Monday, 22 May 2017

CHLOE: LOSING A PET

Reader Chloe writes about the sadness of losing a much-loved pet... and finding the courage to move on.

Chloe says:
Oreo was the best pet I could ever have wished for. I got him from a rescue on April Fool's Day 2016, and he was a lovely and very crazy rabbit! Oreo liked to play in the house and was very cuddly. We went for walks together in the garden and boy did I get plenty of exercise... he ran all over the place and I must admit sometimes he was very naughty! Oreo sadly passed away in October - he had a heart attack, we think caused by fear because a fox was in the garden. Even though he was safe in his hutch, he must have been very frightened. I really missed Oreo but I knew he had had a good life with our family, and I felt that eventually I would want to move on and find another animal to look after and love.

That happened round about Easter this year. They came from a pet shop, but they'd been there for almost a year, so I thought they deserved a proper home at last. We had looked at other pairs of rabbits but these two were definitely the favourites, so we named them Eeyore and Bambi - Eeyore is the grey female, and Bambi is the brown male. We took these little cuties home with us on the bus, in a special pet carrier. Their cage in the garden was already set up and waiting, so as soon as we got home we put them in and let them get settled. After a while, we brought them into the kitchen for more exploring, so they could be nosy and have a look around. Now, in May, they have settled brilliantly and are the most amazing and loveable pets. I think they're enjoying themselves, too!

Rabbits like to live in pairs, but it is best if they are neutered or you could end up with a lot MORE rabbits than you bargained for! Most rescues offer neutered rabbits only, and Eeyore and Bambi were neutered already so we didn't have to worry about that. Rabbits mostly need love and affection, but not all rabbits are as cuddly as you imagine. When it comes to food, rabbits need a balanced diet of hard pellets and fresh veggies. My rabbits love apples and they get treat bars once in a while too! Not all pets have a long life, but with affection we can make sure they have a happy one!

Cathy says:
I have two rescue rabbits and agree that they are happiest in pairs. Ours live in a moveable hutch most of the year, moved daily so they can have fresh grass; in the winter, they live in the greenhouse! Do YOU have a special pet you love to bits, or have YOU lost a beloved animal friend? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

ZARA: ONLY DEAD FISH GO WITH THE FLOW...

Reader Zara speaks out about the way we are judged for our looks - and the way we are all pressured to conform to what society expects of us...


Zara says:
We are all different. We all look different. We are all individual and we are all unique. Not everyone always sees this though. Many see their differences as flaws and try to change them - or at least, some do. Make up is one of the easiest things we can us to change our appearance - but it won't change you as a person. You can apply as much foundation and mascara as you want, but you can never be truly 'perfect' - if there is such a thing.

We are all perfect in our own way, the same on the inside, but the world does not tell us this. The people we know don't always ell us this either, but now I am telling you! You don't need make up or money to be happy, you don't need good grades or the best house. You need people who surround you every day, who know - as you should - that you are beautiful. You are kind. You are strong. All your flaws and imperfections, they are a part of you too and you wouldn't be the same without them. You wouldn't be the kindest person with the biggest heart, the most perfect smile, the most radiant eyes that could light up any room. That personality of yours - wow! You are understanding, you are empathic, you are the best friend that anyone could ever have, and nothing could change that.

Nothing should change that, because I don't want you to change. I hate change. I hate it when my local pizza shop changes the box, I hate it when I move house or fall out with friends. I regret not telling people every day how much they mean to me, but you know what? I am afraid. I'm afraid I will be picked on because of my voice, my 'stupid' accent that is so 'funny'. I am scared that every time I say something or do something that I am not good enough, not worthy enough of you. Of the rest of the world who look down with such condescending eyes, who tell me I should have a prettier face, a whiter smile, that I should wear make up to make myself look better and solve my problems. That I should be smarter and slimmer and should dance and like everything that everybody else does. That I should just 'Go with the flow.'

You know what? Only dead fish go with the flow. I am not a dead fish. I am a human being just like you. I should be treated the same. We are all human. We are all different. We are all the same...

Awesome artwork by talented reader Tyler - THANK YOU!

Cathy says:
Wow... so much food for thought here! Do YOU have an opinion on what Zara has said? Should we conform, go with the flow? Or celebrate our perfect imperfection? COMMENT BELOW to have YOUR say!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

JASMINE: FIND YOUR COLOURS!

Growing up is hard to do... but Aussie reader Jasmine navigated her punk-girl teens and came out the other side feeling confident, bright and ready for a very different look! Read her awesome story here...

Jasmine says:
Growing up I always felt super uncomfortable with myself. When I got to about ten years old, I turned tomboy - this was influenced a lot by my new found love of punk music, and for a while it felt right. The thing is, once you've established yourself as a bit of a misfit, it's hard to break out of that mould. It felt like if I was any more different, I would be shining the beacon of bullying on myself even more than it already was. So... for years I stuck with being a tomboy, even though I wanted the world to know I really loved Hello Kitty, pretty dresses and the colour pink!

When I left school, I realised I no longer had to feel pressured to stay the same. I didn't have the same eyes on me, and nobody was there to question any sudden changes. It wasn't easy - I'd been wearing black jeans and band t-shirts for eight years, so putting on a skirt felt odd to say the least! Slowly, I gained the confidence to get girlier each day, and it felt a little bit more comfortable as I went along. I gained a lot of inspiration from amazing people online and wove all of that inspiration into my own style.

The fact that I loved pink never wavered. I had dyed my hair lots of colours in the tomboy years, but had never quite had the courage to do my whole head of hair. Now, I decided to bite the bullet and do it. Bleach sucks, and so does getting hair dye everywhere, but the end result was worth it! I love pink so much that I have had bright pink hair for four years now - I'm twenty one - and I even colour my eyebrows pink to match! Perhaps because of my sense of fashion, which is a mix-up of vintage/ pin-up/ rockabilly, and my hair, I get a lot of interesting looks from people. Most people are nice, but even if they're not it doesn't matter; this is the only way I really feel like me.

I'd like to encourage anyone I can to be their own authentic selves, whether that means dying your hair blue, pink like me, brown... wearing quirky dresses, wearing big boots or just wearing a different hat every day! Sometimes it is hard to feel comfortable enough to truly express ourselves, but take it one step at a time. You will find your colours, just as I found mine!

Cathy says:
I love this post SOOOO much. Jasmine first messaged me to tell me how much my books meant to her during her early teens - which meant a huge amount to me. I also loved her distinctive style, and asked her to share the story with you... I hope you like, and hope you agree that being yourself is ultra important, whatever form that may take. Do YOU have a unique and unusual style? Would you LIKE to? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Friday, 19 May 2017

ARE YOU A WATER BABY?

We asked readers to tell us how they felt about swimming... this is what they said!

Katie says:
I'm a real water baby, I love a dip now and then. I get the urge to be in the water from my father - he's a surfer who has won competitions! He takes me surfing and body boarding, teaches me safety and jumps into the waves with me. I love water parks - few things fill me with adrenaline as much as sliding down a water slide! Water itself gives me an energy I often forget I have. One minute I'm calmly floating on my back, the next I am splashing around!

Jo says:
I go to a training club on a Monday morning before school and also on a Thursday evening. I could go more, but I'm fifteen and school is quite intense right now, so I choose not to compete or train more than twice a week. I love swimming because it feels like nobody is judging me (even though lots of the club DO swim competitively and the coach likes to push us, at the end of the day, to me, it's just me doing my best.) I find it very relaxing after the stress of school, and also love the way it stretches and works my whole body.

Kym says:
I used to be in a swim club in my early teens. As I got older, I started body boarding, but I haven't done that in a while now, though I still have the board somewhere!

Francesca says:
I LOVE swimming. I go twice a week, for a one hour session and then for an hour and a half session. I also teach now, for an hour on Wednesdays, and swim competitively for the Nuneaton Dolphins. We have so much fun!

Cara says:
I am quite a strong swimmer and I go to the pool once a week for a club with people of all ages. It's mainly a fun thing but the aim is to improve your stroke and style, and I started going as I wanted to learn how to put my head underwater when doing front crawl and breast stroke. I learned that and in the process I got the swimming bug! I like it because even when the pool is busy it often feels like it's just you swimming, if that makes any sense!

Violet says:
I haven't been near a pool in years, but I used to go swimming once a week. I don't want to swim competitively or anything but I want to swim for me, and I want to swim well. My mum was a very good swimmer when she was younger, so maybe she's passed that ability on - I have to be good at something, right? It's great exercise for the whole body as well as being relatively easy as the water supports your weight. Maybe it's just me, as I have to take my hearing aids out to get in the water, but I find swimming a very calm and quiet experience. I can't be distracted by conversation or music, everything is echoey and muffled. It can be quite meditative!

Angela says:
I love swimming but hate public pools - strip lights and chlorine and wriggling out of a wet costume in a tiny cubicle. I like to swim in the sea, I love the taste of salt on my lips and the way the water lifts you with the tide. There is an outdoor lido where I live too, and though it's not heated it's great to swim in on a hot day.

Fab illustrations by the very talented Helen Swan - thank you Helen!

Cathy says:
I love this! Swimming is my favourite kind of exercise, and I dream of living near a pool so I could go more often! Do YOU love to swim - or hate it? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BELLA: WRITING IS MY PASSION

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Bella has a dilemma for CHERRY COSTELLO to solve...

Bella says:
Writing has always been my passion, my talent, my destiny. Teachers at parent's evening say so and tell me I am a born writer. I know that now is the time to start writing real books - but I don't know how. I know how to write the book, but the whole aspect of publishing seems so daunting. I don't know how many times I need to do another draft, or how long it should take me to write it, or who to approach to publish it. Who will illustrate the cover? Will it cost money? These are the things that go round and round in my head. Please help!

Cherry says:
Writing is my dream too, and I have done some research and read up on this, so although I am not published yet either, I hope I can help. First of all, get writing - plan and write your book, and polish and re-draft until you are sure it's a good as it possibly can be. For some, the writing part can be rapid - 'Na No Mi Ro' month has proved it's possible to write a book in a month - but for most authors it takes a lot longer, anything from several months to years! We are all different, so find your own pace and write 'from the heart' as it will show! Next, get a copy of 'The Writers And Artists Yearbook'. This is in all big libraries or available in bookshops to buy, and it lists all UK publishers and agents and tells you which will accept manuscripts and how to present and send your work - it's invaluable. The advice is to find an agent and let them approach the publishers, as many publishers will not deal with unsolicited manuscripts these days. Then it is a waiting game to see if an agent likes your work, and after that to see if a publisher does. If you get as far as a publishing deal, they will pay YOU money and will help with any editing and design, book cover, marketing etc. In short, they do all the tricky stuff for you. Remember that many authors try for years and years before hitting it lucky, so be patient and determined. Self-publishing is a route some take now, and this can be a good step, but it is a different thing and it DOES cost you money, and I am not up to speed on how this works. You could investigate though! Good luck Bella... I hope the dream comes true for both of us!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Cherry. It takes me three to six months to write a book, in general, and I agree that persistence and resilience is essential. Good luck! Have YOU ever dreamed of writing a book, or do YOU have good advice for Bella? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

ELOISE WILLIAMS: GASLIGHT

My lovely friend ELOISE WILLIAMS has a fabulous new book out - GASLIGHT! I asked her to tell you a bit about it...

Eloise says:
Hello Cathy's readers! How are you? Well, I hope!

I don't know about you, but I have always loved the theatre. The lights, the excitement, the stories, the actors and the song and dance of it all. I loved it so much that I went to Drama College and worked as an actor for over a decade. Then, when I got a bit older, I realised I actually liked writing much more and I stopped treading the boards and very happily hid away in a little cottage by the sea where I wrote stories and walked my dog Watson Jones on the beach.

Little did I know that one day I'd be on stage in front of a thousand children talking about myself and my books. Gulp! That's exactly what happened earlier this year at The Biggest Book Show On Earth. You'd think that after years of acting I wouldn't be nervous but I had a serious case of stage fright and guess who was there to talk me through it and give me confidence? The lovely Cathy!

I told Cathy all about Nansi, my main character in GASLIGHT which is a mystery thriller set in Victorian times. Nansi isn't nervous at all when she's on stage and dreams of being a star one day. She works at the Empire Theatre for Pernicious Sid, but he makes her play little girl parts even though she is fourteen and he also makes her go out stealing so that she can earn money to find her mother who has gone missing.

'My mother disappeared on the 6th of September 1894. I was found at the docks in Cardiff lying like a gutted fish at the water's edge...'

It's a dark tale for only the bravest of readers and Nansi has more courage in her little finger than I have in my whole body, so I was extremely happy to have had Cathy there as a friend to see me through a knee-knocking, fingernail-biting, deep-breath-taking scary time. And, in the end, I loved it! So, thanks to Cathy! **Sound of applause.**

Cathy says:
It was fab to meet Eloise at The Biggest Bookshow On Earth this year - and though she was a bit nervous beforehand, she really blew that crowd away! Check out GASLIGHT... it's amazing! Have YOU got a fave book just now? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 15 May 2017

MEGAN: ADAPTING YOUR BLOG TO MAKE YOU HAPPY!

Blogger Megan has some great advice on how to keep the passion and enthusiasm going when running a blog... awesome ideas!

Megan says:
Being a blogger is hard when you have to come up with creative ideas and keep up with a routine, but if you're not happy with your blog it's just not worth the effort. You should enjoy it! Here are five tips for staying happy with your blog by making a few simple changes!

Tip #1: Rethink your content and topics
If you're not feeling positive about your blog, perhaps you're just not passionate about your topics anymore? Create a mind-map of all the topics you write about currently; stemming out from these, state whether or not you're happy with how often you write on this subject. The areas you want to write about less often are topics you should re-think.

Tip #2: Encourage feedback
If you're unsure about changing things, ask for feedback! I like to ask a few questions at the end of each post for my readers to answer. Ask your audience things like: 'Did you enjoy this post?' 'How would you improve this week's post?' or 'Would you like to see new topics next week?' Alternatively, put a poll onto your blog and ask readers to vote!

Tip #3: Change up your design
The design/ layout of your blog can say a lot about your content. I like to change the background every season, but some prefer to keep a background they feel fits well with their content. If you're making content changes, re-design the background too and portray a different mood! Make your design look more sophisticated to appeal to an older audience, or go quirky and colourful for a cool look or a younger audience...

Tip #4: Re-write your description and 'about me' page
Once you've changed your content, it's time to introduce these changes to your readers! Start by making a few notes about what you will be writing about and include a few funny or interesting facts about you. An interesting description and 'about me' page engages your reader and tells them what they should be expecting to read.

Tip #5: Take your time
Changes don't happen overnight - it may take time to adjust and your current readers may take time to adapt too! That's why changing things gradually is a good plan. A few subtle changes here and there can bring a new feel to the blog without the drama of jumping from what you used to do to something totally different. If you want a drastic change, then perhaps starting a whole new blog might be best? If you just want to liven up your existing blog, then slow steps are key.

Good luck - and if you want to see the kind of things I write about in my own blog, take a look - and tell me what you think! 

Cathy says:
Great tips... for me too! Do YOU blog... or would you LIKE to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!