Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Father Christmas's Bedtime Reading?

Father Christmas's Bedtime Reading?
The eagle-eyed among you (those of you who have been reading Emily's tips for improving your memory and observation skills over on the Adventure Island website, perhaps!) may have noticed the appearance of a new icon on the front page of my website.

So you may be wondering . . .
"What is wamki?"
Wonder no more!

Wamki stands for "What Are My Kids Into?"

It's a brilliant, fun website with lots of great ideas for books, films, fashion, music etc for boys and girls of different ages - perfect for picking out presents for kids. Also, I would think, great at this time of year for the kids themselves to browse for ideas before writing their letters to Santa!

(I have a feeling that Father Christmas is probably a frequent visitor to the wamki website too!)

So, I was terribly excited and honoured, when one of the lovely ladies behind this great website came to chat to me at the end of my Festival of Ideas talk during half term - she'd come along with her three sons - and offered to feature the Adventure Island books on the wamki site.  (you'll find them in the 5-8 and 9-12 books for boys and girls categories! There is a link there to an incredible bargain price offer on The Book People website - all ten books for 9.99!) 

So a big thank you to wamki for featuring my books.

And if you are starting to think about Christmas presents or have birthdays looming on the horizon, do have a look on the wamki website. Inspiration is just a click away!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Half Term Happenings

Happy Bonfire Night!
There's so much going on this half term week it's hard to know where to start! There's Halloween in the middle, of course, and then Bonfire Night - although not officially until the Monday after half term, most of the events will be taking place at the weekend.

Bonfire Night is my favourite event of the year, after Christmas, with Halloween not far behind!

And this half-term, there are some Adventure Island related events too. On Thursday 1st November, I'll be taking part in the Blue Smile Stories for Smiles event at Waterstones in Cambridge. It's a children's reading marathon over two days, with lots of local authors taking part, all to raise funds for the Blue Smile charity which provides counselling and therapy for pupils in schools between the ages of 3 and 13. 
Find out all about it here.

the bear who guards the entrance
 to the Sedgwick Museum

And then on Friday 2nd I'll be giving a talk at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge as part of the amazing Festival of Ideas - hundreds of free talks in Cambridge over two weeks, on just about every topic you can imagine. The title of my talk is Shady Shenanigans and Dastardly Deeds - I'll be talking all about ideas for the crimes, secrets and misdeeds at the heart of the Adventure Island books - just right for the halloween week! The talk is from 3 to 4 pm - come along if you can - here is all the information about it.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

New Adventure Island Story Writing Competition

mystery solving in progress
Over on the Adventure Island website, the four main characters of the series, Jack, Scott, Emily and Drift, each have their own blog. Readers leave comments and chat about the books and other pressing issues of the day - recent topics have included Olympic heroes, biscuits, going back to school, Dr Who and spiders!

Several of the regular contributors have been asking for a story-writing competition to follow on from the drawing competition earlier in the year, so finally Scott has posted the details . . . I've copied the information below. If you would like to enter, we'd all love to read your story. As well as the prize(s) I will feature all the stories submitted in the Story Showcase on the Young Writers page . . .

Message from Scott . . .
All you have to do is to write a mystery story featuring me, Jack, Emily and Drift  - and anyone else you like too. You can choose one of the following two titles . . .

The Mystery of the Locked Door
The Mystery of the Disappearing Dog

or, if you have a brilliant idea for a mystery story with a different title, you can use that - as long as it goes, The Mystery of the . ...
Maximum length - 750 words
Send your story by email to helen@castlekey.org.uk
You can either attach it as a text or word document or you can copy it into the main part of the email message.
If you want to do an illustration to go with it, that would be great, but we will be judging the story not the picture.
Please state your age in your e-mail and give your first name.
If you win, you will be asked to supply a name and address so we can send you your prize - please make sure that is ok with a parent or guardian before you send your entry in.
The judges will be me, Emily and Jack! We'll pick an overall winner. If we have lots of entries, we might have some runner-up prizes too.
The main prize will be an Adventure Island goody bag with some signed books, a special Adventure Island notebook (just like one that Emily uses!) and an Adventure Island mug.
Deadline: November 30th 2012

So, get plotting and writing! I can't wait to read all the mystery stories that you come up with for us to solve!

Happy writing!

crime-fighting is hungry work!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Going North!

If you are anywhere near Newcastle tomorrow please come along and say hello. I'll be talking and signing books at the Children's Book Fest at Castlegate from 4pm. I can't wait! I have a confession to make. I've never been to Newcastle before. But I'm not going alone. I will have my trusty friend, Terry T. Rex with me. Or, at least, a claw, a tooth and a brain case. I've borrowed him from the lovely people at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge. He's never been to Newcastle either, so we'll be exploring together.

Unfortunately I can only stay one night and won't
get to see any of the other great talks (have a look  to see just what a great line-up they've got!)
I can hardly believe I'm on the same programme as all those amazing authors.

And talking of the Sedgwick Museum, I'll be there on November 2nd giving a talk as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. It's called Dastardly Deeds and Shady Shenanigans and will be all about the different ways to get ideas for stories . . . including The Mystery of the Dinosaur Discovery, of course.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bishops Stortford Book Signing

By Josie Eaton
It's weeks ago now, but what with school holidays and book deadlines, blog posts have got a little lost by the wayside lately. At the end of July I spent a lovely Saturday with the nice people in Waterstones in Bishops Stortford, signing books and meeting lots of young readers.

I had a little competition running, in which I asked people for their suggestions for new mysteries for Emily Scott Jack and Drift to solve - which could be as silly or as dramatic as they liked. The winner was Josie Eaton for her suggestion of The Mystery of the Stolen Puppies. Doesn't that sound like it would make an exciting mystery?  I know Drift would stop at nothing to make sure that those puppies were all found safely! A big shout-out too to Lily for her suggestion of the very intriguing sounding The Mystery of the Broken Door. It was lovely to talk to you both. Josie wins signed copies of The Mystery of the Dinosaur Discovery and The Mystery of the Drowning Man (I'll be in touch soon to arrange to get the books to you!).

Josie is also a very talented artist. She brought in a picture she had done of the cover of The Mystery of the Vanishing Skeleton for me - I think you'll agree it's absolutely brilliant - and such a lovely kind thought to bring me a picture.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Operation Diamond - Winner Announced


It's time to announce the winner of our fabulous on-line treasure hunt, OPERATION DIAMOND that has been running here and over on the Adventure Island website.

We had loads of entries  - most of them with the correct answers too! The winner was picked out from a hat in the offices at Orion Children's Books in London.

And the winner is . . . drum roll please . . .
Rosie Armitage (12) from Bedfordshire!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

And the winner is . . .

Q: What could be more exciting than The Mystery of the Whistling Caves being nominated for a Holyer an Gof* award?

A: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves winning a Holyer an Gof award!

Insert small victory dance here!

My very first book award! Or rather, our award, as it's for everyone who has made Adventure Island happen, and not just for me!

The award ceremony was held at Waterstones book shop in Truro, Cornwall on Thursday evening. I put my party frock on, went along and had a lovely time - it was fascinating to hear the awards for the Cornish language books being made in Cornish, and a

Monday, 16 July 2012

Top Five

Cool trousers, lads!
I love lists! I have lots of to-do lists on the go all the time and often lie awake compiling my list of eight favourite pieces of music just in case I'm ever invited onto Desert Island Discs (not very likely, I admit,  but  there's no harm in being prepared. My selections vary over time but always include Aretha Franklin - Say a Little Prayer for Me, Tracy Chapman -  Fast Car, The Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen in Love With Someone and Booker T and the MGs - Green Onions). I often worry I should include some classical music to show that I'm cultured. But I'm not. So I can't!

A few weeks ago Bookbabblers - a great website all about children's and YA books,  full of author interviews and reviews -  invited me to come up with a list of five favourite books I loved when I was a kid. I cheated shamelessly by including two complete series and all the Rupert Bear annuals since the beginning of time. Even so, it was torture to whittle my list down to five. I've been thinking of all the fabulous books I left out ever since: The Family from One End Street, Five Children and It, The Worst Witch, Watership Down, The Wool-pack, The Secret Garden, The Borrowers, I Capture the Castle . . . the list goes on and on.

Here's the five that did make it onto my Bookbabblers list and also a Q and A.

What would be in your Top Five?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Let's hear it for funny stuff!

Emily, Scott, Jack and Drift discover something
 beneath the snowy mound
As I reported in my last post I was lucky enough to be invited along the Bedfordshire book of the year voting event last month to give a talk and and announce the winner - which was The Doughnut Diaries by Anthony McGowan. I've read it and it really is a laugh-out-loud funny book! I've read lots of articles recently about how funny books for kids are  the Big Trend at the moment - just look at the Diary of a Wimpy Kid phenomenon.
Hooray, I say!
Alongside books that make us think deep thoughts or have a good old cry or jump out of our skins, we all need a good laugh every now and then - and preferably more now than then!

I try to include funny bits in the Adventure Island books, alongside all the mystery and peril. When I visit schools or events one of my favourite bits to read out loud  is the scene from

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Story Showcase

Read all about it!
The Mystery of the Uninvited Socks
I always love it when readers send me their stories or poems to look at. So I thought it would be fun to share some of them here. I've added a new section on the Young Writers page called Story Showcase.

The first story to appear is by the very talented Eloise Peacock, who sent me her brilliantly funny story, The Mystery of the Uninvited Socks after we met at the Bedfordshire Book of the Year event last month.

If you are thirteen or under and would like your work (short story or poem) to appear on Story Showcase, go to the Young Writers page for details of how to send it in. 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Video Witter

A couple of months ago the lovely people at Heffers Book Shop in Cambridge asked me if I'd like to go in and do a video interview about the Adventure Island books. This is the result! You can also find this video on the Blackwells website as part of their series of podcasts and videos of authors talking about their books.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Story Competition

Hurry, hurry, hurry, last few days!

I know there are lots of enthusiastic young writers out there (I've met some really inspiring ones on my school visits lately) so wanted to tell you about this great competition I just came across - it's only five days until the deadline of June 30th, but if you are under 13 and have a story of 500 words or less that you are proud of, you could enter it into this great competition at Print Express and have the chance to win £150 in Amazon vouchers. Wow! Wouldn't that be great, £150 to spend all on books! Your story can be on any topic at all, there's no entry fee and you can send by email - what are you waiting for???
Go to the Print Express website for all the details.

For more writing competitions, have a look at the Young Writers page - I've listed some more there . . .

Happy Writing and Good Luck!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Walking and Plotting

When I'm not at my desk concocting dastardly deeds and murky mysteries for Scott, Jack, Emily and Drift to sort out, one of my favourite things to do is  to go walking in the countryside with my dogs, Storm and Maia.

Not only does walking stop my legs shrivelling up completely and falling off from all those hours hunched over my computer, but it's great for hatching plots and working out clues.   Somehow walking and thinking go really well together. So do walking and talking. Which is why it's always fun to go for a walk with a friend or two (and their dogs).  

And now I've discovered a nifty new app for  called Everytrail that lets me plot my walks on the map, uploading photos as I go - all using my phone.  I can share my walking routes with friends, and also look up new walks that other people have uploaded.  This is  now my favourite new toy. It even tells me exactly how far I've walked, how long it took me and my average speed. And I can add a little story to  accompany the walk too. 

So this morning when I set off during a rare break in the rain for a lovely walk with my friend Karen and her dog Pip, I plotted it all in Everytrail - and share it with you here.

(You might notice the family resemblance - Pip is the sister of Storm and Maia - they were all born in the same litter, just over six years ago - they love going for walks together!)


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Drawing Competition Winners Announced

Drift by Holly Bramley
Over on the Special Investigations Team area on the Adventure Island website we've been running a competition, asking readers (who are also members of the S.I.T.) to send in their drawings of their favourite Adventure Island characters. After some lengthy debates, Jack, Scott and Emily (with more than a little help from Drift) have picked their winner. This lovely picture of Drift was sent in by Holly Bramley, aged 11, from South Wales (my apologies that it looks a bit grey here due to being photographed and uploaded to computer - the original version on paper is much clearer!). We all loved the energy in this drawing and the way that Holly has captured Drift's fun and lively character.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Operation Diamond Update

If you've checked into this website or the Adventure Island website over the last couple of months you might have noticed we've been jumping up and down about the exciting on-line treasure hunt competition we've been running, with the help of some brilliant kids' book websites.

What can you win?

Only the chance to be a character in one of the next Adventure Island books!!!

Oh, and signed books for you and a set for your school too.
And, of course, the satisfaction of knowing you solved the mystery and caught the thief of the jubilee diamond!

In case you thought it was too late to enter, or you've had trouble finding any of the ten guest blog posts now that they are no longer on the home pages of the various websites, I've gathered everything you need to enter, including all ten blog posts and questions and put it all on the Operation Diamond page on this website.

You have until 23rd July 2012 to send in your answer. As Jack would say, 'What are you waiting for???'

Monday, 11 June 2012

As I was going to St Ives . . .

isn't this the cutest logo?
Sitting in my home office this afternoon watching the rain lashing down outside (will it ever stop?) it's almost impossible to imagine that only a few weeks ago it was gloriously sunny (people war actually complaining it was too hot!) I spent a lovely Saturday in the Cambridgeshire town of St Ives (not to be confused with the one in Cornwall) at their first children's book festival - a whole day of book-related events including author and illustrator workshops, story-telling, competitions and much more, taking place in the beautifully refurbished Corn Exchange.

The day was a delight from start (when I got a parking space right outside the back door of the venue!)  to finish (home in time for tea, tired but happy!) - there was such a buzz of activity in the whole building (and that wasn't only due to the valiant chap who spent the entire day dressed in a furry bumble bee costume - although he deserved a medal!)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Latest two Adventure Island books out today . . .

Latest two Adventure Island books out today . . . 

The Mystery of the Smugglers' Wreck

The Mystery of the Invisible Spy


Oxford Bookfeast

nice teeth!
Visiting Oxford to talk about dinosaurs and detectives at the Oxford School's Bookfeast was a treat on so many levels.

Not only did I get to visit this beautiful city in the sunshine and have a little wander among the dreaming spires, recalling my own student days here many, many years ago  (glimpsing grim-faced students heading in and out of the exam schools in their gowns and black and white 'sub fusc' sent a jolt of nerves through my stomach even now!) but I also got to speak in the magnificent venue of the Oxford Natural History museum - a soaring glass-ceilinged cathedral of a building, stuffed with amazing exhibits - including dinosaurs like this superb T-Rex.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Operation Diamond - The Final Clue!!!

Adventure Island Book Ten
The Mystery of the Invisible Spy
Reading Between The Lines

At last! Emily has been dying to uncover an enemy spy and finally it seems that she has her chance. The strange man with the binoculars is definitely spying on something and she’s pretty sure it’s not the larks nesting on the sand dunes. But, as always in Castle Key, nothing is quite as it seems. There are some big surprises for Scott, Jack, Emily and Drift in The Mystery of the Invisible Spy.

For Emily one of the most exciting parts about this investigation is that she gets to use some secret codes. Emily is an expert on cryptography – that is, the use of codes and ciphers (ten million super-brain points if you know the difference between a code and a cipher. A cipher is where you replace the original message letter by letter, whereas a code is where you replace word by word. People often use the word code to mean both, though).

Codes have been used to communicate secret messages throughout history. One of the most famous examples led to the death of Mary Queen of Scots.
If you remember your Tudor history you’ll know that Elizabeth I kept her cousin Mary Queen of Scots under house arrest for many years. Mary’s supporters believed she should rightfully be on the throne of England, and they sent coded letters to her, discussing a plot to overthrow Elizabeth. But the letters were intercepted by Elizabeth’s spymaster  - with the help of a carefully placed double agent or two. The code was soon cracked, the plot was discovered, and Mary was beheaded.

a snippet of the message sent by Mary Queen of Scots – can you decipher it using the key?

Mary’s code was quite easy to crack (even if you didn’t have the key on the same page!) because was each letter was replaced by a symbol. The codebreakers could look at the text and see which symbol came up the most often – they knew that almost certainly represented the letter E, which is the most frequently used in English. With a bit of effort you can soon crack the whole code using this kind of ‘frequency analysis.’ Elizabeth’s spies certainly did.

Another problem with messages like this is that they are obviously in code so they immediately attract attention.  If you came across a message that looked like this, GRDE XNY PZYIG  you might not be able to read it, but you’d know that someone was UP TO SOMETHING and sending TOP SECRET INFORMATION (either that, or they were trying to type while eating a hot dog and watching a really exciting Cup Final match!)

One way round this problem is to use steganography rather than cryptography. Steganography means concealed writing. You conceal your secret message within something perfectly innocent-looking like a shopping list. Then, if it falls into enemy hands, they have no reason to be suspicious. If Mary had disguised her messages as orders to her dressmaker for some new gloves, for example, she might not have met her terrible fate.

So, how do you conceal a message? The Ancient Greeks apparently tattooed messages onto the shaved heads of messengers, who then let their hair grow back to conceal the words! Or you can use invisible ink to write between the lines of a ‘cover text’ (if you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘reading between the lines’ you now know where it comes from).

the problem with invisible ink is that you can’t see what you’re writing, so it’s easy to make mistakes – can you spot the letter I’ve missed?

But these days, steganography is more often used to send coded messages over computer networks, where information can easily be hidden large data files, such as ordinary looking digital photographs.

Do you know of any other kinds of code?  How about devising your own code and sending some messages to your friends?

                OPERATION DIAMOND

Question 10: Go back to the message in code used by Mary Queen of Scots and decipher it using the given key. Where does Mary want her supporters to meet her?

Top tip! In the Tudor alphabet the letters "u" and "v" were the same letters.

In the field (I)
On the beach (N)

And that’s it! You should now have all ten letters you need to reveal the culprit and enter the competition to star in the next Adventure Island book.

You will need to unscramble your letters to crack the mystery.
So, whodunnit? Was it:


(If you want more information about the mystery and the suspects you will find it all here: 

Email: competitions@orionbooks.co.uk with the subject line ‘OPERATION DIAMOND’ and the name of the thief in the email, along with your name, age and address.


If you missed a day, couldn't find one of the posts or just need to go back to check any answers, you will find all of the posts below.

Even if you haven't started the treasure hunt yet, there's still time to go back and find the clues because the closing date for entries isn't until July 23rd, 2012!

These are the direct links to the blog posts

This competition ends on Monday 23 July 2012 and is open only to entrants in the UK and Eire.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Operation Diamond Starts Today

Operation Diamond is an on-line treasure hunt. Follow the links to a different children's literature site every day for the next ten days to find a blog post about one of the Adventure Island books along with a question to answer. When you have all ten answers you'll have the letters needed to solve the mystery of who stole the Jubilee Diamond! There are some great prizes to be one - including the chance to be a character in the next Adventure Island book!

The competition doesn't end until 23rd July, so don't worry if you don't start the treasure hunt today or you miss some days - you can follow the links back to the blog posts any time until the close of the competition.
You'll find all the information you need, along with the mystery story and the suspects over on the Adventure Island website.

And the first blog post and clue is up today on the Guardian Children's Book Site.
Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Launch Party Photo Gallery

Lots of photos from the lovely launch party at Heffers, Cambridge on 26th April, 2012
Thank you to Judith Greenwood, Nina Douglas and Jenny Savill for sending me you photos, some of which are included below. There are more to come, but here are a few to start with . . .

Everybody needs a hat

Friday, 11 May 2012

Linton Children's Book Festival

Fingers crossed I'll get to meet one of my heroes 

If you are within a hundred mile radius of Linton* this weekend, drop everything (well, apart from small fluffy pets and valuable china plates) and make your way to the  Linton Children's Book Festival - and I'm not just saying that because I'll be there (although I would love to see you if you'd like to come and hear all about dinosaurs and see some amazing fossils) but because the whole event looks totally spectacular . . .

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Adventure Island, the movie

I wish I could tell you that we'd just signed a massive Hollywood movie deal for Adventure Island! No such luck (but maybe one day, who knows!) but here is a tiny film trailer that I made for the Adventure Island launch party . . .  this is not the FULL kaboodle . . . this is just a short version . . .  a sort of trailer for a trailer. I still need to tweak the full version a little to get the sound right (I never knew making even a tiny little filmette could be so time-consuming!) Full version coming soon!!!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Meet the New Arrivals!

Cute or what?
And as if that wasn't enough (see previous blog post!), the duckling eggs that we've had in the incubator for the last 28 days began to hatch on Thursday too! Two emerged in the early hours of Thursday morning, three more during the day and another was waiting for us when we arrived home from the launch party in the evening. By Friday nine of the twelve eggs had hatched.

They are Indian Runner Ducks.  They'll live in a big box in the kitchen keeping warm under a heat lamp for a couple of weeks until they're old enough to move into larger accommodation . . .

Don't Forget the Ginger Beer!

a bit over-emotional!
(photo by Judith Greenwood)
It felt just like my wedding day all over again! Weeks of preparation, then suddenly in the limelight, surrounded by wonderful family and friends, having a fabulous time but at the same time fretting that everything should go perfectly to plan.  Trying to talk to everyone at once and generally feeling a bit weepy and over-emotional.

The launch party for The Mystery of the Dinosaur Discovery and The Mystery of The Drowning Man was held on Thursday 26th April Heffer's Children's Bookshop in Cambridge.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Dinosaurs Invade Cambridge

I've always been a big fan of Cambridge Wordfest so it was as massive honour to be able to take part this year - especially as it's the tenth year anniversary. OK, so  my talk was on Friday Thirteenth, but I didn't care. I was on the same programme as Beast Quest. Mr Gum and Paddington Bear and I was talking about dinosaurs - it doesn't get much better than that!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Name That Princess!

Ski Cow - aka Princess Fresiana - takes a breather!
Long journeys are the perfect excuse for some serious daydreaming. Plotting a dastardly crime, figuring out clever clues, cooking up some funny dialogue . . . that's what keeps me occupied as I gaze vacantly out of the window at the scenery,  especially when I have a brand new Adventure Island mystery shaping up (don't worry, I'm talking about when I'm a passenger - if I'm driving I try to keep my head mostly in the real world!).

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sunshine, Smiles and Dinosaurs

The big smiles on the faces of these lovely sisters sums up the wonderful afternoon I spent with Year Five at Mayfield Primary School in Cambridge today. The pupils were kind enough to help me out by being a practise audience so I could try out my Dinosaur Detectives talk, which I'll be giving at Wordfest and several other venues over the next few months.

What a wonderful attentive and enthusiastic audience they were too! And then we had great fun making up the names of new dinosaurs and writing poems about them - using a 'diamond' exercise that I borrowed from the inspirational Fourth Grade writing teacher Ed had when we lived in Oregon. It was part of his legendary project on The Painted Hills, and worked just as well for dinosaurs!

At the end of the afternoon, I sat outside in the sunshine and signed books. Children were queuing across the playground. It was heaven! Thank you very much to all the children and to your teachers too for inviting me into your school.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Party Time


It's only a week until the next two Adventure Island books are released, and to celebrate we're going to have a launch party. The wonderful people at Heffers Children's Books in Cambridge are hosting the event. As you can see from the invitation there will be cakes, jam tarts and ginger beer (as well as wine, of course) colouring pages and puzzles for younger children AND that special mystery surprise. My lips are sealed as to the nature of this mysterious item, but will let you into the secret that I am working on it already and I'm hoping that it will be UPROARIOUSLY HILARIOUS!

If you will be anywhere near Cambridge on 26th April please do come along - it would be lovely to see you there. Just e-mail Heffers or me directly to let us know that you are planning to come so we know how many jam tarts to put in the oven!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Laugh and Learn

One of Annie Brundrit's beautiful designs
One of the best things I did when I first got into the world of making stuff up and writing it down was to join SCBWI - the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. They offer so much support for aspiring and published writers and illustrators, and it's been rewarding and fun to attend their conferences, workshops and talks - not to mention meeting lots of lovely people along the way.

Most recent was a Saturday Social in Norwich, organised by Joyce Taylor, our wonderful and dedicated Central East Co-ordinator.

I haven't laughed so much while learning so much at the same time in ages!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

When Dinosaurs Ruled My World

There's something of a dinosaur theme in the air this week. Last night I was lucky enough to go along to the Orion Publishing Authors' Party - a gorgeously glamorous affair, held in the central hall of the Natural History Museum in London, where we gathered in the shadow of the gargantuan - and beautifully illuminated - diplodocus. And this morning, the programme for the children's section of the Cambridge Wordfest Literary Festival was published on-line - featuring my workshop, Dinosaur Detectives - the subject matter chosen to tie in with the appearance in April of Book 7 of the Adventure Island series (The Mystery of the Dinosaur Discovery). I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be part of the fabulous Wordfest line-up!

Monday, 6 February 2012


note to self
Freezing temperatures, delayed trains and overcrowded trains did their best to thwart my quest, but there was no stopping me getting to the SCBWI Masterclass in London today. Staying Motivated and Beating Procrastination All Year Long was just what the doctor ordered as we head into a cold and frosty slump-tastic February. Bekki Hill (aka The Write Coach) ran the workshop, supplying us all with buckets full of good advice, perfectly tempered with warmth, wit and wisdom.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Why I Love Being A Writer (Part 2)

The Mystery of the Mind-tricking Labyrinth , The Mystery of the Blazing Pheonix, The Mystery of the Underground Mine . . . 

"What's this?" I hear you ask! "More  Adventure Island books coming out so soon? These sound brilliant! When will they be in the shops?"

I only wish I HAD created these amazing stories, but I have to confess they're not mine. They are all the work of the incredibly talented, hard-working and generally awesome Year Six pupils at Holywell Primary School near St. Ives.

Why I Love Being a Writer (Part 1)

From the minute I stepped through the door of Hadleigh St Mary's I knew I was in a very special school. The head boy, Oliver, greeted me, showed me into the hall and set up my presentation on the computer for me. Throughout the entire visit, I was bowled over by the children's confidence, politeness and eagerness to learn. At the end of the day a teenage boy -  an ex-pupil who'd come to meet a younger sibling - politely volunteered to help me carry in my box of books for the book stall, WITHOUT EVEN BEING ASKED (or even being given a 'remember-your-manners' look by a teacher). 
St Mary's values obviously stick!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Winter of Discontent?

Last week our village was hit by a series of power cuts. Each evening the lights would go out for a short while. The duration of the outages increased little by little until by Thursday we were in darkness for several hours.


I've always loved power cuts. I love sitting by the fire reading by candlelight,  boiling pans of water for tea and toasting anything remotely toastable over the flames. I love carrying a candle to light my way up the stairs, shielding the guttering flame like a character in a Victorian novel (why, oh why, don't I have a long white nightgown to change into on these occasions?) In our house, there's always a groan of disappointment when all the gadgets beep back into life and the lights flicker on to dazzle our dark-adapted eyes.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Stuff of Legend

An elaborately embroidered shawl and a fabulous cape woven from the silk of a million golden orb spiders from the highlands of Madagascar . . . the fabric is so gossamer-light you can't feel it touch your skin . . . and, most breath-taking of all, this luminous gold is the undyed 'straight-from-the-spider' colour!

Don't these just sound like enchanted objects straight from the pages of a Greek myth or a fairy tale?
Surely, anyone wearing a garment crafted from such rare and exotic silk must be granted three wishes or eternal youth or invisibility or something?

I had to stop making the breakfast to listen to the whole story on Radio Four's Today programme last week . . .

I can't wait to go see these magical garments when they go on display at the Victoria and Albert museum from 25th January.

Then I may just have to write a fairy tale . . .

Once upon a time, in the highlands of Madagascar, lived a princess whose heart's desire was a shawl spun from pure gold . . .

Rumpeltstiltskin, eat your heart out!