In this section there is stuff about books I've written, books I love reading and nuggets of wisdom from moi to help you get the most out of your own writing. As well as writing books for teens, I've also written books for tweens, books for confident readers aged 8+ and illustrated books for tots, all published by Hodder Children's Books.

  Willow the Woodsprite
  Topaz
  Felicity Wishes
  Virtual Bookshelf
  Top Tips

 


Willow the Woodsprite
Litter to Glitter

Willow the Woodsprite

The first Willow the Woodsprite book: Willow of the Woods: From Litter to Glitter was published in October 2010 and will be followed by a second book in 2011.

Willow of the Woods I have been incredibly privileged to work with Kirsten Richards, a young illustrator who's fast emerging as one of the UK's most outstanding artists.

Willow Art 1       Willow Art 2

 


Topaz

Topaz Steals the Show

Topaz Topaz L'Amour is ecstatic—she's won a place at Precious Gems Stage School! But in the world of show business, learning to tap dance on the bathroom floor with drawing pins in her trainers counts for nothing. Topaz quickly learns that life at stage school is heard work.

And she doesn't just have to cope with lack of experience. Her rival, the scheming and ambitious Octavia Quaver from Rhapsody's Theatre Academy, is doing her best to steal the limelight...



Topaz Takes a Chance

Topaz Topaz L'Amour is at Precious Gems Stage School—the first step on the road to becoming a star of stage and screen! And she's about to audition for her first big break: the key role in the Zit Stop! advertising campaign.

But the path to fame and fortune is never smooth—particularly when blocked by arch-rival Octavia Quaver from Rhapsody's Theatre Academy...



Topaz in the Limelight

Topaz Topaz L'Amour is in her element at Precious Gems Stage School—she knows she's destined to become a star! So when a fortune teller predicts that she'll never make it to the big time, Topaz takes no notice.

But when her breakthrough part in a film ends up featuring only her left elbow, Topaz begins to wonder if the fortune teller was right after all. And now she's competing for her next big role—against her old rival, Octavia Quaver from Rhapsody's Theatre Academy...



Topaz on Ice

Topaz Topaz L'Amour can't believe her luck—she's back for a second year at Precious Gems Stage School! Convinced that fame is just around the corner, she's auditioning for the Ice Spectacular... despite not being able to skate!

But when Octavia Quaver, her crafty rival from Rhapsody's Theatre Academy, gets the part of the Ice Princess, Topaz begins to wonder whether she'll ever become a star...



Topaz Takes the Stage

Topaz Topaz L'Amour is thrilled: her hard work at Precious Gems Stage School is paying off, and she's beaten hundreds of hopefuls to a role in a play.

But when the leading lady refuses to attend rehearsals and is sacked by the director, it looks as if the production is doomed. Worse still, Topaz has to share the part with her arch-rival Octavia Quaver from Rhapsody's Theatre Academy. Will the play be ready on time? And if it is, who will be chosen for the opening night...?



Topaz Takes a Break

Topaz Topaz L'Amour has reached the end of her first year at Precious Gems Stage School, and she's off to Whoosh Waterworld with her friends for a well-earned break.

But there's no chance to relax when she discovers that her arch-rival Octavia Quaver from Rhapsody's Theatre Academy is at the same holiday park. They've both entered the Search for a Star talent competition and Octavia is determined to win, whatever it takes!

  Buy the Books!
If you find it difficult to order any of these books from your local bookstore, please visit my Virtual Bookshop.

 


Felicity Wishes


Dancing Dreams—Felicity Wishes
With illustrator Emma Thomson
Felicity Wishes has lots of adventures and three fantastic friends to share them with. Three short stories in one book—Dancing Dreams, Chemistry Catastrophe and Spotlight Solo.

Fashion Fiasco—Felicity Wishes
With illustrator Emma Thomson
Fashion Fiasco, Decorating Disaster and Skating Surprise.

Spooky Sleepover—Felicity Wishes
With illustrator Emma Thomson
Spooky Sleepover, Cooking Crisis and Swimming Secrets.


And although I'm not mentioned on the cover, if you look closely inside, you'll see I co-authored the following Felicity Wishes picture books with talented water-colour artist Emma Thomson.

Friendship & Fairyschool
Secrets & Surprises
Snowflakes & Sparkledust

  Buy the Books!
If you find it difficult to order any of these books from your local bookstore, please visit my Virtual Bookshop.

 


My Virtual Bookshelf

There are two things I like to do when I go to someone's house. The first is to sneak a peek in their bathroom cabinet, and the second is to look at their bookshelves. I'd freak if someone looked in my mega-messy cupboards, but I'm always happy for people to browse my bookshelves. Amongst the hundreds of books in our house, here are a few I've loved from first to last page. If I read any books new to me that I enjoy, I'll add them to my virtual bookshelf, and if there are any books you think I'd enjoy, I'd love to hear from you.


 Little Women—Louisa May Alcott
A good story is a good story however long ago it was written and, for me, Little Women proves this! First published in 1868, Little Women charts the lives and loves of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, as they grow up during the US Civil War. Jo the hot-headed tomboy was always my favourite sister and I wanted to slap spoilt Amy!

 The Bell Jar—Sylvia Plath
Not exactly a barrel of laughs but an amazingly thought-provoking and absorbing book. I was thrilled when I read that Dame Jacqueline Wilson chose this as one of her all-time favourite books. Although the main character is called Esther Greenwood, it's a semi-autobiographical story of the poet Sylvia Plath's battle with mental illness. I first read it when I was about 15 and have re-read it many times.

 The Diary of A Young Girl—Anne Frank
On her 13th birthday in June 1942, Annelies "Anne" Frank started writing a diary. Less than two months later Anne was writing this diary from a secret hiding place where her Jewish family had fled during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. What happened to Anne and her ordinary family is both heartbreaking and inspiring. If you get a chance to go to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, do.

 The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things—Carolyn Mackler
I love Carolyn Mackler's writing and this is my favourite of hers, so far! Virginia Shreeves feels she doesn't fit in to her Upper East Side family life, not helped by the fact that she can't fit into the sort of clothes her glossy slim mother wants her to wear. Funny and touching and a great holiday read.

 The Fire Eaters—David Almond
I've admired David Almond's work for a long time and have been lucky enough to have met him. This is a wonderful book by a wonderful writer who also happens to be an extremely nice man. If you enjoy this haunting tale of a young boy growing up in the North East of England, check out Skellig.

 Michael Rosen's Sad Book—Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake
I have lots of picture books on my shelves. Some I've bought because they're beautiful, some because they make me laugh. When I first read this book I wept buckets, even though I was standing in a bookshop wearing non-waterproof mascara and no tissues up my sleeve. With words by our Children's Poet Laureate, Michael Rosen, and hauntingly sensitive illustrations by Quentin Blake, I bought it after the death of my close friend, Karen. Although I cried reading it, at the same time it felt like a hand of comfort on my shoulder. An astonishingly raw book about grief and depression for everyone, sad or happy.

 Tamara Drewe—Posy Simmonds
If there is one person in the literary world I would love to be, it's Posy Simmonds. Some fantastic illustrators aren't natural writers and vice versa, but Posy has both skills, creating stories which are funny, insightful and packed with detail. I have every Posy Simmonds book she has ever published, but her latest graphic novel is awesome!

 The Midwich Cuckoos—John Wyndham
I'm not a massive fan of science fiction but this story of a village of possessed children both fascinated and terrified me when I read it as a child. I re-read it recently and whilst I wasn't throwing the book under the bed in terror, it was still a great read.

 The Arrival—Shaun Tan
Around the world, for many reasons, people leave everything behind and journey to a mysterious country. This haunting graphic novel silently but powerfully tells the story of a man leaving behind all that's dear to him in the hope of building a better life for him and his family. Heartbreaking yet uplifting, and a tribute to all those who have made a similar journey, it sent shivers down my spine reading it.

All these books are easily ordered from your local bookstore, but if you have difficulty finding them or would like to learn more about each title, please visit my Virtual Bookshop.

 


Top Tips for Aspiring Writers

writing room

When I started writing professionally I spent hours surfing the Internet studying How To Be A Writer websites. This was a BIG mistake for two reasons. Firstly, some of the advice made me feel dumb. I thought Iambic Pentameter was a folk group, polysyndenton a girl's name and hadn't a clue about subordinating conjunctions. Secondly, because I spent so much time surfing the web, I didn't actually get down to writing even though I had looming deadlines, so then I felt dumb and panicky.

I've learned that, in the end, it's all about plonking your butt on a chair, writing about a subject or character you care about, and keeping your butt glued to that chair until you've finished the story/chapter/book. But there are things that make the process easier, so to help you, here are a few nuggets of wisdom from moi.

  1. Always carry a small notebook

I write the actual manuscript at top speed on my laptop, but for notes and ideas I use a thin soft-backed notebook from Woolworth's which I can stuff in my bag, but mainly in my back pocket. My friends are horrified at these scruffy little tomes and are always buying me stylish hard-backed notebooks from swanky shops. I politely thank them, but never use them because if you stuff one of those babies down your jeans you either can't sit down without straining, or it looks as if you have a weird growth on your butt.

  2. Find a cheap pen you love

And then buy several of them. There are reasons for this:
  • If you have several spare you can't delay writing for the frankly rather pathetic (but much used) excuse of not being able to find the right pen.
  • If some thieving scroat pinches it you'll be mad, but it won't be the end of the world.
  • If they discontinue that particular model you won't be thrown in to a whirling vortex of never-be-able-to-write-again despair as you will have sneaky back-up supplies.
I am obsessed with BIC's four-in-one colour pens and can't edit any of my manuscripts without one.

  3. Don't become obsessed by the style of notebook you carry or the pen you use

If you have read tips 1 & 2, this is clearly a case of do as I say, not as I do.

  4. Never forget...

What? Oh yes! Never forget your memory is like a sieve, so the moment you have a brilliant idea for a story, a fantastic name for a character or a witty put down to the bitchy girl at school who is always sneering down her button nose at you, write it down, preferably in your cheap notebook (see 1) with your favourite pen (see 2) but if not, on anything you can find—lip liner on the back of an envelope, steam on a mirror, but get it transferred to the notebook ASAP or the steam will go or that envelope will be thrown out along with the phrase that was going to change your life.

  5. Write every day

Not a novel obviously, unless you are a full-time author with a multi-book contract and thousands of fans waiting breathlessly for your next stunning masterpiece, and if you are one of those people, what are you doing on my website? Looking to steal my ideas? But do write something: a diary, a letter, e-mails, a shopping list. It really does make a difference and you'll soon see that whatever you write begins to develop a particular style.

  6. Read everything

Anything you see and everything you can. Books, newspapers, magazines, shop signs, the back of cereal packets. I even like studying takeaway menus and marking typos with my four-colour pen. Anyone who gets excited over seeing crippy fryed duck is clearly Queen of the Saddos and I put my hand up to owning that particular crown, but before you dismiss me with a click of your mouse, my point is that inspiration and humour can come from the most unlikely sources!

  7. Avoid being a headless chicken

You know you should do it but sometimes your fingers are whizzing over the keys, your brain is in full swing, you're producing some fabulous witty text, you lose track of time and then suddenly the screen goes weird or the keys don't work and with horror you see your work being sucked into a vortex of computer meltdown. This happened to me. Once. People still talk about the afternoon I jumped up from my desk screaming, "NO! NO! NO!" and ran around the office like a headless chicken when I spilt tea on my keyboard. It shorted the motherboard and left me with a dead laptop, a day of work wasted and a huge repair bill. You have been warned.

  8. Write for numero uno

In other words, for yourself. If you like what you have written, the chances are (unless you are seriously odd), someone else will. So, write the letter you'd like to receive or a story you'd want to read. Love what you write, but don't get too carried away with the literary love-fest. There was a girl at school who spent so long admiring the first few paragraphs of her essays she always ran out of time in exams. And no, it wasn't me.

  9. Stop, Look and Listen

It not only prevents you from getting run over, it can also help you as a writer. I sometimes hang around the gates of a school near me to get inspiration for characters and stories. As well as being fortunate not to have been arrested for loitering, I've watched some fantastic girls stream out of the gates (and snog boys through the railings at lunchtimes). The amazing Posy Simmonds is quoted as saying she has had some of her best ideas for dialogue from sitting on a bus listening to conversations. This isn't permission to hang around outside buildings or spend all day riding public transport, but do take time to observe what is going on around you, and if you hear or see something interesting, whip out that cheap notebook and pen. And if people see you and look angry, run.

  10. Bad times can make good stories

We all experience difficult times. Parts of my childhood weren't exactly a barrel of laughs. There were situations in my life which made me feel different from those around me. Sometimes, even now, I still feel like a fish out of water, particularly when surrounded by natural blondes with glossy straight hair. But if everything in my life had always been shiny and happy I wouldn't be able to write the way I do, seeing humour in bleak circumstances. If things are going wrong in your life, trying writing about it. A poem, a story, a letter, your diary, song lyrics. No one but you ever needs to read it (hide the diary, don't send the letter), but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if one day, in one form or another, they do. And when they do, they'll know you've written it from your heart.


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