School Visits

I wrote a post a few months ago about how much fun I had visiting schools and talking all about Alice Jones, writing mysteries and creating fantastic new detectives with some amazing student sleuths.

So I am very excited to now have an official School Visit page on my website. So if you are a teacher, or librarian, or student who wants me to come give a talk or lead a writing workshop check it out!

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My bright new business cards!

As the daughter of teachers, I know that schools don’t have a dedicated author visit budget (wouldn’t that be wonderful) so while I do charge for in person visits, I also offer free 30 minute Skype Q&A’s for classes that read one of my books.  (Also fantastic if you’re a school on the other side of the Atlantic-America, I’m looking at you!)

If you are interested, please get in touch. You can contact me here. And if you know a student, teacher or librarian who you think would be interested, please pass my details along. Hopefully I will see some of you soon!

 

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Let Books be Books

I grew up in the eighties, which was a great time to be a kid. I wore bright colors and ran around in the woods, loved dressing up my barbies (both new and hand-me-downs from my mom), dressing up myself, playing in my tree-fort and riding bikes around the block (well, cul-de-sac…I had no sense of direction and got lost the one time I tried to do round the block for real).

 

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Flannel lined jeans-a Maine fashion staple

I can’t remember once thinking that there was anything I couldn’t do because I was a girl or that there were things that were meant for boys and not for me.

 

Is this because the eighties was a better time? Or because my parents made sure I had non-gendered toys? Or because I had that special kind of dense self-confidence that meant it simply never occurred to me that I couldn’t be anything I wanted to be and anyone who said different was so much white noise? I don’t know.

Now it’s 2016. I have a son, and I’m worried because I keep seeing lists of ‘books for boys’ and they seem to be saying that if a book is about a girl, it isn’t for him. Like the girls have a secret club and he’s not allowed!

If someone had told me I couldn’t read books about boys when I was a kid, I would have looked at them like they had two heads. I mean The Hobbit, The Phantom Tollbooth, Where the Wild Things Are, The Book of Three, I loved ALL of those books. Will my son have to miss out on Matilda or Harriet the Spy or Ruby Redfort?

I’m being a bit tongue in cheek, because he’s only five and currently loves reading anything he can get his hands on. And I hope he’ll continue to read widely as he grows up. But I do worry that the people who market books are putting up walls between boys and girls  without really thinking about it and the harm it can do.

Reading about people different from ourselves is a huge part of building compassion, empathy and understanding. I remember reading Melvin Burgess’s Doing It when I was in my early 20s and just going ‘ah ha’ so that’s what the boys were going through in high school! It was a revelation, and I wish I’d read it as a teen. AND I hope that my son is that age he’ll read books about what girls are going through so he can understand them.

So this is me, as a writer, reader and a parent adding my little voice to the crowd asking publishers and marketers and everyone building lists of books for boys to Let Books Be Books. Let kids find the stories that interest them without narrowing their choices by adding labels that really don’t need to be there.


If you are interested in reading more about this subject, here are a few links:

Let Books Be Books

Unsuitable for Boys by Tamsyn Murray

My Boy and His Books by Tessa

Boys Could Enjoy Stories About Girls and Vice Versa If We’d Only Let Them by Robin Stevens

How Do We Get More Boys Reading (Clue: Boy Books Aren’t the Answer) by Tricia

 

Boys vs Girls by Shannon Marie Jones

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, too much romance makes me squeamish BUT in honor of St Valentine I offer a review of my favorite, most reread, I’m-actually-in-love-with-this-book book of all time: Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret.


 

DeepSecret

The cover of my copy

Rupert Venables is a Magid.

It’s a Magid’s job to oversee what goes on in the vast Multiverse. Actually, Rupert is really only a junior Magid. But he’s got a king-sized problem. Rupert’s territory includes Earth and the Empire of Korfyros. When his mentor dies Rupert must find a replacement. But there are hundreds of candidates. How is he supposed to choose? And interviewing each one could take forever.

Unless…

What if he could round them all up in one place?

Simple!


Where do I start? I first got my hands on this book in 2004 and have re-read it at least once a year since then. It is my go-to comfort book when I’m feeling unwell or need a pick-me-up after reading something sad.

Deep Secret isn’t a sweeping fantasy epic, but a book about every day, even bureaucratic magic. I love poor Rupert Venables, the multiverse’s youngest magid. It’s so funny to read about the hum drum annoyances he faces trying to go about his magical tasks and keep the many worlds from spinning out of control.

I also love Maree Mallory, the second narrator. A dour pessimistic soul, Maree’s voice is everything I strive for in my own writing. She is as real to me as a best friend and I often wish I could invite her over for a cup of tea and cake. Her triumph against a truly wicked step-aunt makes me cheer (sometimes aloud) every single time.

Deep Secret is funny and fantastic and utterly charming. If you haven’t read it, do so now. If you have read it, do so again!

Happy Valentine’s day, book-baby!

 

When the weather gets cold, and the days get short…

…is there anything better than curling up with a good book?

One of the perks of being a writer is that when I go to a meeting with my publisher they let me go into the Big Magic Room of Books. It’s basically a library of the titles they’ve published in the last year or so. And they let me take them home, as many as I like. Well, no, as many as I can carry. I’d need a forklift to take as many as I like.

Here’s a picture of my latest haul:

Book Bounty from Chicken House

The only problem I have now is, where to start?

(p.s. Yes, I was at a meeting with Chicken House. Watch this space for an exciting announcement about my new book!)

Starting things is always difficult…

Writing a first sentence fills me with a special kind of dread. So, here are a few great first sentences other people wrote instead:

“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.” Matilda, Roald Dahl

“All children, except one, grow up.” Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“’Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

“Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done.” Island of the Aunts, Eva Ibbotson

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis