Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Awesomest Kids of All Time

Only a few people ever achieve Awesomeness. And most of those few achieve it later in life, after years of trial and error. A tiny percentage, though, and I’m talking like 0.0000000001% are born Awesome. This post is about them - people that achieved great things before they were old enough to celebrate with a glass of wine.

My latest book, Make Me Awesome is about Freddie; a kid who, for all his positive attributes, was not born Awesome but tries his damnedest to achieve it. He signs up to dodgy life coach Chuck Willard’s Complete Road to Awesomeness Program, but he doesn’t need to bother. He could just take inspiration from these Awesome kids.

Gabrielle Turnquest

Imagine being the cleverest kid in school. Now imagine being so clever, you start studying for a degree when you’re fourteen and graduate when you’re sixteen. Sounds mad, right? But that’s exactly what Garbrielle Turnquest did. And there was me thinking I was a big deal for drawing the best picture of a horsey.

It was the best day of Year Ten.

And that’s not the end of it. After she finished her degree, she went to law school and at eighteen, became the UK’s youngest barrister in six hundred years. When I was eighteen, I was working in an Argos and holding ‘Who can burp the longest competitions’ with my best friend Barry. I mean, yeah I won, but it’s not exactly a law degree, is it? Now I think about it, I should probably take the certificate down.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Now, I’m not exactly a cultured person. I mean, I always get Mozart and Beethoven mixed up.

I don't know why. Beethoven's a big, slobbery film dog.

And I shouldn’t, because Mozart was pretty special in his own right. By the age of four, he had already mastered the piano and the violin and had composed his first concerto. That’s right, a concerto. I couldn’t even manage London’s Burning on the recorder when I was four. Come to think of it, I still can’t.

By the time he was six, he was playing for the Emperor, and at nine, he was in demand all over Europe. He was basically the Justin Bieber of his day. Only less annoying.

It’s often said that young Wolfgang was pushed to success by his father, also a keen musician. Which is pretty much the same as when you see Dads screaming at refs at football matches.

Lil Poison

Do you like playing computer games? Do you find yourself gaming when you should be doing homework? Well what if I were to tell you that you can make it your JOB?

That’s exactly what Lil Poison (real name Victor De Leon III) did when he was just six years old. He became so good at Halo that a gaming league signed him up to be a professional gamer. He competed in worldwide tournaments, placing second out of 550 at the Halo 2 FFA tournament in 2003.

Now, I’m not much of a gamer, but it’s bad enough when some teenager whoops me at GTA, never mind a seven year old.

Lil Poison might seem like a strange choice for this list, but he’s as good a choice as anyone. Just because he’s not an academic or musical genius didn’t stop him from making his passion his job. And if that ain’t Awesome, I don’t know what is.

Stevie Wonder

Now, you might know Stevie Wonder as a smiley old fella sitting behind a piano, but he has been in the game since he was knee high to a grasshopper, scoring his first number one hit aged thirteen in 1962. At that point, he’d already been signed to the legendary Motown records for two years, recording, touring and writing songs.

He began playing music at an early age, mastering the piano, harmonica and drums, as well as possessing one of the most recognisable voices in pop history. And he did it all despite losing his sight as a baby.

Stevie is Awesome because he overcame tremendous obstacles to become one of the greatest musicians ever. To quote Mr Wonder himself, ‘Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.’

Malala Yousafzai

The story of Malala Yousafzai is one of the most inspirational you will ever hear. As a child, she was a tireless campaigner for the rights of girls and women in her native Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan. She kept an anonymous blog for the BBC, detailing life under the Taliban, who banned girls from attending school. When her identity was revealed, she began publicly advocating for female education and was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.

However, the forces she was speaking out against were displeased, and sent death threats to Malala. When they didn’t stop her, a Taliban gunman boarded her bus and shot her, the bucket passing through head and neck.

Thankfully, after extensive medical treatments in both Pakistan and the UK, Malala made a full recovery and continued her fight for justice. In 2014, she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and is currently studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University.

So there you have it, my list of Awesome Kids. I hope you enjoyed it. Now of course, the idea of this wasn’t to make you feel bad – I mean, I didn’t do anything close to what these guys achieved when I was a kid. Heck, I still haven’t. I just wanted to show that Awesomeness comes in all shapes and sizes, from being good at music, to computer games to standing up for what you believe in. You can even be Awesome just by petting a dog or helping an old lady across the road. Make sure you do that the right way round, though.

Make Me Awesome is out now!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Poem for Shakespeare

One night I was suffering with writer’s block,
As I sat down at my desk.
Every idea dashed on the rocks,
Like the Marie Celeste.

At 2 a.m I couldn't sleep,
So went out for a drive.
I thought that maybe it would keep,
My writing muse alive.

I parked up in a lovely town,
On the banks of the Avon.
Instinctively, I headed down,
To the place that was a haven.

The house that birthed an icon,
Stood there in front of me,
I pressed my hand against the stone,
And prayed for ingenuity.

I felt a tap upon my back,
 And a voice said, ‘Beg your pardon.’
And then I turned and saw him,
The son of Mary Arden.

His skin was ghostly pale,
Under the Stratford moon,
And he smelled like ancient ale,
Served in an old saloon.

‘If thou hast any sound,’ I said,
‘Speak to me, dear ghost.’
He replied, ‘Indeed I am dead,
And now I am your host.’

‘I can tell that thou art wrestling,
With the written word tonight.
And I’m thinking that the best thing,
Would be to let me help your plight.’

Shakily I handed him,
My latest manuscript,
 And with his ghostly hands so grim,
He flipped and flipped and flipped.

He looked at me when he was done,
And said, ‘I guess it's fine.
And while it might be a bit of fun,
It's not a patch on mine.

Your writing style, well it's OK,
I mean, it isn't bad.
But if you want punters to pay,
You'd better make it sad.’

I must have looked at him askance,
And in a confused state.
Because then he took a rapping stance,
And went on to elaborate.

He said, ‘My sad plays bring all the boys to the Bard,
And Hamlet? It's better than yours.
King Lear? It's better than yours.
I could teach you,
But I'd have to charge.’

‘Charge? I said. ‘How much do you want?
To teach me all your tips?
I'd pay a lot to hear that gold,
Spilling from your lips.’

He said, ‘I'm down from Heaven for the night,
And soon must return to it.
I don't want to make your wallet light,
So I reckon a tenner should do it.’

Eagerly I handed him,
His bargain of a fee.
Then he yelled, ‘Look behind you!’
And ran away from me.

I chased him right across the town,
And into a shop he flew,
Where he bought a bottle of Newky Brown,
And a tin of Special Brew.

It was then that I stopped in the yard,
And really had a think.
‘Who'd have thought the Immortal Bard,
Was that keen on a drink?’

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Goodbye to Joe

Well, it's been a long and emotional ride, but this is it for Joe Cowley. Straight Outta Nerdsville is the final book of the Cowley Quadrilogy. (I don't think that's technically a word, but I'm trying to make it a thing.)

I've loved writing these books. Of course, at times it's been frustrating and maddening, but it's mostly been fun. Joe is an extension of me and it has become worryingly easy to slip into his voice time and time a-cocking-gain. I'll miss writing him.

And it's not just Joe, I'll miss Natalie and Harry and Ad and even Joe's ridiculous dad. Heck, even Mad Morris was fun to write.

The best thing about me being lucky enough to put these stories and characters out into the world is the interactions I've had with readers. When the first book came out, I quickly realised that it was never going to be a fashionable series. It wasn't going to win tons of awards and get loads of hype on blogs, or anything like that. But through those interactions, I've discovered that it has been really popular with kids who never got into reading before, and I'm not being disingenuous when I say I'm much happier with that.

I've had emails from parents saying they couldn't get their kids to put down the XBox controller and pick up a book until they discovered Joe Cowley. Some have gone on to be voracious readers and even set up their own book blogs. I heard from so-called 'geeky' kids who said the books made them feel less alone, and from LGBT kids who related to Greeny's struggle. I heard from a mum who said her son's dyslexia meant he found books too frustrating to get into, but in Joe Cowley, he found books he could love. And I hope I'm not being a sappy old git when I say that's worth more than a thousand awards.

When Nerdsville came out, the first review it received on Amazon called it 'drivel' and said it wasn't believable or even readable and that it was as if it had been written by an eight year old. The worst part was how it dismissively referred to the 'reluctant readers' who make up such a large portion of Joe's fans. Now, of course, that stung. When you put your heart and soul and countless hours, days, weeks and months of effort and care into something only to be told it's rubbish, it always will. But thankfully, the response from the die-hard Joe fans, the ones who identified with the characters and did find them believable and were invested in their journeys, has been infinitely better. And that is all that matters.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read Joe Cowley. There are so many amazing books out there, I'm flattered you gave mine a chance. A big thanks should also go to my agent Penny Holroyde who was instrumental in shaping the very first book and has been my rock throughout. (I mean this both in the emotional support sense and in the sense that she's not afraid to layeth the smacketh down.) And of course to my publishers, OUP. I know it's my name on the cover, but there are SO many people that work on a book, you wouldn't believe it. Editors, designers, marketers, probably other people I don't even know about. Also, thanks to Mike Lowery, who I've never met in person, but seems like a cool dude. We're going to collaborate on other stuff after this, too. Oh, and thanks to my family for putting up with me and at least pretending to like the books!

I'm going to write more books, which I hope you'll enjoy, and I'm sure I can sneak the occasional Joe Cowley short story out from time-to-time as well.

If you'd like to get in touch, my inbox is always open at my website or my Facebook page.

Thanks again, old beans. It's been loads of cocking fun.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Vlogging a Dead Horse

Well hello there, you're looking remarkably well. Have you been working out? Me neither.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing this post is to tell you about a new thing I'm doing - Vlogging a Dead Horse - a new series on YouTube about writing, books and whatever else pops into my head. Plus, there'll be all kinds of other surprises and whatnot. 

The first episode is up now and features a WORLD EXCLUSIVE Joe Cowley short story set before the first book. So what are you waiting for? Watch the thing so I can become one of those big time YouTubers like Zoeena or Danzig and Philbert.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My Embarrassing Dad's Gone Viral!


Ben Davis here with a blog about my new book, My Embarrassing Dad's Gone Viral!

It's the story of Nelson - a twelve year old boy whose mum disappears one day, leaving his dad to look after him and his five year old sister, Mary. After a search turns up no clues, Nelson thinks that the best way to get Mum back is to become a famous YouTuber and make enough money so that she'll want to return. However, that plan goes awry when Dad moves the family to the middle of nowhere and enforces a strict no computers or TV rule on them.

Despite that, Nelson continues to secretly make unsuccessful videos until one day, his Dad unwittingly becomes the star of the show and is catapulted to internet fame. Can Nelson get his mum back before his dad finds out just how famous he is? There's only one way to find out!

I made a video about the book for my publisher's sales conference which you can view below:

And to top it all off, MEDGV! has been named a 'Book We Like' by BookTrust (review here) as well as a Young Writers Recommended Read and a Bag of Booklists Book of the Month.

My Embarrassing Dad's Gone Viral! is out now from all the usual places.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Podcast Time!

Hello blog people!

I was recently a guest on the marvellous ThankBookFor podcast. We talked about books, sharks and Marmite. It was loads of fun.

You can listen at or via your preferred podcast-listening app.


Monday, 18 April 2016