Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Big Swim!

Only another day to go until my attempt at the 10km open water swim from Totnes to Dittisham along the River Dart on 22nd September 2012

I'll be raising money for the Marine Conservation Society.

If you'd like to sponsor my big swim, please donate via;

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Wildlife sculpture..

I have to admit to being a bit addicted to animal and wildlife sculpture. There are some wonderful sculptures in our size giraffes, flying flocks of birds... 




Living in Somerset, I've often seen Jan Sweeney's fantastic wildlife sculptures during Somerset Arts Week. Inspired by African and Somerset wildlife, she creates some beautiful pieces through a process known as the Lost Wax Casting technique. Jan's sculptures really capture the animal in motion. To see some of her work follow the link below.

One of Jan's sculptures from her African collection 

Seeing that Jan ran sculpture courses, I couldn't miss the opportunity of going along and have a go! We didn't try the lost wax technique but were given the opportunity to create something from a clay known as paper clay. This clay wasn't as tacky as the clay I'd used before at school, and held it's shape well.

Rather than mould something from a lump of clay, Jan showed us her technique of hollow sculpture;

I have never been good at rolling pastry!
After pummelling and kneading the clay, we rolled it out...and then folded the rolled clay into a loose shape of the animal we chose to sculpt. Jan helped us all a little here. She has an amazing internal 3D image of almost any animal. 

We then shaped and moulded and added more clay to our pieces. It was so absorbing that three hours flew by without me noticing. But the really amazing thing about sculpture is that you begin to learn to think about shape and form and texture. Maybe because it uses an entirely different part of the brain, it also allowed me to think about the plot line of the story and 'drift off' into another world. 

I thought perhaps we should bring sculpture into creative writing lessons as a way of letting ideas evolve without that awful blank-page feeling of .."I have absolutely no idea what to write". 

Here is my sculpture shape. The clay prop helps the head from dropping until the clay has dried. 

The finished sculpture awaiting drying and firing...and a name! 

End of the Summer Blues

It's that time of year...sleepy wasps, cold mornings, heavy dew, darkening nights...and new school shoes. It's a time of year I dreaded as a child. Not because of the changing season (I have always loved autumn) and not because of the shoes (even though I tried to scuff them up on the first day), but because it marked the end of summer, the end of endless days of freedom for another year...a sort of repeated Christopher Robin moment when he tells Pooh he has to go to school.

Well, I didn't get any new shoes this year, but it was a lovely summer...

Brandford Boase Award

The Branford Boase Award is given annually to the author and editor of an outstanding debut novel for children. The books on the 2012 shortlist were;

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough, edited by Annie Eaton and Natalie Doherty
Being Billy by Phil Earle, edited by Shannon Park
Small Change for Stuart, edited by Annie Eaton and Ruth Knowles
Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis edited by Charlie Sheppard
Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis edited by Liz Cross 
A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master edited by Emma Matthewson
My Sister Lives on the Mantle Piece by Annabel Pitcher edited by Fiona Kennedy

It was a fabulous sunny July evening in London. It was great to meet other authors and editors and the young winners of the Henrietta Branford Award. Jacqueline Wilson presented prizes to the winners. 

Annabel Pitcher and Fiona Kennedy won the Brandford Boase Award for Annabel's tender and thought provoking book, My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece. 

Ali Lewis, Irfan Master, Annabel Pitcher, Phil Earle and me!

Liz wonderful editor at OUP

Running alongside the Brandford Boase Award is the Henrietta Brandford Writing Competition for young writers under the age of nineteen. It's a fab competition. If you want to enter, go to the website above for details.

UK Literacy Association UKLA Awards 2012

The next day it was a mad dash up the motorways to the University of Leicester to the UKLA Book Awards. There were librarians, teachers and authors all celebrating children's books. There was an entertaining short video for each of the shortlisted books, performed by teachers of the judging panel.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay won the 12-16 award.

Sky Hawk won the 7 - 11 award

Iris and Isaac by Catherine Rayner won the 3 - 6 award.

To see more pictures and the shortlisted books and more information about the UKLA, follow the link below;

Two weeks camping in Pembrokeshire...

This just about sums it up...sun (well, some of the time) sea and sand...perfect!

Oh! and these great rock formations...

End of August...the Edinburgh International Book Festival...

This was my first trip to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The whole of Edinburgh buzzes with the performers of the Fringe Festival and the Arts Festival. There's a medieval circus feeling with knife throwers and sword swallowers on street corners.

I was lucky to be chaired by Edinburgh author Gill Arbuthnott. Gill is an author of many talents. Her latest book is a picture book Lost at the Zoo.

Gill keeps up a very entertaining blog here;

Thank you to the fantastic audience who came along to hear me talk about my books and what inspired me to write them. It was great to meet and chat to readers, and to meet some of you who have emailed me in the past.

Thank you too, to Vivian and her son who came all the way from Hawick to present the Heart of Hawick Award...a beautiful wood sculpture of a heron.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Writing competition time... 2 fab competitions to enter...

Do you love writing? Do you have loads of ideas and just want to get them down...well here are two great competitions to enter...

1) Radiowaves Jubilee competition...

Tell a story in 250 words about what you think life will be like 60 years on, in 2072...

What's it all about?
As part of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, The Oxford University Press and National Literacy Trust are asking you to simply write a short story telling us what you think life will be like in 60 years’ time. You can use text, pictures, videos or sound to tell your story but you MUST use your imagination. 

Now for the important to enter...follow the link...

2) Are you a budding wildlife writer....well here's something just for you...

Paws n Claws publishing specialises in the publication of books about animals, with a donation directly to support wildlife. Last year Paws n Claws ran a writing competition for young people to write wildlife stories. The standard was incredibly high and culminated in an anthology of stories, now on sale on amazon. Your story could be published!

To buy the current anthology and support the Born Free Foundation follow the link below. The stories are truly inspirational.

To enter this year, watch out for the entry details coming in September 2012, but start thinking about and writing your stories now....

Sky Hawk, White Dolphin, blogs and more...

Apologies.. I said I'd keep up with my blog and already three months have zipped by and I haven't written a thing. In fairness, it has been a busy few months. I used to think being a writer meant being holed up in a room scribbling away or tapping on a computer on your lonesome, never to see the light of day. However, I've been out and about having a great time visiting schools, festivals and the Birmingham Good Reads and the Oxford Bookfeast, meeting loads of readers. There's also been that small matter of finishing the first draft of book 3 as well!
Yet once again, I'm in awe of people who keep up with their blogs and have something interesting to say on a daily basis. In fact, I have been a guest blogger on other sites and have had a few things to say.... you can read them here...

Guest Blogs and Interviews...

Why rural settings are relevant...

What is it about animal stories?..

Interview with We Sat Down...

Sky Hawk awards...

I've been thrilled that Sky Hawk has won some awards. When a book wins, it's not just the author who has brought the book into the world but a whole team of people. At a school recently, one child asked how many people it takes to write a book. This is a really good question. It is the author who comes up with idea and writes the book, but the author has been inspired along the way by so many people. Then, when the final draft of the manuscript is ready, it takes a whole publishing team to create the book...editors, design team, sales and marketing, publicity people, publishing reps, book sellers etc etc. So when a book wins, it's really an acknowledgement of that whole process and it couldn't have been done by the author alone.

Newton Maracso Green Earth Book Award for Wild Wings (US edition of Sky Hawk)

I was delighted to hear that Wild Wings won the Newton Marasco Green Earth Book Award for children's fiction.
The ethos of the award is about bringing science and the arts together, and using the power of story to teach people about our natural environment and the responsibility we all have to protect it. This really resonates with me, having a background in science before becoming a writer. 

Leeds Book Awards

I had a FANTASTIC day in Leeds with children and librarians and teachers and the the authors Janet Foxley, Harriet Goodwin and Jane Johnson. The award ceremony was held at the Carriageworks Theatre and the theatre was pack full with pupils from many different schools and was hosted by the fab Dave Cryer.
Different schools had been chosen to dramatise a section of each nominated book. As authors, it was wonderful to see pupils get on stage and act out their version of our stories. For Sky Hawk, a pendant necklace was passed along a line of children telling the story, which really showed how the pendant in the story connected all the characters.

It was great to see so many children fired up by books, talking about books, what they liked and what they didn't like. I spoke to some children who said that the award scheme had got them reading books they might never have considered reading. It inspired them to talk about books and the subject matter of the books too. This was made possible by the librarians and a huge team of volunteers who are passionate about getting books out there to children and into schools.

My only regret ... there were no politicians to witness the huge amount of enthusiasm for books and how schemes and awards like this can really get children reading and instil a love of books within them, and to see what a huge catastrophe and loss it would be to lose our libraries and librarians.

Heart of Hawick Children's Book Award

I was also HUGELY delighted to hear Sky Hawk had won the Heart of Hawick Award. Unfortunately this award ceremony was on then same day as the Leeds award. It would have been lovely to have visited Hawick and met pupils from the schools. 

It was a huge honour to have been chosen for this award. Pupils from different schools had created an incredible stop-motion animation trailer for Sky Hawk. I hope to be able to link it somehow because it is truly amazing! As a lover of stop-motion videos myself I can see that much time and work had been put into this. The combination of collage stop-motion, music and voice-overs make this a brilliant piece of art! There are some talented children in and around Hawick!!!

Image of wood sculpture award to follow...

Launch of Gwalch y Nen

The Welsh edition of Sky Hawk was officially launched at the Youth Eisteddfod in Caernarfon, N Wales. I was told this is the biggest youth festival in Europe and on arriving at the site, I could believe it was true. Set against the backdrop of the mountains, the tented festival looked like something from Arthurian legend (except from the row upon row of cars).

RSPB Glaslyn osprey people were there to talk about their ospreys and the welsh artist, Luned Rhys Parri was on hand to help the children create a fabulous osprey mural. 

Half way up Tryfan

Osprey Mural
Gwalch y Nen launch

Launch of White Dolphin

May was an incredibly exciting month as it was also the launch of White Dolphin. Oxford University Press took me on a two week book tour of the South West. It was fantastic to revisit Cornwall and we started the tour in St Ives...a seaside town of perpetual turquoise waters. No wonder it has attracted artists over the centuries and even has its own Tate gallery.
From schools in St Ives, we visited schools in Newquay and Plymouth, taking our life-sized inflatable young dolphin with us!
We also visited schools and libraries in Sherborne and Bath and Cheltenham.

St Ives...turquoise waters despite the stormy sky

Probably the best railway station in the world!

Cheltenham Waterstones had created the most amazing White Dolphin cakes for their regular reading group and it was great to have a chat over coffee and cakes. Mmmm!

Then it was time to dash back to Waterstones in Bath for the official launch of White Dolphin. I'm embarrassed to say that I was late for my own launch...but it was great to see so many friends and family there.

A little about the inspiration behind White Dolphin....

Although White Dolphin is a story about a dolphin, it is a also story about the fragility of our oceans and how we need to protect and conserve our oceans for the future of our planet and our own future. Underwater habitats are globally threatened from overfishing, pollution and acidification. However, it is difficult to bring all this into one story, so I chose to focus on a girl, Kara, who lives with her father in a Cornish fishing village, and how the bay in the reef of her home town is under threat from commercial dredging for shellfish. Dredging involves dragging chains along the seabed, ripping up corals, sponges and destroying delicate ecosystems in the process. Habitats which have taken centuries to grow can be reduced to rubble and dead-zones within minutes. Even now, the government is dragging its feet over the decision to create Marine Protected Areas around the UK.

Sir David Attenborough has appealed to the Government in  plea to save our seas.

 Sir David, who is vice president of the Wildlife Trusts, said: "Charles Rothschild and his colleagues identified some of our finest wildlife sites in 1915, most of which are, or would now be, national nature reserves.
"Nearly a century on, we have the first countrywide list of marine sites needing protection, this time based on much more science – costing over £8m to draw up. I urge the Government to designate the full list of 127 sites now, for day by day the wildlife in these sites is being destroyed and damaged. Time is running out for us to save our fragile seas."

But White Dolphin is also about hope too, and what can be done to protect not only our marine life but also the livelihoods of those who depend upon the sea. 

Squirrel question cards at Plymouth school, drawn by one of the pupils. 


Mmmmm! too!

I've been chuffed by some White Dolphin reviews; 

'A beautifully-told, nail-biting tale that will inspire and empower anyone who reads it'
Kate Humble, BBCTV presenter and RSPB president
'A wonderful story. Utterly captivating. The interplay with the natural world is magical'
Nicholas Crane, presenter of BBC TV's Coast
'[Gill Lewis has] excelled herself with White Dolphin, another moving and inspirational tale which is also a gripping action thriller...gracefully written and intense - you can almost feel the salty air brushing your face'
Martin Chilton, The Daily Telegraph
'A lyrical, emotive, engrossing adventure'
Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times (Children's Book of the Week)
'LIke the author's debut, this wonderfully written and unforgettable novel will pull at the heart-strings'
Julia Eccleshare, Love Reading 4 Kids
'A beautiful read with a fast paced plot and ends with an uplifting message of environmental survival and hope'
We Love This Book
'An addictive page-turner'
Lucy Pedden, Bliss Magazine
'Exciting yet sensitive, tender and thought-provoking...a carefully-crafted tale of nature, friendship and the importance of protecting our environment'
'A thrilling and thought-provoking tale that will captivate young readers'
Red House Book Blog
'Beautifully-written and utterly absorbing'
The Bookbag
'An incredible story that's utterly captivating from start to finish'
The Kooky Toon Book Corner

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Oxford Literature Festival

A fantastic day at the Oxford Literature Festival...

It was a fantastic only regret was that I hadn't been able to make it to see other events. I will definitely make sure I will visit the festival next year.
I felt very privileged to share an event with Steve Bloom, the renowned wildlife photographer. My slightly fuzzy osprey-in-the-distance shots paled in comparison to Steve's wonderful photographs. Steve showed us his incredible images from swimming with elephants, to big cats, to beautiful portraits of apes. Some of the images were animated photos and gave a 360 degree rotating image of swimming with elephants.

Take a look at his stunning wildlife images on his website...

Steve spoke about his new books, the Big Cat Journal and the Polar Journal and other books...

The festival organiser presented both Steve and I with very special gifts...we both received a Victorian Lantern Slide. My Lantern slide pictured a hand painted golden eagle.

Magic Lanterns were used by the Victorians and their predecessors to project images onto a blank wall. This was the early slide show, before cameras and movies and the digital age. People could see these still images of exotic places and animals before the first colour films.

This slide now has pride of place...a really unique and special gift.

Waterstones, Stockton and Solihull awards

Waterstones Children's Book Award...

It was brilliant to be shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Award. 

The award ceremony took place in the top floor of Waterstones Piccadilly...apparently the biggest book shop in Europe!!!

Huge congratulations to.... 

Jonny Duddle won overall with his picture book The Pirates Next Door. 
Liz Pichon won the 8-12 category with The Brilliant World of Tom Gates.
Jenny Downham won the teen prize with You Against Me. 

Have a look a a fab video of all the shortlisted books by following the link below...

Stockton Children's Book of the Year 2012

I had a great day visiting schools and libraries for the Stockton Children's Book of the Year 2012 Awards. 
Schools in and around Stockton had been reading and voting for the books. 

Other authors on the short list were...

Nicola Davies with A Girl Called Dog
Harriet Goodwin with Graven Hunger
Janet Foxley with Muncle Trogg
Barbara Mitchelhill with Run Rabbit Run

Congratulations to Barbara who won overall for her fantastic book about conscientious objectors during WW2...a different angle and great story. 

Solihull Book Awards 2012

A great event with the other shortlisted authors, marked by a ceremony in the Central Library Arts Centre. 

Other authors;
Elen Caldecott with Operation Eiffel Tower 
Fiona Dunbar with Divine Freaks

Like the Stockton Awards, children from local schools had read and voted for all the books. It was fantastic to hear such enthusiasm for wildlife from readers and I was so chuffed to find out that Sky Hawk had won. :0)

Left to right...Elen Caldecott, Gill Lewis and Fiona Dunbar

Barn Owl Trust

I went to a fascinating talk by Chris Sperring who gave a talk on the work of the Hawk and Owl Trust.

There are many factors leading to the diminishing numbers of barn owls in the UK, including loss of habitat, especially the hedgerow borders. Over the past 50-60 years hedgerows have been disappearing to give way for bigger fields for maximum crop yield. The main prey of the barn owl is the field vole, which lives in the long grasses of meadows and field edges. Research has shown that just by increasing field margins and allowing rough borders to grow and be managed, the field vole population increases, and following does the barn owl population. Many farmers have taken these conservation measures and seen the results for themselves.

Barn owl nesting boxes have also been a huge success. Modern barns and buildings do not provide the traditional nest sites barn owls once enjoyed, and our managed woodlands have less rotten trees for nesting. The majority of barn owls in the UK nest in made-made nest boxes situated in habitats suitable for barn owls.

It just shows what differences can be made if conservation is given a chance. But more still needs to done to protect these birds.

For more information have a look at the Hawk and Owl Trust website...

Sky Hawk the Big Bath Read

I spoke to an audience of children and parents at the Holburne Museum in Bath. 
Having grown up in Bath and attended schools in Bath and then the University for the MA in Writing for Young People, I was chuffed that Sky Hawk was chosen as the Big Bath Read. I felt I'd come full circle. 

 The pupils of Bathwick School had won an author visit for a book review competition and we were all treated to a great talk from the West of England Falconry Centre who brought their Harris Hawk and Barn Owl in to show the children.

Snowy snowy owls and a lucky winner to the Cotswold Falconry Centre

Animals and You Magazine

Congratulations to Maria who won an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to Cotswold Falconry Centre for her wonderful hawk picture. I was lucky to join her and her family and have a close up view of all the birds. It had snowed heavily overnight so the snowy owls were happy. We even got to see a vulture chick, which was incredibly cute in a fluffy-ulgly-vulture kind of way. 

Here's the link to the Falconry go if you get a chance.  

Here's Maria's winning picture....

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Competition time...White Dolphin proof

We walk past amazing buildings and rooflines and statues and sculptures all the time without really looking....

One signed copy of a White Dolphin proof is up for grabs if you can name the street where this sea-sculpture wall carving can be found.

First answer in wins the prize.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Red House Children's Book Award ceremony 2012

18th Feb 2012

My ears are still ringing after a fantastic day at the RHCBA ceremony in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre. It was a fabulous mix of authors, readers, librarians and people from the publishing world...a real celebration of books and stories. I sat next to children from North Wales, and there were others who had travelled from as far afield as Scotland and Cornwall for the day. My own children got to come along too and met some of their favourite authors...Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness, Morris Gleitzman and loads more...

Sky Hawk didn't win, but I was so chuffed to have been on the shortlist for the Red House Children's Book Award, the only children's book award voted for entirely by children. So it felt just fab all the same. 

Each shortlisted author was presented with a bound portfolio of drawings and comments from children from across the country. Here I am receiving mine. Children had written poems and drawn and painted some amazing osprey illustrations too. 

After lunch we joined 900 children with 900 party blowers in the Queen Festival Hall...!

Michael Morpurgo started on a serious note and gave an inspirational introduction about the importance of books and how stories enrich our lives. Michael won the 2011 Red House Children's Book of the Year Award with his wonderful story, Shadow

Children's comedian, James Campbell hosted the show and impressed us all with his halloumi cheese rap!
Here he is with Chris Wormell, author of Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice.  

Shortlisted authors for the Younger Children...Mick Inkpen, Kali Stileman and Chris Wormell. 
Chris Wormell won the category with his picture book, Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice.

Shortlisted authors for the Younger Readers...Liz Pichon, Piers Ibbotson (Eva Ibbotson's son) and me! does look a bit like a round of blind date! Those bar stools were high!

I think I was agreeing with Michael Morpurgo, that writing a book is a bit like having a baby. Sky Hawk took 9 months to write!

Liz accepting her award for overall winner of Young Readers category for the quirky and funny Brilliant World of Tom Gates

Shortlisted authors for the Older Readers category...Morris Gleitzman, Annabel Pitcher, Jim Kay and Patrick Ness

James brought the ceremony to a close with 1800 feet stamping, 900 party blowers tooting and announced the winner as....Patrick Ness, winning overall with his beautiful book, A Monster Calls. 

A bit of a fuzzy shot of Patrick Ness accepting the overall award. 

After an utterly brilliant day, it was rounded up with a trip on the London Eye with my family. Sunset and streetlights...

5 Days later...

Back in London for a posh black tie do at the Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall for a Gala Dinner in celebration of children's books. 

The invitation from the directors of the Book People arrived in a rather beautiful message in a bottle...

I left my jeans and welly boots at home and put on a posh frock for the night. Shame about the zombie eyes!

 There were speeches from big names in the publishing world....Michael Morpurgo (who sang to us), Anthony Horowitz (who didn't sing). 

And just when the night couldn't get any better...the food was cooked by none other than Jamie Oliver...well, his 15 chefs did the cooking...but the food was AMAZING. 

Jamie Oliver taking about books...and how he sees the effects of books on his children, although he himself found reading difficult. 

Triple Chocolate Pud! Yum!