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?

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Stories and Salamanders

Thank you to everyone at Willingham Primary  School for making me so welcome at your school when I came to visit last week. I had a great day working with all three Y3/4 classes as well as with a lovely mixed-age group in the morning - where we got to work spinning tales of adventure and magic using my newly created Story Factory - modeled here by Scruffy. Scruffy comes along on all my school visits to dispense cuddles and perform as Drift's stunt double. Well done, everyone, for your brilliant imagination and enthusiasm.

And a huge thank you to Willingham Parish Council whose generous donation to the library funded the visit, and to Cambridgeshire Libraries who organised the event - complete with a display of my books at Willingham Library - and especially to top librarian, Wendy Law, for making sure that everything ran smoothly on the day.

The Mystery of the Black Salamander was the basis of the Y3/4 workshop - might just explain why I have a salamander on a stick in my pocket!

Lovely readers after the book signing. Drift is ready for his basket after a very busy day.

Monday, 18 March 2019

World Book Day Round-Up

Lucy as Emily Wild, complete with investigation kit
Thank you for sending in your fantastic pictures of Adventure Island World Book Day costumes - I loved seeing them.

and  a brilliant Drift badge

Lola as Drift, with perfect face paint - one black ear, one white with brown spots!

I had a great week, with visits to some of my favourite schools.
Here are a few of the things I got up to . . .
Tuesday at Litcham School in Norfolk
Led a workshop on travel writing with a Y8 group. Students pitched their ideas for new travel books based close to home, including, Rubbish: One student's quest to throw a piece of litter in every bin in Norfolk and Dave: One student's quest to meet every man called Dave in South West Norfolk.  Then we journeyed farther afield. Inspired by extreme quests like Tony Hawkes' Round Ireland With A Fridge, how about From Little Mileham to South Africa with a Sloth but no Sugar. Playing the part of editor, the ideas were so great, I commissioned them all, and sent everyone off on their imaginary travels with super-generous imaginary expenses. I really enjoyed running a poetry workshop on the theme of Home with a Y7 group too - so many great ideas and lots of thoughtful, interesting work. Well done, everyone!

There is a lovely write-up of the visit on the Litcham Library blog. Thank you for your kind words, everyone!

Wednesday at Princethorpe Junior School in Birmingham (by video!)
Recorded a video to play in the WBD assembly tomorrow, announcing the winners of their hundred word story writing competition and reading out the winning story. I got to growl in the voice of a monstrous brute with the head of a lion and the body of a bull and wave a sword around. Well done, Logan! Logan's story can be seen on the Story Showcase on the Young Writers page. As an extra prize I'm going to write a short mystery featuring the winning children as the intrepid investigators.

Thursday at Coton Primary School near Cambridge
Almost cried in assembly.  As the children began singing I am the Lord of the Dance I was ambushed by the accumulated memories of the long-ago nativity plays, harvest festivals and leavers' assemblies I attended when my sons were there.
Helped a Y3 class invent tarantula cars and hedgehog bikes and unicorn planes and a supercars called the Lamborghini Big Pancake.
Met aY3 girl- called Emily -who had dressed up as Emily Wild. As if that was not enough joy, her little brother in Y1 was dressed up as Emily's dog, Drift!

Meet Drift the dog!
Friday at Kensington Primary School in Liverpool
Accompanied the head and seven children - one winner  per year group of the 'design a book cover for your favourite book' competition - to choose their very own book prize in lovely Liverpool Waterstones.
Created dangerous writing suspense scenes with Y6 - including much discussion of hero cats, killer hamsters, ninja dogs, being sucked into TVs, exploding cities, failing WIFI signal . . . the list goes on!

Saturday at home
Collapsed in a heap on the sofa . . . with a good book of course!