Candy Gourlay - Winner of the Crystal Kite 2014!

Candy's First Crystal Kite
It's official: Candy Gourlay, you're the toast of SCBWI British Isles and SCBWI Ireland!
Candy is now a two times winner of SCBWI's Crystal Kite, her debut novel Tall Story won the prize on its inaugural outing in 2011. When Crystal Kite winners were announced on 12 May this year, her teen novel Shine came out on top - against a shortlist for the British Isles and Ireland Region that included multi-award winning authors Teri Terry (Fractured) and Elizabeth Wein (Rose Under Fire). Here is Candy with a few thoughts on being discovered:

The business of becoming a published author is such a peculiar thing. You spend years struggling, growing extra layers of skin to withstand the inevitable rejections. And then suddenly you are published, your books are on the shelves of bookstores, and you learn about a new fear that you weren't aware of when you were just an aspiring author.

That is the fear of being UNdiscovered.

This is rich of course coming from someone whose big breakthrough was the Undiscovered Voices anthology - which was how I got my agent. Surely after the UV, the dream has come true. I've been discovered.

But UV glory didn't result in instant publication. It was two years (and two widely rejected novels) before my debut novel Tall Story made it to publication.

And the publication of one's work, as SCBWI's burgeoning numbers of debut authors (congrats to our most recent debuts, Christine Banach and Nick Cook!) are realising, is not the end of the journey but the beginning.

Suddenly your concerns are not: have I written a book that will get published? But: will my book be discovered?

Rosa suffers from a rare condition that renders her mute. She has to live a hidden life on the island of Mirasol where it never stops raining. Every night Rosa lights a candle at the window to summon the ghost of her Mother. One day she is befriended by a boy online who calls himself Ansel95 - and she quickly realizes that this is one friendship that can take place in the real world. Can she really trust him? What does he want from her? ... And then Mother turns up at the front door.

Once you join the world of the published you become aware that only a few select names enjoy the privilege of expensive book tours, flashy book launches and celebrity appearances. It ain't so for the majority of us in this funny business.

The publisher does plenty - getting your book into bookshops and what have you. But it is you who must design and print your own bookmarks to give away, you who must angle for invitations to visit schools, you who must write that press release for the village paper and hope that it makes page 24, and it's you who must wrack your brains for creative ways to raise awareness about your new book.

Lucky for me I'm a web designer. I can make book guides like the one below. Even so, one is never sure if anyone is paying any attention.

Which means you are constantly crossing your fingers for a little bit of edge. There is only so much you can do for yourself. The rest you owe to total strangers deciding to champion you.

I owe any success of my debut Tall Story to unexpected champions. It was shortlisted for the Waterstones Prize because one bookseller believed in it (and SOLD it -- imagine my delight to discover that one week, Tall Story outsold Percy Jackson, hand-sold by the bookseller). Other shortlists Tall Story got on were down to the generosity of librarians. Librarians literally put Tall Story into the hands of young readers. There are unexpected champions everywhere still promoting Tall Story now, for which I am speechless with gratitude.

Shine came three long years later. It took me a long time to write it -- which is another long story. But it was clear that promotion-wise, Shine wasn't going to get a free ride on Tall Story's debut buzz. Besides which, it's a very different book and another stand-alone.

When I finished writing Shine, I was very worried. What had I done? Why couldn't I have written a commercial, easier to sell book? What is it with me and quiet novels that explore my own bizarre stuff that nobody else probably cares about? Why couldn't I write a vampire novel?

I feel sometimes that I have no power over my stories. My characters go their own way and surprise me with their own versions of my story. Don't get me wrong, I'm so proud of Shine. But it's never gonna be The Hunger Games.

So just making it to the shortlist of the Crystal Kite was disconcerting.

And this was a year when SCBWI books were ON FIRE.

Our big name members had new books: David Almond had Counting Stars, Meg Rosoff released Picture Me Gone.

The shortlist was very short, and very tough -- with Teri Terry (her Slated books are winning EVERYTHING at the moment) and Elizabeth Wein, who with Rose Under Fire was continuing the story of her magnificent Code Name Verity, which has collected awards here and across the pond.

So many truly brilliant books: what about Half Lives by Sara Grant (which I adored), Paula Harrison's right-on Rescue Princesses, Dave Cousins' charming Waiting for Gonzo, Steve Hartley's supercharged new series Oliver Fibbs,  Sarah McIntyre's rumbustious Oliver and the Seawigs? ... and the picture books! Oh the picture books! (Dare I suggest: the Crystal Kite should have a picture book category to do justice to our members' picture book output!)

I could go on and on and if I didn't mention your book, forgive me. But this is the thing about being discovered, I guess.

Getting published is all about doggedness, craft, luck. Staying published is about all the above PLUS continuously being discovered.

Thank you, fellow SCBWIs, for honouring me with this prize. This has given Shine that extra something that might help it be discovered by readers, librarians and booksellers. I sure hope so.

Meanwhile, I urge you to continue this voyage of discovering. In these times, when the book world is drowning in promotional clamour, there are many who need your help.

We don't need to wait for the Crystal Kite Prize to support our fellow writers and illustrators.

Whenever you love a book, take the time to tell the world - whether it's a Twitter mention, a blog review, a like on Facebook or five stars on Goodreads or Amazon. Your little push might make all the difference.


  1. Another reminder that the only reason to write is for yourself! Fame, glory - even a living wage - are elusive by-products that happen to only a few. Your work is awesome, Candy - congrats on the Crystal Kite win, may it be the tip of the discovery iceberg. Larisa

    1. We're so lucky we love this business. Even when we have cause to moan.

  2. Many congratulations, Candy, both for the prize and your continued, inspiring honesty.

  3. Well done indeed, Candy. And thank you also for this frank post. I recognize a lot there. I sometimes smile at my unpublished self and think "Be careful; what you wish for." But actually, still worth it - even if we do have to get our own bookmarks made.

    1. Thanks, Gill. Actually I enjoy making my bookmarks and promotional stuff. It's just paying for it that's a pain.

    2. Many people inspire me, but Candy you are always at the top of my list. Your warmth, your friendliness and sheer writing talent are what truly 'shine'. Congratulations once more.

    3. Couldn't have put it better, Helen.
      Candy, I think you're building a collection of unique books that reflect you, in the way that David Almond has. Nothing wrong with that. Now, write more.

  4. I'll echo what Helen said, Candy—you always manage to find words to inspire us—published and 'yet to be published'! Delighted to see 'Shine' awarded this year's Crystal Kite. Keep up the good work!

  5. God love you Candy - you write like an ANGEL . You inspire us all xx

  6. It does the unpublished peeps like me, a world of good to see posts like yours, Candy. It shows how we should not give up trying, but need to keep on if we are to achieve our goals and then some.

  7. This is a fantastic achievement, Candy - you should be very proud. However, to reduce the creative pressure on you going forward, I hereby give you my permission NOT to win the Crystal Kite for your next book!

  8. Congratulations, Candy, you truly are an inspiration.

  9. Candy what everyone said! Many many congratulations on the Crystal Kite!
    You have so many talents and a wonderful voice - not just writing voice but reading voice too. I love both Shine and Tall Story and would love to hear you reading them as audiobooks.

    On W&P as you know, we can't review members books but I think we can make it easy for us to support each other with Amazon/Goodreads etc reviews so will try to do something about that.


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