Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Scribble City Central Nominated for Author Blog Awards! Please Vote Now!

I am delighted to announce that SCRIBBLE CITY CENTRAL has been nominated for the
Now please help it to get on the Shortlist by
VOTING HERE   As an incentive, you have a chance to win loads of lovely bookie prizes from the sponsors just for voting.

Monday, 29 March 2010


I am very excitied to announce that
Mythic Interview Fridays
will be coming to Scribble City Central, starting this week on 2nd April, and running through till the end of August.

So, what are these Mythic Interview Fridays?  Well, as you probably know by now, I'm pretty passionate about myths from all cultures. It has been and is my privilege and pleasure as a writer to be able to introduce a whole new generation of younger readers to these wonderful tales through my own books of retellings of both Greek and Celtic myths. What I'm really hoping is that Mythic Interview Fridays will ignite and fuel a widely disseminated discussion amongst teachers, librarians, journalists, bloggers, readers and anyone else who can contribute to the debate about why these stories should be so important—and also to broaden the understanding of what these ancient myths from other times and places can contribute to our children in the fast moving techno-world of today.  I've got authors, poets, illustrators and many others in the book world and beyond all lined up and ready, and they will each be answering a set of seven short questions about aspects of mythology and the influence it has had on their lives.

I'll be kicking off the series this Friday with Caroline Lawrence,  author of the marvellous Roman Mysteries series, and creator of Flavia Gemina, my favourite ever girl detective from AD 79.  I'm hoping all my Scribble City Central readers will be as excited as I am--I can promise you I've got all sorts of amazing and interesting people coming up all through the summer!  Please do take part in or initiate discussions on the comment pages--I'd love to hear your stories about favourite myths from all cultures and whether they've influenced you in any way.  I'd also love to hear whether you think these stories are important to pass on--or not.  All debate is very welcome from any side of the fence.  I can't wait to get this myth party started! 

Thursday, 25 March 2010


You've voted, the polls are now closed (but if you'd still like to see them, they are now at the very bottom of the column to the right of this post), and the results are in.  Thank you all so much for taking the time and trouble to enter

The top children's book Hero is:

(Joint 2nd: Stanley Yelnats and Ged Sparrowhawk)

The top children's book Shero is:

(Joint 2nd: Dido and Lirael)

The winner of the competition is:
LOVELY TREEZ who will be receiving signed copies of my books.

Friday, 19 March 2010


The preliminary votes are in and it's been a fascinating process with nearly 200 separate s/hero candidates proposed by all of you--sterling work, and thanks to all who slaved over their top 10 lists.  The leads kept changing in both categories until the last couple of days, when it became clear who the top runners would be. There are, in no particular order, 7 contenders for the final TOP SPOT in each category because there were some ties and I didn't think it was fair for me to do the choosing.  I think it's a much better and more representative list than the Guardian one--but as you will see--they did get some right.


  1. VOTE for your TOP HERO and your TOP SHERO in the two polls.  Only ONE CHOICE from each poll is allowed, so please choose your favourite from those.
  2. Answer BOTH of the fairly fiendish questions (each answer is associated with one of the poll s/heroes)  below, and put your answers in the COMMENTS BOX.
Question 1: Which book does this line come from: "She heard something rustling on the matting, and when she looked down she saw a little snake gliding along and watching her with eyes like jewels." Hint: This shero grew up in India, but moved somewhere colder.
Question 2: Where exactly is Ten Alders, and what was the birthname of the child who lived there? Hint: This hero went on to be a great wizard.

That's it! All correct answers will go into a hat. The Number 1 Children's Book Shero and Hero  will be announced and the competition winner will be drawn on Wednesday 24th March.  Good Luck--and thanks to everyone for entering!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ten of the Best Heroes in Children's Fiction - A Challenge to My Lovely Blog Readers

The Guardian has put up another of its '10 of the Best' lists. Today's offering is 'Best Heroes in Children's Fiction down the decades'.  Great. Wonderful. I'm for anything that celebrates children's books and gets people debating.  BUT--there are some odd choices here, it seems to me, and while I am also all for female heroes being celebrated, there is a definite imbalance here. Do I feel the cold hand of political correctness (surely not in the Grauniad!). Why didn't they do 10 best Sheroes and 10 best Heroes?
Pippi Longstocking
Anne of Green Gables
Matilda Wormwood
George (really? George from Dick King-Smith's 'George Speaks?' REALLY?)
Tracy Beaker
Lyra Belaqua
Huck Finn
Petrova Fossil
William Brown
Sara Crewe

That's the list they've chosen.  Well, okay. They steered away from the too obvious Boy who Lived (but isn't he a hero?), and they also steered away from Ron and Hermione. They steered away from anthropomorphic heroes like Charlotte (of the Web),  Mole from the Wind in the Willows and Hazel of Watership Down. They also steered away from Bilbo Baggins, and Will Parry (equal to Lyra in my eyes). This has a very 'safe list' feel to me, and also an 'oh bung those in--everyone's heard of THEM' air of slight laziness and lack of research/imagination.  I'd love to see some perhaps less well-known or more modern candidates in here. Will from 'The Dark is Rising', Charlie Bone, Arthur and Gatty from Kevin Crossley-Holland's trilogy, Cat Chant, Garth Nix's Arthur, Lirael and Sabriel. Actually, I could go on and on here, but I'm going to turn it over to you lot instead. (*Later in day. Nope. Can't resist. Mine are on the comments page too! *)

I have a challenge for you.  Put your top 5 children's book Heroes and your top 5 children's book Sheroes in the comments box. Anthropomorphic candidates welcome. Be adventurous--put your opinions on the line--don't be safe and conservative. But if someone else has chosen a hero you really love too, back them up--there have to be SOME frontrunners!  This will be open till Friday 19th March, and then I'll collate all your choices, and put up 2 polls with the ones who come out on top.  I will devise a little
Top of the Polls Competition With Heroic Books to Win.  So choose away and have fun!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A Writing 101 Production: Part 8 - Stuff That Helps Me Write (Not a Rule in Sight)

There's been a lot of bookie chat lately about Writing Rules for Fiction (yes, that blasted Grauniad piece again). Me? I'm not good with rules. 'See a rule, want to break it' is my rebellious creed. Well, not the biggies--the taboos and the law-busting stuff. Obviously. I am a good and law-abiding citizen apart from the occasional parking ticket. But the small ones, the bureaucratic ones, the idiotic non-daisy picking elf-and-safe-tea ones--all these new Elmore Leonard-inspired writing ones? Give me a hammer, and a map saying 'Opposite Way - Over Here'. For me, as far as writing is concerned, I'd like to misquote the Buddha for a moment: There is no Rule for Writing. Writing IS the Rule. Just do it, I say, and also, (like Nigel Molesworth), DoWn wiv RooLs.

'Writing Rule' to me says didactic and overbearing and I know best, so do it my way. I'm not going to apologise for feeling like that--it's not ungrateful to all those well-meaning rule-writer writers, it's just the grumpy way I am about being told what to do. However, the less aggressive-sounding helpful hint is different. 'Helpful' to me says friendly and hey, look, no pressure--only if you feel like it and it's useful to you personally. Helpful hints are what I try to give in these Writing 101s.  But I'm not going to give you any HH's today. Instead (if you have no objections) I'm going to share with you STUFF WOT HELPS ME WRITE. It's personal to me. No one else has to take any of this stuff as a rule set in stone. In fact, I'll be crabbitly and cross with you if you do, and possibly bite you into the bargain. Please--just enjoy the weirdness and eccentricity. And have a laugh at me. I won't mind at all--laughter is good for the soul (and I think that's one the Buddha would agree with. Also Molesworth, who would no doubt think about giggling fish.).  So--in no particular order....

  1. My Ergonomic All-singing All-dancing Office Chair. It's covered in soft red suedey stuff, and has a sheepskin for me to sit on. When you've had five operations on your spine, like me, sitting comfortably to write is not just advisable, it's a total neccessity. (The sheepskin is not a neccessity--it's the one my kids used to lie on when they were babies. I just like it--and the connection to them.)
  2.  My View. From my desk I look out on green fields and willow trees and a river. It's a rural panorama which changes minute-to-minute with the English weather, and it inspires me. Don't think it's all a Wordsworthian daffodil idyll, though. Skip to No 3 NOW if you are of a delicate disposition. I get gritty realism when the tups come in with the ewes in the autumn. My Facebook friends are sometimes offended with the graphic nature of my status updates on Mr Green Ram, Mr Red Ram, Mr Blue Ram, their sexual prowess, and the multi-coloured state of their adoring sheepladies' bottoms. (Don't worry, that's now it for the sheep bits--on to the dog...). 
  3. My Deskdog. Yes, I have a deskdog. She lies either on the windowsill behind the computer, or between the screen and the keyboard. When I am shouting at my characters or weeping when the plot has gone AWOL, she moans sympathetically and wags her tail. She is a great comfort unto me and usually helps me to climb the next writing hurdle. If not, we jack it all in and go for a walk. Or have biscuits. Which brings me to....
  4. My Earl Grey Tea and Strawberry-and-Cream Shortcake. The small pleasures in life are important. It doesn't matter whether things have gone well--I've reached a word goal, finished a chapter--or whether things have gone badly--the computer has crashed, I've lost all my work, my novel has wandered lonely as a cloud into realms I wot not of--in every eventuality I treat myself to the above. They make the world a better place for me, regardless of writing success or failure.
  5. My Pens and My Paper. Sounds old-fashioned and redundant, I know. But sometimes my brain needs me to write down stuff in the way that Shakespeare and Donne had to. And Dickens. And Trollope. And sometimes I'm on a train or somewhere without my laptop or other means of expression.  I use Pilot V7 Hi-Techpoint 0.7 pens in black, and sometimes in green or purple. (I hasten to say that I NEVER write letters with the green. That would make me into Mrs Creepy Poison Pen Person. Which I'm not.)  I use the ubiquitous lined Moleskine notebooks in black (and yes, I did discover them originally because of Bruce Chatwin).  But I prefer the thin ones which come in handy packs of 3, and can be stuffed in any handbag. I was given a notebook for Christmas which is large and white with the Louisa M. Alcott quote 'She is Too Fond of Books, And It has Turned her Brain.' on the front.  I may come to it in time. But Moleskines and V7's are what I like and find familiar and comforting.
  6. My Library.  Sounds grand, but isn't. As it happens, I have thousands and thousands of books in the house, all piled up because I can't afford any more bookcases. But my Library is composed of all the reference and related books I can't do without and reach for all the time. My Thesaurus (Roget), my dictionary (Chambers), my rhyming dictionary (Willard Espy), and all the Greeks and the Romans--poets, historians, playwrights, philosophers, travellers and their translators and commentators and hangers on; the Celtic poets and their experts of various persuasions. The Opies for playground chants, the myriad world mythology section, the English playwrights and poets...look if I put everything in we'll be here all night.  Books, basically.  I can't do without books around me, their smell and feel and general benevolent presence spurs me on to write better and more.  And they tell me things I need to know. Arcane facts and stuff--I am a repository of useless but useful knowledge. I enjoy that.
  7. My Door.  Doors are under-rated things.  Mine keeps Other People OUT of my office when I'm working flat out to get it all down. Or having a creative snooze. Or doing a necessary 5 minute procrastination stretch on Facebook or Twitter or thinking Very Important Thunks or whatever.  It has a notice on it which says: DO NOT ENTER ON PAIN OF BITING: YES, THIS MEANS YOU TOO. My 85 year-old mum, of course, takes no notice.  It's annoying, but she's my mum, so I put up with it. Or she'll bite me (where did you think I inherited the nasty biting habits from then?). Actually, if I'm writing flat out, I WILL bite her. She understands. Sort of.
  8. My Napping Couch.  Other People get arsy about naps in 'work time' I find--at least they did when I worked in a London office.  But come about 3pm my eyes droop and my head jerks forward or falls on the keyboard. Aarrgh! What happens if my head falls on the Delete All Work button?  Disaster, that's what.  So if I get sleepy, I totter over to the napping couch, shove dogs 2 and 3 off it, and curl up for a 20 minute power nap.  Feeling guilty about this is a waste of energy, so I don't.  If I'm really knackered I go to bed.  Jealous and snarly? Try it. It might make you in a better temper. It does me. Honest. I might not bite anyone for a WHOLE TEN MINUTES.
That's it.  None of them are necessary, as I said. And I could certainly write without them (and have done, frequently). But they're what I like and what make me happy and creative. Currently (what with the spinal surgery and all) I am swapping the Ergonomic Chair for an equally Ergonomic Bed. And the Deskdog has become a Bed-Dog. The View has moved along the house a little and involves more sky and cloud-watching (no frisky tups and ewes at this time of year anyway--just the results of their labours which cry and skip in the meadow over the river).  The Library can be brought to me in chunks as needed by the kind and wonderful Wanton Toast Eater Husband. Or Lovely Daughter.  But the essentials remain. And as a writer, I feel very blessed and lucky to have them.

Big thanks to Mary Hoffman for inspiring this piece.  Her own 10 things that help me write are a joy. Go and read her blog--it's brilliant.
PS:If you MUST read those blasted Grauniad Rules for Writing Fiction for yourself, HERE'S the link.
If you'd like to read more of my thoughts about the joys of creative sleep and napping, they are  HERE and HERE

See all my other Very Useful and Eccentric Writing 101 Productions
Part 1 An Overview of Author Platforms
Part 2 Author Platforms (Facebook)
Part 3 Writing Resolutions
Part 4 Spambush or Tweettack?
Part 5 To Plunge or to Plan?
Part 6 Blogging Lessons
Part 7 Writer's Block (Feel the Fear)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Celebrate WORLD BOOK DAY (and the launch of Author Hotline)


Books are wonderful--anyone can discover a billion treasures between their pages.  And on World Book Day and the week surrounding it, children's authors in the UK go out to schools, libraries and all over the place to shout about the marvellousness of books. Last year I went to Vevey, by Lake Geneva in Switzerland to meet the kids of the International School there. I loved it.  This year I'm stuck in bed with this chopped up back.  But it doesn't mean I can't celebrate too, because today the amazing

goes online. What is it?  It's a fantastic new school resource of exclusive author, illustrator and poet profiles.set up by writer Antony Lishak.  Each author has a page, where Antony has got them to answer all sorts of questions. A sample would be: What were you like at school? What are you afraid of? What is your most treasured possession?  It's fascinating to read all the different answers from people like Nicola Morgan, Gillian Philip, Keren David, Mary Hoffman, Liz Kessler, Katherine Langrish, Anne Rooney, and many many more. You can read my own answers HERE 

Throughout March The Author Hotline is hosting THE WORLD BOOK DAY quiz and  an ATTENTION GRABBING OPENING competition supported by all the Children's Laureates, with their own story openings. Your school can enter, and there are prizes on offer, as well as a chance of seeing pupils' work published online. 

Please do go and visit--it's really worth it! Their website homepage is HERE

You can also find more about World Book Day HERE

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

With Percy Jackson Over At The Other Place

I'm writing about the mega-famous Percy Jackson over on the Awfully Big Blog Adventure today.  Why is it so important for children to know about Percy's 'real' mythic origins? Click HERE to find out!

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