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.
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.
The picture above is of a starfish I saw on a beach; perfectly made and just sitting there waiting for me to photograph it!
My garden was great right through the summer. This is the view from the seat I sit in when I am writing. A squirrel keeps planting acorns all over the lawn. He bounces along the top of the fence then drops down and digs up the grass. He’s great to watch while my brain is thinking about which word would be the best one to use.
I love leading writing workshops and did one at the youth club my church runs. It was great to do. We divided a piece of paper in 6 . Each section was a paragraph and each paragraph had a different object that had to be used. The 6 objects were a purple duck, an umbrella, a bath, a banana, keys and a rocking chair. We laughed a lot as we made up the stories.
If you are at school, enjoy half term at the end of October. I shall be catching up with some friends and going to see my family in Sheffield and Manchester. I also have a caption competition to judge for Pilot Pens in Bourne End in Bucks. I’m looking forward to doing that.
And the weather will be getting colder as well… but will it snow before Christmas?
So a new school year has started and lots of people have new shoes and new uniforms and new teachers. If you are at school, I hope you like your teachers! I like September because it means Autumn is on its way. I love Autumn colours as trees change colour and lights are lit and the weather changes. I love walking through leaves and scrunching them under my wellies.
I have a busy September visiting schools in Hemel and High Wycombe doing writing days. Then I’m going to Florida for a writing break to carry on working on my next book. I need to concentrate on the characters, giving the reader more details about them. Lucille, my main character, doesn’t always behave like an eleven year old should. So I need to think if/whether/how an eleven year old would react. I’ve not looked at the script for four months, so I know I will come to it with fresh eyes.
While I’m in Florida I’m speaking at Ringling College of Art and Design‘s programme of author sharing their work, which I am looking forward to. The picture at the top of this blog is a banyan tree. Its roots grow up instead of down. One day I might well use banyan trees in a story. Or I might use this boat that was blown on to the beach during a hurricane a few years ago. I wondered who owned it and how they went about trying to find out where it was.
Whatever you are doing this month, remember to keep looking at things and thinking of questions because it’s questions that often start really good stories!
August is one of my favourite months. My birthday is at the beginning and then there are holidays to go on with the family and friends to see and books to read and the garden to enjoy.
Stella made this beautiful fairy out of a leaf and brought it to show me. I thought it was a very clever idea.
Yesterday I went to the Serpentine in London with some friends. Birds were playing musical chairs on the posts sticking out of the water, as in the picture at the top of this blog; and there was an art exhibition by American artist, Alex Katz. I liked how he created paintings that let my imagination ‘see’ things in the picture. What do you see in this?
I shall also continue working on my next book. Having decided my main character would be better being aged 11 instead of 9, I need to check that she thinks and speaks like an 11 year old all the way through. At the moment, I don’t think she does; but she will by September!
Whatever you are doing, enjoy doing it and if you read any books, have a think about whether the characters are like anyone you know.