assistant at Little Brown Books for Young Readers in New York, and then followed my heart to London. There, I joined Working Partners where I worked on series like Rainbow Magic and My Sister the Vampire. Prior to Hot Key, I was at Hodder Children’s Books managing the Enid Blyton publishing program and acquiring projects like internet sensation and A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton. I am also the co-creator of the volunteer SCBWI-BI Undiscovered Voices project, helping twenty previously unknown children’s authors to land publishing deals and to win and be nominated for a number of industry awards. At Hot Key, I have acquired books about shrinking sheep, prison breaks, invisible teenagers, rubbish heaps and airship adventures, as well as worked on the digital projects of Maggot Moon, A World Between Us and

The Event

Session 1 (led by Julia Churchill)
Continue reading

Context: Crossings

old-school steam train shot from above


A migrant’s tale: Shaun Tan’s graphic novel, The Arrival. A moving outsider’s tale with barely a word in sight.

Where to read online:

Synaesthesia – crossing senses. Check out the worlds of David Eagleman, expert on the idiosyncrasies of the brain.

Coney. “The experience starts when you first hear about it, and only ends when you stop thinking and talking about it.

Playing at it:


Respect for Translators. “The paradox about literary translation is that the better it is, the more invisible it gets.” —Author Inka Parei

An experiment in languages. Multiples. “It is possible to translate a story whose language the translator does not speak.”


“It all started with a book, a bag and a banana …”

Quotable chocolate bars (ssh – it’s not Swiss)

Classic Kindle covers: To Kill A Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Pride and Prejudice

A Writer’s Sources: Gabrielle Mathieu

Jill Prewett talks to a writer from Sankt Gallen about her sources

Mr. M, a retired homicide detective, sipped his coffee and pondered my odd questions about a hypothetical murder, committed by an underage orphan with a love of chemistry …

Writer Gabrielle Mathieu

Image courtesy: Gabrielle Mathieu

My first novel, The Water Dragon, took place in the country of Trea, on a continent called the Heartland, during the ending of a 600 year cycle. I got to wave my magic wand and create a society, geography, and belief system for my heroine, and her band of stalwart fighters and philosophers.

While sending out agent queries, I began a novel set in Switzerland in the 1950s. The Falcon Flies Alone is also a fantasy novel, but one that addresses the pharmacological and neurological aspects of transformation. (Like this magazine, it also has a wolf in it, but not that banal creature, a werewolf). The science part was a lot of fun. Out came books about hallucinogenic plants, collected during Continue reading