I went to London last week and loved seeing the street theatre in Covent Garden in London. This entertainer climbed up his ladder, which had no supports, and quoted Shakespeare as he did. It was slightly bizarre and very relevant because I was on my way to see Hamlet at the Harold Pinter Theatre. It was THE best performance of Hamlet I have ever seen. Andrew Scott was magnificent as Hamlet and got madder and madder as the play developed. My friend, Madeleine Appiah was acting in it as well. We cheered like mad when she took her bow at the end. Madeline’s at the top of this month’s blog.
I enjoyed a holiday in Bakewell with all my family. It was nice to have a break; I’ve been working on a proposal for a picture book. Lovely to work with a creative senior commissioner. We sit in a coffee shop and play with ideas that might , or might not, work. The sky is the limit as far as ideas go, but they have to fit with what the audience will hopefully be.
And the sun has shone once or twice, so that has been very exciting! I hope it’s shone where you have been as well.
The photograph at the top of this blog is of the beautiful Grand Tetons in America. So amazing!
I like July! The weather usually behaves itself and everyone is getting ready for holidays. This year has brought some special excitement though because Us Minus Mum has been translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil by Nova Conceito. In Brazil, Us Minus Mum is called There Will Always Be You.
I had a lovely day at Disraeli School in High Wycombe where I’m writer-in-residence. I was at Woodside Juniors in Amersham and Ofsted inspectors decided to visit as well.
Have good summer holidays. I’m looking forward to reading some books including Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent for my book group. I’ve started it and so far I’m really enjoying it.
There are lots of places on the amazing planet where we live that are spectacular. I visited several of them in America a few weeks ago when I went to the Grand Canyons, Monument Valley and then Yellowstone Park. The photo above is of me at Monument Valley with huge sandstone rocks standing out in the desert.
Bison wandered along the road as we drove round wonderful scenery – mountains covered in snow by lakes.
We kept our eyes wide looking for a moose. According to the internet there are only about 250 of them wandering round a huge, huge area; so the chances of us seeing one was pretty slim; but on our last day, we came across this…
If you look carefully at the bottom of the strut holding the bridge up, you can see a baby moose. It had walked across shallow water to the middle of the river, but then became too scared to move. We watched two rangers and a sheriff rescue it. Using a raft, the rangers rowed out to the baby moose. It saw them coming and tried to get away, heading for the deeper water behind the strut. The rangers plunged after that little moose and rescued it, bringing it to land. They wiped it in a towel, took photographs of themselves with it, then let that baby moose loose near where it’s mum was. There were about 20 of us watching and we cheered. It was a really special half an hour with a happy ending.
I am sure that moose will appear in a book somewhere!
Now I’m getting back to work now, working on a picture book for 3-5 year olds. I’m enjoying thinking of families who will appear in the book and how each person in the family does things different things. The little toddler does cheeky things all the time. He appears on every page and reminds me of my grandchildren! I love this stage of working on a book proposal.
I took the photograph at the top of this blog in Venice where I was a few weeks ago. Everything is transported on the canals in boats. It’s a fascinating city that has lots of masks being sold like the ones in the photo
What a great school I visited the other day – Woodside Juniors in Amersham. I talked about how I think of ideas for stories. Sometimes I think of a story and know what is going to happen in it straight away (like with Us Minus Mum). Other times I take random things that happen to me and use those as my starting point – as with The Milkshake Detectives. About 60% of the children at Woodside Juniors said they thought they’d choose to use random objects to start writing.
They asked me some great questions as well; like which is the funniest book I have written (has to be The Milkshake Detectives) and has my writing changed. It has changed; it’s improves as I learn more and more about plotting and writing every time I write a book. My favourite character is still Ryan in The Milkshake Detectives. It used to be Theo and George – a joint first – in Us Minus Mum, but Ryan beats them. Just!
I was sorting out some photographs the other day and came across this one from when I led a family writing workshop at Scargill near Skipton. A space ship landed with a clutch of aliens who escaped and Bob the Builder turned up and… the children had to write about what happened next.
Enjoy May. It’s a lovely month and we should see some sunshine which would be nice!
I have just joined a book group. I’ve been meaning to be part of one for ages, but now I am. Six of us read The Help by Kathryn Stockett then we met to talk about it. I found book reviews on the internet. It was interesting reading other peoples’ views. The book is set in Mississippi in the 1960s and comments written by people who were alive then were fairly critical. Interestingly, people who weren’t old enough to remember, nearly all thought it was a wonderful book; but we had a really good discussion about it in our book group.
I like April because the dreary winter days disappear; and this year we spent a few days in Venice in Italy. It’s a beautiful city and there aren’t any roads, just canals, water taxis and stunning buildings. We visited museums and art galleries and I took so many photographs it was ridiculous. I loved going to the glass works on one of the islands. The flowers in this photograph were made out of glass. A lady stood patrolling them in case anyone got too close and broke them. When I took this photo, she crept forward and told me to keep back from them. The day before, three flowers had been broken and she didn’t want any more being damaged. There were lots of masks for sale, like these. The Venetians used to wear them.
On Palm Sunday we went to the English speaking church and joined in the service with palms and olive branches being waved, remembering when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. It was a very special service; the church was full and everyone sang really loudly.
Remember to look out for details about what is happening around you. I was very struck by all the sounds we heard in Venice – water, pigeons, tourists speaking every language under the sun, boat engines; and no car engines. I rather enjoyed that!
What a glorious start to March, being involved in schools doing exciting things for World Book Day. I loved the schools I went to in Dartford, Hemel Hempstead, Bristol and Poole. Thank you for inviting me!
We made up stories, I heard children read, answered great questions about what it’s like to be a writer and it was lovely to be part of some great school communities.
I was also working with Author In Me. Children come for 6 weeks and write a story which is then designed and published by Author In Me. The books look great and the children were really proud of what they wrote.
And the weather has improved! Yay! I can go out in my garden and not shiver; but more exciting than that is… my book has gone off to Penny, my agent. All 61,000 words of it. By the time it was finished, I was so ‘inside’ the story I could think of little else. It’s done though, and now I have to wait and see what Penny thinks of it.
Enjoy whatever you are doing and remember – keep observing and being nosey!
I’m hoping you have avoided catching any colds or coughs. They’re not nice!
The photograph of the owl at the top of this blog is outside the wonderful Disraeli Primary School in High Wycombe where I visited on Thursday 19th of January. http://disraelischool.co.uk/
I love being writer-in-resident there as the children and all the adults are great to be with. It’s a fantastic school. On the 19th they held a Reading Day, thinking about the books, the words in them and why we enjoy the plots, what makes a good book and who writes them. It was all based round The Very Hungry Caterpillar and I love that book! I created stories with each year group about the caterpillar and there was a before-school breakfast where over 100 parents and children ate hungry caterpillar food and read books together. After school I spent time with parents and carers talking about how important reading is and how to help children get better at it. Fantastic day!
I’m also helped my sister move house this month which we tried to make a fun thing it do. I was in charge of food unpacking boxes. My sister knows I’m nosey and knew I would enjoy doing that…
I am dropping two photographs in as I write. Can you work out what they are?
I have finally, finally, finally… finished a draft of my new book and am happy with it. I will still read it through once more before I send it to my agent, but after three years and a lot of hard work, I am now really pleased with the ‘upgrade’ I’ve given the Granny Rose. She is no longer a quiet mouse but a feisty campaigner who waves protesting bill boards and shouts about what she believes. I love the new Granny Rose! She has never spoken out before but now has a view on everything that is going on around her. She’s grown from a cub to a roaring lion and beware anyone who doesn’t treat her with respect!
I don’t think I’ve ever made such a drastic character change before. I liked Nana in Us Minus Mum, but Granny Rose in this book is better crafted and has more details to bring her alive. It was Penny, my agent, who suggested changing Granny Rose. Fantastic advice!
So now, Dangerous Friends, as it’s working title is, is printed off and my husband will read it and be super-critical. He is a film-maker, sees everything as if it is a scene in a film and will help me make the story even better. He’s a bit like when a teacher reads your stories and suggests ways to help you get better at writing.
Meanwhile, I am having a whole month off writing to give my brain a break. To start this I went to The Imperial War Museum in London to their exhibition called Real to Reel – A Century of War Movies. I was struck by the incredible details movie directors write down before they started filming. They know their characters as well as I try and know mine.
So – back to the photographs. A friend had sprout pizza (yes, you did read that correctly) after we watched Fantastic Beasts (loved the special effects) and another friend had these letters in Scrabble to make words out.
So November is here and the weather is changing. Taking photographs at this time of year is great because there are so many wonderful things to see. I do enjoy wearing wellies! There’s a child in me that loves splashing through puddles.
We were in Manchester recently and went on a walk to Dunham Massey which is a National Trust Park. Someone has carved beautiful flying animals in wooden pillars. I loved this kingfisher, dragonfly and the owl at the top of this post.
Meanwhile, I am doing a lot of writing. My book is AT LAST starting to come together and problems I had getting the plot to work are being sorted. The characters have more depth to them as well. I’ve been working on this book for three years now – I’ve done other things as well, but keep returning to it. I really want to complete it by the new year.
Meanwhile, enjoy whatever you are doing today and keep writing about interesting things you notice.