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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!

At the Edinburgh Festival

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has been a firm fixture in my diary over the last few years. August just wouldn’t be August without some sunny (or more likely, cold and rainy!) days in Charlotte Square. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities, and the festival is always great fun – I’ve so enjoyed the chance to visit each year, when the various Children’s Laureates have been appearing as part of the Book Festival programme.

So this year, I couldn’t have been more delighted to be appearing at the Book Festival as an author myself! On Saturday, I joined fellow debut author Gabrielle Kent for an event entitled Crime Solvers and Mystery Keepers, as part of the children’s programme.

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Photo by Gabrielle’s husband Satish aka @asianastroboy

It was lovely to meet Gabrielle and have the chance to chat to her – I really enjoyed her book, Alfie Bloom and the Secret of Hexbridge Castle, published by Scholastic.

This is the story of young hero Alfie Bloom, whose life changes dramatically when he inherits a mysterious old castle concealing some strange (and dangerous) secrets. A shape-shifting solicitor, an enigmatic butler, a flying bearskin rug and a pair of truly horrible villains all appear in this very entertaining magical adventure.

Alfie and his gang of friends have a Famous Five vibe that I really like – so it was no surprise to discover at the event that Gabrielle is a fellow Blyton fan! Her day job is lecturing in computer game design, and it was really interesting to hear about how this influences her writing – she talked about how she envisioned certain scenes in the book being like a level in a computer game.

We had a really great time chatting on stage, chaired by the brilliant Lindsey Fraser, who gave the children in the audience the chance to ask us lots of questions. We talked about everything from writing tips to whether we’d like our books to be made into films (a resounding YES PLEASE!) to Harry Potter.

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Photo by @asianastroboy

Afterwards we signed books in the festival bookshop where we got to meet lots of the children who came along.

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Photo by @kwebberwrites

I also had chance to pay a quick visit to Waterstones on George Street where I was pleased to espy The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow on display!

#ClockworkSparrow at Waterstones on George St

A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

Needless to say there was time for lots of other Edinburgh treats and fun times – including going to amazing vintage ice-cream parlour Mary’s Milk Bar and visits to Peter’s Yard to eat lots of BUNS  – a definite Edinburgh essential.

Thanks so much for a wonderful weekend Edinburgh Book Festival – hope to see you again next year!

A Midsummer Mystery and some Lancashire fun

A Midsummer Mystery

Last weekend, I headed to my home county of Lancashire for some Clockwork Sparrow themed events as part of Independent Booksellers Week.

First up on Sunday was the fantastic A Midsummer Mystery, in the lovely St-Annes-on-Sea. The event was organised by fabulous independent bookshop Storytellers Inc and took place in a suitably mysterious venue.

I was joined at the event by four amazing children’s authors, and fellow Mystery Girls Robin Stevens, Helen Moss, Kate Pankhurst and Elen Caldecott – the Famous Five, if you will.

We each talked about our mystery themed-books and (in between bunbreaks in the Green Room) took part in a mystery of our own. We were all suspects in The Case of the Missing Manuscript, and had to be questioned by the Inspector about the strange disappearance of the latest crime novel manuscript from the study of famous local author Davinia Carruthers-Henley.

The young audience were responsible for working out which of us was the culprit. Elen and Kate were early suspects but in the final denoument it was revealed that none other than Robin was in fact the dastardly villain behind it all! (Although her crime proved to be fairly forgivable, as she didn’t really want to steal the book – just read it before anyone else…)

Having a laugh with Kate Pankhurst and Helen Moss - photo by Robin.

Having a laugh with Kate Pankhurst and Helen Moss in the Green Room – photo by Robin.

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Robin got the children to come up with their own mysteries – so of course The Mystery Girls got in on the action from the Green Room.

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Kate Pankhurst drew our cover

We even made the local paper!

We even made the local paper!

The Mystery Girls!

The Mystery Girls!

Kate also drew an amazing illustration for each of the author’s event – here’s her take on Sinclair’s:

For lots more about A Midsummer Mystery, check out Luna’s Little Library’s brilliant Storify of the event here.

The next day, I headed back to St Annes for a day of events with Storytellers Inc. In the morning, Robin and I headed to nearby Heyhouses School for my first ever school event! Naturally, it started with a disco…

Robin all ready to get mysterious!

Robin all ready to get mysterious!

Love this picture of James reading along with Clockwork Sparrow (courtesy of Robin's website)

Love this picture of James reading along with Clockwork Sparrow – photo by Robin

In the afternoon there was time for a quick walk on the beach before it we headed back to Storytellers Inc some book signing and two sessions with a local Cub Scout group – I really loved talking to them about all their favourite books.

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Lovely St Annes beach

Amazing Clockwork Sparrow themed display at Storytellers Inc

Amazing Clockwork Sparrow themed display at Storytellers Inc

Tuesday was quite a special day – I went back to my own old primary school, Abbey Village Primary, for a school event organised by another fantastic Lancashire indie – Ebb & Flo in Chorley.

It was amazing, if a tiny bit surreal, to be back in my old school, and talk to pupils.  I loved books, reading and writing when I was at primary school, but we never had an author visit. Abbey Village is a little school in a small Lancashire village, and the most exciting book-related occasion was when the mobile library visited us once every few weeks! For that reason, it felt extra special to meet a new generation of Abbey Village pupils and talk to them about books and writing. Who knows whether some of them might be children’s authors and illustrators of the future?

Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!

Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!

In the afternoon we headed back to Ebb & Flo to sign some books, and then we went on to nearby Adlington Primary School for another school session. It was so lovely to meet children in all the schools I visited and I was super impressed by their enthusiasm for reading and their knowledge of lots of  books.

Finally we finished the trip with what else but tea and cakes in a gorgeous vintage tea room?

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The Old Stables Vintage Tea Shop in Chorley

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The perfect finale to our mini Lancashire tour!

I came back with a whole haul of gorgeous purchases from two fantastic Lancashire indies, and some lovely gifts from them too (including, of course, some Chorley cakes!)

Thanks so much to Storytellers Inc and Ebb & Flo for organising such fabulous events – I hope to come and visit you again soon!

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Happy Book Birthday Clockwork Sparrow!

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The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow officially publishes… TODAY!

I had such a wonderful time celebrating the launch of the book at Daunts Books on Marylebone High Street earlier this week!

Hats a-go-go with Melissa, Katie and Louise at the Clockwork Sparrow launch

Hats a-go-go with Melissa, Katie and Louise at the Clockwork Sparrow launch

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Lots of Clockwork Sparrows in the Daunt Books window!

Beautiful Edwardian bookshop Daunts was the perfect setting for our Clockwork Sparrow celebration. Everyone was instructed to come along in their finiest millinery for the occasion, and family and colleagues all helped out with everything from hat creation to cake-baking to make the evening extra special.

We had a sumptuous spread of afternoon tea-style refreshments – dainty finger sandwiches made by my Book Trust colleagues and a veritable feast of cakes including gorgeous Clockwork Sparrow cupcakes courtesy of my editor Hannah, delicious tea loaf made by my husband Duncan, and an amazing gin and tonic cake baked my publicist Maggie. My agent Louise had even created little ‘Sinclair’s’ paper bags stuffed with sweets!

Just look at these gorgeous cakes featuring Julia Sarda’s awesome artwork

Of course, we also had to have appropriate headgear to wear. Ahead of the event, my mum had decorated a whole host of amazing Edwardian-style hats, and together, my mum, dad and I customised an old suitcase to become a Sinclair’s trunk, stuffed with beautiful millinery.

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Everyone enjoyed getting in on the action and trying on a hat (or several) over the course of the evening. Look at all these lovely folk:

 

Lots of lovely #ClockworkSparrow launch details courtesy of @ninacd A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

 

My friend Rosi even brought along this amazing Sinclair’s themed gift!

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It was such fun to have so many people come along to raise a glass to Clockwork Sparrow – what a truly amazing celebration.

Many thanks to everyone for all your help to give my first book such a splendid welcome – and happy book birthday to Clockwork Sparrow!