Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Sketchin' and Skootin'

I'm thinking of getting a skooter.
I've been looking at pros and cons and, so far, all I have is two pros - cheaper than my mini and FUN - but a whole list of cons.
1 - I wouldn't ride it after dark (so, no winter social life).
2 - I wouldn't ride it in rain and snow (that's about 6 months of the year out, then).
3 - There would be no room for a big supermarket shop, IKEA furniture or a Christmas tree taller than about 2 feet.
4 - They don't call two-wheel travellers 'organ donors' because they have a social conscience (Surrey Hills lanes are not very safe).
5 - I would look ridiculous on a skooter!
I've just thought of another pro. I could actually park outside my own house at last, instead of half a mile away!!
There must be more good things about skootin'. Any ideas?
(P.S. Unlike the picture above, I would, of course, wear a crash helmet!)

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Eeeeeek, Ghosts!

Happy Halloween!
Want a scary book to read tonight? Check out 'Scarlett Dedd' for ghosts, gore, grotesquery, grimacing, gruesomeness and lots of giggles.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Beyond Words...

I'm launching my new book, GRAPHIC, in the middle of Dyslexia Awareness Week (14th - 18th October) which is perfect. It's a dyslexia friendly book AND a really exciting story.

AND it's a book full of illustrations (of course), which is even more perfect (if that's possible) because the theme of Dyslexia Awareness Week this year is BEYOND WORDS. Dyslexia can mean that it's not just words that put your brain in a spin, it's also numbers and coordination and remembering and keeping focused and all sorts of other things.

I've struggled with all of these so I know exactly what it's like!!!

Sometimes pictures and patterns, drawing and doodling can help and I know all about that too.

To launch GRAPHIC, I'm visiting schools and chatting to pupils who, like me, get that spinning brain feeling quite a lot. We'll be looking at my book (and others by publisher, Barrington Stoke), telling stories, drawing pictures, using or imaginations and having loads of fun.

If I'm coming to your school, see ya soon!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Rain, Train and Insane Weirdness!

I went on a trip yesterday, all the way to rainy Oxford.
Monday was sunny.
Today is sunny.
But yesterday? Yesterday was wet.
Did it ruin my day? Not one bit!

The main purpose of the trip was to brainstorm with Jo (an author friend and fellow blogger - girlsheartbooks.com) about a joint project we are planning. Neither of us has collaborated on a book before, though we know several authors and illustrators who have. So, it could all have gone horribly wrong right at the start line if, say, we'd hated each other on sight and disagreed about everything!

I'm very pleased to say that didn't happen. How could it? Jo is lovely. She met me with a broad smile (and a fab yellow car) at the station, cooked lunch for me and drove me around all over the place in her adorable car. And her book idea is genius - a potential bestseller/TV series/Hollywood movie!

We had loads of ideas over a delicious lunch and, as we live a little far apart to meet regularly, we devised a way of working that sort of resembles an online game of author tennis, batting our contributions back and forth to each other when inspiration strikes.

Wish us luck.

After lunch Jo dropped me at a place I've always wanted to visit, The Pitt Rivers Museum. If you have a weak stomach, I'd stop reading about now. And definitely don't scroll down the page! Because the Pitt Rivers is not like any other museum. It's very... odd. And a little bit creepy. But a-maze-ing!
You're still reading? OK. You have been warned.

The first thing you notice about the museum is how small it is, just one tall room really, with narrow balcony-style galleries up the sides. But crammed into the space is enough weird stuff to fill a normal sized museum. There's big weird stuff like the totem pole above. Then there's really tiny weird stuff like these gorgeous carved bone figures. The dogs are the size of a finger.
The glass cabinets are full of the most fascinating objects but I seemed to be drawn to anything that had a face - stuffed animals, carved heads...
...with or without brilliant hair dos, and masks...
...depicting every possible expression.

Warning! Here comes the gross bit!

Then I found a cabinet full of skulls and (eek!) shrunken heads!
I named him Cecil to make him less scary but I'm not sure it worked (I made the picture black and white for the same reason but I'm not sure that worked either).

In the end, Creepy Cecil was one of the highlights of my Oxford trip. I came home with sketchbooks and notebooks (and my camera) full of new inspiration and I really didn't notice the rain. Well, not much anyway.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Books Are My Bag

Did you go to a BOOKS ARE MY BAG party yesterday at your local bookshop? If you did, then wooooo, fun wasn't it?! If you didn't, you might have noticed a few buildings completely covered with orange balloons and bunting and wondered what all the bloomin' fuss was about. Well, the fuss is about bookshops, which, despite ebooks and online sales, are still very cool places to visit. Especially when you pop in on a wet Saturday and meet amazing people like these...
A 'bag' of lovely authors (and poets) who were all at Barton's Bookshop, Leatherhead, yesterday - Antonia Cridland, John Griffin, Liam McCann, Roz Morris, Geoff Saunders and Harriet Steel (Prue). Oh, and Peter (with the very funky matching orange watch strap) who invited us to his BOOKS ARE MY BAG party! I forgot to draw Cameron. Sorry Cameron.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Back to School!

Calling all librarians and teachers!
I'm coming back to school!

After a short break (to write and draw a lot) I'm launching two new books and two new workshops. Click on the SCHOOLS button above for more details.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


I'm packing for Edinburgh (cardi weather, apparently) and getting awfully excited about meeting lots of lovely book peeps at the EdBookFest over the next two days. I'm having tea and cake with Karen McCombie (and the girls from Barrington Stoke), catching up with the gorgeous editor of my first 4 books Hannah Sheppard, hoping to get a quick it's-been-too-long hug from Headline publicist Sam Eades (as she dashes past organising Neil Gaiman's phenomenal book tour) and then shmoozing with my scribbler mates in the author yurt.

If you're in Edinburgh, do come along to my event with the festival's Illustrator in Residence Barroux on Thursday (Part of the new and very exciting STRIPPED Graphic  Novel and Comic Festival). I'll be talking about EVERYTHING IS FINE (AND OTHER LIES I TELL MYSELF) and discussing our passion for telling WWI stories in pictures with Barroux. Tickets still available. (Neil Gaiman is sold out so come along to ours, it'll be loads better!!)

The only thing I'm not looking forward to is leaving Meg and Frank behind. They are the main characters in my current WIP and I adore them. Can you blame me? I mean, they are SO COOL. If a little geeky. Hmmm, actually A LOT geeky. I bet they get up to all sorts of mischief while I'm away!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A Perfect Holiday Read

What are you doing this summer? Will you go to the beach ? Might you slob about and read lots of books? Will you hang out with your friends and flirt with someone you fancy? Will you be waiting and hoping for something exciting to happen?

If your answer to all of these questions is 'yes' then you are just like Esther, the girl in my latest book. Esther's story begins on the last day of term and the start of the summer holidays. This week, in fact! If you get a copy now you can follow her story in real time.

But that's not the only reason you should put EVERYTHING IS FINE (AND OTHER LIES I TELL MYSELF) at the top of your holiday reading list. I think you will love Esther's story because it is full to the brim with sunshine, surfers, movie stars and beach parties. Not to mention having to cope with a troubled family, a heart-breaking mystery and a massive storm.

A perfect summer holiday read. Click here to buy it?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Based on a True Story

Lots of books are based on a true story. This week I created a mini picture book / graphic novel that's based on a true story. Here are two extracts...
Cute couple aren't they? And how do I know it's a true story? Because it's the story of my 'rents.
Congratulations on your GOLDEN Wedding Anniversary Mum and Dad! xx

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Hooray for Hay Wi-Fi!

I had no internet connection for most of yesterday. I had planned to write this blog and post pictures of my weekend in Hay-on-Wye and check in on Twitter and Facebook and chat with all my mates. Then I saw that nasty orange light on the router, instead of the reassuring green one, and my world fell apart. I know you think I'm exaggerating but really, I'm not. I just hadn't realised quite how much I rely on my broadband internet connection to keep me sane. Even in Hay-on-Wye at the Festival - which is in the middle of nowhere and where mobile phones are pretty much useless - at least they had Wi-Fi. Back home in Surrey, a hop and a skip from London, spending a few hours without the internet I might as well have been paddling a boat up the Amazon. Solo.
Hay at dusk
Like many authors and illustrators, I have lots of online friends, people I 'talk' to every day but have never met in the flesh. So, last weekend at the Hay Festival was a rare opportunity to finally do that. I particularly wanted to meet author and brilliant illustrator Sarah McIntyre. We had been scheduled to do an event together last year at Hay but I had to pull out when I was ill. So, when I bumped in to Sarah in the Festival Green Room on Saturday afternoon I was thrilled, especially as she was wearing one of her fabulous costumes.
Sarah (left) in great boots and Yours Truly (centre) over excited
I did my event in The Cube (rambling on about pictures in YA) then nipped over to the Festival Bookshop to chat with teenagers and sign copies of 'Everything Is Fine (And Other Lies I Tell Myself), and found two more of my online 'friends' signing their new books too. However, multi-award winners Matt Haig and Patrick Ness had queues right out the door. Jealous? Moi?
Top shelf, above Melvin and New Children's Laureate
I spent the rest of the evening star spotting - Louise Rennison, Jay Rayner, Robert Lindsey, Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusack and a whole host of assorted telly stars I couldn't quite put a name to.
My visit was far too short (5 hours there and 7 hours back for a 60 minute event!) but I'm so glad I went, especially as the most interesting person I met (apart from Sarah, of course) was a friendly Engineering Professor from Cambridge, Tim Minshall, whom I sat next to in the car from the station. We seemed to have a shared passion for technology, teaching creativity in schools, 3-D printers and prosthetic limbs (or he very politely pretended that he did!). He was a delight and I am now following him on Twitter, naturally!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Everything Is Fine - The Trailer

The trailer for EVERYTHING IS FINE (AND OTHER LIES I TELL MYSELF) went live today and it's already making people cry! That wasn't my intention, honest! Well... alright... perhaps it was... a bit.

It took months to film it - almost as long as writing the book - because I had to wait for the weather to change so I could secure that sun-drenched beach and sand dune footage. Let me know what you think...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


I have a new book coming out next month, yay! On May 9th, in fact. It feels like days, not a WHOLE YEAR, since I was writing it and now it's about to hit the bookshelves. It's been 12+ months of very hard work and I can't wait to show it to you. I'll be celebrating the launch of
'Everything Is Fine (And other Lies I Tell Myself)' 
with a small party at my favourite indie bookshop, Barton's in Leatherhead, on Saturday May 11th. You are invited to come along and have some Pimms (over 18s) and cake and, of course, to get a freshly minted 'signed' copy of the book.

Friday, 5 April 2013

New ideas that didn't set my hair on fire

Me (drawn by Alex during a school visit)
There are a handful of questions that, without fail, infiltrate almost every Q&A session at the end of my writing/drawing workshops. I've been assured by other authors/illustrators that I'm not alone in regularly fielding this handful. They are: 1. Are you rich? (no), 2. Can I have some free books, please? (though, sadly, not always with the 'please'), 3. Are those really your drawings? (yes), 4. Can you put me in your next book? (the villain?) and 5. Where do you get your ideas from?

NOT my inspiration
My replies to all five often disappoint, particularly the last one, because the answer is everywhere and everything. I'm sometimes a little more specific but that really is the most honest answer I can give. Sorry if it's not more romantic like nocturnal visits from a ghostly muse, or flashes of inspiration that set my hair on fire. Just, you know, standing at the Sainsbury's checkout and noticing a wobbly trolley wheel and thinking... car crash! (As you do. If you're a writer!)

Which brings me to my new novel. I've just started writing it and am barely past chapter two, but it's all there in my head (and scribbled chaotically in notebooks). This is my favourite bit of the job. It's when I'm full of excitement and enthusiasm and can't wait to get my new characters down on paper (er, screen) and send them hurtling into the jeopardy I've created for them. It's great because it will be weeks (sometimes months) before I show the first draft to anyone (my sister, my mum, my agent) and they start feeding back and I dissolve into a puddle of insecurity and self-hate (even if they've said nice, encouraging things - other authors will know what I mean).

Anyway, this book was inspired by something quite small, quite insignificant. Actually two small insignificant things. The first was a book of Keats poems from my school days and the second the pattern of shadows under a tree in (you guessed it) Sainsbury's car park! It wasn't the poems in the Keats book that provided the inspiration, but the notes in my rounded fourteen-year-old handwriting found in the margins that got my creative brain fizzing. And those leaf patterns on the Tarmac took me straight back to a particularly unusual meteorological event many years ago that completely freaked me out. I knew I had to make that day the setting for the climax of my book.

That's as much as I'm going to tell you for now. Perhaps I'll share a little more once I've got past chapter two. And I'm peckish and the fridge is empty, so I'm off to the supermarket for milk, tomatoes and... plot twists.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Here's a sneak peak at my current WIP (Work In Progress). Bet you can't guess what it's about. Check back here later in the year for details and a publishing date.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Secret School Project Revealed

Now that it's officially been unveiled I'm able to share my Top Secret New Year Project. During the Christmas break I've been painting a mural at The Howard of Effingham School. It's a great school with a brilliant library and I'm regularly invited to run creative workshops for Year 7s and 8s. Apart from book publication days, visits to The Howard are the highlight of my year.

Here's the full story...

My task was to 'make reading cool' and to make the English Department an exciting place to be, so my proposal was to depict a mixture of set texts (Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Keats etc.) and my favourite YA fiction, giving them a quirky twist... and a liberal dash of humour.

At the end of last term the plot was hatched. Secret meetings were scheduled. Ideas were submitted. Sketches were approved. The dark, dreary walls of the English Department corridor suddenly acquired a set of huge MDF boards. The pupils suspected that something was afoot but knew they'd have to wait until January to find out what mad scheme would greet them on their return...
Once the building was empty I got to work. I gathered my sketches, bought paint...
...and started to draw...
I just about finished and cleared up by the time everyone returned to school on Monday, but I had to wait until Thursday and the official ribbon cutting (by the Head) before I discovered whether the pupils loved or hated it. The verdict? They love it! Phew!
The ribbon was cut, speeches were made, I was presented some lovely flowers (and a 'thank you' balloon), was photographed by the local paper, interviewed by pupils, then we all drank tea and ate cake! Pretty much a perfect result.
Junior journalists Charley, Francisca and Mary interviewing me while keeping an eye on the cakes!