Storytelling at Barton

I have had a wonderful morning with the creative and talented children at Barton Primary School.

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The Year 1 and 2 children used the opening lines of my book, Jamie and the Joke Factory to develop crazy, imaginative stories through illustration.  I loved the fact that they were so engaged in the task and working in teams, and their stories were all so different.

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But I am especially pleased that one of the teachers said she found the session ‘inspirational’ – not just for the children but for her too! – and it’s exiting to know the children will be developing more stories based on my approach.

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I also had a really enjoyable time with the Year 5 class. We used rhyme to inspire our stories, based on my approach to writing Hairy Fairy. I loved the way the children worked on this task and look forward to seeing more of their rhyme-inspired stories (which they’ve promised to send me).

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All of the sessions I lead today are based on some Resources for Schools which should be appearing on the School visits page of this website soon. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more.

There goes another New Year’s resolution!

You may remember that, at the beginning of January, I undertook to write around 1,000 words a day , in order to complete the first draft of a 30,000 word children’s novel by the end of the month. Well, guess what? I failed! But I have got more than 15,000 written so I am now aiming to complete the first draft by the end of February.  I will keep you posted!

Happy New Year!

I know a lot of people don’t like January, and I can see it has its downsides: it’s long, it’s cold, it’s dark…

But I rather like it. I welcome the opportunity to get rid of the Christmas clutter – the physical stuff like decorations and packaging and the head-clutter of lists and Important Things to Do. And I do see January as something of a blank page.

Over the last few years, January has been a very productive month for me. In January 2015, I wrote the first draft of Jamie and the Joke Factory and in January 2016, I wrote the first draft of Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland.

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This year I’m going to try and complete another first draft in January. The difference is, this is a 30,000 word chapter book, not an 800 word picture book. I actually started the book back in November, and managed to write around 2,500 words. I’ve just started on it again this week and am now up to 3,798.

I’m going to have to speed up if I’m going to get the first draft completed by the end of the month. I thought if I shared my target with you, it might concentrate my mind. I will keep you posted on my progress via my Facebook page. Wish me luck!

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. Thank you for your support in 2016 – see you again in 2017!

In the meantime, here is my Christmas poem:

Christmas Wrap

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Christmas cheer:
Guess who’s here?
Jolly fat man, red-nosed deer!

Early morning,
Not yet dawning,
Daddy’s grumpy, Mummy’s yawning

Tea is sipped,
Wrap is ripped,
Batman onesie, on and zipped.

Jingle bells,
Whoops and yells,
Yummy scrummy cooking smells

It’s fantastic!
(Dad’s sarcastic.)
Overwhelmed by so much plastic.

Corks are popping,
Needles dropping,
I like the cake, but not the topping.

Weather’s murky,
Grandma’s perky,
Roast potatoes, bacon, turkey.

Teenage pouts,
Brussel sprouts,
Lots of laughter, lots of shouts.

Lights and holly,
Talking dolly,
Think that Grandma’s getting jolly.

Cranberry jelly,
Excess telly,
Too much food inside my belly.

Battery’s dead,
All are fed,
Think it’s time to go to bed.

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Fun first outing for Numberland

I had a fun first public reading of Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland at the Windmills Preschool event today. It’s always a little nerve-wracking sharing a book with members of the public for the first time, especially when they are as discerning as the group I met today, ranging in age from two (‘I’m nearly three. I’m nearly four. It’s my birthday soon.’) to sophisticated nine-year-olds.

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It was a great relief that they all seemed to like the story; listening very carefully and laughing in all the right places (there was a lot of laughter, which is always good to see.)

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Some of the children also made some lovely Isabella and Blot puppets. A really fun morning.

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Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland is available to buy from Amazon.

Nerdish Mum gives Isabella the thumbs-up!

So pleased to receive such a lovely, five star, review from book blog Life of a Nerdish Mum. This is some of what it said about Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland:

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The story is written in rhyme and is very easy to read, however the author hasn’t shied away from using ‘grown up’ words which I really like.

The artwork is absolutely beautiful in a very naive and childlike way and it matches the story perfectly.

I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed reading it to my youngest Nerdling (aged 3) who really enjoyed the pictures and looking at all the numbers. I’ll definitely be going back and finding the first book in the series.

I gave this book 5 Stars.

Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland is available to BUY NOW.

Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland launched today!

It’s publication day for my latest rhyming picture book, Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland, and I’m very excited!

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‘So what’s this new book about?’ I hear you ask. Well…

Can you imagine what it would be like if there were no numbers? If you couldn’t measure, count or weigh? In her latest adventure, accident-prone young witch Isabella falls down a hole and finds herself in a land where nothing quite adds up (because all the numbers have disappeared!) She makes new friends, encounters an old enemy and, though the odds are against her, finally saves the day. You can count on Isabella! More details are available here.

Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland, the perfect stocking-filler for the under-nines in your life, is available to BUY NOW.

One of the things that has made publication day so great so far, was waking up to this lovely review from Linda’s Book Bag.

Donald

Donald the Angry Octopus

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Donald the angry octopus was keen to rule the sea;
All he had to do was get the others to agree.
He flattered all the flatfish, the flounders and the dabs.
He tried his very hardest to be civil to the crabs.
He used his twisty tentacles to tickle timid fishes,
(Though when they said that he should stop, he just ignored their wishes.)
For Donald didn’t truly care for fishes or for shellfish –
He only really loved himself; he was entirely selfish.
And very soon he found kind words were sticking in his gullet;
He didn’t want to chat up cod or parley with a mullet.
And when the catfish criticised and said that he was mean,
Big Don, he showed his temper (it was something to be seen).
He didn’t like Miss Catfish and made no attempt to hide it,
The tide was flowing his way and he was going to ride it.
Support for Don was growing in this underwater nation
(It’s hard to be warm-hearted when you’re only a crustacean.)
The limpets, in particular, supported cruel Don’s notion
Of keeping out the snappers from their special bit of ocean.
And when the mackerel challenged, saying: ‘How low can you sink?’
Big Don just smirked his meanest smirk and squirted him with ink.
Don was vain and mean and sneaky, but here’s the funny thing:
The fishes and the shellfish made that octopus their king.

Doggy diaries

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I have just returned home after pretending to go for a walk with my dog Archie. I have had to pretend I am going for a walk with Archie every morning so far this week. You see, Archie has very exacting standards. He believes that when he goes for a walk in the morning, the whole pack should come with him (as they do every school day).

He does not approve of half term arrangements which mean my poor husband attempts to take him on his own while the rest of us stay at home. Archie bounds out of the house happily enough, but as soon as he realises it’s just the two of them, he lowers his rear end with exaggerated slowness and sits on our front drive. The deliberateness of his action seems to say ‘I am disappointed in you. Do you really think this meets the requirements of a morning walk? I expected better.’

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So I have taken to pretending I’m going too; walking the first 30 yards or so, subtly slowing down, then turning for home once Arch gets in his stride. Of course, if I turn too soon, he plants himself on the pavement and waits for me to catch up.

Archie is a character. He is a Jack Russell. Same thing. Quite a few people who’ve met Archie have said that I should write a story about him and for a while now I have been contemplating writing some kind of dog diary. ‘The Diary of Archibald Rainford, age 4 ½ (or 30 in dog years)’ maybe.

Of course I know there have been lots of similar books, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, whilst rummaging around in a secondhand book sale, that I discovered the delightful ‘A Dog Day’ by Walter Emanuel and Cecil Aldin. At first I thought I’d discovered a forgotten classic, but it turns out this charming little book is far from forgotten – it’s had numerous reprints since its first publication in 1902 and, if the reviews on Amazon are anything to go by, is still very much treasured by many people today.

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What I like about it is that, while the lifestyle of the middle class humans that Emanuel describes is very much of its time, the characteristics of the terrier are timeless. The diary entry for 6.30 is one of my favourites. ‘Upstairs, past the drawing room. Door of old Mrs Brown’s bedroom open invitingly. I entered. Never been in before. Nothing much worth having. Ate a few flowers out of a bonnet. Beastly.’ Apart from a few period details (and the fact that he can’t actually write), Arch could have penned these words himself.

I must add that Aldin’s drawings are also timeless. And full of charm.

It would be nice to think that, if Arch and I do ever get round to collaborating on his diary, it might be similarly enduring.