Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Dyslexia Awareness Week - Accessing Reading

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week, and there are great thing’s going on all around the country to celebrate dyslexia and raise awareness and bust any derogatory dyslexia myths. Last year I did a great many post’s to contribute in my small way but this year a house move, deadlines and life in general has thwarted my plans. However attending the Oxford Children’s Book Group’s ‘Way’s into Reading’ Conference at the weekend has inspired me to write about my access into reading, and if you grew up in the 80’s you may well get nostalgic…

I was listening to talk my Tom and Caro Fickling about their comic The Pheonix, and how comic and the much more en-vogue graphic novels are gateways to reading for many children  and adults (I’m looking at you Tom) alike. This talk got some clogs churning in my head and dislodged a long forgotten memory.  The Story Teller Magazines of my child hood.



As a child reading was excruciating, I loved the stories but the reading was so difficult and the stigma of not being able to read made me so ashamed that most accesses into reading were barred. I did however subscribe to the Storyteller magazine. The Story Magazine, [press here to go the fan site] was a periodical that had short stories and serialised novels which were all beautifully illustrated and was delivered to the door, BUT what made in accessible was the TAPE.

Yes a tape, and for those of you too young to know what a tape is; it was kind of an MP3 File, before CD’s. Here's a picture…


So I would look through the books again and again, and listen to them being read on the tape recorder. The Storyteller Magazines, also came with files to safely store your magazines, and carry-case storage for the tapes.  It was this great combo that had me enwrapped with Gobblino, Wizard of Oz, and the Nightingale.  The Storyteller Magazines were an un-barred access into reading on that I could access with independence and make the desire to decrypt the code of words and learn to read even stronger.



Recalling this and listening to the Fickling’s talk about The Pheonix, got me wishing that there were something like this now for challenged readers, a magazine with a talking component. Surly with all the new technology this could be possible?

Well Tracey Corderoy the lovely author of many picture books and starter novels,  talked about a feature that appears in her Picture books published by Nosy Crow.  Inside the covers of her books like ShiftyMcNiffty there is a scan able barcode which you can use with a smart phone of tablet, this will then take you directly (at no cost) to Nosy Crow’s web-site and will then read you the text [it's sound only, no visuals] for the book, helpfully ‘Pinging’ when it’s time to turn the page! This enables the child to listen to story and follow the text.

Another access to reading utilising new technology is Me Books, a company which sells books apps where the books are read, or it is possible to record your own reading of the book. This in turn can help children to access reading, as they can listen and follow the words with out the stress of de-coding it themselves.


These are all great advances and open up more accesses to reading, but still I think if we could get a Storyteller type magazine for the 21st century, aimed for he older challenged read this would be a great access into reading.



Dyslexia Awareness Week 2013!

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Festive Manuscript – an ode to Spellcheck!

I’m red faced and writhing in embarrassment. I am dyslexic, but I’m also an optimist. As a dyslexic I KNOW I can’t spell of toffee. As an optimist I BELIEVIE I can learn to spell [this may be too many Disney cartoons coming back to taunt me – if you work hard enough you’ll succeed]!

The issue is my current manuscript. My manuscripts are usually always festive. I don’t mean that I write about Christmas, NO, but they are decorated all over with red and green squiggly lines. Usually.

My current WIP was amazingly squiggle free, the whole 74,000 words of it were anti-festive. So as a dyslexic and relatively intelligent woman what I SHOULD have thought was – what’s wrong with spellcheck. But as an optimist I BELIVIED that my dyslexia was improving and that I’d managed to achieve an error fee MS.

So after my final revisions, MS mark (who know I’ve forgotten it has been edited do much), I smugly press send to my writer friends to read and critique.

Then my ever-so-lovely husband reads the MS. Three days later my husband surfaces looking like he’s been duelling with a hormonal tyrannosaurus rex, to tell me, well; the prognosis isn’t good. And then utters the words ‘you broke spell check, it wasn’t correcting anything.’

Then I recollected this little gem…



Apparently this was a warning from word that spellcheck was about to have a nervous breakdown. As a relatively intelligent dyslexic woman I SHOULD have halted everything and yelled for help. As an optimist I BELIVIED all was fine, laughed it off and carried on (another 50,000 words!)

So thanks to a very patient husband, I have a fixed spell check and a much more readable MS. So MS mark (who know I’ve forgotten it has been edited do much but a least it’s now readable), is pinging its way to my ever so lovely and patient writer friends.

The morel of this story is – respect all your writer friends and don’t ignore cries for help even if that friend is spell check.



Sorry spell check!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Fairy Tale Lands - Not as far away as you think! Movie Locations.


Yesterday whilst walking the dogs in Black Park (Buckinghamshire), we stumbled on an old building, which I thought was odd I hadn't noticed before, but just as I was questioning my sanity I noticed that the aged stone was in fact actually plywood.


The building is a setting for the upcoming Disney Movie adaptation of Cinderella staring Helena Boham Carter, Cate Blanchett and Hayley Atwell (due for release in 2015). It turns out that Black Park woodlands is no stranger to film crews with Tim Burton using it for ‘Dark Shadows’. It also featured in many of the Harry Potter films, and provided the setting for the fairy tale forest in the 80’s Fantasy ‘Willow.’ 



So this accidental find got me thinking; with such a wealth of fairy tale movies at the moment, what other locations have been picked by producers and directors (with a bit of dressing, a tad of CGI and bucket load of imagination) to become fairy tale wonderlands.

It turns out that The National Trust which is mostly associated with costume dramas has been doing rather well out of the Hollywood Fairy Tale fascination, with…

Snow White and The Huntsman – that chose their Frensham Ponds as a major location.

Then, Disneys live action take on Sleeping beauty, Maleficent starring Anglina Jolie in the title role, has been filming at yet another of their properties, The Ashridge Estate

‘Jack the giant Slayer’ filmed at another of the National Trust's treasures, The Cheddar Gorge.

However the Tommy Wirkola directed,’ Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters’ opted for the Grimm’s homeland of Germany, for all of the on location filming.

Bourne Wood’s in Surrey has had a fair amount of fairytale action with both t Bryan Singer, ‘Jack the giant Slayer’ and last year’s ‘Snow White and The Huntsman’, transforming it into a fairy tale forest.

The really great thing about this, is that many of these locations are in the uk, and so we can actually visit experience and be inspired by these the fairy tale settings! 


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Independent Booksellers Week 2013! – Celebrating some of our Favourite Indy Bookshops!

This week is Independent Bookseller Week 2013! 29th June to the 6th booksellers, publishers, authors, illustrators, and customers will be involved in events across the nation designed to promote and celebrate Indy bookshops.  Press here to read about some of the IBW events across the country. 

In a world where the internet is ever reaching, and small indy booksellers are competing in the shadow of giant on line companies, IBW is a way of celebrating these little book-havens and shouting to the world that indy bookselling is still very much alive.

‘Independent bookshops are far and away the best, I don’t buy in larger chain bookshops, I like the independents. It’s the people in the independent bookshops, they’re so knowledgeable, and they pick better books.’  
Janice Markey, Teaching Assistant, Book-crosser, Book lover.


So in the spirit of Independent Booksellers Week, here are some authors favourite Indy Bookshops . . .

Just Imagine Children's bookshop in Chelmsford - Julia Jones


Recently discovered Just Imagine children's bookshop in Chelmsford, owned and managed by the redoubtable Nikki Gamble.

Julia Jones is an author and owner of Golden Duck (UK) Ltd.


Leaf Old Cross in Hertford - Alice Hemming


My favourite indy bookshop is Leaf - a children's bookshop and café which has recently opened up just around the corner from me at the Old Cross in Hertford. Leaf offers a full range of titles for 0-18 yr olds as well as serving fantastic coffee, tea, milkshakes and home-made cakes in a family friendly space. They also do book readings, craft activities, book clubs and they are offering 10% off all book purchases and putting on extra free craft activities this week for Independent Booksellers week.

Alice Hemming is a picture book writer. Her first book, The Black and White Club, will be published by Maverick in September.


Mostly Books in Abingdon – Sally Poyton



Mostly Books is a family run indy bookshop that started as a labour of love in 2008 when it won the prestigious New Bookshop of the Year Award. Mostly Books is full of friendly staff who always greet you with a smile, that are very knowledgeable about their stock and spend time to help you find the right books. MB’s is more than just a bookshop; it stretches out to the community with a huge calendar of author events, and books groups. It also has great tie with local schools bringing authors to meet the pupils, helping to inspire the next generation of writers.

The Norfolk Children's Book Centre - Paeony Lewis


The Norfolk Children's Book Centre is in the middle of nowhere (off the A140 between Aylsham and Cromer), but they'll always give you a cup of coffee. What I like is that they have books you won't find in many other booksellers. Yesterday I bought a glorious American picture book called Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. 

Paeony Lewis, is a children’s author of picture books. http://www.paeonylewis.com

Scarthin Books in Cromford - Mel Rogerson


Derbyshire has its fair share of indie bookshops, but Scarthin Books in Cromford, is one of the best. Spread over three ramshackle floors, it's impossible to leave without finding at least one gem amongst the shelves of new, old and rare books. My favourite place in the belly of this organic beast is, of course, the Children's Book Room. Packed full of brilliant titles, from picture books to YA novels, it has a magical air that only true, well-worn bookshops can bestow. And if all this literary loveliness gets too much, there's always a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake waiting in the cafe on the other side of the corridor. Scarthin Books is more than a shop, it's a door to other worlds. Long may it exist! 

Mel Rogerson used to make books for a living, but after moving back home to the Peak District, she now writes and reviews them for fun. A fan of all things hidden, Mel loves hiking through secret dales and hunting for lost villages. She's also partial to maps, oatcakes and tiny things. Mel is joint features editor for Words and Pictures, the SCBWI British Isles blogzine.

The Thatcham Bookshop - Anita Loughrey


The Thatcham Bookshop has a surprisingly wide range of books and they will order anything else in.

Anita Loughrey is an author of children’s books she also writes for The Writer Forum Magazine.



Finally we finish with a newly opened Bookshop! Last weekend children book author Julia Jones OPENED Between the Lines Bookshop in the village of Great Bardfield Essex. Must surely be the newest bookshop in the country! It’s great to see that in a financial downturn that indy bookshops are still opening. Good luck Between the lines!


So why not have a look to find out where your local Indy Bookshop is, and what events they're running this week! Follow this link to find our your nearest Independent bookshop; Independent Bookshop Directory.

What don't you leave a comment and tell us about your favourite independent bookshop!




Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Giving my creativity a boost (or at least that’s my excuse) . . .


 
Giving my creativity a boost 

(or at least that’s my excuse) . . . 



A while ago I wrote a blog called Dachshund vs Straitjacket [to read press here]. Silly title as it may be it was about the creative mind [well mine at least] working best whilst walking, and the benefits of doing this whilst walking a hound.

I find movement untethers creativity from the shackles of to-do-lists, nagging worries and all the other stodgy thoughts that clog up the brain. When walking my mind is free to meander wherever it wants, and that this is where my best ideas come from.

Apparently it not just me researchers from the University of Utah have done studies which have proven walking does boost creative thinking, and that on one of their test groups the volunteers creative performance was improved by 50% after a four-day hiking trip. [To read full article press here]

However the University of Utah said nothing about talking to one’s self whilst walking. This is what I do. I think out story lines, and talk it out loud, trying out dialogue and sometimes even arguing with myself. Now this was all well and good when I had a dog to walk, as passers-by assumed I was talking to the dog. BUT when my four legged friend passed away three years ago, people I passed on my walks would speed up or cross the road and avoid eye contact with the strange woman who was talking to herself. I’m sad to say my walking habits changed and not to the benefit of my creativity.

Missing my creative walks, and after much debate and discussion I have found a solution, one which will stop me from having strange glares, when I'm talking on my rambles through the countryside.


Here is the solution . . .





Monday, 15 April 2013

Living the Fairy Tale - World Building


Living the Fairy Tale - World Building


A few weeks ago I posted about the world building for my WIP, Journey to the Bone Factory. I spoke about the depth of research and about the methods I use to store all this vital information so that my mind is free to be creative and write [Press here to read].  This got me thinking about the differences between the world building between Bone Factory (YA SCI-FI) and my first book Through Mortal Eye's, and so I decided to post about the world building in Through Mortal Eyes.

Through Mortal Eyes, is a very different book; but it is still one that’s heavily reliant on world building for success. Its fantasy told in a duel narrative, but it’s a fantasy based in this reality and time. You’d think it’d make world building easier but that’s not easier it’s just different.

Through Mortal Eyes, is about Fairy tales, but not fluffy one ending with happily ever after, or ones set in different worlds. In the world of Through Mortal eyes, fairy tales are real, the characters moving around in the shadows, and eventually they get entwined with seventeen year old Ruby, who has to bring the all the tales to an end.

Of course I need not have to worry about gravitational pull, and the proximity of planets to their suns, or population density but I did have a whole lot of reading and world building of two different views and times within our world. But instead of the  physics of the world I was looking more at species of the world, and making a normal setting seem dark and fairy tale like.





So for the world building I looked at fairy tales, stacks of them. Then I also had species to work out so research veered in the direction of ghouls, beast and the un-dead from mythology and folklore across the world.  I noted down species profiles, much like character profiles, but with anatomy, and social histories.  I also researched actual history to slip things to make the species history more believable and add depth; researching the dog-headed Saint Christopher and the Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory who murdered and bathed in young maiden blood.




For places I used the little love town of my youth, using the oldest house in town, and the oldest church with the hollow tree.  Both these places in the right light with the right words look like they belong in a fairy tale. Also In the novel there is an abandoned town, which was burnt to the ground in middle ages, only leaving the church standing. This actually happened to a town about fifteen miles from the  in the novel, but not knowing what it was called I found a great web-site detailing all the lost medieval town of Berkshire Press here.



Of course sometimes a simple object can be enough to set your mind working, dictating to be used in the narrative and that the world is built to include it. This happened with my dad's old dagger that he dug up on a building site years ago.

All these notes were spread out over an array of notepads, ring-binders and stored virtually.  Coming together to build a disturbing yet scarily familiar world. 




Friday, 5 April 2013

Space on The Bookshelf; Celebrating Children’s Literature



I'm very excited to announce that today is the launch of a new blog, ‘Space on The Bookshelf’ which is brainchild of Nicki Thornton, Jo Wyton and Me, and is designed to celebrate our shared passion for children’s literature with reviews, views, and much, much more!

We at ‘Space on the Bookshelf’ believe that all children love reading, it’s just that some haven’t found the right one yet. We aim to help them find their breakthrough book, with an array of articles, reviews, and features including our Bookaholics features celebrating the unseen people that work to promote children’s books and literacy, our Going Global series looking at books from overseas, and our monthly 3D Reviews.

The 3D Review  will focus on a single book, where we will be featuring reviews, by one of us blog authors, plus one by a child of the target readership, an spotlight on writing and what makes the book stand out  plus author profile, and author and editor interviews – and of course a book give-away.

Our first Monthly 3D Review is of a very ‘…Big Fat Zombie Goldfish,’ so why not come over and see if you can hook yourself the give-away copy.

We are very excited about Space on the Bookshelf, and we hope you will be too, PRESS HERE to check us out, and if you like what you see please help us spread the word, by linking to the site from Facebook and twitter.


 You can also follow us on Twitter at @BookshelfSpace


Monday, 25 March 2013

Western Fairy Tales & Manga Part 2; Fruits Baskets by Natsuki Takaya


Western Fairy Tales & Manga Part 2; 
Fruits Baskets by Natsuki Takaya

This is the slightly delayed follow up to Part 1 of Fairy Tales & Manga which focused on Tachibana Higuchi's, ‘Gakuen Alice’.  To read part 1, click here.

Part 2 looks at western fairy tales influences within Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket. Fruits Basket is the number one bestselling Shojo Manga in the western world, with 23 books in the series, an anime, and numerous fan books and merchandise. This is my favourite Manga, as it utilises many Fairy Tale storytelling techniques.


The story follows homeless orphan Tohru as she befriends the mysterious wealthy and beautiful Sohma family, discovering their secret curse. Collectively called ‘The Zodiac’, the Sohma’s curse causes some of its members to change from humans into the animals from the Chinese’s zodiac (and a cat with a grudge). As Tohru’s life becomes more entwined with the Shoma’s, she realises that there is more to the curse than metamorphosis; uncovering a dark cruelty, and starting her on a quest to free the family from their curse.

Immediately the books take on a fairy tale quality, with Tohru being  a Cinderella type character, an orphan living alone in a tent in forest, working all hours, with a family that are cold and uncaring. Tohru is also a very self-sacrificing character putting everyone else’s needs before her own, having an ability to see the best in everyone no matter how nasty they may first appear.

Tohru

The curse, morphing into other creatures, is seen frequently in western fairy tales, The Frog Prince, Wild Swans and Hans my Hedgehog to name a few. However in western fairy tales, the cursed always know how to break the curse, keeping silent for seven years, or a kiss from princess. Fruits Basket is more complex, a mere kiss would not suffice, in fact members of the zodiac change into the animal when they are embraced by a member of the opposite sex, or their bodies are under stress.

Unable to control when they change, means a life of isolation for all its members, who are unable to take the risk of letting people see their animal forms, and take on a Beauty and Beast. The Beauty and Beast twist is further enhanced when Keo, the cat, changes into his true form which is far more terrifying than a cat.

The moment Tohru finds out about the curse from book one; PLEASE NOTE - read from top right clockwise!

Like all Fairy tales there is a dark domineering force working in the shadows to keep happily-ever-afters at bay. In Fruits Baskets this is in the form of Akita, the young hansom head of the Sohma family. Akita is the head of the zodiac, he may not change form, but his tie to the zodiac is the strongest and he will use any mechanism to keep them together.  To dark, confident and cruel Akita, Tohru is his Snow White, innocent, forgiving and loving.

DVD's Fan books and Keo's Beads.

I love Fruits Basket, and could happily talk about it for hours. It is a sophisticated dark tale which is subtly told with beautiful illustrations, and lashings of humour. It is a storytelling masterpiece.

If you'are interested in Graphic Novels check out the 'Sequential Art Blog' press here.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

In My Own World - World Building


In My Own World - World Building


It has been a while since I last blogged. WHY? I've been world building. Not with a few bits of stone, and soils, but constructing a galaxy in my head – 'there’s space,' I can hear some of you shouting! Joking aside, it’s been a learning experience, I'm half way through the manuscript of my latest book a; YA/Sci-Fi - Dickensian Motorcycles Diaries In Space, when I realised I couldn't keep track of everything. Begrudgingly I stopped writing and have been spending much needed time writing the world building down in a more through way. So this is a very quick post about how the world building is going…

So, to get the world building out of my head (to free up much needed brain power), I've been:
  • ·         Drawing maps (which I love).
  • ·         Working out planet sizes, and settlement sizes in relation to the planet (which I like not so much –MATHS ARGH!)
  • ·         Noting down smaller but essential information like, water, vegetation, etc.
  • ·         Working out the social structures of the galaxy.
  • ·         Creating character profiles, with pictures and images – this is particularly fun.
  • ·         Writing down the rules of the dialect and languages (this is especially challenging with my dyslexia!)

My sketch book

Despite having had all this in my head (plus noted in various scattered notebooks), its taking much longer to consolidate it and put to paper than I expected, BUT it’s worth it. Writing it down is making me think about every aspect in much more details than I had been and is strengthening the worlds, making them more convincing, plus it is sparking my imagination in unexpected ways making the story stronger.  

My ever growing world building noticeboard 

So the reason that my blogging has been sparse is that I'm in my own world! 


Monday, 25 February 2013

Tell a Fairy Tale Day - Thread's by Sally Poyton


Here is my contribution to Tell A Fairy Tale Day - 26th February 2013...

(if you are of a delicate nature, or a child - you might want to give this one a miss!)

Monday, 11 February 2013

My First Author Talk to ADULTS!


My First Author Talk to ADULTS!


Back in January 2012, I went on BBC radio Oxford Jo Thoenoes’s afternoon program with my writer buddy Jo Wyton to talk about Undiscovered Voices and the advantages of being in Writers Groups (to read about it press here). Shortly afterwards I was invited by ‘The University of The 3rd Age’ to speak at one of their weekly meetings about my writing. So on Monday that’s exactly what I did…

I’ve done talks about fairy tales to primary school children before, but usually just classes of up to 30 pupils, and they have all been rather small, with me sat in front of them with laptop presentation and props, and having lots of interaction. This however was very different. I turned up to hall and was quickly set up with a microphone, my USB stick was whisked away, and they set me up ready for the talk. I was also given a remote to move the slides on, that had a laser pointer! I sat on the stage and watched whilst 130 adults gradually arrived and filled the sea of empty chairs, trying not to chock on my nerves.

I decided to structure the talk as my writing journey. I began speaking about my love for storytelling and making books as a small child, going through my troubles with dyslexia, and discussing my art work at University, where I rekindled my passion for fairy tales. I talked about how ‘Through Mortal Eyes’ came about, the personal circumstances which inspired me to write, and the aims of the book. All the while, I had bouts of laugher, sighs in all the right places, all of which helped me relax and settle into the rhythm of the presentation.

One of my first books, penned age 6

The next section was about the research of the novel, the reading of fairy tales, explaining why I used certain tales, and briefly telling tales that I thought audience would not be familiar with; like, ‘The Three Snake Leaves’ by The Brothers Grimm (too much squirming from the audience!).



 It was very interesting to see how my talk was challenging older people’s perceptions of fairy tales, and how similar this was to the reaction I get from children. I found this part of the talk very liberating, being able to talk about the darker side of fairy tales instead of having to sensor to be age appropriate for my usual younger audience.  Making the most of the opportunity, I spoke about the Siberian tale that has been a huge influence on the story about Dog-Headed People, and about the very real fifteenth century Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Báthory, who tortured and murdered young women to bathe in their blood.  I talked about how local legends and places feature in the book sparking a healthy debate in the audience and even laughter – especially when we questioned why Disney had not adapted any of the fairy tales I spoken about!
I began to close by talking about writing, editing, submitting and the importance of having writer friends, the likes of SCBWI and Abingdon Writers, to help you whip a manuscript and submission package into shape, but also to help you stay sane!

Image of Elizabeth Bathory from Wikipedia Public Domain

I finished with hope. The Chicken House Long listing, the importance of celebrating small victories in a world of so much rejection, and then finally I read an extract from ‘Through Mortal Eyes’ finishing to applause.
With the lights now on, I could see that everyone was indeed both awake and attentive (and still mostly smiling) and so the Q&A section began. I had lot of questions; about fairy tales, writing, dyslexia, YA literature, all of which sparked further discussions. When the Q&A was over I had many people come to speak to me and ask even more questions, which was very encouraging.

All in all I was very pleased and relieved about how the event went. The University of the 3rd Age, were very welcoming and made me feel at ease. I have some work to do to improve certain bits, but on the whole I’m pleased that, like my art work, my writing style was a good catalyst for discussion; and that is exactly how I like it. 

So I'd like to say a big Thank You to the, U3A Abingdon, for inviting me and making me so welcome!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition Shortlist


Today the, The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition Shortlist, was announced, sadly I’ve not made the top five, but I'm still extremely pleased to have got on the longlist!  So I’d like to send big, congratulations to the lucky six authors who make the shortlist - and wish you all the best of luck for the next round.

Here are the Shortlisters 






Good luck to you all!




Monday, 28 January 2013

My Journey to writing – A tale of self-preservation and mental health.


My Journey to Writing 

A Tale of Self-Preservation and Mental Health


I recently read Matt Haig’s (author of ‘The Radley’s’) honest and touching guest blog on Booktrust, about how writing helped him overcome depression, to read Press Here.    This got me thinking about my journey to writing, and inspired me to share it. I began reading and writing at a particularly difficult time of my life, looking back I believe it gave me the strength to get through this time whilst keeping my sanity.

In 2003 my husband and I moved house, from  lovely comfortable home to what can only be described as a ‘Fixer-uper’, the new house had no working heating or hot water, it’s roof was barely watertight, and the garden had more rubbish than the local junk yard.  



Then I found out I was expecting a baby, and at twenty four, being young and healthy we foolishly thought it’d be a breeze. At the twenty week scan we found that the baby had a C-Cam, a cist on the lung that was 10% of baby’s size, displacing all the other organs, and was likely to burst which would be fatal.

Momentum of one of the best and most stressful days of our lives 20 week ultra-sound.

After the news, the rest of the pregnancy was rather stressful, then the baby came, a lovely little girl, who seemed healthy and an x-ray indicated that the C-Cam had shrunk and was no longer an issue.  However, the baby did not thrive. After six months she was still only birth weight. She could not retain food, it was expelled (with force) from both ends, and she was on a whole concoction of drugs to keep her going.

On top of this there was her skin. She was red, pillar box red, with acute infantile eczema that was constantly getting infected. This was heart breaking, not knowing what to do, and being under six departments across three hospitals trying to work out what was wrong –was exhausting physically and mentally. Eventually it was discovered that she was allergic to pretty much everything, including breast milk, and when put on pre-digested milk, she began to steadily get better.

Me and my lovely poorly little girl

However, she was never well enough for me to return to work. At six months we tried an hours ‘settling-in’ session at a local nursery, and ended up in hospital for a week on fluids because she caught a bug, and being so small, had not the resources to fight it.

That was it. Stuck in a ramshackle home, with a sick baby and on a tight budget due to unexpected loss of income, I began reading as it kept my mind active and was inexpensive. I discovered YA books, and found that I really enjoyed them and that they were written at a level that dyslexic me could cope with.

Everything was on the up, with the drugs and special milk my daughter began to gain weight, and began to sleep (did I mention she only slept one hour in 24!) But when she was eight months, she had a routine CT scan on her lung, just to confirm that the X-ray results were right, only to find that the cist was the lung – it was occupying the whole space, and was likely to burst and kill her at any moment.  Two very stressful weeks later (over Christmas) she has an operation and had the cist, and lower left lobe removed.

12 hours after surgery - 2 hours before lung collapsed 

The operation was a success (despite a few scary moments) and with both weight and lung fixed, it was only the skin left. The eczema we managed by wet-wrapping, and her health continued to improve.  Just as things were settling down, baby number two started manufacture. This time it was me that wasn’t healthy. I suffered the whole pregnancy with PGP, ‘Pelvic Girdle Pain’, and could not walk, sit, or move as I was in agony.  This condition usually rights itself after birth, but when my son arrived – bony and healthy, it got worse.

Happy baby - poorly hips!

So now I was stuck in a slightly improved ramshackle house, (we had hot water, and the roof no longer leaked!) with an almost healthy toddler, a demanding infant and in excruciating pain.  This was when I began writing. I wrote a small passage, a re-envisioning of a fairy Tale, and decided to turn it into a book. I began to read, I spent months immersed in fairy tales, and YA novels. The reading fed my mind, inspired a story and I wrote continually. The process kept my mind active, gave me focus and something to obsess on that wasn’t pain, or worry. It also meant that when my lovely supportive and tired husband got home from work, I didn’t bombard him with idle chitchat (just because he is another person over the age of three) and give him space to wind down.

It turns out that my pain is caused by shallow hip joints, and that my hips are wearing themselves out, at 30 I found out I needed hip replacements, and at 31 I went in for surgery which halted half way through as I ‘fainted whilst already unconscious under the anaesthetic!’ As half the surgery had been done, I was in more pain, and not fixed! At this point I read constantly, and wrote lot of scenes featuring pain!

Happy and healthy!

It is now a few years later, my daughter is in full health, my son is full of mischief, the house has been pulled down and rebuilt (another blog maybe), my husband is still supportive and working hard, but my hips are still not fixed! However I manage my pain with a combination of physiotherapy, exercise, and keeping healthy mentally - through reading and writing.

In short, reading and writing served as my personal solitude and therapy, keeping me strong when my family needed me most. 

Thanks for stopping by and reading my story.

If you or someone you love are suffering with any of the problems above here are some places you can get support...

Eczema - British Skin Foundation - Click Here
PGP - Pelvic Girdle Pain - The Pelvic Partnership -  Click Here 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Making The Chicken House – The Times Children’s Fiction Competition 2013 Long-List!

Making The Chicken House – The Times Children’s Fiction Competition 2013 Long-List!

What a great way to start the weekend, waking up to find that I've made the Long-List for The Chicken House The Times Children’s Fiction Competition 2013I'm utterly thrilled that; ‘Through Mortal Eyes,’ is in the long-list of 21!

I'm even more excited to find that I'm amongst friends. My close writing Buddy Nicki Thornton, is also in the long list with her Tweenies (early teenage) mystery novel, ‘The Sleeping Beauty House’, which is an amazing book, with lashing of both mystery and humour.  

Also, fellow SCBWI writer K M Lockwood (Philippa Francis) has made the long-list with her novel ‘Selkies of Scoresby Nab.’  I'm lucky enough to have read the opening of the book a while back so can truly say that it’s a great read that utilises the much overlooked folklore of Britain. 


So I’d like to thank the reader that pulled ‘Through Mortal Eyes’ off the mountain of entries and submitted it for the long-list – Thank you!

Also to send hearty CONGRATULATIONS to all the Long-listers…



ALL THE SKY - S.A. West
BORN LOSERS- Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
ELLIE AND THE GHOSTS - Elaine Murphy
FINDING ALICE - Rosemary Appleyard
FRAMED - Joy McCullough-Carranza
LIKE A BROTHER - Wendy E Constance
MOLLY - Katharine Leat
MOON BOY - D.M. Macphail
MR UNUSUALLY'S CIRCUS OF DREAMS - Sharda Dean
PROMISE NOT TO TELL - Rita Piper
THE BOY WITH THE GOLDEN BALLS - Michael Byrne
THE FLIGHT OF THE GRIFFIN - C.M. Gray
THE HAIRY HAND - Robin Bennett
THE PRINCESS AND THE PEACH - Benedict Brown
THE SELKIES OF SCORESBY NAB - K.M. Lockwood
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY HOUSE - Nicki Thornton
THE WITCH OF EDAINE-Hilly Barmby
THROUGH MORTAL EYES - Sally Poyton
VINCENT - Phillip Rudall
WE STOLE OUR BROTHER - Fiona Motherwell
ZACH IN THE MAKING - Kelly McCaughrain

So I'm off to celebrate…


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Goodbye 2012, the year of the Fairy Tale. Hello 2013, let the Fairy Tale Frenzy Begin…



2012 really was the year of the Fairy Tale. As I detailed in my earlier blog posts (click here and here) it was destined to be fairy tale mad. 2012 did not disappoint, bringing gifts of Fairy Tale films, television shows and books that all built up to the finale; the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Brothers Grimm’s, ‘Children’s and Household Tales’, on the 20th December.

But wait, fear not, fairy tales are not ‘so 2012!’… 2013 has a whole host of fairytale delights.  Read on to review some of the highlights from last year, and what’s in store in the coming months…

2012 Review


We had a fairy tale revival for the small screen, with the reboot of the 1980’s classic ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Grimm’, and ABC’s  ‘Once Upon A Time’, starring Jennifer Morrison and Robert Carlisle.

We had fairy tales hit the big screen too, with varied levels of success. For my money, ‘Mirror Mirror’ being on the poorer end, but then ‘Snow White and The Huntsman’ proving that Hollywood can pull off a good Fairy Tale Yarn. I think the key difference between the two film bases is simple, quality of the writing team; ‘Snow White and The Huntsman’ hired; The Sussex Centre for Folklore Fairy Tales and Fantasy, to be consultants for the film!!!

It wasn’t just western film makers, China’s film goers were also treated to a fairy tale caper; The ‘FairyTale Killer,’ about ‘A fearless cop is appointed to investigate a series of puzzling murders which resemble Fairy Tales.’

September saw the ‘After Grimm: Fairy Tales and Story Telling Conference’ in London. (Click here to see the right up in the SCFF Newsletter).

2012 saw a fair share of fairy tale literature, I can’t go through all of the fabulous books, but here are a few. Graham Joyce, the author of one of my all-time favourite fairy tale-esk adult novels, ‘The Tooth Fairy’ published his book ‘Some Kind of Fairy Tale.’ Alley Shaw followed up his award winning ‘The Girl with glass feet’ with his second fairy tale novel for adults, ‘The Man Who Rained

Then in autumn we saw the hugely anticipated Phillip Pullmans ‘Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old’.  This book is truly beautiful, with a cover that is so inviting it looks like you can walk straight into the books. What’s between the covers is even better, with a fascinating introduction, and compelling retelling of a selection of The Grimm Brothers most intriguing (not necessarily best known) Tales.

And finally, the 20th December was the bicentenary of the first publication of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s ‘Kinder- und Hausmärchen’.  With wide celebrations in Germany (click here for more), and an interesting series of programs on BBC Radio 4 (press here to listen). This rounded up a fantastic year.

2013 Highlights


2013 sees more Grimm adaptations but it also welcomes Hans Christian Anderson to the party. Yes The Snow Queen see’s not one but two animated adaptation's for the silver screen. First come Wizarts ‘The Snow Queen’ which is Russian made CGI picture (press here to seethe trailer). Later we have the Disney version ‘Frozen.’

Then more movies; Bryan Singer’s ‘Jack the Giant Killer’, and ‘Hansel and Gretel; Witch Hunters.’

Pans Labyrinth’s director, Guillermo De Terro’s animated ‘Pinocchio’ is currently in post-production, so will hopefully be released in 2013 and the images that have been released so far look stunning (press here). Although sadly there is no new news on his live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at present. But one thing is certain, if Pan’s Labyrinth is anything to go by, then both these films will be true fairy tale – *can’t wait!*

Other things in the making include the Disney Sleeping beauty adaptation that sees Angelina Jolie taking on the title role as the evil sorceress ‘Maleficent’ (Press Here to see Angelina in costume).  And there are rumours of a new live action Disney adaption of ‘Cinderella’ due to be directed by Mark Romanek (director of One Hour Photo), and starring ‘The Hosts,’ Saoirse Ronan. (to read more press here).


One thing is clear, the Fairy Tale rival is still going strong, with more films being commissioned, and an ever growing audience with a thirst for fairy tales that reference their heritage, not shying away from things that go bump in the night.