Wednesday, 22 February 2017

JESSICA: I WANT TO LIVE IN THE PAST...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Jessica has some questions for Skye Tanberry...

Jessica says:
I love history, and sometimes I wish I could travel back to the days of finger-wave curls, embroidered shawls and velvet dresses; I would give anything for a time machine.I find it hard to fit in with reality and often find myself daydreaming. I try to insert a little vintage style into my look, raiding charity shops and jumble sales, but the best vintage pieces are extortionate. I'd love to be a modern day history chick - do you have any advice on how I can upcycle a vintage look, hobbies, music, school uniform... life? And which vintage shops are good to try in Glasgow?

Skye says:
You sound sooooo like me! It takes a while to get into your stride with vintage style - I have worn a few odd combos in the past before working out what pieces go together, don't worry! Charity shops are good - have you tried the Oxfam Vintage shop in Glasgow's Merchant City? I don't know Glasgow too well, but Cherry tells me that Mr Ben in King's Court, King's St, is well worth a visit and that the Great Western Road is full of treasures. A quick google came up with this helpful link - I'm almost tempted to nip up north and go vintage hunting with you! Don't be afraid to mix vintage with modern and to adapt charity shop pieces to suit... if you're handy with a needle and thread, there's almost nothing you cannot do. The main thing is to let your style evolve naturally - I love 1920s and 1930s styles, but I have a friend who rocks a garish 1970s look, and that's totally right for her! Hobbies... go with your interests, and the same for music - I love 20s jazz, but also listen to modern stuff! Explore different sounds until you find an era that suits you, whether it's the upbeat 60s or the emotional, jazzy wartime swing sound. You asked about customising school uniform - there are some great hacks for giving everyday stuff a vintage twist in the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS... a must have if you are creative and love the vintage look! Good luck!

Cathy says:
I can vouch for those Glasgow vintage shops - they are some of the best in the country! Skye's advice is good - and it definitely sounds as if Jessica is on the right track. Have YOU ever tried a vintage look? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

HAYLEY: WALK AWAY

Reader Hayley writes about a friendship gone wrong, and how she found the courage to walk away from it...

Hayley says:
I met Lucy and Yasmine on the first day of Year Seven. My family had moved to a new town because Mum was starting a new job, so I'd been anxious about making new friends and I was over the moon to meet Lucy and Yasmine because they were confident, fun and cool. I quickly found myself pulled into a big friendship group that had them at the centre, and for a while life was great.

A few months in, though, I started to see there were rules for fitting in with these new friends. You couldn't be more popular than Lucy and Yasmine; you couldn't attract more attention from boys; you couldn't be seen to be trying too hard at school work or in sport. I remember in Year Seven when a girl called Priya came in with a very cool new haircut and a pair of gorgeous shoes... I think they had been a birthday treat. Lucy and Yasmine must have felt she was outshining them, because suddenly rumours sprang up about Priya and she was excluded from the group. I was certain the rumours weren't true but that didn't seem to matter - Priya was gone. There were little things too... we all had to do what Lucy and Yasmine wanted, whether that was eating salad for school dinners, wearing certain colours and brands, or drinking skinny lattes in Costa in town.

Things went wrong for me when  boy called Ben asked me out in Year Eight. I wasn't ready for a boyfriend but still, I was upset when Lucy and Yasmine told me I couldn't go out with him. I had no intention of going out with Ben anyway, and in the end some of the group convinced me to apologise to Lucy and Yasmine even though I'd done nothing wrong. I did, but Lucy said I had to prove I was loyal to them by shoplifting a lip gloss she wanted from Superdrug. This upset me so much I stayed off school for three days, and in the end I told my mum who was horrified. We talked about it and I could see just how twisted and unfair it was. Saying no to Lucy and Yasmine meant letting go of my friends, but Mum made me see it was a no-brainer. I had to walk away.

I went back into school and found a different place to sit in class. I sat alone at lunchtime and in lessons, and I knew people were looking at me, spreading rumours about me. It was horrible, but it made it clear that these girls had never been my friends in the first place... they were mean, controlling, spiteful. In the end, Priya and her new friends asked me to join their group. It's early days, but I have real friends again, and I will never let myself be treated like dirt again just to stay part of a group. Walking away was the best thing I ever did.

Names have been changed to protect privacy. Fab photo by reader Emily; thank you! 

Cathy says:
Teen friendships can be very tangled, but Hayley did absolutely the right thing here, and I'm glad it worked out for her. Have YOU ever been stuck in a toxic friendship? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

AMY: SMALLS FOR ALL!

Reader Amy tells us about the vital campaign her school have been running to help women in third world countries.

Amy says:
I wanted to tell you about a campaign my school ran recently called 'Smalls For All'. Smalls For All is a charity that collects bras and underwear for girls and women in third world countries who cannot afford their own. This matters more than you might think; it's not just a comfort issue, the women are less likely to be attacked or raped if they have underwear. Also, girls are stopped from going to school when they have their periods as they have nothing to help them.

We managed to collect so many bras as part of this project, it was into the thousands I think! I loved helping with the running of the campaign as I was head girl at the time... it was a great campaign for an all girls school and focused attention on many issues and problems that we don't talk about or think about enough. The charity need packs of new underwear/ pants suitable for children from age three upwards, and women up to a size 16. They accept either new or 'gently worn' bras and lots of us can pass on something like that as there are usually little-worn items lurking around somewhere at home.

If you would like to help too, why not see if your school can take part and collect items? Or perhaps your office of place of work? Go to www.smallsforall.org to find out more and download a poster to help spread the word. Even if you have just a few things to pass on, that helps too... your donations can be posted to the following address:

Smalls For All,
108 Buchanan Crescent,
Eliburn,
Livingston,
EH54 7EF.

Illustrations by Cathy's fab writer friend Fiona Gibson - many thanks.

Cathy says:
Well done Amy! I've heard about this charity and love that such a simple idea can make a genuine difference. Have YOU helped with a charity project recently? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 17 February 2017

JOANNE: STILL READING CC!

Reader Joanne explains what CC books meant to her as a teen - and what they mean now she is at uni!

Joanne says:
As a pre-teen and young teen, I adored CC books, and it'd be a lie not to admit I still flick-read them sometimes even now. I once owned every book, read them all several times and went to see Cathy to get my books signed a few times at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

The books left a lasting impression and helped me cope with issues I had faced in life. My dad rather than my mum was the wild, free-living traveller that Storm in DIZZY was, and my Nana, like Molly in SUNDAE GIRL, has severe Alzheimer's Disease. With my family around me I leaned to cope with these issues, but another important coping mechanism for me was reading. Literature is a wonderful escape for children, but it can also help young people to put their worries in context and see that there is always hope. To know you are going through hell and seeing that someone, despite the character being fictional, has gone though something similar and survived... that can really help. Even if we don't have that particular problem, we learn to understand how it feels to be in that situation.

I am nineteen years old now and in my second year of a primary teaching degree. I'm working on an essay about how children's books can help young people to handle the difficult experiences life may deal out to them, and this started me thinking once more of the CC books I loved so much. Reading is amazing, and a big part of why I want to teach now. Most of my CC books have now been passed on to my thirteen year old sister in the hopes she would love them as much as I do (she does, what a cool girl!) From a huge fan both past and future, I can only hope CC goes on writing fantastic books that will help the children of the future know that they are not dealing with their problems alone.

Cathy says:
Naaawww... I am blushing now! I am so very proud of my grown-up readers, many of whom, like Joanne, have gone on to do amazing things! Have CC books ever helped YOU to deal with a difficult issue? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

IMELDA: VINTAGE DILEMMA

Reader Imelda has a vintage themed dilemma for Skye Tanberry to solve... will she be able to help? Find out in this week's DREAMCATCHER problem page post!

Imelda says:
Recently our teacher told us we would each be be doing a personal three week project, on any subject. I want to do a project that links with my hobbies of vintage, history and daydreaming... or do something based on Clara's love story from MARSHMALLOW SKYE perhaps. I've also thought of doing a 1920s project but I'm not sure whether to do something written or to make something. I can't make a decision! Any ideas?

Skye says:
What a great opportunity! I'd have loved a chance to do something like this, and it seems to have really sparked your imagination too! It depends how much time you can spend on the project, but three weeks may not be long enough to make something like a dress, for example. A written project may be simpler, but I think if it were me I'd choose to tell Clara's story in project form! You could illustrate it with drawn 'photographs' of Clara and her fiance and her traveller love, and include your versions of some of the letters she sent, mocking up envelopes with old fashioned stamps. It could be a lot of fun to do and would really stand out - and you have the story there in MARSHMALLOW SKYE to use as a template! Best of luck!

Cathy says:
What a great project - I'm loving Skye's advice, too! What is the coolest project YOU have ever done? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 13 February 2017

KAREN Mc COMBIE- COVER COULD'VE BEENS!

My writer friend KAREN MC COMBIE is guest blogging here today, and she's talking new books and cover looks... very cool!

Karen says:
My latest book is out - wheee! And the cover of ST GRIZZLE'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, GOATS AND RANDOM BOYS is just fab... a riot of sunshine yellow and silliness, complete with garlands of loo roll. Perfect for my story of a kooky boarding school!

But I got an unexpected peek at the Cover Could've Beens that came BEFORE the finished article too... very interesting!

The illustrator of ST GRIZZLE'S is Becka Moor (check out her fab website page for lots more amazing drawings - the link is below). When I recently put together a PowerPoint to take out on school visits, she very kindly let me have images of some of her 'roughs'. This is because I wanted to show students that - just as with the story itself - the cover artwork goes through several stages of try-outs and tweaking before it is done.

I love all of Becka's versions, but it is down to the book publishers to choose in the end. They show the options to lots of experts; their own sales and marketing team, booksellers and children.

It's only after all this that they decide on a clear favourite. I was sad to lose Zed - my random boy - from the final version, but he's done a wheelie round to the back cover, so he hasn't gone too far!

Next time you are admiring the cover of a book in the shelves of a shop of library, take a second to realise you are probably looking at version four or five of a very long but fascinating process!

ST GRIZZLE'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, GOATS AND RANDOM BOYS is the first in a new series by Karen McCombie from Stripes Books. Look out for it in all good bookstores now!

Check out Becka Moor's website here... http://www.beckamoor.com/ 

Cathy says:
Whoop... I am a fan of Karen's work and love the look of the new book. Plus, goats! I NEED to know what's going on! Have YOU read an awesome book lately? What's next on your reading list? And most of all, which cover version do YOU like best? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

KATE: LIFE, DEATH AND ALL THE BITS IN BETWEEN...

Reader Kate has been doing some deep thinking lately - about life, death and all the bits in between! Here she shares some of her thoughts in an unexpectedly inspiring post!

Kate says:
We're all going to die. Everyone. We can't stop it, it's going to happen. It doesn't ask for permission and sometimes it comes very unexpectedly. It just comes and takes you. This is why life is so precious - and why we should cherish every moment, no matter how boring it may seem - because someday life will run out. You may not realise how much you would beg and plead to live through those few seconds of boredom again, to have them come back to you... because someday, we are all going to run out of seconds.

I wish I could go back to the time when I was three (even though I am eleven now.) Life seemed simpler then. Life can be stressful as you get older, but we have to keep the big picture in mind, and think of how the long term results and consequences will make your life easier and more enjoyable later on. Hard work now will make things easier later, or so they say! I often wonder if that's true and I wonder why I'm alive - am I more than just 'science stuff' on legs, or am I some kind of walking experiment?

Is there such a thing as the afterlife or is it just a myth so we're not scared to die? I hope it's real because I'm really scared that I won't think anymore once I've died. I'd like to think of it as a sleep, but the truth is that for most of us, after fifty years or so, when all the people who knew you are gone, your life is forgotten too. Unless you make a difference. Have you ever been taught about the amazing life of the person who sat on the sofa watching TV all day? No! Instead, you have heard about the people who stand up and do something amazing with their lives, people like Martin Luther King Jr who stood up for black people's rights in the US, and is remembered now for his bravery and vision.

Would YOU like to be the forgotten person who slumps on a sofa, or do you want to be remembered? Do you want to get out there and change the world, explore your potential, learn and understand and make a difference? You only have one life, and it will end, but your legacy is a whole different story - your legacy can live on. But you can only create a true legacy if you live your life to the full and do something meaningful with your time on Earth! We can do it!

Cathy says:
Wow... lots of things to think about here! I love Kate's take on life and death, and love that it has motivated her to be the best person she can be! Would YOU like to be remembered for your achievements? What kind of things would you like to do with your life? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!