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!
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.
Afterwards there was even chance for a quick paddle on the nearby beach (it was a bit cold though!)
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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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:
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
Illustration from The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Julia Sarda.
To celebrate the publication of The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, what better than a blog tour? During publication week I popped over to one of five fantastic blogs each day, to share some insight into the book – the background to the story, and the real-life Edwardian history that helped inspire it.
Check out the blog tour here:
If you’d like to find out more about the background to The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, you can also check out this piece for the Guardian, about why I chose to write about Edwardian China Town.
I also took part in this celebratory Happy Book Birthday blog post over at MG Strikes Back.
And finally, I wrote this classics-inspired piece for Ya Yeah Yeah about how the classic detective story The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins helped to inspire The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth.
Thanks so much to all the lovely bloggers who took part for hosting me – and for helping to celebrate The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth!
World Book Day is coming up next week, on Thursday 3 March and there are all kinds of exciting things going on to celebrate reading! Like most authors, I have a busy World Book Day week in store, including the Weald Book Award ceremony, as well as lots of events in schools.
For anyone who might be looking for some extra Sparrow and Moth themed World Book Day fun, with perfect timing, I’ve just added some lovely new resources created by my publishers, Egmont, to my website:
Code cracking activity
Fancy yourself a bit of a detective? Put your code-cracking skills to the test and see if you can find the solution to this secret code puzzle, which will also reveal the title of the third book in the series, coming in early 2017! Download the puzzle
I love a bit of colouring-in myself, and if you do too, you can download one of three lovely colouring sheets with artwork from the books.
Choose from a Clockwork Sparrow, a Jewelled Moth, or a mysterious mask that you can then cut out and wear, perfect for a fancy-dress party like the one that Sophie and Lil attend undercover in The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth.
If you have a go at one of the colouring sheets, then don’t forget to send me a picture of the finished product – I’ll be making a new Pinterest board of your colouring creations!
On the subject of fancy-dress, I also wanted to share a few ideas for anyone who wants to dress up as a character from The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow or The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth for World Book Day!
There are lots of characters to choose from, but here are a few ideas to get you started – plus a couple of pictures to help inspire you (click the image to find the source). Of course you can find lots more inspiration for your Edwardian costumes on my Pinterest board here.
‘… she lifted her chin and set off smartly round the corner of the great building, the little heels of her buttoned boots clicking briskly over the cobbles. As she approached, her heart began to thump, and she put up a hand to check that her hat, with its blue ribbon bow, was at exactly the right angle, and that her hair was not coming down.
Dress up as Sophie on her way to work in the Millinery Department at Sinclair’s! Sophie would wear a long, dark-coloured skirt; a white blouse with a lace collar; and a straw hat with a ribbon round it. Sophie usually wears her long hair pinned up, but when she isn’t at Sinclair’s, she might wear it loose or in a plait.
‘Her cheeks were flushed with excitement: it had been her first night at her show at the theatre… and now she was on her way to the party. She was wearing a hat wreathed in poppies and she had a crimson scarf at her neck.’
Lil might wear glamorous clothes when she’s working as a mannequin at Sinclair’s, or performing in the theatre – but for ordinary life, she would wear an outfit very similar to Sophie’s. She likes bright colours – so you might want to add a colourful ribbon, or some brightly-coloured flowers to her hat.
‘He was wearing the Sinclair’s porters’ uniform – trim, dark blue trousers, a matching jacket with a double row of brass buttons and a peaked hat – but the jacket looked a bit too big for him, the trousers a bit short, and the hat was askew on his untidy, straw-coloured hair.’
Create your own version of Billy’s uniform from a dark-coloured jacket with shiny buttons, and dark coloured trousers – plus maybe a cap. Don’t forget that as a shop porter, he’ll need some brown-paper parcels or boxes to carry – and of course, a story stuffed into his pocket for when he can sneak away to read in secret!
‘He stood up in the gallery, high above the throng below. A champagne glass was in his hand, and he wore an exquisite dress coat over a snowy white waistcoat, against which a gold watch chain gleamed.’
Why not dress up as the Captain himself? Mr Sinclair is always very elegant: he wears a smart suit with a shirt and a bow-tie. You could add a pocket-watch, a top-hat, and a flower for his button-hole. Don’t forget a soft toy dog to be Lucky, Mr Sinclair’s pug!
Miss Veronica Whiteley
‘…she was dressed very beautifully in a much-ruffled, lace-trimmed ivory gown. She must be one of this season’s debutantes, and a particularly wealthy one at that.’
If you’ve read Jewelled Moth, you’ll have met new character Veronica – a debutante in Edwardian high society. Fashionable society ladies would wear long dresses, decorated with lace and ribbons. Debutantes like Veronica and her friends would usually wear light colours like white, pale pink or pale blue – bright colours would have been considered in very bad taste!
Remember to acccessorize with white gloves, a pearl necklace, or a lacy parasol – and of course, a hat decorated with flowers, bows or feathers. If you want to dress up as Veronica, you could even add a sparkly brooch to your costume to be the mysterious jewelled moth itself …
If you do dress up as a characters from Clockwork Sparrow or Jewelled Moth, be sure to send me a picture!
And if you’re looking for more ideas for fun bookish costumes, check out the Guardian’s gallery here.
However you plan to celebrate this year’s World Book Day, I hope you have a wonderful time!
The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth was published this week – and to celebrate, we had the loveliest launch party at Daunt Books Cheapside!
There were cakes and hats aplenty, and lots of friends in attendance to help welcome Jewelled Moth into the world!
Here are a just few of my many favourite pictures from the evening:
Celebrating in stripes with agent and top pal Louise Lamont.
Trying out the millinery selection with lovelies Claire Shanahan, Nina Douglas and Katie Webber.
With my mum and dad!
Huge thanks to everyone who came to help celebrate The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth!
I’m so thrilled that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016!
It’s on the shortlist for the Younger Fiction category of the prize, along with five other fantastic books:
- Bird by Crystal Chan (Tamarind)
- Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty (HarperCollins)
- Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder (Bloomsbury)
- The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (Puffin)
- My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons (Nosy Crow)
There are also lots of brilliant books shortlisted for the Illustrated Book and Older Fiction category of this year’s Prize – including lots of my favourites!
It’s particularly special to me that Clockwork Sparrow has been shortlisted for this prize, as the shortlist is chosen by booksellers in Waterstones stores. I’ve written here before about how much I love Waterstones: it’s so important that we have a top quality high street bookseller, with knowledgeable booksellers and a wide range of books.
I was inspired by Mel Salisbury who wrote this lovely blog post about being shortlisted for the Older Fiction category, to write a bit about my own relationship with Waterstones. We didn’t actually have a Waterstones in Chorley, the small market town closest to where I grew up (though these days you can find a great indie bookshop there – the lovely Ebb & Flo). But a trip to the big Waterstones in nearby Preston was about the most exciting thing I could imagine, and I can remember spending HOURS in the children’s section, luxuriating in the deliciously difficult task of choosing which books to buy with my Christmas or birthday money.
When I was 11, my mum and I moved a little further north to Lancaster, and I was thrilled to realise that we now lived just 10 minutes walk from a big Waterstones. I could go there as often as I wanted – and I did, feeling extremely grown-up and sophisticated. I knew that bookshop inside out, and spent a lot of time choosing a new Baby-Sitter’s Club title, or eyeing up the Judy Blumes. Lots of my favourite books came from that shop – I especially remember buying The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, A Little Love Song and Cuckoo Song by Michelle Magorian, and The Quantocks Quartet by Ruth Elwin Harris – which was one of the series that first made me interested in the Edwardian period.
It was apt that a few years later, I ended up doing work experience in that very same Waterstones, where the lovely booksellers were so welcoming and embraced my enthusiasm for all things bookish! A year or so after that, when a Saturday job became available, I was lucky enough to get it. I loved being a Waterstones bookseller, and had such a great time there that I even carrying on working occasionally during my holidays after I went away to university.
These days, Waterstones bookshops are some of my favourite places in London – from the glorious flagship store, Waterstones Piccadilly, to the gorgeous new Waterstones Tottenham Court Road where I recently went to hear Juno Dawson talk about her latest book Mind Your Head.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize ceremony for the last few years in the company of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, who has the job of presenting the prize to the overall winner. I’ve always loved having the chance to meet the authors and illustrators on the shortlist – it’s a dream come true to realise that this year, one of those authors will be me!
In other very exciting prize news, I’ve also recently found out that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2016. This is another really lovely prize, and one of the things that makes it special is that it’s not just a prize for a book’s author, but for its editor too – so I share my longlisting with my two wonderful editors, Ali Dougal and Hannah Sandford.
The prize is named for author Henrietta Brandford and her editor Wendy Boase: I love that it reflects the fact that a book is a real team effort, and recognises all the hard work of the editors as well as the author in creating the finished work.
Check out the 2016 Brandford Boase longlist here.