Oak Tree Arts launch party

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Yesterday I had a fun morning at Paisley Central library where the Oak Tree Arts Writing Clubs were launching a collection of their short stories, titled ‘The Oak Tree Chronicles’, which also features the winning stories of the ‘My Paisley Adventure’ competition that I helped to judge.

It was lovely to meet three of the prizewinners, Amy, Mollie and Basia (pictured above with myself). 1st prize winner, Isla, was unfortunately unable to attend.

All of the young people  read out extracts of their stories in front a large audience of family and friends which was a really brave thing to do! I still get nervous reading out my own work. Before the launch kicked off the kids got to decorate biscuits and came up with very festive designs. Susan, the creative writing tutor of Oak Tree Arts, put a lot of work into the launch of this book and I think it’s great that she gives up her Saturday mornings to run the clubs, which meet at Abbey Books in Paisley. You can find out more about the Oak Tree Arts writing groups here and there is also a link to buy the publication on the site.

A couple of weeks ago (how time flies!) my Mum and I were featured on the talented writer, Kristen Bailey’s, Christmas blog, sharing my Mum’a amazing recipe for trifle, along with our memories associated with this. You can read the post here

I love the fact myself and Kristen first connected through social media and that Kristen got her first book deal when she entered a competition I shared on Facebook. Say what you want about social media, it has all sorts of powers for bringing people together in positive ways!

Hope you all have a lovely festive break. I’m looking forward to kicking off some book events in the New Year at a couple of local high schools, Paisley Grammar and Park Mains.

Merry Christmas!

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Some photos from Book Week Scotland

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My fun during Book Week Scotland a few weeks ago kicked off with a joint event with my Mum at Port Glasgow library where we both got to talk about the impact libraries and reading had on our writing. My Mum always encouraged me to read widely from a young age and championed and encouraged my writing so it was lovely being able to share ‘the stage’ with her.

The day after, I visited Largs Academy and spoke to a very enthusiastic group of 1st (and 3rd) years. I love this photo taken by the librarian as it captures the fun energy and enthusiasm the pupils demonstrated throughout my talk. They asked me lots of questions and I was delighted when so many of them came up to tell me all about the stories and books they have been writing. And they tackled the flash fiction task I set them with no hesitation. A brilliant event!

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The next day I visited Clydebank High where I spoke to 4th years and some seniors (who were proudly wearing their Book Week Scotland badges). I got the group to start building a story together then I had lots of fun reading out their flash fiction pieces at the end. I always love to hear the characters and ideas that form in such a short space of time. The photo below captures some of them at work. Another great group.

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At the end of the week I escaped to Arran for a couple of days where I saw some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. A great end to an inspiring week!

Book Week Scotland

 

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Tomorrow is the start of Book Week Scotland, which is a week long celebration of books and writing. It takes place every November and this year I’m delighted to be taking part in an official Book Week Scotland event tomorrow evening at Port Glasgow Library from 5.30pm to 6.30pm with my writer Mum, Rosemary Gemmell. You can see the event details online  here  And here’s a picture of us, with images of our books below!

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I have fond memories of my Mum taking me along to Port Glasgow library, (albeit in a different building!), when I was young. I could easily spend hours rifling through the books, trying to figure out how I was going to decide which ones to take home with me this week, and which ones to leave behind for next time. It will feel a bit surreal now returning as an author, getting the chance to read from, and talk about, MY book. It’s really special doing a joint event with my Mum too as she has always been my biggest inspiration and has always been so encouraging of my reading and writing, introducing me to a magical world of words.

My fun at Book Week Scotland doesn’t stop there… on Tuesday I’m really looking forward to meeting some 1st year pupils at Largs Academy and then on Wednesday I will be meeting  4th year pupils at Clydebank High.

I love meeting readers and I was delighted to receive a lovely message the other week from a pupil I met a while back at Eastwood High called Nicole who told me that I had inspired her to read more. This is why events such as Book Week Scotland are so important. So many authors across the country will get the opportunity to talk to audiences about the wonder of books, and the joy of writing. I am sure during some events it could spark enough inspiration to encourage a whole new generation of writers to release their words to the world!

I’ll post some photos of the events soon.

 

A visit to Portobello High and my 1 year Book Anniversary!!

 

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This is a long overdue post about my visit to Portobello High a few weeks ago. I was made to feel very welcome by the school librarian, Andrea, and a highlight of my visit was being interviewed for the Teen Titles magazine by two 2nd year pupils, Alison and Freya (that’s a photo of us above). The girls were given my book, Follow Me, to read over the summer and I was delighted (and relieved) to hear that they both really enjoyed it. Alison even told me it was now her favourite book; that’s the biggest compliment a writer can ever receive!

They both asked me great questions, (which you will get to see in the Teen Titles magazine), and made it a really fun experience for me.  We also had a sneaky ‘off the record’ chat at the end where I told them what the original ending Follow Me had been, before I decided to go back to change it. They also got to hear a bit about my new book, (that I am still working on just now), and talking it over encouraged me to finish it as soon as possible. That’s partly why it has taken me so long to update my website, as I have been using my ‘writing time’ to actually edit and write my book for a change!!

After my interview I delivered a talk to a hall full of 2nd years and even although my power point failed I had a great time telling them about my writing journey, and I got them to start building their own story.  This is me with some of the pupils afterwards, below (I was having a bad hair day that day – it’s windy in Edinburgh!)

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It was a really fun afternoon and I was delighted to receive a lovely card from the school a few days after my visit – some of the pupils took time to write comments in the card which put a big smile on my face!

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It is also my 1 YEAR BOOK ANNIVERSARY this month. This has been one of the most exciting and jam packed years of my life so in some ways my launch night feels like another lifetime ago, and in other ways it feels like it was just yesterday. Here’s a little montage of photos from the launch:

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I’ve got an exciting time coming up in November during Book Week Scotland where I’ll be doing an event at Port Glasgow library, Largs Academy and Clydebank High. Details are all on the Events page on my website. I’m particularly looking forward to the event at Port Glasgow library as I will be doing a joint talk alongside my writer Mum, Rosemary Gemmell. My Mum has always been so encouraging of my writing growing up and has been a big inspiration so it will be great doing a writing event together.

 

Read to Succeed – A Visit to Eastwood High

 

 

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A couple of weeks ago I visited Eastwood High to give a talk at the launch of their S1 ‘Read to Succeed’ initiative. Parents and pupils were invited along to find out more about the initiative and got to listen to me talking about the Joy of Reading, and how my love of reading ultimately led me to become a writer. When I was putting together my presentation I had fun constructing a collage of images of some of my favourite books from childhood, ranging from The Worst Witch to the Nancy Drew mystery series. So much of what I have read has shaped my writing. There have also been important books which have taught me a lot about craft; reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch when I was in my early twenties reminded me of why I wanted to write. Her style of writing in this book was so lyrical I got lost inside the paragraphs and yearned to be able to construct such a story of depth and beauty. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but that’s the great thing about writing – your style always continues to grow and adapt as you begin new projects, and experiment with different forms.

After the talk and presentation from the English department I got to speak to some of the pupils and parents afterwards as I signed books for them. We had interesting conversations about writing and ideas. One girl also told me she plans to beat the ‘Read to Succeed’ challenge of reading 12 books by Christmas (I think that was the number) and plans to read 43.  I was impressed by her enthusiasm and she took away Follow Me to read as one of her 43!

Tomorrow I am off to Portobello High School in Edinburgh to deliver a talk to some 2nd year classes and I am also being interviewed by pupils for the brilliant Teen Titles magazine. Looking forward to that!

A reminder that there are  a couple of weeks left to enter the ‘Paisley Adventure’ short story I am judging for Oak Tree Arts. See the poster below for more details:

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UKYACX in Newcastle

Talking on a panel at UKYACX

On Saturday I got the train down to sunny Newcastle to appear at the UK Young Adult and Children’s Extravaganza event, held in Newcastle City Library in conjunction with Seven Stories bookshop. The last time I was in Newcastle I was about 12, and I had forgotten how beautiful this city is. I’ll definitely be going back soon so that I can spend more time exploring.

The best part of doing events like this, (apart from meeting readers), is getting to spend the day surrounded by great authors and hear about their books and writing experiences. I was on a panel with YA authors, Roy Gill (that’s him reading about werewolves in one of the photos), Sara Grant, Olivia Levez and Liz Flanagan. I read from FOLLOW ME and realised just how short 2 minutes is when you have lots you want to say!!Fellow Scots based authors, Kirkland Ciccone and Alex Nye, were also there for the day (that’s them sitting at their signing table in the photo above). Kirkland treated us to a catwalk show as part of his panel. I thought it might turn into a Kanye West fashion show type disaster when he donned his fur coat in sauna like conditions, but he strutted his stuff like a pro!

What struck me as I listened to all of the authors during the day is the diversity of fiction available for children and teenagers – so many imaginative books stretching across a wide range of genres. It also highlighted the importance of events such as this to get the word out there about the breadth of talent which exists across the whole of the UK. I think it’s brilliant that Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery invited along  debut, as well as more established authors, from a mix of big house publishers and small indie publishers. Thanks to them both for taking the time out from their own busy writing lives to organise such a brilliant event.

I managed to fit in a quick visit to the Laing Art Gallery which was directly across the road. When I was standing at the top of the library stairs I spotted an Alice In Wonderland poster hanging outside the gallery and realised there was an exhibition so nipped off to get lost in Wonderland for a quick 10 minutes.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the white rabbit, running away from Alice in a silent film. The great thing about being a writer is that you never know what or where your next adventure might be…

 

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UKYACX Blog Tour

Yesterday I appeared on the Enchanted by YA Blog as part of the UKYACX blog tour. You can read that post here where I am once again talking about the wonderful world of libraries.

I’m really looking forward to appearing at Newcastle library this Saturday 17th September where I will be joining lots of other brilliant authors…and there will be cakeukyacx-16-poster-for-social-media

 

Next Tuesday evening I will be visiting Eastwood High to talk to pupils and parents about the joy of reading as they launch their “Read to Succeed” scheme. Can’t wait for that!