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!

Brilliant Librarians

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At the end of August I had a great time at the Inverclyde Booked! Festival where I introduced authors Teri Terry, Rosalind Jana, Alex Wheatle and Chris Mould to groups of pupils from local schools. I loved getting an insight into the authors’ creative process and what inspired them to write. Rosalind and Alex had particularly honest and gripping stories to tell, demonstrating how words and books can provide an important escape from harrowing life experiences. I also loved how Rosalind had made the most of any opportunity which came her way, entering competitions and approaching editors, demonstrating the importance of not just waiting for success to happen, but to pursue it with determination and confidence. You can see a collage of photos from the two day event above.

Why I have titled this piece ‘brilliant librarians’ is because I got to work alongside a team of very friendly and enthusiastic Inverclyde librarians during this event. One librarian, Katharine, has stayed in touch with me since my event at Gourock library earlier in the year and she has been particularly encouraging and supportive of my work and got me involved in this festival which means so much. Librarians are the unsung heroes of the literary world and are so so important for inspiring young people (and older people!) to read. What better magic can you introduce someone to, than the wonderful world of story telling?

I also got to attend the fabulous Teen Titles party in Edinburgh where i got to speak to some more enthusiastic librarians. I love speaking to people who love books! The party took place in the reference section of Edinburgh Central library which is quite a spectacular space – unfortunately the battery of my phone died just as I arrived so I only have one photo from the event (below) where I got chatting to some very stylish readers. The Irn Bru wasn’t mine by the way, that belongs to the photographer (a.k.a teen author/watermelon Kirkland Ciccone) Teen Titles is a book review magazine for teenagers, with the reviews written by Edinburgh teenagers. I’m looking forward to being interviewed for the magazine in October when I visit Portobello High during their book festival.

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Another shout out to the greatness of librarians – the careers adviser in Largs Academy noticed Follow Me on display in the school library. He kindly took a photo – I love seeing photos of my book on display!

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Lastly, I’m delighted to announce that I will be one of the judges for a local short story competition, around the theme of ‘My Paisley Adventure’ which the Paisley writing group, Oak Tree Arts are organising. I will be judging alongside other writers: Susan Kirkwood and Leona Gary. Here is a poster for this with more details:

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UKYACX2016 and other news

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Hello all! This evening on Twitter I could finally share the news that I am going to be part of the UKYACX 2016 event at Newcastle Library on Saturday 17th September alongside some other brilliant YA authors. With the tagline, ‘Books, Authors, Readers, Cake’ this event has to be a winner!! What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? I’m looking forward to going to Newcastle as it’s been a while since I’ve visited that neck of the woods.

Below is a list of the other YA authors I will be joining on the day. It’s so nice to see some fellow Scots on the list!

Roy Gill  Cat Clark   Kirkland Ciccone   Olivia Levez   Lindsey Barraclough   

Nicole Burstein    Fletcher Moss/Martin Griffin   Jane Brittan   Sara Grant   

Perdita Cargill   Honor Cargill  Donald Hounam Paula Rawsthorne    Leo Hunt   

Kerry Drewery   Emma Pass     Liz Flanagan    Sue Wallman   Rachael Lucas 

Ellen Pheathean     Katherine Corr   Elizabeth Corr    Alex Nye    Patrice Lawrence

 

In other news I am going to be a sort of ‘Writer in Residence’ at the Inverclyde Booked! Festival (Edinburgh International Book Festival on the road!) which will take place at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th August. I will be helping out during both days, facilitating creative writing workshops with local High School students and I get to introduce some big YA authors on stage (and hang out with them in the Green Room where, if I’m lucky, there might be more cake…) You can find out more about this brilliant book festival here 

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back on here with more updates soon!

Pop, Cakes and Creativity!

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I had a great time yesterday at the Pop Art Tea Party in Kilmacolm Community Centre, hosted by Creative Communities. I had fun talking to the young people about my writing and the ideas behind my book ‘Follow Me’ and influences of the Pop Artist, Andy Warhol.

My favourite part of the day, (apart from eating cake and drinking pink lemonade), was when I got the young people to take part in a story-building exercise. Each of them was given a specific part of the story to create and it was amazing how it all fitted together at the end. I really hope one of them writes a book about Lucy and her enchanted house and mirror, as it sounded like an adventure packed with magic and suspense which I would love to read!

In other news, congratulations to Karen Mikusak who won a signed copy of Follow Me in the Book Bites giveaway promo!

I have also added an ‘Events’ page on to my website where I will post updates on up-and-coming events. Watch this space for more details on the Beacon Arts Book Festival in Greenock, which I will be taking part in at the end of August. Can’t wait for that one!