Monday, 31 March 2014

A BITTERSWEET MOTHER'S DAY... LAUREN'S STORY

Mother's Day is a time to show your mum how much you care; but what if your mum is no longer around to share the celebration?

Lauren says:

This Mother's Day I wasn't celebrating with my mum. I lost her in 2012 from cervical cancer, and it really changed my life. It was a terrible time, but I am talking to people and getting things sorted out now; in some ways it has made me a stronger person. I've learnt a lot of things. You have to appreciate life and take every opportunity you are given, because you never know when it might be your last.

Losing Mum also started me along my fundraising path. I regularly raise funds for cancer charities and in the space of a year I have raised more than £1500. It makes me feel a little bit less helpless. I know my mother would have wanted me to carry on with my life and be happy, and that is exactly what I am trying to do - while also helping others in the process.

This Mother's Day, although Mum wasn't here, I still celebrated. I wanted to remember all the special times we had together. I made her a card and attached it to a balloon which I set free, to float up to the sky. I also put together a vase of flowers for her and set them by the window where the sun shone most brightly. My mum was the kind of person who always put other people first, making sure they were OK and happy. She had a great sense of humour and the most beautiful smile. To me she was perfect.

Mum always wanted a small dog, and we got her Daisy as a birthday present the year before she died. Daisy is my dog now, and she helps me to feel close to Mum. I would like to let anyone out there who may have lost their mum that it will be OK... your mother will always be in your heart and she will always, always be proud of you. Remember the good times - and if you ever feel down, do talk to someone because it really does help.



On Mother's Day I remembered Mum for the the special person she was... and I reckon she was looking down on me and smiling.

Cathy says:
Sometimes my readers make me feel very proud and humble, and Lauren is one who definitely does. She wanted to tell her story in order to reach out to other readers who may have lost their mums, and that was a very brave, moving and inspiring thing to do. If you have a message of support for Lauren, please do COMMENT BELOW.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! MUMS & DAUGHTERS SHARE THE LOVE...

Whether you're bezzie mates or daggers drawn, Mother's Day is a time to show your mum you care. We caught up with some mums and daughters to find out what they have to say!

Aysha (mum) says:
I find Azania very a understanding and patient listener with whom I can discuss anything and everything. She is a part of me which I couldn't be myself. We do have our own set of arguments but we can sure sort them out after a 'cool off' period!

Azania (daughter) says:
Muma is more of a best friend than a parent to me. I love her to bits and tell her everything - and even if I don't, she can usually work out what's bothering me! Muma and I do fight, but it's never too major. We always let things blow over and discuss them. The fights usually centre around the mess I call my room... ;o)

Louise (mum) says:
Rebecca has struggled with bullying as she has vitiligo, a skin condition. Before I had Rebecca, I lost a baby to cancer; they say this may have affected Rebecca, picking up certain cells. She's a very loving and compassionate girl and always puts others first. She makes me so proud that she's my girl - she's amazing! We don't always see eye to eye but I learn from her, so much. My girl has my heart, and she always will.

Rebecca (daughter) says:
My relationship with my mum is amazing. I can tell her anything and trust her with anything. After everything we've been through I know 100% that she has my back. I'm the second oldest of four kids, but she loves us all just the same. I can't always speak to her whenever I want as she has to work, but if I needed her she'd drop everything for me. I'm not saying we get on perfectly all of the time as that would be a lie, but she's amazing and non-judgemental. I know she loves me with her whole heart and I love her back!

Sue (mum) says:
I love Blue's sense of humour and her quirky ways. If I am sad, she brings me yummy treats. We get on great because I let her be an individual which she appreciates.

Blue (daughter) says:
My mum is great fun to be around and my friends think she's really cool, especially my best mate who comes to Alton Towers with us (we've been twice and are hoping to make it a regular holiday.) Mum is spontaneous and funny and accepts my individuality so we get on really well. although our faces often hurt from laughing! I don't resemble her much physically but I'm pleased when people say we have similar personalities. Mum also has a serious side. She's always ready to stand up for me, and whatever challenges I face I know she's there for me. She's a brilliant mum.

Shirley says:
We love spending time together and even enjoy the same taste in music. Kazia helps me stay positive when things get tough, and we both help to keep each other strong.
Kazia says:
Mum and I can talk to each other about anything and we hardly ever argue. If we do fall out, it's always solved with a cup of tea and a hug! Since Mum got diagnosed with breast cancer in December, we've become closer still and try to spend as much time together as possible, even though I actually live with my dad.



Awww... such fab stories! Want to give a shout out to YOUR fabulous mum? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why she's so cool!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

MUM'S THE WORD!

Mums and daughters are very cool... we learn from each other, support each other, stick by each other through thick and thin. We talked to some cool mum and daughter teams to see what makes them tick...


Cat (mum) says:
My girls are so very different from each other! I never had a sister but I hope they cherish the relationship that they have. I think the most difficult thing they have to contend with is sharing their room - it's never really tidy. The worst of times have been when I have had to draw the line and punish them by taking toys off them, or confiscating an i-pod/laptop for a while. I always explain why, so hopefully they understand my reasons when something like this happens.
Debi (daughter) says:
My mum has the best smile! She is always there for you, she's kind, funny, helpful, caring, stylish and she can always make YOU smile, even when you are worried. She has this stare that she does when she knows I'm up to something, and sometimes she'll embarrass me when I'm trying to be cool. And she makes me do stuff when I don't want to... but overall, my mum is the best in the whole world, universe, infinity and beyond...
Louise (daughter) says:
If I need support with school/ friendship problems my mum will help me in any way she can, and we have a lot of interests in common too. When I argue with my sister, Mum can see both sides and teaches us to learn from our mistakes. On the downsides, she does like to embarrass me when my friends are around and she can take things a bit too seriously for my liking. She tends to take an adults point of view on whatever happens, but of course adults do get things wrong at times, too. Overall, Mum is lovely and caring and believes I can do anything as long as I believe in myself. She'll be with me through thick and thin, and even when I'm mad at her, I love her - and I always will.

Jayne (mum) says:
Isobel... or should I say Izzy... is ten years old and loves animals, trampolining and books (well, I work in a library so she would, wouldn't she?) She also loves Japanese anime films, great music like Ash (nothing to do with me, honest!), chocolate and the Chocolate Box Girls, cucumber and pate (yuck!). Izzy has great friends and IS a great friend. At Christmas she said, 'giving presents is better than receiving them.' I am very privileged to call her my daughter, and because of all of the above I am really looking forward to Mother's Day because I know that Izzy will try and make it the best day ever for me!
Izzy (daughter) says:
There are so many reasons why my mum is one in a million I just can't list them all! The main one is that she's so loving and caring to the whole family - especially me!She always buys me great gifts for all occasions and takes us out on fun trips so we never get bored. She lets me invite my friends round and lets me go to the park with them. She's fun to be around and helps me when doing school projects or charity sales. Finally, she makes AMAZING cakes and brownies!

Gillian (mum) says:
I don't know where to start! Lauren is great company... I enjoy being around her for her great sense of humour and intelligence. I just love hanging out with lauren - it's like having a good friend rather than a daughter.
Lauren (daughter) says:
Just like Mum, I don't know quite how to say everything I'd like to and sum up Mum's fantastic-ness in just one paragraph! Mum is more than someone to pick me up when I'm down, she is more than warm hugs that feel like home, and she is more than great cooking that no one could ever beat. She is my best friend; patient, kind and caring. I don't know what I'd do without her.

Denise (mum) says:
Charlotte is a very strong character and we do have moments when we fight - she knows what she wants and knows her own mind. She has grown into a lovely teenager who is reliable and helpful (when the moment suits!) and always has a smile and a funny conversation to share. Not only is she the greatest daughter but also a very good friend!
Charlotte (daughter) says:
I love my mum, even though we do have our ups and downs. Most of them are because I don't do the jobs around the house that she wants me to - mostly because I forget! Mum doesn't forget, unluckily for me! We never fall out for long, though. I help Mum tidy the house, and she helps me with things like homework and tidying my room, so we both help each others with the stuff we need a hand with!

Sharon (mum) says:
My daughter... my inspiration... my best friend. A mother couldn't be any more proud of her daughter than I am of Laura. She is the light in my life and the love in my heart.
Laura (daughter) says:
I love my mum - she's the best! She's always been there for me. Back in 2012 I decided to tell my mum something quite difficult, something I'd kept secret for many years. I was scared she'd resent me but she didn't, she just gave me a hug and told me I wasn't alone. She's my best friend and I love her so much. We laugh, we cry and she supports me through everything - I can't explain how much she has done for me. I love you, Mum!

Why not COMMENT BELOW to give a shout out to YOUR mum? Go for it! We have more lovely mum and daughter stories tomorrow, so check back then!

Friday, 28 March 2014

MOTHER'S DAY PREZZIES THAT WON'T BREAK THE BANK!

Arghh! It's almost Mother's Day (Sunday 30th March) and your piggy bank is almost empty... what to do? Check out our ideas for cool Mother's Day prezzies that won't bankrupt you!

Cathy says:
A book...
If your mum loves to read, buy her something from her fave author... or help her to discover something new! My fab writer-pal FIONA GIBSON has a new book, Take Mum Out, on the shelves right now. It's about a divorced mum who decides to start dating again and her two teen sons who are less than impressed at the whole idea. Take Mum Out is funny, warm and packed with feeling... I thought it was fab! Best of all, it's on sale at a reduced price in many of the big supermarket chains (only £2 in Tesco), as well as your fave bookstore. A perfect gift for Mother's Day! Here's Fiona doing a 'selfie' with the book... look out for it!


Reader Annie says:
Make a Jewellery Stand!
You will need: an old glue stick (such as Pritt), two loo roll middles, tape, double sided tape,hot glue gun, scissors, coloured paper (patterned paper looks especially cool).
1/ Stick the cap of the empty Pritt stick onto the tube with tape.
2/ Cover top and bottom edges of loo roll tubes and Pritt stick tube with double sided tape.
3/ Remove backing from double sided tape and cover each tube with coloured paper, trim neatly.
4/ Stick the loo roll tubes together with tape.
5/ Place blob of hot glue on top of the Pritt stick tube with glue gun.
6/ Quickly place loo roll tubes on top. Perfect to display bracelets, necklaces and more!
7/ Too fiddly? A few cheats can make it even easier! It works well without the Pritt tube bit... use a kitchen roll middle and cover with cool paper to make an upright stand for bracelets... earrings can be hung from the top edge!

Cathy says:
Annie was one of my Chocolate Fairies at Leeds in February and gave me the beautiful jewellery tidy you can see on the right... how cool? Channel your 'Blue Peter' craftiness and see what YOU can do!
Caitlin says:
Make a cool bag!
1/ You need felt, a scrap of fabric with a nice pattern or image, coloured string or ribbon, two buttons, cotton thread, needle, embroidery thread and needle, pins.
2/ Fold felt over and cut to size - anything from a small clutch bag size to a larger shoulder bag size, depending on how much felt you have. Pin felt to hold the shape.
3/ Cut out the image on your scrap fabric - I cut a flower/leaf image from my fabric - and carefully stitch onto the middle of the front, being careful to sew
through just one layer of fabric - you don't want to stitch the two layers of felt together at this stage! Sew on the buttons in top left and bottom right corners.
4/ Use embroidery thread and needle to sae random flowers for decorations. The starting point for the needle is the middle of the flower, just make stitches outwards from there for petals.
5/ Turn felt inside out and stitch sides and bottom together with small running stitches. Leave top open. Turn back the right way and you have most of the bag done.
6/ Carefully sew the ribbon or string to the back of the bag to make a strap. Now sit back and marvel at your new masterpiece!


Do YOU have a last minute tip or idea for a Mother's day prezzie that's cool and different? COMMENT BELOW to share your suggestions!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

101 PERFECT PREZZIE IDEAS FOR MOTHER'S DAY...

Well, OK, not quite 101. But lots. Some. A FEW. Hope our reader suggestions give you some ideas and inspirations!

Lydia says:
Pick a bunch of flowers from the garden and tie it with ribbon.
Siobhan says:
Make your mum breakfast in bed. I do this every year, and I make pancakes specially, with cream and blackcurrant jam, because it's her favourite.
Shannon says:
We're having a family day out - lunch in town and then the zoo. Can't wait!
Cara says:
I make vouchers that say 'hug' 'washing up' 'make the coffee' 'hoover' 'tidy up.' Mum can trade them in whenever she wants to.
Jenna says:
I am taking my mum to the pictures. She wants to see The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Lucie says:
I've painted my mum a picture, based on an old photograph of my gran when she was young. My gran died last year so I hope it will be special.
Martin says:
My brothers and I make a big Mother's Day feast at teatime. We even made a cake last year. It was fun!
Amelia says:
I am going to give my mum a manicure and make her feel a million dollars.
Priya says:
We're taking mum on her perfect day out - a trip to the Natural history Museum in London, because she is a science geek, and dinner at our fave veggie restaurant, and a walk along the river.
Bailey says:
I'm making cupcakes. I have never done it before but she's worth it!
Rhea says:
I asked my mum what she really, really wanted to do and she said she'd like to have a go on the climbing wall at our local sports centre. So that's what we are all doing on Sunday!
Angel says:
I am turning the house into a hotel for the day. She gets to have breakfast in bed, room service dinner, whatever she wants. I will wait on her hand and foot because she does so much for me the rest of the year!
Mark says:
I clubbed together with my Dad and we've bought her tickets to a gig in town.
Ian says:
I am going to mow the lawn and tidy my room. Hopefully.
Mariam says:
We are going to have a girly night in with DVDS, hot chocolate and onesies. My aunties and cousins are coming over too.
Connie says:
I am baking some shortbread biscuits and I will pack them in a jar and tie it with a ribbon.
Ruth says:
We're having a makeover day. Mum is going to show me how to do a fishtail plait and I am going to do her make-up for her, because she hardly ever wears any and it will be fun to see what she looks like! Then we're going shopping!
Hasmita says:
We're going over to my sister's house for the day, and mum won't have to lift a finger!
Jolie says:
We're visiting my gran. We do it every year, and my grandad takes charge and makes a big roast and all the cousins are there too. One of my favourite days of the year.
Charlie says:
It will involve chocolate. Obviously.
Sienna says:
I am making her some earrings. I hope she likes them!
Kelly says:
I've made a collage that says 'I love Mum'.
Chantel says:
A voucher card, so she can choose what she REALLY wants.
Harriet says:
I've bought my mum a pretty notebook to write her memories in. I would love to read about what she was like when she was my age, and when she met my dad, and how she felt when I was born.
Josh says:
It's not exactly from just me, but my sister organised us all to get a family photo done not long ago, to make us still feel like a family even though Dad doesn't live with us anymore. So we've got a print of that, in a frame, to give her on Sunday because she has been brilliant.
Bria says:
Easy. The biggest hug in the world...

Inspired yet? The perfect present doesn't have to cost a fortune... it just has to be thoughtful, and given with love. Which is your favourite suggestion? COMMENT BELOW to let us know! There'll be some more last minute prezzie ideas tomorrow...






Wednesday, 26 March 2014

KITTYCAT CUPCAKES!

Stuck for a cool mother's day treat? These gorgeous cupcakes from reader Kittycat will definitely hit the spot... and you can be as creative as you like in the way you decorate them!

Ingredients (makes 12):
125g self raising flour (a tablespoon is approx 25g)
125g caster sugar
125g softened butter
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Optional: vanilla or almond essence, food colouring, jellybeans, Smarties, chocolate chips, small pieces of fruit (blueberry and raspberry are delicious!)

Prep:
Wash hands and wipe down worktop with damp dishcloth. Set ingredients & equipment within easy reach. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Put an apron on, roll up sleeves and tie back long hair. If you're not used to baking, ask an adult or elder sibling to help.


Recipe:
1. Beat sugar and butter together in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
2. Crack eggs. (If you often get shell in the eggs, crack into a small bowl and remove shell fragments before adding to butter/sugar mixture. Mix with whisk or electric mixer.
3. Sieve flour and fold into mixture with a metal spoon.
4. Add milk a little at a time, until mixture is desired consistency. You'll know if it's too runny or not runny enough...
5. Mix in any extra ingredients. Chocolate chips or fruit baked into the cakes gives an extra dimension of deliciousness, or try a 'marbled' effect with food colouring by not mixing it in fully.
6. Use a tablespoon to transfer mixture into paper cases in a bun tin. You may need two tablespoons per case. If you have a lot left, set aside to make a second batch. Feel free to lick the spoon - eating raw egg is not advised but is usually OK in small doses!
7. Place into pre-heated oven. Cooking time can differ but 15-20 minutes is a safe estimate. Keep a close eye on them... don't let them burn! When top of cake is golden brown and springs back when touched, they're done.
8. Turn oven off and use oven gloves to take cakes out. Remove cupcakes from tin, carefully, and place on wire cooling rack.

Decorating: try...
Buttercream frosting
Cream cheese frosting
Glace icing
Writing icing
Chocolate chips
Gummy sweets
Sprinkles
Edible glitter
Nuts & fruit (for a healthy kick)
Marzipan sculptures like mine. Model them like clay and stick onto cupcake! You can find gold & silver spray in many supermarkets to add a regal touch!

Try using a piping bag to frost your cupcakes - you can get different tips for the piping bags including star-shaped which gives a nice textured appearance. Otherwise use a butter knife of the back of a spoon to spread the frosting. Whether your style is methodical and ordered or wild and crazy, decorate them to your taste! Let your imagination run wild! If you use glace icing, add your friends' names (or your own) or nice messages using writing icing. Above all, have fun! Share the cupcakes with family or friends, hold a bake sale or make them as a reward for your class at the end of the year. (I did this for my drama class - major popularity boost!) Don't forget to earn extra brownie points by washing up the baking equipment. Happy baking!

Thanks to Kittycat for the fab tutorial... test out the recipe and send us your pics, or COMMENT BELOW to let us know if you'd like more cool recipes! What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

DO SOMETHING KIND TODAY...

Cathy says:
Yesterday, I was feeling lousy. I had one of those 24 hour sickness bug things and spent most of the night examining the toilet bowl at much closer quarters than I ever want to do again, and most of the day in bed with the curtains closed. My head felt as though somebody was thumping it with a giant mallet. I couldn't keep so much as a sip of water down.
And then... slowly... I began to feel better. The sickness eased off, the migraine subsided, I was able to drink half a cup of herb tea and not part company with it again. I felt so happy to be on the mend, I went onto my Facebook Fanpage and posted that I'd been ill but was feeling better again. And then... this.
Reader Faye (left) had seen my post and drew the most beautiful get well poster for me, which she posted on the Facebook Fanpage wall. I loved it. It was kind, cool, clever. It had gold stars and clever mentions of my book titles in the text. It made me happy and it made me feel so touched that somebody cared enough to make me something so special. It was proof that I really DO have the coolest readers ever. It reminded me that doing something kind for someone else is one of the BEST and most powerful things in the world.
And I am lucky - I genuinely do have the most amazing readers who show me how much they care all of the time. Sometimes it's a beautiful, heartfelt email. Sometimes it's a fabulous drawing or painting, inspired by one of my characters.
Sometimes it's a book or a story inspired by something I've written, or a good deed, like the cake sale the girls from Morpeth School held to raise funds for The Horse Trust inspired by Coco Caramel.
Often, on tour, readers make things for me - one of many favourites from my February tour was this cute phone charm/ bookmark made for me by reader Miriam who came to my Leeds signing. It's made from bright, braided ribbon and came complete with a very cool message label, so I wouldn't forget who had given it to me. (It can get kind of hectic at a bookshop signing so I don't always manage to get a note of someone's name!)
Another favourite is this fab bookmark (left) made from Fimo modelling clay and a simple paperclip. A shy reader gave it to me at a busy school signing, then hurried away before I could ask her name. It's based on me... and I think it's awesome.
Sometimes, the kindness comes in cake form. I have a reputation for having a sweet tooth. I love chocolate. I love cake. And sometimes my lovely readers make me truffles of cupcakes or a sweet treats they've created themselves.
The cakes in the picture were given to me by some of the lovely girls at Bishops High/ Blue Coat School in Chester at the very end of my tour, and they were gorgeous. It's worth remembering, with MOTHER'S DAY coming up soon, that a prezzie doesn't have to be expensive or exclusive to be special. Something handmade, with love and care and thought, can be even better. A batch of cupcakes, a hand made bookmark, a bunch of daffodills from the garden, breakfast in bed, a home made card, even just a lovely message like Faye's.

Don't wait until Mother's Day. Do something thoughtful and kind for someone else today. You'll make them smile, and that will make YOU feel good, too. It's a win-win situation. Think of it as a Random Act of Kindness, like Sam does in my book GINGERSNAPS. See if you can do something kind and cool today - and every day. COMMENT BELOW to share your Random Act of Kindness ideas - and spread the love!

Monday, 24 March 2014

WHAT'S THE FASTEST CAKE IN THE WORLD? SCONE!

Sorry for the awful joke... get it? S'gone? No? Oh. Never mind. Scones really are a life skill everyone should have... and reader Emily has a great recipe to help you along! A perfect treat for MOTHER'S DAY, too...

Check out Emily's blog, 'Emily's Cooking Club,' here... yum!



EMILY'S SIMPLE SCONES...

These scones look, smell and taste amazing yet are ultra-easy to make! These are plain scones, but feel free to add cheese or fruit to make variations!

You need:

225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter
25g/1oz caster sugar (granulated works too)
150ml/5fl oz milk
1 egg, beaten, to glaze (or use milk - I did)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 220c/425f/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. Mix together flour  and salt and rub in butter. (Cover butter with flour and rub between fingertips, rubbing into flour until texture is like breadcrumbs.)
3. Stir in sugar and add milk to make soft dough.
4. Turn onto floured surface and knead slightly, then pat or roll dough to about 2cm thick.
5. Use 5cm/2" cutter to cut out scones. Knead leftover mix together, part and press out shapes again until dough is used up.
6. Brush each scone with beaten egg/ milk. Bake for 12-15 mins until risen and golden brown.
7. Cool and serve with butter and jam, or clotted cream.

Enjoy!

Do YOU have a fab, fave recipe? Share it here! And if you try out Emily's recipe, don't forget to send us a pic! COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to see other recipes here... we'd love to hear your suggestions!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

STOP BULLYING... ONE GIRL'S CAMPAIGN

Blogger Sophie Louise has such strong feelings about bullying, she launched a campaign of her own to raise awareness and try to stop it...

Sophie Louise... first of all, tell us about how you came to start your own blog...

I was twelve when I started my book blog, A Day Dreamer's World, and I'm fourteen now. I remember wanting somewhere to write and share my opinions, so a blog made sense. It wasn't going to be a book blog to start with, but I'd just read a Michael Morpurgo book so I thought I'd review it. I love reading - and writing, when I'm not busy blogging! I suppose my ambitions are to write as a career, but also to travel to places like Paris, New York and Africa. And I want to make a difference - change things for the better.

You've started a blog campaign about bullying; why do you feel so strongly about this subject?

I don't think anybody should be made to feel like they're not important, or that they're not good enough.  I've never had much confidence, and over the years I've come to see how bullying tears confidence down for people, every day. Young people are growing up and struggling through exams and whether they're being called names, facing violence or having their property stolen, that should never happen. Nobody deserves that. Nobody should be told repeatedly that they are fat, dumb or ugly.

What does your campaign involve and how do you hope it will change things?

The blog campaign began as a week in November last year, inspired by National Anti-Bullying week. There was such a good response I decided to continue by doing blog-events throughout 2014 with the help of my favourite authors. I've called it the 'Turn The Page' project as it's all about starting a new chapter, without bullying. It will involve videos with authors and fellow book bloggers sharing their experiences, posts about book characters who have gone through bullying and discussions on how it makes people feel.
Even if it's just one person, I hope somebody reads it and tells someone what's been happening, gets help. I hope it will allow people to share their experiences, as that can change things for a lot of people. Being bullied is nothing to be ashamed of, but it's such a huge stigma at the moment.

Can books help in any way?

Definitely! When you see one of your favourite book characters beating the bullies you feel like you can do it too. Books are a perfect escape, but you can be inspired by the characters in the book, too. Books I'd recommend include 'Finding Cherokee Brown' by Siobhan Curham, 'Geek Girl' by Holly Smales and 'The Elites' by Natasha Ngan.

What advice would you give to readers who are being bullied?

Speak out. I know you're probably sick of hearing people telling you to go and tell someone - it;s hard - but if you feel uncomfortable, write it down. Writing is a great way to make your feelings clear. Remember you are much more than the bullies say you are.

Any advice for readers who'd like to stamp out bullying in their own schools?

Go and speak to someone you think may be able to help you set up a project in your own school - your teacher, form tutor, school counsellor, year head... someone you feel will care and want to help. Tell them what you want to do and come up with ideas to make it happen! Take a look at some of the links and videos on my blog - I hope they will inspire you.


You can check out Sophie Louise's blog campaign here...



Saturday, 22 March 2014

CYBER-BULLYING: WHAT IT IS & WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT...

Technology is moving at the speed of light. Many of today's teens have smartphones and laptops, and with these come a whole raft of social networking sites - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MSN, dozens of chatrooms and apps appealing directly at young people. They're fun, they're cool, and everyone uses them - it can feel that way, anyhow. The peer pressure to take part is strong. You don't want to be left out, laughed at, excluded. Sometimes you even make new friends... but what if things go wrong? If your friends turn on you and start to bully you? If people you don't like use the site to torment you, posting cruel, hurtful comments for all to see? Cyber-bullying is an especially vicious form of bullying, and one that can be very hard to tackle. We asked for your experiences...

Karen says:
I was being bullied at school - it had been going on for years. Facebook was one place I could get away from it, until the bullies started commenting, nasty, spiteful comments insulting my family and friends. Next came messages threatening me, so I couldn't sleep at night, and they even made group chats about me so they could discuss what they didn't like about me. I felt worthless. I told someone and the bullies said they felt terrible, but they didn't mean it, and they didn't stop. I blocked them, but they got my phone number and started sending abusive texts. Sometimes there was a text every few seconds... you feel like it's driving you nuts. In the end, my friends told a teacher who asked me to write down everything that happened; this helped, as by then I couldn't talk about it without crying. She is helping me to sort things out now. If anyone out there is cyber-bullying, please don't. Your cruel words could be the last straw to someone who is having a hard time already. Being bullied is the worst thing ever, and not something I will ever be able to forget.

Louise says:
There were a group of girls at my school who were very popular. I was a tomboy, and kept myself to myself, but this group didn't seem to like that and began picking on me. I tried ignoring them but they stepped things up and began sending me nasty messages through Facebook, sometimes sending really awful threats. My friend suggested I block them so I did, but they kept making fake accounts to send mean stuff to me - I tried to ignore it, but it went on and on. I was really upset. I didn't want to go out any more, didn't want to go to school... even the internet wasn't safe. One Monday I found out they'd made a page just to say mean and embarrassing stuff about me. Everyone was laughing and all I could do was cry. My best friend came with me to tell a teacher, and told them everything the girls had been doing. The teacher took it very seriously and soon the page was removed, the bullies stopped sending stuff and I was able to go on with my life. If you're in a similar situation, get help... you can't manage something like this alone.

Sara says:
For me, the bullying started when I admitted I was gay. I had ask.fm and people began posting the crudest and most awful stuff. They told me I was disgusting and even that they hoped I'd get cancer. It was vile. I deleted the ask.fm app and reported some of the people concerned to my pupil support teacher, which definitely helped, but at the time I felt really horrible - upset and totally alone.
Cerys says:
I was cyber bullied when I was nine. A girl called Jo got annoyed because I didn't invite her to my birthday party. I had her on MSN and Windows Live Messenger - back then, everyone just added everyone - I thought nothing of it, but then the messages began, even on the day of the party itself. It was supposed to be a happy day and it was far from it. The messages kept coming, and to make matters worse she started emailing my mum with all kinds of nasty stuff too. In the end I blocked her email - so did my mum. Jo had sent emails using her mum's email address to make it seem like it wasn't her, but blocking stopped it. I've had no contact with her since we left primary three years ago... thank goodness.

Jayde says:
I was cyber-bullied. It started off with the girl just making mean comments, saying I couldn't do my hair or make-up properly, and that I was ugly. It was really upsetting. It seemed to tail off and then six weeks later it began again... I'd had enough, and I made an official complaint. I had to fill in some forms and after a while I had a message from the bully saying she was sorry and wanted to be friends.




What can YOU do about cyber-bullying? 
*Try to avoid apps like ask.fm as the the anonymous format attracts bullies and trolls. Trust me, you can live without it.
*Have strong security settings on your page - if in doubt, as an adult to help you set these.
*Never post pictures you're not sure about; a photo can go viral faster than you'd think. Only post images you would happy for anyone to see.
*Similarly, don't post unkind or angry words online - the internet is not the place for it, and a public row can snowball into something much more serious.
*Never share personal details, phone numbers, addresses etc online.
*On your mobile, or on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, only add people you know and like. Having 500 'friends' or followers means nothing if those people aren't actually friends... delete or block anyone who posts things which upset you or wind you up.
* Delete 'frape' posts and threads which are bullying or offensive, but take a screenshot picture as evidence that it happened in case you need to prove it.
*If you are being stalked, trolled or bullied via a social network, tell a trusted adult and get their help to report it. Cyber-bullying can be stopped, but only of you report it.
*Don't be tempted to take part in 'rate for looks' games online; someone could be very hurt by it.
*Don't post cruel, thoughtless or personal comments about others, even if they're not your favourite person... and don't join in with internet hate games. Think about how the person on the receiving end might feel.
*If you are being bullied, call ChildLine on 0800 1111 and tell a teacher, a parent, possibly the police. And REPORT cyber-bullying to the admin of the site where it is taking place or to your mobile network provider.

Have YOU been cyber-bullied? Or do YOU have any advice for those who have? POST BELOW to share your thoughts...

Friday, 21 March 2014

A MODERN FAIRYTALE!

Have you ever wanted to write your own books? Reader Deborah had the same dream, and made it come true... find out how!

Can you tell us a little about yourself, Deborah?
I'm 14 years old and I have a raging addiction to books. I read them. I write them. I recommend them. I'm crazy about them! I'm most definitely a crazy CC fan! I have pretty much ALL her books, and I always go crazy when she posts things or favourites my tweets! Everyone says I'm too addicted to her, but I know better!

What are your hobbies and interests?
I like most things that are creative - reading, writing, daydreaming, stitching, singing, dancing, video games, drawing and painting! I'm also interested in helping others - I just like doing things that make others happy!

How did you get started in writing? Is it something you've always wanted to do?
Ever since I started reading books I've ached to write my own. I wanted to be a famous author. I started writing stories in Year 4 when I was nine... by Year 6 I'd had a few teacher awards and some praise for my writing. My mum published a book she'd written, and a year later I started writing 'A Cupcake Fairytale.' I wanted to follow in her footsteps... and I guess my mini career started from there! One little dream turned into a beautiful reality.

Writing a book is quite a challenge... tell us more!
I honestly thought I could do it. I'd just turned thirteen and saw this as a chance to move up a level in life. I sent my story to my mum's publisher when it was finished and did two lots of editing before he accepted it. The publishing process only took a week and the book was up and running on amazon before I knew it. Editing was the hardest part - it took a while to do and school got in the way!

You have published your books as e-books; how did you go about this?
At first I didn't realise they'd be e-books. My uncle, who is my publisher, explained it was expensive to produce paperbacks and that we should wait until we had a few sales to be sure it was worth the investment. I've been doing a lot of saving since then! From my point of view the process is quite easy - I email my uncle the manuscript and he puts the books together, including the cover.

What ways have you publicised the books?
I started a YouTube channel to upload book trailers for my books. There's a book trailer for both A Cupcake Fairytale and Two Voices. Later I decided to do lots of other things on my channel so I uploaded recommended book videos, recipes, book trailers for other books and lots more fun stuff. I also created a Twitter and Tumblr account and put posters up around my school.
You can watch the trailer for A Cupcake Fairytale here...
And the trailer for Two Voices here...

What are your plans for the future?
I'd love to go to Cambridge University and work either as a nurse in Dermatology or as a primary school teacher. I still want to do all the hobbies I do now... and I still want to be in love with CC books!

What advice do you have for anyone reading this who would like to write, too?
I can only say write from the heart. The best stories come from that place in your dreams that makes you happy; and when you tell the story of your life the world can feel its energy and become inspired by you. Never think your story is weird or that nobody will like it because trust me, people will fall for your character and be with them all the way. Believe to achieve!


Check out Deborah's YouTube channel here...

Have YOU written your own book, or started a blog or a YouTube channel? You can tell Cathy about it here! And don't forget to COMMENT BELOW to let Deborah know what you think of her fab achievements!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

ARE YOU A CATHY CASSIDY SUPERFAN?

Cathy says:
On tour, I am lucky enough to meet some very inspiring readers... talented, enthusiastic, knowledgable, and creative. One of those readers was Miriam, who is a super-keen fan of the Chocolate Box Girls series... 

Miriam says:

My first Chcolate Box Girls book was Coco Caramel and it totally captured my imagination! From that point on, my life seemed to revolve around the Tanberrys. While looking at Cathy's website I found the link to the CCTV Youtube channel and loved it... it was as if the sisters came to life!

I thought that everyone should know about the books, so I made an advert for Coco Caramel; it was about a minute long. That was in October, and now I have four adverts - for Cherry Crush, Marshmallow Skye and Summer's Dream as well - I got a bit carried away! I'm very proud of them, and my work is done - until Sweet Honey comes out, that is!


Watching the characters on CCTV does change the way you think of them, and I'd originally imagined them to be quite different... so I decided to fill a notebook with pictures, drawings and descriptions of absolutely EVERYTHING in the series! I've included all of the sisters, and also the boys; families; animals... I've even done adverts for the places and made a fake newspaper clipping!

When I met Cathy I showed her the notebook and she loved it - she explained that she used to make project books like this when she was younger, and that even now she keeps visual notebooks to help her develop a character, book or series. That was great to hear! She asked me to write something for the DREAMCATCHER blog-zine, and I jumped at the chance!

Cathy says:
Miriam reminded me a lot of what I was like at her age... I would fill notebooks and scrapbooks with drawings, comic-book stories, magazine ideas and stories, and when I found a book or a series of books I loved, I was over the moon. I'd have loved to meet one of my favourite authors back then, but sadly I never did. These days I love meeting my readers and finding how just how cool and talented they are!



Are YOU a Cathy Cassidy superfan? Why? If you'd like to be interviewed for DREAMCATCHER, email Cathy here and explain what you do that might interest other readers of DREAMCATCHER. And don't forget to COMMENT BELOW!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

CHARACTER CRAZY... WORLD BOOK DAY!

Did YOUR school dress up for WORLD BOOK DAY? Lots did! Some of you sent pics of you dressed as my characters, and I thought I'd post some of my faves here! 


Wow... five friends from lovely Stalham Junior School looking awesome! Twins Ellie and Sophie dressed as Skye and Summer, two of their friends dressed as Honey and Coco, and a fifth pal dressed up as Dizzy! You looked fab, girls!

Another of my faves was this fab pic from readers Clodagh and Sophie from Ireland. They dressed up as Hannah and Joey from my stand-alone book DRIFTWOOD... you can find out more about that book here!












Reader Izzy looked fab in her ballet gear when she went to school on World Book Day dressed as Summer... that wig is especially impressive! You can find out more about SUMMER'S DREAM here...
Izzy's friend Edyth dressed as Cherry, while her friend Louisa dressed as Skye! You look AWESOME girls... love it!



Reader Georgina rocked her role as Skye, Summer's twin. Love the vintage styling - and the hat! You can find out more about MARSHMALLOW SKYE here...






Last but not least, we have a real-life Coco... the panda hat and plaid shirt are just perfect! You can find out more about COCO CARAMEL here...









Did YOUR school dress up? Who did you dress as? If your school didn't encourage you do dress as a character, what DID you do to celebrate WORLD BOOK DAY? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!