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.