Sunday 4 December 2011

Musing and Ranting: The Bright Light of Technology?

“Use Powerpoint!” That was what I’d heard from so many people: writers, teachers, artists and various publicity people.

So I set to work. I collected an interesting set of images to act as background to some of the moments in my book, A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E.

The set included photographs old and new, landscapes and people, coloured pictures and black & white drawings. A whole variety of visual images, in fact. I wanted to illustrate, through the range of source material, how many different moments can be gathered together to inspire a book and to show that these were mine.

When I talk about my book, I don’t – honestly! - just show the slides and drone on. And on. I stop to ask questions and involve the children. I narrate some parts of the novel and read short extracts most dramatically. If there’s time, I play a game or two. When the whole thing works clearly - and it has, it has - the sessions are very good.

However, when - once or twice - this hasn’t worked, the feeling of disappointment is for more than myself. I get cross too, especially as the “not-working” has never been because of a faulty memory stick or problems with the computer itself. It’s been a problem that I hadn’t expected, not in schools now, and it has inspired this rant: the quality of the available light

Travelling around, even with advance notice to the organisers, I have at times ended up with projector lamps and lenses so grimy with age that any subtle or complex images seem faint. How do the schools and the pupils manage, now that so much is done via the interactive white-board? Is this wealth creation for the opticians?

I an sure this is definitely not the bright white light of technology. It is the ageing, uncared-for end when the projector beam seems to be drenched with nicotine.

Not only but also there is the matter of the screens. How they vary! I have met vast wonderful double-screen systems as well as some opposites: a narrow section of grubby off-pink wall or a screen made up of paper taped together. And this is without any conflict caused by daylight streaming directly in to the space.

Get a mix of these factors – say, a dim light plus a tiny blemished screen and a large dining hall and the Powerpoint just doesn’t work. It is not wonderful. My carefully illustrative images end up too faded for the audience to see. This is not quite the cutting edge of modern technological provision I’d expected.

Add in another few crinkles in the circumstances. Now I once believed that the organisers know and understand the space they have given me, as the venue may not be free for me to enter until the last moment. This can be when the technology person rushes in to set things up and I glimpse something of what my audience will be facing on the “big” - not the laptop - screen. It can also be the moment when the eager audience is arriving and the point when the Show Must Go On.

When there’s clear, bright light projected and a good wide screen ahead, my collection of images works very well. When there isn’t, both heart and eyes fail.

I have had the wit, at such times, to revert to Plan B and step out of the Powerpoint. Yet it’s not always easy to slip in a flash of light from a talk with a fixed running order into the freer form of author talk.

But, unless those bright lights start shining, it’s back to my old, bold style of session I’m heading.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Greeting & Musing : A School A Shop and Alice.

Odd drive on Tuesday morning as something was wrong with the car - now happily sorted - but by heavens, not what you want in busy traffic on the way to a school ooking.

So thanks to everyone at Norton Primary School, Malton, North Yorkshire, for welcoming me and for making the day enjoyable after all, and to Mary Marlowe who arranged the day and let me tell stories o=in the lovely library too.

Lovely drive in the sunshine today to the Little Ripon Bookshop, collecting a box of books for an author event I'm organising and very much looking forward to: Emma Barnes talking about her book "How (Not) To Make Bad Children Good".

Also ended up collecting several lovely and longed for books for myself, including an "Alice" with Mervyn Peake's illustrations. Excuses? One: I don't like the nasty, dingy look of my own childhood copy. Two: I can't find the alternative: our copy of "The Annotated Alice". Three: It's the next but one title for my grown-up Book Group. But I just wanted the pictures really.

In fact, Lewis Carroll did lodge in Ripon for some of his life and enthusiasts have claimed that the twisting tunnel below Ripon Cathedral was the inspiration for that famous rabbit hole.

I now have a deep and mysterious hole in my bank account.

Monday 14 November 2011

Greetings - And a Transformation Spell

Last week I had a most interesting Writing Day at East Ardsley Primary School, working on writing on the theme of Ancient Egypt. Many thanks to everyone involved, especially the children.

Here's something that Year 6 and I made, based on an Egyptian myth.

Spoken to transform the gentle Cow Goddess Hathor
into the Goddess Sekhmet the Lioness.

May your soft breath steam with vengeance!
May your teeth turn sharp as spears!
May your tongue long for the taste of blood!

May your eyes blaze like rubies with rage!
May your paws lash like a crash of
May your claws slash like swords in battle!
May your skin shine as bright as the burning sun!

May those who spy you approaching -
Scream with FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!

Sunday 16 October 2011

Greetings - Travels South & North

Very happy to be at home at my desk this Sunday morning, catching up on some oddments of admin before going out to bring in the poor houseplants in case the frost arrives. (There's a nasty dark sky gathering out there, despite the sunshine.)
But before ticking off the last items on the list, I have some thanks to shout out about.

As I've been travelling between Wiltshire and Yorkshire, I've added two white horses, one for each county.

Distant "thank you!" waves to some lovely schools in Wiltshire: to PINEWOOD SCHOOL, Boughton; to ST. MICHAEL'S CofE PRIMARY SCHOOL, Aldbourne and to ST GABRIELS SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, Newbury. Thank you all for being such great audiences and listening to me chatting about my books. Extra special cheers for all the school ibrarians and to the wonderful people of ALDBOURNE CHILDREN'S BOOK GROUP who helped with the whole week, as well as to KAREN HELLEWELL for supplying my books for the book stalls. (I was able to sneak a happy day out to meet up with some writing friends too!)

This week was busy too, so author greetings to the Year 3 pupils and staff at EAST ARDSLEY PRIMARY SCHOOL, Leeds where we all had a brilliant STORYTELLING DAY with some African and Australian tales, and also to BRAEBURN JUNIOR SCHOOL, Eastfield, Scarborough - a bit of a dash through all the classes but I hope you all enjoyed the moment!

Sunday 9 October 2011

Musing: The Archers - an Everyday Story of Literacy Attack.

Dum de dum de dum de dum . . . Every Sunday morning, my dear mum listened to “The Archers” as she busied herself in the kitchen. Even though my housekeeping is not in any way as timetabled, I often find myself listening to the Archers Omnibus, possibly as a gentle way of hanging on to long gone moments.

I’m not an addict of the Archers and the programme and the characters annoy and amuse me in less than equal measures. Yet as a writer, I love playing the “predict-the-plot” game and musing on what is being set up for future episodes.

However I’m always angered by the script-writer’s apparent anti-book scenes and sniping about readers and reading.. There’s a kind of recurring sub-text that suggests “how stupid is it for anyone to spend time reading” and often adds a bitter note to the programmes

I’d endured boring David & Ruth’s choice of boring books for their children which never seemed to move beyond moaning about having to read a boring Postman Pat book over again. “Get to the mobile library van, fools!” I’d shout, although now we’re all in Austerity Ambridge, that’s no longer a likely scene.

Besides, why do only the most self-obsessed snobs like Jenny & Linda & Jim Lloyd seem to have the reading habit? The rest fret about any hint of reading, and truly worthy characters prefer cooking and baking and growing flowers. Although Usha the good lawyer reads, she is such a token character that it hardly counts.

Reading is hard and mysterious. Someone makes up appalling rhymes that are regarded with awe. The script for any village panto is mocked until the good folk “make it their own” by changing the words to make it easier to read. Computers are machines of wonder, literacy for all. All comedic but – harrumph!

Just at the moment there are three especially annoying Book Threads.

The Village Book Club is one. I’m sure this Club has never chosen a book that people have simply enjoyed. Books mean angst over catering or unsuitable or tactless content. The most recent book of choice was Mistress of the Paddock – a title that tells all. Yes, Book Groups are a pretentious & misguided waste of time for all involved. And a good chance for some anti-book moaning.

Then there are authors and their awful presumption. At the moment, this is exemplified by two dreadful yuppies – Leonie and James – who rish into scenes now and again, loudly setting up photo-images for a book they are writing about the village. So not only are books irrelevant and silly, so is anyone who is involved with books & writing. They are likely to cause an unwelcome stir. More moaning.

Then there was today’s kick-a book example. The broadcast included middle aged but youthful Kenton moving into his boxes into beloved barmaid Jolene’s pub.

So we had the “aghast at too many books” moment followed by the “grumbling about space on the bookshelf” moment. Cheery Kenton’s okay, though. Some of the boxes weren’t books after all! They were comics and magazines after all. Ho ho! Kenton’s a regular guy after all! Grrr!

I’m now waiting for the imminent “Hey, I got me a Kindle!” scene. Can’t be long coming. Oh, Ambridge script-writers, what have you got against reading?

Monday 19 September 2011

Greetings: Back from a Big & Busy Book Tour

It's definitely a Greeting Post today. In fact a whole heap of greetings and thanks to staff and children and librarians and booksellers. I spent last week touring A BOY CALLED MOUSE across Yorkshire and Lancashire.
On MONDAY I had an extremely windy journey on very windy roads (any points for that clever word usage there?) across from Yorkshire to LYTHAM ST. ANNE’S, where the sand swept from the dunes across the coast road. All I saw of the sea were glimpses of choppy grey waves.

I was there because Katie & Carolyn Clapham of the lovely children’s bookshop STORYTELLERS INC. had set up a morning visit to Year 6 at HEYHOUSES C of E PRIMARY SCHOOL and an afternoon visit to Years 5&6 at ANSDELL PRIMARY SCHOOL. What a nice time I had - and such cheerful audiences! The A59 was scattered with broken branches, twigs and scurrying leaves but I got home safely. Thank you, Storytellers Inc and everyone at both these schools!

On TUESDAY I went down the A1 to ROTHERHAM, where I was welcomed with huge (and flattering) enthusiasm by the staff and Yr 6 children of WATH C of E PRIMARY SCHOOL. A really brilliant morning! Then down the MI a bit to meet the excellent Yr 5 classes at ANSTON HILLCREST PRIMARY SCHOOL for the afternoon. Greetings all, and thanks to Gemma Books for supplying the bookstock.

I wasn’t even trudging around by myself as usual. Emma Bradshaw, from BLOOMSBURY CHILDREN’S BOOKS came to make sure the week started well for me, although she’d already done masses of arranging by phone and email. It was great chatting to Emma, but on Tuesday night she set off south to catch up at the office work and get ready for the YLG Conference. Emma is a mightily busy person!

On WEDNESDAY, I was much nearer home in Leeds, visiting GREENHILL PRIMARY SCHOOL in the morning and IVESON PRIMARY SCHOOL in the afternoon – a huge wave of thanks to you all! Over lunchtime, I had a sneaky peek at the various books on the School Library Service shelves. Many thanks to the lovely librarians for arranging this day for me and to Rory of RADISH, the eco-bookshop in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, who brought along copies of my books for children to buy.

I had to wake up bright and early on THURSDAY as it was a three-venue day. At 9am, I arrived at ST PATRICK’S COLLEGE in Stockton to cut the yellow ribbon and open SPARC, the new library & resource centre that Mrs Bellwood the Librarian had worked so hard over the summer getting ready. Some of the Yr 7 pupils were there and I read a quick extract from Mouse and was presented with a huge bouquet of flowers. What a nice surprise and almsot as nice was hearing the news that A Boy Called MOUSE would be one of the Library Reading Group titles later this term. Wonder what they’ll think of my book?

It was definitely as day of two halves, IT wise, although both were enjoyable. My first session about MOUSE wasn't in the Library which is being renovated but in STOCKTON LIBRARY LECTURE HALL. A bright new room it was, with two screens to show my powerpoint presentation either side of the room, and a tiny pen thingy I could click for the next slide. Even the chairs impressed the children, with the mix of toning purple and deep purple upholstery. The Year 6’s of ST BEDE’S RC PRIMARY and OXBRIDGE PRIMARY made such a great audience!

Then on to THORNABY LIBRARY, a sixties building in the shopping centre which is quite iconic for authors. This - pre-austerity - was where the Public Lending Rights Offices were based. Despite best efforts by the library team, daylight blazed in though the library’s plate glass window, bleaching out all the slides. So I went back to my usual method of Voice Only, plus a few pics and props and a good time was had by all, I think! The Year 6's from THORNABY C of E PRIMARY and CHRIST THE KING RC PRIMARY were excellent fun!

FRIDAY was the last day of my BOY CALLED MOUSE tour. There I was on the A59 again, driving over towards Preston once more. In the morning I met a crowd of Year 7’s and visiting Year 6’s at CORPUS CHRIST COLLEGE, and in the afternoon I was over at OUR LADY’S HIGH SCHOOL, talking to the Year 6 pupils from nearby primary schools. Many thanks to Mrs Lavelle & to Mrs Pomford who arranged the school sessions.

Thanks also to the last bookshop on my tour, the wonderful SILVERDELL BOOKSHOP in Kirkham, who not only supplied copies of my MOUSE book but also an essential tub of their award-winning and delicious ice-cream for my lunch - admittedly at my beseeching. I had a sudden and tough case of Talkers Throat, don’t you know?

Then it was Friday night at last. I had survived, so out for a lovely end-of week celebration with Them Home Here, walking not driving. Yes, on Saturday I rested mightily. Huge thanks to everyone for a most memorable week!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Shhh! Blog in Progress!

Or - oh help! - this has turned into "Where do the blog MONTHS go?"

Or "The Blog that Once Was."

Hmmm. Well, it's like this. One of the problems of blogging is that there's so much bloggingly good stuff out there, not here. I've been reading lots of it and even hiding inside some of it lately.

In early summer I got more involved with the Awfully Big Blog Adventure blog, especially the new Review section where there's a team of the most fantastic Awfully Big Reviewers possible - as well as Guest Reviewers once a month.

I was asked - amazingly - to join another group of bloggers: The History Girls. These are such smart ladies that most of my historical thoughts quiver with fear whenever I try to grab them, but - aha! - I have brought in a cunning link to help with my HG post this Saturday. But even on HG there's such an astounding array of posts that I wallow there instead of fretting about over here in my Diary.

I spend useful Diary time scanning other Blogs I Like, few of which have been updated on my list yet. They all seem so full of incredibly interesting facts, links and lives and pictures that my own blogwords - such as "did laundry" - don't quite wash.

Mind you, I did sneak over to Katherine Langish's wonderful Seven Miles of Steel Thistles blog with my Fairy Tale Reflection about Wayland Smith and Smithy which was fun. (The series ended just after but I don't think it was my fault for rasing malevolent spirits. With luck some of the FTR posts will appear again soon.)

There's also been a bit of facing up to Facebook and squeaking back at Twitter, plus other distractions such as writing events and holidays and work and combing the cat. All work as excellent reasons for staying away from the Blogger New Post page.

But now it's September, and a time for a fresh start and a new copybook ready to be blotted. It is time to Be Positive and jolt Penny Dolan's Dire Diary blog a bit closer to what I'd like it to be. So I am creating some new categories. They aren't stunning but maybe they'll help me get blogging more often.

So . . .

Occasionally I will be posting Greeting, but not the Scots "waily waily" kind of greeting, hopefully. but messages to people I've met on visits and such like. A massive example of this kind of post will follow as this is a Busy Week.

Occasionally. I will be Reading - and posting my thoughts on various book related things.

Occasionally, there will be Writing - though I fear this category may be moans & groans about various WIPS (works in progress) rather than news of megabuck contracts or swoops by film companies (I'm waiting, I'm waiting, okay?)But one lives by small hopes, so no need to get out the tissues on my behalf.

Occasionally, I will also add in Musing, so I can put in all the other things that puzzle, delight or astonish me, like the price of Writers Sheds.

And - I hope - occasionally I'll have a reader or two.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Where do the blog weeks go?

Where do the blog-weeks go? It's ages since I last posted, but I'm here now to give a big hello to everyone at ST JAMES C of E PRIMARY SCHOOL, Wetherby, who welcomed me for a visit yesterday. I had a great time and hope you all did too, and that all goes well for your Book Character Day on Thursday.

An extra thank you to Thomas, who made me such a lovely gift to take away. It's on the shelf in my workroom now! Might try and take a picture to put up here for tomorrow so I can show you.

Must add that St James wins my Happy Author Award for the very best coffee on offer on a school visit that I've had in years!

I've also been busy with a couple of other blogs - news soon! - and various visits as well as arranging an event last Saturday at my local library by the fab children's illustrator Lynne Chapman. It was a very interesting day, and so nice to be in the audience for a change!

Earlier that week I'd been to a talk at Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds on Pathology. Had to choose between looking at exhibits and lunch - and not only because of time.

What now? I'm currently busy planning my own session for Harrogate International Festival Children's Weekend on the 10th & 11th July. And . . . and . . . and I've even been busy writing. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 18 May 2011


School visits don't come along that often (and may come along even less in future) so the one thing I didn't need was more of a coughy, coldy, spluttery, down-in-the chest bugs good for dulling the brain, especially after a 6am alarm call. But it was grumbling away all the same.

Luckily, the Year 6 classes at SETTLE MIDDLE SCHOOL were great and so, helped by several hot cups of coffee from the kind librarian, I survived and think that a good morning was had by all.

Thanks for being such good audiences, everyone (especially a certain person with The Tractor Of Doom tale)and hope the rest of your week goes well. Got home groggily but safely to a restful afternoon.

By the way, there were so many good fiction titles in the school library that I longed to borrow a whole pile of them. What a pleasure it was to see them there!

Monday 16 May 2011


Last Thursday I did a classroom end-of-the-day storytime for some Year 1 children at ALDERSBROOK PRIMARY SCHOOL, Wanstead, which was great fun, especially a certain cheeky puppet I had brought along with me.

Then, on Friday 13th, I visited all three Year 2 classes for a longer morning session about books and stories.

At first I was worried because the children came in with very serious faces . . . but in the space of a single chickaboom, they were smiley and enthusiastic and joined in with the stories and the story sound effects, and I was asked some excellent questions. (Sorry I couldn't answer more questions!) The staff were lovely and smiley too which really helps a session along.

BUT another good thing about the visit was that the hall had the most wonderful acoustics! Inside the ceiling reached right up to the roof, with partial barn-like beams and high-up glass windows so the whole space was light and airy, and sound carried so well in that space.

So often school halls and classrooms absorb and muffle sound so it is hard to hear or even to project one's voice - especially needful when being a King Lion! - and this hall was a joy. A plaque on the wall told me the building was dedicated to AUDREY RACKHAM so - whoever you were, Audrey, and I couldn't find you on google - the hall did you proud. Must be a wonderful hall to sing in!

Anyway, MANY THANKS to everyone who helped to arrange the two visits. I had a happy time and hope you did too.

Now I'm home again, with coffee and cat beside me, and it's head down for an urgent revision of a manuscript. And silence.

Friday 6 May 2011


Two years ago I went to Delhi to tell stories under a banyan tree. I was appearing at Bookaroo, the first Children’s Book Festival in India. The whole trip was so memorable that it only seems a short season ago.

However, I’ve heard that this weekend Jo Williams and the intrepid Bookaroo team have taken their Children’s Book Festival all the way up to Kashmir. What good book news to hear!

Sigh! Wish I was there too! Have fun, Jo and everyone!

Wednesday 13 April 2011


Catching up here before the Easter events truly start! Had some great writing groups at FARFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL and hope to post a couple of poems up here soon. There was even time for a surprise Book Week visit to WHITTLEFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL,Burnley, on 7th April, just before schools broke up. Had a great time, so thank you all!

In between I've spent far too much time on all sorts of admin - school & visit stuff, meetings, libraries and more - as well as trying to catch some writing time, but I have also had two lovely weekends down in London.

One was for the CWIG (Children's Writers and Illustrators Group) Day Conference, where I heard the "Millions" author FRANK COTTRELL BOYCE talking about how schools need to remember the importance of READING for their pupils (Hooray, I say!). The other was to attend a meeting about an interesting blog project which you will hear more about sometime soon.

As this was London, I was also able to see some of my lovely family and friends, which makes the travel worthwhile and the "Doing the Writer Thing" far less stressful.

Monday 21 March 2011


Had a great and busy time at ASHTREES SCHOOL, Billingham on Thursday 10th March, so thank you to everyone there.

Last week was quieter so I got lots of admin done - as well as some good writing time, so I finished the first draft of a story for an anthology well ahead of deadline.

I had been quite excited waiting for author copies of my two newest Franklin Watts books to arrive - they were due to be published on 10th March - but the parcel has been delayed, so more news on those later, I hope!

Tonight I'm ready and packed for my next and last author visit of the term, to FARFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL, Queensbury, Bradford. Not far, but lots of traffic so a very early start. See you very soon!

Now where's my cocoa and hot water bottle . . ?

Monday 7 March 2011


Hello to everyone at two primary schools in North Yorkshire: HUBY SCHOOL, where I'll be tomorrow morning and GREEN HAMMERTON SCHOOL where I'm visiting on Wednesday morning.

Thursday is a longer drive, all the way up to ASHTREES SCHOOL, BILLINGHAM in Cleveland, for a full day visit. I'm looking forward to seeing you all!

And thanks to all my schools last week for welcoming me so well. I'm having lots of fun around this WORLD BOOK DAY.

Monday 28 February 2011


Today I got some pleasing comments about my Storytelling session last Friday.

Parents wrote:
"Great to see their little faces gripped by Penny's storytelling."
"Thank you. Would like it again"
"Fantastic, hope to see more events like this"

Some of the older children wrote:

"I like the troll story best because it made me jump & it was funny.
Thank you"
"I really enjoyed listening to the stories and my brother enjoyed it too
because he listened really well"

And then there was the following comment:

"I lernt a lesson - if you do sumthinnck rong there is a pnishment."

It IS about a story I told. HONEST!

Saturday 26 February 2011


Two very early nights this weekend as Monday is the start of WEEK ONE of the BIG WORLD BOOK DAY ROUND for me.

In truth, it began yesterday, Friday, with a Storytelling Session for 5-8year olds in STARBECK LIBRARY, near Harrogate. A lovely library, only just re-opened in its new site, so a pity it's under threat.

I met a wonderful reader called Grace who'd come along to hear me (even though she was rather older!) just because she'd read my book A BOY CALLED MOUSE and had really liked it. What a cheering start to things! Thank you, Grace, and your little brother too..

Monday will be Administration Day, when I check I have all the information & schedules & maps gathered together. At home working Tuesday morning, but late that afternoon, I'm attending the local secondary schools Lit Quiz, THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS at ST AIDAN'S HIGH SCHOOL. I'm there as one of two people from the HARROGATE CHILDREN'S BOOK GROUP who put the Quiz together, and there's about 12 schools sending their best reading teams. All I have to do is sit there hoping we got both questions and answers right.

On Wednesday I will be visiting ST.JOSEPH'S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL, Keighley, for the day. So hello to everyone there, especially the Early Years, KS1 and Years 5 & 6 children & staff. I will wave to anyone in Years 3 & 4 as I pass by!

Thursday is my biggest travelling day as I'm going all the way over to CLIFTON PRIMARY SCHOOL in HULL, to spend a very happy WORLD BOOK DAY with everyone there.

Friday is not quite so far: I'm driving straight up the A1 to DISHFORTH AIRFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL, and I'm looking forward to having fun with everyone there.

See you all soon!

Wednesday 9 February 2011


Wednesday already? Impossible! On Monday I went to the opening of the renovated & newly sited STARBECK LIBRARY - yes, opened with immediate threat of closure over it - and heard the djembe drummers from STARBECK PRIMARY SCHOOL playing enthusiastically to the gathered crowd. Well done, all of you!

Tuesday was a treat as - thanks to kind staff & librarians - I was able to hear SAVIOUR PIROTTA talk to Year 8 students at a local high school. When you spend lots of time doing sessions alone, other than with your audiences, it was a real pleasure to sit back and wallow in someone esle's words and ideas. Great tales, Saviour!

Then today, up early for a drive to FRAMWELLMOOOR GATE PRIMARY SCHOOL, Durham. Far more traffic than expected on the way up and harder to find than I'd have liked despite my maps & satnav! Oh dear!

Caught up with my slightly later start by running straight through until lunchtime, and the afternoon was mostly on schedule. So greetings to everyone from the morning and afternoon Nursery sessions, and to Reception and the Year 1 & 2 Classes. Had a lovely time sharing some enjoyable stories and books with you, so THANK YOU ALL! (And I must be much healthier after walking so far between all your classrooms.)

Sunday 6 February 2011


On Saturday morning I went to join the crowd of SAVE OUR LIBRARIES protestors outside BILTON LIBRARY, my nearest North Yorkshire library on the axe list.

Here for your information are some others. They are nearly all village libraries and some are at least ten miles from any town, and with bus services both expensive for a family outing, and due for cropping anyway.


Of course, some places will get the super-mobile library visiting them, but only as long as there are no narrow roads on the way. Now who could imagine you'd fine narrow roads in the Yorkshire Dales & Moors.

Thursday 3 February 2011


A good day! Among my emails I've found news of the BOOK MAVEN's latest blog.

The Maven - alias award-winning author and book enthusiast Mary Hoffman - reviews two good reads for juniors. The first book is Inbale Iserle's new title in what seems to be growing into a stunning series, THE TIGRINE CAT ON THE RUN. Then, to my delight, the second novel that Mary likes was my book, A BOY CALLED MOUSE. I'm so happy!

It's very hard to get any book reviewed, so all I can say is THANK YOU, BOOK MAVEN!

ps Think you'll find it a book blog well worth following . . .

Tuesday 1 February 2011


Thak you to the children from RAWDON LITTLEMOOR SCHOOL who sent such lovely letters! You said such lovely things! Will reply as soon as I can.

Today I have a sort of lunch date at ST. JOHN FISHER CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, Harrogate, almost on my doorstep. I'll be in the library to chat to readers about A BOY CALLED MOUSE. Please can I add that I won't be offering to eat any unwanted sandwiches from lunchboxes. I can be bribed, but not in that way. See you soon!

Thursday 27 January 2011


A good working day today.

I think I've finally got Tome Two moving. I've been cutting and pasting sections of confused old document into Brand New Document. I've also been putting in useful new patches as well as having thoughts hard as iron about the main characters. The Tome may be coming together at last but there's still a long writing journey to travel. Quite glad to NOT be going out much over the next few weeks.

But, oh heavens! I glanced at the Diary blog as I jumped through to do this posting. Can't help thinking it needs lots more sections added, but how do I find time to do all that and keep the Tome moving along?

Tuesday 25 January 2011


Well, a really good day making up stories and poems with the Year 3 & 4 classes at RAWDON LITTLEMOOR SCHOOL. Thank you for a very welcoming school visit - as well as the interesting surroundings full of intriguing things to see. Tigers sleeping on cupboards anyone?

Odd coincidence! Today a child asked me about MR POD & MR PICCALILLI, a picture book I'd written some time ago with NICK SHARRATT so not one I talk about as much as I used to. And another child asked me about what kind of pen I used.

Then I got home to find a parcel from WALKER BOOKS, the P&P publisher. Inside were three special copies of the book, and a special "pen" that will read the text aloud for the young reader if you put the "pen" at the start of a line. It comes all the way from Korea, where P&P is now part of a Learning English scheme!

Monday 24 January 2011


Monday, and a day for tidying and getting ready for tomorrow's school visit to RAWDON LITTLEMOOR PRIMARY SCHOOL, near Leeds.

This morning I took part in a three-way Skype conversation with a couple of other writers about a project we're involved in. Although we know each other a little, I wasn't sure the session would work out. The technology certainly doesn't help, as the slightest cough or "um" (or miouwing cat) cuts out whoever is talking, which makes the discussion rather dislocated. But, as it happened, the session went well and was a really enjoyable chat.

I have heard of authors doing school Skype video visits, which are probably enjoyable too, but I know I'd rather go to tomorrow's school and see everyone in person.

Friday 14 January 2011


Hello again! I had a lovely long Christmas, although that happy time was followed by a horrible sneezy cold. The first weeks felt a bit of a struggle as an editor had asked me to revise a story for a Spring anthology. The school visit requests started arriving, so I had to re-arrange my School Visit folder very quickly. Some interesting visits to come!

Last Thursday, I went to ST. AIDAN'S HIGH SCHOOL "STAR" reading group to talk about A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E. Thank you for the sweet-scented narcissi, which lasted until yesterday.

This week I've been thinking about some old and new writing projects. I've also gone through my diary and blocked in some good writing time. Yes, new resolutions for the New Year!