Saturday, 30 July 2016

BOOK LOOK: THE MOONLIGHT DREAMERS

My writer pal Siobhan Curham has a new book out I think you might like... I asked her to write a little about it!

Siobhan says:
If I had to give young adults just one piece of advice, it would be this: Don't forget to dream. The teenage years can be tough and it's all too easy to abandon dreams in the face of relentless pressure from school, society etc. But I believe that at times like this, #lifegoals can become life rafts, carrying you into a happier future.

When I was a teenager and got to university, I had a massive crisis of confidence. Coming from a poor background on a council estate, I told myself I didn't belong in that middle class world and didn't have what it takes to be a published author. I dropped out of uni, dropped my dreams of writing and ended up wasting several years of my life in jobs I hated. When you're going through dark times, having a dream can be a light at the end of the tunnel, something to focus on, the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Once I'd overcome my own crisis of confidence and started pursuing my goal of becoming a writer again, I ended up transforming my life beyond my wildest dreams and now I love helping others to do the same.

My new novel, THE MOONLIGHT DREAMERS, tells the story of four very different girls who, inspired by Oscar Wilde, come together to form a secret society to help each other dare to dream. Although it's a work of fiction, I did draw a lot on my personal experience. If you need a little help in daring to dream you could try a fun exercise that the girls in the novel do and create a dream board. This can be a physical noticeboard or an online board at Pinterest. Simply find pictures that in some way symbolise your dream life and add them to the board - this can be really uplifting and seeing your board is a regular reminder of how you want your life to be. Once you're clear on those dreams, ask yourself what small step could I take this week/ month/ year towards achieving my goal? Taking small steps towards your dream will uplift and empower you and before you know it, your life will be transformed for the better.

THE MOONLIGHT DREAMERS is published by Walker Books and is available from Amazon and all good bookshops now. You can find out mote about the book and Siobhan's mini masterclasses on daring to dream at www.moonlightdreamers.com

Cathy says:
I read this book on holiday recently and really enjoyed it... check it out! Have YOU read a great book this summer? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

TARA: PROM NIGHT... WHY I DIDN'T GO

Reader Tara tells why she chose not to go to prom... and why she's glad she made that choice...

Tara says:
I was sick of hearing about prom long before it actually happened. The kids in my school had been going on about it for months... like they cared about it more than GCSEs, more about their applications to sixth form college, like it was the thing we'd all been working towards for all these years. There was a big fuss about who was going with who, about whether it was OK to go with a friend or a brother or someone from another school. The girls were spending round about £150 on prom dresses, groups of friends were hiring limos or camper vans, and the ticket for the night itself was an eye-watering £25. It wasn't for me.

Why didn't I go to prom? Lots of reasons. One, I thought it was a huge waste of money for something I wasn't fussed about. We don't have a lot of money to spare, who does these days? OK, you get a three course meal and a disco and a slideshow of your school years... but I don't like fancy food and I don't like chart music and I don't want to see pictures of me looking awkward and on the edge of things even way back in Year Seven. Two, I thought it was a bit of a scam, an import from America that we've grabbed onto and taken way too seriously. My school acts like prom is the be all and end all, but actually they only started doing it five years ago. I hate being pressured into doing things I don't want to.

I thought about it for ages. I could have dressed up in a budget ball gown or a charity shop prom dress, worn a tux or something weird and made the whole thing less formal. I could have gone with my friends, travelled on the bus for a laugh and turned the whole thing on its head. Some of my friends did go, and they said it was fun in the end, a good way to end their secondary school years. It wasn't what I wanted, though. Secondary school has not always been fun for me... I was bullied badly for two years, and though things are better now, school has never been 'the best days of my life'. Forcing myself to go to prom would have been just one more ordeal, one more painful hoop to jump through. Once I allowed myself to think that the world wouldn't end if I just didn't go, a weight was taken off my shoulders.

So what did I do on prom night? I picked daisies and buttercups from the garden and snuggled up in my onesie with a pizza and ice cream, and I watched three old teen movies back to back, including Pretty In Pink which is all about school prom (I don't think Andie should have gone, but she did.) I don't regret not going and I don't think I missed out on anything. I did what I wanted to do... what was right for me. Isn't that what matters?

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy

Cathy says:
Tara made the right decision for her... but could YOU have done the same? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

ANNA: NO MONEY FOR HOLIDAYS

It's problem page time again and reader Anna has a worry for SKYE TANBERRY to solve... can she come up with some solutions?

Anna says:
We've just broken up for the school holidays and my friends are goig on about the holidays they are going on, to places like Gran Canaria or Majorca or Crete. Even my best friend Niamh is going to Ireland to stay with her gran for the summer. The problem is, we're not going anywhere, not even a day trip. My dad is disabled and Mum lost her job last year and hasn't been able to find anything else, I have two little sisters and there's no money to spare at all. I feel depressed before the summer has even begun. How can I make something out of nothing and have a good time this summer break?

Skye says:
It may seem like everyone you know is all set for a brilliant summer, but that's probably not the case. You won't be the only one holidaying at home, I promise. We always do... when Dad left, money was seriously tight for a long time and even now that Paddy's around and the chocolate business is taking off, we stay home in the summer because there's just so much to do. OK, we are lucky because we live by the sea, but you can still do lots to make sure your school break is fun. Make a den in the back garden/ friend's garden/ park - a place for you and your little sisters to escape to when things get stressy at home. Get outside as much as you can... your local library can tell you what's happening locally. Get involved with fetes, fairs, classes, courses and summer schemes... you'll stay busy and meet new people. Join the library's Summer Reading Scheme while you're there... or just set yourself a challenge to read 10 or 20 books before the holiday is over! Every one can take you to a new place, provide a new adventure. Next, get your friends together and plan some cool days out... picnics, bike rides, bus trips, sleepovers. Let them know you need a bit of sparkle this summer and let them help provide it - keeping the situation a secret won't help one bit. Lastly, do one cool, fun or cute thing with your little sisters every day... whether it's acting out a homemade play, making lemonade, inventing a fantasy ice cream sundae or creating a treasure hunt for them. Summer magic is something we can all find, if we try hard enough!

Cathy says:
Agree with Skye... holidays are what you make them. Friends, family, a bit of sunshine and lots of imagination are the main ingredients for a happy summer! (My recent week in Menorca was the first holiday in four years, so I know all about summers spent at home!) What are YOUR tips for a fab summer break? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 25 July 2016

HOLIDAY - SEVENTIES STYLE!

A reader's mum shares her fab memories of caravan holidays from her childhood... a must-read!

Ali says:
In the seventies and early eighties my family owned a caravan near Margate and this was where I spent long summers. My earliest memories are of the caravan park sports day where I usually won a medal or trophy - luckily there weren't that many competitors in my age group! I longed to be crowned 'Bradgate Sports Girl' but it was never to be! There was always a fancy dress competition and my mum, dad and nan would work tirelessly on my costumes - I won a couple of times thanks to them!

My sister is eight years older than me and was often charged with babysitting me while she hung out with her friends in the Games Room, next to the Campsite Bar. I have vivid memories of the jukebox playing 'Love is in the Air' and 'We're Going to Barbados' whilst I sat on a large bar stool playing the pinball machines! Pinball is something I still love and am pretty good at, and I cannot resist it to this day. My daughters have often had to wait around feeling bored while I try to get the high score on holiday! As technology progressed and new fangled electronic machines were moved in, I became proficient at Space Invaders and Pac-Man. I am still a gamer, and love nothing more than a game of Mario Kart on the Wii, though these days I am often beaten by my kids!

There was sometimes a talent competition at the caravan park and I would find myself up on stage singing songs taught to me by my dad - they must have been full of double-entendres because everyone found it hilarious and I hadn't a clue why. I often begged for a trip to Dreamland, the fun park, and as my siblings were so much older I was always allowed to take a friend from the caravan park along. My nan always came too and I remember being very proud of her being in her seventies and going upside-down on the Looping Star! It's lovely to see that Dreamland has re-opened after many years of being derelict... I will be going back!

I have lovely memories of the caravan holidays and the friends I made there. In the days before social media we had no way of catching up between each summer visit so catching up again could be a lengthy business! It's a bit of a shock when the little girl you played with last summer suddenly turns up in high heels and make up as she's a year older than you and now in secondary school! I still miss cold showers (unless you had 5p for hot water), weeing in a bucket (too dark to go to the toilet block at night!) and swimming in the coldest pool I've ever known. I feel lucky to have had such lovely memories and if it were possible to return to those days for a short while, I wouldn't hesitate at all.

Photos: Ali with her mum in 1972; Ali with her mum, nan and Auntie Lil at Dreamland.

Cathy says:
I love this post... it rings a few bells for me, definitely! If YOU could take a holiday in a different decade, which decade would it be and why? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

BEATRICE: MY BIKINI NIGHTMARE

Reader Beatrice tells us how one overheard comment when she was eleven pulled her confidence to pieces... and how she finally found the courage to fight back...


Beatrice says:
I was eleven years old the last time I wore a bikini. I was one of the early developers... I was proud of my new curves, even if I did have a little puppy fat. I'd never had anything to put INTO a bikini before, but now I did, and I felt so grown up. We were on holiday in Crete, and it was scorching... the kind of day you just want to dive into the sea and get cool again. I'd seen some older girls in the water, and I remember wading out towards them, hoping they might talk to me, that we might be holiday friends. Instead, I saw their faces as I came closer, heard them laughing. 'She looks gross. Someone should tell her,' one of the girls said, and they pulled disgusted faces as I turned away, pretending I hadn't heard.

It ruined my holiday. I spent the rest of the week with a big t-shirt over my bikini, hiding away from everyone. I felt ashamed. Back home, I tried to shake off the embarrassment but I couldn't. Choosing uniform for secondary I picked the biggest, baggiest items I could find. I hated PE although I'd always loved it in the past, and when we had swimming lessons I invented an allergy and forged notes to say I couldn't go in the water. I hated my body, just because of one thoughtless comment from girls I didn't even know. Ironically, it was my PE teacher who got me into trampoline. We had a taster session one lesson, and I was quite good, and she kept nagging me to join the after school club. I did in the end, and I loved it... and I WAS good at it. It took a couple of years, but knowing I was good at something sporty helped my confidence. I couldn't be totally useless if my PE teacher wanted me to train for competitions, after all.

I am fifteen now and I feel so sad for that hopeful eleven year old in her red bikini, and so angry at the mean girls on the beach. I wish I'd had the confidence to let their spiteful comment wash over me, but I didn't. The damage took a long time to rebuild. I am OK, now, with the way I look. I am curvy... so what? A lot of girls are. I look good in a swimsuit, and even if I didn't I would wear one on the beach. I would never, ever, tell a little girl that she looked gross. Self esteem is fragile at that age, at any age, when you are an adolescent girl. I am not just a body, I am a human being with feelings. Nobody has the right to judge the way I look, to sneer at me. Do I wear bikinis again now? Not yet. But one day, I hope, I will.

Cathy says:
Beatrice's post is brave and honest and important. Teen girls are made to feel bad about themselves every day... and that's so damaging. I'm glad she has managed to shake off the spiteful comment at last. Have YOU ever had your confidence torn down in this way? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

DEBOARAH... THE PROM, MY WAY!

Reader Deborah tells us about her Year Eleven school Prom... and why she chose to do it her way!

Deborah says:
When you think of Prom, you probably think of ball gown dresses and glittery high heels. You probably picture lights, fancy foods, a limo and a boy who brings you flowers and dances with you all night long! Let's just say my Prom wasn't quite like that! For starters, I went there on my own and met up with my friends - only a few people actually came with dates. The was more like stacks than a three course meal, and we danced to our favourite pop, rock and r&b songs rather than anything slow or formal. The night was simply fantastic because we wowed each other with our outfits and had fun dancing to our favourite club beats!

There was a place where we could take pictures, either by ourselves or with our friends and the pictures came out like the ones you'd get in a photo booth, which was cool. Near the end of the night, we took a year group photo outside the hall. We also got to nominate people for different awards, the the Loudest Boy/Girl, the Most Likely To Have Their Own TV Show, Biggest Gossip, Best Hair and lots more. We also nominated a Prom king and queen, which went to a really cute couple.

We had to leave the venue at 9.30pm because that was when the hall closed, but despite the fact that the evening was quite short it was an amazing night and I was able to create memories with my year group and friends before we all dispersed to go in different directions for Sixth Form or College. If you are thinking about going to Prom next year, but feeling anxious, please remember that you don't need a date or an absolutely jaw dropping outfit to have a good time. You don't need to win any awards - I didn't win anything! Just relax and go with you know makes you happy... be yourself and you are guaranteed to have a night to remember!

Cathy says:
I love Deborah's attitude to Prom... I know the whole idea of it would have scared me stupid back in my school days, but this post shows just how positive the whole idea can be if you choose to do it YOUR way! Would YOU like to go to your school Prom or would you run a mile? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Thursday, 21 July 2016

THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER...

Readers share their memories of favourite holidays... fabby-tastic!

Zoe says:
Greece has been the scene of all my favourite holidays! We've been to Corfu, Crete and Rhodes and they were all absolutely beautiful!

Tasha says:
Last year my sister and I went to Croatia... that was definitely my most memorable holiday yet! We went on a yacht with our parents and every day we would sail to different destinations, stopping in small coves to eat lunch and swim. We loved it! In the evenings we went round all the little towns and in the mornings we explored and took in the views... it was fantastic. It was boiling hot - there was a heatwave - so cooling off in the sea was one of the best bits! On the last day we went to Split, the capital, and looked around the ruins of the old town and looked at the shops. An amazing holiday.

Chloe says:Two years ago, when I was eleven, I went to Paris for a week. It was a brilliant and beautiful city and I got to the top of the Eiffel Tower where the view of the city was amazing!

Cheryl says:
When I was fourteen, I discovered the band The Cure. My cousin taped every album for me to listen to on my Walkman, and that week we went on holiday to Devon and stayed in a caravan. I spent every night in the little park, swinging in the dark on my favourite swing, discovering those albums. They changed my life forever. Strangely, I found two Cure t-shirts and a vinyl record in the little tourist shops. It was meant to be. I bought a black eyeliner and a red lipstick and went home a completely different girl. I had found my confidence - I had found my people.

Trish says: I once went on a seven day cruise with my ex boyfriend and his family. We visited Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize and Grand Cayman and then had a week in Florida. It was amazing and something I never thought I would experience. Belize was phenomenal - I climbed a Mayan temple - and Seven Mile Beach was the most gorgeous place I have ever been!

Kym says:
I went on an awesome camping trip when I was thirteen with a charity run youth group I used to go to for kids with messed up home lives etc. We spent a weekend in the New Forest - there was a huge house with an outdoor pool we could use and we rented bikes and went on long rides. In the evenings we took turns to direct the group leaders on mystery car trips... I knew we were near a beach because my grandparents had once taken me to one nearby, so we ended up on the beach at night! The downside was that I started sleepwalking every night and one morning I was found asleep on the grass outside the tents!

Photo of Greece by reader Zoe - thank you!

Cathy says:
Love these holiday memories... what was YOUR most memorable holiday? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

SARA: LONELY SUMMER

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Sara has a problem for Cherry Costello to solve...

Sara says:
I feel so embarrassed to be writing this. It's the summer holidays now and I am not looking forward to it. I have a group of friends I see at school, but there's nobody I am close to and nobody I will be seeing in the holidays. It's a private school and they all live in different parts of town anyway. I will probably just hang out with my little brother and then tell lies about the things I've done when term starts again, but surely i should be looking forward to the holidays?

Cherry says:
I remember all too well what it feels like not to have close friends, not to have exciting holidays planned... that was a life I lived for a very long time. Things changed when I came to Tanglewood, and it's only now I realise what I was missing out on all those years. OK, you have friends at school... why not text a couple of them and arrange to meet up in town? What's the worst that can happen? They might be busy... so text a couple more. It takes effort to build close friendships, but the effort is worth it. What about old friends from closer to home? Is there anyone you got along with when you were younger? Anyone who seems friendly? This could be the time to reach out and renew old friendships, or make new ones. Not possible? There are other options. Get along to your city library and see what summer courses, clubs or productions are taking place and get involved... a great way to learn something new and make new friends at the same time. Don't waste your summer... take control and make it the best ever!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry... what would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say and help Sara!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

LAURA: I DIDN'T THINK I HAD A FUTURE

Reader Laura shares her journey through depression and tells how she found a way through the darkness and found her dreams again...

Laura says:
Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be an artist. I practised for hours each day - art was an escape for me. I was bullied at primary school for being a little bigger than some of the other girls, and my self-esteem was low. At secondary school, I was still picked on, but I carried on with my art - it gave me a drive to be better, to dream more. I could be anything. When I was twelve, my grandfather had a heart attack in front of me and died that same day. I was OK for a while, but once it began to sink in I became reclusive and less driven. My grades began to slip. I told my mum how unhappy I was and she took me to the doctor who diagnosed PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. It's when something sticks in your memory and causes ongoing distress. I was referred to the children's mental health service, CAMHS, and had three years of therapy which really, really helped.

I lost my love for art somewhere along the way - when I was at my lowest, I felt nothing. That lasted for a long time. I'd once dreamed of working for Disney, of travelling the world, but depression made me blind to those dreams. After a while, things got better. I got a dog, and he made me get up and go out to see the world. I sometimes moan about taking him for a walk, but I love him so - and my family helped me more than I can say. I did my GCSEs at home, thanks to a hospital education programme, and then made the biggest leap - college. It scared me, just as secondary school once had, but I felt confident enough to try. I was drawing again and sharing my art with people, and slowly I began to make friends.

In my depression, I never thought I could go to college or university. I didn't think I had a future. Art college is brilliant - everyone is free to do what they want with their work! We fill up big sketch books with idea, notes and drawings and do workshops to learn different things. I learned old fashioned photography, where you dip the photograph in trays of chemicals in a darkroom, and also light photography where you can draw with light. I did sculpture, printmaking and animation. I discovered that I still want to do all the things I once dreamed of. I know I will go to university now to study film. I know I will create beautiful stories - I'm writing my own fantasy novel. I've had help, and I am so fortunate in that, as not everyone does. The hospital still supports me; I am grateful to them and so glad I found the courage to tell my mum the truth at the beginning.

Everything that has happened has shaped me, and without it I'd be completely different. I don't know if I will ever be completely happy with myself... but I have all the time in the world to try.

Cathy says:
Wow... I'm stunned at the honesty and bravery of this piece, and so glad that Laura is working to make her dreams happen. Have YOU ever struggled with depression or mental health issues? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

SUMMER GETS THE BOOT!

Book blogger Kym does not care about strappy sandals or flip flops ... for her, summer is all about Doc Marten boots... or maybe going barefoot! Find out why...

Kym says:
These are so cool and summery ... the colours are awesome, vibrant and really stand out. Apparently these boots as a fashion were recommended buy for Glastonbury Festival this year * cough * but I had them first! I actually bought them after reading a book called Junk that mentioned 'daisy Docs' - so I looked around to see if there were any, and there were! I love Docs because they go with everything and come in so many colours. Once you have managed to break them in, they are extremely comfortable.

These are the first Docs I ever bought... they're three years old now. I miss that dress! They're a vibrant pink in shiny patent leather ... I love that they really stand out in the sunshine. The problem is that they kill my feet though, I just can't wear them for very long! They look so pretty that I keep trying, all the same. I spent all of that summer wearing the bright pink patent Docs, my crazy dress, and a bright rainbow striped bag. I must have looked like a walking migraine! The thing is with Docs is that, although they look heavy, they are not actually that clunky to wear, so you can get away with them even when it's really hot. Honest!

OK, so I do not even wear Docs ALL the time. These are my Rockdogs. Yep, daisies again! Which is obviously very summery and kind of speaks for itself. They look fab when you are chilling on the grass in the sunshine. And they go wth odd socks! Summer is not all about boots, of course. I love going barefoot ... especially on grass. I'll go to people's houses and pull my shoes off as soon as I get there if we are outside. There's something relaxing about walking barefoot on grass or earth. A lot of people get freaked out by dirty feet, but it's not exactly the end of the world ... feet are washable!

Cathy says:
I am a fan of Docs and boots in general ... so I'm liking Kym's choice of summer footwear! Do YOU have a fave pair of summer shoes? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 15 July 2016

LAUREN: JOURNEY TO JUSTICE

Reader Lauren is helping to organise an amazing event to raise awareness of injustices in today's society... a must-read, and an amazing event!



Lauren says:
I am currently taking part in a course with the NCS, the National Citizen Service, which offers the chance for teens aged 15-17 to tackle exciting new challenges and build skills and awareness. We have partnered with a charity called 'Journey to Justice' who deal with the many injustices in today's society. We decided to help support this charity by launching our own campaign to raise awareness, in the Wood Green area of London.

We decided to set up an event where we create a mural from people's hand prints. Anyone can contribute a hand print to the mural - if a person feels that they have experienced injustice because of their race, sexuality, gender, age or religion, or perhaps some other reason, they can come along and take part in making the mural. If people wish to share their stories, they can write them down and after the mural is done we will be releasing balloons with these stories inside them, for others to find and read and understand.


In a world where so many are facing social injustice such as sexism, homophobia, racism or other problems, we want to show that these things can affect anyone and are not acceptable. You can find out more about the event at  info@journeytojustice.org - anyone is welcome to come along and take part in the event on Monday 18th July... you can find out more about the event and how to be a part of it here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1477837852245791/

Cathy says:
Have YOU ever been a part of an event to raise awareness for an important issue? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

FAYE: SCARED TO MOVE ON...

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER and reader Faye is struggling with the thought of stepping away from primary school and moving on... can Cherry Costello help her to get things in perspective?

Faye says:
We've just broken up from primary school and it was so emotional and sad, saying goodbye to the people I've known ever since reception class. Lots of my friends are going to different schools and even though my best friend J is going to the same school as me, I am so scared. We are all supposed to be excited and the teachers say we are ready for it, but I don't feel ready, not at all, and I can't say this out loud or I will look stupid and babyish. I wish I was back in Year Four or Five when everything was simple and safe. I've cried myself to sleep every night since we broke up. What can I do?

Cherry says:
It is hard to let go of the security of primary school and friends you've known forever, but you can handle this, I promise. If I can move from Glasgow to Somerset and start a new school, make new friends, then you can move schools! I know how emotional the end of primary school can be, but although you have cold feet right now, you ARE ready to move forward. Do tell your friend how you're feeling - it's not babyish to feel anxious, it's natural, and I bet she is unsure of herself too. Together you can face the changes up ahead. Growing up is all about being brave enough to show our fears and weaknesses and learn to work with them and learn from them. Make the most of this summer with your old primary friends and talk honestly about how you feel about secondary... but when the time comes, give it your very best shot. And enjoy!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Cherry - do YOU agree? What more would add to help Faye get ready for secondary school? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

SUMMER... SORTED!

It's not summer until you've done at least a few of these things... are you ready for the challenge?

- Walk barefoot on the grass...
- Make a daisy chain and pick a flower from the park to stick behind your ear...
- Make smoothies with fresh fruit and lots of ice to share with your friends...
- Do some serious back garden sunbathing...
- Make and eat a banana split ice-cream sundae...
- Take a trip to the seaside...
- Send a postcard to your friends...
- Have a holiday romance (even if it's all in your imagination!)
- Eat an ice cream from a travelling ice cream van...
- Go on the swings and slides at the park with your friends...
- Splash in a blow-up paddling pool...
- Stay up to watch the stars...
- Have a garden picnic...
- Make fresh lemonade to sell or give away for free from your garden gate...
- Convince your family to go on a camping expedition...
- Paint your toenails ten different colours...
- Wear a floppy straw hat and a flowery dress all day...
- Paint a picture of a cool summer scene...
- Get together with mates to think up a dance routine for your fave summer song...
- Write your OWN summery song...
- Make a garden den from bright fabric stretched from the treetops/ washing line...
- Eat a stick of rock...
- Pick your own strawberries at a pick-your-own farm...
- Work out how many days are left until Christmas!

Fab photo by book blogger Kym... thank you!

Cathy says:
Love these... how many can YOU tick off before the end of summer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 11 July 2016

DEBORAH: THE BOOK PROJECT!

Reader Deborah tells us about a book project she did all the way back in Year Five... all about SUNDAE GIRL. She has just finished Year Eleven now, and is still a loyal and lovely fan!

Deborah says:
Back in Year Five, my primary school gave us all exercise books and told us to write about the books that we'd read. We had to write about the book, why we liked it and all about the characters. I had been a Cathy Cassidy fan for a year by then, so I knew I had to write about her books! At the time, SUNDAE GIRL was my favourite - the story and characters had really captured my imagination.

I am still pretty proud of my project on SUNDAE GIRL. It included a title page, a breakdown of the story, a description of the main character, Jude o'Reilly, and of Kristina Kowalski. I also wrote a letter to Kristina! I did a lot writing and also a lot of drawings to illustrate the project and try to get inside the whole world of the book.

My favourite bit of the project was the letter I wrote to Kristina, a complicated character who is a bit of a bully in the story. She also has a big brother with Special Needs and nobody else knows about him but Jude. The letter reminded me how I used to always try to make people feel better... I was trying to tell Kristina that she'd be happier if she was a bit nicer to people. I found it funny that I had written, 'I have a brother and I don't hide it, so why should you?'

The book project was a really exciting task for me back then, to have the opportunity to write about something I loved so much in school. Actually, I'd love the chance to do something like this now as well... maybe I'll do another book project one day, just for the fun of it!

Cathy says:
I love this! It's brilliant to see my characters come to life in the imaginations of my readers, and amazing to see those readers growing up and following their own talents! Have YOU ever reviewed a CC book or made a project on one? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

JENNIFER: SCHOOL WAS A NIGHTMARE

Reader Jennifer found that bullying is not always confined to fellow pupils when she fell out with one of her teachers at school...

Jennifer says:
I had never had a problem with school until Year Eight. I'm not a troublemaker, I'm actually more on the geeky side as good grades and hard work mean a lot to me. School is important - it's your chance to get a good start in life, and I have always been determined to do the best I could. English has always been my favourite subject and I'd always got good grades... until Year Eight.

We had a new teacher... let's call her Miss B. She was young and fun and fresh out of college, and everyone liked her a lot because she was less strict and stuffy than the teacher we'd had before. The problem started when I got my first essay back, and it was marked as a C grade. OK, that isn't bad... but I've been getting A grades ever since I can remember, so it was a shock. Then, as I looked through the essay, I saw she had corrected a spelling that wasn't actually wrong... and worse, knocked marks off for poor grammar on a sentence when it was actually correct. I told myself she must have been tired when she was marking it, so I stayed behind after class and pointed out that she'd made a mistake. Not my best move. She went very red and I could tell right away that she was angry. She told me she was the teacher and I was the pupil, and that she knew the rules of grammar and spelling better than I did, but I could tell she knew that she was wrong.

After that, English lessons were awful. Miss B never ever called on me to answer a question, never asked me to read out, but that wasn't all. Every day she would make snide remarks and jokes at my expense. She'd say I tried too hard, that I was big headed and thought I was better than the others, that I wasn't half as clever as I thought. She made comments about my choice of shoes, my hair, even y skin (I have acne). My classmates laughed along with her, and that hurt more than anything. I started to give up on English and dread going to school, and at parents evening she told my parents I was rude, arrogant and lazy.

My parents went mad... they went to the Head and complained. Miss B denied everything, but one of my friends stood up for me about some of the things that went on in class. Miss B was away a lot after that and left at the end of the year. Lots of stories came out then about how she wasn't coping with her classes and how other people had complained too. I'd like to say I'm sorry, but I'm not... she wiped out my confidence and rebuilding it will be a hard task. My love of English is at an all time low. I hope things change, but I won't be holding my breath.

Cathy says:
This is such a sad story. A teacher under stress has lashed out at a pupil and demolished her self esteem... and, ultimately, her own. I hope Jennifer can get her confidence back. Have YOU ever been bullied? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 9 July 2016

DOUBLE TROUBLE...

Macie and Madison share the lowdown on what it's like to be twins... with some wise words from their mum, too!

Macie: 
One of the best things, which can sometimes be the worst thing as well, is being known collectively as 'the twins'. Most of the time I like it!
Madison:
I love that someone shares the same birthday as me - it's less embarrassing than if people were singing 'Happy Birthday' just to me! The worst thing about being a twin is having to share a room!
Mum:
When the girls were newborns, I would be stopped maybe fifteen times on a single shopping trip by people wanting to take a peek... people are fascinated by the 'twin phenomena!' Even now, they are never short of party invitations. Some people also have 'twin-itis' where they are blind to seeing any differences in Macie and Madison, even though they are not identical!

Macie & Madison: 
We have two older brothers in their twenties and an older teen sister. When we were born they were pleased to have twins in the family. Now, our big brothers take us on trips and bring us treats; our sister used to find us a bit annoying at times though we get on great now that we're older!
Macie: 
We are quite different... I'm more of a country person and like to go for walks in the woods with our dogs. I like to write stories and I draw all the time. I dress in a kind of urban vintage country style and love hats like beanies and trilbies. I don't like dresses or skirts!
Madison: 
I'm more into the arts. I sing in a choir, play piano and get on well with maths and science. I like a bit of adventure too, though! I mostly wear jeans or denim shorts with a hint of urban style.
Mum:
Both girls are very caring and feel a lot for people. Madison started off as the confident one and then Macie took over... they've never really bickered until recently, they look after each other really. I used to dress them the same and then they began choosing their own clothes each day... to start with they'd choose similar things, but now it's a big no-no!
Macie:
One cool trick was when me and Madison wore the same onesies with the hoods over our faces and I gave Madison my glasses to wear. My Nan thought Madison was me and I was Mads!
Madison:
Macie's had glasses since she was five and people STILL get us mixed up!
Mum: I muddled them up as newborns at the doctors... it was winter and they had hoods on. I told the GP the wrong names and my five year old daughter had to tell me I'd got it wrong! In the end Beth had to show me Madison's birthmark to prove it - I didn't believe her!
Macie:
Madison is great to talk to when you're down - I tell her things I'd never tell anyone else. We go to the same places with the same friends... I like that wherever I go I already have a friend with me!
Madison:
Macie is the first person I'd tell good news to and the only person I'd share my secrets with. At the end of a long day we flop down on the couch and tell each other how everything went and how we got on. We've always had the same friends but when I was five I had my own friend called Jasmine. I think we have the same friends because they actually see us as the same person, sort of!
Macie:
When I'm older I'd like to be an English teacher in Japan - I'm teaching myself Japanese because we are home schooled. Madison has lots of plans and dreams, and I know she'd love to go back to America one day.
Madison:
We both love the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series and especially MARSHMALLOW SKYE and SUMMER'S DREAM. It was fun to read and the plots are great... it was fun to read about twins, too!

In the photos, Macie is on the left and Madison is on the right... yep, in all of them! 

Cathy says:
I met Macie and Madison at a recent book signing and asked them to write about being twins... just love their account of growing up as one of a pair! Do you think YOU would like to be a twin? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 8 July 2016

THE BEST ADVICE I'VE EVER BEEN GIVEN...

Readers share the life advice that has always stuck with them... prepare to be inspired!

Jenny says:
My gran told me never to be a gossip, or to talk in a mean way about others because I wouldn't want anyone to talk that way about me. It helped me see the good in people and has definitely made me a better person... if I can be halfway as lovely as my gran is, I'll be happy!
Janet says:
You can do anything you set your mind to... don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Sophie says:
The advice to always look for the good in people, even if they seem bad or unkind, because everyone is good inside. Ot was from my best friend, she has a lot of good advice. Another piece is 'Be kind to yourself!'

Al says:
Two pieces of advice have really helped me... 'It's not about what's right or wrong, it's about what you think...' and 'No one who is unkind to someone is happy on the inside...'

Cheryl says:
Someone always used to tell me to 'keep smiling.' He said that no matter what is going on in your life, if you make yourself smile at everyone, people will smile back and you can't help but feel better. I've found it to be amazingly true.

Zaila says:
My English teacher, to whom I am dedicating my book, told me 'Zaila, some people are going to set you back. They'll tell you that you'll never do it. That's why you have to go on, to prove them wrong!'

Wendy says:
'Just keep swimming,' by Dory in Finding Nemo!

Trish says:
My mum left me a letter before she passed away, telling me to never stop giggling. I did for a good few years, with my ex boyfriend, but I've met someone new and the laughter is back again. Mum would love him!

Deborah says:
I got a fortune cookie from the launch of Cathy Cassidy's FORTUNE COOKIE in London last year... it said: 'Don't make the same mistake you made before.' This taught me to be more aware of myself and not to immediately trust something just because I'd seen something similar before. It was also very convenient because I had just learnt from that mistake and the fortune cookie kind of emphasised the lesson I got from the situation.

Cathy says:
Love these! What is the best piece of advice YOU have ever been given? COMMENT BELOW to share your wise words!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

HOW I GOT HOOKED ON CC BOOKS...

More readers share their stories of how they started reading CC books... and why they're still hooked now!

Violet says:
The first CC book I read was borrowed from a primary school friend. It remains my favourite to to this day, almost ten years on, but at the time it was important to me because I was being bullied at school, just like Paul in the book. For the same reason too... I was 'too weird'. After reading DRIFTWOOD I decided to tell an adult rather than suffer as Paul had, so i told Mum and she told the teachers and they got the bullies to back off. Nobody should put up with bullying, and DRIFTWOOD helped me to see that. I still come back to it when I fancy a good read... after all, who doesn't love a book set in Scotland with beaches, stripy bicycles, cherryade and KITTENS!

Sophie says:
My first CC book was MARSHMALLOW SKYE and it is still my top favourite now. I then read the rest of the CHOCOLATE BOX series and Cathy's other books too. What's funny is that MARSHMALLOW SKYE is one book I still don't own... it was a library book and I still check it out of the library to read again over and over!

Katie says:
I was given my first CC book by a friend of my mum's, when I was stuck in hospital a while ago; it was DIZZY! At nine years old I started my Cathy Cassidy journey and I don't think I ever thanked Mum's friend enough for that! I loved the adventure and the family theme in DIZZY but the ending was the best... to a primary aged me, it seemed SO grown up. It was a work-in-progress kind of ending, not happily-ever-after quite yet, although it did end happily. You should have seen my face when the 'sort-of-sequel', LUCKY STAR came out!

Anna says:
The first CC book I ever read was also the first 'grown up' book I ever read, one with no pictures... I was choosing from the school library in Year 6, and the covers all seemed grim and gory, and then I found CHERRY CRUSH. I loved the cover - it looked like a homemade scrapbook, so creative, and the story was amazing. There was drama, romance, a misfit character who loved creative writing... oh, and chocolate! I read the rest of the series and then Cathy's other books - for a while they were the only books I wanted to read, but I read quite widely now. To this day, I am grateful to that book for opening up the world of stories and writing ideas to me!

Kiramae says:
GINGERSNAPS was the first CC book for me, and it instantly became my favourite book ever. I wasn't that keen on reading back then, but all that changed once I discovered CC! GINGERSNAPS is such a moving story and is still one of my favourite books!

Ella says:
COCO CARAMEL was the first CC book I read - like Coco, I am obsessed with horses so I could relate to that! I also have Coco's trait of trying to do things you shouldn't do, and relate to her feeling that older siblings don't take her seriously. Alas, I don't share her friendship with a moody, good-looking, mysterious boy who I meet on the moors and to help look after my ponies... oh well! I love this book because it helped me to discover a whole world of CC books.

Ciara says:
GINGERSNAPS was my first CC book and it meant so much to me. I had a best friend I was very jealous of at the time, and like Ginger I felt like I had some puppy fat, and I even fell for a boy who was quite different and stood out from the crowd. So the book was kind of perfect! It showed me how to be myself... and I still re-read it regularly.

Jasmine says:
SCARLETT was my first CC book - an audio book, actually, because I am dyslexic and have eye problems, and I struggled with reading at that point. I listened to the book with my sister and felt very cool discussing it and sharing the whole experience with my big sister. It was relateable as well... you could say Scarlett has challenging behaviour, and I do too! I fell in love with this book and have read it many times since!

Fab photos by book blogger Kym... thank you!

Cathy says:
Love these amazing stories... my readers are the BEST! How did YOU discover your first CC book? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

WHICH CC BOOK SHOULD I READ NEXT?

Readers review their fave Cathy Cassidy books... have you read all of these yet?
Alana says:
LOOKING GLASS GIRL surprised me. I was expecting a typical CC book, but much of the story was different. I loved how it switched from past to present and from first person to third person. It was like a jigsaw puzzle, you slowly got to see the full picture and I spent most of the book trying to figure out exactly what had happened to Alice. What struck me most was how scary and dark the story had become. Lainey was jealous of Alice to the point where she not physically harmed her; she even had thoughts of killing her. The idea was very scary and difficult to get my head around... but it shows powerfully how jealousy and bullying can get out of hand. The bullying was realistic, not the stereotypical ideas of everything in your face and verbal, but the real deal, hidden by sickening sweet smiles and fake niceness. I really loved this story, it kept me thinking for days after I had read it. It is a very special book to me.

Slaney says:
I love CHERRY CRUSH as it was one of the first Cathy Cassidy books I read and it is the book that opened my eyes to this amazing series. It is the story of Cherry Costello, half Japanese and half Scottish, a teenager whose single-parent dad gets back in touch with an old art college friend, Charlotte, and falls in love with her. Cherry likes her dad's new girlfriend a lot... she has always dreamed of being part of a proper family, and when her dad suggests moving from Glasgow to Somerset so that he and Charlotte can start a chocolate business, Cherry is keen to make a fresh start away from the bullies who plague her school life. She is not quite so sure when she discovers that this brand new 'perfect' family comes complete with four surprise step sisters... let's just say there is lots of drama ahead as the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series unfolds!


Katie says:
GINGERSNAPS - spicy, sweet and truly delectable. That's what GINGERSNAPS is! Cathy Cassidy's delightful tale of a girl who needs to show herself and others who they truly are, resonated with me on so many levels. I was gripped from the first word; Cathy Cassidy revealed Ginger's troubled childhood, where she felt she could never belong anywhere. The girls she invites to her birthday party turn up just to laugh at her. By Year Eight, Ginger is 'cool', the exact opposite of how she felt at eleven. But somehow, 'cool' doesn't feel quite right to her anymore. Enter Sam Taylor! He is definitely my favourite character because he just wants to be himself to the point of not caring. He is all about individuality! With a talent for happy saxophone music and Tippex clothing embellishment, Sam sometimes oversteps the line but managed to step right into my heart! Without Sam, Ginger would have had to go it alone. GINGERSNAPS is a standout story because of the unique characters, breathtaking plot twists and the message - you can be whoever you want to be! My fave sweet treat while reading this book? Ginger Kisses... mmmm!

Fab photo of LOOKING GLASS GIRL by book blogger Kym. Thank you!

Cathy says:
Love these fab reviews... aww! Which CC book do YOU plan to read next? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 4 July 2016

SKYE'S GUIDE TO VINTAGE COOL

Skye Tanberry shares her tips on getting a little bit of vintage style into your life this summer... what are you waiting for?

Skye says:
I often get asked how to choose the right pieces when you're out vintage hunting... I'd say don't worry too much and just buy what you really like, but here are my top tips on making the hunt more fun!

- Flick through mags, blogs, Instagram feeds, Pinterest etc to find the vintage looks that you like - we're all different. One girl's vintage treasure is another girl's junk, but that's fine! For example in the mag pic to the left, I love the hat and would give the wooly jacket a try, but nobody is ever going to get me into a leopardskin print dress. But fans of 1980s vintage would LOVE it!

- Make a scrapbook, pinterest page or pinboard of your fave looks, colours and inspirations. It all helps you to understand what you might be looking for!

- List your local vintage shops, check for nearby vintage sales or kilo sales (where they sell big bags of vintage clothes by weight... you get to choose what goes in the bag!) and note down charity shops too. Car boot sales and jumble sales are another source of vintage goodies. They're all worth a look!

- Work out your budget and stick to it... if you can splash out on a one-of-a-kind prom dress from a specialist vintage shop, that could be worth the spend. If cash is short, though, focus on accessories - a hat, bag, brooch or scarf can add a cool vintage touch to your outfit without making you look like you've just walked off the set of Grease or The Great Gatsby!

- Are you creative and/or good with a needle and thread? Look for awesome fabrics, damaged items or snippets of lace, all often cheap as chips, and turn them into something new and wonderful. Need inspiration for vintage fashion makes? CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS has some awesome projects to get you started!

- Don't be afraid to try things on to make sure they fit and/or are the kind of look you're going for. Vintage items can be smaller than modern ones in the 'same' size, so better safe than sorry!

- Just one cool, quirky item... a beret, a trilby hat, an embroidered top or ditzy print skirt... can make your search a success. Quality not quantity!

- Take a friend along on the hunt... twice the fun, and once you're done you have someone to share coffee and cakes with! Result! Enjoy your vintage treasure hunt!

Cathy says:
Fab advice from Skye... are YOU a vintage fan? COMMENT BELOW to tell us about YOUR fave vintage find!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

THE WHISPERS OF WILDERWOOD HALL... THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY!

My writer pal Karen McCombie shares the behind the scenes stories on her brand new book... here are the firefly thoughts that inspired THE WHISPERS OF WILDERWOOD HALL!

Karen says:
I grew up on the 15th floor of a high rise block of flats. Because, or perhaps in spite of that, I was a total History Nut as a kid. My parents would schlep me off to visit various National Trust properties in the summer holidays, and I loved every minute. Even when the tour guides drifted off to Dullsville, talking about family crests and lineage, I'd be staring at some sweet sampler on a child's bedroom wall, wondering about the twelve year old girl who'd stitched that, back in 1805. I'd be searching out the servants staircase, looking at the grooves worn in stone spiral steps by the footfall of countless maids over the centuries.For me, every castle and grand house we visited was full of the whisper of past lives. When I began playing with ideas for my time-slip novel THE WHISPERS OF WILDERWOOD HALL, those childhood memories came flooding back!

The time I broke the law...
Breaking the law just isn't me. I won't even go in an 'Exit Only' door at a supermarket, but once, back in my twenties, when I lived in Scotland, I let myself be led astray. Correction; I let my inner History Nut lead me astray! A friend was on a film making course and asked me and a girl called Pauline to help him with his summer holiday project. Flattered, we agreed, but the film dude was very cagey about where the film location would be. 'Just drive,' he said, as he squeezed his camera gear and - oddly - a stepladder, into my tiny old Mini car. We set off and drove into the countryside, where I was told to park beside some tall, rusted, chained-up gates in a high, moss-covered wall. Now I knew what the stepladder was for; we were climbing over, about to trespass in the overgrown grounds of a long deserted mansion.

The sensible part of me tried to say 'No way!' but my History Nut self was desperate to see that house. I gave in, and I can't say I regretted it. The tangled gardens felt like something from Sleeping Beauty. The house itself was broken down, the front door hanging off its hinges; it was wonderful to wander through it, spotting scraps of its story everywhere, from the mould-covered porcelain of the old claw-footed bath to the rust-spotted mirror above the mantelpiece in the ballroom. I looked into every room, drinking it all in, loving everything about it... until Pauline and I, gazing around the ballroom on the ground floor, heard footsteps directly above us. It wasn't the film dude... he was out in the gardens at this point. We did what anyone would do in the situation; we RAN...

Over the years, on visits back to the area, I've driven around, trying to find a trace of the old house, but with no luck. I must only have been inside those imposing walls for perhaps an hour in total, but that hour etched itself into my mind, and the Wilderwood Hall of my imagination owes a lot to that.

The WHISPERS OF WILDERWOOD HALL is out now - you can find it in all good bookstores or order it online HERE.

Cathy says:
I love history and time-slip stories too, so this book is now top of my to-read list! Have YOU got a favourite book with an historical flavour? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 1 July 2016

YOUR STARS FOR JULY!

Skye Tanberry has been crystal gazing again - what will her starry-eyed predictions mean for you? Read on and see what the summer holds!

LEO (24 July - 23 Aug)
Looking forward to a quiet, chilled-out summer? Think again - a drama-queen character on the edge of your friendship group or family is whipping up a whole lot of trouble. Do not be drawn in or pressured to take sides. You don't need this. Step back, take some time out and things should cool down gradually - without your help.

VIRGO (24 Aug - 22 Sept)
You've given all your energy and hard work to school and study - now it's time to devote some attention to slowing down and having fun! Make strengthening your friendships a priority this summer... it's one project you'll never regret!

LIBRA (24 Oct - 22 Nov)
It's a good job the holidays are almost upon us... you've been pushing yourself a little too hard, as usual. Get some balance into your life and remember that rest and relaxation are just as vital as work and social life. Summer is the perfect time to wind down and take it easy, right?

SCORPIO (24 Oct - 22 Nov)
2016 has been a whirlwind so far with unexpected friendships, interests and skills all coming into your life. It's not over yet - a new friend or even a romance are on the cards for the summer, and look set to turn everything upside-down. Expect the unexpected... and enjoy!

SAGITTARIUS (23 Nov - 22 Dec)
The world is a little more chaotic than usual just now, and because you're sensitive and emotional, this can get under your skin and pull you down. You probably can't fix the woes of the world, but you can make sure you smile, hug your friends and do your best to spread positivity to counter the tricky stuff. If anyone can make a difference, you can!

CAPRICORN (23 Dec - 29 Jan)
You've allowed life to drift a little lately - it's time to remember that you're in control. OK, you can't save the world, but you CAN get your summer on track by planning out the things you'd like to achieve and the fun you'd like to have. Once it's all on paper, putting the plan into action is much more possible... go for it!

AQUARIUS (20 Jan - 19 Feb)
You're a caring person, and just lately you have given so much to others that your own energy supplies may be running low. That's what summers are for... time to kick back and enjoy some downtime. Instead of being an agony aunt to your mates, focus on having fun - they may be surprised to start with, but they'll love you for it!

PISCES (20 Feb - 20 March)
Slowly but surely, you're growing up and mapping out the path you'd like to follow in life. Your quiet confidence shows, and draws others to you - and this summer, that may include a special boy, too. Whether he ends up being a friend, a crush or even something more is totally up to you, but though he may only be in your life for a short while, he's someone you won't forget.

ARIES (21 march - 20 April)
For you, summer can be the perfect antidote to the stresses of school. Once term is over, you're free to spend more time outdoors and pursue the sports you love... or simply get together with friends and plan a long walk or bike ride with a picnic at the end! You may have had a tricky couple of months, but you'll bounce back to your usual sunny self very soon, promise!

TAURUS (21 April - 21 May)
Stroppy friends? Grumpy parents? You can't please everybody, but you have to find ways to compromise and call a truce when things get awkward, or else summer is going to have a few black clouds spoiling the fun. Channel your peace-maker skills and let any stress go right over your head... think sunshine and chill-out time. You can do it!

GEMINI (22 May - 22 June)
There is a brand new Gemini passion on the horizon for you... it could be a romance, a new friend or even a new skill or hobby that's set to capture your imagination and fire up your enthusiasm. Enjoy the feeling, but guard against your trait of getting easily bored and moving on. It can hurt feelings and waste time, and frazzle your energy levels too.

CANCER (23 June - 23 July)
You're having a seriously creative year, one where anything seems possible... channel the feeling and make the most of summer to feed your talents. Look for holiday classes, workshops, groups etc, and use the time away from school to follow your own dreams. Be open to new ideas, too... the stars may have a few surprises in store for you this month!

Cathy says:
Oooh... a mixed bag of fortune for a lot of us, here! Does YOUR horoscope ring true? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!