James Dawson and Hayley Long at Bath Children’s Literature Festival


Being a girl isn’t all sugar and spice, and being a boy isn’t exactly easy. Luckily, acclaimed YA authors James Dawson and Hayley Long are here to help you navigate those tricky teen years in a frank, funny, straight talking event about all things teen.

www.hayleylong.org …. @hayleywrites

www.jamesdawsonbooks.com …. @_jamesdawson

Date 27-09-2015
Time 5:30 PM – 6:15 PM
Venue Guildhall
I received a free ticket for reviewing this event.


I’ve been thinking about how to review this event and I think it’s best if I start by staying that I’ve met both authors before, James Dawson on multiple occasions and I’ve read the Being A Boy and Being A Girl as well as a few of James Dawson and Hayley Long’s other books and loved them. So I was looking forward to this.

Upon entering the room each audience member was given a piece of paper to write a ‘secret question’ which were then put in a box, so that Hayley Long and James Dawson could answer them. This is a good idea because tough, awkward and/or embarrassing questions could be put forward that way.

When Hayley Long and James Dawson took the stage they talked about how the books came about and what they were like as teenagers. The event is set out well and James Dawson and Hayley Long are engaging on stage. There was an amusing Dr Who conspiracy regarding Hayley Long origin courtesy of James Dawson.

They picked questions submitted from the audience, one of which was ‘What their most embarrassing moment at school was?’

James Dawson’s was being photographed on the loos at school and Hayley Long was spending an entire lesson hiding behind in curtains in the classroom.

As Hayley Long talked about being picked second last for P.E. James Dawson asked her why, to which she replied that the other girl was the “wrong kind of big” and drew a circle in front of her. This is where the event took the wrong turn for me.

I felt awful in that moment. I still feel awful now just writing about it.

Being on stage and on the spot has to be nerve-wracking I understand that and I’m not Hayley Long so I don’t know if she realised what she said by using those words. As the box of questions was out of reach so I couldn’t add another…

But within those few seconds I went from having a good time to wanting to be out of the room. To being reminded how wrong I am. To being back in school and being picked last because I am “the wrong kind of big”.

So here’s the thing. You never know what is going on with the person. She might be the 12-year-old who’s dealing with being a carer for her disabled father because her mum just died. So easy fast food is comforting and just that, easy. There might be a million other things.

As it was I couldn’t leave the room because I’d agreed to review the event but it took me a while to come back. Words have power.


A funny, frank and fearless guide to being a girl

Being a girl is not all sugar and spice. How can you possibly survive school and even think about talking to your crush when you have spots in places you didn’t even know you had, your boobs are too big (or too small) and the friend drama is off the charts? Luckily, bestselling YA author and sixth-form teacher Hayley Long provides a straight-talking guide to puberty – from cattiness to kisses, and everything in between. With witty black-and-white illustrations by Gemma Correll throughout, BEING A GIRL tells you everything you need to know about surviving puberty, in an honest and humorous way.

Hayley Long Books I’ve reviewed:
Being a Girl
Downside Up



Everything you wanted to know about puberty, but were too afraid to Google. Queen of Teen nominee, acclaimed YA author and former PSHCE teacher, James Dawson, expertly guides boys through puberty from surviving the social scene to learning about sex, how to pull, dealing with spotty faces and everything in between. Witty text paired with over 50 hilarious black-and-white illustrations by Spike Gerrell makes this the essential guide to growing up brutal honesty included.

James Dawson Books I’ve reviewed:
Under My Skin
This Book is Gay
Say Her Name
Cruel Summer
Hollow Pike
Being a Boy


The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival runs from
Friday 25th September to Sunday 4th October.

Twitter @bathfestivals
Facebook /bathfestivals
Website: bathfestivals.org.uk/childrens-literature/

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2 thoughts on “James Dawson and Hayley Long at Bath Children’s Literature Festival

  1. Hi Luna

    As you know, I spoke to you on Twitter when I first read this – but, really, with only 140 characters per tweet, Twitter isn’t always the right platform.

    The most important thing to say is that I was – and still am – truly horrified that I made you feel so bad.

    The words which upset you came at the end of an explanation of why I lacked confidence at school. I’d talked at some length about how I was, in the eyes of my classmates, the ‘wrong size’ – ie, so small that I was apparently having a negative effect on the mean average of the height of the pupils in my maths lesson. I’d spoken also about getting on the nerves of everyone on the netball team and I’d talked about the brutal experience of being always chosen ‘second from last’ when the sporty girls picked teams in Games lessons. Oh, if only I’d lied and said last! When put on the spot and asked about the girl who was last, I’d declined to say. When asked why she was last, I kept the same tone of mock horror that I’d been using throughout this entire recollection and voiced, with sarcasm, that awful logic of the school field – that she was ‘the wrong kind of big.’ Just as I was the wrong kind of small.

    To clarify, I was talking only about myself and my often harsh school experiences of thirty years ago. I certainly wasn’t conveying any judgments on the size that I think girls – or anyone – should be and I’m sorry that you understood my words in this way.

    Talking to complete strangers about being a teenage girl when you weren’t ever the Sports Superstar or the It-Girl or the one who did a bit of modelling in her spare time is a surprisingly tricky business. I can either think back to that time and feel a bit sad or I can laugh about it all. So I choose to laugh. But I made you upset. And now I’m upset.
    So my last word on this is – again – sorry.


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