Monday, 9 November 2009

Back to a cold November sky. Although looking out of the window at the moment the sun is shining on the last few reddish leaves on the trees and Autumn isn't looking too bad at all.

I think maybe I'm looking on the bright side because I'm still buzzing from a ten day break in the States - half spent in New York and half in California. The vibrancy of the city gets me every time - I love the energy there. And I love the laid-back vibe in Carlsbad where we stayed for the latter half of our break. Bright blue sunshine and 70+ degrees helped too.

A break like that certainly got the creative juices flowing again and I'm back to writing with renewed vigour. A changed of scene is often just what's needed!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Heading Stateside

I'm playing catch-up, trying to get everything sorted before taking The Schnoops to the States. Little Doogs is packing his bags as I speak, I dread to think what kind of junk he will be taking. As for me, well I'm up against deadlines for a couple of things so packing is the least of my worries at the moment.

I've just received these photos from St Mark's School in Tunbridge Wells and thought I would share them. The feedback is positive so I'm thrilled. I LOVED LOVED LOVED it!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Far from 'Disgusted' of Tunbridge Wells!

I want to send a very VERY big 'thank you' to all the staff and pupils of St Mark's CEP school, Tunbridge Wells. I had one of the best school visits ever there on Wednesday; I came away feeling really inspired.

Everyone made me feel so very welcome on a very dark, wet afternoon. The sessions were fun and everyone contributed and asked some very thoughtful questions.

I must admit it was a little bit of a leap into the unknown for me as I usually lead workshops for Year 2 and at St Mark's I took them for Years 3 and 4 too. The latter was a revelation. And as always Flissy gave me lots of ideas - what would I do without you Flissy!

Together Year 4 and I started to build up a story, starting with the characters.It reminded me of the very best bit about creating the Schnoops to start with, when Ian (Sanders) and I spent such great afternoons over coffee coming up with the characteristics of Honey et al and then working out the storylines. Bouncing ideas off someone else is challenging, rewarding and a guaranteed way to have a laugh. In and amongst all the chaos over the last year I'd almost forgotten how much fun that had been. Thanks to Year 4 at St Mark's it's come back!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


I think we all need to recharge our batteries from time to time and have a complete change of scenery. I love getting back home to Yorkshire - the green fields, the sheep, the fresh air. I always feel so much better for being there. Recently I've had a double whammy: a week in Yorkshire, a few days at home and a long weekend on the Amalfi Coast! How lucky am I?

Italy is pretty much a new experience for me but I have loved everything I've seen so far. Apart from the crazy driving! I feel so much better for the break, more relaxed and ready to face new challenges. And new challenges I have: a school visit to Tunbridge Wells this very afternoon and an increasingly tight deadline on a book.....

Monday, 14 September 2009

Drama in Dartford

I had a bit of an unusual experience on Saturday when I went to Orchards Shopping Centre in Dartford.When I go into schools I have a captive audience. When I go into libraries I know that the children there love books. A shopping centre....tough gig! The call of Primark was too great. But big thumbs up for the children who did was fantastic to meet you!

I DO seem to spend a lot of time with my hands on my hips don't I? Bunny with attitude, me!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Schnoops on tour again!

What I love most about writing is that I never really know what's around the corner. That's particularly true since I've been visiting schools and libraries. I have quiet weeks when I can concentrate on 'Flipside', then there's a flurry of activity with new writing jobs and more visits.

I was very excited when I was contacted last week to do an event in a shopping centre - excited and quite nervous too! The event is this coming Saturday (12th) at Orchard Shopping Centre in Dartford and is to launch a short story competition. So I have lots of new people to meet and hopefully there's lots of fun to be had! I am brushing up my stroppy Honey walk and my lazy Jezza amble as I speak. And if you don't know what I'm talking about maybe you should get yourselves to Dartford on Saturday!

Sunday, 30 August 2009


I was chatting with a friend the other day and we both agreed how much we dislike text-speak: You know the C U l8r and TTFN kind of stuff. Neither of us uses it, preferring to spell everything out. Ironic really when I wrote 'Little Book of Chat' which recommends all that kind of stuff. I guess it's for younger people!!

I also hate jargon:
Heads-up (cannot tell you how much I detest that phrase)
Put something on the back-burner
Bandwidth as in 'I do not have the bandwidth for that right now' (I do not have the stomach for that right now so please pass me a sick bucket)

I know that in certain professions jargon is the common language, which is a bit sad but a fact of life. But it IS NOT a part of my life so please do not use it with me.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


I must admit that I love birthdays - they're a great excuse to catch up with friends and to party! I did it in style this year; I think my celebrations lasted around 9 days, even though it wasn't a big one! I saw some of my favourite people and if I didn't actually see them I heard from them. There was lots of catching up, lots of laughter, lots of champagne and lots of dancing! FANTASTIC! It was a good way to say goodbye to what hadn't been my best year to be honest.

Now I'm busy writing again,loving it and you know, I think this year is going to be a good one!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Another good review!

It's always great reading reviews of your work - well it is if they're good ones. It's a bit of a heart-sink thing if you get a real stinker and you can't help but take it personally. But - fingers crossed - that hasn't happened with 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' - yet! (Talk about tempting fate...!)

It's especially rewarding when I get reviews from children because after all they are who I write for. The one below is from Cicely Norman who attends Wimbledon 12th Brownie pack and is 10 years old. Big cheers to her for being so articulate. And she sent it to me printed out in a funky font on a background of Schnoops characters, as you can see above. She's an all-round classy girl is Cicely!

"I really enjoyed reading this book and found it very funny. The story line is a very good and creative one about a family of animals who are always on the move.

One of my favourite parts is when Littls Doogs goes to the caravan, which is shaking, and it turns out to be Jezza snoring! I like the way it is set out e.g. when Little Doogs writes in his Special Notepad there is a picture of a notepad. Also, at the beginning "Meet The Schnoops" is a very good feature.

Joe Baglow's illustrations are really excellent and represent the character/text very well. It is nice that when Schnoss or another character is talking, there is usually a picture of him. I really like the way you can see the colouring-in lines.

The five characters are really ingenious inventions. They each have their own personalities and funny sides to them.
Jezza is a 'rubbish artist' (in more ways than one!) and sleep-loving giraffe.
Honey is a shopaholic and fashion-crazy celebrity-loving rabbit with a quick, fiery temper and a love of Triple Caramel Mochachoccoccinos with extra froth.
Schnoss is a sausage dog who always has fantastic business ideas...but they do not always go according to plan.
Last of all is Trevor, a cooking- football- and music-loving elephant from Holland.

I would say this book is best for 6-10-year olds. It is funny and is about animals which appeals to all ages. Also the text is clear and big so it is easy to read for younger children.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


I know what you're thinking! Strange title for the photos! Am I right?

Well to be honest they haven't got anything to do with todays few words but I thought the blog needed sprucing up a little ...!

Today I met up with someone special who I hadn't seen for 12 years. 12 years!

I met Val when I had almost given up my dream of being a writer. I'd been writing for myself, sending off my scribblings to agents and publishers and getting rejection after rejection. I was so despondent that I decided enough was enough and I would train to be a teacher. I went in to help Val in the reception class at Cottenham Park Primary School as it then was - and Val was one of the most inspiring people I'd ever met. She's fun, she's kind, she's encouraging and unfailingly supportive and she is a brilliant brilliant teacher.

Around that time, when I was sending off application forms for PGCE courses, Stephen Thraves came into the picture and that of course is another story. My writing took off and I can't honestly say that I'm much of a loss to the teaching profession.

I always say that Stephen is my mentor. But Val is pretty special in that way too.

Today when we met again, she hadn't changed at all - seriously. Her daughter Emily who in my head was still 5 is a beautiful, confident 17-year old who is bright and fun like her parents.

We inevitably talked about writing and the importance of stories and Val told me stories which took me back to her classroom - all the children spell-bound with eyes like saucers. She is a perfect story-teller, a rare thing indeed these days. I told her how lucky all the children she has taught over the years have been to have someone as inspirational as her as their first teacher. I meant it. I hope she believed me.

Monday, 27 July 2009


I've got that strange sense of being a bit in limbo at the moment: I feel as though I've packed The Schnoops off on holiday and I'm taking a breath before sitting down to write 'On the Flipside' again. And oh how I've missed that - the writing, the planning, the routine of sitting at my desk and working all day.

However today I have read a little bit, answered emails, gone on to Facebook and did the 'My life according to Queen' thingybob (whereby you answer questions with the song titles of just one band/artist). And that in turn made me look at all my Queen albums (they are indeed all on vinyl, including a rare one which my lovely Em chose for my Easter present last year) and realise that I hadn't heard them in ages but I still know most of the lyrics....and the afternoon is almost over....and my head is full of 'Fat-bottom Girls' and 'Seven Seas of Rhye'....!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Schnoops on Tour

I really must get my act together. I've been into 6 schools in just over a week and do I have any photographs to share? Nope, not one! How useless am I?

The thing is that I'd love you to meet every single last child and teacher I've had the privilege of meeting because they have all been wonderful and enthusiastic and really made everything so much fun.

We had a Q&A session at the end of my time with Mrs Haig and Year 2 at Cliffe Hill School in Lightcliffe and I was asked 'What's it like being a writer?' and my honest answer was ,
Going into schools has really confirmed that to me. Virtually all the children contributed to the sessions and the teachers and support assistants were never anything but supportive, enthusiastic and appreciative. My admiration for them all is enduring.

So, highlights?

BARKISLAND - When we were discussing Little Doogs' characteristics by looking at a pitcture of him, Ben said 'he's just himself...' Fantastic answer, could he explain what he meant a little more?
"Well, he's just himself. He's not pretending to be something he's not..."
General 'Ahhhhs' all round. Ben is 6!

SAVILE PARK - brilliant session, enthusiasm and eloquence in abundance and the one place I did get involved in the writing. And what amazing stories they created. I also came home with a poem which one girl had written 'because she couldn't sleep'! (And I'm going to check her name because it's important to get that just right!) Inspiring all round.

OLD EARTH PRIMARY SCHOOL - I'd planned sessions for all day but actually I was in two Year 1 classes and two Year 2 classes for 30 minutes each....cue lots of thinking on feet! Amazingly I did manage to cover most of the things I'd planned and everyone was enthusiastic.
Highlight - Mia putting up her hand to ask a question.
"Yes Mia."
" look SOOOOOOOO beautiful!"

NORTHOWRAM - Two Year 2 classes, two completely different vibes but again lots of really thoughtful contributions. I had a lot of positive feedback from the Class 4 teacher Mrs Michalowski(tricky name, lovely person!)which gave me a big boost. It's good to hear good stuff from teachers as well as from the children.

CLIFFE HILL - Last session in Yorkshire and one of the most rewarding. Everyone was really keen to find out more about the characters, they did a great job at describing their own characteristics and I felt that they really had got a lot out of it. Mrs Haig was a star too, taking lots of photographs and sitting with the children on the carpet to participate. (Hmmm must tap her for some of those photos to share!)

And last but not least...

A journey to the coast yesterday and a whole school to talk to! I must admit that I was a little bit intimidated by 60 reception class children as they are a bit of an unknown quantity and in retrospect I would do things differently for them. HOWEVER as we had the main hall we acted out the characters and they were really splendid. In fact all the Year groups were. My timing is terrible and I had intended to do so much more with Years 1 and 2 as I had a little more time with them but we expanded on certain things and talked more about the characters' movement before doing 'the drama bit' and the time flew.

So a big thank you to you ALL for making me so welcome ....AND I HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL AGAIN SOON!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Don't look back

I've just had an 'oh my goodness it's July tomorrow' moment. Where HAS the year gone?

Sometimes life just doesn't turn out the way you expected, does it? That certainly applies to me this year. But right now, the sun is shining, Ted is asleep at my feet, my friend is hoping to be out of hospital this week, friends are coming down to stay this evening, I'm going up to Yorkshire next week....and life is pretty damn good. If I was sad for the first couple of months, I certainly seem to have been laughing for the last three.

On January 1st I was looking forward to an exciting year ahead. It hasn't turned out how I expected so far, it's just gone down a different path. It's an unusual one, lots of twists and turns, a bit dark in places but it's FUN, leading to lots of new challenges, introducing me to lots of new people.

My niece Emily always laughs at me because whenever I say 'goodbye' to anyone - at a station, after a meal, after an evening out - I never look back. I do my 'goodbye' things and walk away. I don't know if that's right or not, but it's me and it's how I deal with things....I look forward to the next thing.

Right now I'm looking forward to my visits to Primary Schools in Calderdale, West Yorkshire next week. 5 schools, 4 days.......CAN'T WAIT!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Things I have learnt this week #2

1. It is really not sensible to dance until 2.30am in heels when you have a weak back. It might be fun at the time (oh it was, it was!) but you will suffer for it later.

2. Some people can be unbelievably rude when you have given up your time to do something. The best thing is to remember why you are there, get on an enjoy that and RISE ABOVE!

3. Given 2 alternatives people have a tendency to choose a 3rd: the one they suggest themselves.

4. People cope with adversity in hundreds of different ways, all of them are right.

5. It seems to be the nicest most undeserving people who are struck down by illness. Life is so unfair.

6. I will definitely put more 'bottoms' in my next book - laughter guaranteed!

7. I need to perfect my accents: my 'Newcastle accent' is particularly rubbish.

8. Wimbledon is a particularly splendid place to be at this time of year: I so love the buzz when the tennis is in town.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Going Underground!

Yet again I am completely behind myself.
The party was fab - brilliant costumes, lots of laughter, perfect!
I couldn't believe that so many people had made such an effort to be there - I have wonderful, wonderful friends.I am VERY lucky.
I am very sad too that other friends couldn't make it - some due to distance and particularly my dear friend who has been struck down by ill-health.
I missed you and I am sending you lots of love.
And actually a public thank you to Robert - you did a fantastic job as always!You can have a rest now!

Friday, 12 June 2009


I've always liked the name Sophie, it has a certain ring of sophistication about it. Sophies always seem like top friends: fun, loyal and effortlessly cool. Sophies seem down-to-earth, sensible, whilst knowing their way around a sparkly eye-liner. Sophies also sound as though they recognise a damn find book when they read one. So it was no surprise when Ian forwarded to me a review of our book which had been written by Sophie Grierson, who is a very cool 14 year-old. It was written purely because she wanted to do it - a VERY cool thing in itself - and a mighty fine job she's done of it too!

So BIG CHEERS to you Sophie; you've made my weekend and I'm pretty certain that you've made Ian's too. I'm going to copy it all in here because it is certainly worth a read and hopefully will encourage more reviews - because they are worth their weight in gold.

The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World Of Little Doogs.

Playing the road trip game

This book is obviously meant to be read by children from the ages of about seven to nine. The writing is big, and the size of the book with pictures on every page keep children interested.
The basic storyline is a group of animals always on the move because one of them is trying to get business, and always fails. So they have to keep moving, to find other places. They can’t seem to agree where to go next, and when they eventually do they get very lost. The Schnoops are meant to create funny solutions that maybe children would think of as well to everyday problems. This is meant to be a funny read that will gather the Schnoops many little fans.
It is a good idea that immediately, when you open the book, you get a clear, good idea of which characters do what and what they look like. The language in this book is simple, yet it is also what you would think goes around the head of a child.
The subject and storyline of a group of animals travelling would keep a child reading, because children love exploration and animals. You can tell from the first few lines on the characters descriptions that the kind of things you find out about them are rather random. For example: when you first meet someone and get to know them, they don’t tell you straight away that they like to collect sweet wrappers and spiders.
The name ‘Schnoops’ is quite childish, and children love new words. Throughout this book many new words are used. Sometimes, they use modern language that teenagers use today. For example it says: ‘it smells well rank’.
The Chapters also have the name that the first sentence of that chapter will carry on, for example: “There must be some mistake!” and then the first sentence of that chapter is ‘“There must be some mistake!” Honey snapped.’
Also, sometimes when the authors are trying to demonstrate what these animals are saying or doing, they put the sentences into swirl like shapes or curve them round. For example: ‘enormous’ is written hugely and in a slanted bold font, to demonstrate how big they are describing something.
The main narrator in this story is Little Doogs, who keeps a notebook, and uses it like a scrapbook and diary, and you find out what a lot of the made up words mean at the end. For example: ‘nab the gate’ means ‘navigate’ and ‘Snoepjie’ is a Dutch word for ‘Sweetie’.
This book is a perfect example of what children would love to read, and seeing as it is targeted to that age group, this book should do well.

Love ya Sophie!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Chill out!

We're getting ready for a party. I love a party. I love seeing all my friends, being silly....DANCING!

But I always worry that things might go wrong, that no-one will turn up, that the music will a) fail b) be so crap that no-one will want to dance. (I think I've got the last one covered thanks to iTunes but you never know....!)

What I need is to relax. To chill out. To just let everything go over my head.

Just like Ted!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Key words and phrases

I check the stats for my website every day - because I'm a bit sad! I usually get a healthy number of 'hits' which is good (I don't trust google analytics any more because I think they just pluck a number out of the air.) What amuses me most of all is the key words, or more to the point, the key PHRASES that people type into search engines which lead them to my site.

Fiona Cummings + author
Fiona Cummings + children's books
Fiona Cummings + sleepover club

are quite common.

I've had

Messy Jessie + children's book

which gives me a thrill because that was one of my favourite stories which I wrote years ago.

But I also have some weird ones too:

Fiona Cummings + hairy scary
Photos of Cummings home
Big blue gym knickers
My old English Sheepdog hates other dogs

And one which we should perhaps draw a veil over:

Fiona Cummings + dogging!!!!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

10 random things I have learnt this week

1. Cats are more difficult than dogs when it comes to administering tablets. Ted eats them as though they are treats, Charlie Cat next door hates the sight of them. Which is unfortunate as he has to have one every morning. We're looking after him this week. It's a two-handed job but I think we've got the hang of it.
Fish are easy - no tablets, just food!

2. Ironing is a killer for the back.

3. It is really tought when parents get old. Espcially when they are quite far away. I feel very guilty that I am not around to help more.

4. Always check what advance publicity there has been for an event you are taking part in. Panic if there has been none. But do not be surprised if nappy-wearing toddlers turn up expecting story time for the under-fives when you are reading from your book which was written for 7-year olds.

5. Remain calm when aforementioned toddlers get restless whilst you are reading, wander around grabbing other children's hair while yelling 'Bye Bye'. Carry on regardless.

6. Remember your friend's advice: when you are reading to a group of children and adults, remember your focus is ALWAYS on the children. Do not try to talk on two levels.

7. The Internet is a wonderful way of connecting people - reuniting old friends and creating new friendships. It is also a way of making connections with people who can help you - great to be the person who can do the 'helping' once in a while.

8. Sometimes you feel a connection with someone even if you have never met them. Make the most of it, it's called fate.

9. It's always interesting (and a bit nerve-wracking) to read what a journalist has made of your words. Best if it is before publication. Great to find out that you come across as happy, fun and passionate about what you do. Even if there isn't a mention of your new book!

10. Everyone's free (to wear sunscreen)

Friday, 29 May 2009

Big thanks to Wimbledon Library

I have had a brilliant day. The sun is shining, it's almost the weekend and I had such a great time at Wimbledon Library this morning.

The sun was already bright when I got up, so I thought,
'Oh-oh no-one will turn up, they'll all be doing something outside'.

Then it clouded over and I thought,
'Oh well everyone's probably got plans now anyway.'
And in my head I'd convinced myself that there really would only be me and Catherine (fab librarian) and The Schnoops.

But actually there were quite a few children there - and what fabulous, fun children they were. And so were their parents: really supportive and welcoming and you know we all had lots of fun.

I always love to hear children laugh - especially at something I've written - and laugh they did. A LOT! And I am especially encouraged when I hear adults laughing when I read 'Extremely Very...' because what Ian and I wanted from the outset was something which would appeal to children and their parents alike. So thank you Wimbledon parents for laughing along too. You made my day.

At the end I was asking the children which was their favourite bit of the story. The boy right at the front said,
"Erm, I know....the end!"

That has made me chuckle all afternoon.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Schnoops do it in a library - again!

Just a quickie to let you know that The Schnoops are appearing at a library near you tomorrow....well it's near you if you live in Wimbledon and I do appreciate that a lot of you don't. So that was a silly thing to say!

But me and 'the children' (i.e.Little Doogs and his friends) are going to be doing our stuff in Wimbledon Library tomorrow between 11 and 12. And I know that with it being Half Term and supposedly a glorious day there is absolutely no telling how many people will turn up. So I'm playing it by ear and just doing whatever feels right at the time.....famous last words, possibly.

If the worst comes to the worst Catherine (the rather wonderful children's librarian) and I can act out a few scenes from 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' and you know that alone could be worth popping in for!

I am ashamed to admit that I was so thrilled when I saw one of the posters for the event in Wimbledon I sneakily took a photograph of it on my phone.
Sad, very sad!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


I'm afraid I'm all out of synch (again). I've got photos of the Chelsea Flower Show which I keep meaning to upload but for reasons beyond my control (i.e.they're on Robert's iPhone) I haven't managed it yet!

So instead of gardens let's talk about those delicate little blossoms - teenagers. I for one love them: I love their passion, their belief that anything is possible, their (for the large part) fiercely funny sense of humour. And I think if the future is in their hands, we're going to be OK.

I know that I'm talking from a standpoint of not actually having a teenager of my own, and if I did have one, well I'm sure I might be telling you something very different. Yes they can be loud and cruel and do stupid things - but can't we all?

It was heartening to read last week about the Make Your Mark with a Tenner campaign funded by Nesta (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts seeing as you ask), Dragon's Den person Peter Jones and the founders of Bebo, Michael and Xochi Birch. Teenagers who enrolled for the scheme were each given £10 with the brief to set up a company which not only made money but which also had 'genuine social impact'.

Now if the 'Daily Mail' is to be believed you would expect them to nip down the shops and start slugging back WKDs with the dosh, but in fact 16,000 teenagers took part, making an average of £42 profit with their cash and so far 90% have repaid their original investment. And, hearteningly, most of them have chosen to make a donation to charity out of the remaining profits.

Companies ranged from ones creating cookery books to ones selling fruit to City businesses. The individual winner with a profit of £736.77 rented a 1920s bathing suit and organised (and modelled in) a period fashion show.

Many participants commented on how much they had enjoyed being in charge of their own business and now plan to do the same in future.

If, as I keep hearing, it is true that entrepreneurs can lead us out of recession, then my tenner might just be on those teenage ones!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


As well as having at least one notebook in every handbag I own, I also have lots of bits of paper. Some of them have names and numbers scrawled on them (I have no idea why when I could have written them down in the notebook) and some of them are 'things of interest' I have torn out of magazines. Now I should be more like Little Doogs I know, and have a Special Notebook for Special Thoughts and Special Things in which I stick everything as soon as I find it. Alas I haven't managed that - yet!

What usually happens is that I carry the bits of paper round with me for ages, then on a murky old day when I'm feeling a tad bored, I take them out, decide whether they really are worth keeping then chase up whatever was so fascinating in the first place!

That is exactly what happened a couple of days ago and I discovered a fantastic website that not only sells the most gorgeous notebooks with hand-made covers it sells fabulous necklaces and brooches too - win, win, win!

It is called

I tried to buy something but couldn't so sent an email and received the loveliest one back the next day from Barbara who runs Frippery saying that she was in the midst of an Open Studios in Brighton and would send me pics of her stock next week. She also makes things to order if there's nothing there which exactly fits the bill. Even better (and what made me laugh) was that she assured me she was typing everything in a northern accent having moved south only last year.

Win, win, win, win, win!!!!!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

When I'm in London and I hear a northern accent I immediately feel a connection and have a look to see who it belongs to. I can recognise the ones from my part of West Yorkshire and I want to rush up to the person it belongs to and start talking about 'home'! I have so far resisted the urge, but it is only a matter of time!

Similarly local place names always leap out of newspaper articles. But the other week I'm not sure whether it was because 'Todmorden' leapt from the page or it was the photograph of an attractive young woman surrounded by sheep which made me stop and read the article.You must by now have got used to me banging on about my desire for a lamb or two.

Anyway the article was about Beate Kubitz who gave up a high-flying job in the city, moved to Todmorden bought some sheep and now runs the very successful Makepiece company which makes THE most gorgeous knitwear.(You could say she took one enormous 'Leap' to quote the title of my business partner, Ian Sanders' first book). The website is lovely. What makes me smile is that in and amongst the list of very swanky London stores which now stock the designs are notices about fashion shows in Hebden Bridge (a small pennine town with a reputation for bohemia for those uninitiated among you!)

The one drawback is that at the moment there isn't the facility to buy online but I think that is coming later this year. I have my eye on one or two of the rather fabulous gossamer-like creations. And I love the fact that each piece says 'Spun in Bradford knitted in Todmorden'.

So next time I meet one of those Yorkshire voices down here I might just whip off my cardigan and start to wax lyrical about 'home'! You have been warned.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Party Time!

One of the best things about writing for children is the letters I get. Just the fact that someone has taken the time to write to me means a lot. I have had a couple of duff ones where the girls took umbrage about something I'd written, but it transpired that they were friends and had been egging each other on. (I won't be writing 'Och aye the noo' again any time soon though. Oops I just have!)

I received an email the other day from a librarian who said that Year 5 pupils at her school write to their favourite author as part of their English curriculum. She had a letter for me but hadn't been able to find my address. She had actually bothered to go out of her way to track me down and not just send the letter to HarperCollins. I always get letters in the end if they DO go there, but it means that I usually get them a month or so after they've been written. Then I always think about the poor little girl (letters are invariably from girls!)sitting waiting for a reply and thinking how rude I am because I haven't responded. I always ALWAYS reply, even to the rude ones! (Although I do appreciate that I'm hardly J.K.Rowling and don't have to wade through 'fan mail' to get to the door!)

And I had another surprise yesterday. A parcel! A parcel full of 'The Sleepover Club: Party Time!' which is the reissued edition of 'Happy Birthday Sleepover Club!'. It might be a few years old, but it's looking good!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Hot water!

I am cold. I could do with a hot shower. I quite possibly smell....

We haven't had any hot water or heating for, ooh, a fortnight now, give or take the couple of days in the middle of the whole sorry 'what-the-hell-are-they-doing? Call-themsleves-heating-engineers!' saga.

I can forgive human error. We all make mistakes (some of us even apologise for them!)But 4 'human errors' on the trot....hmmm patience is virtually eroded. But it's the level of service we've had that makes me despair - having to wait a week for a part which was in stock at the manufacturer's but because the engineer's supplier didn't have it on his shelf....ooh dear, what can we do? So much red tape tangling everyone up, it's as though everyone is too frightened to apply common sense.

And when we'd been waiting a week wouldn't it be sensible to priortise us and appear first thing? You'd think wouldn't you? But no, the guy appeared at 8.30 on Friday night meaning our plans to go out went the same way as the hot water. And that didn't happen once but twice...

Robert is always very calm and surprisingly nice - last night I was ready to get up and at 'em with a meat cleaver!

I am a cold cross bunny at the moment and channelling Honey...maybe I should adopt Jezza's approach and just go to sleep until it's all sorted!

Monday, 11 May 2009

I have a craving for lambs. Not to eat of course, to see frolicking around in a field, to touch, to feel that curly white hair. And if I had a couple of lambs I'd need a cow too. And some hens. And definitely a donkey.....

Sadly our garden is too small and I'm not sure that I'm ready to move out of Wimbledon quite yet. And if I want my fresh air fix (sadly without livestock) we're lucky that the Common is almost literally on our doorstep. Not only that but we also have the very lovely Cannizaro Park too, so beautiful at this time of year.

It has in the past looked a little sad and neglected in parts, due to the inevitable lack of funds. But the Friends of Cannizaro have done a great job in sprucing it up, and it even has its own herb garden now which the chefs at Cannizaro House take advantage of.

Ted and I love it there best of all at this time of year with the banks of azaleas and rhododendrons coming into bloom. It smells fantastic too so it is quite an assault on the senses all round. The perfect way to start the day. Even without the lambs.

(The photos are well down to my usual standard, but I did take them on my phone!)
I don't know about 'Sorry' being the hardest word. 'Thank you' seems to stick in a few people's throats too.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Post offices!

Not the most exciting title ever is it? But say those two words to me and steam starts to pump from my ears, I start to froth at the mouth and....well THAT'S surely exciting, in a sick and twisted kind of a way.

Time was when I had a parcelto post I would pop down the road, queue for a few minutes, bump into someone I knew, have a bit of a gossip and come home. Now I have to DRIVE to the nearest Post Office, park 5 minutes away because there's no space any nearer, queue up outside because there are so many people waiting and then when I'm finally served I have to listen to them recite all the services on offer - including deals on savings accounts which are apparently with an Icelandic Bank - before I can leave to run and find the car has been clamped.

But at least I can drive and I have a Post office to drive to - in my Mum's village the Post Office was the centre of the community, people went there to do their shopping, to get their papers to meet their friends, as well as to buy their stamps. Now it's closed down and the nearest one is a bus ride away.

It is wrong, wrong, wrong!

The only good thing is that I now have an excuse for all those parcels I keep forgetting to post. It's not a case of your cheque is in the post, it's more a case of your cheque is still sitting on my desk because it's raining and I can't be bothered to get off my fat bottom and queue in the rain to post it. Sorry!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Hello California! (San Diego to be specific!)

I'm waving now to my friends in California who I know check this out from time to time....Helloooo, how are you?!

I know that there are lots and lots of things for you to do out there but I'm going to recommend one special thing - for one day only, a never to be repeated offer (until next year) there's a Children's Book Festival at North University Community Library, La Jolla and I really think it would be worth popping along to.

WHY? I hear you ask ...

Well, what better way to cheer yourself up in these gloomy times than by looking at some wonderful, uplifting children's books?

And I know these things can sometimes be overwhelming so I suggest that you head straight to the AuthorsDen booth where there are some fabulous books to look at (AND BUY!!!)including of course 'THE EXTREMELY VERY SCRAMBLED UP WORLD OF LITTLE DOOGS'. Not only that but the lovely people from AuthorsDen will be handing out lots of Little Doogs' stuff including gorgeous bookmarks, funky postcards and rather fabulous fridge magnets. Oh you lucky people! Can you afford to miss it???

Friday, 1 May 2009

I'm back!

I've had a very frustrating week without the Internet. I didn't realise how much I used it until I couldn't. It was much worse for Robert of course who relies on it for his work. The only thing I NEED it for is to check emails which seem to be the first port of call for anyone trying to get in touch with me these days.

I've been hunched over a computer at the David Lloyd Club most mornings - when I could get on one of them and man are they SLOW! Patience isn't a virtue I know much about so that was quite testing. It did take me back to our 'Big Trip' in 2007 when I had to seek out Internet access in strange places to keep up to date with the blog. It was a real focus for me......and remembering that made me think that I could really do with a holiday....

I'd been waiting for an email for weeks about a Children's Book Festival in California and had given up hope of hearing anything. So of course it was Sod's Law that it came yesterday (when I was checking up on Robert's iPhone) and discovered that I was in IF I could get the books to them by next Friday. (Sadly it's only the books and promotional stuff going NOT me....I couldn't get things sorted out in time, although goodness knows that would have been a great holiday!)So manic packing and posting has been going on and best of all the Internet was back up and running so that I could sort out all the financial stuff securely online!


Friday, 24 April 2009

London Book Fair

I went to London Book Fair with Chris on Tuesday. It was fun (as anything is with Chris) but a little bit scary too.

We somehow went in at the wrong entrance and didn't even have to show our passes. I was a bit miffed that I didn't get to wear my flashy 'author' badge, but ended up with it tucked down my skirt later not to ask really!

The first person we saw was someone Chris knew, an illustrators' agent, who showed us the spreads for a book he was trying to sell. It was whilst we were squatting on some steps poring over the pages that I realised that whereas Chris and I were there out of curiosity, for most other people there it was a place of business. Then I had one of those 'my book has to compete against all these' moments.

I am notorious for my wobbles of confidence, but in truth I haven't had one for a while. I have been spending so much time with Little Doogs and his friends recently that I know just what I love about them and I am finding out just what other people love about them too. And the one thing I'm always pleased about is that 'passion' is the one word usually mentioned. I AM passionate about our little characters, and about 'On The Flipside' of course, and I think that's the most important thing, always. Without passion you might as well give up.

One other lovely thing which gave me a boost was an email I received from Russell from Chichester Library. He said that one of the families who had been to the workshop had returned to thank him and to ask if there were any other similar events planned because his daughters had really enjoyed it. They had both been especially good at Honey's stroppy walk, which had been sort of a breakthrough moment of the afternoon as I remember. Apparently the family are Polish and hadn't made many friends in the area yet, but both girls were now fired up to visit the library regularly and meet other children through the events there. RE-SULT!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Chichester Library 18th April

Saturday saw glorious sunshine - the first of the Easter holidays down Chcichester way apparently. Jaqueline Wilson and Francesca Simon could compete with that I am sure - Fiona Cummings? Not a chance!

I did panic slightly when not a child had appeared on the horizon at 1.55pm - but a few steadily trickled in and more sat with their parents looking at books so it was all cool.

Things I learnt on Saturday:

1. Things will never go to plan - your inner voice might be screaming 'Don't panic Captain Mainwaring' but you have to look as though you're doing exactly what you'd intended all along.

2. It is absolutely vital to participate 100% - the crazier you look the more children will respond. I looked COMPLETELY crazy....and then some!

3. My 'Honey Walk' is quite a sight to behold - but quite possibly not as impressive as my 'lazy Jezza swagger'!

4. Photographs of me taken at 'readings' will never be flattering - but hey! I was giving it my all!

5. Hot pink tights might make children remember you but they do NOT go down well with the old ladies of East Wittering.

6. I found out that I can think on my feet. Now that I know that I feel so much more confident about everything.

7. Every library should have a librarian as committed and supportive as Russell Allen. Chichester is very lucky.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

My favourite books

In my presentation to children I always talk about my favourite books - the ones that I treasure and mean the most to me. There are lots of reasons why a book is important to me - it might make me laugh, cry, remember something particuarly poignant. I always take 5 favourite books with me. But now I am going to have to add another.

At our reunion Cathy (she of the song lyrics) gave me a book which the children in her class had made for me. She had read 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' to them and they had all drawn a picture of one/all of the characters and said what they liked about them. It was such a lovely thoughtful thing for her to do and I will treasure it forever. The drawings are fabulous - Honey and Jezza had obviously made the biggest impressions - and reading what the children had chosen to write is .....actually very moving.

I struggled to choose which pages to upload because quite frankly the whole book is worth sharing.

Children in Class 2 at St Patrick's Primary School in Elland - I think you are WONDERFUL!!!! THANK YOU!