Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Little Concertina Book

Two gorgeous little boys I know decorated a cake for their grandad's birthday while I took photos. We cut and folded card into a concertina book and stuck in the sequence of photographs.

A cake and a book for his birthday - lucky grandad!

Monday, 14 December 2009

East 1 Writing Project

Last week, I met sixty pupils and their teachers from schools in Tower Hamlets for two days of fun and writing. The first day we travelled into the West End to see a matinee performance of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. After the show we walked to Oxford Street to see the Lights and have a pizza.
The following day we met to share our experience and write about our day out. On our experience day I asked the pupils to record the things they saw, heard and felt on post-it notes. What became clear when we shared our post-its - sticking them up in the sequence they happened - was that even though we shared the experience different people notice different things. Everyone has a unique perspective and the young writers are each developing a personal voice describing the day as they saw it. It was fascinating and impressive to watch the pupils focus their attention and begin writing. It was great fun to meet such a vibrant enthusiastic group and I am looking forward to working with these students again next year.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Cumbria Book Appeal

Last week I arrived at Alexandra Park School to meet Y8 students in the library only to find that the school had been evacuated. Torrential rain the night before had got into the electrics and made the school unsafe. An unexpected day off on a Monday morning will have been a joy to many students and I can easily reschedule my visit. But Cumbrian schools are still closed after the November floods and children there will be missing out on all the fun end-of-term activities as well as their education. Many are still homeless.
An email was forwarded to me this week from Chris Priestley who is rallying Children's authors and Illustrators to send signed books to Cumbrian children. To find out more see Chris's Blog and get involved if you can help.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Writing about Rain

Doesn't the Steadfast Tin Soldier in Hans Christian Andersen's story get washed down the gutter in a deluge of rain? Or am I confusing him with Incy Wincy?

My husband is from Cumbria and I've had many visits there when it has rained - I've seen how it can go on and on for days, the skies heavy and grey, the ground sodden. But what they're going through now is unbelievable. My sister-in-law's friend in Cockermouth told her how the windows of submerged shops caved in under the pressure and the shop goods set off down the street like items on a conveyor belt.

Condolences to all who have lost so much in the last few weeks.

With the rain driving against my window while I write today I've been thinking about rain in stories -

Getting waylaid by torrential rain - As I Lay Dying
Sheltering from rain as a means to develop intimacy - hmmm...can't think if any examples but I know there are some. Any ideas? Dickens?
Constant miserable wetness as an allegory of the general miseries of life
Characters who are oblivious to the soaking they're getting due to their emotional state - Jane Eyre
Rain after drought to signify hope and renewal.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Visit to St. Mary Magdalen Academy

Last Monday I visited SMMA in the Liverpool Road to talk about writing and the inspiration for Out of the Blue. I really enjoyed meeting the students so thanks to all of you who came along in your lunch hours and to Emma Wallace in the library for organising my visit.

Walking home I had an idea about the story I'm currently working on. I looked around for a cafe to stop and write in but there wasn't anything nearby so, scared I'd forget it, I phoned myself and left a message. I've not phoned myself before but it suddenly seemed like a good idea; I thought I'd look less conspicuous talking to myself on the phone than muttering into thin air. When I got home I went straight to my desk and started writing - I didn't need to listen to the message.

A couple of days later I was listening to a new message and heard my message from Monday. I didn't recognise my own voice and had a split second of feeling amazed. Who is this person telling me what I should do about Cora's mum? I thought.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Edward Lear and the Eagle Owl

Yesterday, I flew an eagle owl. Now, though this might be the correct verb to use it required no flying on my part more's the pity - I just had to hold my arm out and the Owl flew to me - as you can see here.

These birds are native to Europe and were common enough before the Victorians shot them to near extinction in the belief that they'd be better stuffed and displayed in a glass case than living in a forest. Edward Lear - a famous Victorian - did not, as far as I know, shoot an eagle owl - but he did marry one off to a pussycat and have them sail away for a year and a day to the land where the bong tree grows.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College

Yesterday I met a class of Y9 girls and I had a great time. Thank you for listening so brilliantly and for your questions I was really impressed. And another school with an excellent library - and this one is about to be refurbished so it will soon be even better. I'm ashamed to say that I cannot remember my own school library which is really weird. We must have had one surely? But if we had I would have lived in it.
Thank you EGA - I'm looking forward to coming back to see you soon. 

Friday, 6 November 2009

Fortismere today, Waterstones tomorrow

Today was the first in a spree of visits to schools to meet YA readers. I'm more used to visiting primary schools so I was hoping it would go well. I went to Fortismere School in North London and talked to students in Y8 about writing in general and Out of the Blue in particular. I was impressed by the students - fantastic listeners who asked great questions and by their library which is superb - friendly, well stocked, great displays and peaceful!
Tomorrow, Sat 7th November I am going to be in the Earle St Branch of Waterstones in Maidstone from 11.30am followed, on Sunday by a very special Remembrance Service in Lenham, Kent.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Awww I've got blog lazy

I'm being a bit hard on myself calling my time away from blogging laziness. It's more a case of too much happening rather than too little that has kept me from blogging in the last couple of months. I'm not asking for sympathy because much of it has been fun - like visits to France and Italy which were fabulous.

Unfortunately, my writing has suffered too - you can sympathise there if you like though to be honest I'm doing fine feeling sorry for myself. I've had to bite the bullet and begin to re-write my current story when, after a few miserable weeks of trying to make something stand up when it wanted to lie down and sprawl about, I finally resigned myself to the inevitable and have started again.

So, its likely to continue to be quiet on the blog front. I'll post again in September - in the meantime - Have a happy summer.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Carnegie Shortlist continued.

I have just finished Kate Thompson's Creature of the Night. What a wonderful book - I was totally gripped from start to finish and had no idea what was coming next. I found the characters utterly convincing to the extent that I was worrying about Bobby and really hoping that Dennis wouldn't wet the bed and tip his ma over the edge. Four pages before the end I couldn't see how Kate Thompson could end the story and so it was immensely satisfying to close the book a few minutes later shaking my head and smiling with admiration. Fabulous.

So, difficult to follow you might think and I'd agree with you but I've still got four more to read before I've completed the Carnegie shortlist. I went straight into Eoin Colfer's Airman - and got to somewhere around page 50 last night. It is a fasten-your-safety-belt-check-your-parachute-remember-to-breathe adventure and I am loving it. Passing family members pause to stare at me sprawled on sofa or sitting in the garden and mutter, "Are you still reading?"
Yes I am, thank you very much Carnegie judges for a fine shortlist.

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Carnegie Shortlist

I am stunned when I look at Jenny's blog Wondrous Reads - great new look btw Jenny - by how many books Jenny gets through.

It is a struggle to find the time to get everything done and I don't mean the chores - I've had to set The Book Thief aside which is frustrating because I had just got beyond the point of finding Death's explanatory notes distracting and Liesel and Rudi were beginning to consume my interest when it occured to me that I had to get on and read the Carnegie shortlist.

I am not complaining because so far every book has lit me up. I am going to have to get the new Patrick Ness because I HAVE to find out what happens to Todd and Viola in the same way that I eagerly, verging on desperately, waited for Philip Pullman to give me more about Lyra and Will. But I closed The Knife of Never Letting Go and allowed myself a moment or two then went straight into Keith Gray's Ostrich Boys. Literally. Like falling. Loved it.

So no chores, infrequent blogs and not much writing getting done and now you know why - and I'm not complaining!

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Race for the Lost Keystone - Lorabeth Lampton

The other day I received an email asking me about Lorabeth Lampton from a reader called Robbie. Lorabeth Lampton is the villain in my heartstone books.

Unfortunately Robbie I've been unable to reply because my email keeps bouncing back. (I think that maybe the adult whose computer you were on has their inbox protected)

So, I hope you find your way here and thank you for writing. Here's my reply:-

Hi Robbie,
Thank you for taking the trouble to write to me. I'm really happy that you're enjoying The Race for the Lost Keystone.
Ah, Lorabeth Lampton - that mean old nasty piece of work - she's so mean and nasty that she was really good fun to write. I don't know how I came up with her exactly, but its funny how a character starts to become real as the story grows. I'll be thinking about the plot and planning what's going to happen next and as I imagine a scene I just know how Lorabeth is going to react and what she will say. She has a lot of power but she's a bit of a loner. She has people who work for her but the clever ones - the scientists - they might start questioning whether she should be doing what she's doing and that makes her mad. So, then she has Bardolph and Frimley who aren't very smart so they aren't going to ask too many questions but they annoy her because they blunder about and get things wrong.
Happy reading and say Hi to your reading group
Best Wishes

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Breathing Underwater by Julia Green

Breathing Underwater by Julia Green

I looked forward to reading her new book because I know Julia and love her writing and couldn't wait to visit a world that she had created. Because that's what reading one of Julia's books is like - everything is so real that you think about the characters and the events afterwards as if you lived through it rather than merely read it.
A beautiful book.

You can read Sasha's review of Breathing Underwater on Chicklish

Young Writers 3 ET by Emil

Fine work from Emil in his comic series - strong characterisation and good page design well drawn. Only five issues at the moment though hopefully there's more on the way.

Good luck for SATs week to everyone in Year 6!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Young Writers 2: - FIFA Street

Yet more brilliant invention from Year 6 boys. A football comic called Fifa Street that's funny and beautifully drawn by Stanley from an original idea by Jake and featuring a character based on Theo. (Hope I've got that right.)

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Blogging and writing...

Although I started this blog a year ago with help from Phil of Graham Hall, I've only been at it regularly for about a month now and in a small way at that. I'm hoping to get quicker at it because if I can't post a blog in ten to fifteen minutes then I'll be using precious time blogging when I should be writing. I'm learning as I go along and I'm discovering other blogs that I want to read and follow - all time gobbling stuff but fascinating.
I did have a bit of a breakthrough with the current one last weekend so if the blog goes quiet it will be good news for the writing!

Out of the Blue at Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town

Thanks to Leslie and Gemma at Owl for their help at the launch of Out of the Blue last Wednesday. I had a great time and it was good to see everyone.
Thanks to Don Church for the photo and last, but not least, I would say a great-big-thank-you-from-the-bottom-of-my-heart thank you to Richard.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Beautiful Books

Whatever happens ebooks will not cause books to disappear. A beautiful book cannot be replaced by a virtual book because we will not want to lose the pleasure of holding a beautiful book in our hands. Marion Bataille's ABC3D proves the point perfectly - I can enjoy watching someone else look through this beautiful book but I shall have to buy my own copy.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Inspiration - Where does it come from?

David Lynch talks about where ideas come from. He likens it to fishing. The intention to write a story is like dangling the bait in the water. Sooner or later a little fish - a tiny idea - comes along and takes a bite. You write down that little idea and it pulls in a bigger idea and so on. I like this analogy. Right now I'm wandering along the riverbank trying to decide on a good place to sling my hook.
Another place where we can find inspiration is in all the stories we've ever heard or read or seen in our lives - like this seven-year old writer creating a new version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf and making something unique and wonderful out of it.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Young Writers 1: - Tristan's comics

A couple of months ago I discovered that Tristan writes and draws a comic series called Matrix.
I had just finished taking the register and the class were reading quietly, when I noticed Tristan and Sam shuffling through what I took to be piles of paper. I went over to see if I could suggest a good book and realised that I was interrupting an editorial meeting.

"Did you write these?"
"And draw them?"
"All of them?!"

One of the hard things about being a writer is making the commitment to do it. You can have a good idea and you can make a start and that is interesting and sometimes even exciting, but to keep at it and develop it takes effort. And Tristan has put an amazing amount of effort into his comics. They are brilliant.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Last Day of the Holiday

Another day of rain and I went to the British Museum this afternoon.
Margaret came with me and took this photo for me. I was feeling weary and the museum was stuffy and crowded so when I saw the giant Lewis chess piece I thought I know how you feel matey!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Great Missenden in the Rain... a fine thing because you can duck into the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre!
I had a wonderful time today. It was good to see old friends and to meet some new ones too. So, Hello to Sarah Mooney the current Storyteller in Residence and Hello to the young writers and story lovers who came to my workshops - Tia and Indiana, Samuel, Tom and Amy, Louis and all the rest of you - thanks for coming and for sharing your ideas and your brilliant imaginations.

I told Tia that I would give a link to the website where you can print off some more of Fabio Sirna's lovely paper bookmarks. So, here it is Bookmarks

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

I am off to Buckinghamshire tomorrow, to the village of Great Missenden home of The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. I am going to do a couple of workshops for budding writers so if you are planning a visit it will be good to see you.
I have not been for ages and I'm really looking forward to it. I was writer in residence at the museum when it first opened and I had a brilliant time there. Yes, those are two giant chocolate doors that I am standing next to and they smell delicious!

*Top Tips for budding writers
Thursday 16 April
1.30pm to 2.30pm and 3pm to 4pm
For 8+ year olds: Val Rutt, author of The Mystery of the Darkstone, shares extracts from her current work in progress about squabbling siblings Ed and Marie. Grab the chance to ask a published author anything you ever wanted to know about being a writer. Look out for Val's new book Out of the Blue, a story set in World War II for 13+ year olds, out in April.
£3 per person. (plus admission price)

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Out of the Blue - book launch

It will be good to see you if you would like to come.

(click on image to enlarge and make legible!)

Please RSVP to reserve a place.



Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Out of the Blue

I began writing this story when I was Writer in Residence at the wonderful Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. In the mornings and evenings I used to walk in the woods around Great Missenden and daydream and ponder the plot. In the museum I watched the film sequence about Roald Dahl's World War Two RAF flying experiences. As it is shown on a giant screen, seeing the Spitfire in flight was particularly evocative and thrilling.
Out of the Blue will be in the shops on 24th April it's about an English girl and an American pilot who meet and fall in love during World War Two. I hope that you like it.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

My, how you've grown!

I've been teaching for a while, so the Year 6 pupils from my first classes are now adults in their twenties. A person's appearance can change a lot in the ten years between being 11 and being 21 and when I run into past pupils, as I sometimes do, I don't always recognize them at first. Sometimes I don't really recognize them at all - I just have this vague I'm sure I know you feeling for a person who I can't put a name to. Then, if I do recognize them all of a sudden, I'm embarrassed to say that what comes out of my mouth is the same old nonsense that older people used to say to me when I was growing up. All that 'goodness - just look at you' kind of stuff. So I'm writing this now to apologize to anyone who has experienced this kind of thing. But, you should know that it just can't be helped - it just pops out of the mouth before the brain recovers from the happy shock of connecting that four-foot freckly boy with a grin to the six-foot bearded guy with a grin.
It's always good to see you.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Describing an elephant... know, like you do. Some Year 6 pupils and I had a go at describing a pachyderm today. The KS2 SATs will require them to do some writing and we had been discussing the problem of not knowing anything about the subject that you're asked to write about. That's not a problem, I said, because you can always make it up. So we shut our eyes for a while and pretended that we were in a room with an elephant.
Everybody did a good job but I was especially impressed with Kane's description of the elephant's colour being as grey as the sky when it's about to rain and Harry's description of the elephant moving from side to side like an old man in a rocking chair gently throwing his weight about.

Good luck to anyone doing their SATs in May - just remember to try and make it real when you write.

I've not posted for a while because I've been teaching more and writing less but that will change after Easter when I plan to start a new book. I've already started it in my head - in fact I've been thinking about it for ages.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Hand-made Books and a New Year's Resolution

It's been a while since I made a book from scratch and my resolution is to make one. I'm going to write it, marble the end papers, stitch it up and give it a hardcover. When it's done I will post a video of it here.

Happy New Year.