Saturday, 28 February 2015

JENNA: LAST MOMENT

Reader Jenna shares a heartbreaking short story based on her memories of her dad, who died four years ago… just beautiful.

Jenna says:
We walk along the strawberry pink path of the park woods, Rosie the dog trotting ahead of us. Birds sing in the trees, making their nests ready for the wintry nights ahead. Forget-me-not flowers litter the emerald grass and in the distance, far behind the chestnut trees, I see turquoise waves crashing on the rocks, splashing people on the golden beach below.

Suddenly, Rosie starts to bark at the little stream that seeps through the woods. She looks at my dad for permission, and at his nod she jumps in with a loud splash, trying to pick up twigs in her mouth without having to put her head in the water. Dad stands by the stream watching her; I walk over to watch too, and after a while we sit down on the banks of the stream. Dad puts his arm around me as he used to do when I was small, and we just sit and watch Rosie. It feels like hours, but I know it's just minutes.

Rosie eventually gets out of the water, shaking her soaking chocolate brown fur so she looks less like a drowned rat. We start walking again, and then Dad starts to jog along with Rosie, getting faster and faster, Rosie running alongside him. I watch them running like birds chasing one another along the pink painted path. I've never seen Dad look so free; like all the roubles in his hard and complicated life have left him, like he is free of the illness that has held him back. He is grinning like he never has before.

Dad slows at last and we walk on together. Dad looks ahead into the distance, like he can see something I cannot. Birds fly above us as we watch and the sound of waves crashing in the distance as we stroll along together, father and daughter reunited after four years apart. And then the pink path gets thinner and thinner, as if it is coming to an end. As I look around, pictures begin to form around me, memories of the good times now gone. In the distance I can see a dim light, and I know what's coming. I turn to Dad, tears in my eyes, and he nods, answering my unspoken question.

'I must go, my time is up,' he whispers, so softly you can barely hear it.

He kisses me gently on the head and pats a now whimpering Rosie. There's a strange white light at the end of the path and as he walks towards it the light gets steadily brighter; then suddenly the light goes out and I am sitting up in bed, Rosie howling at my bedside, reminding me he's gone and will never return.

Cathy says:
I love Jenna's brave tribute to her dad; have YOU ever lost someone close to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or comment on the story.

Friday, 27 February 2015

KELLIE: EVERYONE WANTED A BOYFRIEND IN A BAND...

Another in our series all about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Kellie, who was a teen in the 1990s…


Kellie says:
I turned sixteen in the summer of 1996; what a great year that was! Every boy - well, lots of them, anyway - looked like Liam Gallagher from Oasis. The dress code was skinny jeans and band t-shirts, Adidas Firebird tracksuits and Adidas Gazelle or Campus trainers. Music was the battle of Blur versus Oasis and laughing at the manic Street Preachers fans in their feather boas! Bedrooms were covered in posters of bands and musicians and any part time jobs we had, the money would go on various music magazines like Kerrang, NME amd Melody Maker to check the gig listings. We were free to go to as many gigs as we could - Ocean Colour Scene for a tenner at the Royal Court, Space on a Friday night… the city was alive and booming.

HMV was the place to buy your music from, and you would always find someone you knew in there. Vinyl was just a pound to buy! New bands were coming up all the time, and everyone wanted a boyfriend in a band - many of us joined bands ourselves! There were no mobiles then. We had pay phones, and everyone would crowd around to hear what was said. No digital cameras either… just a throwaway camera you'd take to the photo shop to get prints. You'd have a boyfriend for a week and then dump them by not ringing back or hiding from them at the next gig! Life then was good. There was no Twitter, no Facebook - people talked to each other. I miss those days… there was no pressure.

Cathy says:
Kellie's account really captures the buzz of being a teen… love it! These days she is a mum and an anti-austerity campaigner, and still loves music and live gigs! Would YOU have liked life as a teen in the 1990s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

FAMILY MATTERS!

Readers share more of their cool sister stories… naaaw! Read on to find out why family matters!

Lucy Mae says:
My sister Emily is totally awesome - kind of like my guardian angel. She helps me loads, she lots of fun and and is always there for me when I'm down. She's like a best friend who just happens to be my sister! Sometimes we have these days where we feel like we hate each other, but that never lasts for long - we love each other really and I wouldn't swap her for the world!

Grace says:
I love my sister Lily, she's really cool. We share a room together and she always has great advice. We have a laugh together. She can be a bit grumpy if I leave my clothes strewn around the floor, but that's just because she likes the room to be tidy. She is the best little sister in the world!


Caitlin says:
I have four sisters but sadly I haven't seen them for five years now… they live in England and certain circumstances mean it's not possible to stay in contact. In this old photo, I am the blonde one in the middle, smiling like a loon, and my youngest sister isn't in the picture. I remember that we always played make-believe games together, and my older sister and I used to sit up all night sometimes, telling each other scary stories. The downside was that they used to always tell on me if I did something I shouldn't have… but I do love my sisters!

Isis says:
My little sister is just amazing… I look up to her and she looks up to me. Even though we do sometimes argue about stupid little things, we always make it up fast. We are always hyper and we laugh a LOT! You can see from the picture that it's hard for either one of us to keep a straight face. We both like the same things and are always ready to help each other out when we need help or are stuck on something. We're a team. She is a pretty awesome sister and I think we'll always stay close… I don't know what I'd do without her!

Poppi says:
I have two sisters and I get along with both of them, but I see my oldest sister more at the moment. She is six years older than me and we get on like clockwork most of the time. Of course, as I'm fifteen and she's twenty-one we are at slightly different stages of our lives and for that reason we do sometimes get on each other's nerves! If that happens, we are always friends again within the day. I love her to bits… it's a shame I don't see so much of my other sister, because we do get along when we're together!

Cathy says:
Awww… such fab (and sometimes sad!) stories! Do YOU have a sister that gives the Chocolate Box Girls a run for their money? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

DECHOX: A MONTH WITHOUT CHOCOLATE!

This Lent, reader Charlotte is raising money for the British Heart Foundation. Find out how... and what YOU can do to help!

Charlotte says:
You might know that Lent started last week, and that people everywhere are giving something up until Easter. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I am going to be taking part in the British Heart Foundation's national 'DECHOX'. I will be joining thousands of others in giving up chocolate (yes, CHOCOLATE!) for a whole month, to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. BHF are a charity dedicated to researching life-threatening heart conditions such as coronary heart disease, which thousands of people in the UK suffer from.

I will be giving up all types of chocolate - even cakes, biscuits and ice-cream - for the whole of March, and any money raised will go direct to the charity. The cause means a lot to me as my grandparents  suffer from heart conditions; they are very happy I have chosen to support BHF. It's going to be difficult - it's only when I think about it that I realise how often I eat chocolate, from Coco Pops in the morning to biscuits as a snack. Plus, when I'm at university, there is an amazing chocolate cake stall which I'll have to avoid! It will be worth it, though, to send money to a charity which can save lives.

I am amazed at the money I've raised so far and I'd be grateful if anyone reading could have a look at my page and donate - even 50p or £1 will make a difference. The link to donate is:
https://www.justgiving.com/charlotteclarkdechox/
If you can't donate, why not consider taking part in the DECHOX yourself? Thank you!

Cathy says:
I love Charlotte's challenge and her determination to make a difference - and I will definitely be donating! Are you giving up anything for Lent? Or raising money for a favourite charity? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

IT TAKES ALL SPORTS...

Readers tell us about their favourite sports and hobbies… would one of them suit YOU?
Isabelle says:
I have played golf for seven years or so, so I am pretty good at it now and have won the championship twice in a row. What I like best about it is that it's an outside sport, so you get to spend time in the sun - I like the wind too, though! I have made lots of new friends through golf. For example, one of the competitions we do involves going to another town to play for a day, so that can be interesting and you meet new people! My dad is really good at golf and I started playing as a way to spend more time with him and learn a skill at the same time. It does keep you quite fit as you have to walk the nine or eighteen holes to get around the course, but I do other sports too which gives me a good balance. It's not something kids my age always think of, but it can be lots of fun!

Molly says:
My two brothers and I all play indoor and outdoor bowls as a hobby. I have been playing for about three years now, and I am the current junior singles club champion. I've just reached the finals again this year - they'll be played in April. I have also been invited to play for Kent Ladies Under 25s which is quite cool when you are only twelve! I am really looking forward to that. My brothers have been playing bowls for about a year so far, and Harry got his first runners up trophy last year so I think they're going to be pretty good, too!

Jess says:
I'm not terribly sporty, but I am extremely passionate about horse riding! I had my first riding lesson when i was about five,after watching one of my friends who was having lessons, but I didn't start going for regular lessons until I was about eight, just after giving up gymnastics. What I love about riding is that although it can often feel like you're taking one step forward and two back, when you DO achieve something significant it gives you confidence as well as a real sense of accomplishment! And horse riding is an exhilarating experience, where you can really connect with the horse.

Cathy says:
I love these accounts - Isabelle, Molly and Jess all clearly love their sports, and are good at them, too! Do YOU have a sport you really love? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 23 February 2015

MARYAM: HOW CAN I MAKE HIM LIKE ME?

Another in our series of agony aunt posts… reader Maryam asks chocolate box girl CHERRY COSTELLO for help…


Maryam says:
Last year I started a new school and fell for a boy who helped show me around. I was sure he liked me too. We got along brilliantly, but nothing happened between us so I wrote him a letter to tell him how I felt. It ruined everything. Now he won't talk to me and when we pass we shield our eyes as if to keep from seeing the other; it's like we are enemies now. To make matters worse, he is going out with a girl a real Honey Tanberry lookalike; yes, she's pretty, but I don't understand what has made him fall for her. My friend tells me to act more feminine, but I am brainy and not the pink princess or boy-band fanatic type, so how do I do that? I've tried new hairstyles, but nothing makes a difference. How can I make him forget his current girlfriend and like me again?

Cherry says:
The quick answer is, you can't. As teenagers, we fall in and out of love quickly and unpredictably, and sadly, the people we fall for don't always feel the same way about us. You fell for this boy, but it sounds as though he saw you as a friend rather than anything more. Sending him a letter setting out your feelings probably made him feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, and he retreated from the friendship. He has a girlfriend now and though you can't see what he likes about her, that doesn't matter - it's what HE thinks that matters here. We don't always make the wisest choices in our teens, so I am not saying this romance will last, but for now at least he is off limits. You cannot make him forget his girlfriend, nor can you make him like you again - those choices are for him to make. What I do want to say is that your friend is wrong to tell you to change and become 'more feminine' to get his attention. I see lots of girls at school who are acting out a part, trying to be like the celebs they see on TV with dyed hair, perfect make-up and the same old interests and styles. Who wants to be like everyone else? You are a clever, strong personality - that's GOOD. Be yourself, be unique and individual… one day, someone will fall for you and the bond you build will be all the stronger because you are being true to yourself. If this boy is not interested then he's not the boy for you… but you WILL meet the right person one day, I promise.

Cathy says:
I agree with Cherry on this - but do YOU have any extra advice for Maryam? This is a tough situation, and one that a few of us have been in. COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

CHLOE: LIFE'S TOO SHORT TO PRETEND!

Reader Chloe writes about being different… and proud!


Chloe says:
It's hard, isn't it? Hard trying to be true to yourself when you know you're different. I don't mean different as in you have some huge dark secret or an amazing magical power… just different as in just not like anyone else. People don't like different, you see. They prefer to know who everyone is and exactly what to expect, and if everyone is pretty much the same it makes life a lot easier. When in life you stumble across someone who doesn't mind you not being exactly like everyone else… well, you call them a friend. Finding these friends isn't always easy and you sometimes find yourself spending time with people who don't quite 'fit' with you. Life is a kind of puzzle and everyone makes up a piece of it. Some pieces will fit with yours and some won't… but the thing about a puzzle is that no piece is exactly the same. Every piece is unique, different… that's how it all works!

So… all the time you spend trying to fit in with the crowd, trying to be just like everyone else… well, it won't work, because we are ALL different. We spend our lives pretending to agree, pretending to like things which in reality we don't care anything about… but we pretend we do in order to fit in and be liked. It's human nature - everyone does it. Then, out of the blue, with no warning, someone decides to be who they really are. They decide to stop going along with the crowd and choose to be themselves. So maybe being 'different' is actually just being YOU,  just letting yourself be yourself.

Life is too short to follow the crowd. Be the person you are - it's not a right, it's a privilege! I am me and you are you - why pretend to be anything else? Being normal is boring… maybe that's why I stopped!

Pic posed by model Grace… thank you!

Cathy says:
Lots of very thought-provoking ideas here… thank you Chloe! Do YOU ever feel different? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why!

Friday, 20 February 2015

FIONA: I RAN AWAY TO BLACKPOOL...

Another in our series about growing up in a different decade… meet Fiona, who turned thirteen in 1978…


Fiona says:
I turned thirteen in 1978, but the year I was fourteen was my trickiest ever. We lived in a tiny village in Yorkshire, and when Dad was offered a new job in Scotland he and I moved there, leaving Mum behind to 'sell the house'.
That's what they said, anyway, but I think they were having a break from each other. I liked being with Dad, as we'd always been close, but as far as teen issues were concerned he didn't have a clue. Poor Dad - he tried! He took me to Boots to get something for my awful skin and said, in a very loud voice, 'Looks like these products dry up your skin so you'll be all flaky. What's it to be, that or the spots?' I had no friends in our new Scottish
town and was quickly branded as the nerdy swot with a weird accent. I even had a wonky fringe snipped by Mum before we left Yorkshire… see the photo! To make things worse on the nerdy swot front, I then won a 'make your own mag' comp - I was in the Swap Shop Annual and met presenter John Craven, and was  the laughing stock of the school.

I did make friends in the end. Karen, who lived over the road, became a close mate and we both became obsessed with the Mod revival movement. We wore smelly old parkas and styled our hair into 60s beehives and hung around with boys with scooters. There was a big Mod trip to Blackpool and my parents - back together by then - wouldn't let me go. I snuck out and went away, and stayed away for three nights, sleeping under the pier, on a bus, and in a caravan in a stranger's back garden. But Blackpool wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped. It was raining, we were all freezing and had barely any money. Looking back, it was a horrible thing to do - if my kids tried that, I'd be beside myself with worry.

Cathy says:
That 'make a mag' comp was the start of big things for Fiona, as she went on to work on Jackie, Just 17 and More, becoming a managing editor for Emap Mags. These days she writes novels for teens and adults… check out the brilliant THE BOYFRIEND DILEMMA by Fiona Foden! COMMENT BELOW to tell us what YOU think!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

RABBITS, RABBITS, RABBITS!

I've just adopted two new rescue rabbits… they're awesome! I asked some of my readers to share the bunny love…

Cathy says:
When I lived in Scotland, we always had at least two rescue rabbits - sometimes a lot more - who lived in a huge enclosed run on a piece of banking behind the house. Since moving south, we missed having rabbits and last summer adopted Donovan, a gorgeous white rabbit with a damaged ear from a long-past bunny fight. Donovan settled in well, but sometimes looked lonely - and as rabbits like company, we began looking for a companion for him. Just after Christmas, he was joined by Juniper, a pretty white lop who is now his faithful sidekick… they live in a big, enclosed run outside and make me happy every single day… rabbits are just so cool!

Autumn says:
I have two bunnies as well… Jack and Daisy (I didn't name them - can you tell? I shall blame the unimaginative names on their previous owners, Ian and Kyle!) I can't recall why or how we came to adopt the rabbits, but I am very glad we did. Jack is a white lionhead with dark brown smudges and panda eyes; he is super-fluffy. Daisy is toffee-coloured and less fluffy as she's not a lionhead - she's quite feisty and a bit of a diva, and will stamp her back feet if we're annoying her. Jack is quite laid back. The two of them get on well, but they've both been neutered so there will be no bunnylings… phew! Actually, baby rabbits are called kits which is short for kittens… adorable!
Izzy says:
Rabbits are one of the best pets you could have - they are cute, friendly and boisterous! My rabbit, Baltica, loves to play and only nibbles you if she's mistaken you for an item of food! She loves climbing on the furniture and if you don't pay her enough attention will jump all over and around you! My other rabbit is called Jack; he is calm and has a strange habit of licking everything! He's a brown and white Dutch rabbit. He was very boisterous to begin with but now he is older he is much more relaxed. I love having rabbits - they are really affectionate and so much fun!

Michey says:
My pet rabbits, Silver and Tyger, are both males and are now six months old. They are cashmere lops, so their ears hang down and only go up if they hear a strange noise. Silver is white with silver highlights on his ears and tail and has very soft fur; Tyger is a unique colour, brown with black stripes which makes him look like a tiger! Silver is anxious and shy while Tyger is friendly and energetic. They share a big, two storey hutch which took us a day to build and have a big rabbit run for during the day, They love going through their tunnel, hopping up onto my lap and exploring the garden!

Cathy says:
Awww… loving the rabbit stories! Have YOU ever had a rabbit? Or another pet that means the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A SONG FOR SUMMER...

Reader Chloe has put together a perfect playlist for Chocolate Box Girl Summer… what do YOU think of her choices?

Chloe says:
My first song for Summer is 'This Love' by Taylor Swift. The song itself is about a romance with a real person, but for me the song's lyrics perfectly express Summer's love for ballet. For example… 'this love is good, this love is bad, this love is alight back from the dead…' To me, this shows Summer's love for dance but also her fear of it as being something slightly bad and dangerous which has lead her into all kinds of pressure, stress and disordered eating. It's a love-hate relationship, but as in the song, the flame will be re-lit as Summer makes her recovery and rediscovers her love of dance. The song comes from Taylor Swift's '1989' album.

The next song I've chosen is 'Some You Win' by Nina Nesbitt. Although it is from an older viewpoint, it does reflect the romance between Summer and her first boyfriend Aaron. 'I don't need you to be my blanket, someone else can keep me warm, this is not the way I planned it, someone else might come along…' And of course, Aaron is not the right person for Summer at all; Alfie Anderson will be there in the future for her, although it takes her a while to see this. The song comes from Nina's album 'Peroxide'.

My final song for Summer comes from the musical Billy Elliot - the song is 'Electricity' and was written by the legendary Elton John. The whole song reflects the way I imagine Summer must feel when she dances: 'It's like that there's a music playing in my ear, and I'm listening, and I'm listening, and suddenly I disappear…' I think that these feelings show how much Summer loves and needs ballet, and how it helps her to express herself and let go of all her troubles. If you're keen on ballet, I recommend watching the musical DVD or the film itself… although you may need to get your parent/carer to agree as there are some language issues! It's a brilliant story though, and a great history lesson - I like to think it's a film Summer would go crazy for!

Cathy says:
Aww, I am a big fan of the Billy Elliot DVD too, though I have never seen the musical… better put that right soon! Did you like reading Chloe's song choices for Summer? Would YOU add in anything extra? COMMENT BELOW to add your suggestions, or email me your playlists for a fave CC character!

Monday, 16 February 2015

CHLOE: BRACE YOURSELF!

Reader Chloe tells us what it's like to be fitted with braces… 

Chloe says:
So… braces may sound like the worst thing in the world if you have watched the Katy Perry 'Last Friday Night' music video; but they may also seem like the best thing when you see the 'train-track' braces that are all cool and multi-coloured!

Well, it's not exactly like that… at the moment, I have block braces, the kind that aren't 'train track' if that makes sense. These are sorting out my 'overbite' rather than actually straightening my teeth,,, for me, the 'train-tracks' will come later! There are some great things about having braces; straight teeth will be one of them! There are also some not-so-good things. The 'train-tracks' hurt, as do the block braces. Not whilst they are being put in; but there is a lot of jaw strain, and I am still learning to cope with this. Perhaps the worst thing is that you have to change your diet… no fizzy drinks, sweet items, no sticky or sugary items and no pure fruit juice. Not good! I was not impressed. I mean - what about Easter? No chocolate, no sweets, no Malteser traybake from Aunt jane… nooo! But have no fear, LOOKING GLASS GIRL is here… Cathy has a new book out in April! Instead of chocolate, ask for £1 to put towards the new book and you can still have a treat for Easter, just in book-form rather than chocolate form! Mum is getting mine the day it comes out, AKA her birthday… it's a good job she loves me!

I do LOVE the brace box, which I have to take to every lesson… it's bright pink! However, with block braces you have to re-train your tongue to find space in your mouth to talk. I am still getting the hang of that - super-awkward! At the end of the day, though, braces are worth it for a straight and healthy smile. Braces are just something that come and go… and I hope that yours, if you are having any, go well!

Pic posed by reader Isabelle: many thanks!

Cathy says:
I LOVE this honest account of getting braces… and I also love Chloe's solution to a no-chocolate Easter, lol! Have YOU got any tips on coping with braces? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

AMBER: BEHIND THE SCENES AT A CC BOOK SIGNING!

Reader Amber came along to my book signing at Waterstones Clapham Junction recently… and was given the task of roving reporter for DREAMCATCHER, to give us the low-down on who actually comes along to a CC bookshop signing…

Amber says:
At first I had offered to be a chocolate fairy and help to give out chocolate, friendship bracelets and freebie bookmarks and story samplers at Cathy's event… but on the day I was given the task of 'chocolate reporter' which was even better! I want to be a journalist when I grow up so it was ideal for me! Cathy gave me her iphone to take pictures and I chatted to some of the people in the signing queue to find out more about them. My Mum and brother had driven me up from Suffolk to be there… it really was a great day!

Abigail was one of the most fascinating girls at the signing - she had already written and published two books, and gave copies of them to Cathy! Abigail's first book was published when she was only nine… wow! She was a bookworm and could not choose a favourite book, but her fave author was definitely Cathy Cassidy!
Next I chatted to Beatrice, whose fave book was SWEET HONEY. When she is older, Beatrice wants to be an English teacher! My next interview was with Paloma, who went to a French speaking school in London - and has read many of Cathy's books, but in French! Cathy and Paloma talked about how the Chocolate Box series was a little different in French; Paloma was a fan of the Harry Potter books, too! Reader Bella, aged eleven, had read all of the Chocolate Box Girls series and was a big fan; Stella, also eleven, was also crazy about the books and told me that the Chocolate Box Girls was her favourite series. Yasmine, fourteen, had just read one of Cathy's books but was hoping to check out lots more!

The chocolate fairies at this signing were Piper and Esme, both aged twelve. Piper had met Cathy before at a book festival in Bath, and had read lots of Cathy's books… Cherry Crush was her favourite! Esme was just starting out with Cathy's books and her current favourite was SWEET HONEY. 'Cathy Cassidy is my favourite author EVER,' she told me.

As being a journalist is my big dream, interviewing some of the readers at Cathy's event was lots of fun. Cathy is my favourite author, although I also love the Divergent series by Veronica Roth!

Cathy says:
Have YOU ever been to a bookshop signing? Who did you meet and what was it like? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

HOW TO DEAL… WITH GRIEF & BEREAVEMENT...

Another in our regular series of how to handle difficult situations… reader Emma looks at bereavement.

Emma says:
I'm aware this isn't a happy-go-lucky topic, but it is an issue we all have to deal with at some point. Nothing quite compares with the feeling of losing a loved one, but although it is a far from easy process, I am a firm believer that it is 'always darkest before the dawn.' With these tips, I hope we can healthily deal with grief and bereavement.

* Give yourself time to truly accept the loss. Take time out - be alone, listen to music, do whatever it takes, but don't rush things and be gentle with yourself. This is the first and most essential step in dealing with this very fragile yet over-powering experience.

* Don't be afraid to lean on your nearest and dearest! If the person you're mourning was close to them too, you can guarantee they will be grieving also; nobody will understand what you are going through better than those who are going through the same process. Alternatively, if those close to you have no connection with the person you have lost, their support can still ease the situation emotionally and mentally.

* Let yourself feel ALL the emotions you are struggling with. Your emotions may be in a whirl… veering from hurt and guilt and anger to regret, sorrow and loss. Allow yourself to feel and acknowledge all of these… they are a part of the grieving process. Allowing yourself to feel these emotions helps you to recover both mentally and physically.

* Perhaps pay a personal tribute to your loved one. It could be something as simple as planting a tree or a rose bush - whatever you feel might suit that person's personality. Or you may think up a different way to mark their passing and say a quiet and personal farewell. This can be a powerful way to help with the bereavement process and ensure that you can retain a connection to your lost loved one in a physical as well an emotional way.

Photograph: with thanks to model Eden.

Cathy says:
As always, Emma has great advice to offer for a very difficult situation. Have YOU ever lost a loved one? How did you cope? COMMENT BELOW to share your advice and help other readers going through this situation.

LAURA: WE WORE FISHNET TIGHTS UNDER RIPPED JEANS...

Another in our series about growing up in a different decade… Laura tells all about being a teen in the 'noughties'!


Laura says:
I became a teenager just before the New Millennium. The picture below shows me with Mum on my first day of secondary school… I wasn't a big fan of secondary school, but studied lots all the same, and my free time was spent reading Harry Potter, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and going to drama class. I wanted to be an actress like my idol Nicole Kidman and every year I stayed up late to watch the Oscars live! The first single I bought was Britney Spears' 'Crazy' and I was thirteen when I had my first kiss, with a boy I'd liked for ages. He said, 'that was nice, shall we do it again?' so we did, and then I didn't kiss anyone for another four years! I spent far too much time worrying that I wasn't kissing anyone!

I read J-17 magazine, learned to put on eyeliner and crimped my hair. Once Mum brought me a purple Gap backpack back from Chicago and I almost fainted with excitement! I was so jealous of Emma Watson when she was cast as Hermione in the Harry Potter films - I cried in front of my computer. Social networks didn't kick in until my late teens so I used the computer mostly for homework and to look up facts about Leonardo Di Caprio… we had so much in common; I figured we were destined to be together!

When I was fifteen I switched schools and met my best friend Anthea. At weekends we wore fishnet tights under ripped jeans and listened to rock music from way before we were born! In my late teens, MySpace arrived - the Facebook of the time. I didn't use it much but spent ages taking flattering selfies for my profile pic! My favourite subject was English and I did well at school, but some teachers thought I was too quiet and I took this very personally. I tried really hard to be more of an extrovert but it didn't work. These days, I know that being quiet is not a negative thing but something to embrace. I am happy I didn't succeed in trying to be something I wasn't!

Cathy says: 
I love this! These days, Laura Jane Cassidy is an AWESOME teen novelist… check out her book Angel Kiss! Do you think YOU would have enjoyed being a teen in the 'noughties'? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

MORE FAVE CC BOOKS... READERS RECOMMEND!

Have you got a favourite Cathy Cassidy book? Readers share the books they love best...


Marjolaine says:
My favourite CC book is COCO CARAMEL. I found it amazing how an annoying boy can turn out to be so shy and really just adorable. How he wants to save Caramel and Star and Spirit just as much as Coco and how he wants to look after his little sister and his mum so much. I loved the connection between how Coco thought Lawrie was so moody, selfish and annoying, and how he got blamed for being a bully... yet turned out to be such a shy, gentle guy. I loved the bit where he said he would never forget Coco... so sweet!

Jess says:
My fave CC book is LOVE, PEACE & CHOCOLATE. The picture is of me meeting Cathy and getting my book signed at a book festival a little while ago... that was cool! I find the Friendship Festival plotline in the story very inspirational - it would be amazing to set up something like that. I'd love to have a go! I can really relate to Kady and Jess as I am a similar age to them - and of course, I share the name Jess! The thing I like most about the book is that each chapter begins with a text message… it's such an original idea and helps you to feel like you are really in the story with Jess and Kady. It's realistic and romantic and happy, sad and funny… just my favourite of all the CC books I've read, and trust me, I have read quite a few of them!

Izabel says:
I have been reading SUMMER'S DREAM as part of my Accelerated Reading at school. So far, Summer's mum has just got married and when the vicar says, 'Is there anybody here present who knows any reason why these people should not get married...' and… well, I won't tell you, because that would spoil it! It's a funny book so far, but with a serious side too. I am really enjoying it - totally hooked - and I hope I do well on my Accelerated Reading quiz once I have finished! Then I can move on to the next one in the series…

Willa says:
I started reading INDIGO BLUE a few days ago and I really enjoyed it. Indigo, her little sister and her mum run away from Mum's boyfriend, Max and move into a dark, damp flat in town… and to add to her troubles, Indie is having friendship troubles. I liked the characters and I love how creative Indigo is. Every chapter had something unexpected which was really exciting - I pretty much couldn't stop reading. There were a few twists in the story which I can't tell you about… you'll have to read the story to see! You can always tell a good book - it's one you can't put down! I hope that Cathy will bring out a second version to the book, I wanted to read more!

Cathy says:
Aww, I love reading about which books are your favourites… and why! It makes all the hard work worthwhile. Have YOU got a fave CC book? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

EMILY: I CAN FLY...


Reader Emily believes that all of us can spread our wings and fly…

Emily says:
I can fly. When I put my mind to it I just soar up into the air. Down below I see children watching in awe and adults smiling with pride. The feeling of flying is just wonderful… it make me feel like I belong, like I am special.

I know what you're thinking. Can anyone else fly? To tell you the honest truth, many of my friends join me in flight. Slowly, over the years, they learned that they could fly too. I have spent twelve happy years on this interesting earth, but some of the best times of all have been spent soaring through the fluffy white clouds where you meet other experts at flight. 

Sadly, not everyone wants to fly… some actually choose to live with their feet on the ground. They don't take the time to look up into the sky, to see that there are no limits, no walls to hold them in. Living on the ground won't take you anywhere in life, but flying sets you free.

You won't believe it when I tell you, but anyone can fly… even you! To fly is to achieve, to dream big, to reach for the stars… and all of us can do it, if we just have the courage to try. Pick up that dusty old recorder and have some fun! Go to First Aid club, it might give you wings. Be a musician, write a book, paint a picture, save a life… the possibilities are endless. You don't need wings to fly… you just need determination and the power of thought. Go find YOUR talent… then you too can fly!

Cathy says:
Wow… I absolutely love Emily's enthusiasm, imagination and love of life. Yes, we CAN all fly if we set our minds to it… it's not about wings but about shaking off the shackles that life sometimes ties us down with. Think big, dream big - then fly! COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Monday, 9 February 2015

MARIE: I CUT MY HAIR MYSELF WITH NAIL SCISSORS...

Another in our regular series of growing up in a different decade… we talk to Marie, who was a teen in the late 80s…

Marie says:
I turned thirteen in 1986; I was a quiet girl who loved reading and listening to music, and I was a great daydreamer! I lived in Lancashire on a big housing estate, and I remember looking out of my bedroom window at the sky and thinking, 'One day I am going to live somewhere beautiful and I am going to be a writer!' I had fantasies about having a turret room and being some kind of Virginia Woolf figure. In my early teens, I loved pop music and often sang into my hairbrush to Wham or Madonna songs but a few years on I was a mad-keen Smiths fan! My clothes changed too… by my late teens I was wearing long skirts with big wooly jumpers, floppy velvet hats and big boots. I also liked wearing men's tweed blazers - my mum thought I was very peculiar! I loved going to Quiggins in Liverpool, an alternative market selling fab jewellery, clothes, music etc.

I kept diaries and journals right through my teens and I loved drawing and poetry. I was definitely an arty kind of teenager! My hair was always the bane of my life… I was never happy with it and changed it a lot. I'd grow it, cut it short, then grow it again. Once I decided to get a 'bob' when my hair was quite long, and Mum wouldn't let me… so I cut it myself with nail scissors! It was awful, especially when I asked Dad to help with the back of it! I had to get it all cut very short to get rid of the mess. Oops!

One of the best things about being a teen was the friends I had. There's nothing better than knowing you can talk to your friends about anything and know they'll always be there for you. I'd spend all day at school with the and then talk for ages on the phone every evening! I still have some of the same friends now, even though we have our own families now! Not all of being a teen is fun - the exams, the peer pressure and the struggle to work out who you really are and what you want from life can be tough - but some of it is wonderful. You have your life ahead of you and a chance to choose which path you will take, and that's very special - especially when you have great friends to share the journey with!

Cathy says:
Awww… I totally understand what Marie is saying about teenage years being the best and the worst of times! These days, Marie is the happily married mum of two teenagers; she works with children and still loves writing, but rarely attacks her own hair with nail scissors these days! COMMENT BELOW to tell us whether YOU would have liked growing up in the late 80s...

Saturday, 7 February 2015

NATALIE: MY MUM COULDN'T COPE...

Reader Natalie talks with heartbreaking honesty about her fractured childhood…


Natalie says:
I've been told that Mum was always a bit different from the other kids, and that as a teenager she became very depressed. She became pregnant with me at seventeen, and soon after I was born she was showing such worrying symptoms my Nan referred her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By the time I was two, my mum just couldn't cope, and I went into temporary foster care; Nan agreed to look after me and I moved in with her. Being in care at a young age did leave me with separation anxiety, but this has improved a little over the years.

Mum went on to have four more children, many of whom have poor health and and other issues. For a while, I was still seeing Mum and my brothers and sisters, but she often let me down and hurt me (emotionally, not physically). I have often felt very angry at my mum, but I try to remember that this is not her fault - bipolar is a very serious illness and that is what is hurting me, not Mum. I see three of my siblings fairly regularly, though I don't see one of my brothers much. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful nan, who is so loving and caring. When I was younger, she took me on lots of day trips to keep me distracted from the difficult stuff that was going on, and she always takes time to explain things to me and make me feel safe and secure. She is a very strong woman, and thank goodness, she has always been there for me.

When I think back, I can see that life has not been easy because of Mum's mental health issues and that's something that others might not always understand. Overall, though, I feel lucky to have people in my life who care about me and look after me…

Names have been changed to protect Natalie's identity; photo posed by model Grace.

Cathy says:
Natalie's story shows that we often do not know the things that others have to cope with; her strength and understanding is amazing and inspiring. Have YOU ever had to cope with terrifying situations? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or to show support to Natalie.


LOVE YOUR LIBRARY!

February 7th is National Libraries Day… and the first day of week-long celebration of libraries and reading! Here's why we should celebrate our libraries…

Libraries are FREE… all those books, on all kinds of subjects, are yours for the choosing. And you get to keep them for a few weeks, too!

Libraries are warm, welcoming and friendly… and they have computers, too!

Librarians are the original 'search engine'. OK, Google may bring you lots of answers to your question, but a librarian will find you the RIGHT answer. Try asking a librarian for help next time you have a school project - you'll be given all kinds of awesome information!

Libraries are for everybody… rich and poor, old and young, absolute beginner or total boffin. And in a library, we are all equal.

Libraries aren't just full of books,they are full of magic.

Libraries hold our history, our culture, our wisdom and learning and creativity. If you have a problem, the chances are you can find the answer in a library.

Libraries are about MORE than just books… many run classes and groups, art exhibitions, community events, gig nights, youth groups and much, much more. Some even have cafes… how cool?

So far, so awesome… BUT… libraries are under threat. More than 300 have been closed in the last few years, left to become derelict or sold off by the councils who are supposed to protect them. These much-loved libraries are NOT closing because we don't use them but because the government wants to save money, and doesn't care where those savings come from. I have been involved in several protests and campaigns to save libraries all around the UK, and I will go on speaking out for libraries because I cannot bear to think of a world without them. That would be a world where only the rich and privileged have access to books and learning; where ordinary children have their hopes and dreams taken away from them; where the doors of opportunity are slammed shut in our faces. In a world without libraries, I could never have discovered the magic of reading as a child, nor dared to dream big and follow my dreams to become an author.

Libraries belong to US… let's use them, enjoy them, make them cool and awesome and uncloseable. Let me give you a challenge; if you don't have a library ticket for your local library, get one this week… and find out what magic your library can work for YOU!

Read more about what Cathy has to say about libraries here: http://www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk/2015/02/libraries-belong-to-us-by-author-cathy-cassidy-for-national-libraries-day/

Cathy says:
Do YOU use your local library? Or have the libraries in your area been closed, or had their opening times reduced so it's no longer possible to visit? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more...



Friday, 6 February 2015

MY FAVE CC CHARACTER...

We asked readers to tell us about their fave Cathy Cassidy character… here's what they said!

Sydney says:
My fave CC character is Coco Tanberry from Coco Caramel, because she is SO like me. Both of us love animals and are daring… and we are also the same age and the youngest sibling! When I read about her, I feel as if I have an identical twin, and as though that character is real and really understands me. My favourite part if where she steals the ponies, as it shows that there is nothing Coco wouldn't do for animals. She is my hero!

Jess says:
My fave Cathy Cassidy character is Finn from Dizzy, because he's so caring. He also plays the tin whistle and likes piano, flute and festivals, just like me, except that I don't play the flute! (I would if I could learn another musical instrument!)

Tia says:
My fave character - well, it's actually two characters! It is Summer and Skye Tanberry. I feel like they are me split in half, and I love their stories. I love history and vintage clothes and decor; and I also do dance, although not ballet!

Emily says:
My fave character is Coco because she tries so hard to be the best sister. I love how she pushes herself to the limit for animals. It takes a lot of guts to do that.

Alice says:
My favourite is Summer… she is just so amazing!

Gemma says:
I love Ginger - I feel I can relate to her. I too have had friends who were not true friends. I also feel that she has a lot of personality and is such a unique character.

Chloe says:
My favourite is Scarlett. She is very bold and confident but she also has her weaknesses. I love that she doesn't think before acting and just goes with it even if it ends in total turmoil. She's a sweet girl at heart; it shows that your anger can get the better of you and that you need to learn to control it. It also shows that when you think your world is falling apart, it may be falling unto place!

Jade says:
Scarlett is my favourite too… she is a feisty teen  who knows what she wants out of life and is determined to make it happen. I can relate to some of her troubles, which brings her character to life even more!

Cathy says:
Love these posts… awesome! My all-time fave CC character is Mouse from Dizzy and Lucky Star… naaaww! COMMENT BELOW to tell me yours!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

If there was a movie of your life, what would it be called? Who would play you and what genre would it be? Would it be fictionalised or true to life? What songs would play over the opening and end credits? We asked you to decide, and this is what you said…

Rachael says:
My film would be called 'One Big Rollercoaster' because my life has had its ups and downs and twists, turns and loops! I would play myself as I love acting… although I would have to get a young actress to play the younger me. It would be an adventure film because it would grip you from the start and the fresh challenges I face would keep the viewer hooked. I'd have 'Wonderful World' as the opening song and probably 'Stay With Me' by Sam Smith at the end. He sings about how he wishes some people in his life had stayed, but they left; and about people changing as they grow. That's what happened to me and my best friend… we changed and we grew apart.
Jasmine says:
Mine would be super duper unrealistic. I've no clue what I'd call it, but I'd 100% be able to shapeshift and I'd be living with a superhero, team Avengers or X-Men. I'd be someone who wouldn't want to obey the rules and I'd mess up all the time… instead of saving the world, I'd be eating pizza! It would be sci-fi/action with a hint of humour. I'd include the song 'Say Something' by A Great Big World and Christina… it wouldn't be the opening song, just background music. The opener would be something like 'Back To Black' by AC/DC.

Laura says:

My movie would be as true to my life as possible - but with a little romance thrown in for good measure, of course! I would call it 'The Girl Who Hid' and I would probably want to play myself. I think I would have the song 'Invisible' by Taylor Swift playing over the opening titles and I'd end with 'Here's To Us' by Halestorm...
Sydney says:

My film would be totally true to life and I'd call it 'And Then There Was Syd.' It would be about friendship, family and romance, and I think we would all play ourselves… why not? I would play 'Ain't Been Done' by Jessie J at the start of the movie and 'Masterpiece' by JJ at the end.
Lauren says:

My movie would be called 'So Little Time.' The person I'd choose to play me would actually be myself as I would love to be an actress when I get older. It would be good practice and at least I'd know the character and the lines! The genre would generally be a tragedy, and it would be as true to life as possible. I have experienced a lot of tragedy in the short time I've been alive, hence the title of the movie.

Cathy says:
Ooh, I love these… very cool! What would YOU call a movie of your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!

MEET EMILY SPARKLES...

My fab writer pal RUTH FITZGERALD has a cool new book out today… I think you'll like it!


Ruth says:
EMILY SPARKLES AND THE FRIENDSHIP FIASCO is a book about how very difficult it is to be an eleven year old girl. Everyone expects you to be sensible, mature and grown up, but they still treat you like a child. Also, if you're just a normal. nice sort of person it can be very confusing working out how to be friends with people who are a bit more complicated!

I started writing when my eldest daughter was about that age; lots of the themes are based on things that happened to her - especially Gross-out Gavin on the bus! At the same time my brother and his wife had a new baby and they were so tired all the time. One day everything just came together in my head and the idea for Emily Sparkles appeared!

I am a bit like Emily's mum in the story. I try to do everything right but never seem to have the time - I think most mums are the same! I get really involved writing a story. Sometimes I forget I am writing at all because I am having so much fun with my characters in their world - then I sort of 'wake up' and realise I've burned the dinner again! My children are used to coming second to Emily now.

I also love hearing from my readers… it's all new to me as the book is only just out but it's so much fun to hear about which bits people are liking! I'm very lucky in that my editor Kate has asked me to write another three Emily Sparkles books… so look out for more disasters coming soon!

Cathy says:
I have read the first Emily Sparkles book and really LOVE it… it's lots of fun and a really cool read! Have YOU read a book you'd recommend to others recently? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!