The Essex Book Award is run by Essex County Council’s School Library Service and is a county-wide scheme aimed at encouraging school pupils between the ages of 11 and 14 to enjoy wider reading and fostering a passion for fiction. Essex School Library Service librarians chose a shortlist of six novels from a huge range of newly-published books for young people. This our seventh year and saw 33 Essex, Southend and Thurrock schools taking part an increase of 15% on last year. This year’s winner was Hayley Long with her book ‘What’s up with Jody Barton?’ Every year a presentation is held in one of the participating schools and this year we were the lucky school to host the event. Over 150 students and librarians from other Essex schools, along with more than 70 of our own students attended the presentation. The morning was a huge success, Hayley spoke about how she became an author, her inspiration for her stories, and answered some excellent questions from the students about the winning book, getting writers block, and about her new book coming out in July. Hayley really engaged the students with her witty and intelligent speech, she was funny and honest and the students had a fantastic morning. She told them to never give up with their writing, any one can do it.
She has certainly inspired some of our young students as they have already been in to the library to tell me how much they enjoyed listening to her, and how she has encouraged them to keep on writing their own stories.
Hayley Long was born in Ipswich and went to university in Aberystwyth before becoming a teacher. Her first novel for teenagers was Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad, which followed with two more Lottie Biggs stories. She still teaches A Level English to sixth formers, and lives in Norwich with her husband and their house rabbit.