Monday, 23 August 2010

The bit that got away

Some things just can't be squeezed into a book. However much you want to fit them in,they just fall out in the editing process.
Almost True is about to be published - September 2 is the official launch date,although some bookshops and online booksellers have it already,so I thought I'd introduce it with a few posts - and in this first one,tell you about the bit that got away.
It came from my brother Alun(he's very clever and exceptionally well-read) who, after I'd told him the title of the book, said 'Of course! I didn't realise you were quoting Philip Larkin.'
Of course I didn't realise either. But once I'd read the poem,I was determined to fit the last two verses in somehow. Unfortunately I never found a convincing way to do it. Ty and poetry didn't seem to mix. So,reluctantly,I left them out.
The poem is about two stone effigies of medieval figures,found at Chichester Cathedral, lying hand in hand. Larkin found them 'extremely affecting' and wrote An Arundel Tomb about mortality and love - asking what is left behind when we die. Typically, Larkin's 'almost instinct' that love survives us is only 'almost true'. Strangely,it turns out that the stone statues he admired were replaced in the nineteenth century,and the grasped hands were a Victorian addition. So the poem gained another layer of 'almost truth'.
I'm just going to quote the last two verses in isolation,because they work so well with When I was Joe and Almost True. So many words - identity, helpless, hollow, unarmorial,smoke, untruth, attitude, fidelity - resonate with my books. Even 'scrap of history' is not a bad way of summing up fiction which borrows from fact. I get a lump in my throat every time I read these lines.

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

You can read An Arundel Grave here

Friday, 20 August 2010

Figment of the imagination

One of the best thing about writing for teens is meeting lots of teens who love to write. And my goodness, they are talented - from published authors like Hannah Moskowitz and Steph Bowe, to the many others who are pretty sure to be published sometime soon (Hey, Amna. And Hannah. And Joe)
Anyway, in the States there's a new website being set up for teens who love to write and read and share all this stuff. It's called and you can sign up for the beta site here.
I wrote a piece for their blog - all about why I wasn't a teenage writer (well, I was really, but I was a teenage reporter which is subtly different.You can read it here.
They make fab videos at figment(checkout their version of Breaking Dawn) and in honour of When I was Joe they've made one about Britishisms. Naturally I don't understand a word.
Most excitingly of all they are running a writing competition based on the theme of Witnessing Secrets,which I'm going to judge. Sign up to enter.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Advice from an A level failure

I screwed up my A levels quite spectacularly. In fact my results were so unbelievably bad that I couldn't quite take them in. I remember blankly looking at the paper - 29 years later I still can't bring myself to tell you just how bad they were - and then trying to get back to sleep, in the vain hope that it was all a horrible dream.

A levels have changed a great deal over the last 29 years, but they are still the main measurement tool used to judge whether British school-leavers will make it to university, which one and which course. Today's the day that pupils get their results - in a climate in which the odds are stacked against them. 'Who'd be 18 today?' asked a newspaper headline earlier this week, and with universities cutting budgets and course places, tutorial and living costs rising and jobs being cut everywhere, it's hard to disagree. Even good grades are no guarantee of a university place and career success nowadays.

When the news that I'd failed my A levels sank in, when I realised I wasn't going to take up my place at university, I felt like my life had ended. But, you know what, it hadn't. I got through it, and it worked out. I got a job as a messenger girl on a newspaper and that turned into a successful career as a journalist. Failing my A levels undoubtedly sharpened my elbows.

But there are a few things I wish someone had told me at the time.
- Exam results do not define you. Your success or failure in life cannot be measured by grades. From now on, you set your own goals, and you gauge your own success.
- You can learn from poor results. Maybe you picked the wrong subjects, were at the wrong school, had poor teachers or had insufficient study skills. Perhaps deeper emotional factors held you back. Take a bit of time to think and talk these things through. Take failure seriously, but view it as an accident that can be avoided in the future, not a life sentence.
- Don't dismiss other opportunities. It may seem so shattering to fail to get into the university of your choice to study the subject of your dreams, that every other option seems tainted by that bitter feeling. But there may be plenty of excellent options available. Consider vocational training or part time study. Look at what's available through clearing. Alternative does not mean second-best. One friend of mine accepted a place through clearing, had a blast at college, went on to post-graduate study and a high-flying career as an economist. She ddn't let dropping grades at A level and not getting her first choice course stand in her way.
- Consider the Open University. The courses are well designed, the tutors are excellent, there are study centres, day schools, residential courses. You can study part time, you can take gap years, you can build a multi-disciplinary degree. More and more young people are studying through the Open University, combining it with working.
- Think about volunteering or working overseas. You're young, you're free, you can do anything. If Britain's short on opportunities, try elsewhere.
- You can still succeed at exams. Just because you didn't do well at these exams, does not mean you have to avoid all exams, or you will automatically fail everything. A few years ago I sat an Open University exam and achieved 93%. This is not because I am some sort of genius, or worked especially hard. It was completely down to a truly outstandingly excellent tutor, who in the course of a day school in Brussels taught us exactly how to revise for that particular exam.
- Many many areas of life have nothing to do with A levels. They don't measure your success in friendship or love. They don't measure your creativity, adaptability, ambition or business ability. It may be that slipping off your planned path will help you discover your other strengths.
- Don't envy your friends who are going off to uni. They will not learn as much about themselves as you will right now (hard to accept, I know, but true).
- No one will remember. The only people who remember that you had to change course or retake or whatever are the ones who never achieve much after their A levels.
- It's never too late. I picked up my studies with the Open University in my mid thirties. I've had to put them on hold for the last few years. I'm definitely going to get my degree though, even though I might be 60 by the time it's complete.
- Keep a diary. One day you'll look back on your current despair and wonder what you were worried about.
- Ignore the critics. Older people are very disrespectful towards today's teenagers, often suggesting that academic standards have dropped. They rarely understand how courses have changed and why. Pay them no attention.
- Stay calm Really the best advice I have ever had. During life's stresses and catastrophes, fretting and panicking just makes things worse. Yes, feel disappointed, yes, get angry and upset. But try not to worry. Things have a way of working out.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Books for the boys

Are the right YA books out there for boy readers? How can writers engage with boys, and get them to read more? Is it true that boy readers feel excluded by writers and publishers?
This debate has been rumbling in the blogosphere for some time. First the immensely talented US writer Hannah Moskowitz wrote a post suggesting that too many male characters in YA are stereotypes. ‘Boys don't read YA,’ she said, suggesting that older teen boys pass straight onto adult and non fiction. She suggests that boys in YA books have been stereotyped and sanitised, ‘stripped of substance’ in order to empower girl readers. Her solution is to ‘Write, publish, and promote books with real boys….three dimensional and relatable.’ Science fiction and fantasy, in particular.
Then US fantasy writer Tamora Pierce responded, pointing out the large number of male American YA writers and defending her choice of strong female characters. ‘There are still more books for guys out there than there are for girls. It's fine that people write guy heroes. But please don't knock those of us who know that being a girl, and a woman, is a lifelong fight, on the shelves and off.’
And now British writer Rhiannon Lassiter has posted a very thoughtful response, pointing out that the problem is more about reading vs non-reading than perceived gender difference. ‘The accepted wisdom in publishing as I’ve experienced it is that girls and women are enthusiastic readers, regardless of the gender of the protagonist; boys and men are reluctant readers who are only willing to read books about boys and men having adventures. My own experience suggests that contempt for reading in teenagers is much more a construct of exaggerated gender roles in society than any gendered antipathy. Both women and men can fall into the trap of wanting to appear anti-intellectual.’

As someone who’s written two books from a male point of view and just finished (yay!) the first draft of a third written with a girl narrator, here’s my take on the subject.

- Creating truly realistic three dimensional teenage characters is difficult if you want them to be sympathetic. The real master of this is Melvin Burgess, his Doing It is the best representation I’ve ever come across of real live teenage boys, and many teenage girls (and indeed some boys) would find their casual sexism totally repulsive. Equally, creating a real teenage girl – sometimes selfish and unreasonable, prone to mood swings and tantrums - comes across as demented and obnoxious on the page. So complete three dimensional realism may need to be somewhat watered down unless you wish to alienate your readers.

- In the UK there’s less of a distinction between ‘middle grade’ books for younger teens and YA books for older ones. Everyone tends to be lumped together as 12 plus. Many bookshops shelve their teenage books next to the picture books. What self-respecting teenage boy is going to be seen browsing there? Not many, I suspect. No wonder teens turn to adult and non-fiction books. Why not shelve older teen books alongside the adult books. Then older readers might buy them too. I’ve seen this done - at Deansgate Waterstones in Manchester, for example.

- Booksellers, librarians, publishers, writers – please stop thinking that books must divide into boys’ and girls’ books. Aim to attract readers, not put them off.

- I get more direct emails from girls than boys. I got more comments from the mothers of boys than girls, thanking me for getting their son reading. Booksellers tend to categorise my books as ‘boys’ books, because the main character is a boy and because there is blood on the cover. The girls tend to mention the love story element of the book...and several have said that they picked up the book because of the gorgeous boy on the cover. Not one boy reader on hearing that the next book is about a girl has said ‘I won’t be reading that.’ Of course they may be being polite. But I tend to think that readers who enjoy character-driven books like mine, don’t give a toss about gender.

- There’s a lot of competition for teen readers’ attention. Computers, television, gameing, sport. Plus in the UK older teens now have three years on the trot of important life-changing exams, plus essential on-going coursework as well. Teenagers’ lives do not have a lot of space for reading, and the national curriculum mostly ignores the potential of reading for pleasure. So anything is helpful which challenges the current culture and reminds teens that reading can be fun, interesting, comforting, helpful and mind-expanding. Reading groups in and out of school. Author visits to schools. Teachers and librarians who read contemporary YA literature and enthuse about it. Parents who take an interest too - without telling kids what they ‘should’ be reading. All of this helps the non-readers, whether boys or girls.

All this and more was up for discussion at an event I took part in last week at Piccadilly Waterstones, discussing life after vampires with fellow authors Tabitha Suzuma and L A Weatherley. Tabitha’s powerful story of consensual incest Forbidden has just been published (powerful is hardly the word, the book is so intensely affecting that I took days to recover). Lee’s new paranormal romance Angel is out in October, sounds fab and is being tipped as the next big thing. She made the point that the current craze for 'dark romance' has helped give books like hers a platform - something to remember when those of us who don't write paranormal romances are whingeing about the shelf space and marketing spend they get in the wake of the Twilight phenomena.

The audience was packed with publishing folk and booksellers – taking part in a new children’s book forum set up by Piccadilly’s own Nicole Burstein, a bookseller full of the kind of intelligent enthusiasm that warms an author’s heart. Any teenage boy who thinks they don’t like to read should immediately be marched down to Piccadilly and presented to Nicole, who will doubtless find him a hundred books starring both boys and girl characters.

Some books we discussed were the immensely successful Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - a dystopian tale with a strong female main character Katniss, and two somewhat idealised male love interests - Gale (strong, dark, silent, moody, good at hunting) and Peeta (blond, sensitive, loving, artistic, long lush eyelashes and good at making cakes). Catching Fire, the second in the series was marketed in the UK with dual covers - one with a quote from Stephen King, another with a quote from Stephenie Meyer. It’s worked - Mockingjay, third and last in the trilogy is the YA publishing event of the month and I’m among the millions of readers who can’t wait for get my hands on it.

Is that because of the marketing, or the gender of the characters? I think it’s just a good read. But what do boy readers think? I'd love to know.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The smashed lamp

Today's guest post is written by my husband and the managing director of a hotel in north-west England.

Dear Guest Services Manager

I stayed in one of your apartments last week.
I had a pleasant stay - unfortunately shortly after I arrived, I
accidentally knocked over a bedside lamp which fell to the floor and
smashed. I accept that I should be liable for the cost of replacing it,
providing that's a reasonable amount.
I was astonished to be informed by your reception staff that I would be
liable for a £40 replacement charge
I have the same lamp at home, so I know that it's an Ikea Kroby lamp. I
checked the IKEA website and found that its current cost is £11.95. This
means that you are charging me an additional £28.05 over and above the cost
of replacement - a mark up of approximately 250%.
I can understand your charging a few pounds to cover additional costs, but
250% of the cost of the item is wholly unreasonable and excessive.
I paid the £40 before I left on Sunday - I'm asking you to refund that
amount (less the £11.95 cost of the lamp plus, say £5, to cover your
administrative expenses).
I'm a regular visitor to XXX and it's likely that I'd stay at XXX on future occasions. However, as I've said, I was shocked by this
punitive and disproportionate breakage charge. If we were unable to settle
this matter amicably, I would not feel inclined to make a reservation with
you again.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Dear Mr XXX

Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to me for a prompt response. I am glad you enjoyed your stay in XXX and welcome your comments.

The charge of £40 for the lamp covers both the lamp itself and the costs associated with replacing it, the charges are clearly displayed in the guest directory in all of my apartments. In addition to the lamp cost, one of my team also need to spend their time going to Ikea to purchase the replacement with a round trip time of at least two hours and associated fuel costs. The apartment also would have been out of action until the damaged lamp was replaced, again bringing with it an associated cost of between £79 - £299 / night.

I appreciate that the damage to the lamp was an accident and thank you for your honesty is reporting the incident, however I am afraid that the £40 standard charge stands and will not be refunded.

Kind regards,

Dear Mr XXX

Thanks for your prompt reply.

I'm afraid that none of the reasons that you give for a breakage charge of 250% over and above the replacement cost of the lamp are valid.

I arrived at the apartment on Friday evening. I knocked over the lamp shortly after I arrived and immediately reported the damage to your reception. One of your maintenance staff knocked at our door at 9.30am on Saturday morning having brought a replacement lamp with him. As IKEA XXX does not open until 9am, we can perhaps agree that a special trip was not necessary.

I'd imagine that you have replacement lamps available on the premises for just this eventuality. I'm not surprised by that as I'd expect any well run property to plan for a certain level of wear and tear and accidental breakages.

I checked out on Sunday morning so the apartment was not, at any time, 'out of action' and your company did not incur any loss of rental.

Given these particular cirumstances, I'd ask you to reconsider your decision. I'd be sorry if you were unable to do that, as I'd like to be able to stay at XXX again. I wouldn't feel able to do that if you insist upon a charge which, given the specific factors I've described, is not proportionate to the loss incurred by you and which I therefore consider to be wholly unreasonable.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Kind regards

Dear Mr XXX

I would very much appreciate a response to my mail below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Dear Mr XXX

The matter is closed and the published charge for damage charged stands.

Kind regards,

Dear Mr XXX

I am sorry to hear that.

I can only tell you that I consider the egregious breakage charge made by your company to be a form of theft.

I will never stay in one of your properties again and I will advise my family and friends to do likewise. I will also review my recent stay with Trip Advisor and similar websites making clear my dissatisfaction.

I provided you with a detailed explanation of why this charge was unjustified,. You have responded in a discourteous and unreasonable manner, The damage to your company's reputation and loss of future revenue will be greater than the cost of rectifying your error of judgement.

Kind regards

Dear Mr XXX

Your email is rude and threatening – remember it is you who damaged my property not vice verce.

You damaged hotel property. You have been charged the published fee for this damage.

Please do not sink to the depths of threatening me with reviews – as you are aware we are one of the highest rated aparthotels in the country, and were actually recently presented with an award for being one of the top 500 hotels worldwide based on guests feedback and reviews. Please also remember that all review sites have a right of reply / management response facility. I will happily pass your emails onto the review sites to support my case following your damage along with photographs of the damaged property.

Having reviewed your guest history, I can see that you also threatened my staff during a previous stay and insisted on a refund for parking charges. It therefore seems clear that you habitually seek areas for complaint to facilitate refunds. I have to say that out of the 80,000 guests I have staying in my hotels every year you are one of the most unreasonable.

May I recommend Travelodge or Premier Inn for your future hotel needs as I understand they offer a full money back “Satisfaction Guarantee” as I am sure you will wish to take advantage of this.

Your email address has been removed from our offers database, you have been marked as barred from all of my hotels.

Kind regards,

Dear Mr xxx

I'm somewhat surprised by your intemperate outburst. You claim thousands of delighted customers, yet you feel threatened by the prospect of one poor review. There appears to be some inconsistency there.

Your comments are offensive and slanderous. I have never,on any occasion, threatened your staff. I did politely request a parking refund in 2008 because all the spaces in your car park were filled and I had to pay for parking elsewhere. Your staff were happy to sort that out and the matter was settled perfectly amicably. I've always found your staff to be helpful and I have no complaint about them.

My only problem has been with the extortionate amount charged for a broken bedside lamp as well as your rude and deeply unpleasant behaviour when asked to justify an unreasonable charge comprising 350% of the replacement cost of the item.

Being barred from your hotels is no problem for me. In fact, I'd be grateful if you'd send me a full listing of your apartments and hotels. I'd like to ensure that I avoid, even inadvertently, ever setting foot in any of them.

I've travelled extensively for business and leisure for the past 25 years. I've stayed in many different hotels and apartments. During that time, I've never before encountered a hotelier who feels that it's acceptable to treat customers with aggression and contempt. There's clearly a first time for everything.

I very much hope that our paths never cross again.

Kind regards

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A book for Ramadan

My last post was about learning about other cultures through books, and the book that I've learned most from in recent months has been Boy vs Girl by Na'ima B Robert.
Na'ima's book wasn't teaching me about far-away countries though, but about people I see every day, British Muslims.
One of the things that has shocked me about returning to live in the UK has been the amount of blatant Islamophobia expressed in the media. Just in the last week I've read snide comments about halal meat being on offer in London schools, seen an item on television in which white Christian school children were completely negative about sharing a classroom with Muslim teens, and then there was this article in the Independent, in which the writer's rhetoric was breathtakingly, unashamedly offensive. I wrote a response in the Jewish Chronicle here.
So, in these bigoted and ignorant times, hurray for a writer who reaches out and portrays a faith and a culture as well as Na'ima does. Boy vs Girl is set around the Islamic Ramadan period of fasting and prayer - a period that is just about to begin - and it focusses on a girl's spiritual journey as much as her romantic life - a slant that is so unusual in teen fiction that it made me think a lot about the narratives that we writers offer young women.
As I was reading it I noticed so many similarities with my Jewish family, and I learned a great deal about Islam and Pakistani culture, but never felt that the story was overtaken by the message. Na'ima has a way with description that makes you feel as though you are right there in the kitchen, school or mosque with her characters.
Most of all I was struck by the strong female characters, particularly the niqab-wearing auntie who, I suspect, may well have a great deal in common with Na'ima herself. In an age when wearing the hijab and niqab are so often portrayed as demeaning to women, it was challenging and fascinating to read about a girl deciding whether to embrace modesty, as a step towards self-determination.
I asked Na'ima to write about this aspect of her book for my blog, and I'm so happy that she agreed - at what must be very busy time for her. Thanks Na'ima!

I am delighted to have been invited by Keren to contribute to her fantastic blog. Let me just say something right now: I am a serial failed blogger.I have tried and tried, without any kind of sustained success, to maintain a blog that will connect me to my readers, explore the process of writing a book and discuss the books that my readers and I like. My attempts have been, in a word, pathetic. So, I have decided to accept that regular, faithful, monogamous blogging is not for me - and have decided to be a carefree, swinging blogger instead, writing several guest posts for other 'real' bloggers who make the YA blogosphere what it is. Bless their typing fingers. :)

Onto the subject of this post, which Keren has kindly allowed me to write about: my new book Boy vs. Girl. In a nutshell, Boy vs. Girl' tells the story of a twin brother and sister from a Pakistani family who are about to embark on their first true Ramadan - but find that their old lives, friends and enemies, won't let go so easily.

But Boy vs. Girl is about a lot more than that. There's inter-generational strife, communal prayers, graffiti artists, a forbidden romance, gangs, fights, drugs and loads of Indian/ Pakistani food too!

Keren and I had good fun comparing notes on Muslim and Jewish culture, interfering aunties and different levels of religious covering. Because religion, identity, covering and the idea of female empowerment (and where such empowerment originates) are central to the issues that 'Boy vs. Girl' covers.

There's Farhana, a gorgeous, popular 'A' student who's had her heart broken and is inspired to make this Ramadan really mean something - to fast, pray, be a better Muslim and wear the hijab, the headscarf. Because, contrary to popular belief, Ramadan is not just about fasting, not eating from sunrise to sunset: it is a time for spiritual growth, purification and reflection. Not typical YA fare, I know, but stay with me here.

One of Farhana's biggest influences is her Auntie Naj, a nose ring-wearing, Mini Cooper-driving, university educated 'niqabi' (someone who wears the face veil). But Auntie Naj is not what she seems either - does dressing as she does make her a conformist? Or a rebel? A chequered past and an unusual choice of husband may provide clues to that question.

Then there is Farhana's mother, traditional, conservative, but totally opposed to the hijab and niqab. The standards she has set her her daughter involve plenty of restrictions and talk of an arranged marriage, but she is not willing to accept her daughter's more orthodox interpretation of their shared Islamic faith.

Are Farhana and Auntie Naj those much sought-after 'strong female characters'? I think they are, albeit not in the traditional sense.

These are women who engage with their principles and religious faith on their own terms, who are prepared to risk censure and ridicule to practise it as they see fit, who won't be put off by peers or authority figures, not even the words 'I love you' from a gorgeous guy with a voice like melted chocolate.

In a world of bare-all starlets, boy bands and Botox, maybe a story in which the female characters are not obsessed with make-up, making out and choosing between a vampire and a werewolf might just prove to be a breath of fresh air ...

Find out more about Naima on her website
See the Boy vs Girl trailer here
Check out her first YA book here
And you can buy Boy vs Girl here

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Sizzling sausages, tossers and trousers - Transatlantic translation.

Is your book being translated into American? It's a question I’ve been asked a lot recently, as the US publication date of When I Was Joe approaches.*
No, I say, absolutely not. ‘Are you sure?’ people reply, ‘But will they understand it? It’s so….well, British…’
And now an American reviewer, for the prestigious Kirkus Reviews has raised the same point. ‘The staunchly un-Americanized text results in some odd, culturally specific references that could confuse some readers unfamiliar with the milieu: Kissing Ashley makes Ty's body sizzle like sausages in a pan, for instance.’
Although he likes the book enough to call it ‘a fast-moving page-turner …a complex, engaging read,’ the reviewer did worry that what he calls Briticisms would act as ‘speed bumps’ slowing down American readers. And clearly he did become a little confused himself, thinking that Ashley was Ellie’s sister.
Obviously I am proud to be staunchly un-Americanised (please note that I spell it with an ‘s’, not a ‘z’…which I pronounce ‘zed’, rather than ‘zee’). I was, after all, the mother at an International School who sent a pompous note to my daughter’s teacher asking that her spelling list be altered to include the ‘u’ in ‘neighbourhood.’ It was partly my experience of living in an international community in Amsterdam, where gradually you ease ‘Briticisms’ out of your speech for ease of communication, that made me revel in writing such an uncompromisingly British book.
But I don’t want American, or other readers, to sweat the speed bumps. Those metaphorical sausages for example. They are sizzling because they are being fried. In a frying pan. Which Americans might call a griddle. They are not frankfurters being boiled in a saucepan. Their skins could explode at any minute. I hope that’s now perfectly clear.
I would never have imagined that sausage cooking methods would create cultural confusion. And I find it hard to work out which words are staunchly un-Americanised and which are universal. Luckily the very wonderful Anne M Leone, an American writer based in England has made a list for me(see below) Print it out please, US readers, and keep it at your side as you read When I Was Joe.
But, if you can’t do that, don’t worry. I feel the Kirkus reviewer may underestimate American teens. After all British readers cope fine with references to bathrooms, vacation, proms and sophomores. We’re not too bothered by sidewalks and drugstores.

I much prefer a book where the language reflects its setting to one which has been blandly set in a mid-Atlantic Anywhere. We can't all travel to other countries. We can read books from all over the world.

Anyway, at least I have avoided the confusion caused by Louise Rennison where, in one of her fabulous Georgia Nicholson books, she refers to ‘a chav lighting up a fag.’ No…don't worry Americans...not that kind of fag!**

Those un-Americanised ‘Briticisms’ translated:
Canteen - cafeteria.
Custard creams – very nice biscuits. Unless stale. Whoops, sorry…very nice cookies.
Crisps – chips. And when Ty talks about chips he means fries.
Football - soccer.
Asda – Cheap supermarket.
Tesco – Slightly more expensive supermarket.
Newsagents - place to buy newspapers, magazines, cigarettes (aka fags) and candy...which we call sweets.
Petrol bomb A very basic explosive device. Petrol is gas.
Flat - apartment.
Soppy – silly, girly, sentimental.
Trousers - what do you mean they don’t have trousers in America? What do they call them? I don’t know… like jeans but not made of denim. Oh hang on! PANTS! Snigger, snigger.
Naff – poor quality and a bit stupid
Mobile phone – cell phone? Is that what they’re called?
Fry up – lots of fried food altogether on one plate - sausage, bacon, egg, tomato, mushrooms..
Chemist - pharmacist or drugstore
Cheque-book - check book
Open University - fantastic institution in the UK through which you can study for a degree by post.
Fringe – hair that’s over your face. They called them bangs in Anne of Green Gables, so maybe that’s the word still used.
Nadine Coyle Singer in Girls Aloud. Very big in the UK. Google her.
Year eight, year nine….I know this! Grades 7 and 8.
High street - Main street?
Semi - a semi-detatched house - two houses stuck together.
Estate – A council estate is an area of social housing provided by the local government. About to be abolished by current British government as far as I can see. But you can also have an estate of private housing.
Heavies – big scary thugs,
Mates - friends
Loo – toilet (is that an American word?) Thing that you use when you go to the bathroom, that isn't a bath.
Reception (at St Luke's) Pre-K.
Queuing This was the word on Anne’s list that made me fall around laughing…they don’t know what queuing is..hahaha…It’s waiting in line. Ancient British tradition.
Stodgy – full of carbs. Heavy on the stomach.
Athletics squad - track team.
Council - local government. Also about to be abolished by current British government, as far as I can see.
CV - resume
Dodgy – errrr…I need the context, but illegal, criminal, dubious should cover it.
Biscuits - cookies.
Girls Aloud - I thought they were universal! Girl band. Google them.
X Factor - British version of Pop Idol.
Bugger – Literally sodomist. Just a mild expletive.
Rubbish tip – errr…garbage dump? Landfill?
Alcopops - sweet drinks that are surprisingly high in alcohol content.
Solicitor - a kind of lawyer.
Chav - British word for ‘working class person that I despise, even if I am working class myself’
"Grass me up" - tell the police about me.
PSHE - personal, social and health education. Where they teach you about puberty,
Snog - kissing +++
Tossers –literally masturbaters. Means idiots.
Trainers - running shoes.
Chuffed - pleased
Prat - stupid person
Poxy – need context, but generally bad.
Bollocks – literally testicles. Means rubbish.
PE kit - things you wear for sport.
Narked - annoyed.
GCSE - a very important exam you take when you are 16.
Candyfloss - cotton candy
Slapper - promiscuous girl.
Craig David – has-been singer given to wearing hats and shades.
Aggro - aggressiveness.
Telly – television.
"They got no bottle" No bottle = no courage.
Minger Ugly girl. Pronounced to rhyme with singer, not ginger.
Knickers - panties. Is that what Americans call them?
ASBO – Anti-Social Behaviour Order. Given to badly behaved people. About to be abolished by new British government.
Pram-face - Rude name for teenage mother
Git - Just an insult.
GBH -Grievous Bodily Harm. One step down from attempted murder.

*Published in the US on September 2!! Whoo hoo!
** Many thanks to Emily Evans on the Facebook page for giving me this anecdote.