After a recent website update, this site has gone all wobbly!
The basic information is there, but pictures, links and other bits and bobs have decided to have a little holiday. I’m in the process of sorting it out, so please don’t think this is how my website always looks.
Last year, as a Northerner, this was the first London school that invited me to come in for an author visit. I was hugely impressed with the fantastic welcome I received, and the incredible school itself. It is such a stunning building. When my family and I moved into the capital, we were delighted that my wife became the Deputy Head there. What a coincidence!!
I’m convinced my role as Patron was nothing to do with my wife … but I’m sure it helped!
It’s a school, and an area, that has a lot of challenges ahead. I’m delighted to be part of the big plans that are being put into place to build upon the character and enthusiasm that so clearly exists. It’s an exciting time and I’m a little nervous, if I’m honest, but I can’t wait to get involved.
Reading should be a pure pleasure. I hope to encourage the joy of reading and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot along the way.
One of the pleasures of being a children’s author is connecting with my readers. I love hearing comments and seeing art and stories generated from my book. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way (although, there is a bit of that!), but I always learn something from this too. Hopefully, that will make me a better writer.
I had the honour of a school choosing my book to be a name of a group of pupils – ‘The Great Chocoplot Group’ has a nice ring to it, do you think?!. We’ve exchanged a few things and it’s been great seeing all their fantastic work.
To say ‘thank you’, I did a little video, which is something I don’t do very often. But as they had been so amazing, I felt I had to up my game!
I got a lot of help from my daughter (a youtube whizz!) and quite enjoyed it. Maybe (maybe) I’ll do more and even consider doing some Skype calls to schools – see, always something to learn!
Thank you to Kestrel Class for all your work this year – the video is here, if anyone is interested!!
And a very Happy Christmas to you all (don’t forget to eat plenty of chocolate!)
It’s been wonderful hearing of schools using my book as part of their lessons or topic work (although it is still just as wonderful hearing of children reading it purely for a giggle!). I’m often asked about school resources … so, I’m delighted to reveal that Educational Consultant supremo, Jane Considine and The Training Space have put together some amazing English Unit Plans for Year 4 around The Great Chocoplot.
A little while ago, my family and I made the huge move from Newcastle to London. It’s been stressful, if I’m honest, but our welcome has been wonderful. I’ve already had the pleasure of visiting a few schools in and around our capital and it’s been amazing.
The schools down here are MASSIVE!! Leading to extremely loud assemblies!
If you work in a school, or know of one in the London area (although I do travel too) and you’d like me to come along and share my silly chocolatey story, please get in touch with Authors Aloud – the lovely people who help me arrange visits.
The problems regarding getting copies of The Great Chocoplot that so many have been having – and which have been causing LOTS of problems for my events – are about to be over!
The lovely people at Chicken House Books are printing a whole load more and they will be (apparently) available from Tuesday next week (16th October).
I am incredibly sorry to anyone who has been trying to get their hands on one – especially to schools keen to use them in topic work. It has been a very frustrating time and completely out of my hands, but I am grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding.
I have my fingers firmly crossed that everything will be back to normal very soon!!
I’ve been hearing that some schools have been having difficulties getting copies of ‘The Great Chocoplot’ in advance of the start of the new academic year. My lovely publishers at Chicken House are aware of the problem from some distributors (Amazon are showing a wait of months!!) and we will try and sort this out.
There are plenty of ways to get copies, so I’d be grateful if you have any difficulties to try other routes. Obviously, there are libraries and your local bookshops, but there are plenty available at Waterstones.com. You could even be adventurous and get the American version – which is pretty much the same, they’ve just changed the names of some of the bars of chocolate! And the kindle version is easily available.
I’m sorry to anyone who is having difficulties and appreciate your patience!
It’s been a mad few weeks, for all the best reasons.
I’ve been book signing in a number of Waterstones. Yeah – like a proper grown-up author with a chair, table and everything! Getting to scribble in a book that you’ve written, for someone who is going to read it, is crazy wonderful! And quite nerve-wracking. I’m always worried no one is going to turn up. Luckily, quite a few did, and they were all lovely. I’m still doing more to come, so please keep checking my ‘Events’ page.
Also, I was involved in a mad cap scheme called the ‘Great North Author Tour’, alongside fellow writers Dan Smith, Em Lynas, Chloe Daykin and the incredible (soon to become legendary) Richard from Drake’s Bookshop. We were celebrating the start of Independent Book Shop Week by visiting six independent book shops scattered around our region (see earlier post for venues). We received such a warm welcome in all the shops – although I suspect that most of the customers didn’t have a clue who we were! It was so much fun and I’m sure this is an event that will get bigger and bigger.
It was a thrill to be invited along to the North East Book Awards – even though I wasn’t nominated (but I’m not bitter!). It was exciting, but terrifying, to be sharing a stage with a host of amazing authors like Ross Welford (nominated for ‘The 1000 Year Old Boy’ and who did some magic!), Mitch Johnson (nominated for ‘Kick’ and speaking intensely about child labour in Indonesia) and my fellow ‘Tour’ authors Chloe Daykin and Dan Smith. We listened to the passionate readers on why they had enjoyed reading the fantastic shortlist. Huge congratulations to Helena Duggan (who unfortunately couldn’t be there) for winning the award with ‘A Place Called Perfect’. It was a wonderful evening.
There’s also been my regular school visits too. It’s been hectic, but so much fun.
And there’s lots more coming. So please stayed tuned …
Independent bookshops are huge supporters of all authors (not just the celebrities or heavily promoted ones!). They are also an important part of our book community, offering readers a knowledgable and enthusiastic service. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it. It would be brilliant to see lots of friendly faces along the way, but you can keep up to date with the tour on the day with
Can I call it a Book Signing Tour if I’m visiting a few places soon to sign some books? Yes?! OK, I will. I’m thrilled to be on the road on a new ‘Book Signing Tour’ over the next few weeks. I’ll be popping into a few Waterstones and visiting the countryside to take part in my first ever County Show. I hope those country folk will be kind to this city boy! Really thrilled and grateful to have been invited along to the following:
I try not to make a habit of checking my Amazon ranking and ratings because it can be an easy way to spoil a perfectly good day! But I do pop in now and then (and maybe more than I should – I envy those cool authors who say they don’t check, but wonder if I believe them!!), and sometimes I get a nice surprise.
Lucky, the last time I checked, this is what I found! My chocolatey book snuggling up next to Charlie and Mr Wonka and looking like best friends (am I looking too much into this?).
I know that it doesn’t take much for Amazon’s sub division lists to fluctuate, but a sight like this seemed like a great ‘screen-shot moment’ before it disappeared. I try not to take rankings and rating too seriously, but they can sometimes put a little spring in an author’s step.
If you have read a book that you’ve enjoyed, it’s a great idea to leave a comment on Amazon (or other platforms like goodreads) to let the author know. It also helps that author get more notice as Amazon will promote the books that get reviews, which is a great help to all of us struggling writers. Consider it a polite ‘thank you’, and it’s something the author will be very, very pleased with (so long as it’s positive, obviously!). You don’t even need to have bought the book on Amazon to leave a review there – you could have borrowed it from a library or a friend.
Thank you to everyone that has already left a review and I’ll keep checking back and crossing my fingers!
I’m delighted to have my long-standing Twitter friend and fellow writer, Louise Nettleton, as my very first guest on my website. Louise is a book fanatic and dedicated writer, who runs a fabulously booky blog called Book Murmuration, so please check it out. (You can also find Louise on Twitter here!)
How to survive Easter in the event of a Chocopocalypse
Easter is approaching, and one thing is high on everybody’s thoughts. Chocolate. The supermarket shelves are stacked with chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies and fantabulous chocolate sculptures. Wheel your trolley past that aisle and you will find crème eggs at the till. There’s no escape. Open your Easter egg and it is likely you will find even more chocolatey-goodness inside. There’s no escaping it! For many people Easter is one massive sugar hit.
What if the Chocopocalypse hits this weekend? Is it even possible to have Easter without chocolate?
Don’t hit the panic button. Take inspiration from around the world to find your new favourite Easter traditions. Whether you take the Chocopocalypse seriously or you’re just looking for some variety, there are many wonderful ways to celebrate Easter.
Make a giant omelette:
The world has already run out of chocolate. It might as well run out of eggs! Every year the people of Bessiéres in Southern France prepare an omelette big enough for 10,000 people to eat. According to Lonely Planet, that’s 15,000 eggs and a whole lot of duck fat in the pan.
Legend says Napoleon passed through the town and enjoyed an omelette so much that he ordered a second one big enough for his entire army. The omelette has been made every Easter Monday since 1973 in celebration of this story.
Imagine how big the wooden spoons must be.
Dress as a raggedy-witch:
In Sweden Easter is largely a secular (non-religious) holiday. On Maundy Thursday children dress up as witches. They paint their cheeks red, wear headscarves and, carrying a copper kettle, visit their neighbours hoping for sweet offerings.
Fly a kite:
Swap bright wrappers for bright ribbons. In Guyana and other parts of the Caribbean kite-flying is an Easter tradition for all the family.
Children today are as likely to fly an expensive kite. Traditionally kites were made by their fliers, and one of the most popular kites was a Caddy Old Punch. This kite was made from paper, sticks and scraps of material. Instructions exist online if you are a budding kite-maker.
Why not make a day of it? Families in Guyana might pack a picnic and make a day of the celebrations. Get outside and let your imaginations soar.
Who needs a chocolate egg? Pace eggs originate from Lancashire in the UK. Take a chicken’s egg and carefully boil it in onion skin. This will give the egg-shell a marbled pattern. (To make it more colourful, boil it in beetroot. The possibilities are endless!)
Pace eggs might be given as a gift. The museum at Dove Cottage in the Lake District has beautiful examples of pace eggs given to the children of the poet William Wordsworth in the 1800s. If the idea of treasuring a hard-boiled egg doesn’t excite you, why not have an egg-rolling contest? Roll your eggs down from the top of a hill. Whoever’s egg goes furthest is the winner. Egg-rolling still takes place in some parts of the UK.
Throw pottery out of the window:
Corfu. A beautiful Greek Island. On Easter Saturday at 11am, the silence is broken by the sound of shattering pots and cheers. Whether this tradition is a symbolic rejection of Judas or whether it dates from an historical Venetian tradition, it is a great opportunity to break stuff!
People choose pots especially for the event. They don’t borrow their family’s favourite flowerpot.
This tradition is well-known, so it is organised to ensure people’s safety. People walking past your window may not expect a pot to land on their head.
If this is still your life’s ambition, wait until you can visit Corfu over Easter.
Read a good book:
Love a good mystery? In Norway reading detective fiction has become an Easter tradition. Head to your log cabin, light a wood fire and settle down with a good crime novel.
Could there possibly be a bigger mystery than the total disappearance of chocolate? The Seven Show says the Chocopocalypse is coming, but the more our hero Jelly investigates, the more certain she becomes that there is a great chocoplot to unwrap. Can she piece it together before chocolate disappears for good? Embrace this tradition by starting with The Great Chocoplot.
Huge thanks, Louise, for this wonderful Easter post. You didn’t have to mention my book, but I’m glad you did! Egg rolling sounds like a lot of fun, but so does throwing stuff out of windows!! Reading a good book sounds even better!
It was a great Easter treat to be invited back to Waterstones Durham for a chocolatey signing session. Durham is a beautiful place and the people are always the friendliest around. As it was Easter, I gave away a bar of Dairy Milk with every copy of Chocoplot. I like to think that this was more about my generosity than a blatant attempt to bribe customers! But it worked and we completely sold out!!
Thanks to everyone who came along, it’s always wonderful to meet readers and have a quick chocolate chat. I’m very grateful to the Waterstones staff, especially bookselling superstar Fiona Sharp, for being such massive Chocoplot supporters.
It was with mixed feeling that I attended this year’s Worcestershire’s Awesomest Book Award ceremony. I was excited to continue to celebrate being the current holder of that wonderful title, but a little sad that I would move from ‘current’ to ‘former’. Or is this me just being greedy?
It was a fantastic event, attended by many schools in the area and the award scheme is driven by the young readers themselves. There was a quiz, which was won for the second year by Westacre Middle School (and which I was rubbish at!) and it was a pleasure to listen to a selection of readers talking about all the shortlisted books and why they had enjoyed reading them. It is a delight to see the enthusiasm that so many young people have for books in the Worcestershire area.
I also got to prance about and talk about my book and have some chocolatey fun – and I made the most of being the ‘current’ award winner as I watched the minutes of my reign (I can call it a ‘reign’ can’t I?) tick away.
The winner (by a huge majority) was announced to massive applause. Congratulations to Matt Stanton and his book ‘Funny Kid for President’. I’m delighted that another funny book has been chosen by Worcestershire’s awesomest readers. Matt follows in the footsteps of Rachel Hamilton, David Walliams (whoever he is?) and me, to be the Awesomest Book Award winner.
It was a wonderful day. Thank you to all the amazing library staff who organise the whole award scheme, to the teaching staff who encourage it in schools and especially to all the brilliant readers.
Last Sunday I proudly boasted with a photo of my packed bags on Twitter that I was booked, prepped and ready for a whole week’s worth of school visits. But after two lovely days at a school in Doncaster my week ground to a halt. The following three schools visits were postponed because of ‘The Beast from the East’! It’s been the worst weather we’ve had for a long time.
Although I didn’t get to complete my week-long adventure, I count myself as incredibly lucky that I wasn’t out and about in the terrible conditions. Schools took the sensible decision to close in plenty of time and informed pupils, parents and, in my case, worried authors. I’ve heard some real horror stories of accidents, delays and cancellations on transport routes, but I am relieved that myself and my family were not caught up in it. My thoughts are with those that were – I’ve been there before and it’s no fun at all.
I have already managed to reschedule most of the visits I’ve missed, which is wonderful, and I look forward to having our own Book Day celebrations very soon.
Maybe there’s a lesson here. World Book Day is a fantastic thing, but it would be even better if schools had their own day every year that celebrated books (although books can be enjoyed EVERY day!) and that way authors are not shooting around the country trying to fit as many schools into a short space of time. I’d even had to turn down schools because my week was fully booked, and they only wanted a visit around the day itself!
I hope the weather starts being kind to us and we all get back to normal. I’m off to my next visit in Worcester next week and am keeping a close eye on the trains!
Hope everyone stayed safe during this crazy time and managed to fit in a snowball fight or two! Or found somewhere warm to snuggle up with a good book!!
Very happy to be back visiting schools and spreading chocolate panic after a month away. Being in a classroom or a school hall is one of the best parts of an author’s life. It is a real privilege to be in the middle of such creativity, enthusiasm and imagination. I always come away from a school having learned something new, which I hope will continue for a long time.
Thank you so much, Preston Grange Primary, who are a local school to me. They all came up with some outstanding ideas and stories, and we had a lot of fun too – which is always lovely. It was a pleasure and I hope to see you all again sometime and wish you well with all your reading and writing.
Thanks to Preston Grange for letting me use their photos!