This summer I took a trip to America to visit my family on the other side of the Atlantic. We started in Maine and ended in New Jersey, but I had a day to do a whirlwind tour of Philadelphia, the home of Alice Jones.
A view of the skyline as we drive in, you can just see William Penn’s statue on top of City Hall.
When I was growing up, I spent most of my summers in Philadelphia with my dad and three of my four siblings. When I was very young (and still an only child), we lived on South Street right in the center of the city, surrounded by funky shops and artists. We lived down the road from Isaiah Zagar, an amazing muralist who decorated the walls of the city with found object mosaics. If you are ever there, visit The Philadelphia Magic Garden! It’s amazing.
A fork in the road at the Magic Garden. Someday I’ll set something here!
Later, when my siblings arrived, we moved out of the city. But we’d still visit all the time. One of my favorite places to go was The Franklin Institute an enormous science museum full of fabulous interactive exhibits. Alice, being a math and science fan, shares my love of The Franklin.
Check out Alice hanging out on the steps outside. And me trying to share a copy of The Impossible Clue with Ben Franklin. He wasn’t biting…
I also stopped by the Philadelphia Free Library to see the steps where Alice and Kevin make their first big breakthrough in the case of the invisible scientist. One thing this visit REALLY reminded me, was just how HOT Philly can be in the summer. I remembered the heat on an intellectual level, but I’d forgotten what it really felt like – the intensity and how sticky it makes you. Check out my frazzled hair as I pose!
A few more highlights:
One of the city’s many beautiful murals
A touch of history (note the flag)
A food cart like the one where Alice buys soft pretzels
One of the city’s many beautiful murals. A touch of history (note the flag). And, of course, a food cart like the one in The Impossible Clue where Alice buys soft pretzels and spots the mysterious silver Mercedes.
Philadelphia is a great city and it deserved more than just a day, but it was fun to go on even a short trip down memory lane with Alice. If you live in Philly or have visited, I’d love to see your photos and hear about your favorite places in the city!
I’m very excited to be speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival next month. I’m doing a panel with Katherine Woodfine all about mysteries and how we write them. Katherine is the author of the fabulous Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth Mysteries as well as host of Down The Rabbit Hole, a radio show all about kids books. Our moderator is Alex O’Connell, The Times’ Arts editor. I am feeling very fancy.
This will be my first festival appearance and I’m equal parts nervous and thrilled. I’ve been having a lot of fun, though, going through all of the notes I made before writing The Impossible Clue and The Ghost Light (the next Alice Jones mystery) and trying to figure out what the secret to writing a gripping mystery really is. If I figure it out, I promise to share.
It’s a Mystery will be on 8 October at 5pm in the Little Big Top. If you’re interested in coming to see me, you can find out more and book tickets here.
You can find out what other great events are going on at the festival here.
Since Alice Jones:The Impossible Clue came out, it’s been in two lists celebrating Girls in STEM (here and here). I had to look up what this meant.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, fields that have traditionally/stereotypically been labeled as ‘for boys’.
Why didn’t I know this? Well, probably because I went to a school with tons of super smart girls (and boys too) and we all took Calculus and Physics together along with AP English and History. I don’t remember ever being discouraged because I was female, but I had this core of strong, smart supergirl friends all around me.
For girls who don’t have that circle of support, I’m glad Alice can be there to show them that loving math can absolutely be a girl thing!
The second Alice Jones book is finished. Well, sort of. Writing is a long process that involves A LOT of rewriting, editing, tinkering and back and forth between me (the writer) and my editors (the lovely Rachel and Kesia from Chicken House). I wrote about the many (many, many to the power of ten) stages of the editing process here.
BUT, the biggest hurdle for me is getting that first complete draft and making all the major changes to make sure the plot works, all the clues are there and no characters fall out of the book at the halfway point. And THAT task is done. Now it is on to the fun tweaking and tidying and adding more spooky bits and all the math analogies Alice loves to use.
It also has a glorious cover, designed by Helen Crawford-White.
Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is all about the mysterious goings-on at The Beryl Theater. Della is convinced an evil spirit is haunting the show: Alice doesn’t believe in ghosts and sets out to find the human behind the disturbances. As Alice investigates The Beryl’s past, she discovers another unsolved mystery, the disappearance of a fabulous diamond. Could the two cases be connected?
Alice Jones:The Ghost Light will be published January 2017. (So I better get back to fixing up all the details!)
I love getting new covers for my books!!!
One of the most exciting things for me when my first book, Dreamer Ballerina, was published was seeing all of the different covers it got in different countries. (You can see them all here.) And now it’s Alice’s turn.
Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue will be published in the US January 2017. It’s still a long ways off (I wrote about the lengthy publishing process here and here), but I’m excited to share the fab American Hardcover illustration. It was designed by Melissa Manwill (you can see more of her work here) who did an amazing job capturing the story.
Isn’t it stunning?!
If you’ve read the book, you’ll see all sorts of clues in the illustration. If you haven’t you can pre-order your copy of the American edition OR if you can’t wait, you can get the UK edition right now! (What’s the difference? Well the UK edition has a lot more U’s in it, and a lift instead of an elevator, and pavements instead of sidewalks, but the story and the solution are the same!)
Last year my friend Mark Lowery got in touch with me and a bunch of other children’s authors. He was writing a short story for children’s charity Derian House to record as a bedtime audiobook and wanted to know if we wanted in. We did!
Derian House is a wonderful charity, providing palliative and respite care for children with life shortening conditions. This audiobook is part of their 2016 Great Derian Dream Campaign, aiming to give each family with a child in their care an extra night of respite care.
Here’s the full line up of stories and authors and amazing readers!
1-Rotten Robbin And The Crooked Cutlass written by George Kirk, read by Ted Robbins
2-Dizzy Dog written by Alan Durant, read by Dave Spikey
3-The Smelly Unicorn written by Natasha Desborough, read by Julie Hesmondalgh
4-Rosie And The Tooth Fairy written by Sarah Rubin, read by Jenny Platt
5-Pickles First Flight written by Jo Dearden, read by Jane Horrocks
6-Scaredy Bat written and read by Jonathan Meres
7-Keep An Eye On The Baby written by Mark Lowery, read by Steve Pemberton
8-Amy Warburton’s Most Unusual Pet written by Steve Hartley, read by Connie Hartley
9-Poems written and read by Ian Bland
10-Siegfried And The Snoring Snarflebeast Of Sevenoaks written by Mo O’hara, read by Susie Poppitt
11-He Should Have Listened To Granddad written by Steve Hartley, read by Danny Cipriani & Mark Cueto
AND the beautiful cover illustration was donated by Nick Sharratt (that’s right, I’m in a book illustrated by Nick Sharratt…shhh, let me bask)
I had so much fun writing my short story, Rosie and the Tooth Fairy, about a girl who wants to know what the Tooth Fairy actually does with all those teeth anyway? It’s narrated by the wonderful actress Jenny Platt (best known as Violet Wilson from Coronation Street) who is a blast to listen to.
You can get a copy of just my story OR the whole lot from amazon or itunes. All proceeds go to Derian House.
One of Alice Jones’ favorite pastimes is doing the Cryptic Quip in the Philadelphia Daily News (where her dad is the top Crime Reporter). I made up the name of the newspaper and the puzzle, but it is based on the Cryptoquote from the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the summers, I used to try to sneak the paper so I could get to it before my dad (although crosswords are my real favorite).
In honor of Alice, here is a Cryptic Quip for you to try your hand at:
“JAGM’L DU PGKVCRMF MARBI MV WV? R XREF LVXKRBI NYTTXFL, FLNFHRGXXU DGMAFDGMRHGX VBFL. MAFU’CF MAF QFLM!” – GXRHF OVBFL
The puzzle is based on a replacement cipher. I’ve taken the alphabet and scrambled it, assigning each letter in the alphabet a new random replacement letter. I’ve given you two letters to get you started (A=G and M=D). Your job is to crack the code and unscramble the message.
If you get stuck, check out Puzzle Corner for some tips and tricks for solving Cryptic Quips. OR if you get really stuck, click here for a walkthrough…