Tuesday, 31 May 2016

WRITE ON... STORY-CON!

Reader Ribh has news of a VERY exciting conference for young writers and illustrators living in Scotland... it's FREE too, so make sure you don't miss out!

Ribh says:
Are you a teenager who lives in Scotland? Interested in writing or illustrating? Want to make friends with teens from across Scotland who share the same interests, and hear tips from professional writers and illustrators? The come to StoryCon - Scotland's new teenage writer's and illustrator's conference!

StoryCon is organised and run by the Scottish Book Trust and the ten 'What's Your Story' participants (see picture below!). The conference takes place on the 11-12th June BUT you need to sign up by 2nd June to get your free place, so do it NOW! You can go along for either day, or for both, and it is being held at the Princes Trust Wolfson Centre, Central Glasgow. Only people aged 13-19 are allowed to go, and lunch is provided free. The whole conference is free except for a £3 booking fee when you book your place - you get this back on the day, but the deposit is to make sure those booking a place do plan to attend... it should make sure places aren't wasted and that interested teens are not turned away. If you can't afford the £3 there are bursary places you can apply for!

The conference includes workshops, panels, debates and keynote speeches from professional writers and illustrators. The workshops range from making comics to making podcasts to Youtubing and vlogging to script writing. There will be tips on creating imaginary creatures, writing about relationships and much more! The conference is sure to be a fun and inspiring experience for Scottish teen writers and illustrators... be there of miss out!

To find out more about the conference and to book YOUR place, go to www.thestoryis.co.uk - and remember you need to book your place by June 2nd so don't hang about! I look forward to seeing you there!

Cathy says:
This sounds like an AWESOME way to encourage and inspire creativity... wish I was in the right age bracket to attend! (Ahem!) ;o) Do YOU plan to go along? Or would you, if you lived nearby? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 30 May 2016

HALF-TERM QUIZ TIME... ARE YOU A CC SUPERFAN?

Curl up in the sunshine with a long, cool drink and take this fun quiz to work out if you're knowledgable and dedicated enough to be a CC superfan! 

1. Which character in BROKEN HEART CLUB dyes her hair black the summer after Year Six?
a/ Andie
b/ Eden
c/ Miss Smith

2. Why is Ryan in trouble with the school at the end of Year Eight in BROKEN HEART CLUB?
a/ It involves a javelin, a fishpond and a very old lady
b/ It involves truancy, lies and a threat of expulsion
c/ It involves a blackmail plot and some missing GCSE exam papers

3. In LOOKING GLASS GIRL, Alice is offered a drink from a china teapot. What is it?
a/ Very strong tea
b/ Fruit punch with a dash of chilli sauce
c/ A cocktail of different alcoholic drinks

4. In LOOKING GLASS GIRL, Alice finds herself trapped where towards the end of the sleepover?
a/ The bathroom
b/ The garden shed
c/ The cellar

5. What is the name of CC's bestselling series?
a/ The CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS
b/ The RICE PUDDING BOYS
c/ The BEANSPROUT BABES

6. Which wild animal do Coco and Laurie rescue from a snare in one of the stories in LIFE IS SWEET?
a/ A kestrel
b/ A fox
c/ A rabbit

7. Which CC character loves the band My Chemical Romance?
a/ Mouse from LUCKY STAR
b/ Paul from DRIFTWOOD
c/ Finn from DIZZY

8. What is the name of the school magazine in GINGERSNAPS?
a/ Pink Ink
b/ Zine Scene
c/ S'cool

9. Dan Carney from ANGEL CAKE first meets Anya while...
a/ Giving out free cakes in the street, in the rain
b/ Auditioning as angels for the school nativity play
c/ At a school cake sale to raise money for orphaned swans at the local wildlife park

10. In SUNDAE GIRL, Jude's mum is hiding a dark secret. What is it?
a/ She is a Take That fan
b/ She is addicted to ice cream
c/ She drinks too much

Now to see how dedicated you are...
11. Have you ever given a CC book to a friend to borrow?
12. Have you ever borrowed a CC book from the library?
13. Have you ever been to a CC book signing?
14. Have you ever entered a CC competition?
15. Have you ever reviewed a CC book?
16. Have you ever dressed as a CC character for World Book Day?
17. Do you watch the Cathy Cassidy TV Youtube channel?
18. Do you visit the CC website, www.cathycassidy.com
19. Have you ever read a CC book more than twice?
20. Have you ever written a story or made a drawing inspired by a CC book?

SCORING: Give yourself one point for every correct answer in q's 1-10, and one point for every 'yes' answer in q's 11-20.
1. b; 2. a; 3. c; 4. c; 5. a; 6. b; 7. a; 8. c; 9. a; 10. c.
Q's 11-20, one point for every 'yes' answer.

RESULTS: 
1-5: You've read one or two books but you're just starting out really... there's much more for you to discover. What are you waiting for?
6-11: You see yourself as a fan, but you haven't read all the books yet - check the website to see which ones you've missed and ask your bookshop or library to order them in for you!
11-15: You're a serious fan and pretty clued up on CC books. You even help to spread the word to your friends... well done!
16-20: You're not only a superfan, you probably know more about all things CC than Cathy herself... if CC books were an exam subject, you'd be getting A* grades! Awesome stuff.

Cathy says:
Ooh... tricky! How did YOU do? COMMENT BELOW to compare notes!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

LILY: I STILL HAVE BAD DAYS...

Reader Lily shares her experiences of hitting rock bottom during her last year of secondary school... and tells us how she gradually found the help and determination to handle the difficult days...

Lily says:
I went off the rails hard during my last year of A levels. I wasn't the traditional rule breaker who skipped school; I didn't run away from home or fight with my parents or my brother, or not more than is to be expected, at least. Instead, I went from feeling on top of the world to hitting rock bottom in just a few short months. All through my secondary school years I had my 'bad' days where I felt disconnected from everything that was happening around me, as if the world was devoid of happiness. This feeling came and went over the years, until a few months ago when I started my last year at school.

Suddenly, without warning, I lost all motivation to do anything. Some days I struggled to get out of bed. I started to fall behind in my A levels and when I failed something, I took it out on myself. I began to self harm, in an attempt to turn the pain I was feeling on the inside into something physical. My friends didn't understand how one minute I could be laughing and joking and the next I would shut down. I couldn't explain, because I didn't understand it myself. I thought about suicide - I had reached a point where I couldn't find any reason to stay. But there was still one part of me that didn't want to die, so I went to the doctors. I was eventually diagnosed with depressive disorder and traits of personality disorder, and suddenly it all began to make sense. I started counselling at school once a week and had appointments with my psychiatrist every few months.

Now, seven months down the line, I am getting ready for my A level exams. I'm heading to university in September and I am in a totally different place than I was back then. I am not 'fixed' - it doesn't quite work like that. I still self harm occasionally, and I still have bad days when I don't want to get up and face the world. I have started writing a memoir of sorts to document my experience with depression. I've called it 'How To Save A Life' and I read it when I feel hopeless. It reminds me of how far I've come and that when it comes down to it, I really do know how to save a life.

Now when the bad days come I focus on music and writing and my loved ones. And with that as my armour, I simply cannot lose.

Picture posed by model Caitlin - thank you. 

Cathy says:
This is such a powerful piece of writing... I have huge respect for Lily for sharing it with us, and I am so glad she has found help and ways to handle the difficult days. Have YOU ever struggled with depression? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 28 May 2016

ANASTAZJA: A REAL LIFE ANYA?

Reader Anastazja came to Ireland from Poland a few years ago... find out how she settled in, and discover how the book ANGEL CAKE helped her!

Anastazja says:
I'm twelve years old and I live in Dublin, Ireland, but I was born in Poland and moved over here when I was just six. I could not speak English at all, but I still managed to get along OK! The move was very difficult, though, mainly because I had to live with my Nanny for a year in Poland while my parents came to Dublin. Then once they were settled properly I came over to join them, and that was much better! I got special help from the teachers to begin with and I did begin to feel more settled. I got along with everyone, but I made my first real friend, Emily, just a year ago at Scouts. That has helped so much!

The most difficult things now are things like keeping up with Dublin slang - stuff like 'Lmao' or 'I'm so hot' or the stuff that gets posted on Snapchat. I never really know how to use it and worry I will end up making a fool out of myself! I learned English from my dad, and also at school, and once I was able to read in English things have been much easier. Last year I discovered Cathy Cassidy books and I love them because they are just so teenage and so cool. I especially love GINGERSNAPS and ANGEL CAKE - well, ANGEL CAKE the most, because Anya's story is like my own story in a way! I read the book from start to finish with happiness and I collect the books now... I have quite a few!

Like Anya in ANGEL CAKE, it was hard in some ways to adjust to life in Ireland. Poland is a country that has a beautiful history and many traditions, and our own foods of course too! Dublin is different in so many ways - different history, traditions and foods. It is a busy city where there is always a lot happening - and for some reason it is always raining here! There are lots of differences really. Just like Anya though I do feel settled now and I have real friends. I am glad that I read ANGEL CAKE because it opened up the world of CC books to me, and they teach me so much about friendship and fitting in and emotions too. The books are inspiring to me. Am I a real life Anya? I don't know... maybe! You can decide...

Cathy says:
I LOVED hearing all about Anastazja's story of settling in Ireland... how cool? Have YOU ever had to settle in a different country or learn a new language? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 27 May 2016

NIKKI SHEEHAN: SWAN BOY

My writer pal Nikki has just published a new novel, the outrageously good SWAN BOY. Read on to see why she wrote it and why YOU should read it!

Nikki says:
Sometimes growing up is hard to do. The difference between being a kid and an older teen can seem as great as the difference between a pony and a giraffe; they both have four legs and are so cute they should be illegal, but would you ask a pony to feed from the leaves at the top of a tree? Or expect a giraffe to win a gymkhana? That's how I remember my life being between the ages of ten and fifteen, bouncing between feeling like a kid and an adult, which is why I wanted to write about it in SWAN BOY. (I also wanted to write about swans, obviously, because they are very cool!)

Surviving the pony/giraffe transformation can be tough enough, but if, like my main character, Johnny, other things have gone wrong in your life (Johnny's dad has died suddenly and he's had to move house away from all of his friends) you might have even more trouble working out who you are supposed to be.

That's where good friends and role models come in. I like to be kind to my characters, so I've given Johnny a few people to help him navigate his way from thirteen to fourteen. The main one is a bit unusual; it's a huge white swan. I could have given him a faithful dog, or even a rare falcon, but as well as being cool (did I mention that?) swans are associated with change, as in the story of The Ugly Duckling, and they ooze strength, grace, pride and fearlessness, which are all the qualities I wanted my character to find within himself.

So how does this happen? In the story, Johnny is stalked by the huge white swan, and then he accidentally lands the lead role in a school production of Swan lake. His dance teacher tells him to live the part and he literally begins to turn into a swan. I'm not suggesting that you should grow feathers, but if, like Johnny, you feel that you're different to everyone else, I want to tell you a secret; you're one of the lucky ones. As Johnny finds out, being different is good, but it's not until you realise it that you will really begin to fly.

Find out more about Nikki on here website, www.nikkisheehan.com or order Swan Boy here... http://www.bookdepository.com/Swan-Boy/9781780749242 The book is also available now in all good bookstores!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

CHARLOTTE: MY FAVOURITE PLACES TO READ...

Student Charlotte talks about the joys of reading, and of finding just the right place to curl up with a favourite book!


Charlotte says:
This week I decided to hop on a bus and go to Southport, the nearest beach town to where I go to uni. The weather was amazing so I really didn't want to miss out! I walked through a huge park and out to the very end of the pier, then had some lunch in a cafe overlooking the sea. Later I sat down in a little park and read a few chapters of my book, and that inspired me to write this post... my favourite places to read!

The park is a great place to read. You can sit on a bench in the dappled sunlight, lie on the grass or even relax on the swings and read as you sway. You can read in the shade or in the sun and it's even better if there just happens to be an ice cream van nearby... just try not to get ice cream on your book!

Another place I love to read is the beach. It's funny, because I am not usually a fan of the beach, but if I take a blanket and an umbrella (I get sunburnt really easily), I can happily lie for hours and read a good book. The sound of the sea in the background is just so calming. This set up is especially good if there is a shop or a food stall nearby (or again, an ice cream van!) so that you can nip across and grab anything you need, then get straight back to your book!

It's also great to read right at home! At home you have a whole array of reading choices - you can lie in bed, curl up on the sofa, even lie on the floor if that's your thing/ You've got your bookshelf right there in case you happen to finish a book and want to go straight onto a new one. There is no chance of sunburn at home, which for me is a real plus... and if you're really lucky, the ice cream van might call round. (In case you can't tell, I really like ice cream vans!)

Finally, there is no better place than a library. What place can be better for reading a book than a building FULL of them? If there is a comfy chair to sit in, that's even better. It's great to support your local libraries, and a library card is completely free so you can borrow books as often as you like without it costing you a penny. They're brilliant!

Cathy says:
Love it! Where do YOU like to read? COMMENT BELOW to tell us your favourite reading spots!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

SARAH: WHY DOES HE HATE ME NOW?

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER again and reader Sarah has a heartbreaking question for Honey Tanberry... will Honey's advice help? Read on and see...

Sarah says:
I feel like my life is over. I had a crush on a boy in my year - let's call him Joe - for ages. My friends knew, and he knew even though I hadn't said anything because he'd smile at me sometimes and wink, in a flirty sort of way. This would always send my friends into fits of the giggles, and I would go scarlet with blushing. A week ago we had a Year Seven dance to raise money for charity, and Joe asked me to dance. We were together all night and at the end we went outside for some air and we kissed and cuddled and stuff. I had to go because my mum was picking me up, but I was so happy. All weekend I was on a cloud, texting my friends and fantasising about having a boyfriend. Then on Monday I went to school and he totally blanked me, and when my friend asked him what was wrong he just laughed and said surely I hadn't thought he was serious, I was just not his type. I am devastated and I feel so ashamed because the whole of my year saw what happened and they can see what is happening now, and every day is like torture. What did I do to make him hate me so?

Honey says:
I wish I could tell this boy what I think of him, face to face. He's a user, a loser, an immature idiot who doesn't deserve you - or any girl. He knew you liked him so he took the opportunity to have a kiss and a cuddle, but he is not mature enough for a relationship. Rather than tell you that, he's acting big in front of his friends and pretending you took it all the wrong way. It wouldn't surprise me if he's been teased by his friends about spending time with you at the dance and that he doesn't have the guts to say he likes you - he'd rather turn it all into a joke at your expense. Either way, you do not need this boy. Please don't waste your tears on him, and don't feel ashamed either - those who noticed what went on will not be pitying you but thinking what a low-life idiot Joe is. You're feeling bruised and hurt right now and that's only natural, but don't let him get to you. Stand tall, brush off the hurt and show him that you just don't care, that he's nothing to you. Yes, it will be acting, but it will help, I promise. Not all boys are half-wit losers like this one... and in time your hurt will heal and you'll find someone who really cares about you. For now, remind yourself that although he looked good on the outside, he was pretty rotten on the inside... you are better off without him.

Cathy says:
Ouch... Sarah has found out the hard way that some boys can be users, but honey's advice is brilliant and should certainly help. Would YOU add anything more? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 23 May 2016

ELENA: CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING!

Reader Elena loves the sport of cross country running - read on and find out more about it all!

Elena says:
I first got involved in cross country running with a race at my school. I really enjoyed it, so I joined the local running club to give it a go. I now go along every Tuesday and Thursday after school, every week. The coach does a warm up routine consisting of lots of stretches to get your muscles warm - this is important so that you don't get injured. I wear my running leggings and a fluorescent jacket to run, but if I'm in a competition I wear my club vest or my PE kit. I love doing cross country because it's a great way to exercise and stay fit, and you make so many new friends. It's fun even when it's cold and rainy! I have represented my school and also my club, and also my county.

A competition can be a bit scary if there are lots of people running - there were almost 500 at the National Championships! You do get a bit nervous at the start, and you have to watch out for 'pushers'! Once I start running, the nerves go away - I usually have an upbeat song in my head, like 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten. The races for my age group are 1500 m long, but next year I will be running 3000m races. I just try to beat the person in front of me and sprint at the end, and beat my best time. Each race is on a different course with different terrain; some have hills to run up and ponds to run through! I like running through mud, but sometimes I have to put duct tape round my shoes to stop them coming off in the mud! Really warm or really cold are the two worst conditions to run in. I actually like it when it's raining - I stick my tongue out to catch the raindrops and pretend I am in an action movie doing crazy stunts! In competition races I wear 'spikes' rather than regular trainers, which help make sure you don't slip or fall. The right trainers can be expensive, but Mum tries to get them in the sale! My ambition for next season is to either win a race or beat my friend, because she's well good!

My advice to others who want to have a try at cross country running is definitely to go for it. It's a lot of fun and there are loads of running clubs around Britain so it's easy to get involved!

Cathy says:
This sounds amazing - and a far cry from my memories of crashing about in the muddy woodlands doing cross country running at school! Do YOU follow a cool or unusual sport or hobby? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

SHEBA: LIFE ON THE EDGE...

Reader Sheba came to settle in the UK when she was nine... read how CC books helped her to find her feet...

Sheba says:
I came to Britain from overseas when I was nine years old... my family settled in a quiet, country town which was not the most multi-ethnic of places. Primary school was increasingly difficult. It wasn't actually so bad when I didn't understand the language, but I quickly grasped English and realised there were a lot of racial slurs being aimed at me by the other kids. I was angry and the teachers had no sympathy when I verbally hit back... they just didn't understand. Around this time I came across Cathy Cassidy's books, and I especially connected with ANGEL CAKE about Anya, a Polish girl settling in the UK. I'm not Polish, but I loved the book and really related to Anya because she always retained her dignity. She didn't let the snide comments of other people drag her down and she built her own world within the environment she landed in.

The other book I connected very strongly to was GINGERSNAPS. Like Ginger, I would find myself eating too much, comfort eating really, as a way of blocking out the unhappiness and this coping mechanism stayed with me all the way through until high school. Sometimes I would gorge... trying to make myself happy with food, even though hunger was not the problem. It was only as I progressed through school and my academic achievements began to be recognised that I began to see I was actually worth much more than some of my classmates seemed to think. Like Ginger, I tried very hard to forget the past. Finally, this year, I began to see that even though it can be hard, it's important to think about the past as it is a part of you... and only by accepting this can you move forward.

Gradually, over time, I began to stop over-eating. I'd been worried about this habit for a while, but my friends seemed to gorge themselves on sweets and still stay thin, and I did not. Things had to change. Very slowly I began eating healthier portions and I always felt much happier and more alert when I hadn't gorged the day before. I wanted to work towards a strong, fit body and gradually that old coping mechanism faded away. Like Ginger, I moved forward and changed my life.

I have tears streaming down my face as I write this, but I wanted to share the experiences I have been through as a way to reach out to others in the same position, for whatever reason, who may be feeling right now that things will never get better. I still get comments at school because I am keen and bookish, but I am much stronger now and I don't let it get to me. Besides, believe me... books are a far better coping mechanism than over eating.

Awesome illustrations by reader Sarah... thank you so much! And many thanks to Sheba for writing such a brave and honest account of her experiences.

Cathy says:
Sheba's story shows just how deeply thoughtless words can cut. Spiteful comments can damage our self esteem hugely, but Sheba's determination to turn things around has given her back a bright and confident future. Has a CC book ever helped YOU to handle something tough? COMMENT BELOW to tell me how!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

CLAIRE: READING IN BRAILLE...

Reader Claire is a big Cathy Cassidy fan... but she is blind, and reads the books in braille. Find out how she campaigned to get her favourite CC book translated into braille!

Claire says:
I am severely blind, which means I have no useful sight at all, just a small bit of light perception in the corner of one of my eyes. This means I cannot read any print, not even the largest sizes of print, so I have to use braille to read. I discovered Cathy Cassidy through braille books, and recently I wrote to her because she had posted about a papier mache tree fairy she had made. I liked the sound of that - I thought it might be  an all-year-round project for those crafty geeks like me and others who like crafts to try out. Cathy replied that the project could be found in the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS, but at the time this was not available in braille. In situations like this, I have to turn to audiobooks, but 'SECRETS' is not available as an audiobook either. I asked Cathy about this, and she explained that it was a book that didn't work well as an audiobook as it relied very much on pictures to show the projects.

At this point I suggested Cathy contact the Royal National Institute for the Blind library to ask if the book could be transcribed into braille, as sometimes they describe the pictures too and it all makes sense. I passed on the contact details. I didn't think anything would come of this, but a few days later Cathy sent me the message that RNIB library had sent to her through Facebook. They had six of her books in braille, which was cool. Four days later, things got even more exciting! Another message from RNIB library arrived, saying that they had decided to transcribe four more CC books into braille, and that CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS was one of them! I was over the moon!

I felt so proud to be part of something big like this, especially with someone like Cathy Cassidy! Braille books mean everything to me; without them I would not be able to read, or would have to rely on having someone read things to me. With a braille book, you can physically pick up and hold a book, which really helps me to connect to the story and 'become' the main character. If it wasn't for the RNIB library, together with local organisations who help people with sight loss, those who need braille books would have no access to them. Please, if you are able to, make a donation to RNIB, even if it's just a small amount, or just once. If that's not possible, please consider fundraising for RNIB within your school or local community... the money you raise can make all the difference in the world to a blind person like me. Thank you!

Beautiful illustrations by talented reader Sarah - thank you!

You can find out more about RNIB and how to fundraise or donate to them here. It's such a good cause!

Cathy says:
I was thrilled to be able to help Claire find access to the book she wanted to read... the RNIB library does an AWESOME job and were so, so helpful. Can YOU imagine what it would be like to read in braille? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

OLIVIA: PLEASE DON'T JUDGE

Reader Olivia writes a heartfelt and powerful piece on lifting the taboos on all kinds of mental health issues in this #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek... a must-read.

Olivia says:
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it is a subject very close to my heart, so I thought I would post about it. Mental health - everyone has it, but when it is not so 'healthy' or even what is considered 'normal,' it becomes an extremely stigmatised subject. To post this at all on social media is extremely scary for me, in case I am labelled 'attention seeking' - the go-to words for anyone who actually dares to speak about their mental illnesses. This is what needs to change; this is what we need to raise awareness for.

If you had broken your leg, nobody would be surprised if you spoke openly about it - so why should someone suffering with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, a personality disorder, whatever it may be... feel ashamed to talk about their pain? Trust me, mental pain is just as real as physical pain, and should be treated with the same care and empathy. The stigma surrounding many mental health disorders is toxic, and can prevent many people from getting the help they so desperately need.

Talking about mental health is the first step to improving mental health. If you were in hospital for a physical health issue, would you feel ashamed of it? Of course not. If I told you I was writing this post sat on a sofa in a psychiatric hospital, would that shock you? It shouldn't. Should I be ashamed of being in hospital for my mental health? Because I'm not ashamed.

The sooner the stigma around mental health is erased, the better. The more people talk about it, the less taboo it will become. So, this Mental Health Awareness Week, please do not judge the people who are brave enough to post or speak about their struggles. Instead, offer them your love, care and support, because together we can end the stigma surrounding mental health. Thank you for reading this.

Cathy says:
Olivia's words are so heartfelt and strong. She's right - it is time to stop judging others and instead reach out and try to understand and support those going through difficult times. Have YOU or anyone close to you suffered from mental health issues? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

FRANCES: IS MY DAD SEEING SOMEONE?

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER... can Summer Tanberry offer some advice to reader Frances?

Frances says:
A few days ago I overheard my dad talking on his mobile to someone. He took the call outside and he he didn't know I was there, but I was doing some homework under the trees. I think he was talking to a woman because he was quite flirty and I am pretty sure he said at one point that he couldn't wait to see the person again, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about them. Something like that, anyway. I couldn't hear all that well. After that he moved out of earshot and then ended the call and went in. Mum and Dad seem the same as usual, but I can't stop going over what I heard. I am worried Dad is seeing someone else and that he might leave us, and if that happened I don't think my mum would cope, and I don't think I would ever forgive him.

Summer says:
First of all, although what you heard may have sounded bad, you don't know for sure what that call was about. If you want to know, try telling your dad you overheard the conversation and have been worrying ever since - if there's an innocent explanation he can tell you, and if not, then at least you'll know. I remember very well the time my dad (not Paddy - my real dad) was having an affair, so I know how stressed and worried you must be. What I would tell you is that even though it was horrible, we got through it and things worked out better than we could ever have imagined in the end. Even the things we dread are rarely as bad as we fear they may be. I'd also say that in this instance you may be giving way, way too much credence to a half-heard conversation... and that another way to handle the situation would be to forget what you think you heard and try to let go of the fears. Don't go looking for trouble... if something is going on, you will know soon enough.

Cathy says:
Summer's advice is good, but this is a very tricky situation. What would YOU do? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

YOUR STARS FOR MAY!

It's May, and Coco Tanberry has been consulting the stars again... will YOUR horoscope predictions ring true this month? Read on and see!

GEMINI (22 May - 22 June)
Things may seem static and slow right now, and that's hard for live-wire Gemini types. Hang on in there - life is about to switch up a few gears. Patience now will be rewarded by a whole lot of fun and happiness later!

CANCER (23 June - 23 July)
You're feeling a bit pushed around just now... perhaps friends are pressuring you into things you don't really want to get involved in. Step back and stay true to yourself . True friends will understand and respect you for it.

LEO (24 July - 23 Aug)
You're expecting a LOT from yourself lately - try to remember that nobody is perfect, and that life is not a competition. Do your best and that will be good enough - pushing yourself to achieve the impossible can only end in tears.

VIRGO (24 Aug - 22 Sept)
Sometimes, you need to know when to give up on something - a friendship, a project, a crush, a plan. Letting go makes space for new hopes and dreams and allows you to move on. Remember that life's challenges can only make you stronger.

LIBRA (23 Sept - 23 Oct)
Travel and adventure are in the stars this month - whether it's a day trip, a sleepover or the start of a brand new friendship or project, positive vibes are in the air. Equally, some things are coming to a natural end - don't be afraid to let go of them.

SCORPIO (24 Oct - 22 Nov)
Lately, it may feel as if you've been wading through treacle - for every one step forward, there's been two steps back. That's all about to change - the months ahead are full of opportunity and you'll find talents, qualities and strengths you never knew you had.

SAGITTARIUS (23 Nov - 22 Dec)
You're hanging onto dreams and fantasies and though that's comforting, the real world is beckoning now. Look around you and you'll see that sometimes reality can be every bit as rewarding as your fantasy world. Give it a go!

CAPRICORN (23 Dec - 19 Jan)
Change is in the air this month... and in a positive way. It could be a new haircut, a new style, a new hobby or a new friend or boyfriend... but whichever one, it will open up a whole new train of events all destined to make your summer a truly memorable one!

AQUARIUS (20 Jan - 19 Feb)
Don't be drawn into gossip or rumours - someone close to you is stirring up a whole lot of trouble, but be wary of getting involved as the whole thing has the potential to backfire on YOU. However unfair this may be, you'd live to regret it, so let the gossip go.

PISCES (20 Feb - 20 March)
Everything is looking a little upside-down right now. One day things are one way, the next they're totally different - confusing? Just a bit! Hold on to your common sense and let the madness flow on around you... things will calm down soon enough.

ARIES (21 March - 20 April)
Don't give up on your hopes and dreams... things may not look too promising now, but if you hold steady and keep your attitude positive, things could turn around much faster than you imagine. Success is closer than you think - believe in yourself!

TAURUS (21 April - 21 May)
Money is in short supply... that's nothing new, but your attitude to the problem has changed. Time to find a few money-making schemes or even a part-time job. Not only will the cash start to flow, but you may find a new talent you never knew you had!

Cathy says:
Ooh, my horoscope is looking good - hope it comes true! Does YOUR horoscope ring true this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

CC READERS AROUND THE WORLD...

Part of a new series of CC readers around the world... meet two girls who are reading Cathy's books in India and Algeria!

Sanika says:
I am fifteen years old and live in India, and I think that Cathy Cassidy books are the best in the world! They always trigger my imagination and inspire me to write myself. The books are simply a pleasure to read! The books are not easily available where I live - Lucknow, India - so I get the books at the annual book fair. I look forward to it every year just to buy CC books! I first came across them at the fair when I picked up a random CC book - it was SCARLETT! That book became the forever favourite of mine and that's how I first fell in love with CC books! I just love them. I plan to be an engineer but writing poetry will always be my favourite pastime. I hope the books keep on coming and keep on inspiring my imagination... I guess you could say I am a Cathy-Cassidy-o-holic!

Soumia says:
I am eighteen years old now and I live in Algeria. My first language is Arabic but I am pretty fluent in English and French also. The first CC book I read was ANGEL CAKE, which I found on my sister's Nintendo DS. The story was amazing and I could relate to some of the characters - I am sure so many other teenagers could also. I have read many of the books since then and my love of books has led me to write myself - in fact, writing is the career I would love more than anything else. CC books are the kind of stories that make me travel with my mind and live every single event as if it were real. The books are gorgeous!

Cathy says:
I love to hear about readers in other countries... so cool! Are YOU an overseas reader? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

BROKEN HEART CLUB... YOUR VERDICT!

Readers share their reviews on my brand new book BROKEN HEART CLUB... have YOU read it yet?

Ruby says:
BROKEN HEART CLUB was so inspirational and beautiful! One of the reasons I loved it so much was the theme of moving on... a subject I can relate to quite a lot. I also liked the focus on the transition from primary to secondary school, which I went through last summer. Like Hasmita in the book, I was going to a different school to my friends but I soon made friends and (unlike Hasmita!) kept in touch with my old friends too. I've even written a story myself, also based on new beginnings. I met Cathy on her book tour recently and got my copy of BROKEN HEART CLUB signed, which was brilliant. It's a very emotional book, and towards the end I cried - lots! I have read a lot of Cathy Cassidy books and what can I say... I love them!

Jasia says:
I just finished reading BROKEN HEART CLUB yesterday and it was AMAZING!!! It is my new favourite book!! I loved the characters and the different viewpoints... it was almost as if there were lots of stories and they all linked together to make a whole. BROKEN HEART CLUB has an unexpected twist that turns everything upside down... that's all I can say, but you will love it! There is a theme of origami paper cranes running through the story, as the characters make paper cranes to try to make a wish come true. I decided to try to make a paper crane myself, the first one I have ever made - I was quite pleased with how it turned out! The book really grabs the reader in, right from the very first sentence, and keeps you hooked all the way through. I would definitely recommend it.

Violet says:
I've just finished BROKEN HEART CLUB. It's a great book, so sad but uplifting, and I could not put it down. I liked all the characters, they were so well written, especially the members of the Heart Club. This is why I am still a fan around a decade after I started reading Cathy's books... good writing deserves merit. I'd like to write a longer and less disjointed review, but I'm scared I will ruin the surprise for those who haven't read it yet, and I don't want to do that. There is huge twist in the tail with this book. I'm sending a pic of my adorable kittycat with the book... she loves it too, it took me ages to get her to look at the camera instead of the book!

Cathy says:
Awww... great to see such lovely reader reviews! Have YOU read BROKEN HEART CLUB yet? You can email me your reviews through the website 'email Cathy' link! No spoilers, mind! COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

NATALIE: HOW CAN I STOP THE RUMOURS?

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER today and reader Natalie asks HONEY TANBERRY for advice...

Natalie says:
I had a very bad time at primary school. I was bullied and I lashed out a few times (verbally) at the girls who were making my life a misery. With one girl, I told a secret she had once told me when we were younger, something I knew would embarrass her. It was about her family and instead of people turning against her, they turned against me and the bullies used it as evidence of how horrible I was. The whole class stopped speaking to me and even the teacher was frosty with me afterwards. Nobody seemed to see what the bullies were doing. I chose to go to a different secondary school to most of my primary, two bus rids away, but I got away from the bullies and life has been very different since then. Then in January a girl from my primary started there. She was on the edge of the bullies, so I thought she would be OK, but she has started telling people how bitchy I was in primary, how I tried to bully a girl by telling lies about her, and how everyone hated me. My life is falling apart again and I don't know what to do.

Honey says:
I guess my style would be to go up to this girl and tell her to shut up and stop spreading cruel rumours, but I don't think you will want to try that. Sometimes, getting help from teachers can be the best plan. Talk to your guidance teacher, form tutor or school counsellor and tell them the whole story. Explain that bullying has ruined your life once and that you need their help to make sure it doesn't happen again. OK, telling that secret in the first place was not a smart move, but you were pushed beyond endurance and you spoke in self-defence, not from malice. What needs to happen is for you and the new girl to sit down with a teacher and talk this through, and stop the rumour mill in its tracks before it goes any further. Speak out and get some adult help... and refuse to let this destroy your confidence and push you off track. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Great advice from Honey... I think expert support is needed to help sort this out. Good luck, Natalie. Have YOU ever had to handle rumours and lies? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

PHOEBE: MY STYLE, MY WAY!

Reader Phoebe has a unique and cool style of dressing... she tells us why following her own look is so important to her!

Phoebe says:
I choose the clothes I wear to show my personality and to express who I really am. I personally feel that life is too short to wear the exact same clothes as everybody else, or the same clothes day in and day out. Many people call me weird or strange because I don't follow mainstream fashion or try to mimic other people's outfits, but that's OK. I know that if I did, it would make me unhappy - whereas unique clothes and following my own style make me very happy!

Clothing is an excuse, I think, to show my inner creativity. I love writing and sometimes if I write a story, I'll include a character who I'd love to be like. They might have unique styles and ways, unique clothes and hair. In Cathy Cassidy's CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, I love the twins Skye and Summer and their style choices. Skye's vintage themed clothes and Summer's ballet themed outfits are just perfect! Characters like that inspire me to follow my own path when it comes to fashion. Moreover, in the future, if I could be known for anything, I'd love to be known as a person who shows her creativity through her fashion style!

Wearing wacky clothes makes me feel happy, and more importantly, they make me feel confident! Some people feel happier if they blend into the crowd, but I feel all wrong if I am trying to dress like everybody else. I need to wear my own style of clothes, even if others don't approve. I can be a very anxious person, and when I express myself with unique and creative styles I feel more comfortable and at ease.

I think that society encourages many girls of my age try to impress boys with what they wear, but I am probably the opposite. I dress to please myself. I feel I have plenty of time in my life to impress people - but right now, I want my clothes to express the way I feel. I want to be happy and comfortable in what I wear, even if I do get called strange names!

Cathy says:
I LOVE Phoebe's style and her attitude to fashion and style is brilliant. Individuality is cool... if we can't dress to please ourselves, then what's the point? Do YOU have a unique style? Do YOU dress to express the way you feel? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 9 May 2016

LOUISA: I MADE SOME COOL SHORTS!

Reader Louisa road tests a craft project from my book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS! See what she has to say...

Louisa says: 
CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS is a great book, both for the crafty and the not so crafty! It's quite inexpensive for a craft book and it has recipes, fashion ideas and cool stuff to do as well as things to make. The thing I like the most is that there's a space for you to design your own things; you can get quite creative. I love that it links up to the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series... each sister takes a turn to say something about the different seasons of the year and also to demonstrate the different projects.

I've tried a few of the projects and the one I am the most proud of is the fashion project for shorts I made from the 'May' section of the book. Honey is the sister describing this particular project and she explains that the idea came from making shorts from cut-down jeans when she was in Australia in the book SWEET HONEY.

 There are a few variations on the shorts to try, including frayed shorts, lace-trimmed shorts and even bleach-dipped shorts. I decided to make the ones with colourful patch pockets. They're very easy to do and for those who don't like sewing you can even glue on the patches for a really easy but effective look! I will probably wear the shorts to camps in the summer, as well as festivals... or even school! They look great with leggings or tights and they'll be even better with bare legs in the sunshine!

Cathy says:
It's so cool get feedback on the craft projects from CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS... and Louisa's shorts look amazing! Are YOU into craft or fashion makes? Or have YOU tried one of the projects from the book? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

KYM: COVER STORIES...

Cathy's older books have had several different cover designs over the last eleven years... book blogger Kym shares her opinions on the covers of her favourite CC book DIZZY... she has all the versions!

Kym says:
The first cover of DIZZY has always been and always will be my favourite, for two reasons. Firstly, the book - in this, the original UK cover - caught me at an age when all I wanted to do was grow up and live in a VW camper. So the campervan on the cover was just perfect! Secondly, I just happen to think that it's the cover that looks the most creative.

I'll be honest here, I didn't go much on the second version of the cover, the one with the photograph on the front. The rainbow was a nice touch but the only reason I have a copy of this one is because I like to collect lots of different editions of my favourite books.

The American version of DIZZY is nice because it closely resembles the first British cover design... although to me, somehow, it looks like there's just 'something missing'. I really like the newest cover, though, especially the Doc Marten boot and the dreamcatcher images! I'm glad it has gone back to a more illustrative look. I am not sure what to make of the lime green background, but it's very pretty to look at!

Photo-collages by Kym, from her blog/ instagram

You can follow Kym's blog at kymreadsbooks.blogspot.co.uk

Cathy says:
Love this... how awesome is Kym's collage? Which is YOUR favourite cover version of DIZZY? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

JO COTTERILL: A LIBRARY OF LEMONS...

My author pal Jo has a new book out today... read on to find out all about A LIBRARY OF LEMONS!


Jo says:
What I like about writing is that no two books are the same. Sometimes a character pops into my head and I just have to write a story to fit him or her - or sometimes I start with 'What if?' which is a brilliant way to come up with ideas. A LIBRARY OF LEMONS started with the title. I have no idea where it came from, but one day, there it was, in my head - and the title gave me the whole story! Well... not quite the whole story. It gave me the basic idea: that a girl lives in a house with her father, who is a recluse. They both love books and have a whole room each in the house just for their books. They can go hours without talking to each other or seeing anyone, just lost in their books. And the father is writing a huge non-fiction book called A History of the Lemon. But unknown to his daughter, he's not quite as sane as he appears... and before long she uncovers a shocking secret that's going to change both of their lives.

Once I had my idea, I started writing. I love that stage - not quite knowing who my characters are and allowing them to tell me along the way. My central character is Calypso. She has red hair and her heroine is Anne of Green Gables. She doesn't have friends, not in the usual sense. She has books instead - they're easier to get along with than people. At the beginning of the story, a new girl comes to school and is determined to make friends with Calypso. Mae comes from a 'normal' family (although at one point in the book, the girls try to make a list of what's 'normal' and have trouble with it!) and she loves books too. Before long, Calypso has been captivated by this funny, warm and welcoming family and begins to wonder if, perhaps, friendship is something she should have after all.

Some books can be easily summed up in one sentence. I can't do that with this one, because it's about so many things: grief, friendship, disasters, family, stories... However, there is something quite important that I want to say through this book. We all, at times, feel lost and lonely and weak. Calypso's father teachers her that we should find our inner strength, that we are the only ones who can get ourselves through the tough times. But Calypso discovers that's not true: other people can be your strength at times of sadness and fear. She realises that opening yourself up to other people and letting them into your heart doesn't make you weak... it makes you stronger. And that's what I hope people will find in this book: the importance of human connections and letting people in. Because no one should be alone in their heart.

A LIBRARY OF LEMONS is out now, published by Piccadilly Press. It's available from all good bookshops or online here.

Cathy says:
This sounds fab... it's on my to-read list now! Have YOU read an awesome new book lately? COMMENT BELOW to give it a shout out!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

JESSICA: PARTY PLAN WORRIES!

Reader Jessica has a chocolate-themed problem for Skye Tanberry to solve... can you help by pitching in your ideas too?

Jessica says:
It's my birthday soon and my parents asked if I wanted a party this year. Of course, I said yes! I've been reading the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series and I like the idea of a chocolate festival themed party because the sisters seem to have so much fun with it! I have started to plan but I'm not sure how to get a chocolate fairy costume or what materials I could use to make one. Secondly, what kind of invites, games, party bags and music could I have? Do you have any suggestions?


Skye says:
Ooh, I wish I could help you plan and make things... it'd be so cool! You will find all the things you need to know in the books. CHERRY CRUSH explains how to make chocolate fairy costumes... you can make something very effective with a brown vest top and lots of brown netting gathered and stitched onto the hem of the vest top to form a skirt. You can even dye a pair of pink satin ballet shoes as we did, to match! FORTUNE COOKIE has lots of ideas for chocolate themed activities... and you can add more of your own! Why not make your own invites that look like a chocolate box and open up to reveal the details of the party? You can tie them up with a ribbon bow too! Games can include chocolate fortunes, blindfold chocolate tasting, a chocolate fondue or even a chocolate treasure hunt. Party bags could include truffles and a CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS book! For music, choose things you and your friends like... don't try to theme everything, just think about getting the party to go with a swing! Have fun!

Cathy says:
It sounds awesome already! Would YOU add any more cool and chocolatey suggestions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 2 May 2016

GEORGINA: GROWING UP WITH DANCE!

Reader Georgina shares her love of dance and describes just what it means to her...


Georgina says:
I started dancing when I was two and a half. I fell in love with dance and ballet and wanted to do more dance and performance, so after a while I left my friends and my wonderful teacher Stephanie and moved schools to a place with its own performing arts school. I now do Ballet Grade Five and Intermediate Foundation, and also a free class which is where we make up dances in the lesson. I am very lucky as we have a pianist in the lesson too. Two years ago, I was finally able to dance en pointe. I really enjoy this but it can be quite painful too! As well as ballet, I also do Grade Three Jazz, Grade three Contemporary and Grade Three Tap. I also do Musical Theatre and Lamda. Out of all of these, ballet remains my favourite! I was awarded a dance scholarship at the start of Year Seven and was recently given a Musical theatre Exhibition.

I have always performed in annual shows and we have just finished our annual performance. I played a villager from the musical Wicked and a tea part guest at the Mad Hatter's tea party. I also performed a jazz dance and a part of the ballet La Bayadere. The highlight of my dance career so far was when I auditioned for the English Youth Ballet in 2014 - I got in and performed in The Nutcracker at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. Later this month, I am auditioning again for a different performance - Giselle. I think that the audition will be even harder though, as I will be in the senior class this time.

Dance means the world to me and I don't know what I would do if I couldn't dance. Dance makes me feel happy and I enjoy doing it and I'm really proud of my achievements! Although dance is my passion, I am very involved with singing too... I cam second in a music festival last month singing a piece from the musical My Fair lady. I would love to do more work in the theatre, but it's difficult to get parts as we don't live in London. The advice I would give to somebody who would like to start dancing is... go for it! Find someone who already goes to a class and get a recommendation. Once you're starting to learn, be sure that you always warm up properly before dancing and do not try to do pointe work until you are absolutely ready!

Cathy says:
Georgina is an inspiring girl... I've followed her career in dance for a while and really admire her passion and determination. I think Summer Tanberry would approve! Do YOU love to dance? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

HANNAH: I LIVE IN SINGAPORE!

Reader Hannah lives in beautiful Singapore... read on to find what it's like!

Hannah says:
I am seventeen and I live in a flat in Singapore with my parents and my thirteen year old brother. Singapore is very small - it's both a city and a country. It is very developed and you see a lot of high rise buildings and lots of greenery too, trees and flowers lining the roads... Singapore is known as the garden city. Our flat is small but very expensive because of the land restraints here, and we don't have any pets alas. It's always warm in Singapore - the temperature never falls below 25 degrees. It rains quite often too, and this adds to the humidity levels. When we get the chance, my family and I love to escape to countries with four seasons - cold weather is really refreshing to us! I have never experienced snow... Singapore is a tropical country and all we have is rain or sunshine!

I went to a girls school for ten years and now I'm in my first year of junior college. It's weird now, having to adjust to being in a mixed college and talking to boys! At school, we have to wear uniform. I used to wear a blouse or PE clothing beneath a pinafore, but now in junior college it's a blouse and skirt. I take biology, chemistry, maths and history and we have project work and a general paper too, which is basically English and my favourite subject. We speak English and Chinese in Singapore, but I'm actually fairly bad at Chinese. I can converse easily but I don't score well in the exams! Our schools are pretty strict. Girls have to tie up their hair if it is past the shoulders and often only transparent studs for earrings and black coloured hair accessories are allowed. School began at 7.30am and you couldn't be late or you'd be in trouble! College is more relaxed!

Singapore is a multi-racial society, with many different races and cultures living alongside each other. On special occasions such as Chinese New Year or perhaps Deepavali (festival of lights for the Indian people) each group will wear their traditional costumes. On Racial Harmony Day, we often wear different traditional costumes to school for fun and to show our acceptance of difference races and cultures. Food-wise, we are well known for our chicken-rice. It's really just steamed chicken on flavourful rice... the rice, to me, makes the dish taste good. I could eat it alone and still feel satisfied! We also have chilli crab, stay (barbecued meat on a stick) and ice kachang (shaved ice with syrup). Singapore is such a melting pot of cultures - we have so many different cuisines available, from Indian to western to Korean and much more.

For tourists, Universal Studios is a must-visit, along with the Gardens By The Bay, Singapore's famous man-made nature park. Visitors should also try some street food from the hawker centres and simple things like going to the movies or shopping! Singapore always has and always will be my home. I had a fun and memorable childhood here and everyone I love is by my side. It's the people who make this place so special - wherever in the world we may be, somehow we can always pick out fellow Singaporeans from a crowd of strangers. There's something uniquely different about the way we are, and I wouldn't want it any other way! One day, I'd love to be a marine biologist - or a writer - or both - and I am willing to work really hard to make that happen!

Cathy says:
I've been to Singapore myself and I totally agree with Hannah... it has a unique blend of east and west and is a lively, vibrant, friendly place quite unlike anywhere else I've ever been! Have YOU ever been to Singapore? Or would you like to write about YOUR country for DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!