Welcome to Debut Diaries—One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of the post-publication year. This month, Tizzie welcomes A M Dassu, author of Boy, Everywhere, to join her for Afternoon Tea.


After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for A M Dassu to put her feet up, and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut.


A. M. Dassu: Thank you, Tizzie, I do love a sweet treat!


My debut year has been surreal. As publication day approached, I had no idea what to expect, and the response Boy, Everywhere got was something I wouldn’t have dared to even imagine!


October 2020 - Cupcakes with lots of sprinkles


My year started getting sweet just before publication. We had had the hottest summer AND A LOCKDOWN with three kids at home who couldn't go out, and I had spent months crying over polishing my manuscript before it went to print. I was stressed out preparing for a big blog tour and finishing off my author’s note etc. when reviews started coming in. The first was from The Bookseller, where Boy, Everywhere was featured as ONE TO WATCH, then came amazing five-star reviews from Reading Zone, Book Clubs in Schools, booksellers and teachers. BookTime, the free magazine in all UK independent bookshops, featured the book on a full-page spread and Lovereading4Kids made it a Debut of the Month. 


Friends started getting copies a week early and took the best photos posing with the book, and I shared them everywhere! It was so exciting!


A few days before publication, I received my author copies and as you can see from the video, squealed very loud!


On publication day, BookTrust made Boy, Everywhere BOOK OF THE DAY and Lovereading4Kids chose it as a weekly staff pick. The launch was the biggest online launch with over 137 people and it made book industry news on Book Brunch. It was the warmest event, full of love and light and I couldn’t believe the effort my dear friends had gone to to show their support.


And to finish off publication week, Boy, Everywhere was featured in the Guardian’s Best New Novels Feature as a Book of the Month! * faints *



November and December 2020 – Chocolate Fudge Cake


Sami and his family had been with me for so long and I was so excited that children were reading Boy, Everywhere! I think every author is a little nervous and I was most nervous about what children would think. The response was AMAZING. I had parents tweeting their children who reluctantly read had picked it up. Teachers and adults told me they were shocked because they’d never thought about how easily someone could become a refugee. Children who are very fussy readers were going to bed late and unable to put the book down. And that was the best thing to hear, honestly!


Authors, librarians and teachers donated copies to school libraries and it felt as if after so many years I had passed the baton on to readers, and Boy, Everywhere would do the work I intended it to. It became a curriculum text in schools too!


In November Boy, Everywhere was Book of the Week in school libraries across the country and was shortlisted for its first award alongside Patrick Ness and Alex Wheatle in the Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2021 — only one month after publication!


I took part in my very first conference panel as an author at the YLG (Young Libraries Group) conference with Patrice Lawrence, Alex Wheatle and Elle Mcnicoll and delivered a bumper school visit to 600 students across seventeen schools! It was daunting but fun! 


And then the end of year lists started being announced and Boy, Everywhere, was on 25 BEST BOOK OF 2020 lists, just weeks after publication. Here are some:


Book For Keeps magazine, Bounce Marketing,  Book Riot Magazine, the Guardian’s Best Children’s Book of 2020, BookTrust and CLPE



January – a new year. Lemon Drizzle


Authors came out and showed so much love and support for the book; Alex Wheatle mentioned it in the Bookseller, Joan Haig in the Scotsman.  


I was asked to work as one of the lead authors in the Literacy Trust’s Connecting Stories campaign, which aims to help inspire a love of reading and writing in children and young people, and delivered a session to 100 schools, judged a writing competition for an anthology and wrote a foreword for it.


Boy, Everywhere was selected for the Empathy Lab 2021 selection and I was asked to take part in various empathy-boosting activities that were viewed by thousands of schools on Empathy Day. They were a lot of fun!


I took part in the Wokingham programme BBC Novels That Shaped the World. January was wrapped up with a longlisting for the Branford Boase Award 2021, which 'rewards the most promising new writers and their editors, as well as rewards excellence in writing and in publishing'. It was a bit of a shock!


February kicked off with copies from the third print run arriving with a back page full of industry reviews, I just couldn’t comprehend how any of this had happened so quickly. I was asked to join the Society of Authors' CWIG (Children's Writers and Illustrators Group) committee and got a starred Kirkus review in America, the Michelin-star equivalent for books!


Boy, Everywhere was chosen as one of the two books in the Litfest Big Read, alongside Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, and was shortlisted for the Calderdale Book of the Year 2021.


I did lots of radio interviews, a podcast with Nikki Gamble and was thrilled to receive photos of work done in schools based on the book.


Spring / Summer – Victoria Sponge Boy, Everywhere was given a starred review on Booklist, a book-review magazine that has been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years.


Then a Manchester partnership announced they’d develop teaching inspired by Boy, Everywhere
'A new city-wide initiative will develop a teaching resource for schools based on an acclaimed novel that chronicles the harrowing journey of a teen refugee. The programme will fund copies of the book for schools, events for children to meet the author, and provide resources to support schools in their teaching of the issues raised in the novel.'


A 20-page teacher’s resource was made by my US publisher and the book was shortlisted for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award! 


It was published in hardback in America on April 20th, 2021 and showcased as a TOP TEN MIDDLE GRADE DEBUT by the American Library Association.


In May I was the National Literacy Trust’s author of the week and spoke at a panel event for the School Library Journal in America where Chelsea Clinton was also speaking (not at my panel!) And the biggest surprise of all – Boy, Everywhere won the SCBWI CRYSTAL KITE AWARD 2021, thanks to my dearest Scoobies! I am so grateful and it was so fitting that my first award was because of the organisation that had helped me on my publishing journey! : )


In May I was able to raise over £11k to renovate Syrian schools because of the people who had read the book. I was asked to provide a cover quote for Liz Flanagan’s Rise of the Shadow Dragons, and Boy, Everywhere was shortlisted for the Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction.


This bumper month ended with Boy, Everywhere being shortlisted for the Waterstones Book Prize shortlist! * faints *


I spent a week touring the country, visiting Waterstones stores in Nottingham, Coventry, London, and Manchester. Visiting the Waterstones in Piccadilly was the most incredible experience of my life. It’s a store I’ve often taken my children to when in London. It’s the mothership — Waterstones HQ. It is the place of all places to have your book on display, so to see Boy, Everywhere in the shop window was utterly mindblowing.


This is something that this little author had never ONCE dreamed of... it was something I didn’t think was possible. And I couldn’t help but cry when I saw it here.


In June, I was asked to host a panel event with Melvin Burgess, Peter Kalu and Tariq Mahmood and spoke as a special guest at the Portico Sadie Massie Awards.


Amazon donated 3800 copies of Boy, Everywhere to 100 schools across the U.K, alongside literacy packs containing resources and worksheets!


Boy, Everywhere went to reprint after two months in the US and in June I was delighted to announce my new writer’s grant for a refugee or recent migrant.


In July, Worlaby Academy named their Year 5 and 6 class after me! So I just had to meet Dassu Class, didn’t I?


Boy, Everywhere was shortlisted for the North Somerset Teacher’s Book Awards and then WON the Calderdale Book of the Year 2021, as voted by students across lots of schools! And Amazon chose it as a teacher’s pick on their website.


In July teachers made it their summer reading choice and planned their Autumn 2021 curriculums around it.


It was longlisted for the Diverse Book Awards, and I hosted two sessions at Waddesdon Manor as part of the Pop Up Festival. It was so nice to meet kids in person!

September 2021 – Giant Belgian milk chocolate chip cookie


I won the Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction and it was announced in the Bookseller!


Boy, Everywhere was shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards and featured in Pen and Inc magazine and also Good Housekeeping.


On October 7, I published my third collaborative non-fiction title with DK Books and presented a workshop at Cheltenham Literature Festival with Joseph Coelho and Miranda McKearney and to finish of the year, Boy, Everywhere was nominated for the CARNEGIE MEDAL!!! *collapses*


My children were so excited ahead of the one-year birthday, they prepared a party! My daughter made me a book of achievement just like she has been awarded at her school for her work, and my son made me this birthday graphic taking photos from my Instagram. My family and friends have been a huge part of this journey and I couldn’t have done it without their support and love.

WHAT A YEAR IT'S BEEN! It’s been incredible, thanks to every reader, reviewer, bookseller, librarian, teacher, influencer, award judge, and of course my brilliant publishers! Honestly, Boy, Everywhere wouldn't have got into so many hands if it weren't for you. 

So grateful for absolutely everything. A huge thanks to everyone who was a part of it. Here’s to year TWO!


A. M. Dassu is an award winning writer of both non-fiction and fiction, including the internationally acclaimed novel Boy, Everywhere. She is Deputy Editor of SCBWI-BI’s magazine, Words & Pictures, and a Director of Inclusive Minds, a unique organisation for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children’s literature. She is also patron of The Other Side of Hope, a new print and online literary magazine, edited by immigrants and refugees, which serves to celebrate the refugee and immigrant communities worldwide, and is one of the authors in the National Literacy Trust's Connecting Stories campaign, which aims to inspire a love of reading and writing in children and young people. Previously, she has worked in project management, marketing, and editorial. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, Times Educational Supplement, SCOOP magazine, Lee and Low Books, DK Books and soon HarperCollins. When she isn’t battling emails or writing, she mentors aspiring authors and loves to shout about other people’s books. You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective or Instagram @a.m.dassu

Picture credits

Feature logo by Coral Walker
Cover of Boy Everywhere by Daby Zainab Faidhy
Cupcakes with sprinkles Worthpinning (2012)
Chocolate fudge cake Esther Food Adventure
Lemon drizzle cake Chocolate Suze
Victoria sponge Eloïse L on Flickr
Belgian chocolate cookie Totally Chocolate

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.