My picks for Xmas 2016 – Part 2: Young Adult


Following on from my last post where I highlighted my favourite MG titles, here are the Young Adult titles I’ve loved reading this year – not all new releases, but new to me!

Being Billy – Phil Earle

Bird – Crystal Chan

The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Beautiful Broken Things –  Sara Barnard

More of Me – Kathryn Evans

Lorali – Laura Dockrill

Lobsters – Lucy Evison and Tom Elen

Paper Butterflies – Lisa Heathfield.

Instructions for a Second Hand Heart – Tamsyn Murray

One – Sarah Crossan

And really there are so many more I could have added.

But whatever books you curl up with over the holidays I wish you a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

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Why I owe the postman an apology

I’ve got a bit of an admission to make. I think I have an Author Crush. I haven’t felt this way since David Almond.

I only recently read ‘Rooftoppers’ by Katherine Rundell, despite all the buzz last year about the book and its author. I’m not sure why I didn’t read it back then, perhaps it was just the wilful (middle-grade) child in me that never wanted to jump on a bandwagon for the latest book/film/fashion…

Anyway I finally did read ‘Rooftoppers’ – and of course immediately understood what everyone had been raving about.

This book sings.

It had me at Hello – well at the first line, which is the equivalent.

Who can’t fail to be at the mercy of that wonderful opening? A baby in a cello case, floating in the English Channel.

And when Katherine describes Charles for the first time: ‘Think of night-time with a speaking voice. Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal chords.’

That was it, for me.

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What A Day! Nosy Crow Conference 2014 My Highlights

My head is still buzzing from Nosy Crow’s one-day conference ‘Everything You Wanted to Know about Children’s Publishing – But Were Afraid to Ask’.

All I can say is, it’s amazing what you can deliver in a day!

It was an incredibly friendly, motivational event packed with useful info, practical tips and advice, as well as some truly inspirational speakers. Ever get the feeling I enjoyed it?!

It’s hard talking about highlights in a day that was crammed with great speakers, but here are two of mine.

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‘Hold Your Breath’ Piccadilly Press Book Launch

I went to my first book launch this week. Very exciting!

There are some people who really inspire you when you are struggling to keep turning up at the page and Caroline Green is one of those people. Suzy Greaves interviewed her for the Big Writing School about a year ago and she spoke so openly about her journey to get published that whenever a rejection lands on the doormat I always stop and think about her perseverance.

It’s so important to hear the downs as well as the ups from people who have made it to the ‘other side’. It’s very easy to see a book on a shelf and not remember the story behind the story; the agonising rewrites, the rejections, the doubts, the months it gets shoved in a drawer.

Caroline has helped me no end since that first interview and it was great to finally meet her in person. I loved her first 2 books, ‘Cracks’ and ‘Dark Ride’ and I can’t wait to read ‘Hold Your Breath’ – read the back cover or watch the trailer and you’ll see why!

Well done to the team at Piccadilly Press for a great launch!



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Showing Up


Writing picture books is a strange process.

For me it often starts with a name or a line that pops into my head for no obviously apparent reason.

And I get all excited and rush to the computer. If I’m lucky things start spinning off from it but more often than not I get that first little gem down and it just ‘is what it is’ and no more. It refuses to tell me anything more about itself for ages and ages.

Like this morning. A few days ago a new character turned up and I thought ‘fantastic, here we go’. But for two mornings I’ve sat staring at those opening lines and been completely at a loss. ‘What am I supposed to do with you?’ I keep thinking.

I keep trying things and I’m just not feeling that spark. Sometimes it feels like the ideas have emigrated to warmer climes – or at least they’re hibernating. Most of the time I have to hunt around for them and even the blighters that arrive of their accord I then need to work out what to do with, like this one today.

So where do you get ideas? Some people seem blessed with a head full of the things but surely everyone has duff days. What then?

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What Mammoths can teach us about creativity

These were designed and made for me by my smallest son. I love how inventive kids are! He has also attempted roller skates by tying felt tip pens to his feet with string. That was less successful but he is undeterred.

It reminds me of a picture book I love called ‘Me and My Mammoth’ by Joel Stewart.

It’s all about a little boy who loves to invent and make things but they never quite turn out right. So he buys a kit – to make an aeroplane. Only instead of an aeroplane he ends up with a very big, very hairy mammoth! Who can fly! It’s a fabulous book and I just love the unexpected jump from starting to make one thing and ending up with something so spectacularly and wonderfully different. Something that then takes him on a fantastic adventure.

I see my two boys doing it all the time.

So what have I learned from a mammoth and my boys’ inventiveness?

If I’m making stuff up and at first it doesn’t look like I thought it would, don’t be discouraged, don’t give up on it – because what comes out instead might just take me off on a whole new adventure!

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The Power Of Vulnerability

I expect most people will have seen this already but every so often I just watch it again. Because there’s so much in it that I need to hear it more than just the once!

And as I sit down to write I like to remember her words and to remember that the definition of courage is ‘to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.’

“What happens when people open their hearts?”…
“They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood



Everything is Beautiful When You Don’t Look Down

We spent Sunday on the South Bank. I love the view along there with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament it really is fantastic. But I love the fact that everywhere you go there are interesting views – not just the big sights but juxtapositions of the old and new, the busy and the tranquil.

This was on the back of the Hayward Gallery. It’s called ‘Everything is Beautiful When You Don’t Look Down’ and was built by the arts collective Robots. It was all built from recycled and reclaimed materials and made with help from the children at the Oasis Children’s Venture.


I just love it and the fact you have to look up to see these things as you are wandering along. It reminded me that I have to keep looking up to get where I want to be.

If I don’t look up I could miss seeing someone (or something) that might be right there waiting to help me. If all I do is look down and cling to my tiny bit of wall I might never move.  I also like that to be helped you have to let go of the wall long enough to take their hand.

And that can be a very scary and a very brave thing to do.

To let go.


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