Sunday, 31 January 2016

QUIZ: WHAT SEASON SUITS YOU BEST?

Reader Lori has devised a fab quiz to find out which season of the year is just right for you! What are you waiting for? 

1. Your alarm goes off at 7am... do you:
a/ Pull the covers over your head and snuggle down for as long as you can?
b/ Jump up, take a quick shower and go for a morning run through the park?
c/ You're already up, having a lazy breakfast in the garden!
d/ You get up grudgingly... 7am is too early!

2. What snack would you choose mid-morning?
a/ Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows!
b/ A fresh fruit smoothie for energy!
c/ An ice cream... decadent but gorgeous!
d/ A blueberry muffin!

3. What colours are your favourites?
a/ Cream and crimson...
b/ Greens, pinks and blues...
c/ Rich yellow, white and turquoise...
d/ Golden brown, burnt orange and mustard yellow...

4. What style of clothes are you most drawn to?
a/ Anything with a luxe feel and fabrics like cashmere, velvet and silk.
b/ You choose sporty, practical styles where possible.
c/ Cute little dresses, ultra-short shorts and crop tops.
d/ Romantic, boho styles with lots of layers and flowing fabrics.

5. Footwear... what would you choose?
a/ Sounds crazy, but fluffy slippers are your absolute favourite!
b/ Trainers - a nice design, sure, but they have to be practical.
c/ Strappy sandals with a bit of glitz!
d/ Suede boots with tassels and a bit of folk-art detailing.

6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
a/ To Lapland, to see the land of the midnight sun, stroke a reindeer and sleep in an ice-hotel!
b/ To Ireland or the Scottish highlands, to explore the lush green scenery and climb some mountains!
c/ To Tenerife or Barbados to do some serious sun worshipping!
d/ To Rome, Barcelona or Paris... a cool citybreak!

7. Later, you are planning to:
a/ Veg out at home with friends, watching movies and eating pizza.
b/ Go to your dance class, then meet some mates to plan tomorrow's adventures.
c/  Party - life is for living!
d/ Curl up at home, read a book and dream...

CONCLUSION:
Mostly a... you are a WINTER person, happiest snuggled up in the warm sipping hot chocolate, taking a brisk walk through the crisp snow or building a snowman with friends! You're warm, loving and caring with a great sense of fun!
Mostly b... you are a SPRING person, full of energy and enthusiasm! You're always on the go and love spending time outside - you're sporty, but have a real love of nature also. Friends describe you as adventurous, brave, happy and loyal.
Mostly c... you are a SUMMER person, a real sun-worshipper who loves luxury, style and new experiences. You are outgoing, confident and always the life and soul of any friendship group... you know what you want and others respect you for it!
Mostly d... you are an AUTUMN person, gentle, romantic and a bit of a dreamer! You sometimes seem shy, but that's because you live a lot in your imagination, and friends value your kindness, creativity and quirky approach to life!

Cathy says:
Ooh, fascinating! Were you mostly a, b, c or d? Or a mixture? I was mostly AUTUMN... and it's definitely partly true! COMMENT BELOW to let me know how accurate YOUR results are!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

CATHY: JACKIE MAG DAYS...

Cathy Cassidy tells all about her days working on the legendary teen mag JACKIE, which helped to shape her writing career...

Cathy says:
My first real job after leaving art college with a degree in illustration was as editorial assistant on the legendary teen mag JACKIE. It was just about the job of my dreams! To start with I was the office junior and had to answer the phone, fetch the coffee and chocolate and do the photocopying, but I was thrown in at the deep end too and had to come up with lots of ideas for features and then write them up! I quickly learnt to think on my feet and then write up the ideas I'd put forward - brilliant training for meeting those deadlines later on as an author!

My desk just happened to be next to that of the Deputy Ed who was overworked and also acting as Fiction Editor; he would hand me piles of manuscripts and ask me to comment on them. This was quite surreal, as I had spent most of my teens sending short stories to JACKIE mag hoping they might buy one (in the end it was different mag that bought and published my first story when I was sixteen!). Anyhow, my judgement must have been good, because we bought the stories I loved, and rejected (nicely!) the ones I didn't, and a few weeks later I was given the job of Fiction Editor. This taught me so much about what teens might want to read, and I learnt important lessons about hooking the reader into the story and making sure they wanted to read on! One highlight was serialising the book version of one of my fave 80s teen flicks, PRETTY IN PINK, for the magazine. So cool!

Working at JACKIE wasn't just about stories, though. Famous pop stars of the day wandered in and out of the office and I got to go out of the office to organise and style fashion and beauty shoots, working with models and photographers... so cool! I worked alongside some awesome people, many of whom went on to do amazing things - as authors, journalists, scientists, radio DJs, businessmen and a whole lot more. They were also the loveliest work colleagues ever! After just over two years at JACKIE mag, I moved on to another magazine job and then into art teaching. I missed JACKIE lost and know it was a vital part of my learning to be an author, and a magical part of my career. I soon made the move to being a freelance journalist and illustrator and worked for JACKIE and its sister mags as a freelance for many years to come, until it closed and was replaced by the younger teen mag SHOUT. I worked for SHOUT too... but that's another story! ;o)

Did YOU know about Cathy's teen magazine background? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

MARINA: SOMEONE STOLE FROM ME

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER again and reader Marina has a friendship problem that could prove tricky to solve... can SKYE TANBERRY offer some answers?

Marina says:
I had a sleepover last week with four of my closest friends. Three of them I have known since I was in primary, and one, let's call her Jade, just joined our school before Christmas but quickly became a part of our friendship group. After the sleepover, I noticed a silver charm bracelet was missing from my dressing table - my gran gave it to me and it is very special to me. I looked everywhere for it but it has vanished. I hate to say it, but one of my friends must have taken it and I can't help suspecting Jade, just because I don't really know her as well as the others I suppose, but I hate this feeling of mistrust and I feel betrayed. I am scared to say anything because this could pull our friendship group apart, but I cannot keep pretending to my mum that I've mislaid the bracelet. Help!

Skye says:
First of all, stop trying to cover this up - you need some adult help to unravel this. Tell your mum what has happened and together search the room and eliminate once and for all any chance that it has been mislaid. If it turns up, great... crisis averted! If not, I suggest your mum contacts the mums of the other girls involved and perhaps the school also, until the missing bracelet is found. This does not have to be a matter of accusing people... more that the bracelet went missing when these girls were present and it needs to be found. I understand why your suspicions fall on Jade, as you don't know her well, but it is also possible that one of your older friends has done this... or that someone has tried to plant the bracelet on one of the group to cause trouble. Let the school and the adults investigate and try not to jump to conclusions. Hopefully, the bracelet will be found and you may then have to adjust your friendships accordingly - it is tough to trust and stay close to someone who steals from a friend. If you decide to step back from your friendship with the culprit, do it gently and without anger... in many ways, this action is a lashing out by a troubled person, and may not have been meant to hurt you as much as it did. It's also possible that the bracelet won't be found, and that is harder... trust has been damaged and that will affect the whole friendship group. Try not to let this incident stop you from trusting people... friendships are built on trust. For now, talk to your family and get some help to solve the mystery - and good luck.

Cathy says:
A very difficult problem... and as Skye says, one that may not have a neat ending. Do YOU agree with Skye's advice? What extra suggestions would you add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

SOUMIA: I JUST WANT TO WRITE...

Reader Soumia describes her path to discovering her goal in life - and her career dream!

Soumia says:
I remember once in primary school when the teacher asked us what we wanted to do in the future and why. Some kids seemed to know exactly what they wanted and answered without even thinking about it, but when it was my turn I didn't know what to say. I tried to think of something, but nothing came, and the teacher looked at me and said, 'You know that a person with no goal will never succeed.' That's when I started trying to figure out my goal in life!

A few years later, in middle school, we began to study a new subject, English. I live in Algeria and Arabic is my first language, so English was something very new. It was my favourite at once and I always had excellent grades, so I began to wonder if English could be my goal. That didn't make sense, as English is just a language... so I used to say I'd be an English teacher. The problem is that teaching really isn't my calling, so I was back to the quest, and because I am quite good at French also I wondered about translating as a career. I just wasn't sure though, and I often wondered if I would ever find my real goal in life.

Then I just grabbed a piece of paper and a pen as I have always done, and began to work things out on paper. I love to write - sometimes I express my feelings through poetry, sometimes I just sit down and write stories and that's the only thing that helps me get rid of the stress and anxiety. I suddenly realised that that piece of paper had been there right since the start... even on that day when the teacher was asking us what our goal was, mine was right in front of me waiting to be noticed. I used to write paragraphs and I remember very well when that same teacher used my paragraph as an example for my classmates to hear.

Now, if anyone asks me what I want to be, I look them in the eyes and say 'A writer,' as simply as that. Writing is something I love to do, something I can see myself doing, and nobody can change my mind about it. I know that I want to write, whether it's novels, poems or something else... I just know I want to convey my thoughts by writing. Why not make the world a better place by sharing love and peace through written words?

Cathy says:
Love this... I too knew from an early age that I wanted to write, even though I wasn't sure I would actually be allowed to do it as a career! What is YOUR dream career? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 25 January 2016

CC READERS AROUND THE WORLD...

CC books are translated into 28 different languages and enjoyed by readers all around the world... want to meet a few?

Prerana says:
I live in NEPAL and I am fourteen years old. My uncle used to live next door to us, but he had to move and when he moved he wanted to give me a gift as a farewell. He went to the book shop and asked for a good book for a teenage girl, and they suggested Cathy Cassidy's book SCARLETT. So I was given it as a gift and I read and loved the story very much. I became a crazy fan of Cathy Cassidy! I have now started reading more of the books though they are not always easy to find here! I love the characters. I am now finding out more about Cathy from the Facebook page and website and I plan to read many more books!

Rianne says:
I live in MALTA, which is an island in the Mediterranean. I love Cathy's books - they are so addicting! The first Cathy Cassidy book I read was SUMMER'S DREAM - I loved it so much and it is still my favourite! I really identified with Summer as I love music and have similar dreams to hers, but obviously with music not dance. I got the book from the school library where we have a whole shelf full of Cathy's books. I borrow CC books from the public library too, and I have started ordering the books online so I can have them to keep as well. Coco Caramel has just arrived, I cannot wait to start reading it! I could come up with many great adjectives to describe the books, but the best one I think is 'incredible'. My dream is that when I grow up, I will write books just like Cathy's!

Manon says:
I am fourteen and I live in France, and I've been a big fan of Cathy Cassidy books since I was ten. I discovered the first one thanks to a friend and I adored it straight away. I then began to collect the series LES FILLES AUX CHOCOLAT and look forward to the publication of every new book. I even have the French special editions and the casket edition and two of the graphic novels. Last year there was a book festival at Gradignan, just 15km from my home, and after it was finished I learned that Cathy had been there signing books. I had not known this and I was so disappointed! I love all of the sisters in the series, but I am attached particularly to Cherry for her sweetness and her kindness. Sometimes I even dream of going to meet the characters because I feel I know them so well! I am happy to speak out for the French people who read and love Cathy Cassidy's books. I hope she will go on writing and I wish her lots of luck!

Cathy says:
I love getting emails, FB messages and letters from readers all around the world... it amazes me that people are reading and loving the books all around the world! Are YOU a CC reader who lives outside the UK? If you'd like to be featured on DREAMCATCHER, just email via the 'email Cathy' link over on www.cathycassidy.com - and do COMMENT BELOW to have your say on this feature!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

MELTING HONEY: A CHOCOLATE BOX FANFIC BY KATIE

Reader Katie loves the Chocolate Box Girls series... and knows the characters so well she enjoys writing fanfic stories about the sisters. Read her awesome wintry tale...

Suddenly, the spoon hits the ceiling. 'Clearly, we've got a bit of cabin fever,' Mum says as the row escalates, louder and faster than she can keep up with. She scurries to the side of the kitchen, hauls out the spare table, bench and camping chairs and stumbles down the snowy steps into the front garden. Whipping our dinner plates out from under us, she puts them on the outside table and steps back to admire her work. She adds lighting and blankets, then calls to us.

'This is where you'll be eating until you learn to sort yourselves out,' she says. My sisters rush out; within moments they are laughing and clutching each other to stay upright in the icy snow, as if they've never argued in their lives. I hang back. I wish I hadn't started the trouble. Sometimes, I just can't keep my mouth shut, and my sisters are paying the price while I skulk on the stairs, watching Mum and Paddy finish their meal. After a while, Paddy head through to the living room to bank up the fire while Mum stacks the dishwasher, and I decide to show my face.

'Sorry I caused all that,' I say.

'Oh, Honey!' Mum whirls round, accidentally flicking chocolate off a spatula she's holding. I put a finger to my nose, wipe off the chocolate splash and lick my finger. 'Mmm... honeycomb!' I exclaim, and the sombre atmosphere lifts a little as both Mum and I start to laugh.

'Seriously, Honey, I'll accept your apology if you promise not to wind your sisters up again,' Mum says. I roll my eyes. It's not a promise I can keep.

'But, Mum!' I argue. 'I'm a teenager! Teenagers don't make promises... and you know I can't help being moody sometimes!'

'Is that so?' Mum says. 'OK. I'll forgive you if you just... promise to love your sisters.' Her smile closes the negotiation, and I wonder if this is how she does the chocolate business deals too. My  mum is sweet - but very persuasive! Me, I'm more like a citrus dessert... sweet until proven otherwise! My icy frown cracks and I begin to smile.

'I will promise to love my sisters,' I concede. 'But maybe not Ch...'

'Including and especially Cherry,' Mum says.

'I promise to love all of my sisters, including my stepsister Cherry,' I sigh, and Mum laughs, looking out across the snowy Tanglewood lawn beyond the kitchen window.

'Now, go join the punishment,' she says. I go, crunching through the snow, to the sight of my sisters doing wild 'punishment laps' across the lawn, and Fred inspecting a very lopsided snowman. Despite the cold, my heart is warm. I really can feel it melting.

Cathy says:
Awww! I love this, Katie! A perfect Chocolate Box fanfic for a cold British winter's day! Could YOU write a CC fanfic? Keep an eye on the CC Facebook fanpage for more writing challenges... the best could appear on DREAMCATCHER! Remember to COMMENT BELOW to tell Katie what you think of the story!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

SCHOOL LIBRARIES - THE HEART OF THE SCHOOL!

Did you know that there is no law or rule to make sure that schools have a library? Reader Ribh argues that school libraries should be the heart of EVERY school... 

Ribh says:
Literacy is so important in our world and it is especially important for the future generation - that is why having school libraries is so vital! Libraries provide free access to all. They are a place for pupils to go to research and learn which is so important in a school. Libraries are free to all, which means that everyone has an equal shot at life - everyone has the chance to use the library resources (which include magazines, newspapers, careers information, board games, crafts, access to information databases and computers.)

Some pupils don't get the chance to use these types of resources out of hours... perhaps they are busy, not comfortable going to a public library or perhaps there is no public library nearby for them to use. Pupils may not be able to afford to buy the kind of resources a library has. Whatever the reasons, in the school library everyone is equal. A school library closes the gap between rich and poor, making it easier for pupils to be whatever they want to be when they grow up, no matter what their social background may be. Surely the UK should be encouraging this, not stopping it!

I personally believe that libraries should be encouraged and I believe that the school library is the heart of a school. Without them, schools would not be the same. Libraries promote reading and encourage pupils to reach for their dreams, perhaps even to be writers and illustrators themselves! Libraries are a place where pupils feel comfortable and accepted, a place where pupils think a lot about their futures. They are also a space where pupils who like some quiet time to relax and not worry about school stress! School libraries, to me, are the best places in the school. If they go, a school loses its heart, its atmosphere and love. That is why school libraries are so important!

Top pic: Ribh pictured with Cathy at a book signing in 2015.

Cathy says:
I agree with Ribh... and I know that my readers care very much about libraries, too. Does YOUR school have a library? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

FREYA: CHOOSING OPTIONS… HELP!

It's problem time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Freya has a dilemma for Summer Tanberry to tackle… will you agree with her advice?

Freya says:
I'm in Year Nine and we have to choose our options soon. I'm dreading it because I have no clue what to pick… I don't enjoy many subjects at school and I have no idea what I want to do as a career, so I feel I have nothing to aim for. I am also scared that fail my GCSE exams when the time comes… I don't do well in tests. Suddenly school is feeling very scary.

Summer says:
I agree that Year Nine can seem like a very daunting year… the pressure to choose wisely for those options is quite heavy. You are not the only one who feels unsure of her future, and even those of us who have a particular career in mind often change our minds or have to alter our plans. The best plan is to choose the subjects you like best and do well at; or perhaps the subjects you dislike the least! Remember that some subjects are compulsory anyway, so maths, science and English are likely to be unavoidable! When you've picked a few subjects you might like, talk to the teachers and ask for advice and feedback before you make your final decision. Remember that practical subjects like art, music, food technology and drama are options too! As for exams, please stop worrying - course work still counts for a lot of your mark, and you will get lost of practice at learning how to revise, prepare and handle exams sensibly. The more you panic, the less you will cope, so take a deep breath and resolve to study hard and do the best you can. That's all anyone can ask!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Summer… and I agree, staying calm about it all is the only way to go! Do YOU have any advice for Freya? Have YOU chosen options already, or decided what you'll study when the time comes? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! If you have a problem for one of the sisters to answer, email your question via the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com and mark your email DREAMCATCHER PROBLEM...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

ALANA: WHY I LOVE THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS...

Reader Alana recently wrote me a fabulous letter about how much she loved my CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series... I thought I'd share!


Alana says:
I first discovered Cathy's books at my school's book fair - a few friends were talking about CHERRY CRUSH and how much they loved the series. I decided to buy it and as soon as I began to read, fell instantly in love with the story. Cherry is a passionate, interesting character and I related to her on so many levels. I loved her wild imagination and her struggle to fit in - I could see it all unfolding so clearly in my mind.

Because I am a twin also, I loved the next book, MARSHMALLOW SKYE. I understood why she felt second best. Being a twin is hard work - you do often feel like you have to conform to others' standards and be more like your twin because everyone is always comparing you to her. Skye is so unique and original, I'd never want her to be anything but her amazing self and she made me realise that I don't need to be anything but my own self either. I loved seeing her grow and discover who she really wanted to be.

I was deeply moved by SUMMER'S DREAM - Summer wanted her dream so badly. Watching her crumble under the pressure was horrible. It was like watching a glass of water fall to the ground in slow motion and and there was nothing you could do to stop it. I love how Cathy's book can tackle very serious topics and yet retain a light and hopeful tone... a friend of mine had an eating disorder, and this book helped me to understand a little more about how she might be feeling. I also loved the character Alfie - he was so sweet and so funny and I loved that he did so many cute little things for Summer.

It was great to switch viewpoints and see the sisters from the youngest sister's viewpoint in the book COCO CARAMEL. She is sassy and has her priorities right - any mistakes she makes happen only because she is trying to help others. She can see what is wrong with the world around her and is willing to make a stand. She loves her family but knows they have their faults and is not afraid to point them out. Coco is proof that you can make a difference in the world, no matter how small you are or how much power you may or may not have.

SWEET HONEY... well, I don't even know where to begin with Honey. Out of all of the sisters, she is the most fascinating and interesting. I really wanted to see where the story would take her, and I finally got to see her thoughts and feelings and understand why she acted the way she did. I loved watching her character develop and change, and see her coming to understand her mum, her dad, Cherry and Paddy far more clearly as the book progressed. She changed dramatically in her outlook and it was great to see her in a new light. It took me back to when I first read CHERRY CRUSH and discussed it with my friends... we hated Honey. This book changed that, and I saw that everyone has a reason for their actions and that although people can do bad things when they are angry, it is not always their fault. I don't think anyone can blame Honey for what she did, and I am glad she learnt from it!

The last book, FORTUNE COOKIE, was a great wrap-up to the series. We met a totally new character, Jake, the sisters' secret half-brother, and saw the end of the story from a totally fresh viewpoint again. Honey and Cherry finally made their peace and everything came to a beautiful ending - I won't spoil the story by explaining just how! I have just loved the series, it has taught me so much. Cathy's books are quick and easy to read and bring up serious issues that are very relevant to teens today. The stories have inspired me to think of my own and I hope to follow in Cathy's footsteps and be a writer one day. I'd love to inspire others the way Cathy Cassidy has inspired me!

Cathy says:
Thank you Alana... letters like yours make all the hard work worthwhile! Do YOU love a particular CC book or series? Maybe you'd like to write about it for DREAMCATCHER! Email me via the 'email Cathy' link over on cathycassidy.com to let me know! Or just COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Monday, 18 January 2016

BRING ON THE DANCING GIRLS!

Readers tell us what it takes to study dance... a brilliant insight into life as a dancer!

Sydney says:
I live and breathe dance. I do every genre going, eleven classes a week. One night I do a class, come home for tea and then go back for more classes. My mum says she's like a taxi! I stretch every day, practice all the time and the hard work pays off as I have taken mu ISTD Grade 1 and 2 Modern, Grade 1 Ballet and Primary Tap, and achieved distinctions in them all. It started when I saw some ballet on TV when I was just two, and apparently I told my mum that was what I wanted to be. I'm nine now and my passion is as strong as ever! It is very full-on but I don't see it as hard work, just fun!

Molly Anne says:
Dance takes up the whole of my weekend. Sometimes my ankles and thighs ache, or I get bruises, but I don't care, I love it. I do Ballet, Tap, Modern and Limbering. I would rather dance than anything else at all, I just love it. I do competitions and exams and I do a set of stretches every morning even if I am not dancing that day.

Holly says:
Dance means everything to me, it's my world. It gives me an escape from reality while I practice and learn new steps and routines. I do Ballroom, and I spend two hours a week learning and practicing my own routines and another hour on top of that teaching the younger kids to dance. To do really well in competitions you really need to practice several hours a week, two or three hours a day perhaps. But winning really is worth all the time and effort that you put in! Dance is one of the toughest yet most rewarding sports in existence, and that's why I love it!

Caitlin says:
I love dance. In competitions I don't always get through, and I sometimes get upset if I know I've done my best. My dance teacher always tells me there will be other competitions, and that's what I try to remember. Your best may not always be noticed, but there are always new chances to dance your best.

Chloe says:
Tuesday is a very hectic day for me. I wake at 6.15 to get ready for school, and when the school day is over my uncle picks me up at 3.45 to drive to the next town for my dance classes. I get changed - my uniform is tights and a purple leotard - and my first class is tap, so I need my tap shoes as well. After an hour of tap class I have a Modern class, so it's just a change of shoes and onwards! Finally, I have an hour of drama class. My friend's mum gives me a lift home. I have ballet classes too, on a different night, and exams in Ballet, Tap and Modern in March. On stage dance looks so graceful and pretty, but when you're in the audience you don't see the blisters, the aches and pains and the itchy costumes! It all takes a lot of hard work, but I love it!

Alexandra says:
I do two Ballet classes a week plus a Tap class and a Modern class. I'm on advanced level Ballet, intermediate Tap and Grade 6 Modern. It''s very tiring and sometimes I wish I was at home instead, but it's worth it - I am so lucky to be given these opportunities. There have been times I've auditioned for shows and not got in but I don't mind - I love dancing and wouldn't give it up for the world. I injured my ankle and couldn't dance for ages but I kept going to class to practice the arm movements and memorize the dances. I thought I might not dance again but my ankle is almost 100% again and I'm so happy to be back! In December I auditioned for a dance festival at my school and got in - so right now I'm busy training for that. I love dance - it's a huge part of my life!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

THE SHOES IN THE SAND...

Reader Gemma has written a stunning fan-fiction about Summer Tanberry... a must-read to brighten up your January!

It has been so long since I have properly danced. I've had a few lessons at the dance studio, but I haven't been able to lose myself in the music... until now.

It's the school holidays, and we're staying at a beach far away from Tanglewood. But just like at Tanglewood, we wander up and down the beach as we please. That's what I'm doing now. A pair of pointe shoes, discoloured from the ocean, are buried in the sand. I walk over to have a look. I try not to think about it, but... imagine if these are the ones I threw into the ocean last year when I got home from hospital? I pick them up, tip the sand out of them. It couldn't hurt to try them on...

I walk up to the wharf and slip the shoes on. The sand is uneven, not good for pointe work. Even though the wet sand that covers my feet feels gross, I like the familiarity of how these shoes feel. I walk around a little, trying to get a feel of them, then decide to raise up en pointe. I fall over almost immediately. Before I got ill, I trained every day. My ankles, legs and toes were strong, capable of bearing my whole body weight... but it has been a long time since I've danced en pointe, and I am weak.

I try again; years of work can't just disappear. I fall again. And again, and again. I sit down on the wooden wharf in defeat. I see a familiar figure running across the sand. 'Summer!' my twin sister calls. 'Are you all right?'

'No!' I sob. 'I found these pointe shoes, and I can't use them!'

'Yes you can,' she says firmly, jumping up onto the wharf. 'Stand, Summer. Just normally.' I get up onto my feet, and Skye holds out her arms.

'Hold onto me and go en pointe,' she says softly.

I wobble, but I don't fall this time. Skye is keeping me balanced. We walk a bit. My toes cry out in pain, but I ignore it. I try a basic pirouette. I fall out of the pose too soon, but still, I did it. Skye and I leave the shoes under the wharf and go back to the hotel we're staying at.

I return the next day, without Skye, and this time I've bought a CD player. I put in my copy of The Firebird CD, choosing one of the slower songs. I put on the shoes and then I'm dancing. Not as well as I used to, but still, I'm dancing. I am leaping and turning and twirling across the wharf.

I remember now why I loved ballet so much. I don't think I ever really forgot.

(I have no credit for the pic but if anyone knows the photographer please let me know, I will happily credit)

Cathy says:
I LOVE this fantastic fanfic story, inspired by the evocative picture above. Awesome work, Gemma! Did YOU enjoy the story? COMMENT BELOW to have your say... and if you love writing, watch out for my picture story challenges on the Cathy Cassidy Facebook fanpage... the very best responses may be featured on DREAMCATCHER!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

EM: MY PROJECT YOU - CAMPAIGN BY LAURAWBU

Reader and blogger Em is guest-blogging today on DREAMCATCHER to tell us about a fab new project she has come across...

Em says:
Recently, I found out about a campaign that blogger laurawbu started. I think it is a really good idea, and wanted to get involved. It's about helping people become more body confident and have more self esteem. 

Part of the campaign is to say something positive about yourself - I picked my curly hair because even though it doesn't always look its best, I love it and feel quite happy to say it's natural when asked if I have to curl it! Many people compare themselves to others, perhaps compliment them. We may think, 'their eyes are really nice', but follow it up with the thought, 'Better than mine'. Instead, give yourself a compliment... 'But I really like my legs,' or whatever it is you like about yourself. Putting yourself down won't help anything. To feel confident and love yourself, you must realise how beautiful you are inside and out.

This world needs more people in it who believe in themselves and are confident enough to love themselves and live life to the max. Never wish you were somebody else. Be happy with YOU! The message I am trying to convey here is that it's OK to love yourself for who you are. There is no need to copy what everyone else is doing if you don't like it. Wear the clothes YOU want to wear, laugh at the jokes YOU want to laugh at, be friends with the people YOU want to be friends with. Basically, just be yourself - and love it!

You can find out more about laurawbu's inspiring campaign here - get involved, blog about it, spread the word and join in! 

Check out Em's fab blog too, which covers fashion, lifestyle and baking... it's v cool!

Cathy says:
Thanks Em for telling us about this great campaign. Hmm... I'd probably say 'I love my eyes,' I think, or maybe my mind for its daydreaming abilities! What would YOU choose? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

LOOKING GLASS GIRL: IF YOU LIKED THIS BOOK... YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS TOO!

Reader Katie reviews LOOKING GLASS GIRL... and suggests a book by a different author you might like if you've already read and enjoyed this one!


Katie says:
Alice feels she is in Wonderland, with a summer drama school to attend with her good friend Luke, a performance as Alice from Alice in Wonderland in the school play under her belt, and the rest of the summer ahead to catch up with her best friends. But Alice's BFFs, Elaine and Yasmina, are jealous and have other ideas. When the girls start secondary school, cool girl Savannah messes things up even more by making friends with Elaine and Yaz. Alice can see her friendship turning sour, and she may very well end up losing her mind...

LOOKING GLASS GIRL's plot thickens with each page, leaving you unable to put it down. It's like you ARE Alice, spiralling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. The book makes you feel so many things - fear, surprise, longing - and, when Alice's Wonderland really is wonderful again, the book leaves you feeling happy and satisfied. Wonderland is not an easy concept to understand; nor are bullying or comas, but when they are mixed together in this excitingly modern take on the fantasy classic, you end up learning a lot about the human mind.

Not only does LOOKING GLASS GIRL teach you these things, it takes you on an invigorating adventure where ALICE IN WONDERLAND meets modern day friendship, horror and drama. It has everything I like in a book, but if you've read and loved it too, here's another book that may hook your interest. BAD ALICE by Jean Ure uses a fresh twist on ALICE IN WONDERLAND also. The author adds in some dark themes, with a boy who suffers from Tourette's syndrome and 'Bad Alice' herself, who has behavioural issues. In BAD ALICE, Alice and Duffy seek to understand each other in a touching story where all is not as it seems. (Note, the book is aimed at older readers... some difficult themes.)

Cathy Cassidy's LOOKING GLASS GIRL is a standout novel, using the themes and imagery from ALICE IN WONDERLAND in a stunning new way. Once you've read it, check out Jean Ure's BAD ALICE too!

Cathy says:
I am definitely going to check out that book - thanks for the top tip, Katie! Is there a particular book YOU think readers of LOOKING GLASS GIRL might enjoy? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

SARAH: I THINK SHE'S GAY!

It's problem time on DREAMCATCHER today… and reader Sarah has a problem. Honey Tanberry has some words of wisdom… will you agree with them?

Sarah says:
I regularly go to a youth club session for young people with disabilities, and I love it. I get on with all the youth workers, but I have just discovered that my favourite one is a little bit different. She didn't come right out and say she was a lesbian, but she did let slip that she has a female partner. The problem is that I am straight, and I don't know how to tell her this. It seems easier just to avoid her… should I do this, or pretend nothing's wrong and go on doing the activities she runs? Please help… I have no idea what to do now!

Honey says:
What to do? Well, do nothing! What difference does it make whether your favourite youth worker is straight or gay? If she prefers to holiday in Corfu or Clacton-on-Sea? Or likes curry better than chips? It has no bearing at all on how she does her job, unless you think she's likely to make a pass at you - and why would she? She's a professional, and no more likely to get flirty with you than a male/ straight youth worker. Added to which, she has a partner… she's just telling you about them because they are a part of her life! If you suddenly stop taking part in the activities she sets up, you'd not only hurt her feelings over something that really should not be an issue, but YOU would be the loser. These days, we are a caring, tolerant society and we accept that not everybody is the same. Some are able bodied, some not; some are black, some white; some are vegetarian, some eat meat; some straight, some gay. Being gay is not a threat, or something bad or scary. I think you've over reacted because you may not have come across many gay people before; this is your chance to relax and  understand that a good person is a good person, straight or gay. You've given yourself the answer in your email… just carry on as usual. The shock will fade and you'll soon come to take it in your stride. All will be well!

Cathy says:
Honey is spot on, if a little direct! Go back to your youth group and carry on as usual… nothing has really changed. How would YOU feel if someone you know well told you they were gay? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Monday, 11 January 2016

PRAIRIE GIRL...

One of my favourite authors as a child was Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the awesome Little House on the Prairie series… based on her own childhood in the pioneer days of midwest America!

Cathy says:
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in the Big Woods area of Wisconsin, USA. Her parents were Charles and Caroline, and Laura had one older sister, Mary, and two younger sisters, Carrie and Grace. The west of America was opening up at this time, and Charles Ingalls took his family west in a covered wagon when Laura was not yet two years old. Over the next few years, the family settled in Kansas and then to Minnesota, Iowa and finally Dakota. In each location, the family had to build a log cabin and stake a claim to work the land. Their travels in a covered wagon were sometimes dangerous and exciting, and their struggles to survive crop failures, natural disasters, illness and extreme weather conditions were dramatic. They formed the basis of a series of books Laura would write when she was older.

Laura was a bright child and attended school in most of the places she lived while growing up - if there was a school, that is. She was only fifteen when she took her first teaching job at a school far from her own home. Between 1883 and 1885 she worked as a teacher, worked for the local dressmaker and attended high school when possible, although she did not graduate. In 1885, aged 18, she stopped teaching to marry a young homesteader, Almanzo Wilder, and set up a home together. Laura and Almanzo had one daughter, Rose, and eventually moved to Minnesota.


By 1911, when Laura was in her early forties, she took a job with a local newspaper and over the next few years became a skilled and popular writer. The Wilder family were badly hit by the stock market crash of 1929; Laura turned to writing to seek some extra income. She began working on a book about her pioneer childhood, and the first of her children's series, LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS, was published in 1932. Seven more installments followed, and the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books became hugely popular with children all around the world.

I began reading the LITTLE HOUSE series aged nine or ten, as library books, and instantly fell in love with the stories. They took me to a very different place from the 1960s & 70s British city I grew up in, and I shared in Laura's adventures and dramas and learned just what it was like to be one of the American pioneers settling the midwest. I read the books over and over, tried writing my own stories inspired by them and made cut-out paper dolls of the characters to recreate the plotlines. The books have remained firm favourites throughout my life, and eventually I bought second hand copies of the library editions I had read as a child... the collection has pride of place on my bookshelves.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was an inspiration to me... one of the first authors I read who made me want to create characters and situations as compelling as hers had been for me. She brought a whole different world to life for me. Laura died in 1957, a few days after her 90th birthday. Her books are no longer as popular as they once were in the UK, but remain classics in the USA. A popular TV series was made of the stories, and there is a museum about Laura Ingalls Wilder based at her old home, Rocky Ridge.

Aimed mainly at ages 8-12, the 'Little House' books are a fab read at any age. They are: Little House in the Big Woods; Farmer Boy; Little House on the Prairie; On the Banks of Plum Creek; By the Shores of Silver Lake; The Long Winter; Little Town on the Prairie; and These Happy Golden Years.

Have YOU read any of the LITTLE HOUSE books? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

DAISY: GOODBYE TO DREAMS OF DANCING...

Reader Daisy shares her story of dancing dreams cut short… and tells how, like Summer Tanberry, letting go of those dreams opened up new doors for her.

Daisy says:
At the age of eleven I auditioned for a place at a residential ballet school and won that place; I studied there for two years, but struggled with the boarding element of it the whole time. My family moved close to another full-time ballet school, so I transferred there, but sadly I was emotionally abused by one of the teachers there and have only just recovered from that. After a year at another ballet school I had more auditions, this time for the equivalent of ballet sixth form; the auditions were often up to six in a week and took place in the middle of GCSEs which was very stressful. I was fortunate enough to get a place at a well known London dance school.

Everything was going wonderfully until I was told I needed surgery on my foot to correct some issues with my bones, and then another one, and another one. Eventually I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome which is basically a kind of nerve damage which causes extreme pain that shouldn't be there. I struggled to continue the heavy dance workload I was used to, and this caused me to break down. My health suffered. I was diagnosed with Anorexia two years ago and given treatment. Finally, thankfully, I am weight restored and discharged. I was told that I would not be able to dance again at the level I previously had, so I had to let go of my dreams and start afresh. This was so hard, but it made me realise that I COULD love other things as much as I had ballet - for me, it was English Literature.

I have been reading Cathy Cassidy's books for a long time, but Summer's story really resonated with me. The way Cathy describes the voice in Summer's head and the passion bordering on obsession, the fear of sabotage from everyone you love and the constant need for perfection are exactly the way it felt for me too. SUMMER'S DREAM made me realise that what I was experiencing wasn't normal; the book encouraged me to get the help I needed. I like to think that Summer, once her treatment is finished, will go on to find other passions and a happy life, just as I have. I am expressing my not so nice past through short stories and poetry as well as sticking my nose in as many books as I can! Knowing how close I came to death makes me enjoy every second of my new life. I laugh, I love, I live.

Cathy says:
Daisy's story is terrifying and inspiring in turn… and it's so, so amazing to know that my book SUMMER'S DREAM enabled her to reach out and get the help she needed. Have YOU ever felt so pressured you just couldn't cope? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 9 January 2016

CAREER GIRL: FIFTIES STYLE!

Imagine growing up in the 1950s... what kind of careers might you have dreamed of? Back in the 1950s, these were the dream jobs many teen girls aspired to, according to a well-known UK women's magazine...

NURSE: 
The NHS had not long come into being, and nursing was a very popular career. Children's dressing up sets with a nursing theme were very popular. Training was often given on the job, and trainee nurses might be expected to do anything from administering medicine and assisting in operations to washing patients or making beds. Nursing was a respected career and is still a hugely important job today, although it is not paid as well as it should be.

SHOP ASSISTANT:
Shop work was often seen to be a better option than working in a factory, and jobs in smart department stores were the most sought after posts of all. Those who had a skill for retail were valued highly, sometimes moving into management and often ruled over their departments with a rod of iron as well as commanding the envy and respect of their friends.


AIR STEWARDESS:
Teens who dreamed of travel and glamour back in the 1950s often aspired to a career as an air stewardess. Air travel was slowly becoming mainstream, but it was not until the late 60s and 70s that ordinary families began to take overseas holidays. Being an air stewardess was unusual and exciting back in a time when air travel was reserved for the wealthy.


FLORIST:
Artistic girls might be encouraged towards a career in floristry back in the 1950s... it was a job that required visual flair and also offered the chance to follow your own style and perhaps, eventually, even to be your own boss. This job also held an element of glamour... many girls in the 1950s worked in shops, offices or factories so there was something different and arty about this career.

TYPIST:
Working as a typist or secretary was seen as a real step up from factory work, so learning to type (with a fast speed of words-per-minute) and to read and write shorthand were real skills. A teenage typist would start out in the typing 'pool' - a room full of women typing up various information - and if they had potential, would move up to become a secretary or clerk. In the days before computers and internet, good typists were essential to almost every kind of business.

THE ARMED FORCES:
When the 1950s dawned, World War Two was still only five years in the past and National Service for men was still compulsory. Women were needed in the armed forces too, the army, the air force and the navy, and adventurous young women were attracted to this work. Although many were still doing traditional jobs within the forces, such as secretarial or nursing tasks, the chance was there to try other things too, and travel was a very real possibility.

HAIRDRESSER:
After the war, women were beginning to have the time, money and opportunity to pay more attention to their appearances and trips to the hairdresser were once more an option for some. A career in hairdressing was not only suited to artistic and sociable girls, but offered the chance of longer term work at a time when many women gave up their jobs once they married and had children. Hairdressing was a skill which could sometimes be done from home.

CATHY SAYS:
Although I wasn't around in the 1950s, the older women in my family worked in jobs like these - my mum worked in the wages office of a car factory, one auntie worked in a department store and another was a 'Wren' - a member of the Women's Royal Navy. It was very hard for girls to do jobs that were considered to be a man's work... if you wanted to be a truck driver, a vet or an engineer, you would have had a tough struggle ahead of you to achieve those dreams. In some ways, women had more freedom during the war, but a decade on they were expected to let go of that and step back into more traditional roles. Would YOU have liked to do any of these jobs? If not, what would you rather choose? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 8 January 2016

KELSIE: NEW YEAR... NEW DREAMS!

Is there something you've always wanted to learn or do? Make it happen in 2016! Reader Kelsie has made an inspiring list guaranteed to make sure this year will never be dull! What are you waiting for?


Kelsie says:
New Year has always been a bit of a let down in the past... I make a resolution about eating less chocolate or studying harder, and it all falls apart by the end of the first week. So this year I thought I would stop putting myself under pressure and make 2016 all about finding fun and trying new things. No pressure... and no deadlines! I've made a list of things I'd love to try out in 2016... what would YOUR list look like? Here are a few ideas to get you started!

- If it's raining, put on a hat and a waterproof coat, grab your wellies and go jump in some puddles!
- If the sun is shining, call up a few friends and go for a picnic, even if it's just in the park!
- Buy or pick a bunch of flowers to give to someone you know would love them!
- Forget buses - travel by bike! You'll get fit and save your cash!
- Like swimming? Join a lifesaving group or learn butterfly or backstroke, or diving!
- Cook a three course meal and invite all your friends over!
- Learn a new language... Spanish, German, Arabic, Japanese... the world is your oyster!
- Go veggie for a week to see if you can do it!
- Draw and paint a self-portrait and channel your inner artist!
- Give yourself a total makeover and a dramatic new haircut!
- Swap clothes with a friend who has totally differently style, just for one day!
- Take salsa dancing classes!
- Perfect your handstand skills... or learn to do a perfect cartwheel!
- Have a good-deed-day and wash cars or walk dogs for your family and neighbours - for free!
- Take a trip to the seaside!
- Write a short story - or a novel!
- Send a secret prezzie to a friend for no reason at all...
- Re-design your bedroom and work out how to do all the work on a shoestring!
- Go and take photographs of blue things and create a folder of arty shots to show your friends!
- Donate a bagful of food supplies to your local food bank.
- Join an after-school club and learn a new skill!
- Take a drama class and boost your self-esteem along with your acting skills!

Cathy says:
Some brilliant ideas here, and I love Kelsie's plan to pack more fun into 2016! What ideas would YOU add to the list? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

ELIZABETH: GET THE VINTAGE VIBE...

Reader Elizabeth tested out the vintage collar project from CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS… and the results are pretty awesome! Take a look!

Elizabeth says:
I got the CC book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS for Christmas, and loved it straight away. I decided to make the vintage collar project to start with… it was really fun to make and only took me a couple of hours to do! I used the instructions direct from the book, as they were very clear and easy to follow.

I snipped the collar off an old school shirt… my brother let me use one of his… and started sewing! My mum gave me some lace which I sewed round the edge and I did a running stitch along the top in a matching thread. I love the way it looks… it's very cool and vintage and I can't wait to start wearing it to brighten up my winter jumpers!

I love how you can customise the collars to suit your own personal style - you could make some amazing ones with mix-matched buttons or beads, or even embroider the collar with colourful threads to get this year's folk-art look! I really enjoyed making the collar and it was very easy to do. The instructions in the book were very clear and gave me some great creative ideas! CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS is packed with other fun projects, too… I can't wait to try more!

Artwork by Erin Keen, from CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS; photos thanks to Elizabeth!

Cathy says:
CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS is a book that arty, creative and fashionista readers will love all year round… it has tons of crafty, arty, foodie and fashion-y projects to follow, all brought to you by the Tanberry-Costello sisters themselves! A must-have for any fan of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, and for anyone with a cool or arty streak! I love Elizabeth's version of the vintage collar! Do YOU have an arty/ crafty/ foodie project to share? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

NATALIE: RESOLUTION BLUES

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Natalie has a problem for Skye Tanberry to solve...

Natalie says:
Everyone I know makes a big deal of New Year and sets themselves new challenges and resolutions, but I don't know where to start because my life is rubbish and I cannot see a way of changing it. I am very overweight, I am thirteen and I am a size 16 already and I get picked on at school for being fat, sometimes in a jokey way and sometimes in a just plain cruel way. I have tried to diet but my mum cooks big meals with chips and bread the whole time, and if I refuse to eat what she's made, she gets cross. My whole family are big, but it's something we never talk about. I think I will end up like my mum, who has to make her own clothes. My dreams of a good career or a boyfriend or an adventurous future seem impossible. Even my friends pity me. I am hopeless at sport too. I cry myself to sleep at night wishing for a different life, but when I am very low I pig out on crisps and biscuits and make it all a million times worse. Please help me.


Skye says:
I have seen eating issues almost destroy my sister and I know it can work both ways, and that comfort eating can be just as dangerous and destructive. I think you have lost hope of changing things, but from where I am standing it does seem possible to turn things around. Crying yourself to sleep won't change anything - only determination can. You don't like sports - I don't either, but I love walking, cycling and swimming because they're not competitive and you can go at your own pace. It's important to get active because it lifts your mood and also gets you fit, so find an activity you like - or several - and aim to do something every day if you can. Exercise can offer more feel-good mood than eating biscuits ever could, I promise. If your family eat unhealthy meals, offer to cook now and then and show them how tasty healthy food can be. If you are worried, see your GP and ask for support to get healthy... your whole family can learn better ways to cook and eat and find out how to get fit. When you are low, it's easy to feel self-pity and give in to quick fixes like crisps and cola that make you feel better for a moment, but none of that will help. Only you can decide to change things, to take control of your life. If you genuinely want things to be different, you can make the changes to help it happen... give it the best effort you've got.

Cathy says: 
Good advice... sometimes, change can seem almost impossible, but if Natalie stops putting obstacles in her own path she CAN take control of her life again. Do YOU agree with Skye's suggestions? Would you add anything? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 4 January 2016

BYE BYE CHRISTMAS...

When do YOU take down your Christmas decorations? Straight after New Year's Day? On 'Twelfth Night', January 5th? On 'Old Christmas Day', January 6th? Or whenever you feel like it? We asked you to share your post-Christmas traditions!

Vikki says:
We have just taken our decorations down… on January 3rd. I hate it… everything looks so drab and bare. I usually try to get some flowers to brighten the place up, but I forgot this time.

Valerie says: 
We take everything down by January 6th, no later. It's supposed to be bad luck to leave them up any longer - we were late taking everything down last year and we did have some bad luck… not going to risk it again!

Julia says:
It's always January 5th for us… the reason we don't do it on the 6th is that that day is my birthday!

Katie says:
Our routine varies… this year everything was down by January 4th. We'd been taking the ornaments down gradually so it was just the tree left to put away. We wait for both Christmas and New Year to be over but we don't have a set day.

Louise says:
My mum is a bit of a neat freak and she puts everything back to normal the day after New Year's Eve, sometimes actually in the middle of the night! She says the New Year should start clean and fresh and uncluttered. I know what she means but it does make me sad because I love the way the house looks over Christmas.

Cindy says:
I am the same, I like everything down by January 1st, but we were late this year and didn't get everything back to normal until 3rd january.

Donna says:
This year we packed everything away the day after Boxing Day. It has not been a good Christmas as my Grandad is very ill in hospital and none of us were in the mood for Christmas at all. Sometimes you can look at the glitter and the tinsel and just feel sad.

Belle says:
Our story is the opposite. Last year we 'missed' Christmas because my brother spent Christmas in hospital. So Mum left the decorations up until he came home, at the end of January, and we then had our own Christmas. Then we took the tree away but left the fairy lights and tinsel up all year because it cheered us up… so when we out it away this year (on the 5th I think) it will have been up a VERY long time! I am so used to it now I wouldn't mind if it stayed up permanently!

Cathy says:
We are superstitious about taking it all down on January 6th, 'Old Christmas Day' - I love these stories, though. With Christmas, there is no right and wrong… what do YOU do? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

YOUR YEAR AHEAD IN THE STARS...

Skye Tanberry looks into the future and predicts your horoscopes for the brand new year ahead! Is YOUR prediction accurate?

CAPRICORN:
Make an effort to show your friends how much you value them and keep life exciting by planning fun activities and adventures. Life is what you make it, so be sure to make it good! Step away from negative people who bring you down or undermine you. This is a great year to change your life and achieve your dreams... make a list of what you'd like to do and plan the first steps. The stars are on your side!

AQUARIUS:
2016 looks set to be a happy, sociable year for you - pace yourself as the fun unfolds, or you may end up running out of energy! You're a caring person, so get involved in helping the causes that matter to you, raising funds or spreading the word. The last quarter of the year looks like being a great time to take up a new sport or exercise - you may end up becoming an expert!

PISCES:
The first part of the year is the ideal time to break bad habits and decide how you'd like your life to look in the year ahead... and start putting new plans into action. You may have to work hard to achieve your goals, but this year you'll have the energy and determination for that. Take time out for fun with friends and family - a gathering later in the year could change your life for the better if you are brave enough to let your talents shine!

ARIES:
2016 doesn't look like being the year when you will make your fortune, but money isn't everything. Friends, family and work are all looking good, but if you hit a patch of trouble try doing something creative to banish the worries and stress... baking, painting or making music could all help! You like being active and sporty, so make time to escape to the great outdoors now and then - it will re-charge those batteries better than anything else.

TAURUS:
2016 is all about compromise and finding ways to work with others... even if they are sometimes demanding, remember it is only because they care about you! Learning to work well as a team will enhance your relationships and deepen friendships, so give it all you can. An unexpected crush will occupy your thoughts during the start of the year and a new friendship with someone living close to you could open up new opportunities to you.

GEMINI:
The year starts on a high with good news linked to either friends or family, but as the year goes on take care not to get carried away by news brought by others... until you're sure it's true, stay cautious! Take care of your health - eat healthy foods and take regular exercise and not only should you stay super-fit but you may just make a whole new bunch of friends!

CANCER:
This is a year of big ideas and inspirations for you... make the most of it! Your creativity is working overtime and it's a year that could see you taking big strides towards a possible future career. It may be something you have never considered before, too! Balance out the ideas and the hard work with relaxation and fun and you're looking at one of the best years you've had in quite a while!

LEO:
You like a quiet, peaceful life, so stay away from drama-queen types and those who bully or argue about everything... positive, fun-loving friends are what you need. You're beginning to realise that success is not about fame and fortune but about reaching your own goals and being the best you possibly can. You're growing up... and building a great future for yourself. Be proud!

VIRGO:
You will be full of energy and enthusiasm in 2016 - the perfect time to study, revise or pursue a new hobby or sport, because you will be able to give it everything you've got. There may be a few problems to deal with along the way, but if you take things slowly and calmly you will be able to rise to the challenge.

LIBRA:
You put a lot into everything you do... be careful you don't work too hard, or play too hard either. Balance is key! One way to achieve this is to limit computer/ mobile time and instead make lots of time for face to face friendship and chat. Taking up a new creative hobby in the spring could lead to a whole new talent!

SCORPIO:
In the past, you have sometimes been easily led - don't play along with others for sake of it, especially if you feel unsure of what's happening. Listen to your own instincts and have the courage to do what is right for you - following your heart may lead to a new friendship or romance in the summer which could be life-changing!

SAGITTARIUS:
Sometimes, your sensitive nature means that you worry too much about the world - and the people - around you. Soul searching is fine, but not if it makes you feel anxious or low. Make a point of writing a daily list of things you are grateful for - you may end up turning your whole attitude around. Animals are going to be important to you in 2016 - a new pet perhaps?