Follow the Yellow

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Autumn Photo Diary: Celebrating The Midnight Peacock

Since The Midnight Peacock was published in October, I’ve had a busy autumn of events to celebrate the brand new book. I’ve been everywhere from the Cheltenham Literature Festival to the Newham Word Festival; the South Ken Kids Lit Festival to the Books-on-Tyne Family Day; the Kingston Children’s Literature Festival to the Museum of London – and even further afield, to Denmark and the UAE! 

Here are a few highlights from my autumn adventures:

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Getting ready for our Get Creative panel event at Cheltenham Lit Fest – with Chris Edge, Lizzy Stewart and our host Jonathan Stroud.

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In sunny Sharjah for the Sharjah Book Fair! I was so excited to join a line-up of authors from around the world for a panel event at the book fair and have the chance to visit Sharjah, which was an amazing experience. There was even time to enjoy some reading on this glorious beach.

 

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Trying on some Edwardian hats during the Midnight Peacock schools tour!

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Hanging out with the Aarhus 39 in Aarhus, Denmark for the International Children’s Literature Hay Festival (read more about the trip here)

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More from the Midnight Peacock schools tour – just look at this brilliant artwork inspired by The Sinclair’s Mysteries at QES in Kirkby Lonsdale!

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Fabulous festive library displays at Queen Katherine School.

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After a magical journey north through a snow-storm, we met lovely Ruby the school dog at Sacred Heart Primary School in Newcastle ❤️

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Meeting Sinclair’s superfans, and browsing the beautiful Lit & Phil library in Newcastle at the Books-on-Tyne family day!

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Getting into the Christmas mood at the Museum of London. At this special Midnight Peacock inspired event in December, we made our own Edwardian-inspired Christmas decorations, dressed up in Edwardian hats and even posed for 1900s-style sepia photographs!

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Children who attended also had the chance to write their own mystery story inspired by the museum collections – and they were brilliant! What a wonderful and creative conclusion to the year.

Check out my events calendar for events coming up in 2018 – or sign up for my new quarterly author e-mail newsletter to keep up to date with all the latest news!

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. 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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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!

Mystery & Mayhem on tour

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To celebrate the publication of Mystery & Mayhem this month, I headed out on tour! With my author essentials all packed up, it was time to hit the road…

The tour began with the Tales on Moon Lane Festival. Robin Stevens and I hosted two fun mystery-themed sessions with groups from local schools at the gorgeous Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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En route to the Dulwich Picture Gallery!

In between events, we had time for a bunbreak in the sun, and a wander around the beautiful gallery. Their collection includes paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Canaletto and Poussin – perfect inspiration for me, since I’m currently working on The Mystery of the Painted Dragon, which centres around an art world mystery!

Our day finished up with an after-school event, where lots of lovely readers came along to meet us and hear us chat about why we love mystery stories, and the inspiration behind our contributions to Mystery & Mayhem.

Many thanks to Tales on Moon Lane for a really lovely day of events!

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Lots of lovely books for sale from Tales on Moon Lane

The next day, I headed to Sevenoaks for an afternoon event at the Sevenoaks Bookshop.

Brilliant bookshop owner Fleur had planned an extravaganza of an afternoon, including Jewelled Moth-inspired cakes and biscuits, complete with jelly moonbeam diamonds, and Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth badges to create!

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The highlight was a secret code competition which gave everyone the chance to put their own detective skills to the test, with the winner receiving a fabulous prize –  their very own jewelled moth! Congratulations to prize-winner Amelie!

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I loved meeting lots of readers, and having the chance to chat to them – including blogger Miss T Recommends who wrote this lovely post about the event.

Thank you so much for having me Sevenoaks Bookshop, and for organising a super fun afternoon!

On Sunday, it was time to head to Leeds, for the Leeds Book Awards ceremony on Monday. I was so pleased that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was in the running for the 9-11 category of these awards, which are voted for by children – you can see all their brilliant reviews of the shortlisted books here.

The event was huge fun –  there were 500 children attending as well as the shortlisted authors. There were questions from the schools who took part, a spot of live poetry, and author Gill Lewis even taught us all how to communicate with gorillas, inspired by her shortlisted book, the wonderful Gorilla Dawn.

Finally Gill was announced as the winner (congratulations Gill!) and we spent time signing lots of books and meeting lots of the school groups that took part. Such a fun day and a great awards scheme – thanks so much to Leeds SLS and Leeds Public Libraries!

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All the shortlisted authors were presented with their own special Leeds Book Awards crystal!

Next stop on my mystery tour was Liverpool!

On Tuesday, I visited Edge Hill University with Just Imagine, to meet trainee primary teachers, and talk to them about books, reading and writing. It’s always great meeting students, and as a bonus I also got to hear Just Imagine’s brilliant Nikki Gamble talking about the power of picture books. There was time to sign a few books for some of the students and staff before I was on the road again.

On Wednesday, I was in Oxford, where I joined up with Robin and our fellow Crime Club member Julia Golding for an event as part of Oxford Bookfeast.

Our session took place at the amazing Pitt Rivers museum, which is one of my favourite places in Oxford. We had a great fun event (including a detective quiz!) and a highlight for me was the chance to say hi to author M G Leonard, author of the amazing Beetle Boy, in the Green Room.

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Selfie time in the Green Room!

Back in London, I headed to the Greenwich Book Festival. I zipped up the river on the Thames Clipper for a solo session as part of the festival’s schools programme, in the beautiful Old Royal Naval College.

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Me and Mystery & Mayhem on the Thames Clipper

I had such a lot of fun meeting local school groups, talking everything from Enid Blyton books to Edwardian hats.


If that wasn’t enough, on the same day, Mystery & Mayhem was reviewed in The Sun who gave it four stars! Check out the review here, as well as a review of Robin’s new book, the fab Jolly Foul Play.

The final stop – Hay Festival! I was there for a mystery-themed event, this time teaming up with Frances Hardinge, Lyn Gardner and Emma Carroll.

I had a great time chatting all things mystery with Frances, Lyn and Emma. On the same day, I was also really pleased to be able to go along to the YA Book Prize announcement at Hay – I was lucky enough to be one of the judges for the prize this year, which was a huge privilege. It was fantastic to hear from all ten amazing shortlisted authors at the event, and to see the Prize awarded to this year’s winner Sarah Crossan.

It was pretty amazing to remember that just a year ago I was at Hay for my first ever author event (which you can read about here). That was also the first time I saw The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow on a real bookshop shelf – so it felt extra special to be back at the Hay Festival bookshop, and this time to see not just one book, but three!

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What could be a better finale to a brilliant tour to celebrate Mystery & Mayhem? Thanks to Hay Festival and everyone I visited!

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Out and about: An Instagram Diary

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Over the last few months, I’ve been busy going out and about to lots of events, and talking about The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. I haven’t had much time for blogging – but I have been capturing my adventures via Instagram!

Here are a few highlights:

2016 got off to a great start with a trip down to Falmouth, in Cornwall, with Louise. The visit had been organised by Falmouth University, who had invited us to talk to their creative writing students about getting published and getting an agent. The perfect opportunity for a winter trip to the seaside!

The sea! #nofilter

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As well as a lovely event at the university, where we had the chance to meet and chat with lots of students, we also visited a fantastic local school, where Year 5 had turned a corner of their classroom into the Millennium Falcon!

I wasn’t at all surprised to discover lots of lively imaginations in the class when we got started coming up with ideas for mystery stories.

Spotted at Marlborough Primary in Falmouth where Class 5 have built their own Millennium Falcon 👏

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

Afterwards there was even chance for a quick paddle on the nearby beach (it was a bit cold though!)

Paddling with @llmonts

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In February I spent lots of time out and about visiting schools. One highlight was my day out with Little Star Writing: a fab organisation that runs award-winning children’s creative writing workshops.

I visited two fantastic schools with the lovely Mel, for author talks and signings – as well as as the chance to join some of the Little Star Writers for an after-school writing group.

Love these pictures from yesterday’s @littlestarwriting events! Met lots of writing superstars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ #LSW

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

I was really inspired by talking to them about their writing and hearing them read aloud – what a wonderful initiative. It happened to be the day of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlist announcement, and the children enthusiastically helped me celebrate!

Celebrating the news that #ClockworkSparrow has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize! ⭐️⭐️⭐️ #wcbp16 #lsw Repost @littlestarwriting with @repostapp. ・・・ These are our super #excitedfaces over @followtheyellow being shortlisted for the @waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016! Good luck, Katherine! ⭐️✨ #LSW #authorevent @egmontpublishinguk

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Also in February, I travelled up to Chester for the WayWord Festival. I had a really fun afternoon in Chester Town Hall, which had been gorgeously decorated  with book-themed bunting and vintage suitcases exploding with books and book characters for the occasion.

I talked to an audience of children and families about Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth – with a little help from some young detectives in the audience. But my favourite thing of all was the music they played when I came on stage… now I feel like the Jurassic Park theme should be playing every time I enter a room!

Lovely #JewelledMoth event at #WayWord festival in Chester today, where the decor included bookish bunting and these suitcases exploding with superhero characters 💥

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

Soon after, Jewelled Moth was officially published – and then it was time for World Book Day!

I headed out for several days of school visits, including a visit to the Lady Eleanor Holles Junior School in Hampton, where as well as meeting lots of keen readers, I also had the chance to meet the school archivist, who showed me some amazing Edwardian photographs from the school archives – like this one:

Great session at Lady Eleanor Holles School today… The school archivist showed me lots of old photos from the school’s history, including these 1900s school girls #Edwardiana

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

I also headed out to The Weald School in Billingshurst, who were celebrating World Book Day with their annual Weald Book Awards. Local primary schools take part in the awards, reading all seven books on the shortlist, and voting to choose the winner – as well as making lots of brilliant work inspired by the shortlisted books.

The awards culminate with a special evening event hosted by the pupils themselves, with some of the authors in attendance. I had a great evening and really enjoyed meeting the two other shortlisted authors who were tehre – Jennifer Grey and Kim Slater.

Although none of our books scooped the top prize – that honour went to Danny Wallace for Hamish and the World-Stoppers – we all had a fantastic evening, and I especially loved seeing some of the amazing work that pupils had created inspired by Clockwork Sparrow.

Lovely evening at the Weald Book Awards – check out some of the amazing work inspired by #ClockworkSparrow from kids who took part! 💙💛

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

And for World Book Day itself, I headed out with the brilliant Just Imagine for some events at primary schools in Billericay in Essex. Everyone got involved, putting their detective skills to the test, trying their hand at my new secret code puzzle, and even helping to come up with some amazing ideas for titles for my next book!

I saw some truly amazing World Book Day costumes (the teachers had pretty great outfits too). I wished that I’d dressed up as well, but at least I had my trusty straw sailor hat with me as an accessory:

Boater hat on, and off on the train to #WorldBookDay events with Just Imagine! 👒 (In need of a second cup of coffee, hence the slightly mad expression) @egmontpublishinguk

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

And to complete World Book Day… I was on TV!

Back in London after a busy day, I headed over to Channel 5’s studios to be a guest on their 6.30pm news programme. I joined presenter Matt Barbet for a chat about World Book Day, and why celebrating reading is so important.

You can watch the interview here:

Being on live TV was a little bit nerve-racking, but fun – a great conclusion to World Book Day week! Now I’m looking forward to a couple of quiet weeks … and oh yes, perhaps doing a bit of writing…!

PS Follow my next round of author adventures on Instagram at @followtheyellow