New Writers Awards 2015: Claire Squires

Claire Squires

Children's and Young Adult

Claire Squires is Professor of Publishing Studies and Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling. She was born in Lincolnshire, and has studied and worked in York, Norwich, London and Oxford before moving to Glasgow in 2009.

She is a judge for the Saltire Society Literary Awards and Publisher of the Year Award, and previously worked at Hodder Headline publishers. Her academic publications include Marketing Literature: the Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain and Philip Pullman: Master Storyteller. She regularly speaks about publishing to audiences in Scotland and beyond, tweets from @stirpublishing and @clairesquires, and blogs at http://centralbeltshuffle.wordpress.com/ Her website is http://clairesquires.com/.

She is currently working on her first YA novel, set in a city very loosely inspired by early twentieth century Glasgow.

 

Writing sample

 

The rope came slithering down, and jumped once, twice, three times.

‘All clear. Aly, on ye go.’ The man tied the rope around her middle. He nodded at her. ‘Keep movin. Yer eye will ken where yer next hold is.’

Aly set off up the building, following Murdo’s route through the dark night to the top. She found footholds in the ironwork, and crannies for her fingers on the ears and lips of the statues. Her body warmed to this new movement, as she stretched and levered herself upward.

After five minutes, she reached the final plinth. Murdo was waiting, sitting astride the statue, his hand extended to her. ‘Naw bad for a beginner,’ he said as he pulled her up. ‘And how do ye like ma hippocamp?’

‘Yer what?’

‘Hippocamp. A sea horse. Look.’ From inside his tunic, he took out a small metal tube. ‘Ah’ll show ye wi ma flashlight.’ He pressed a switch on the tube. A dull beam of light came out of one end.

‘What’s that?’ asked Aly.

‘Electricity in a tube. Very useful for explorin the heights.’

‘Aye, right enough. Show me this sea horse then.’

Murdo shone the flashlight on the statue. A horse’s head, proudly pointing westwards. The body of a fish, with a long tail of a thousand scales. Wings of a dragon. The rope she had climbed up with was looped around its neck.

‘Naw bad. What’s it for?’

‘This is the fish merchants’ buildin. Ye can smell it, naw?’

‘Aye. It’s makin me hungry. Let’s get on wi the metallin then.’

With the flashlight, they soon found their way to the metals, and pulled off all the strips they could carry. ‘There’s good pickin here,’ said Aly, her eyes large with their findings, and her stomach with the fish suppers they would equal once they’d sold it.

‘That’s enough,’ said Murdo. We should get down now. It’s best not to take too much at once.’

They tied their findings to the rope, and gently lowered them to the men waiting below. ‘Right, Aly, get down sharpish. Ah’ll just stable my hippocamp. Gi the rope a tug when yer done and ah’ll follow.’

Aly began her climb down, feeling more than seeing her way to the top of the ladder. She glanced back up at the boy above her, balanced on the hippocamp’s back, his white face distinct against his black hair and the dark sky.

 

Claire says:

"My first reaction on finding out about the award was: WOW! REALLY? WOW! I should add, in slightly less excitable terms, that I’m delighted, and honoured, to receive the award: it’ll give me both the support and the push I need to finish my book, and plan for those that hopefully will follow it. But actually, the first reaction still stands: thanks, Scottish Book Trust!"

 

Writing advice

‘Here we say that life is a cliff, and you must never turn around and look back when you’re climbing.’ (Paul Bowles).