Monday, 27 April 2015

WHAT MAKES YOU SHINE?

Reader Tash has some ideas on how to grab life and make it awesome… do you dare?

Tash says:
We hear a lot in life about 'making the best' of yourself, but how is that done? The only way is to find something unique about yourself, something that makes you shine! Break the monotony and dare to be remarkable! Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so make it count!

Finding a look that fits your personality can take time. Don't rush things… give your look time to evolve! Whether it's a smear of your favourite lipstick or a cool belt, try things out, experiment, learn to be your own shining star! Some clothes just make you feel comfortable in your own skin… if you feel special in a sky blue dress, go for it! You're beautiful, don't ever doubt it. You can push the boundaries and try different looks until you find what feels right for you, but don't be pushed into a look that feels awkward or wrong, no matter what your friends say. Maybe they've spent ages giving you a makeover, but if you show up at the school disco in a bikini, pillar-box red lipstick and electric blue eyeshadow, you are trying too hard! Stand up for yourself and make sure your friends stick to your rules… you need to feel confident, not terrified! Sometimes, finding just one detail that people associate with you can be enough to give you a signature look and link with your personality…

Why not try:
- lots of cool badges on school bag or lapel?
- a single, slender plait in your hair, whatever its overall style?
- a series of fun, funky belts?
- a flower in the hair?
- one particular colour you always include in your look?
- an armful of cute, jangly bracelets?
- a favourite perfume or body butter you always wear?
- cool trainers, Converse or cute ballerina flats?
- a big smile?

Whatever you pick, wear it with style and etch it into everyone's minds that you have that spark. Go ahead - knock 'em dead!

Illustration courtesy of reader Ishika: many thanks!

Cathy says:
Great suggestions… in time, we all find the right style for us, but experimenting is definitely part of the fun - and who says you can't change your style to suit your mood, too? COMMENT BELOW to tell us about your fave style statements!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

THE LAST GOODBYE...

Reader Roisin shares a bittersweet account of love and loss…

Roisin says:
My mum is a single parent and I've never known my dad, so my grandparents have always been extra important to me. They were younger than many of my friends grandparents, and quite adventurous and open minded. I remember Grandad taking me sailing when I was little and raising a pirate flag when we got out into the middle of the lake; he taught me to canoe and how to swim, how to pitch a tent and how to climb a tree. When I was seven, he took me on a weekend road trip to Scotland and we camped by a loch and went bird watching, and we saw tons of amazing birds and looked them up in a big book he had brought along. I also remember the time he decided to build a treehouse in his garden for me. Happy memories.

Grandad died unexpectedly last year, when I was thirteen. He had to have heart surgery and didn't come through it, and when he died it felt like the end of everything. He had been so important to me. He always told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and he always listened to me as though my views mattered. I knew he loved me and was proud of me, and we just got along so well, too. We understood each other. When I found out he'd died I thought there was some mistake, because it was meant to be a fairly routine operation and he was only just fifty. It didn't seem fair. I felt like I hadn't said goodbye, like there was so much left to do and say and that we'd never have the chance to do or say it, not now.

Mum was devastated too. I didn't like to talk to her about it in case it upset her more; he was her dad, after all. And Gran was just lost. One day, about a month after the funeral, I went to Gran's house and she wasn't in. I went round the back and into the garden and climbed up into the tree house and sat for ages, remembering old times, crying a bit. Then a bird came and landed on the wall of the treehouse, very still and silent, looking at me, just a few centimeters away from my face. I stopped crying, almost stopped breathing. For some strange reason I felt calm and some of the hurt lifted away from me, seeing this amazing creature so close. It was sort of magical. And then the bird flew away, and I went home, and Mum was listening to a CD by someone I'd never heard of, and the song was all about someone who dies and transforms into a bird. My heart was thumping so hard. I don't believe in ghosts and I know the CD thing was just a coincidence, but I do know something amazing happened that day. I never told anyone, not even Mum or Gran, because I thought they'd think I was making it up… but it was real, and it was a kind of message, I know it was.

Illustrations courtesy of reader Lucy - thank you!

Cathy says:
Roisin's story is very moving… and kind of magical, too. Coincidence or something more? COMMENT BELOW to have YOUR say!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

CHILDHOOD LOVES I LEFT BEHIND...

Did you have a hobby you loved as a child? A hobby you later dropped? We asked readers to share their memories of long lost loves…

Emily says:
I started going to ballet class when I was just two years old. I went to a small academy, and every year there would be exams and performances. As the years went by, I started doing jazz, tap and gymnastics too… I was one of the younger ones, but I was in a group with some fairly advanced dancers. When I was six, a music group came to our school and I was the only child who signed up for it. I loved it, but I was out four nights a week and Saturday mornings with all my dance commitments. It was too much - I just couldn't cope. The dancing was getting tougher, but I absolutely loved my keyboard lessons. I knew in the end that I had to stop dance classes - I had no choice, if I'd stayed I would have begun to hate it. I'm now studying for my Grade Four on a keyboard course; I study with older teens and love being pushed in something I actually enjoy. I know I made the right decision - I'm happy with what I did and what I didn't do.

Abigail says:
I used to do gymnastics three times a week, starting from when I was about five. I liked it but I didn't like all the coaches and I got upset if I couldn't do certain moves. A friend broke her leg on the beam, which really knocked my confidence; I got scared and the coaches lost patience with me. I got moved down a group, but my sister was still in the higher group and we were there most nights of the week. I wasn't happy and we moved club when I was seven. It was better for a while, but I was still scared of the beam and although I was competing in competitions I hated being under pressure. Before a competition I was always scared and tearful, and once I messed up badly and had to stop my routine. My sister had an injury and couldn't perform properly, and finally, aged ten, I quit gymnastics forever. It was totally the right decision for me, but still, sometimes I miss it. I still watch gymnastics if it's on TV and enjoy it.

Ruadhan says:
I wanted to be a professional rider from the age of three. My poster girl was Zara Philips and I watched Black Beauty and War Horse over and over. When I was five, I started lessons, and loved it. I thought it would all end when we moved to the city when I was eleven, but Mum found me a new riding school and I began to lease a horse called Mocha. I often stayed late to feed and groom her. The following year I entered my first cross country event and came second… but it was to be my first and last event. One day I was trekking with some friends. We were riding alongside a stream when something rustled in a bush and made Mocha rear up. I fell and broke my leg badly in two places. Eight weeks later, when I was well again, the riding school asked me to come back again, but I just couldn't - I was too scared. Now, two years on, I really regret it… I allowed fear to take away my dream.

Amber says:
I was really into dance as a child. I was in an after school club for many years  and earned four medals in exams. In every 'wishing jar' and notebook I still have from those times, I can still see the faint handwriting that reads 'I want to be a famous dancer.' Those messages have been erased and written over with a new dream, 'I want to study journalism at Cambridge University,' but traces of that original dream still remain. I regret stopping, as I became quite unfit. I'd devoted so many hours to choreographing dances, trying to make them good enough for me to audition for 'Got To Dance.' Quitting dance was probably the worse decision I've ever made.

Cathy says:
Interesting… some decisions here seem to have been made for the right reasons, and some not. Maybe it's not too late for Ruadhan and Amber to pick up their hobbies again and find the enthusiasm they once had? Have YOU ever dropped a childhood hobby? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

TAMSYN: RARA SKIRTS AND MEN WITH BIG HAIR...

Another in our fun series about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Tamsyn, who was a teenager in the 1980s…


Tamsyn says:
The eighties were such an iconic decade for fashion: Princess Diana style wedding dresses, puffball skirts, pixie boots, shoulder pads the size of houses. Dallas was on the TV, Madonna was in the charts and David Hasselhoff (yes, The Hoff) was fanciable. To quote Charles Dickens,  it was the best of times and the worst of times, although I don't think he meant RaRa skirts and men with big hair when he wrote that. Anyway, you might think growing up in such an era of glamour and sophistication would be amazing, but alas, I was The Girl That Fashion Forgot. I grew up in a small backwater of NW England called Barrow in Furness, made famous(ish) by it's shipyard. We had two clothes shops - one called Jesters, which sold what I can only describe as market-stall chic and another (whose name I can't remember) which sold Pepe jeans and jumpers with sad-faced clowns on. And that was it.

So, I wasn't stylish. Look at the jumper in the picture if you don't believe me… I seem to be accessorising with a koala. I remember going to the Year 8/9 party thinking I looked amazing in my candy-striped baggy trousers and white sweatshirt with a cartoon on it. I did not. It wasn't until I got my first Saturday job that I started to dress reasonably well, because by then the 20th century had finally arrived in Barrow in the shape of Etam and Topshop. There were still disasters, of course… let's not talk about the dungarees or the floral bermuda shorts or my misguided attempt to copy Kylie Minogue's crazy curls on the cover of her first album. Kylie pulled it off… I didn't. Imagine going into school with hair that looked like a poodle caught in a wind machine?

I reckon it took another fifteen years to work out what actually suited me, and I have growing up in the 80s to thank for that. Now, where did I put those rollerboots?

Cathy says: 
Brilliant! Tamsyn is actually one of the most stylish gals I know these days, and is also an awesome writer… check out her book 'Completely Cassidy: Accidental Genius' and her website here… http://www.tamsynmurray.co.uk/older-readers/books.html . Do you think YOU would have liked being a teen in the 1980s? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why… or why not!

VOTES FOR WOMEN!

There's a general election on May 7th, and political parties are campaigning hard to win votes… but did you know that British women didn't have the same right to vote as men until 1928?

Imagine a world where only men could vote; where married women were considered to be the property of their husbands and were not allowed to own land, study at university or make decisions and choices that might change their lives. This was how it was in Victorian Britain, and it's not a world I would want to live in. So how did things change?

A movement to campaign for votes for women began in the UK in the 1860s. The campaigners began by writing letters, holding meetings, seeking newspaper coverage and publishing pamphlets and magazines to spread their message; to begin with, their cause was seen as ridiculous, but by the 1900s they had gathered much support and were considered to be a threat. The campaign was no longer just the preserve of wealthy women… women from all classes and areas of life began to support and take part in trying to change things. The 'suffragettes' stepped up their campaign with stone-throwing, window smashing, chaining themselves to the railings outside parliament and Downing Street, hunger strikes and even arson; this did not always help their campaign, but certainly brought them publicity and raised awareness of the issue. Many campaigners were arrested, imprisoned and, if they chose to hunger strike, were force-fed in quite barbaric ways. Parliament passed the Cat And Mouse Act to try to stop the women from gaining public sympathy.

Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia were key figures in the movement, and in 1913 it gained its first martyr when activist Emily Davidson walked out in front of the King's horse at the Epsom Derby and was trampled and killed. Instead of sympathy, her death was reported in the newspapers as a 'suffragette outrage'. Ironically, it was the First World War which made the greatest change; with so many men away fighting, women began to take on work traditionally done by men, and views shifted on what women were capable of doing. Slowly, resistance to giving women the vote began to melt away, and in 1918 women over 30 who were householders or married to householders were given the vote. Ten years later, the age limit was lowered and the law finally ensured that when it came to voting, women had the same rights as men.

When the election campaigning gets dull and annoying, remember the women who worked so hard to gain us the right to vote. Many reading this will be too young to vote, but it's worth knowing that a vote is one way to have your say about the way things are done in your country. Some countries are run by dictators, and the people have no rights at all to change things… let's be thankful to the suffragettes who  helped to give the women of Britain a voice.

Cathy says:
Did YOU know about the suffragette movement? Do you think that voting is an important right, and if you were over 18, would YOU use your vote? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

CAITLIN: I GET TOO SCARED...

Reader Caitlin has a question for Coco Tanberry in our regular problem page series… will you agree with Coco's advice?

Caitlin says:
I really love music. I've been playing piano since I was seven and I've loved it ever since. I want to go on getting better, so I am doing my grade exams, but I'd also like to make more opportunities to play. The problem is that when I find something I could do or an event I could play at, I say I will go along on a certain day and then I get scared and say I'll go the next week instead, and finally I chicken out completely. I think I am scared of failing, or of not being good enough. How can I make more opportunities for myself when I feel so anxious inside?

Coco says:
How I wish I had your problem! I love music and I adore playing, but my family aren't impressed… well, let's face it, nobody is impressed. I may well actually be tone deaf. I think you have talent, because you are doing well with your piano - you just need the confidence to match. How do you get confident at something? By doing it lots, so it doesn't seem like a big deal. Practice makes perfect. The first time I gave a speech to my classmates about endangered species, I was terrified… there's a big difference between talking to your friends and sisters and talking to people who may not be so sympathetic. However, I made myself do it and the fear slowly ebbed away, and now if I have to do something like that I hardly think about it. Start gently. Do a short performance for friends and family, then perhaps for neighbours. Then play at a school event or do a concert at the local old folk's home… they will be so grateful and appreciative, I guarantee! Sometimes you just have to make yourself do the things that scare you… until they don't scare you anymore. Pretend to be confident - fake it till you make it. Don't give yourself the option of wriggling out of things… do what you've said you will do, and do it as well as you can. You'll be brilliant!

Cathy says:
I agree with Coco's advice… the way to conquer nerves is to make yourself do the things you are scared of. You'll survive, honest! What advice would YOU give Caitlin? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

YOUR REVIEWS… FOR LOOKING GLASS GIRL!

More fab reviews for my new book LOOKING GLASS GIRL… have YOU read it yet?

Cathrine says:
LOOKING GLASS GIRL is a young adult book… I am reading it because my niece is, so that we can chat about it. But I keep forgetting that, as the book pulls me in! It is a book about what it is like to be a young adult; how the friends you love and trust turn their backs on you and how perhaps the only way to find your way back to true friendship is to find, not them, but you. Yourself. It's a book about losing friends, loneliness, bullying, wanting to fit in, jealousy, guilt, love, forgiveness and standing up for yourself. And compassion! A book that mirrors what it is like to be a teen, while offering comfort and advice. I love it! If you know someone aged 10-16 (or 44…) this would be a perfect gift! 5/5.


Deborah says:
Wow. That's the only word I could think of to describe this book when I'd finished it. LOOKING GLASS GIRL is a perfect example of why I love Cathy Cassidy's books so much. They literally define the feeling of reading. This story is by far the best story based on a classic ever told - the character of Alice is absolutely amazing and I can relate to how she feels, what she does and how she sees the world. It left me totally inspired. The story had all the elements of the classic book but it still had me on the edge of my seat (well, bed!) desperate to know what happened next! I want everyone I know to read LOOKING GLASS GIRL… it's just so brilliant!


Charlotte says:
I got LOOKING GLASS GIRL last week and read it as soon as I got home. I was excited to read it, because Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland story has always fascinated me, with all the different characters and their personalities. I was interested to see what Cathy would do with the inspiration of this book. LOOKING GLASS GIRL was very emotional - I admit, I might just have shed a few tears! It made me think that what happened to Alice could happen to anybody… just because of an argument, because of jealousy. I was so relieved when the book had a happy ending… at some parts I was really anxious. I loved LOOKING GLASS GIRL - it's a book I will be reading over and over again.

Aleesha says:
Falling down the rabbit hole… or in love with a new book, at the very least. Does it make a difference? Both involve a journey into a new world, and Cathy Cassidy does not disappoint with her revitalised tale inspired by the classic Alice in Wonderland. In a modern parallel to the original story, Alice is abandoned by her best friends when they leave her for high-school paragon Savannah. When Savannah invites her to a Wonderland-themed sleepover, to make amends, things go badly wrong and Alice falls into a coma… and into Wonderland. It's up to her former friends and the boy-next-door to help bring her back. As an older teen, this book brings back Cathy Cassidy related nostalgia almost as strong as the Lewis Carroll-inspired nostalgia I feel for the original book. I recommend this book for older readers - it's good to embrace old memories - and younger readers too, as it's brilliant to make new ones! As for Cathy Cassidy - top hats off to you, ma'am, another brilliant book!

Cathy says:
Thanks for the fab feedback, folks! I am so happy LOOKING GLASS GIRL is doing well and causing a stir… exciting! Have YOU read it yet? COMMENT BELOW to post your reviews!