Friday, 31 July 2015

ZAILA: DISABILITY INSPIRED ME TO WRITE!

Reader Zaila explains how a physical disability triggered her determination to follow her writing dreams…


Zaila says:
I am thirteen years old and I was born with dislocated hips. I didn't have any hip sockets, and so even after many operations in my life so far, I still suffer pain every day. I cannot run, I can't walk long distances and I have never been allowed to do activities like ballet or horse riding. The thing is, I just live with the problem. I suppose it's not that bad, really. I am used to it. I might be limited in my options, but there is one special talent found from those limitations… writing.

I am writing my own book, and I even have a publisher who would like to see the finished manuscript. For me, writing is a good feeling - an escape. I honestly think that my hip problem inspires me to write more… perhaps it is my way of coping. I love to write. I get lost in my worlds, my new fantasy worlds where my characters are my family and my words are my speech. Recently I went along to a Cathy Cassidy book signing and arranged to meet Cathy for a coffee beforehand, as standing in the queue would have been difficult for me. It was great to meet Cathy and discuss writing issues and ideas - and get my books signed, too, of course!

So for all those girls out there struggling with disability of some sort, you are amazing. You too will have a special talent, you just have to find it. For all the budding authors, keep going. It may seem hard, but don't write something unless your heart is in it. It's also OK to slow down sometimes, as long as you don't stop. I know from personal experience that finding a good publisher can be hard. I found my perfect match, but only you know what and who will work for you. If I can do it, anyone can! I really hope that you will be inspired by my story - look out for me in the bookshops!

Cathy says:
It was lovely to meet such a determined and inspiring young author… Zaila is not the kind of girl to let physical failings get in her way! Does writing help YOU to handle your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us how!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

LEAVING SCHOOL… HOW DOES IT FEEL?

Readers reflect on how it feels to be leaving school… and how to handle the challenges ahead! Lots of great advice here…

Saffron says:
I left primary school last year. For our leaver's trip we went on a Harry Potter Studio Tour and on the day of the leaver's disco we had a water fight! On the last day, we looked at old pictures and signed t-shirts… awww. Secondary is OK - it may seem big and scary at first but you soon get used to it!

Chloe says:
I left primary last year too. We had a huge leaver's party a few days before the end of term; all the girls went in a party bus and the boys arrived in a limo! On the last day we signed each other's shirts and had our very last assembly… we were given mugs with our portraits on and a scroll with everyone's names on too. It was bittersweet for me as I hadn't enjoyed the last few years of primary, but I knew I'd miss the teachers. I was petrified on my first day of secondary but looking back I don't know why. Secondary school is great - enjoy it!

Grace says:
I will be leaving primary in a few days and it is all about mixed emotions. We have Year R buddies, and we've helped to settle them into primary school… and we have to say goodbye, knowing we may never see them again. And they don't even know it. That can just break your heart in two. You also have lots of questions about secondary. What will the teachers be like? Will you get lost? Will someone help you if you do mess up? Will you make friends? What clubs will you be in? It's end of something, but the start of something too.

Khadijah says:
Leaving primary was the worst… leaving our friends and the teacher's who had watched us grow up. The last few days everyone was signing t-shirts and crying their eyes out. We had a parents' tea party where they came to watch us say our goodbyes… then there was a whole school assembly which made everyone cry. We sang the leaver's song and the Head read out a poem she'd written herself, then we looked at pictures of the last year and that was that… the end of primary.

Rhuadhan says:
I lived in the islands when I was younger but we moved to the mainland when I started secondary. I definitely miss primary school. It was fun going to school next to the sea…

Angel says:
We had a leaver's trip to Drayton Manor and a Hollywood themed prom! On the last day everyone was calm and nobody was crying… then the bell went and everyone started to cry, including me!

Zuzanna says:
As I write this, I am a few days from leaving primary. I've had my induction days for secondary and I am excited and nervous at the same time… it's strange to be leaving the school I've known for years. All this time I've wanted this to happen, but now I'm not so sure!

Kiera says:
I am leaving in a few days too… I'm anxious and upset to leave my friends and also the teacher who has helped me develop my writing skills and pulled me through the bad times. I feel like thetime has gone too quickly, that I am not yet ready to branch off. The Green day song Wake Me Up When September Ends keeps running through my head. 'Seven years has gone so fast… wake me up when September ends…' Those lyrics sink into me at the moment. There is one thing I am excited for… meeting new people. I want to make new friends and meet new people and high school is the perfect opportunity for that.

Molly says:
It can be the best thing ever to have a friend to rely on, but always let her know she can rely on YOU too, as she may need a helping hand sometimes. If you are moving schools, as I am in September, remember to keep seeing your friend and stay in touch with texts too. My friend (Lily) is fabulous and I will miss her lots, but this won't keep us apart. I'll also miss Chloe, Keira, Lucy, Poppy and Leah…

Cathy says:
I remember that mixture of worry and thrill when leaving primary school… but if you are moving on from primary this year, trust me, you are ready for the new challenge! How do/did YOU feel about leaving primary? Any tips for handling secondary school? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

LINZI: GIVING UP HOPE...

Reader Linzi has a problem… a boy problem. Honey Tanberry seems like the perfect sister to answer…

Linzi says:
Recently I was reading Cathy's book GINGERSNAPS and it made me cry. I feel awkward writing this, but it's because that book hit home for me. There's a guy, like Sam in the book, who has a musical soul, a smile worth more than money and a beat in every stride. I like him - a lot - but he's rich and popular and never notices me. Sometimes, he acts like he hates me. He has a perfect family while I am struggling with mine and giving up hope. I need someone to give me the confidence I need and I know I'll never get there by kicking myself in the heart. What do I do?

Honey says:
First of all, you need to stop acting like this boy is somehow better than you. He's not - he's just a boy, and so what if he's rich and popular? So what if he has the 'perfect' family? Those things don't make him better, nicer, cooler. They're just background details. What matters is what HE is like… is he cute, kind, funny, sweet? It's time you got to know him and found out. If you like him, talk to him, get to know him - make him notice you. (A little flirting usually works for this, but it may not be your style!)

Crushing on someone is fine, but if you want to take it further you need to put the work in and build a friendship… if he feels the same way, things should take off from there. If you'd rather keep it as a crush, that's fine too… sometime it's just as cool. What isn't a good idea is to list down all the reasons why this boy would never like you, which is what you're doing. Ditch the negative attitude, work on your self esteem and set yourself the task of getting to know this boy as a friend. It may lead to something more, but even if it doesn't you should gain a new friend out of it.

As for the struggles with family, tell me about it. If I could go back and do it all over again, I'd talk to someone - a teacher or a counsellor - and try to build a more positive relationship. It's too late for me - I messed things up and there was a lot of hurt on all sides. It's not too late for you… reach out to your family and find some ways to compromise if you can. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Strong words from Honey! Do you agree with her advice, or would YOU suggest a different approach? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

ZARIN: THE DAY WE MET CATHY!

When reader Zarin found out I was visiting a school near her, she campaigned to be allowed to go along - and her lovely teacher allowed Zarin and a friend to attend! This is what they had to say about the day…


Zarin says:
I simply adored the visit - I mean, we are talking about seeing my FAVOURITE author here! In the talk part of the morning, Cathy talked about her totally awesome and gorgeous books, especially  CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS and FORTUNE COOKIE. She read an extract from the books, and from the very first sentence I knew I would love them! Afterwards, the students went off to do lots of workshops themed around Cathy's book LOOKING GLASS GIRL, but we couldn't stay for that part alas. I did get to meet Cathy, have a chat and get my notebook signed… and I got a photo, too! I loved it all from start to finish and I wish I could rewind it all and do it all again!

Savannah says:
We sat down in this really large hall with lots of purple seats and in front of us was this huge screen featuring Cathy's books; below the screen was a picturesque Mad Hatter's Tea Party table which looked amazing! There was a cake stand with lots of cupcakes specially made to tie in with Cathy's book LOOKING GLASS GIRL - they looked so delicious I could have eaten the lot! Cathy started the session and gave us an insight to her books as well as telling us about her website and the DREAMCATCHER blog. Zarin kept whispering that she couldn't believe we were really there, and that was driving me nuts, but she is as big a Cathy cassidy fan as I am so I did understand how she felt!

Miss Mowe says:
As a school librarian, I felt it was a great opportunity to meet an author like Cathy Cassidy. The children were impeccably behaved… entertained by Cathy and by the wonderful activities lined up for them by Nuneaton Academy, who hosted the event. And guess what… now, the school library's biggest demand is for more Cathy Cassidy books… the children just can't get enough of them!

Cathy says:
Awww! Zarin had been emailing me for weeks before the event, on an almost daily basis… I was so glad her school allowed her to attend! A big thanks to Nuneaton Academy for hosting such a lovely event, and special thanks to friend and ex-pupil Neibh who helped to set up the visit. Have YOU ever been to a CC school event? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 27 July 2015

THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER...

Readers share their favourite holiday memories from years gone by…

Rachel says:
We went to Egypt the year before the Arab Spring kicked off. We did the most amazing things… we saw the pyramids and went on a train to Luxor and visited the Temple of Karnak there. We went to the Valley of the Kings and everything. Then on the last day we went in a hot air balloon above the valley and the River Nile, and we could see people's houses below, and they had no roofs on and you could see people getting up, because this was very early in the morning. When we landed it was a bit scary but an experience I will never forget. I would love to go back to Egypt again one day.

Macey says:
A caravan holiday in North Wales was my best holiday ever. Dad had been working all hours to try to save his business which was struggling, and things got quite bad between him and Mum. They split up for a while and Dad moved out for six horrible months. It was a time I don't like to look back on. In the end, he sold his business and took a job that was much less pressured and he and Mum began to talk again. He booked the holiday as a celebration that he was moving back home, and that we were a family again. It wasn't as flashy as holidays we had had when I was smaller, but to me it was perfect.

Kat says:
We never had a holiday abroad until I was about ten. We went to an island called Andros in Greece, and it was amazing. Our family went with another family we're all friends with, and it was so brilliant - our apartment was right by the beach and the water was so warm you could swim all day. We bought flippers and snorkels from the village shops, very cheaply, and taught ourselves to snorkel, and we played ball and sunbathed. I think having our friends there made it extra special and we all bonded more than ever. They have almost become like family to us. We have had joint holidays since then, but that first one was the best because it was the first time we'd been abroad and everything was so different and so cool.

Jessica says:
We go to visit family on the Isle of Skye in Scotland every year, and it's always the best time ever because I get to see my cousins. Everyone relaxes and we get so much freedom… we do lots of outdoor stuff and it all feels like an adventure. There is something about the place that feels so magical, I can't explain it. When I grow up I'd like to live on Skye, or somewhere wild and beautiful like that, anyway.

Illustration by the amazing Danielle… love this pic, many thanks!

Cathy says:
I loved reading these! I've had lots of lovely holidays and travel adventures… lots of happy memories! What has YOUR favourite holiday been? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

CHLOE: 'LIKE A GIRL'

Reader Chloe has a question that could get you thinking… and change the way you see yourself! Take a look!


Chloe says:
So… what is a girl? Is it a gender? Is it simply a group of people who are all the same? That's for you to decide, but choose wisely. I can assure you, there's a chance it will have changed by the end.

There's this insult - I like to call it the 'like a girl' insult. Do you run 'like a girl'? Fight 'like a girl'? What are the first images that come into your head when asked these questions? Cat fights? Skipping, stumbling and worrying if you've got sweat patches? Do you know when you tell someone between the ages of ten and sixteen this, their confidence could plummet? Do you know that when you use the 'like a girl' insult you could be offending not just one person but a whole group of people called females? Currently for girls everywhere, there is an image you must copy to be 'normal'. You must be born female, have perfect hair, you must wear make up, you must wear the right clothes, you must have flawless skin and a flawless figure. Basically, in other words, you must be perfect. Well, guess what, I'm not perfect, and I hate to break it to you… you're not, either. I know that sounds harsh, but I don't think of it that way because matter of factly, I know what a girl is.

My question for you is, how many times have people called you things or used the 'like a girl' insult on you? How many times has it brought you down? How many times has it made you feel hopeless and useless? Or like it's just not worth it anymore? Trust me, I've been there.

Now, what is a girl? Is it having pride in who you are? Is it doing stuff 'like a girl' and doing it proudly? Is it being so amazingly imperfect? Is it standing up for who we are as a female in society? You choose, because you have the right to be the female you want to be, the female you choose. Remember, female has no figure, size, race, eye colour, hair, body. It's free for you to choose that and everything else about you…

Watch the powerful 'Like A Girl' video/advert which inspired Chloe's words… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

Cathy says:
Wow… I love this video and I think Chloe's feature is awesome. When did 'like a girl' become an insult? I'm proud to be female, but I came across lots of judgements on what I could or should be doing as I was growing up, just because I was a girl. It wasn't as easy to brush aside back then. Do YOU feel pressured to act or look a certain way because you're a girl? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

MARIANNE: MY FIRST HORSE SHOW!

Reader Marianne goes to an international school in Tanzania, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in Africa… she tells us how riding helped her to settle into her new school.


Marianne says:
When I first started at ISM, an international school in Tanzania, I found it very hard to settle - until I found out that my best friends Laura and Jessica were having riding lessons. I went along to the stables one day and met Terrie, who owns the stable and the horses, and arranged to have a sample lesson with Priva, the main teacher. I loved that first lesson and rode a horse called Mango; I knew straight away I wanted to have riding as my sport. I soon progressed and was allowed to ride Mr Bean, a more advanced horse, although I was warned I couldn't really jump on him as he was scared of the jumps and tended to stop, making the rider go flying!

All the same, Terrie wanted me to ride Mr Bean in a horse show in a small town called Maji Ya Chai, nearby, so I began training. It was mostly dressage, but in my last lesson before the show Terrie led me over some low jumps. It was very scary, especially when she asked me to go by myself, and sure enough Mr Bean stopped and refused to jump, but I didn't really mind.

The day of the horse show was very wet and I was worried that Mr Bean would slip in the rain. As I mounted, I noticed that my hands were shaking with nerves, but I had no time to try to calm down - I was already late for the first off leading rein event! I did OK though, especially considering I hadn't practiced this event before. My next event was the dressage. The sun came out, which made Mr Bean tired and I couldn't get him to trot, so I didn't get placed in the end. Then it was lunchtime, but I was so nervous about the show jumping that I didn't eat a thing. When the time came, I rode Mango as she is good at jumping, and I cleared all the rounds and won second place. I loved being in the show, even though it all seemed quite posh and serious - and I love riding, because it's such a brilliant hobby and helped me to relax and settle into life in Tanzania!

Cathy says:
Wow… horse riding on the slopes of Kilimanjaro? How awesome does that sound! Fab feature, Marianne - and well done in your first horse show! Have YOU ever taken part in a horse show? Are YOU pony mad? COMMENT BELOW and tell us more!