Til Death Do Us Part
Being interviewed were Nicola, Mandy moderator is Graham Smith.
Being interviewed were Nicola, Mandy moderator is Graham Smith.
Ashley Dyer was the moderator who navigated the panel round interesting questions and kept it all flowing so well. She specialises in Dyslexia and writes novels. She was moderating a panel consisting of Fleur Hitchcock and Jane Elson and Jennie Finch, who all have dyslexia and write novels.
Around 10 percent of people have dyslexia to some degree.
There can also be associated conditions.
This was a very different sort of panel as it was discussing, not only books and writing but a condition, but not one that has stopped these women from writing some great books.
Fleur Hitchcock has written 14 children’s mystery books to date and is a bestselling author. Some are dark for the older child, but she is also writing for younger children. She is also writing modern adventure books.
Jane Elson writes for 8-13 year olds. She deals with issues such as autism and cancer.
Her book is about Nell Hobbs and how most children want adventures, but Nell just wants to be normal.
Jane said “A Room Full of Chocolate” was semi-autobiographical. It was sad, but somewhat unsurprising when she said she was put down a lot by people, including by a former teacher, which affected her self-esteem. She has been nominated for awards.
Jennie Finch’s detective is Alex Hastings, whom she describes as intelligent with 2 degrees and sets about trying to solve a murder. He also seems to still have faith in humanity and thinks people are nice.
Ashley’s detectives are Ruth Lake and Greg Carver for her police procedurals, featuring in: Splinter in the Blood and The Cutting Room.
It was so interesting and inspiring to hear a little about their lives and they seem to show an inner strength of character.
Ashley was a teacher in the 1980s. She realised that dyslexia was a syndrome and seemed different from other difficulties other children had. She was never diagnosed at school and also has pragmatic language syndrome – takes everything as being literal.
At 42 she was diagnosed and found it liberating. She also talked of a person who sounds inspirational and how this person was suicidal at one point, but lived on to then acheive a first in languages.
Fleur didn’t go to school for a long time as her family moved a lot. Interestingly she looked at pictures in DC comics. Her whole household is dyslexic.
When she did go to school, she wrote with both hands, later, she could touch type. When she did attend school, things didn’t sound like they were great until a teacher said this didn’t matter, but how she thought did. She also wasn’t tested for dyslexia until later in life.
Fleur had a manuscript after doing a creative writing course. It later came to be The Boy Who Flew, but it was close to never seeing the light of day again. She got an agent and went to many publishers who rejected her work. She was nearly dropped by one until she wrote a different book, which sold. It wasn’t until recently she tried it again and it is published, selling and getting very good reviews.
It was interesting to hear that some authors on the panel had mentors and others did not and how a couple are or have acted as mentors in a school and college.
They said that if you want to write, you must read. It was fascinating to hear about their reading of books – reading the same books more than once and by using pictures as plots were sometimes forgotten. Feeling the mood of books seemed to be important. There seemed to be much to be learned and hopefully other people who have dyslexia are inspired by them, and even if they don’t all end up writing a book, to see that it isn’t impossible to enjoy a story.
There was much interest in what life can be like as authors, from the chaotic to the very structured and when writing how sometimes visualisation was good, although there was an author who could not do that but talks word for word for what is going to be on the page, at least initially.
With thanks to Ashley, Fleur, Jane and Jennie for allowing me to take their photo. Thanks to Fleur for signing books and thanks to Jennie for gifting me a notebook.
Below are a small selection of their books:
Anne Coates was moderating/interviewing Sharna Jackson, Sarah Todd Taylor and Nicki Thornton.
Anne Coates writes for both children and adults. I had heard of her adult books and she certainly gets good reviews, so it was interesting to hear she writes books about children. Anne Coates skillfully opened up conversations to cover many subjects surrounding children’s books, from about the books themselves to age banding to tips.
Anne Coates Sharna Jackson Nicki Thornton Sarah Todd Taylor
About the Books
Sarah’s passion for cats and theatres really came across so well and she has clearly studied cats a lot to come up with ideas for her books, that sounded so intriguing. She’s even come to learn that cats have different purrs for different occasions. The detective in her stories is indeed a cat called Max. Her book – Max the Detective Cat – The Disappearing Diva is set in a theatre. She talked about wanting to reflect the reality of how things and people aren’t always how they seem. I reckon it sounded like it could certainly feed children’s curiosity. Theatres can of course be interesting places with all manner of nooks and crannies and all sorts of people and especially actors taking on the guise of someone different for a couple of hours or so.
Nicki also has a cat as her detective, called Nightshade, who speaks English. The book is based in a hotel and she mixes criminal activity with magic and in her book, but managing not to go too far into fantasy. The mix of crime and fantasy sounds fun. It sounded like there was some humour to be found in it too.
Sharna is a director at Site Gallery. She has also written her debut novel – The High Rise Mystery, set on an estate in skinny towers, based on brutalist design. It was interesting to hear that she actually talked to an architect about this and how she didn’t want to stereotype her characters.
There was an interesting discussion about the interactivity that can be gained within stories, somewhat a different angle, which really got my attention. I myself like this too. It doesn’t seem to matter what you’re reading to someone, there’s always ways to interact, whether it is through some repetition or discussion or other involvement. It was mentioned how reluctant readers have got into the authors books and how there is something very universal about crime books. It was useful to hear how crime books for children can actually empower them as they try to find the clues to solve the mystery, alongside the protagonist to see how far they can go in being a detective too as they read.
There was much discussion about crime for children’s books and this was really interesting, since any criminal activity is obviously quite dark, but the discussion resulted in that there can be motives and it can be written in a way children can understand.
It was great to hear authors talking about age indicators when it comes to crime, such as books now being Middle Grade, YA etc. The discussion brought many interesting elements such as parents wanting guidance, but authors do reckon that children are well equipped to deal with death. This went further into stating that it’s the way things are written and the fact there are resolutions at the end can bring comfort to children, even when characters have been through a lot. It was mentioned that these stories can bring some elements of learning for children. It was decided that sometimes some subjects are more suitable for YA than for younger children.
There was a nice mention of librarians in that the authors mentioned that librarians can work out which books are the best “fit” for individual children, which I must say is a skill.
The authors talked about what they have heard children say. They talked about how author events help children to discover books. They said children have said how involved they become in stories and want to inhabit the story’s world using their imaginations.
Tips when writing a children’s story
Sharna Jackson Sarah Todd Taylor Nicki Thornton
Sarah Todd Taylor Nicki Thornton
Anne Coates was holding one of her adult crime books
With thanks to the authors for allowing me to take their picture. It was nice to meet the authors and I would recommend checking them out.
Review of Morecambe and Vice
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
First thing in the morning of the first day of the festival, the question – “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” was posed. That very question is totally fascinating in itself, but first thing on a Saturday morning in the Midland Hotel, what was the worst thing that could happen? It turned out a lot. This was actually the title of a fascinating panel of authors who had mixed crime and the dystopian world in a believable way and some of it… well… we aren’t too far off.
The panel was created of Lesley Kelly, Ceri Lowe and Matt Brolly. All of whom were excellent speakers and all seemed so comfortable and natural together. The panel was brilliantly moderated by Tom Fisher, who seemed enthusiastic and got the authors to talk about interesting topics to do with their books and their writing experiences.
Lesley Kelly is the author of the series – The Health of Strangers, which includes killer flu, food, medicine shortages and unscrupulous politicians. This series also has some humour within it. I have written a full review of the latest book in the series that you can check out on my blog.
Ceri Lowe writes a dystopian The Paradigm Trilogy for YA. Her main two characters are 15 and 11 years old. With one of the main themes being climate change, it is about a huge storm occurs in the UK and the scars that are left. It takes the promise of a small group being rescued and stored by “The Industry Group”. The author posed the hanging question of “Are they corrupt or are they saving the planet?” Read to find out…
Matt Brolly writes the DCI Lambert Novels. He spoke of the setting being in the near future in a city that has zero tolerance of crime, so has the death penalty that is automatic if the perpetrator is caught and yet a detective who is a kleptomaniac.
Matt Brolly, Ceri Lowe, Lesley Kelly
The discussion that ensued was very interesting. Tom had clearly done his homework and given a lot of thought. The questions were coherent and quite a large range from talking directly about apocalyptic worlds to actual world building, but also beyond the writing of the books to coping with rejection. It was a great way to start off the festival. There was something in it for wanna-be writers, the experienced writers and also readers.
I like to sometimes read dystopian novels, even though it is disturbing how close to the truth they become, but that makes them relevant and thought-provoking.
Matt talked about being fascinated in exploring the extremes he does of a zero tolerance of crime society. He moved away from world building in some ways and writes more about the characters and how they relate to the deterrent, so the world is essentially built through the characters he creates and is kept as close to the present as possible. The fact his book seemed so close to now made me think of the tv series Years and Years and I should think that in Matt’s books there will be much for the population to ponder and also see where things may be heading if something doesn’t change soon. I find people who can write like that can be quite brilliant in getting certain important messages across and they certainly made people pay attention.
Ceri is different in the fact she loves world building and then culls back on the self-indulgent parts. She reckons she could create a whole family tree as well as a companion book to show all the different relationships etc of her many characters. When she started writing, climate change was there, but there wasn’t the news coverage there is now, when her first book was published. The timing of her books now however, make them more relevant than ever, although, even the first book, in my opinion, would still have been important at that time. When she spoke of how she would like to have a family tree type of companion book of character family trees, well, family trees are always intriguing and help link up people or in this case characters and can add some understanding when there are lots of characters.
The Fascination of Dystopia
Lesley, interestingly works in the voluntary sector and plans for lots of things like the flu and talked about Spanish Flu too and what a pandemic that was, with it killing the least expected of the population. It was thought-provoking when she talked about for her books, she considered, from this being an inspirational starting point, how parents and criminals would react and how “cures would be sold”, as well as the government giving “pointless” health-checks. So, her world is more a controlled world that she has created within her books. It again seems so close to now. Awhile back I had the privilege of reviewing this book and it is very good and has some humour in it too, which works really well within her dystopian world.
Matt thinks there’s something fascinating about the fall of routine, confronting fears and starting again.
The authors had great tips and words of encouragement for other writers and those interested in the process. I always find it fascinating to hear how different authors began writing and what their routines are because each is different.
Matt Brolly basically just never gave in. He was agented after 3 years, but it was 20 years until his first book was published. He says to keep writing and submitting. He was also candid in his answer about getting rejections and initially thought it was all to do with his writing. He said it isn’t you personally, but just may not be their choice of book at a particular time. He also gave advice not to wait for 1 person to get back to you and to instead query as many people as possible.
Ceri wrote some short stories for some competitions and won some. She got an idea for a novel.
Lesley said she wanted to be a stand-up comedian but had children and the hours weren’t conducive for her family life. She highly recommends a professional editor. She got longlisted and got feedback and got published by Sandstone.
Sage advice came from both Lesley and Matt about not comparing yourself to others at it is unhelpful. This I was thinking is something that can be applied to everyone’s lives, whether they are an author or not.
Lesley’s next book is Murder at the Music Factory
Matt Brolly’s next book is The Crossing
Ceri Lowe also has another book coming soon too.
It was interesting to hear what books the authors read too.
Lesley likes Stephen King. Matt Brolly also likes The Stand by Stephen King and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Ceri likes Margaret Atwood
If you ever get the opportunity to see Lesley Kelly, Matt Brolly or Ceri Lowe, I highly recommend that you do. Thanks to them also for interesting and warm chat after their event.
Below are images of their latest books.
It is with great pleasure that I present to you my review of Toletis by Rafa Ruiz. The book for people ages 7 to 107 because it has important themes of friendship, the environment and there’s plenty of adventure and some humour, complete with illustrations. This is a book that adults and children can read alone or enjoy together and gain something from it. It is a book to inspire everyone at every milestone in their lives.
Today is happily my turn on the Random Things Blog Tour I was invited on.
Rafa Ruiz is a journalist and author who has a staunch commitment to culture, art and the environment. He spent 25 years at Spanish newspaper El País and is a partner-founder of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA). He has written numerous children’s books, and he codirects the Mad is Mad art gallery in Madrid which gives space to up-and-coming artists. He is one of the partner-founders of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA).
Elena Hormiga is an illustrator with a sense of humour. She studied and worked as an engineer and later turned to illustration
Ben Dawlatly took an MA in Hispanic Studies and Translation Theory at UCL. He translates both technical and literary texts. However, his real calling is in fiction and poetry.
Trees are disappearing and adults don’t care. Toletis, his dog Amenophis and friends Claudia and Tutan are on a mission to turn their little valley town, set deep in the mountains, luscious green again. The odds are stacked against them. Can they succeed… with some very unusual help?
Toletis is a positive role model for boys
Toletis is a quiet, sensitive and caring boy who isn’t afraid to show his emotions. His character is a perfect antidote to the expectations of a “typical” boy: loud, boisterous and destructive. This is definitely a book for parents who reject the saying “boys will be boys”.
The ‘big’ real life stuff
One of the things I love most about Toletis is that it touches on big real life events such as the death of a family member in a wholesome and loving way. Sad events in the book are neither taboo nor overly sad; they are expertly touched upon in a way that is both matter-of-fact and empathetic.
Toletis encourages a love of nature
It’s easy to be drawn in by the immersive storytelling and beautiful illustrations. Toletis spends much of the book exploring the hills and valleys around his home, foraging, planting trees and doing all of the things every child should. The book gives just enough detail – the smells, the sounds of the hills are so clear you’re almost there yourself.
Toletis has a good sense of justice
Toletis has a good sense of justice. When trees are cut down to put a wide road through the town, he hatches a plan to stop it. He knows what is wrong in the world and isn’t afraid to step up and change it.
Travel along with the playful mist and meet Toletis who has a love of trees and to get to know them all as well as grow one, especially an apple tree. The book goes into the fascination of this in a lovely amount of detail and enough to feed the curiosity of young minds. Toletis’s friend Tutan also has a deep interest in wildlife and tries to imitate birds such as hen harriers, swifts, tawny owls and more and also animals such as pigs, horses, dogs and more.
In Spring time, also meet the Treenie-weenies, who are all the souls of the trees that had been felled, who then inhabit other trees. There’s an issue though – the town isn’t planting more trees and the Treenie-weenies are bored. Read on to find out what they do in the end. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, it was even better.
In the book you can join Toletis at his school and learn the Wobbegong language, which his teacher doesn’t understand and is reminded to write in English, but he speaks it with Aunty Josifina as they play with words and language and just have fun with it.
It is soon Summer time and there’s more people to meet and things to do.
Meet Alexander Atherton Aitken who comes to see Toletis, Tutan and Claudia on a farm. There visitor just isn’t used to farm animals. There’s fun and tall tales to be had and later in the chapter Lian – AAA as Alexander was shortened to has tales of his own to tell about Julian and whether he went to war or not and whether he was the Lian or not. Read on to find out what happens next and about the mysterious house.
Autumn arrives and Toletis promises hazlenuts for his mum and goes “nutting” a tree. There’s some natural child thoughts about how Toletis imagines his mum not being around anymore. It seems dark, but lots of children, including me, has thought and imagined this in childhood. In this case it sweetly makes Toletis appreciate his mum even more. There’s also a parts of growing up as he looks at his dad’s legs and compares them with his own, just to see if they’re the same. Children will relate to this as they try to make sense of things as they grow. There’s comfort to be gained by this part in the stories.
Behold the rickety mansion that belongs to Claudia’s Granny Ursula with her animal-like eyes. It is atmospheric and a feast for the eyes with its antique furniture and cakes, lots of cakes and then a further surprise of something else edible on the third floor. Read further to find out what…
Enter the Wide Road where people move too fast through their surroundings, never really paying attention to it as they speed along the road, that is also being widened by workmen. Toletis is different. He properly observes the surroundings. It highlights what plant species grow on road verges and their importance. There’s a stark contrast between the hard asphalt and the beauty of the green verges and the destruction of them and the speed on the roads and what harm can be done.
Winter brings a coldness that can almost be felt, as can the comfort of wintry foods. It also gives time for old photographs to come to the fore, which bring intrigue, beauty and fun that is so illustravely written.
Throughout the book there are adventures to have, friendships and a real care for the immediate environment, which is beautifully written. This may not be a book that immediately comes to people’s minds so quickly and yet there are important messages within it and it is a lovely story for children to explore this lovely vivid book alone or with and adult.
There are interesting illustrations throughout the book to assist in telling the story, which will appeal to many children of the ages 7 plus as they are now so used to reading books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates, Storey Treehouse series that all have illustrations through them too.
The book will appeal to boys and girls alike and has Toletis, the main character having the qualities of being a positive role model to both. It shows a sensitivity as well as still having humour and adventure throughout it.
I am pleased to be part of the Random Things blog tour today for the book – 10 Things to do Before You Leave School.
After graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe worked in advertising before training as a teacher. He taught for many years, first in a North London comprehensive, then at Radley College, where he was Head of English, and most recently at St Paul’s School in London, where he was Head of Sixth Form.
He has reviewed fiction for Literary Review and The Oxford Times and, as an editor of The English Review, has written over a hundred articles for A Level students on subjects ranging from Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle to Jane Austen and Shakespeare. In 2013 he published his first novel, ‘No Regrets’.
Ruby has had a difficult year to say the least, Just before she started sixth form her father died from a heart attack. In the months that followed, Ruby became so depressed that she attempted suicide. She now missed a lot of school, but now she’s about to go back and she’s worried. Is she well enough to get through her final year? Will the depression return? Should she apply for university?
The night before term begins, Ruby finds something that makes the prospect even more daunting: an envelope addressed to her in her father’s handwriting, 10 Things I Hope You Do Before You Leave School: it makes no sense. She can’t understand why he’d want her to do these things, let alone whether she’ll be able to do them.
As Ruby navigates her way through UCAS, parties, boyfriends and A-levels, she decides to give the list her best shot, but her efforts lead her into strange situations and to surprising discoveries.
Will Ruby survive her last year at school? Cand she do the ten things on The List? Will doing them make any difference?
This is an excellent book of our times. It’s a must for Young Adults. It is relatable for what so many young adults face today. There’s the technology, the exams, the university forms and all that angst. Oh and then there’s the Talks. You know, those familiar parent to young adult talk of the sex, the alcohol. I love how they are listed within this book and in such a tone that so many young adult will be familiar with. Ruby however has more than this to deal with, she has to deal with the fact that her dad has recently died.
The book is wonderfully presented. The parts of the book and within the body of the book becomes the list. I love this ingenious idea of it saying to young adults to have a list, but perhaps that’s because when I was that age I began writing a bucket list and yes I gradually tick things off and sometimes add to it and later tick it off.
This book is fun and touching and relevant with believable characters to care about and live with throughout this book.
The author has thought carefully and knows how to handle the tougher times that Ruby doesn’t want to return to in her life, sensitively, but then this is also when the really ingenious part comes into play, he has thought of other literary characters and authors who have had bleak parts within their lives, especially Virginia Woolf. Here he has added more self-discovery and analysis as Ruby looks at what she copied one time from Virginia Woolf’s letter before she drowned herself, and compares this with where she, herself is now and ponders of if she really is that same person, or is she moving on in life? It’s not dealt with lightly. There’s a lot of good thought that’s clearly gone into how the main character is feeling and thinking.
There’s of course the boys and the parties too, again written well. All this book is written well and is written in a way that is recognisable to how a young adult would talk and relate to the world around them and their peers.
Does Ruby finish school and get into university? Well, that would be telling…
Go on and read it to find out for yourselves. It’s worth the time.
The things within the list is what any young adult can achieve and with little to no money. Most are life affirming and will teach young adult’s something valuable in life. This book is full of life and emotion. There’s also humour and enough to make it absorbing and uplifting. It’s meaningful and well-considered and written.
I absolutely recommend this book to every young adult about to leave school or got one more year to go. It’s a book for today and it will still remain relevant for many years to come I am sure.
Title: 10 Things To Do Before You Leave School
Author: Bernard O’Keefe
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Acorn Independent Press (5 Mar. 2019)