The Spark Gap

The Spark Gap11+ years (Young Picador)

Shortlisted for the Angus Award

'This book is lifted from the excellent to the magnificent by her real talent to tell a story.' Valerie Bierman

'excellent' The Scotsman

'highly charged' Carousel

'tightness, pace and individuality....an exciting new writer.' The School Librarian

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The Spark Gap is the story of three homeless teenagers who live rough on the open rooftop of a Glasgow towerblock. Kerrie, who cannot face life with her chaotic mum. Mauve, the brilliant and mysterious artist. And Skip, a strange, silent boy whose most treasured possession is his sparkly. Together, the three castaways experience the adventure of their lives..........

The Story Behind the Story

One grey day I was walking past a shop window that seemed to be full of glittering rainbows! They were actually sparkly laser discs and they were so stunning I bought one. On the way home I suddenly seemed to have this strange boy living in my head. His name was Skip, he was all alone and homeless and his most precious belonging was his sparkly. I rushed home and began to write! Page 54-58 of the book shows how I turned this into fiction.The next part of the book was 'sparked' by the primary 7 pupils I taught in a school in Glasgow. Many of them lived in the Red Road flats - gigantic towerblocks that were right beside the school. One stormy day when the towers were swaying in the wind (and I was praying they wouldn't topple on us all) the children told me how things would tremble and shake inside on stormy days (see page 6 of the book) Then I spotted people on the open rooftop of a tower. They'll get blown off, I thought. The children said these were the rooftop dossers, homeless people who lived there. You could see their bonfires at night.....all of a sudden I knew that's where Skip would live. Right on the top of a Glasgow towerblock!  

One day a girl in the class was crying. Michelle lived with her gran because there were all sorts of problems with her mum. But her gran was ill and Michelle was terrified that if she died she'd have to live with her mum. She said she'd rather run away than go back to the kind of life her mum lived. Michelle's gran was all right in the end but afterwards it struck me how this nice young girl could have ended up on the streets. And that gave me the idea for Kerrie's story. Kerrie's gran does die and she ends up on the roof with Skip. (Incidentally Shell, Kerrie's friend, is exactly like the real Michelle. Sarah and Janis are real too)

Over to you......

Imagine this. Kerrie, Skip and Mauve live on a rooftop but in real life many homeless children live in rubbish dumps, in sewers, on the streets, in doorways, trees and squats all over the world....... Imagine living such a life. Write about one day in the life of a young homeless person anywhere in the world. How do they survive, cope, feel? Who do they meet - friends and enemies. Write about how one individual came to be homeless - someone in your neighbourhood..... or someone in India or Brazil. Each person would have a very different tale to tell. Try this with a group of friends and compare stories.

Write about what happens to Kerrie, Skip and Mauve after the book ends. Imagine a scene a year on when they get together and share their stories.Or write a letter from one to the other. Do you have a lucky talisman like Skip that makes you feel safe? You could build a story around that.

Compose a song that Skip and Kerrie might make about being rooftop kids - if you're not musical you could get together with someone who is, or write lyrics or a poem.

Design a new cover. My publishers are about to 'rejacket' the book. Can you create a newand better cover? Perhaps with a 'sparkly' design or a starry rooftop scene........

Find out more about young homelessness. There are countless homeless people of all ages all over the world. Research the homeless situation in your area, in the UK, across the whole world...... Organisations like Shelter and Oxfam can give you information. Debate what can and is being done by our government and world governments? Is there anything you can do - as an individual, with a group of friends, as a class, a school, a family?

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