Friday, 31 July 2015

Confessions of an X- Doodler

Since the new Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell has been appointed, there has been lots of talk about drawing and doodling. This makes sense as Chris Riddell is not only a gifted wordsmith creating beautiful characters like Ottoline and Goth Girl, but he is also a talented illustrator (to see more details about both his writing and illustration press here to read our Space on the Bookshelf celebration of his work).

Chris Riddell has shared with us all his 5 point plan for his turn as Laureate and used his speech to urge people to ‘Draw something every day’, and to spend time as a family drawing and doodling. Many people have taken his advice and made a conscious effort to doodle every day, like Lou Minns family who challenged themselves to doodle every day for a month, to read about their endeavours press here. It was whist following Lou’s family’s progress that I had an epiphany; I realised that I no longer doodle.

Now this may not seem much to most people BUT let me explain. All my life I’ve been a constant Doodler, no paper was safe, or napkin, or well anything. If there was a pen, pencil, crayon, chalk, lipstick and a scrap of paper (or skin) then it ended up full of intricate drawings and doodles. It caused quite a few fights when I was first married, as if any post was left out, I would not only decorate the envelope but the letter to, even if it was an important document!

My doodling was a gift, I studied Art and Related Arts at university, and many of my strongest works were as a result of doodles. I initially came to writing through the ambition to illustrate, and way back in 2008 I had an meeting with illustration agency Plumb Pudding; their advice – my doodling was far superior to my finished works, and to continue to doodle and work on my finished work (and to stay in touch, ophs!)

So whilst reading all the enthusiastic posts people have been posting about discovering doodling I was amazed to realise that I can’t recall the last time I doodled. This got me thinking what has changed? 

I can’t really put my foot on what it is that has changed or at what point I stopped doodling, and the realisation that I no longer doodle actually makes me rather sad. It is true that the last few years have been hectic; one re-location, three subsequent moves, new EVERYTHING, I’ve had competition successes in writing, scored an agent, blogged, got puppies, and well then all the every day-to-day stuff. Maybe the lack of doodling is a result of the amount of LIFE that has happened?

I do still draw from time to time with my kids, as does my husband. Plus I can take some reassurance that both small people doodle all the time and are gifted artists. However, this is my pledge to myself; I shall doodle, and I shall endeavour to doodle daily.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Happy 80th Birthday Penguin - plus Penguin Classic Goodybag Giveaway!

This summer sees the 80th anniversary since the first publications of the first ever Penguin paperbacks. The now iconic covers are replicated in many forms, such as adorning mugs, deckchairs postcard and posters. Penguin expanded out launching the Puffin imprint publishing children’s book in 1941 with it first book being a Worzel Gummidge. Furthermore 1967 saw the launch of the Puffin Post club which ran (on and off) for over 42 years and of which both me my sister and my daughter were all avid members.

To celebrate the anniversary Penguin Classics have published eighty miniature classics from many of the great authors they have published over the years, all wrapped up in a monotone iconic penguin classic cover.  All eighty titles are retailing at just 80pence each!

I’m thrilled to see that one of my all-time favourite Grimm’s Fairy Tale’s The Robber Bridegroom Is one of the titles along with another great, Hans Christian Andersen’s , The Tinder Box. Both fantastic dark tales, (although not perhaps suitable for young or sensitive readers.)
To celebrate Penguins mammoth anniversary, and  because I adore these tales so much I want as many people as possible to read them, I'm doing my first ever giveaway.  Tweet and follow me @spoyton #Penquin80 and tell me your favourite penguin classic for a chance to win both books and goody bag containing some lovely surprises and treats!

Penguin has seen a vibrant first eighty years, and we hope the next eighty will be even more exciting.

Happy Birthday Penguin!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Celebrating Independent Bookshop Week 2015, with a blog post dedicated to my family’s favourite Indy Bookshop – Mostly Books!

As a reader, writer, book blogger and mother I LOVE books. As a contentious buyer I LOVE independent shops, we buy our meet from a village butchers, we buy our books from an independent bookshop. My favourite book shop is the wondrous Mostly Books in Abingdon.

Mostly Books is a family business headed up my husband and wife team Nicki & Mark Thornton, who run the shop with a team of enthusiastic staff (endorsed by Imogen being short-listed for the Young Bookseller of the year award earlier this year) who are all passionate about books. The fa├žade on the picturesque Stert Street in Abingdon could almost be off of Diagon Alley and walking inside the shop is full of hand picked books with vibrant seasonal displays and dedicated children’s room and even court yard garden.

What makes Mostly Books my favourite Book Shop is its; soul, character and its dedication to literacy, bringing a whole of host of events to the shop and to other local venues partnering with schools and societies. That and of course its stock of books, all chosen thoughtfully by Mark, Nicki and the team, who therefore really know their stock and are very equip to match books to readers.

The shop has really helped my small people to embrace a love for books through events, competitions, meeting authors, and by finding books that really engage them.

My daughter helped out on the Nosy Crow Take Over in celebration of Independent Bookshop Week 2013, meeting Helen Peters, Hitchcock and Paula Harrison, therefore inspiring her to read their book and their recommended books which pushed her to read outside her usual comfort zone and vastly improving her reading skills.

My son, really loves Hugless Douglass and was thrilled to have met David Melling at one of Mostly Books author events back in 2013. Also that year he met Jane Hissey and the Old Bear characters which inspired him to draw and write a book with his own teddy ‘Red Ted,’ this was the first time he ever wrote anything my choice.

Loving the shop and getting to know Nicki and Mark, I began to help out both on the shop floor and at events. This has provided me with much appreciated company (as much as I love it writing can be rather solitary), plus has been a fabulous experience, meeting authors and illustrators and seeing how they engage and inspire children. There is something very humbling and magical about watching children be so enthralled about the written world, and feel very privileged to have been able to observe this. 

Helping out at Mostly Books has been a learning curve, I’d worked in shop before but I soon discovered that being a bookseller is a vocation and very different to peddling clothes, or vegetables! Knowing your stock and customers is key, and I soon discovered my talents are almost exclusively children’s books. I really enjoy helping children pick books, conversing with them to find out what they like and suggesting titles that I think will really hook them. I like selling to adults too, and since spending time at the shop I've read more adults books than ever in my life and discovered some truly fantastic authors. 

The Mostly Books staffs are innovative with their events, competitions, groups and offers. They are always finding ways to improve and modify their unique service to bring their customers the very best Independent book shop experience, this is something which is truly inspiring and also contiguous. In 2014 Mostly Books was announced as Julia Donaldson’s Independent Bookshop for the month of August, ahead of which me and the small people made a Gruffalo Child to assist the publicity spreading the word that The Gruffalo was to visit the shop. 


In short I LOVE Mostly Books, it is my and my family’s favourite bookshop. But it’s not the shop or the books alone, but the dedicated hard working team that gives Mostly Books its soul.