News and Stuff


Our Very Special Northern Children’s Book Festival

Northern Children's Book Festival, The Great Chocoplot, Chris CallaghanThis year’s Northern Children’s Book Festival was another fantastic success. For those not familiar with it, the Festival spreads itself over a huge area of the North of England (the clue is in the title!), where libraries, schools, churches and all manner of venues become part of the celebrations over a two-week period. What I think makes this festival so special, is that it allows children, who don’t normally get opportunities to attend book and author events, the chance to take part. There is a particular drive within the organisation to include schools from ‘areas of deprivation’. Having grown up in such an area and being one of those ‘free school meal’ pupils myself, I know that these classifications are quite misleading to some. In my experience, these are areas full of community spirit, resilience, passion and joy. People here can work extremely hard, for long hours, but for little money. These children are still children, with the same hopes and dreams, but with limited funds they do not have the same access or opportunities to that of children from more well-off families. I never ever saw an author at my school, or went to a book festival or book event when I was a child – so to be a part of this, as an author and reader, was an amazing experience for me.

 

Northern Children's Book Festival, The Great Chocoplot, Chris Callaghan. Gateshead Libraries

Chocoholic Librarians!

Seeing excited smiles and getting so many enthusiastic high-fives and fist-bumps from pupils at my events was a pure joy – and I can’t deny made me feel quite rockstar-ish for a while too! I am hugely grateful to the schools that invited me along and made me so welcome. I also got to see the real connections that our wonderful librarians have with these schools. Their work goes on well beyond the scope of the festival and their unshakeable enthusiasm is pleasure to witness. Massive thanks to all at Gateshead and North Tyneside Libraries for looking after me so well!

 

Northern Children's Book Festival, The Great Chocoplot, Chris Callaghan, Gareth P Jones, Wallsend Library

Gareth P Jones at Wallsend Library

It was also an opportunity for me to meet some booky heroes too – like one of my family’s bedtime reading superstars: Julia Jarman. Julia was even more lovely than I’d hoped. My friend (I’m calling him my friend now, whether he likes it or not!) Gareth P Jones entertained a packed library with songs and stories, and leaving the children reading his books on the journey back to school. Dan Smith wowed us on Gala Day with tales of adventure, murder and Star Wars. I can’t wait to read his new book, it’s an Antarctic adventure called Below Zero and sounds super cool (sorry about that!). We even managed to get one of our favourite Winnie the Witch books signed by the brilliant Korky Paul, himself! That doesn’t even skim the surface – there was so much going on!

 

This festival itself isn’t geared purely towards book sales, admission costs or other tangible income, and as a result, it’s success is not directly quantifiable. Unfortunately, this may be a problem for its continuation. Instead, it’s success is measured by children’s excitement, by the stories they will start reading as a result of meeting an author, by the stories they will share with their families and friends, and by the stories that will rattle around inside their heads – encouraging a new generation of readers and writers. THAT is why this festival is so special.

 

Thank you to the supremely committed organisers, the librarians, volunteers, teaching staff, authors, the school library services, local booksellers and most of all, the children, who made this such an incredible event. Good luck for 2018!

Northern Children's Book Festival, The Great Chocoplot, Chris Callaghan,

Thank you to everyone who made me feel so welcome.


Chocoplot on the Blog

There’s a thriving and passionate blog community out there, celebrating and supporting the reading & writing community. I’ve been very lucky to have several bloggers over the last month asking me to witter on about my book on their precious blog spaces. Firstly, there’s my long time Twitter friend alittlebutalot‘s blog were I was invited onto a desert island and had to make some harsh decisions, then there’s an interview from a hugely supportive local bookseller, Fiona, at Independent Book Reviews and a delightful interview with dedicated writer and book lover, Pip, on her Writing for Kids, with Kids website.

Thank you for your support. Us authors really appreciate you giving us the space and time to be part of such a fab community.


Wonderful Waterstones Durham

A choctastic day visiting the Book Club members at Waterstones Durham. It’s good to know there are dedicated readers in the Durham area! It was great meeting lots of other readers and book buyers too. Here’s me with Darren, who I’d met before but was good enough to call in to let me scribble in his copy of The Great Chocoplot. Thank you, Darren! (And thanks for the photo!)

Huge thanks to the staff (especially Fiona) and to all who came over for a chat and bought books (we sold out but luckily had enough chocolate left!). I will be definitely calling back to visit such a friendly and welcoming book shop.
(And I’m looking forward to coming back at Easter!!!)


Read North East Launch

It was a pleasure to be part of The National Literacy Trust’s Read North East event at the Metrocentre this half-term. It’s a scheme to raise literacy levels and encourage parents to talk and read with their children. The Trust’s team and library staff frantically gave out free books to shoppers while I read to groups of children, in-between appearances of star attraction Peppa Pig!

I’ve never told stories in the middle of a shopping centre before, so it was quite an experience! Thanks to everyone who stopped by and to some familiar faces who were kind enough to come along to say ‘hello’.

Thank you to the Literacy Trust and Gateshead Libraries for hosting such a wonderful scheme. For more details of future events, please check the link here.

Thanks also to David Allen for these fantastic photos.


Awesomest Day!

Worcestershire's Awesomest Book Award, The Great Chocoplot, Chris Callaghan, Chocopocalypse

Earlier in the year, I was honoured to have The Great Chocoplot selected as Worcestershire’s Awesomest Book! How awesome is that??!! The award scheme was to encourage children in the area to read, discuss and vote on their favourite books. I didn’t get to the actual award ceremony, so it was amazing to finally get my hands on the trophy itself (previously won by Rachel Hamilton and a certain David Walliams!), when I visited Alvechurch Library.

I had been invited to hand out medals and certificates to all the dedicated readers who had completed the Summer Reading Challenge. It was such a pleasure to meet so many keen readers and the librarians, and volunteers, who work so hard to generate a real love and enjoyment for reading in this area.

It was a privilege. Thank you to all involved.


WARNING: The Chocopocalypse has arrived in the US!

Yes, The Chocopocalypse has arrived in the US!

I can’t quite believe it. This story started off as something I thought I’d scribble down and read to my daughter, in an effort to make her giggle at bedtime. Now it is being released in the United States of America by Delacorte Press – a division of Penguin Random House, which just happens to be the biggest publisher in the world! (This is my final over-seas sale, so please excuse me tickling my ego one last time!)

I am so unbelievably grateful to Chicken House UK and Barry Cunningham for starting this amazing part of my life and to Elinor Bagenal and Allison Hellegers for getting my story to the US. Since my first contact with the lovely people at PRH, and in particular the wonderful Monica Jean, me and all my characters have been made to feel so welcome. We love our new cover created by the super talented Mary Kate McDevitt and are delighted the fantastic internal illustrations by Lalalimola have been kept in place.

I know Jelly and her family are in very good hands and I wish them well in their American adventures and I hope all the new readers will be kind and gentle with them. Which I’m sure they will.

I wonder if one day, I’ll believe all this actually happened?

The Chocopocalypse, Chris Callaghan


SSWAG

SSWAG

 

It was wonderful to be invited along to meet a local writing group called Swagbag Stories Writers and Artists Group (SSWAG) for their annual general meeting. I don’t normally do talks to grown-ups and I was incredibly nervous. Luckily, they were all friendly grown-ups and I had a great time. They’d asked me to chat about my writing experiences, how I became published and my experiences of having a book in the world. I didn’t see a single one of them yawn. Either they were very good at hiding yawns, or it went well!

Afterwards, I was delighted be given a honorary membership of SSWAG, which is a HUGE privilege. They were all extremely talented and enthusiastic and I look forward to meeting them again very soon.

If anyone reading this is interested in joining a group in the North East of England, or connecting with fellow writers, please find more details at their website here.

SSWAG

The talented and friendly members of SSWAG


Reader Reviews

Reviews are a tricky thing for authors. We’re told not to read them – but it’s hard no to! Which means we sometimes see the occasional bad or strange one, and no one likes that! But if we are going to look, we have to take the bad ones on the chin. But also, if we do look (and I’ve been very lucky – so far!) we might see a review which brightens our day – or even week – and is a pure joy to read.

Sophie Reviewing The Great Chocoplot

I had one of those recently from a young reader called Sophie, who has started a blog about books. I had the honour of being Sophie’s first book review on that blog. Luckily, it isn’t bad or strange, but completely wonderful. You can read it here.

Thank you, Sophie, for taking the time to read my story. I’m delighted that it made you (and your mummy!) laugh – that makes me very happy. And thank you for writing such lovely and thoughtful words. It’s also a great idea that you include your favourite quotes too! I hope you enjoy reading many more books.

This is why I will (occasionally) dip into my reviews. Lovely comments from grown-up booky people are always welcome (stars on Amazon are also welcome too, hint, hint *ahem*!!), but a kind review from a proper reader is the best thing EVER!!!

(I’ve just read Sophie’s latest review of The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, by Liz Pichon, it sounds great – I might have to read it!)


Romanian Chocoplot

Hugely excited that ‘The Great Chocoplot’ has been released in Romania as ‘Marele Complot Al Ciocolatei‘.

I’m delighted that they have kept the familiar cover, with Lalalimola’s wonderful artwork proudly displayed. They’ve added some shiny gold surroundings and it even has flappy bits to the cover! Beautiful.

Thank you RAO for publishing my silly story in your country and Elinor at Chicken House UK for, yet again, spreading chocolate panic globally! I hope all the keen chocolatey readers in Romania enjoy my story!!


Celebrating the Schokopokalypse!

It’s been an exciting week celebrating the release of ‘Schokopokalypse’. The good people at Chicken House Deutschland have been splattering my ugly mug on their Facebook page (check it out here) and letting me talk about my writing and asking tricky questions.

There’s even been some early reviews too. Luckily, they’ve been great! Huge thanks to Manu’s Tinkenlecke & books-and-cats.de for saying such lovely things. I’m sure my silly characters will have a fantastic time running around Germany and I’m looking forward to hearing how they get along!

Schokopokalypse, The Great Chocoplot, Chris Callaghan