Saturday, 28 November 2015


Reader Mitchie tells how she came to write and publish her own book at the age of just fifteen… impressed? Read on, you will be!

Mitchie says:
Writing a book takes time. Every day I would come home from school and write one thousand words. Some days were easier than others. Sometimes I'd sit at my computer for almost five hours, trying to figure out what to write and if any of it even made sense. Sometimes I would be done almost immediately and would jot down notes about the next couple of chapters because I was on such a roll. But now, a year and four months later, my book is finished, edited and available on Kindle for everyone to read.

NIGHTINGALE went through a lot of different versions before this one. Frentiss was once a girl called Hanna, and some characters didn't even exist. Much of the plot went through about four re-writes, but hey, that's sort of how it works. You have to want to write. You have to want to be able to finish and keep going, Like I said, it takes time! I hate planning stories with a passion - I always have a very undeveloped idea, or maybe an ending, but I never know how to put it all together. I came up with the idea for this story two years ago, but didn't start writing this version until last April. I finished at the beginning of August and it's only now being published. It's not easy, I can promise that. But I love it. That's partly why NIGHTINGALE exists now.

People had a huge input into the story. One of my best friends Lily would sit with me in History class and I'd ask for advice on the next chapter, or how to make a scene less clich├ęd. My friend Stevie named Frentiss and read early drafts of the book. My aunt is a published author and gave me tips and motivation throughout. Cathy Cassidy, a friend of my dad's, supported me and encouraged me not to give up. Even agents and publishers told me never to give up - a lot of people supported me and were interested in what I wanted to do. They helped me get there, and I will always be grateful for that.

You can download a copy of NIGHTINGALE here for just 99p… what are you waiting for?

Cathy says:
I've chatted with Mitchie a few times about writing, plotting and following your dreams, so I am thrilled to see that she's worked so hard to turn her dream into a reality! I'm off to download a copy of NIGHTINGALE right now… how about YOU? Have you ever tried to write a book? Or succeeded? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 27 November 2015


It doesn't matter how cool or classy our name might be, the impulse to tweak and change it is always going to be strong! We asked readers to tell us about their awesome nicknames and how they evolved!

Boo says:
My real name is Bethany but I have never been a girly girl… I am and always have been proud to be a geek. My parents called me Betty Boo when I was a toddler but as I got older and saw the real Betty Boo I knew that image wasn't me. Mum has always encouraged me to be myself, and I decided I would keep the nickname Boo… that had always seemed perfect to me. The nickname makes me proud because all my friends and loved ones use it… if someone calls me 'Bethany' I know I must be in trouble! Sometimes people laugh at my nickname but I don't care, because i like to be unique. I'll never give up my nickname - it's my identity, and I'm happy being me!

Blue says:
My nickname came about because I had blue hair and a new friend who had such an awful memory he couldn't remember my proper name. Well, to be fair, he remembered it pretty fast but he went on calling me Blue because it suited me… and not just because of my hair colour. He reckoned blue was a very decisive colour - something's either blue or it's not - and he thought that matched my nature. I kept the nickname because I liked how it sounded and it's just my name now… everyone calls me that apart from my family! I might even legally change it one day… I just have to decide on a new surname to go with it!

Phoebe Owl Eyes says:
My nickname is Phoebe Owl Eyes. It started off because I had to wear very strong prescription glasses from quite a young age, and as a result of this, a boy once told me I had eyes like an owl. I was eight at the time and it really upset me, but actually owls are beautiful and amazing and so as time went on I decided to claim the nickname. Over time, it has become a big part of who I am. I collect owls now and use the nickname lots… it's me! I'll always be Owl Eyes and I'm happy about that now… it's funny how a childish comment has ended up being an important part of my life!

Kiwi says:
My name is Kiramae but everyone calls me Kiwi. I love the nickname because it is unusual and quirky and that's the kind of person I am, so it fits! I don't know exactly how it came about. I know I came into school one day and my friend had seen a random picture of a kiwi and was talking about how perfect it was, and suddenly it was being used as a nickname for me! I guess that Kiramae is quite unusual to start with, but it's cool to have a name people have invented for you. Most nicknames are just the actual name shortened, but mine is different and I like that it's unique and original!

Cathy says:
Loving all these cool nickname stories! Do YOU have an unusual nickname? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 26 November 2015


Reader Deborah has been supporting Epilepsy Awareness month this November… find out how, and what you can do to help!

Deborah says:
I've been a supporter of Epilepsy Awareness for a few years now. I first became aware of epilepsy when my form tutor told us she had the condition - I was eager to find out more and was so sad to see how much it can affect people, children in particular. I found out about people like Haley who has Dravet Syndrome with severe tonic-clonic seizures whenever she falls asleep; this affects her family badly and also her learning. I was upset to see someone of my own age not having the opportunities and privileges I have because of epilepsy. I wanted to do what I could to help.

I discovered events like Purple Day - March 26th - and now Epilepsy Awareness which runs throughout November. This year on March 26th I wore purple and handed out awareness ribbons made of loom bands to people in my school choir. We travelled to three different schools to singer Easter songs and I was able to flash my bracelets and highlighted purple hair extensions as I sang. I've also uploaded two videos on Epilepsy Awareness and how people can help.

This year for awareness month I decided to do something different - for each day of the month I am taking a picture of something purple I have worn or seen and posting it onto Facebook. I'm calling the project Purple Pics for Epilepsy Awareness and linking it to the charity End Epilepsy on Facebook. I chose to help people with epilepsy because I want them to have normal lives and that a miracle treatment may yet be found. With the right effort and contribution to charities like End Epilepsy, we can work together to stop epilepsy from controlling people's lives. Raising awareness is a start, I am ready to do whatever it takes - are you?

Find out more about Purple Day…
End Epilepsy -
YouTube (my stuff) -
 YouTube (their stuff)

Cathy says:
Like Deborah, I have strong feelings about this illness because it has affected people close to me. I love Deborah's idea of posting purple pictures for every day of November! Have YOU ever done something cool to support a charity? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Katy has a question for Cherry Costello to unravel… will she have wise words to share?

Katy says:
There are thirteen girls in my tutor group, including me, so whenever we need to work with partners someone is left out… and it's always me. I'm either left alone or have to pair up with a boy, and when we have free time in tutor group I am alone too and have nobody to talk to. I have tried starting a conversation but my classmates ignore me, as if they can't even hear me. All of my friends are in a different tutor group, which doesn't help. In Year Seven and Eight I was fine and could talk to anyone, but this year I feel like an outsider. Please help!

Cherry says:
I have been an outsider too, so I understand how hurtful this kind of situation can be. Ideally, being with your friends would help… but that may not be possible, so it would be useful to know why the girls in your group are being so unfriendly. Can you talk to your form tutor and explain how you're feeling? He/she may be able to find out why there seems to be such hostility and where it stems from, and perhaps help to smooth down any misunderstandings. You're not asking for miracles, after all, just a friendly word now and then or permission to join in sometimes. Confidence is key, so work on building up your self esteem if you can - the Cathy Cassidy book LETTERS TO CATHY has some helpful sections on this. Join groups outside of class and widen your friendship group, too… this will help you to feel less alone. Remember that school is not forever, and that a class can change at any time… one new pupil could change everything for you, so never give up hope.

Cathy says:
A very difficult situation… do you agree with Cherry's advice? What would YOU add to help Katy handle things better? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! If YOU have a problem for one of the Chocolate Box sisters, email it to me via the email link on and mark it DREAMCATCHER PROBLEM...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


For ninety minutes or so each night, we dream. All of us… almost every night… and the symbols and imagery in our dreams are a kind of universal language. Our guide to some of the more common dream themes - and what  they might signify!

Water is thought to symbolise emotions. Is the water murky, turbulent, dangerous, peaceful or calm? Whatever it's like, the chances are your emotions are feeling that way too. Time to think about your feelings and make sure all is well...

Dreaming of a house can represent the mind… if the house is orderly, attractive and clean, all is well; if the house is untidy, dirty or falling down, it may signify that some areas of your mental wellbeing have been neglected. Think about what the problem may be… and make a start on putting it right!

Dreams of falling may signify a strong sense that some aspect of your life is out of control… the fear this causes surfaces only in your dreams, but if you can identify the source you can try to put it right.

A dream of flying high can be exciting and awesome… and often reflects a surge of confidence and determination to achieve our goals. Harness that feeling in your waking hours, too!

Dreams of being chased can be terrifying, but are very common. It is thought that the trigger for such dreams is not linked to the fear of being hunted down, but of what is actually chasing us… trying to work out what we might be running from in our everyday waking life is the key to sorting dreams like this.

A dream or nightmare of being trapped in some way can symbolise an area of our waking life where we are in a situation that seems impossible to escape from, or are faced with a choice that is very hard to make.

Fabulous artwork by talented reader Rebecca… many thanks!

Cathy says:
Yikes… I used to have lots of terrifying falling nightmares as a small child… but now I hardly ever remember my dreams! Do YOU have vivid dreams? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 23 November 2015


Reader Irmina was a finalist in the 2015 My Best Friend Rocks competition… which may just make her a bit of an expert on friendships! Read her insights on friendship…

Irmina says:
Friendship… such an easy word with just ten letters… but there is so much more to it! It's always a great feeling to know that there is someone who will always have your back, someone who will be there for you through thick and thin, through hard times and happy ones. I'll tell you about my friendships… I was born in India and had lots of friends there, but when I was just four I moved to London, not even knowing English. I made many new friends.

My first friend was called Ameerah, but there were many more. By Year Three, I was often chosen to take new pupils around the school and by Year Six I had so many friends I felt very confident and happy. My best friends at that point were Patricia and Brigita, but then came secondary school and all my friends were split up and went to different schools. This was a difficult time. I spent a lot of time with Brigita at that point and neglected Ameerah, but when Brigita and I quarrelled Ameerah was there for me.

When I saw the 2015 My Best Friend Rocks comp on Cathy's website, I made a poster and entered with Ameerah, and we were in the top five final pairs. We didn't win the overall award but it was wonderful to be there and be a part of all those girls embracing and celebrating all of our friendships. Amazing! Friendship is never easy, though, Ameerah and I do fall out sometimes, and we go through times when we are upset with each other. It happens! Sometimes, if a friendship isn't running smoothly I think I would be better off alone, but I know I need my friends! No matter what happens, with friendship there is always hope!

I wanted to share something interesting with you. Remember those friends I had back in India? They still remember me after ten years… and I had forgotten them! Even long ago friendships can be revived, and you can never have too many friends! Friendship is not easy - it comes with millions of happiness and some bumps along the way,but that's fine because it's how we get closer as friends. I think a true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else can only see your smile!

Cathy says:
Awwww… wise words indeed! Do YOU have a best friend who means the world to you, or do you prefer to be part of a big group? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 22 November 2015


Reader Rosa writes about painful it can be to watch one of the people you love most in the world suffer from an eating disorder…

Rosa says:
My sister Jo is fifteen and I haven't seen her for three months. She is in hospital being treated for anorexia and the special unit she is staying in is almost 100 miles away, so although my mum and dad go to see her every weekend, I don't. And Mum says she wouldn't want me to see Jo at the moment, because she is so ill. I write to her, but she hasn't replied, and that hurts… I'm thirteen and all my life Jo has been my hero, and now she's so far away and she doesn't seem to remember me at all.

I hate her illness. Anorexia took my beautiful sister and ruined her, turned her into a person none of us even knew anymore. We tried to help but she was so clever and tricked us to go on hurting herself. Jo was very beautiful and always slim, and I didn't notice at first how obsessed she was getting with her size. I only know because I read her diary from last year, which makes me a bad person but I don't care because it had lots of entries about how how some boy had told her she could lose a few lbs and about how upset she was to have to buy a pair of size 10 jeans instead of an 8. She stopped eating and wrote about how she looked in the mirror and saw this huge, obese person looking back. When I found the diary I showed Mum, and that is how we found out really because up until then she had done a great job of covering it all up. Jo was so angry, though, and things haven't been the same for us since, but Mum says that one day when she's better she will thank me. I wish I believed that.

I suppose I wanted to write about Jo because it is very hard to be the little sister of someone who is trying to starve themselves to death. People say it is a sickness and I understand that, but Jo's sickness has destroyed everyone in the family. I hate it so much. I want my sister back. I want her happy and healthy and beautiful, not the skeleton girl she is now. She thinks she looks great, but she really doesn't.  Sometimes she looks like a little child, but a very sick one, and sometimes she's more like an old lady. In the middle of the night, I lie awake and think of her and wonder if she ever thinks of me, or if I am just the little sister with puppy fat she has left behind. Selfish, I know. Like I said, anorexia is destroying us all.

The powerful illustration for this feature was drawn by reader Courtney. Many thanks.

Names have been changed to protect identities.

If you want to talk to someone about an eating disorder, call Beat Youthline on 0345 634 7650.

Cathy says:
A heartbreaking post about how eating disorders can harm a whole family, not just the person with the illness. Sending love and support to Rosa and Jo and their family. Have YOU or someone you know struggled with eating issues? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...