How NOT to Let Your Child Down on World Book Day…

It’s World Book Day, an occasion I love. I frequently tell my children there’s nothing more incredible than getting lost in a good book. Consequently, books tend to get lost around them. Books of all shapes and sizes seem to spread throughout house – on the floor, on the sofa, under beds, in beds, and sometimes actually on the bookshelves where they’re supposed to be. We have a strict household rule: always put the school reading book back in the school bag when you’ve finished. Otherwise, it will be consumed by the bedroom-that-looks-like-a-library-exploded-in-it and mummy will end up with a fine.

In my view, reading is a gift. Hand-in-hand with imagination, it allows a person to explore places, characters, ideas and situations that wouldn’t be feasible in real life. No, not even Minecraft can compare! I like computer games and television, but a great read offers an escapist intimacy that no other form of entertainment can match.

As a children’s author, parents often ask me how their kids can be encouraged to read more.   It’s really quite simple: give reading a sense of value. Make it pleasurable. I read with my rabble daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes. And while learning to read is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of enjoyment. My seven-year old daughter reads competently now, but she still loves being read to, because it allows her mind to relax into the storytelling.   It keeps her wanting more.   Eventually she’ll be able to handle the big, exciting books all by herself, but it doesn’t hurt to show her the way. I want her to know that there is so much more to reading than the prescriptive logic of letter sounds and blends.

Fundamentally, I’d say it’s never too early to get a child interested in the existence of books. It starts with those squishy cloth books and bath books, with simple nursery rimes and cuddles. Next, come the board books, which tend to be enjoyed more for their chewable quality than their content. Gradually, however, curiosity unfolds. My eleven month old now gets the idea that pages turn and that there’s good stuff on them. He likes to point at things and listen to me repeatedly say the words ‘cat’, ‘mioaw’ and ‘shed’. He has a long way to go before he’s head down in Harry Potter, but I’m pleased he’s started the journey.

All this aside, however, World Book Day has triggered a few cold sweats this year. With two school age children, I now have two costumes to come up with. This means buying on Amazon Prime (expensive) or getting crafty with some fun fur and bubble wrap (lame). My eldest has shown marvellous loyalty by suggesting she goes as one of my characters – good girl! My middle boy is currently deciding between Harry Potter and Ron. He prefers Ron, but in his clear-cut five-year old’s mind, it’s best to be Harry, because Harry’s the hero. And, actually, from my point of view, drawing a felt-tip zig-zag scar on a forehead is far cleaner than messing about with a box of ginger hair-dye…

 

Advertisements

Learning To Be An Author Again

Yes, I’ve been away.

Feels like I’ve come back from the dead.  And I pretty much literally have.  (More on that another time…)

In short, I am now recovering from a life-threatening pregnancy complication.  All is good and I’m thrilled to be back at my laptop and back in the world of books books books…but, oh, oops, I’ve gained a tiny but perfect premature baby along the way!

So far, he sleeps, sleeps, feeds, poops, then sleeps some more, which is very conducive to blogging and resuming promotion of BORN FREE ELEPHANTS and IN THE GARDEN which, for those of you who are new to my work, are my latest children’s books.  But I know babies and I know that as soon as the prodigal son hits his due date and beyond, this is all set to change.  The luxury of time will become the race for time.  Half finished blog entries and one word tweets… I’m thinking ‘HELP’ or ‘BABYTAKEOVER’

So currently I’m nurturing a theory that it’s all about hours.  One hour a day to work on new words for the new novel.  One hour a day to edit said words.  And one hour a day to toy around with social media.  Everything else will be a blur of nappies, cuddles and milky lips.  Exactly where I’ll find these magic hours is yet to be seen, but here’s a clue…I’m currently typing left-handed whilst I jiggle, soothe, wipe baby puke and breast-feed…oy vey…

Blogs, Books, Babies and Badass Placentas…

Well, yes, it’s been a while since my last blog entry… *cringes*…so much for last year’s vow to commit to the growth of my online author/artists platform. I do, however, have a very good excuse. One that involves high-stakes, suspense, life-or-death drama, an unpredictable plot development, and – I hope – a very happy ending…

No, it’s not the machinations of my latest novel. It’s pregnancy.

More precisely, pregnancy with problems.

I’ve been lucky enough to get pregnant for a third time (always wanted three…don’t ask!), but rather less fortunate to wind up with a serious complication called: PLACENTA PREVIA MAJOR (…sounds like a sinister piano concerto?)

In brief, my disgustingly behaved placenta has led to lengthy hospital stays, blood transfusions, a super-scary life-threatening haemorrhage at 25 weeks, and now long-term bed rest (which is no mean feat when you have two smallies to take care of – many thanks Mum, Dad and Julian, for pretty much taking over the running of my life!)

But the end is in sight. My docs are hoping I can make it to 34-36 weeks, when they will pluck the baby via c-section and the *normal* chaos of daily life will resume. I honestly cherish the thought of school-runs and cooking and walking to the local shops…just the simple things I’ve been denied over the last few months.

I also can’t wait to restring the threads of my career. On that note, two of last year’s writing efforts, THE GARDEN (a non-fiction early reader for Orion Children’s Books) and BORN FREE: NINA THE ELEPHANT’S STORY (a gorgeous real-life animal rescue story, in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation) have now appeared on Amazon and are available for pre-order. Check them out! Check them out! Just type in my name! And I’ve also been working-up some canvases, anticipating a solo-exhibition of my Epping Forest-inspired abstract landscapes later this year.

Anyway, here’s to the imminent safe arrival of Baby ‘Peanut’ (…named by my 3 year old), to more blog entries, more books, more paintings…and lots more fun.

Till next time.

Cheerio.

x

SUMMER HOLIDAY, WHAT SUMMER HOLIDAY?

ARGH! Ever had that feeling life is running out of control?

I thought I had the school summer holiday mapped out. A perfect balance of early morning writing (a comfortable 1-1.5k a day), the final tweaks for my forthcoming Early Reader ‘In The Garden’, the edit of a beloved old manuscript, plenty of painting afternoons in my summerhouse studio…all blended with a carousel of day-trips, play-dates and other child-related activities.

So why do those little coloured iCal event boxes refuse to behave?  I have spent the last few hours squeezing and nudging and teasing my list of duties, but the sums aren’t working.  How do I fit so many words into so few hours and still present as a committed parent?  What was it J G Ballard said about ‘the pram in the hall’?

Ay curumba!

http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2002/sep/22/jgballard

 

Stressed-image-from-honestholly.com_ 

That Tricky Second Blog

Oh heck. I made so many promises in the first one. Now it feels like I’ve got to deliver. Rather like that awkward second date – the one where you think the guy/girl likes you, possibly enough to marry you. Then you get to the restaurant and realise they aren’t quite as debonair / witty / odourless / wealthy / well-proportioned as you (drunkenly) remembered…

Do you stick or twist?  Sticking may lead to wasted time, fake laughter and lengthy monologues about office administration systems (I assure you, there are some BORING PEOPLE out there on the dating circuit…) Twisting is impolite and likely to result in a modicum (albeit small) of guilt.

If you do decide to stick, you avoid the guilt and you may also discover that, after an uncomfortable first hour, you and Mr/Miss/Mrs Boring-Pants have an unexpected rapport after all.  And that, in fact, office administration is an underrated and highly fascinating art form.  Oh, and you might get drunk sex.

But drunk sex, as any fool knows, always leads to disaster (and sometimes babies).  

My advice: choose your second-date wisely and don’t put out until the third 😉

To that end, I think I’ll shelf this tricky second blog right here !

 

A Blog is Born!

 

Photo on 30-06-2014 at 11.08

Yes, a blog. Why, after all these years of obscurity, am I doing a blog? Because apparently, as an author/artist/illustrator, I need A PLATFORM. Like I need a hole in the head. Or a toddler with scabies. Or chocolate with no sugar in it.  But there you go, a platform is what my unsuspecting super-fans want. A platform is what they will get.

Lord knows the on-line community doesn’t need another thinly-disguised-as-writing-tips-but-actually-self-promotion list of bluuurgh. My content may, at times, contain writing tips. There will definitely be some shameless self-promotion. But I also want to deliver something that feels truthful, playful, hopefully entertaining, sometimes ranting, often excitable…in other words, a bloggy-manifestation of WHAT IT IS TO BE ME.

There may be lists. A bit of bitching. A bit of armchair psychology. A lot about WRITING.  A lot about ART. Oh and some smug, cutesy anecdotes about my children. No recipes (anyone who has tried my flapjacks will know that’s a good thing). And no photos of kittens in cowboy costumes.  Sorry to those who like kittens and cowboys.

As for the rest, WHO KNOWS?