Emma Shevah is half-Irish and half-Thai born and raised in London. She has lived in Australia, Japan, India (her first child was born in the Himalayas) and Jerusalem before moving back to the UK. Emma has busked as a fire-juggler, been a restaurant manager, a copy writer, an English teacher, and is now a blogger and author.
What made you decide to be a middle-grade author
versus an author for adults?
Guestpost by Emma Shevah
I did a Masters in Creative and Professional Writing and for my dissertation, I wrote eleven chapters of a novel for adults. I got a good grade (woohoo) and my tutor insisted I carry on writing it. So I wrote the whole novel, but liked parts and didn’t like others. I think the whole thing is fatally flawed, but I might pick out the bits I like and rework them one day. I like dealing with adult themes and language so writing for adults appeals to me, but after I did my MA, my husband suggested I write for children because we have four of them and a houseful of their friends, so I know what they talk about, how they say it, what they’re obsessed with and hate doing. It made sense. And now I love it.
In the UK, you start high school when you’re eleven. It’s a huge change from primary school and it can be daunting, but it’s also great to be handed more independence and freedom. Most stay until eighteen, which means you go in those gates as a child and leave as an adult. There are lots of other great and awful things about being 8-12: you’re big but not big enough to do most of the things you’d like to do. You have a strong sense of justice but you’re too young to change the world. You aren’t as crippled with self-awareness and peer pressure as teens so you’re freer to an extent, and you’re more interested in discovery rather than what you look like or who’s got their eye on whom. I’d much rather go back and be eleven than fifteen. It’s a great age. Just give me a bike and I’d be off.
Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. As if her name made up for being tiny, half Japanese and half Italian, and starting a new school with a caveman phone. Dream on! But the hardest bit about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and if he isn’t coming back, she’ll have to sort things out another way. And Amber has a big imagination.
Excerpt from Dream On, Amber
Bella came in wearing her matching pink nightdress, pink dressing gown, and pink slippers with Hello Kitty all over them. I just don’t get why people like Hello Kitty. I know it’s Japanese and supposed to be kawaii (cute) and everything, so maybe I should like it, but it’s just a picture of a cartoon cat’s head. I mean, seriously, what’s the big deal?
Bella’s hands were behind her back like she was hiding something. She looked much happier than she did when we got home from the party. She moved her arms to the front and handed me a sealed envelope.
“What’s this?” I asked, putting my sharpener down.
“Can you mail it for me tomorrow?”
I looked at the front of the envelope. There was nothing written on it.
“But it’s blank, Bella.”
“Who’s it for?”
“None of your beeswax, Mrs. Nosy Pants.”
“Um…okay. So you…you want me to put it in the mailbox?”
“Yes, Amber. Duuuh. That’s what mailing means.”
“But how is the mailman going to know who to give it to if it has no name on it?”
“Oh,” she said, frowning.
She lay down on her belly on the floor and with her red crayon from the dollar store (well, she wasn’t borrowing any of mine), she wrote on the front of the envelope: “TO MY DAD.”
I looked at her.
“Shush,” she said. “Just mail it for me.”
“But there’s no address on it—”
“The mailman will know where he lives. He knows where everyone lives.”
“He won’t know where Dad lives. Nobody knows where Dad lives. Not even Mum.”
“Didn’t I say ‘shush’? I’m sure I said ‘shush.’ Just mail it for me. Pleeease, Amber.”
I sighed. What was I supposed to tell her? She was too little. She didn’t get it. So I took it and put it on my desk, just to make her happy.
I know I shouldn’t have done it and it’s probably against the law and everything but when she went out of my room, I opened it.
My nam is Bella and Im your dorta. My bithday party is on Sunday 16 Speptmbr and I rely want you too come. And I neid you to play with me in the park and posh me on the swing. Please come home
P.S. Please buy me a perpel Swatch wach and Sparkle Girl Julerry Makar for my bithday.
I didn’t know what to do. Obviously, I wasn’t going to mail it without an address on it. So instead, I put it in my secret place. If you pull the bottom drawer of my dresser all the way out, there’s a space under it on the floor where I put my most sacred things. I had a coin that I found in Hyde Park that I’m sure is Roman or Viking and one day I’m going to sell it and get mega rich. I had a few other cool things in there too. Some of them are embarrassing, like key-rings I made out of lanyard strings when I was, like, seven and valentine cards my mum sent me. Stuff you can’t exactly throw out but really don’t want anyone to see. The letter wasn’t one of my sacred things but where else was I going to put it?
I also had a picture of my dad holding me when I was a baby that I sneaked out of Nonna’s album. Obviously, we have a whole bunch of photos of him in that album, but I wanted one for myself. One of him with me. Just to prove to myself that he did actually exist and hold me once, and he even looked proud. I don’t look at that photo much because it makes me angry. I know it doesn’t make sense to keep it, but there you go. Not everything makes sense. If it did, he would never have left in the first place.
There was another knock on my door, so I quickly closed the drawer.
“Hang on… Okay, you can come in now.”
Bella stuck her head in.
“When do you think he’ll get it?” she asked.
“Well, they have to find him first. It’s not easy, you know. It takes teams of detectives months to find missing people.”
She walked in to my room and said, “Oh,” and did that thing where she points her toes inward and puts one foot over the other, like her toes are hugging.
“Do you think he’ll get it before my birthday?”
“I don’t know, Bella. I don’t think so. But if by some weird miracle he did get it before then, I’m sure he’d come to your party.”
Bella unhugged her toes and put her hands on her hips. “Amber?”
“How do you know I want Dad to come to my party?”
“Well, it’s kind of obvious, Bella. You did ask if he’d get it before your birthday.”
“Oh,” she said, frowning. “Hmm. Well, okay.” And she skipped back to her room.
The letter wasn’t my biggest problem at that point. I was so worried about starting my new school in the morning that I couldn’t get to sleep for ages. When you can’t sleep, your mind starts going a bit doolally. Well, mine does anyway. I start thinking all kinds of crazy things. And eventually the problem with Bella and her letter worked its way into my churning brain.
It was kind of mean and everything but there were times I really wished Bella wasn’t my sister. But knowing there was a huge hole where our dad was supposed to be wasn’t much fun either. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could do something about it. I could save Bella from years of torture with one quick solution.
It seemed straightforward enough.
I decided to pretend to be my dad and write back to her, you know, to make her feel better.
And that was it.
The most ingenious idea I’ve ever had lit up my mind like a firework.
Win a copy of Dream on, Amber by clicking on the link HERE