Follow the Yellow

Looking back on 2016

IMG_80472016 has been such busy year! Whilst it’s been a strange (and depressing) one in many ways, for me personally, it’s been a very positive time. I’ll always remember it as the year that my second book The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth was published – and that the pile of my books (see above) grew from one to four!

It’s been a great year for collaboration. I’ve been lucky enough to be included in two amazing short story anthologies, alongside lots of other authors whose writing I hugely admire. I love feeling part of a community of children’s writers, so it was such a treat to be part of Mystery & Mayhem and Winter Magic.

I’m relatively new to short stories and I do find them challenging – but I really enjoyed writing Lil’s solo story ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’ for Mystery & Mayhem. I also loved writing ‘Casse-Noisette’ for Winter Magic, which is set in 1890s St Petersburg and focuses on the first ever production of The Nutcracker ballet. This is the first story I’ve had published that’s set outside the world of the Sinclair’s Mysteries, and it’s been great to hear so many enthusiastic responses from readers.

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Celebrating Winter Magic with Abi Elphinstone and Piers Torday

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Launching Mystery & Mayhem with Harriet Whitehorn, Helen Moss and Robin Stevens

2016 was also the year that both Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth were published in the USA by publishers Kane Miller, which is so exciting! What’s more, this year Clockwork Sparrow was published as an audiobook, read by the wonderful Jessica Preddy! I love audiobooks and I’m thrilled that Clockwork Sparrow exists in audio form – look out for the Jewelled Moth audiobook coming out in January 2017.

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I’ve been very busy with lots more writing this year, including working on Books 3 and 4 of the Sinclair’s Mysteries series – book 3, The Painted Dragon is coming out on 9th February.

The cover has had a little tweak since the first reveal, but it looks as shiny and beautiful as ever in all its green glory. I love Karl James Mountford’s stunning artwork, and I think it might be my favourite cover yet. You can preorder the new book here.

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I’ve also been working on a couple of exciting new writing projects – more news on those coming very soon!

2016 has also been a very busy year for events. I’ve done over 40 author events this year, including the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Literature Festival to the Children’s Books Ireland conference. Amongst other things, I’ve visited schools and festivals all around the country, led some fun creative writing workshops as part of The Mousetrap’s ‘Mystery Solved’ project, and taken part in two great panel events at Waterstones Piccadilly.

One particularly special moment of 2016 was attending the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize ceremony at Piccadilly when Clockwork Sparrow was on the Younger Fiction shortlist. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the prize for a number of years as a guest, so being there as a shortlisted author alongside so many amazing children’s writers and illustrators was really special. Clockwork Sparrow didn’t win (that honour went to the lovely David Solomons for his My Brother is a Superhero, who also scooped the overall prize) but celebrating with so many friends and colleagues is something I’ll always remember.

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Shortlisted authors and illustrators assemble at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell

As well as my own author events, 2016 was the third year of YALC, which was a tremendous success. There’s always more to learn and improve – but overall I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved with YALC so far, and I can’t wait to get stuck in to planning the event for 2017. Here’s the wonderful YALC Working Group who do such an amazing job in helping me make the event happen – my very own Scooby Gang! (This year they even bought me my very own gold umbrella as a present – fans of Buffy will appreciate the significance)

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Lovely YALC working group pals

As well as a fantastic YALC, 2016 was also the year that we launched the YA Salon! I’ve teamed up with the brilliant Anna James and Rosi Crawley to launch this fun evening event for adults who love YA books. We kicked things off with our first salon with legendary Baby-Sitter’s Club author Ann M Martin, who was joined by Laura Dockrill and Holly Bourne, for a special event for London Book & Screen Week. We’ve since organised a Christmas themed YA Salon to celebrate Stripes’ new anthology I’ll Be Home for Christmas with a host of fabulous YA authors taking part.

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Highlights of the first ever YA Salon

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Our lovely authors at the Christmas YA Salon

Children’s books radio show Down the Rabbit Hole has gone from strength to strength this year. Louise, Melissa and I have launched our new website with gorgeous artwork from Rebecca Cobb, introduced a brand new e-newsletter and made the show available as a podcast via iTunes. Of course we’ve also broadcast twelve shows featuring amazing guests including the likes of Clare Balding. Check out our Christmas special here.

We’re already busy planning more exciting things for DTRH in 2017 so make sure you’re subscribed to our podcast and following us on Twitter so you don’t miss anything! (If you want to give us a great Christmas present you can rate or review the show on iTunes here!)

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New DTRH website with gorgeous Rebecca Cobb illustrations

I also launched my Youtube channel this year. I still have lots to learn about how to make videos, but it’s been really fun trying it out and having a go! If you want to see how I get on, do subscribe to my channel, and check out some videos – some of my favourites include a top 5 new middle grade books, an interview with fellow Mystery Girl Robin Stevens about her new book Mistletoe and Murder, and a fun festive Q&A with the lovely Abi Elphinstone.

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Robin and I filming our Mistletoe and Murder video

I’ve been lucky to be involved in lots more fantastic book-related projects this year, including being a judge for both the Bookseller YA Prize, and Stripes’ competition to find a new writer for the I’ll be Home for Christmas anthology, which was a real privilege.

It’s also been lovely to help celebrate the launch of many great new children’s books this year – and even to blurb a few of them! In particular, I’ve loved seeing the spectacular success of MG Leonard’s brilliant debut Beetle Boy, and more recently Peter Bunzl’s amazing debut Cogheart – it’s been pretty cool seeing my name on posters in railway stations around the country!

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Amazing Cogheart posters!

On a personal note, 2016 has also been a lovely year for me, with highlights including a visit to Sweden, a relaxing post-YALC summer break in Rye, and a September trip to Paris. Follow me on Instagram if you’d like to see lots more pictures of what I get up to.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported me this year! I’m so appreciative of all those who have read, reviewed, bought or shared my books, come along to an event, or followed along here. I’m so grateful and feel incredibly lucky that I get to do this. Now bring on 2017!

 

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A Christmas Competition

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that last Christmas I ran a festive competition to win a signed copy of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, plus a box of lovely goodies worthy of Sinclair’s department store itself!

I asked people to tell me what they’d buy from Sinclair’s, and had some lovely entries including those from the joint winners, who sent beautiful illustrations of their ideas.

Well guess what? The competition was so much fun last year that I’m running it again this year! This time round, you can win a signed and dedicated copy of The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth plus a special box of festive goodies that you might find in the store’s confectionery department.

Here’s a little sneak peek at the box:

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To enter all you have to do is tell me: which of the characters from the Sinclair’s Mysteries would you most like to spend Christmas with, and why?

You can leave me a comment below, tweet me, leave me a comment on my author Facebook page, or even leave a comment on my Instagram – it’s up to you! Or if you’d prefer you can also send me an email to enter.

Just make sure you send over your entry by 5.00pm on Monday 19 December for the chance to win –  I’ll choose my favourite response to win the prize. The competition is open to the UK only. Good luck!

 

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Celebrating Winter Magic

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It’s been such fun being part of Winter Magic! As if it wasn’t enough to be part of one lovely middle-grade anthology this year, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of TWO – the crime anthology Mystery & Mayhem, and now this gorgeous festive collection.

It’s been wonderful to join forces with other middle grade authors, and to have the chance to collaborate on these projects. What’s more, it’s also been great to hear from teachers and librarians about how useful they’re finding these books, and how popular they are with young readers. Short stories make great bite-size reads, and teachers have told us that they find these collections incredibly useful for the classroom, providing a series of complete texts that they can share with pupils from beginning to end. An anthology bringing together lots of different authors can also offer a great way for readers to explore a variety of different kinds of writing – and to discover new authors they love.

Winter Magic also offered me a chance to try my hand at writing a story outside the ‘world’ of the Sinclair’s Mysteries, which was an enjoyable challenge. My story ‘Casse-Noisette’ explores one of my favourite Christmas traditions – going to the ballet. Set in 1890s St Petersburg, it will whisk you behind the scenes at the Marinsky Theatre, for the first ever production of the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. I’ve been noticing The Nutcracker popping up all over the place this Christmas – from a brand new immersive production to the Liberty’s Christmas windows and displays (below)!

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I’ve had such a lovely time reading and enjoying the other stories in the anthology, and celebrating the book at several events.

We marked the launch of Winter Magic at Waterstones Piccadilly with mince pies, candy canes, chocolate treats, and mulled wine. Anthology curator Abi made a fantastic speech about the book, and lots of people came along to celebrate with us – it was especially wonderful to see a big gang of Little Star Writers in attendance!

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I was back at Waterstones Piccadilly a couple of weeks later, together with Abi, Geraldine McCaughrean and Lauren St John, for a panel event all about the anthology. We talked about everything from Christmas traditions to our favourite books to read at Christmas – and signed lots of books for people who came along.

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I also popped along to lovely London indie the South Kensington Bookshop to sign some books, together with Abi, Emma Carroll and Piers Torday. As well as signing lots of copies of Winter Magic, we had chance to admire the shop’s beautiful window display – check out those snowflakes!

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Look out for more Winter Magic events coming up soon – including a session with Abi, Emma, Piers and Michelle Harrison at Waterstones Birmingham on 7 December.

You can also find out more about Winter Magic – and read some of the lovely reviews we’ve had so far – on my website here.

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On the road: events and adventures

It’s been another VERY busy few months! I’ve been hard at work on the next books in the Sinclair’s Mysteries series – but I’ve also been out and about a lot talking about my books. Here’s a few pictures from some of my recent events and adventures…

Back in July, I was part of a Mystery & Mayhem panel event at Waterstones Piccadilly alongside Robin Stevens, Frances Hardinge, and brilliant chair Imogen Russell Williams. It was such a treat to do an event with Robin, Frances and Imogen – and I always love doing events at Waterstones Piccadilly, one of my all-time favourite bookshops (which of course is also situated on the very same spot as Sinclair’s in the Sinclair’s Mysteries!)

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August means time for the Edinburgh Book Festival! This year, I had a brilliant time doing an event with children’s author and theatre critic Lyn Gardner, who was talking about her gorgeous book Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret – as well as meeting lots of readers at the booksigning afterwards. I also got to introduce two other author events at the festival – Julian Clary and David Roberts talking about their hilarious The Bolds books, and Andy Stanton’s laugh-out-loud show ‘Me and Mr Gum’.

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In September I was super excited to go over to Dublin to be part of the ‘Abundance of Katherines’ panel at the Children’s Books Ireland conference. The title of the panel was inspired by An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and teamed up four authors called ‘Katherine’ – me, Catherine Doyle, Katherine Rundell and Katherena Vermette, to talk about what our writing process had in common. I had such a lot of fun at the event, which I’d highly recommend to anyone working in children’s books – all the sessions I heard were great but I especially enjoyed hearing Alan Cumyn talking about his book Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend – surely one of the best titles for a YA book ever? (And I also got to pick up some lovely new Oliver Jeffers swag!)

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October brought around the annual celebration of bookshops from Books are My Bag – and me and my brand new Winnie the Pooh Books are My Bag tote headed off on an adventure!

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First up was Times Cheltenham Literature Festival for a lovely event in the bustling Little Big Top with Sarah Rubin, author of the Alice Jones mysteries. We were chaired by Alex O’Connell of The Times, and had a wonderful time talking about all things mysterious!

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While I was there I also got to hang out in the Green Room with lots of lovely folks – including meeting fellow middle grade author Shane Hegarty, author of the Darkmouth books!

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Next stop was the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, where Julia Golding and I talked about our mystery books with fab festival director Gill McLay.

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I also teamed up with ‘History Girls’ Rhian Ivory, Helen Maslin, Emma Carroll and Lauren James for a couple more history-themed events – one in Milton Keynes, and one at Waterstones Oxford. I always have lots of fun with this gang!

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In October, I headed down to beautiful Totnes for an event at the Turn the Page Festival. While I was there I was lucky enough to have the chance to see some other events, including Lucy Letherland talking about her Atlas of Miniature Adventures and Josh Lacey’s event about The Dragonsitter.

October was also time for YA Shot! I saw some fantastic events at this year’s one-day YA and MG festival in Uxbridge, including Melinda Salisbury & Julia Gray, and Laure Eve & Anna McKerrow. I was lucky enough to join an amazing line-up of historical fiction authors – Lydia Syson, Tanya Landman and Catherine Johnson – for a really interesting panel exploring what it means to write about history.

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Finally to wrap up my autumn events, I went along to the Dulwich Book Festival for an event all about how to write mystery stories. Here I am in the amazing surroundings of venue Dulwich College.

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I had a great time with the children in the audience, who also had the chance to enter a mystery writing short story competition after the event. Here’s winner Daisy with Gabriel from Dulwich Books!

If you’ve come along to one of my events over the last few months, I hope you enjoyed it! Don’t forget to keep an eye out on the events page on my website here for details of where I’ll be going and what I’ll be up to for my next round of book events!

Happy book birthday Winter Magic!

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I’m so excited that Winter Magic is published today! I’m delighted to be part of this beautiful and classic anthology of frosty, magical tales curated by the wonderful Abi Elphinstone and published by Simon & Schuster. Featuring everything from snow queens, frost fairs, snow dragons and pied pipers, it’s a real festive treat.

The anthology includes brilliant stories from classic children’s writers Michelle Magorian, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Berlie Doherty, Piers Torday, Lauren St John, Amy Alward & Emma Carroll. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of such an impressive line-up of children’s writing talent.

My story ‘Casse-Noisette’ is set in 1890s St Petersburg, and is told from the point of view of a young dancer in the very first production of The Nutcracker. I’ve always loved reading ballet stories by the likes of Noel Streatfeild, Eva Ibbotson and Lorna Hill, so it was wonderful to have a go at writing one of my own.

The book itself is a thing of beauty: a gorgeous hardback (my first hardback!) with silver foil on the cover, and fabulous endpapers featuring all the authors’ signatures. The beautiful cover illustration is the work of illustrator Thomas Flintham.

You can get hold of a copy of the book from Waterstones  The Hive  or Amazon now – or if you’re in London, I’ll be doing a special signing with Abi and Piers at the South Kensington Bookshop on Monday 7 November; and appearing at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly with Abi, Lauren and Geraldine on 22 November – find all the details on my events listing here.

Keep an eye out on social media for lots of fun festive tweets to celebrate Winter Magic – this week the authors celebrated publication day by sharing childhood photos of ourselves enjoying the snow. Here’s me aged 4, setting out on an intrepid winter adventure. Follow #WinterMagic on Twitter for lots more!

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