The picture at the top of the blog is an arch made of elk antlers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, America. There are four arches, one at each corner of a grass square. I’ve put it on my blog because it’s a clever and creative idea.
So… I’m back on to the post-it notes… again. Sigh! The blue ones are where I’m about to make more changes to the characters’ journeys. I do enjoy this process. Honest! Because each time I rework the book it improves. It’s running at 63,000 words at the moment.
I have a busy month. I’m at Bishop Stortford College, St Joseph’s Catholic School in Bracknell and Great Hollands Primary also in Bracknell doing writing days with the whole school.
One of my favourite things about February are daffodils and the start of spring. What’s your favourite thing?
2018! Where did 2017 go to?
One thing I have decided to do this year is explore London. I’ve been given a book with walks to take from tube stations, telling me which buildings to look at and where good museums, art galleries and attractions are. The photograph at the top of this blog is when I went on the London Eye. There are so many interesting things to do!
I have two lovely schools to visit this month. On the 17th I go to Manor Farm in Hazlemere to work with pupils from several schools for the day. We’ll be thinking about how to make characters jump off the page and publish a paragraph we’ve written and edited then edited again.
I’m working with pupils at St. Andrew’s Prep School in Pangbourne on the 29th. Again, we’ll think about characters and planning stories. I’ll tell pupils what I do when I am writing. At the moment I’m working with teachers at both schools to make sure we have really good days.
I’ll bring Us Minus Mum and Milkshake Detectives with me – £5 each or £9 for both.
I am really looking forward to working with you all.
As I write this blog, Liverpool are playing Manchester City and the match is being televised. We get on really well with our neighbours. They support Liverpool and their tv is on the wall joined to our living room. I love it because in my head I fill in the commentary, depending on whether there’s shouting, screaming, groaning, yelling or cheering. I think the score is currently 3-1. There is great excitement next doors!
4-3 final score! Even more happiness…
December is probably the busiest month of the whole year! We have the whole family coming to stay so there will be ten and a half of us. Our grandchildren love being together (they’re aged 1, 2, 4 and 4) and I’ve stocked up the freezer with treats and yummy food. I enjoy opening Christmas cards and thinking about friends I haven’t seen for a while and catching up with what they are doing.
On Christmas Day, two of our grandchildren created a carrot forest as they helped me get the vegetables ready for Christmas dinner.
As a family we celebrate Jesus being born in the stable all those years ago as much as we do all the other traditions associated with Christmas. Here’s one of my favourite baubles on the Christmas tree. It’s from Guatemala inn Central America. What do you have at the top of your Christmas tree? We have a snowman which was given to us by a very dear friend and an aeroplane which is there simply because going in aeroplanes is exciting!
I loved it when it snowed. It was the best kind of snow; here for a few days so we could enjoy it then washed away by rain. It was great seeing people building snowmen. Wouldn’t it be fun if snow wasn’t so cold, though? We could stay out in it longer.
Enjoy the month and the season. Be thankful and look after everyone you’re with… and happy new year. I’m welcoming the new year in with friends from Japan so I’m looking forward to finding out about Japanese traditions.
The picture above it from our model railway in our loft. We are building a castle out of old boxes and a kit we bought from the internet. Bert’s Butties sits just behind where the castle, when it is finished, will be positioned.
After a month of not doing much writing in October, I’m back in the flow again. I have changed one of the characters because he didn’t quite work. I’ve made him tougher at the beginning and softer at the end. In a book, characters need to go on a journey to show they have changed. Drill certainly does now!
I spoke at Child Bereavement UK’s schools conference in Guildford a few weeks ago telling teachers about Helping Children Think About Bereavement, a book I wrote several years ago. The hotel where the conference was had an amazing bookcase in its foyer that went from floor to ceiling.
I also went to a wonderful afternoon tea with Mary Berry that the charity was running. The food was amazing – little sandwiches, scones, chocolate éclairs, strawberries, cakes, meringues, quiche. Thank you Child Bereavement UK! I wish some of our American friends had been visiting us because they love afternoon tea almost as much as I do!
I’ve also been to see Paddington 2 which is brilliant. There’s not a shot wasted and the dialogue is wonderful. If you haven’t been to see it yet, I really recommend it!
The photograph immediately above is of me on our granddaughter’s trampoline. I love visiting her and her family in Manchester.
This month felt very disrupted because we arrived home from America to find a flood in one of our downstairs rooms. We have had to dry the concrete floor and get rid of the carpet. We normally keep the wifi router on top of the freezer but had to put it on a stool while we moved the freezer over the carpet. This is the first time we have been flooded. It’s horrible! I never realised how long it takes to dry everything out. Grrrr! Next time we go away, we will switch the water off. BUT… if I ever put a flood in a story, because I am writing about something I have experienced, I shall include loads more details about it.
We had 2 of our grandchildren to stay and took them to the Science Museum in London which was great fun. Their favourite place was where concave and convex mirrors on the wall made them look slightly weird. I look weird as well!
So I haven’t done much writing this month. Sometimes it’s good to have a break. I’ll return to the story with fresh eyes in a few weeks time.
I love doing new things. One of the best new things I have done this month has been to volunteer at the World Rowing Championships held in Sarasota, Florida. I arrived just as Hurricane Irma was sweeping though the state. The plane from London to Tampa, which is an hour’s drive north of Sarasota, could seat 299 passengers; but there were only 75 of us on it because of the gathering storm. Hurricane Irma was scary with wind howling at 90 miles an hour. We prepared our ‘safe room’ – our built-in wardrobe – which had no windows, so if any windows were broken, we’d still be safe – with cushions, snacks and lots of water. We had our passports and other documents in waterproof plastic bags, too. In the garage we also covered the back of our car with old carpet then wheeled it against the garage door and put the brake on. This is to stop the door being blown in by the wind. When the storm arrived, the palm trees had a good workout bending this way and that and rain was horizontal at times. We were very glad that Irma had become a category 2 storm by the time it reached us so there was lots of debris from branches and twigs that needed sweeping up afterwards but minimal damage – though some of our friends came to our condo to eat and shower and charge their mobiles because they had lost electric power. We had a lot to be thankful for.
A week later the rowing started. I was helping look after the desk at the tent where journalists and television crews worked. I also helped photographers go to the correct place (inside the little white fence) when they were taking photographs of the end of the race All the volunteers wore orange tee-shirts, white caps and lots of sun screen. Rowers are incredibly strong, work in teams and really do look after each other. In this photograph of me standing between Moe Sbihi MBE and Will Satch MBE, they were not standing on anything and I haven’t shrunk – they’re just six feet six inches tall! The photo at the top of this blog is me with the BBC commentating team – Dame Katherine Grainger, Sir Steve Redgrave and Mathew Pinsent CBE.
While I’ve been out here I’ve done some writing as well. I’m still not happy with my book – so I wrote the most important things that happens in my story on post-it notes and taken out some things that don’t quite work and written new bits. My husband helps me to do this as he is a scientist and very logical. He usually suggests I take ideas out to make my plots simpler. And better!
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.
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.
The photograph at the top of this blog is from my trip to Venice. I loved how everything was carried round the city in boats!