January proved to be a very difficult month, fraught with ill health, bereavement and ill fortune. I would never want to wish my life away but I have to say that I am glad to move forward into February. The slight increase in daylight hours, the sound of a blackbird singing, the possibility of catching sight of a kingfisher, sunlight on snow, all have the effect of lifting the spirits and quickening the step.
There has been some very encouraging news regarding the sales of "Can it be True?", you can read about it here in The Bookseller. There may also be new opportunities for those of you who write for the seven to eleven age group, read more in the article.
You may have been aware of the controversy surrounding Oxford University Press who have decided to drop nature words like acorn and buttercup in favour of app and blog. In fact around 50 nature words are to be axed as they are considered to be no longer relevant to today's children.You can read more about it here-
I believe that nature will always be important but technology is too. Why not teach your children about acorns on an app or buttercups on your blog? In "Down the Lane" I have attempted to do both. I will always love actual books but I also enjoy sharing stories and pictures on my iPad. I am sure this has done my grandson no harm whatsoever as I overheard him saying that he wants to be an author/illustrator when he grows up!
In an earlier post I mentioned that "Can it be true?" by Susan Hill has been featured in a Christmas Carol Competition. Out of a huge number of entries six carols have been chosen and performed by the BBC singers. Listeners are being asked to pick their favourite which will be performed on Christmas day.
As from today you can listen to the six finalists in the BBC Radio 3 Christmas carol competition and register your vote by following this link. I am not sure if you need to live in the UK to hear these BBC podcasts?
My illustration above is one of the pages from the book "Can it be true?" It features some of the animals mentioned in the prose poem. Having spent so long visualising the images in the text it is something of a marvel to me to hear the words set to music. I am in awe of anyone who can create music and also those gifted with beautiful voices. Singing was never my strong point, even my little grandson implores me to stop!
This year we will be having a very busy family Christmas and I am already feeling great waves of panic at the thought of the food shopping and preparation ahead. In order to lessen the stress I have reduced the stock in my on-line shops, you can still buy books but they may not arrive in time for Christmas if you live overseas.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Very Happy And Blessed Christmas. Thank you so much for your support, words of encouragement and friendship over the past months. I really do appreciate it. xxx
UPDATE- Congratulations to Jacqueline Burley whose Christmas Carol setting won the "Can it be True?" Christmas carol competition organised by BBC Radio 3. Jacqueline's version is a worthy winner and has done a brilliant job in her musical interpretation of Susan Hill's words.
"Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart, E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea; Then will all clouds of sorrow depart, Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me! Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!" by Stephen Foster. This little sleeping dormouse illustration was painted as an illustration for my book "A Book of Days". When the days shorten and the temperature drops I sometimes wish I could hibernate, possibly waking up for a brief spell over Christmas. At the moment I feel as if I am wading through mud and achieving nothing. If you follow Rima Staines at The Hermitage you may have heard about her quest to raise money for a storytelling project and if you are avery quick you might be interested in this auction here at Hedgespoken.
Don't be like the dormouse and sleep all the way through. x
We have been to several remembrance
services in our home town and visited the installation at The Tower of London-
“Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” marking the centenary of the outbreak of
the First World War. This amazing and poignant work of art was created by
ceramic artist Paul Cummings, with stage settings by stage designer Tom Piper.
The installation was far from complete at the time of our visit and yet the
effect was breathtaking. By the time of completion 888,246 poppies will have
filled the entire moat, each poppy a life lost including one for my great uncle
On this day, a hundred years ago, my
grandfather Thomas and his brother John were already enlisted as regular
soldiers. As a mother of two boys I can only imagine my great grandmother’s
feelings on hearing of the outbreak of WW1. John was killed at the very
beginning, Thomas, a Royal Engineer, survived the entire conflict from start to finish.
Many of those who returned home safely went on to develop what is now understood to be post traumatic stress disorder, a condition little understood in those days. One of the charities to benefit from the Tower of London poppy appeal is Combat Stress who help today's veterans affected by stress. Coping with life after conflict can be
extremely challenging, not only for the ex-service men and women but for their
families too. Victims often suffer horrendous flashbacks, depression and
character changes; fortunately charities like Combat Stress can offer help and
support but need our help. You can find out more here-
Double page spread from "Can it be true?" by Susan Hill
Illustration by Valerie Greeley.
With so many references to WW1 and with
thoughts about my grandfather and his brother, I found that WW1 imagery crept
into my work. This illustration from “Can it be true?” could have had any
number of interpretations; I saw it as a nightmare from the trenches. For me the
two men represent the brothers Thomas and John. With so many disparate images
to include- whales, soldiers, shrews, ferrets, stoats and a General dreaming, I
choose to make the bed covers part of an undulating landscape with dreamlike
waves and harpoons turning into arrows and bayonets. It was certainly the most
challenging thing I have ever had to illustrate and kept me awake on more than
On offer is a signed copy of "Can it be True?" and also a retelling of The Snow Queen by Sarah Lowes illustrated by Miss Clara.
The giveaway is open until the 24th October and Annie would like you to share some of your Christmas thoughts with her.
Annie is a talented photographer and has managed to capture the gold foil on the book jacket so beautifully.
And now, if you will excuse this very hurried post, I must dash, I have books to deliver.