Friday, 21 November 2014


We meet young illustrator Holly whose first published book might just set her on the road to stardom…

Holly says:
I'm a lifelong vegetarian and have always loved animals. At school, I loved art and English and have always loved doodling and writing stories. I left school last year with three A grade A levels, but chose not to go to university because of the rising student debt situation. Instead, I took a part time job as a barista and launched my own mural business. For some years I've worked Saturday's at Formby Books - I even painted a mural on their wall with a fairy tale animal theme. My boss Tony has always encouraged my artwork and the manager, Bob, said he felt the characters in my mural had a story to tell. I think the mural is where the idea for the book started!

Red squirrels are famous here in Formby, and one of the main attractions for visitors. I designed a logo of a squirrel saying 'Save Our Shops' for local businesses to display; Tony nicknamed him 'Squish' (I wasn't too happy about that to start with!) and Bob suggested writing a story about him. Bob was easy to work with - he didn't give me deadlines for the illustrations, but I always had a new image to show him each Saturday. It was great feeling to finish the book and see the artwork alongside the text… it's a children's adventure book with a conservation feel so I think it will be popular. Copies of A BUSHY TALE are available from Amazon for £6.99 and from Formby Books, 5 The cloisters, Halsall Lane, Formby, Liverpool L37 3PX. We can sign and post copies to anyone who is interested for that personal touch! On Saturday 22nd November we are having a book launch at Formby Books… if you're local, do come along!

My dream is to become a children's author and illustrator; it's what I have always wanted to do. When I was little I used to write books about animals and illustrate each one. I'd like to see my mural painting business take off, too… I've had some great commissions from schools and individuals so far. It's lovely to paint characters on the wall, bringing a room alive… and to see children choose their favourite parts of the picture! My long term dream is to open an animal sanctuary for rescued animals, have a little cottage and write and illustrate my books in a lovely countryside setting.

Cathy says:
I've met Holly and seen her fabulous bookshop mural… and I will be ordering a copy of A BUSHY TALE, too! Have you ever dreamed of illustrating a book? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Reader Lauren tells DREAMCATCHER what it's like to take part in a professional theatre production…

Lauren says:
Earlier this year, I had the amazing opportunity to take part in a theatre production called Full Moon. It was a fusion of ballet and African dancing, with music composed especially for it; that's where I came in! I was with the National Youth Orchestra down in the pit, just to the front of the stage. I was made Principal Cellist, which was all pretty nerve wracking. No pressure, then! We each had a microphone - I was very impressed with the fact that each one was made specifically for each instrument: I took a photo of mine, and there it is, clipped onto my strings so everyone in the theatre could hear what I was playing. It was the first time I'd been part of a professional production, and I really loved it!

It was a totally new experience to work with dancers… often we would have to speed up or hold back the tempo according to the speed of their movements, and we had to play so many things that weren't even in the music in order to fill in any gaps! It was a run of fourteen shows, and I really enjoyed the routine of it all. During the interval, we'd go to the restaurant in the foyer for drinks, then all of us (including the conductor) would rush back when the bell went! Of course, having a bunch of teenagers and young adults in a pit brings problems of its own. There was a full-on love triangle and other romantic entanglements, resentment between some musicians… and on the second last night of the show we had to call in the standby conductor because the usual conductor's wife had gone into labour!

The funny thing is that we orchestra players never actually got to watch the show, since we were so busy the whole time providing the music. Except for one guy, whose double bass string snapped halfway through a performance, so he was allowed to go see; he reported that the costumes, special effects (especially the giant swinging pendulum) and overall spectacle were amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the production and I met some wonderful people there; I sorely missed it when it was all over.

Cathy says:
I love Lauren's insight into life in the orchestra pit… a love triangle? Who knew! Have YOU ever taken part in a big show? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Another in our series of readers problems… as solved by the Chocolate Box sisters! Reader Kia has a question for Honey…

Kia says:
Three years ago my parents split up. They said they would stay friends, and although Dad left he promised to stay in touch with me and my younger brother. He did at first, but now he has moved to Wales for work and is living with a new girlfriend who has kids too. We are too far away to see him now. He hardly ever calls anymore either, and I am scared he will forget us. It was my birthday last week and all I got was a text in the evening and a promise he'd post a cheque, and I think that was only because Mum texted to remind him. I took the split in my stride but I feel like my heart is breaking now. I feel like Dad's replaced us.

Honey says:
Kia, I know how this feels. I was always Dad's favourite and I never believed he could let me down, but he did. I was devastated when he moved to Sydney, so I do understand how you felt when your dad moved away. When I went to stay with Dad I thought we'd get close again - he does love me, I know, but he isn't much good at being a dad. I am sure your dad loves you too, but he may be so busy with his job and his new 'family' that he doesn't remember things like birthdays. My dad is rubbish at all that stuff, too.
I don't think that your dad has replaced you, just that he may be like my dad and is not very good at keeping two lives running at once, so he concentrates on the new life and forgets sometimes about what he has left behind. This is hurtful, but he doesn't mean it to be, I know that. I stay in touch with letters and emails now, and Dad is getting better at staying connected. Find out which ways your dad likes to stay in touch - phone, text, Skype, letter - and use that. And remember that if he does let you down a bit just now, it won't be out of malice but just from not understanding how much you need him. I didn't really succeed at rebuilding things with my dad when I went to Australia, but I will try again one day. And meanwhile I will live my life, with or without him, and I will make that life as good as it possibly can be. I think you should do the same. And good luck!

Cathy says:
Do you agree with Honey's advice? Is there anything you would add? COMMENT BELOW to tell Kia what YOU would do in her shoes… 

Monday, 17 November 2014


Do YOU put on a mask for the world to see, yet feel that nobody knows or understands the real you? Readers talk about what it's like to hide your true feelings…

Gwen says:
I am actually a really shy and vulnerable person but I hide behind a loud and boisterous facade. I act like I don't care and pretend that I don't like people, that they don't bother me. It is a kind of armour that I wear. Beneath it, I am shy and sensitive and I like hugs and romance and cuddles… I am not sure people at school would always understand that though, from the way I act. It's a kind of self-protection.

Blaze says:
Gwen, I am like that too, but I never used to be. Something happened to me last year which was quite shocking and horrible for me, and I began holing up inside a little shell of fake 'confidence' and nobody can see that on the inside I am breaking down. I sometimes drop my guard and people notice - and then I feel quite vulnerable and scared. My life is SUCH a mess and I don't want people to see that.

Clare says:
Oh, Blaze, that sounds awful. Is there someone you could talk to about what happened? A friend? A teacher? You can't keep all that inside all the time. I hide behind a 'happy, carefree' mask sometimes, because I am a very private person and my friends are quite gossipy and they do judge people. Things are not great for me at home, nothing serious, but it's not ideal. And I don't want my friends to know all that. Seriously, though Blaze... I think you should try to confide in someone.

Blaze says: 
Thing is, Clare, I expect some people would comfort me. My friends, anyway… but others would sneer and be really mean to me about it. And I'd break down, I know I would. It would make things awkward for people… I can't really explain it any more than that, but that is why I hide behind a 'mask'.

Jo says:
Blaze… I can really identify with that. I quite often hide behind a mask when at school or with friends, because I hate the thought of being rejected  or judged. I self-harm and I know that people would judge me for that, and for the fact that I sometimes feel very low. For my whole life I have been judged for the way I act, the way I look, my weight… all of it. They never take the time to get to know me, they just make snap assumptions and often get things wrong. So… I put on a face that says, yes, I am strong… everything is fine… even though it really isn't. I'm breaking on the inside.

Clare says:
I am going to say the same thing to you Jo… you really do need to talk to someone. It's quite scary how  we don't know how other people are feeling just because they put on a brave face or a tough face. Maybe it's time we all became more honest with each other. But it's easy to say that… I suppose I will go on using my 'happy, carefree' mask because it's simpler that way. Safer. Does that sound crazy?

Jo says:
No, it's what I do, what we all do I think, so I understand. I am seeing my school counsellor and he is the only person I can talk to about the self-harm and eating issues. It helps to talk to him, but when I leave school I'll have nobody to go to when I need that little boost of confidence, that little push so I know I can do something.

Clare says:
You know what? We may only be chatting online, but we are being honest… that's important. And we're not judging each other, we are trying to help. Thanks for making me feel less alone, anyway… all of you. And good luck.

Many thanks to Gwen, Blaze, Clare and Jo for their honesty; names have been changed to protect identities.

Photos modelled/ styled by Charlotte & Emma.

Cathy says:
This is a sad and serious discussion, but it shows that we really can't judge others… those who seem happy or even loud and boisterous may be hiding a much more vulnerable side. Do YOU ever hide your true feelings? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Some of you may have read on DREAMCATCHER about a campaign I have been part of, to stop the closure of eleven Liverpool libraries. Has this story got a happy ending?

Cathy says:
On Monday 10th November the Mayor of Liverpool went onto local radio to announce that all eleven of the threatened libraries would stay open. This is an amazing turnaround, marred only by some very nasty comments about the campaigners and an insistence that they had not influenced his decision in any way. I think it's safe to say, though, that the amazing people who worked together to try to save the libraries have done just that! Eleven year old campaigner Elysce created an online  petition which gained over 3000 signatures in a few weeks. She also encouraged her school to write 'love letters to Liverpool libraries' which were sent to the mayor to ask for the libraries to be saved. I caught up with Elysce to see how she was feeling about the library news!

Elysce says:
I wasn't sure when I first got involved whether I would be able to keep the libraries open, but I was hopeful that the Mayor of Liverpool would listen to everyone and understand that libraries are not just buildings. I didn't think he would break our hearts.
My friends and family were all very supportive. Some of my friends at school helped me to collect lots of signatures from classmates for my petition. My nanna also asked all of her friends to sign the petition and got lots of people to support me. It was a challenging thing to do, though. It was not easy to speak in front of so many people at the first demonstration, but I did it. I was also very nervous when I was interviewed for the radio, but it was all worth it, and fun as well!

I was overjoyed to hear that the libraries have been saved. I couldn't believe the mayor had actually listened to us. I am so proud of myself and of everyone who took part in helping to change his mind and make him realise that libraries are important to people in Liverpool. When I heard the mayor was being nasty about the protestors, I was outraged. He had constantly said the libraries were closing and that there was no money to save them. I think if we had not all stood together and made our voices heard, he would have closed the libraries so he is wrong to say the campaign made no difference. I was also very upset when he insulted the authors who helped us, that was really mean. All they have done is work hard to save our libraries.

I have learned a lot from this experience, but sadly one of the things I have learned is that people are not always truthful. Mostly, though, I have discovered that if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. I have gained the confidence to believe that I can really make a difference.

Cathy says:
What would YOU campaign for if you thought you could make a difference? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Friendship is the glue that holds our lives together… no matter what our age!

Cathy says:
I've been thinking a lots about friends this year. Some of my best and loveliest friends have had big birthday parties this year, and going to each party has meant re-connecting with other old friends and even making new ones. I feel very lucky to have such amazing people in my life, because although these lovely friends are spread out all around the UK and beyond, they mean the world to me. And as a shy, lonely teenager, I felt like I might never meet people like this.

As a child, I was outgoing and confident… I had plenty of friends both at school and in the streets around where I lived. My first friend ever was Keith, the boy next door - that's him in the photo above, with me in a the tartan pinafore dress and his cousin Penny in the shorts. I remember really envying her beautiful red hair! Secondary school was harder… I had friends, and I'm still in touch with some of them, but I felt very shy and on the outside of things a lot of the time. By the time I got to art college, things were looking up, and I made some fab friends at that time. My best friend in those years was Lesley, one of a bunch of awesome young people I shared a student house with. Lesley taught me loads and I was devastated to lose touch with her in my mid twenties. Years later she tracked me down and we have stayed in touch ever since, mainly via the internet because she now lives overseas! In the picture above, Lesley is sewing something… and I have crimped hair! Some things never change! 

I met Helen, one of my best pals ever, on the day we both started work as teachers… she was teaching physics and I was teaching art, and we got chatting at the bus stop after school and bonded over hot chocolate fudge cake at a cafe in town. Although we no longer live in the same place, we see each other lots and I was lucky enough to be at her wedding (a second-time-around one) and birthday party this year. Then there's Sheena, who I met through another pal, and who quickly became a best friend also. 
She is a silversmith and now lives in France, but she means the world to me. One of my best pals when I lived in Scotland was Jessie - I am writing this in her house because I'm visiting for her party tomorrow! We live a long way apart now, but I know we will never lose touch. Other birthday party girls this year include Fiona, whom I've known since our days working on Jackie mag together, and Denise, an awesome Irish artist I have also know forever. There are so many lovely people I am lucky enough to call my friends… and I know that their love and support has got me through the hardest of times. So if you ever wonder if you're going to meet the 'right' friends, or find people who understand you… don't panic. You will, if you're open and honest and willing to give as much as you take. Friendship isn't always forever, but it can be… and it's one of the most important things in my life. Naaawwww...

And… the good news is that the wonderful MY BEST FRIEND ROCKS comp is going to be back and better than ever for 2015… yay!!! COMMENT BELOW and tell me why YOUR best friends are fab… and watch out for the comp next year!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Another look at classic children's books my readers really recommend... have you read any of these? Pick one and give it a try!
Kym says:
I am not 100% sure why Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my favourite books… it's hard to pin it down! I actually saw the Disney film before I read the book. I have always loved stories with great imagination and something that steps away from 'real life'. I am also a sucker for good artwork, and this book is SO beautiful. Some of the editions of Alice I've seen really do stand out. Roald Dahl's Matilda is another one of my childhood favourites. I had a rough childhood and that book always brought comfort to me. I always keep my eyes out for Matilda books because I like to collect as many different editions as I can!

Hazel says:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is my favourite classic book. My mom even has copies of the first two volumes, published in 1878 (and no, she wasn't born then)! The book is about the four March sisters and is set during the American Civil War. The sisters are Meg, the oldest, who is good and loves pretty things; Jo, the tomboyish bookworm and aspiring author; Beth, kind, shy but a brilliant pianist; and Amy, the youngest, stubborn, a bit vain and an amazing artist. The four sisters and their friend and neighbour Laurie get into situations that will make you laugh, cry and gasp. There are tears, laughter, hate, pride and even a touch of romance. This is the first proper 'classic' I read and I love it. I've now read it over and over and I don't think that will ever stop!

Gemma says:
I first read Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery when I was nine; it was confusing to begin with and I don't know how many times I read and re-read those first few pages. A year later, two other friends and I started to read it again and this time I loved it. It reminds me of my childhood, and it was the first classic I ever read… I've read heaps since then! I love it, because it makes me laugh every single time at Anne's antics. I did have a beautiful paperback copy that I got for my ninth birthday, but I lent it to someone and never got it back. For anyone who gets a chance to read this book, I highly recommend you do!

Lauren says:
Snow White and Rose Red is quite a special story to me, and mainly because of my mom - you see, this book was hers as a child, and when I was growing up she often read me this story and all the others in the book, such as the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The story is about two young girls who take care of a bear. In the end, it is revealed that the bear is actually a prince who had been put under a spell… so there's a marriage and a happy ending! However, what makes it special is that with our long hair, my blonde older sister and I somewhat resemble the girls in the story now! Also, red happens to be my favourite colour, so Mom often calls me Rose Red now!

Cathy says:
Oooh… is your favourite classic book here? If not, COMMENT BELOW to tell me about it… I may invite you to take part in a future DREAMCATCHER feature on fave classic reads!