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2015 in Pictures: The Year of the Book

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This time last year I wrote this post – 2014 in Pictures – summing up what had been an eventful year. At that point, I predicted that 2015 was going to be even more exciting… and I was right.

The Year of the Book, as I called it then, has certainly been a memorable one. The pictures above are my ‘best nine’ of 2015 from Instagram, and as you can see, the last year really has been (almost!) all about The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Here’s what happened…

It seems appropriate that the year began with the arrival of proof copies of Clockwork Sparrow. It was amazing to see it looking like a ‘real book’ for the first time…

The proof was soon winging its way to journalists and bloggers, complete with a clue to solve with the help of a miniature magnifying glass, and a tasty Clockwork Sparrow biscuit conjured up by my publishers, Egmont. They were (almost) too pretty to eat…
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Meanwhile I celebrated my birthday in the traditional fashion – with cake, drinks and friends!

Lovely birthday presents!

Lovely birthday presents!

 

Spring

March brought the publication of my lovely friend Anna McKerrow’s fantastic young adult novel Crow Moon. We celebrated at Anna’s book launch at Tales on Moon Lane, complete with crow cupcakes and tarot-card readings…

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March is also, of course, World Book Day time! This year I got involved in World Book Day’s Teen Fest, and had a lot of fun interviewing ace young adult authors Non Pratt and Holly Smale on Google Hangout.

It was also time to reveal the final cover for The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow with artwork from incredible illustrator Júlia Sardà – how gorgeous!

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In April, I was very excited to visit the Bologna Book Fair for the first time. Bologna is the biggest children’s publishing industry fair, and I was there with Malorie Blackman for the grandly-titled ‘International Laureate summit’. Malorie joined a host of other Laureates from around the world to talk about issues including children’s books, literacy and education.

Of course, there was also plenty of time to explore the Fair, look at many books, eat a lot of food (including quite a few gelatos!) and track down a Clockwork Sparrow proof on Egmont’s stand – check out my adventures here.
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Back in the UK, I had a busy few weeks, including giving a talk about YALC at the London Book Fair, and organising an event to celebrate Malorie Blackman’s Project Remix, not to mention working on the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork SparrowThe Mystery of the Jewelled Moth – in between everything else.

But in May it was time for a break – and a very exciting holiday! I haven’t been away on a ‘big’ holiday for a few years, but as a belated honeymoon, Duncan and I headed off to New York.  We stayed in the Upper West side in an apartment in a gorgeous brownstone, and spent an absolutely amazing week exploring the city, and basically eating everything in sight.

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Duncan had to head back home after New York – but my adventure was not over yet. My next stop was Palm Springs in California, for my friend Katie’s wedding!
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Palm Springs was absolutely incredible – nothing like anywhere else I’ve been before. Katie and Kevin had a gorgeous wedding in these spectacular surroundings, and it was so lovely to be there to celebrate with them.
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Back home in London, finished copies of Clockwork Sparrow arrived ahead of publication! I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the shiny, beautiful finished copies looked when they arrived in a big exciting box.

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And my first proper ‘author interview’ was also published in The Bookseller magazine!

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To celebrate all this, Egmont arranged a lovely afternoon tea at Harrods – what better place to raise a glass to Clockwork Sparrow?
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Next up it was time for my first ever author event, at the Hay Festival, where I also espied a finished copy of the book on a bookshop shelf for the very first time! Eeek! I teamed up with Robin Stevens for what turned out to be the first of several fun events about our shared love of mystery stories. And as well as doing my own author event, I was lucky enough to chair some events with the fab Mel Salisbury and Cat Doyle, Maggie Harcourt and the Bookshop Band, and US YA superstar Sarah J Maas.

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Katherine signs her very first book – lucky George! #hayfestival #clockworksparrow A photo posted by Robin Stevens (@redbreastedbird) on

 

Summer

In June, Clockwork Sparrow was published!

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We had such a fun launch party at the appropriately Edwardian bookshop Daunts on Marylebone High St to celebrate – complete with dressing up in lots of hats, and of course, cake!  

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Some fantastic children’s book bloggers took part in the Clockwork Sparrow video blog tour to mark the book’s publication.

I was overjoyed and so grateful when Waterstones made Clockwork Sparrow their Children’s Book of the Month for June. It was incredible seeing the book in so many bookshops, and even more brilliant to see the fantastic displays that booksellers had made for the book. Check out this Pinterest board of all their incredible creations.

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At around the same time, I was also delighted to be included on The Bookseller’s list of the Rising Stars of the book industry for 2015!

After all that excitement, organising the announcement of a new Children’s Laureate was positively relaxing! After two fantastic years, Malorie had come to the end of her term, and in June, she passed on the baton to wonderful author and illustrator Chris Riddell who was announced as the Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2015-2017 at a special event at BAFTA.

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Later that month, I headed up to Lancashire for some more author events. I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in A Midsummer Mystery at Storytellers Inc in St Annes – a fantastic, fun day of mystery-themed events for kids.

A Midsummer Mystery

As part of my trip, I visited a St Annes school with Storytellers Inc and met children from a local Cub Scout group, as well as doing some school events in nearby Chorley with Ebb & Flo bookshop. Doing my very first school events in Lancashire felt very appropriate as it’s where I’m from! We even went to Abbey Village School, my own old primary school. It’s a really small school in a little Lancashire village up on the moors, and going back there to talk to the children felt really special.

Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!

Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!

Back in London it was time for lots of summer fun, including of course, YALC! This year’s event was crazy, fun, and (I think!) even better than the last.

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After three completely intense but fantastic days, Duncan and I headed off to the countryside for a few days of relaxation! We went by train and bicycle to the same spot in a pretty Kent village that we had visited the previous year – it really was the perfect place to relax and recover with a few good books.

Kentish Weald A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on


August was a bit momentous as I finished working at Booktrust after just over six amazing years. I was so sad to say farewell to working on the Children’s Laureate, which has been an immense privilege, as well to lots of other fantastic children’s books projects that I was lucky enough to work on. In particular I was sorry not to have more time working with Chris Riddell on his laureateship, which I know is going to be brilliant. And most of all I was sad to say goodbye to my lovely team. But I was excited to be able to spend more of my time focusing on writing, and to have the opportunity to take on some freelance projects. We celebrated my departure with prosecco, doughnuts and a quiz!

  So this just happened…   A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on


But before I had much time to get used to my new freelance lifestyle, it was time to whizz up to Edinburgh for this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival. I love Edinburgh, so I was really excited to be part of the festival programme, taking part in a joint event with fab debut author Gabrielle Kent.
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Autumn

Autumn got off to a pretty good start with the announcement that there were going to be two more books in the Clockwork Sparrow series. I also shared more exciting news that the rights to the first book had been sold in Germany and the USA – and there’s going to be an audio book version too!

Another exciting autumn announcement was Mystery and Mayhem – a new anthology of middle grade mystery stories coming from Egmont. I was so delighted to be asked to contribute to the book, alongside a list of fantastic mystery authors aka the Crime Club – the book will be published in May 2016.


Mystery and Mayhem front cover

To celebrate all this good news, I went for a lovely day of boating on the Serpentine and afternoon tea with Louise and my editors at Egmont, Ali and Hannah. (The boating was inspired by the sequel to Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth… although it turned out that it’s possibly easier to write about rowing than it is to actually do it… The below photos of me and Louise putting our boating skills to the test are undoubtedly two of my favourites of this year!)

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Meanwhile, I had a very busy autumn, packing in all kinds of author events. As well as a fantastic visit to the Isle of Man for the Manx Literature Festival, I took part in the Cheltenham Festival, STREAM and YA Shot, as well as school events and a visit to Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge. I’ve had such a great time doing author events this year – huge thanks to everyone who has invited me to visit them!

Helping out at the pop up bookshop!

Helping out at the pop up bookshop!

 

Author reading face at #yashot (photo by @kwebberwanders) A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on


I’ve also been busy with some freelance projects, including writing about children’s books for a brand new children’s magazine The Week Junior, and perhaps most excitingly of all, continuing to look after YALC working with Showmasters, who run London Film and Comic Con. I’m so pleased that I’ll be able to keep working on YALC, which is  one of the things that I’m most proud of from my time at Book Trust – bring on 2016’s event!

Of course, Down the Rabbit Hole has been keeping me, and my collaborators Melissa and Louise, very busy throughout this year too. We’ve had a lot of fun on Resonance FM, with some great shows, fantastic guests and amazing author interviews. Our DTRH Christmas special felt like the perfect way to finish off the year! Check out all our episodes from 2015 here.

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In the studio

Also to conclude the year, we revealed the cover of The Mystery of the Jewelled Mothanother gorgeus creation from Júlia Sardà. The book also got its first review – from Fiona Noble in the Bookseller who chose it as one of her picks for March 2016 – a great conclusion to a fantastic year!

First review for The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth and it’s a cracker! One of the picks for March in The Bookseller ✨   A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

 

Phew – this has turned into an essay. And that’s without even mentioning all the great books I read, the fantastic events and launches I attended, the exhibitions, films etc. etc. This blog has had a lot of different incarnations – from its early days as very much a personal blog, to the times that I’ve used it to write about books or visual art-  but this year, more than any other it really has been a space to document the process of becoming a published author.

It seems quite appropriate that today Serendipity Viv has published my contribution to her fantastic Debuts of 2015 & 2016 series, which offered me a chance to reflect further on The Year of the Book – check out the whole series here.

Next year I’d like to write more here about the ‘behind the scenes’ process of writing, which I’ve started to do a bit in the last few weeks, sharing some of the historical research behind The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow with this post about real-life Edwardian department stores, and this one about how the real Mr Selfridge helped inspire my own Mr Sinclair.

And I’m looking forward to writing too about everything else that 2016 has to bring – publishing two more books (Jewelled Moth and Mystery and Mayhem), getting to grips with my new freelance/author life, lots more writing, and hopefully lots more adventures too.

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and Clockwork Sparrow in 2015. Happy New Year, thanks for reading, and here’s to a great 2016!

Merry Christmas from Sinclair’s!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

It’s been a brilliant 2015 – thanks for reading and hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

This Edwardian Christmas card is exactly how I imagine Christmas Eve would be like at Sinclair’s department store…

[Image via Pinterest]

Messing about in boats!

I couldn’t resist sharing some pictures of a boating excursion that I recently had with my agent Louise and editors Ali and Hannah from Egmont.

Boats – and in particular, a boat race – feature prominently in the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, so for research purposes it seemed only appropriate to do a little rowing ourselves – in this case on the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park.

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Hannah and Ali take to the oars

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Louise is taking this rowing business seriously

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Are you sure you’re up to this, Woodfine?

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Hilarity sets in

As it turns out, my characters are much better at rowing than I am. I don’t think I am going to be winning any boat races anytime soon, unless it is a competition to see who is best at rowing in a circle!

But in spite of my less-than-brilliant rowing abilities (and interruptions from some very curious geese) we had a fantastic afternoon – very Swallows and Amazons!

Naturally we followed our boating excursion with a delicious afternoon tea, which I think Sophie and Lil would definitely approve of.

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Time for tea!

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Cucumber sandwich

 

Autumn adventuring

Autumn wallpaper by Bravelets

Autumn wallpaper by Bravelets

Autumn is here and it’s the season for book events!

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been all around the country, meeting children, visiting schools, and getting into the swing of doing lots of author events.

No sooner was I back from my visit to the Manx Litfest than it was time to head to Cambridge for a mystery-themed afternoon at the lovely Heffers Bookshop.

There, I was joined by two other  mystery authors – Helen Moss, author of the Adventure Island and Secrets of the Tomb series – and Patricia Eliot, author of House of Eyes, which is also an Edwardian mystery story set in 1909 – the very same year as The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. We each read from our books, and answered questions from our host, bookseller Hilary, as well as lots of questions from children in the audience.

As well as having the chance to take part in a great event, it was fantastic to have the chance to explore Cambridge – including watching punting on the river, sampling some of the famous Fitzbillie’s buns, watching punting on the river, and rummaging in one of the best second-hand bookshops I’ve ever visited. (With great difficulty, I managed to restrain myself to just three purchases including a beautiful 1940s hardcover edition of the first in the Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville, Mystery at Witchend.)

So @llmonts took me to the most amazing secondhand bookshop in Cambridge today. These were their Malcolm Saville shelves ❤️❤️❤️ A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

After a good day’s authoring and exploring… time for a Fitzbillies bun in the sun

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

Next up I headed north to Weatherhead High School on the Wirral, for a visit as part of their Author Week. Weatherhead High is a fantastic school with a lovely school library. Each year, the library plays host to a whole week of author visits organised by the school librarian (the appropriately-named) Miss Grainger. Every single class in Year 7 and Year 8 gets the chance to meet an author (the other authors taking part included Amy Alward, Sarah Sky, Tamsyn Murray and Julian Sedgwick) which I thought was a brilliant idea.

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A few highlights from Weatherhead!

During my visit, I met three classes from Year 7 and Year 8 for a session in the school library – and also met lots more pupils during the lunchtime signing session. Being in the school library really took me back to my own secondary school days, when the school library was one of my favourite places (I even had a school librarian badge to prove it!) The day was great fun, and I really enjoyed being in a school where there was so much obvious enthusiasm for reading.

Next up, I headed to Cheltenham for this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. Here, I teamed up with fellow Mystery Girl Robin Stevens for a sell-out event: Murder Mysteries and Iced Buns for Tea!

We were excited to discover on arrival that our event was taking place in a brightly-coloured big top tent – and that our publishers were also providing iced buns for all the children in the audience.

I always have a great time doing events with Robin, and this was no exception. We were so well looked after by the festival, and the audience were fantastic and had lots of really great questions about mysteries, writing and our inspirations. Everyone was especially excited to see the cover of Robin’s forthcoming fourth book in the Murder Most Unladylike series, Jolly Foul Play, which had only been revealed a couple of days previously.

After the event we signed lots of books at the outdoor signing session – it was brilliant to meet so many enthusiastic mystery fans!

Photo courtesy of Robin!

Slightly windblown authors after outdoor signing! Photo courtesy of Robin

Thanks so much to Heffers Bookshop, Weatherhead High School, and Cheltenham Literature Festival.

[Download Bravelets Blog Hello Autumn wallpaper here]

Manx LitFest 2015

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I was super excited to be invited over to the Isle of Man this month, to take part in this year’s Manx LitFest.

I’ve visited the Isle of Man just once before, when I was only about 8 years old. I don’t remember very much from that trip, except for the ferry crossing over from Heysham, saying ‘hello’ to the fairies while going over the Isle of Man’s famous ‘fairy bridge’ and er… making friends with a nice dog on a beach.

This time, however, I flew over to the island on Thursday afternoon to find the Isle of Man was looking spectacular in the beautiful September sunshine. My first port of call on arrival was a reception to launch the Manx LitFest, at the Noa Bakehouse in Douglas – complete with local Isle of Man beer, and the bakery’s own freshly-baked sourdough bread.

At the launch, I had the chance to meet some fellow authors and illustrators, as well as some of the festival’s organisers, who were lovely. The Manx LitFest only started a few years ago, and it has such a friendly atmosphere – it is obviously a real community effort, with lots of people getting involved to help make it a success.

The launch was followed by a book-themed quiz – the hotly-contested annual Book Fanatics Quiz Night. The authors and illustrators taking part in the festival took on the role of quizmasters for the occasion – and my round, appropriately enough, was Enid Blyton themed!

After a great evening of quizzing it was back to the hotel, situated on the promenade in Douglas. The Isle of Man was a popular holiday destination in the Victorian era, and the Douglas sea-front is lined with beautiful old buildings that were once boarding houses. Now it has a kind of faded grandeur that is hugely appealing – even our hotel, The Regency, had lots of old-fashioned charm, including a tiny, very old-school lift.

Douglas promenade #ManxLitfest

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

Friday brought a full day of events in Isle of Man schools, as part of the Lit Fest’s Schools Day. My lovely festival volunteer Kirsty took me on a tour of the island, visiting three different primary schools – Victoria Road School, Arbory School and Peel Clothwoker’s School. At each school I had the chance to meet lots of enthusiastic young readers – from Year 3 up to Year 6 – and to tell them about The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. We also had a lot of fun coming up with our own ideas for mystery stories – including creating some incredibly imaginative heroes and villains.

Poster in Arbory School

Poster in Arbory School!

With Year 6 at Peel Clothworker's School

With Year 6 at Peel Clothworker’s School

Talking to Years 3 & 4 at Arbory Road School - photo by Manx Lit Fest

Talking to Years 3 & 4 at Arbory Road School – photo by Manx Lit Fest

Doing four school sessions in a day was intense but luckily Kirsty knew exactly when it was time to stop off for an emergency ice-cream break!

 

Author’s reward in sunny Peel #ManxLitfest #latergram

 

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

On Saturday there was time for a traditional breakfast of Manx kippers before I set out to Ramsay to Mooragh Park for the festival’s Family Day – which this year was Famous Five and Secret Seven themed With a detective trail to follow, puzzles to solve, Blyton-themed craft activities and even its very own ‘Kirrin Island’ it couldn’t have been much more up my street!

At the Famous Five & Secret Seven Family Day

At the Famous Five & Secret Seven Family Day

I was due to give a short reading from The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, as well as signing books at the pop-up bookshop, run by the wonderful Bridge Bookshop from Port Erin. As usual though I couldn’t resist getting a bit more involved and ended up doing a ‘secret agent fingerprinting’ activity with kids, and then revisiting my bookselling days helping out in the bookshop. It was great to see lots of the children that I had met in schools the day before coming back with their families to join in the fun.

Helping out at the pop up bookshop!

At the pop-up bookshop!

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Reading at the family day! Photo via Manx Lit Fest

Sunday was my final day in the Isle of Man – and happily there was time for a final long stroll along the beautiful Douglas sea-front in the sunshine, before heading to the airport.

I had such a wonderful time on the Isle of Man – many thanks to the entire Manx Lit Fest team for a really fantastic weekend!