School visitsI was thrilled to visit two schools in December - Churchtown Primary where I gave my author talk to four Year 6 classes and All Saints Primary in Litherland where I gave a new talk to two Year 4 classes about my new book Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower.
I was particularly excited to be able to take along my new Audrey Mosson Railway Queen costume which is a copy of what she wore when she turned on the Blackpool Illuminations in 1935.
For information on school visits click here.
Here are some of the children at All Saints Primary trying on Gracie Fairshaw, Reg Dixon the magician, and Audrey Mosson costumes.
Window for GracieLook at this beautiful display for Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower created by Carolyn and Katie Clapham of Storytellers, Inc bookshop in St Annes on the Sea, Fylde. There are magnifying glasses and snowflakes galore as well as the Tower itself, ballerinas and other images taken from the book cover (illustrated by Jenny Czerwonka.)It was a real treat to be able to call into this wonderful bookshop to sign copies of my Gracie books for customers. There are still some signed copies left, so do pop in or contact them if you would like one in time for Christmas.
School visitIt was a real pleasure to visit Hatton Hill Primary this month to talk to them about my books. Hatton Hill is a fabulous school, and I have enjoyed chatting to them via zoom before, but of course it is even nicer to meet in person. I talked to them about my Gracie books and Kintana and the Captain's Curse and answered their questions about being an author.
Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower published!The second in my Blackpool-set Gracie Fairshaw series is now available! Copies can be bought in bookshops and via online retailers.This time Gracie explores Blackpool Tower - the world famous building known as The Wonderland of the World in the 1930s.You can find out more about the inspiration for my book by reading the Time Tunnellers blog and watching a new video available on the Time Tunnellers YouTube channel.The cover is designed by Jenny Czerwonka and includes lovely sparkly snowflakes. Look out too for the heritage tram and tram shelter!
Signed copies are available from Beyond Books.
Visit to Wigan and Ashton libraries!I set sail for two brilliant libraries this half term to talk to visiting families about pirates, Madagascar and Kintana and the Captain's Curse.I took along a barrel full of props including my pirate flags, smell cubes, elephant bird egg and of course some chocolate coins treasure! Yum yum!Children also made their own parrot pals to take home! Look at all the pretty Pollys!
Book signing and writing workshops at Bear Hunt Books!I was flattered to be asked if i would like to do a book signing as part of the opening weekend celebrations at the new Bear Hunt Books in Bebington, Wirral.The bookshop is run by Michelle and Sian (pictured with me, right) and they specialise in children's books and toys. The shelves are jam packed with goodies - there's picturebooks, 5+, 8+, YA, non-fiction and graphic novels. The shop also has a large events area where families can enjoy workshops and other activities in the future.
Thank you to everyone who bought a signed book.
I have also delivered a Postcards from Blackpool writing workshop during October half term at the bookshop. Children used maps and old postcards as inspiration before creating their own!
Special Guest visit to new library!I was thrilled to be invited to The Brow Primary in Runcorn to help their KS2 children celebrate the opening of their fantastic new school library.The new facility is amazing with lots of brilliant books in all categories, a gorgeous wall display and comfortable seating that looks like logs and tree stumps! I gave an assembly talk to the school and signed copies of Kintana and Gracie for the V.I.P children who officially opened the library.If you know a school or library that would like a talk from me - check out the Author Visits & Talks tab above.
Junior Travelling Reader offerHave you ever considered a book subscription? Then you might like The Junior Travelling Reader which sends it's young customers a different British-themed book with fabulous gifts every month. Locations featured include Somerset, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Cumbria, Oxford, Wales and Shetland.I'm delighted to say that the September theme is Blackpool and they have chosen Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest! The staff very kindly sent me my own book package and I went up to Blackpool to open it. I was blown away by the contents - and not just because it was an especially windy day!
I won't spoil the surprises inside - but I must say I particularly enjoyed the Blackpool Tower kit which I spent the evening putting together.
Picturehouses from the pastI am currently working on a third Gracie Fairshaw mystery inspired by cinema and the British Film industry in the 1930s. As part of my research I was pleased to be able to finally go on a Blackpool cinema heritage tour. This was something I had hoped to do in 2020, but the tour was unable to go ahead due to covid. The tour was delivered by guide, David Evans who took us around the town centre telling us about the different cinemas, past and present including The Imperial, The Royal Pavilion, The Odeon, The Clifton Palace, The ABC and The Regent.
As well as learning lots, I also got a couple of ideas for my WIP (work-in-progress).
Choo choo!Earlier in the year I learned about an appeal for £2,500 from the public to help renovate the Western Train, one of Blackpool's incredible illuminated trams. I have fond memories of seeing this tram, along with the Rocket and the Frigate (HMS Blackpool) and Fisherman's Friend Trawler when I was a child. So I was keen to make a donation towards this great cause, as were many other people. As a thank you, contributers were offered the chance to take a trip on the tram once work on it was complete.I can report that the Western Train looks stunning - especially after dark, and as we made our way through the illuminations, lots of passerbys waved or took pictures - showing just how popular this tram still is today!The illuminated trams have a long history - with cars being lit for Princess Louise's visit in 1897 and to celebrate King Edward VII's coronation in 1902. There followed the Gondola in 1925, the Lifeboat in 1926 and the Progress Tram in 1937. The 1960s saw a 'paddle steamer' called The Blackpool Belle and a Hover tram take to the tracks!
There is just one month to go until Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower is published. This is a sequel to my seaside mystery Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest.Gracie Fairshaw is delighted to get a sneak preview of the Children’s Ballet’s Christmas spectacular. But when the curtain rises, things go horribly wrong for the young dancers.
The stage is set for a thrilling mystery!
Accidents, pranks and a poison pen letter make Gracie wonder if someone is trying to spoil the show.
Have you met the Time Tunnellers?I am delighted to have been asked to join a new group of children's books authors who have teamed up to share their passion for historical stories. My fellow time tunnellers are Ally Sherrick, Jeannie Waudby, Catherine Randall and Barbara Henderson.We will blog on a different topic every Thursday at https://timetunnellers.blogspot.com
We have also launched our own Time Tunnellers Youtube channel with new writing tips for children every Thursday - so if you are a teacher you might like to subscribe.
You can also follow us on social media - we are on twitter, instagram and facebook.
My first blog and Youtube video is all about the Blackpool Illuminations and goes live on Thursday 9th September.
Writing workshopsI was delighted to be invited to deliver a day of writing workshops at Ormskirk School. The event was part of a summer school designed to help Year 6 pupils transition to Year 7. I spoke to over 120 students, inviting them to create their own treasure maps. The children were encouraged to create lists of pirate words to be used to name features on their islands. They were also inspired to think about how our senses can help us write better stories by sniffing four 'smell cubes' with aromas ranging from sun, sand and coconut to rainforest, as well as the rather stinky pirate ship! They also were able to listen to the sound of indri - a type of lemur - that lives in the Madagascan rainforest. Pupils also examined a replica flintlock and tried on a pirate hat while they created their own pirate characters!
Library visitI also had the great pleasure, this month to visit Leigh library for a pirate-themed event. I spoke to visiting families about my book, pirates and Madagascar while inviting them to explore a range of props including a replica elephant bird eye, a replica aye-aye hand, ring-tailed lemur tail, pirate flags and other piratey objects.
They also enjoyed smelling my set of pirate 'AromaPrime' smell cubes and listening to my 'talking tin' featuring the indri.
The children also drew pirates and treasure maps during my hour-long visit.
Aye, a fun time was had by all!
Kintana and the Captain's Curse is now available from all good bookshops. I have been busy promoting my pirate adventure and was thrilled to be invited to my first in person school visit!
I had a lovely trip over to Ysgol Sant Dunawd in Bangor on Dee. I gave a talk to year 3/4, 5 & 6, showing them pirate flags, a replica elephant bird egg, a replica aye aye hand and of course telling them all about the inspiration behind my book! I also signed lots of books and answered lots of brilliant questions about being an author, pirate history and Madagascar.
If you would like a signed copy, you can buy them online from Beyond Books.
I have also recorded two new writing challenge videos, create your own pirate character and create a pirate pet which feature on the Uclan Publishing instragram account.
Kintana has been getting some lovely reviews, including this one in the LEP (Lancashire Evening Post.)
I was also made up to see Kintana featured on The Reader Teacher's July 2021 Children's Books I'm Most Excite About Youtube video.
You may also like to read an interview I did for the CILIP Youth Libraries Group blog about Kintana and the Captain's Curse.
Finally I have enjoyed a return visit to Write Blend bookshop to sign copies of Kintana. Thanks to Bob Stone for the invite.
Kintana school visits
I have been busy doing some school visits all about Kintana and the Captain's Curse in preparation for my book's publication on Thursday 1st July. I have spoken to schools in Wirral, Kent, Norfolk as well as 400 Year 7 pupils in Barnsley!
I have donned my pirate hat and answered lots of superb questions from pupils about my favourite authors and books, Madagascar animals and all things piratey!
I have been able to tell children about show off my giant elephant bird egg replica which was shipped all the way from America!
I also have booked in my first writing workshops for next term - do get in touch if you know a school that would like more information. I am currently piloting two sessions - writing inspired by setting and writing inspired by old newspapers and magazines.
I have also started a new job! After 12 years working in heritage education I decided it was time to try something new. I am thrilled that I have accepted a position as a library information assistant with Halton libraries. I am really enjoying my new role. I am learning lots of new skills including using a computer system called koha, shelving books, finding holds, choosing books for home library service members and giving out library cards to new joiners. I have also created a display for this year's Summer Reading Challenge which has a Wild Worlds theme and I am looking forward to helping with family events.
Back in 2016, I was chosen as a winner in the SCBWI British Isles Undiscovered Voices competition.
The opening chapters from one of my children's books - set in the Khmer Empire, Cambodia - was published in an anthology.
The competition runs every two years and is an opportunity for unpublished writers to get noticed by agents and editors.
This year's competition is open for submissions between 14th June and 18th July 2021.
You can find out more about the competition and read my recent guest blog HERE.
The first reviews for Kintana and the Captain's Curse are starting to come in - and I thought you might like to read some of them.
These early reviewers all read ARCs - advance reading copies.
Kintana is also available for request for review on netgalleyUK.
Thank you to Tony Higginson of Beyond Books whose review is here.
Thanks to Kelly Buxton of A Page Turner for her review here.
Thanks to Paperbound Magazine for featuring Kintana in their Summer edition. You can read the review here.
Set sail for Madagascar!
Shiver me timbers I am thrilled to announce that my new middle grade historical adventure will be published on July 1st 2021 by Uclan Publishing!
Kintana and the Captain's Curse is a pirate fantasy adventure set in Madagascar, 1733.
Kintana has grown up listening to stories of life at sea from her pa, an ex-pirate turned pet shop owner. So when a tall ship - The Nine Sails - berths at Pirate Island she eagerly joins the motley crew as a cabin boy - even though her main duty will be to look after the pirate's pets.
But someone on board is determined to disrupt the voyage, could the dreaded captain's curse be to blame? Or it it the lure of buried treasure that will draw the ship back to her island home?
One thing is for sure, Kintana is about to discover that sometimes adventure is found closer to home.
The cover has been designed by illustrator Jenny Czerwonka - whose style you may recognise - she also created the fabulous cover for Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest.
Nosy Boraha and Pirate Island are real places. In the 1700s pirates used Madagascar as a place of safety. Nosy Boraha is especially famous for its pirate cemetery! My book was inspired by rumours that Captain Kidd buried his treasure somewhere off the east coast of Madagascar, a childhood love of the film Blackbeard's Ghost and memories of working with ring-tailed lemurs as an education assistant at Blackpool Zoo.
I am extremely grateful to Dr Phil Boyle, former Ambassador to Madagascar for his very generous feedback on my manuscript, including insightful comments on Malagasy culture and Madagascar's amazing wildlife. I am also especially grateful to the Anglo Malagasy Society's Daniel Austin and Vaonarivo Brown for connecting me with Shaun Reveley and Nicole Ralay whose knowledge of Nosy Boraha has been invaluable.
Kintana and the Captain's Curse can be preordered from local independent bookshops and from Amazon.
How to be an author
I was delighted to be asked to record a video for the Twinkl Home Educators facebook page for Careers Week about becoming a children's book author. Click on the image to watch via YouTube.
I am also taking part in a book chat on Monday 11th January with Tony Higginson of Beyond Books. This chat will also be available to watch on Youtube and on Access North West radio on Thursday 14th January.
I will be talking about Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest and selecting some favourite tracks for the show, so do tune in!