Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Out Of This World Library Event

Cambridge Central Library was a buzz of bookish activity on Saturday - even more than is usual for a
busy library, that is.

An entire chapter of authors and illustrators gathered for the SCBWI* Local Author event to meet readers, read stories, and run craft activities and workshops. There was a great quiz and a raffle too, and a chance to buy books and have them signed by their creators.

*SCBWI=Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (a.k.a. an all-round good thing).

I had a very lovely afternoon catching up with author/illustrator friends, meeting young readers and their families and running an action-packed creative writing workshop in conjunction with Camilla Chester (fantastic author of Jarred Dreams, Eats and Thirteenth Wish).

To tie in with the Space Race theme of this year's Summer Reading Challenge, the workshop was all about writing stories that are out of this world . . . using a snakes and ladders board template to come up with characters goals and obstacles for a space quest story. The super-imaginative group of kids and adults came up with some brilliant ideas - including the main character - Embers Marshmallow, a girl with fiery superpowers.

It was lovely to see a little girl called Maya win copies of Time Dogs (complete with a fluffy collie puppy) in the raffle, and to be able to sign the books for her. I hope she will enjoy them.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in organizing this brilliant event, which is fast becoming a favourite fixture in the Cambridge children's literature calendar!  Special mentions to organiser-extraordinaire, librarian and SCBWI member, Anita Lehmann, SCBWI regional network organiser, Debbie Edwards, all the library staff who helped, and to Heffers, Cambridge (in the person of Clair!) who ran the book stall.

Predictably, I came home with a bag of new books by my SCBWI friends!

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Storyteller Update

My last post was all about The Storyteller - the interactive story-writing show on BBC Radio
Lincolnshire that I've been involved with.

Back in July I was interviewed on the show by fantastic presented, Ella Wydrzynska, and the first chapter of the story - written by me - was read out.

Since then, five more great authors have featured on the show, and each has added their own amazing twist to the story with a new chapter. There will be ten in total and in a moment of madness, I've agreed to write the last chapter and try to tie everything together -  it's going to be quite a challenge as the story has gone inter-galactic (literally!)

If you'd like to listen to the story so far, you can find all the chapters here.

It's impossible to summarise . .  The adventure starts out  with our main character, twelve year old James, in the sewers beneath Lincoln, but soon involves an inter-galactic band of talking animal super-heroes including Frank the Tracker Badger,  Trevor the Crocodile and Gerald the Mouse, who are fighting an an evil pan-dimensional being who is trying to destroy our world (as a school project), James's friends Freya and Jayden, a race to find three magical rings, being trapped in a video game . . 

You can have your say about what should happen next by listening on Sunday afternoons at 2pm and texting in your suggestions. Just don't come up with anything TOO crazy, otherwise I'll have to deal with it in my final chapter . . . who am I kidding? Feel free to come up with the craziest thing you can think of . . .

Friday, 19 July 2019

The Story Teller

I'm delighted to have been invited to appear on BBC Radio Lincolshire this weekend as a guest on a new show called The Story Teller.

The show is hosted by Ella Wydrzynska, the winner of a fantastic competition called Be The One. Contestants had to pitch their idea for a new show and present a sample episode. First prize was to make the whole ten-week series for broadcast.

Ella's concept, The Story Teller, was a show all about stories, books and reading for children - a subject close to her heart, as she is studying for a PhD in children's literature at Nottingham University. Ella proposed to interview a different writer each week, and - the fun part - to ask each writer to come up with a chapter for an interactive story - based entirely on suggestions sent in by listeners!

I'm sure you'll agree it's a great idea. Luckily the judges agreed, and Ella won first prize.

Ella wins the prize! (photograph, BBC Radio Lincolnshire)
I was so happy to be asked to take part in The Story Teller.  I've known Ella for a long time. Ever since she was in sixth form and did a course with the amazing Villiers Park and I was an on-line mentor - someone that students could ask for advice or feedback about the careers they were hoping to move into - creative writing/publishing in this case. Over the years, we exchanged e-mails, discussing ideas and options. I really did very little, other than stand back in admiration, as Ella's determination and creativity led her from success to success; from degree to Masters to PhD. Alongside her academic studies, Ella has also built up an impressive portfolio of experience in student radio - which leads back to the Radio Lincolnshire competition.

So, this Sunday I'm off to Lincoln to be on the show. I'm really looking forward to chance for a good old discussion of children's books. Not least, because I have never actually met Ella in person - although we've chatted by e-mail all these years!

And then there is the interactive story element.  I have the job of writing the first chapter, based on audience suggestions from last week. I won't give too much away, but let's just say that it will feature sewers, a talking crocodile and a dog called Skipper. I've decided that Skipper will look a little like this:
Skipper ready for adventure (photograph from American Kennel Club)

Tune in on Sunday to find out what happens . . . I'll be on from 2-3pm.

If you've not heard of Villiers Park, do have a look at their website to find out more. They are a charity committed to equality in educational outcomes, access to higher education and careers across the UK, with more than 50 years' expertise, working with 2,000 young people each year.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Time Dogs Have Landed

Today my author copies of Time Dogs 1 and 2 arrived.

Nothing beats the feeling of seeing stories that
have lived in your head and in notebooks and in files on your laptop transformed into real books. These are extra-special because they are my very first hardbacks. They are beautifully designed and feature gorgeous illustrations by Misa Saburi on almost every page - she has a lovely style - the pictures are sweet and adorable at the same time as being elegant and timeless. I'm very lucky and grateful to have been able to work with the amazing Laura Godwin and her team at Godwin Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

I loved writing these books. They combine just about all my favourite things; history, adventure, friendship - and, of course, dogs.

If you would like to see an excerpt of the books you can read the first few pages on the Macmillan Kids website.

-An exciting new illustrated chapter book series for dog-loving readers!

 Time Dogs 1. Balto and the Race Against Time

When a pack of senior dogs find themselves transported back in time—and turned into puppies!—they must make their way back home, helping real-life historical dogs along the way.
In this first adventure, meet Baxter, Trevor, Newton, Titch, and Maia—the time dogs!—as they find themselves transported through time and space to 1925 Alaska. There, deep in the wilderness, the puppies must help Balto in his famous sled race to deliver medicine during a diphtheria outbreak.

 Time Dogs 2: Seaman and the Great Northern Adventure

In this second adventure, Baxter, Trevor, Newton, Titch, and Maia—the time dogs!—find themselves transported through time and space to 1805 on the Missouri River. There, deep in the wilderness, the puppies must help Seaman, the dog of legendary explorers Lewis and Clark.

The books will only be available in the US to start with, although you can order them via Amazon and other international suppliers. Paperback editions will be published next year. They are also available everywhere on Kindle.

Maia was very impressed.

Storm not so much. I'm a dog, missus, I can't read. Can't you see I'm busy having my afternoon nap?