Tuesday, 28 February 2017

ELEANOR: HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW!

Reader Eleanor explains why she chose to cut her long hair for charity... an inspiring story!


Eleanor says:
A few years ago, a friend of mine cut off most of her hair to be donated to the Little PrincessTrust, a charity which provides free wigs for children who have lost their hair through cancer treatment. I thought this was an amazing idea. My own hair was getting quite long and I wanted to keep growing it, but I felt pretty sure I would want to do the same thing at some point in the future. Years passed and my hair grew and grew , and I decided that when it was long enough to sit on, I would have it cut.

It occurred to me that I didn't have to simply just donate the hair - I could also use this opportunity to I had not done much for charity up to this point, but always wished I could - and here was a perfect opportunity. I wasn't sure which charity to fundraise for, however - there are so many that deserve support and I wanted to help them all.As I wasn't doing anything quite as dramatic as actually shaving my head, I knew I wouldn't be able to raise enough to divide between multiple charities... but how would I choose?

At this point, a woman called Victoria came to speak to   year at school. She was from a charity called Mercy Corps. which provides both short-term and long-term aid to countries struck by crisis, and are currently helping in more than forty countries. The charity has been helping with the refugee crisis recently, providing resources and aid for those in need. One thing that is very important to Mercy Corps is that the vast majority (93%) of their field staff are native to the countries in which they were working, which provides local knowledge of the language and culture. All of this really interested me, and I knew I definitely wanted to help!

At a talk I attended by the Mercy Corps director of North Syria and Turkey, I saw Victoria again and told her about what I was doing. This ultimately resulted in me invited for a tour of the Mercy Corps HQ  along with another girl who had asked for her Christmas present money to be donated to Mercy Corps instead (wow!!). It was amazing to find out what they do and to meet some of the UK-based staff. It made me certain that I'd chosen the right charity to support!

In the end, I didn't grow my hair long enough to sit on, not quite, but it was getting to a point where it was barely growing any more and if I'd left it much longer it may not have been in good enough condition to use. Still, it was pretty long! The big chop happened in december and when I measured the plait afterwards, it was 45cm, or over one foot, five inches! I have also managed to raise £184 so far for Mercy Corps, but my Just Giving page is still open so this is not a final amount. I am really proud of what I achieved and glad I was able to do something to help two very deserving charities.

You can find out more about Mercy Corps here...
Or donate to Eleanor's Just Giving page here!

Cathy says:
I love Eleanor's idea of raising money for one charity while donating her long hair to another! Have YOU ever done anything amazing to raise money for a good cause? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 27 February 2017

PENNY: EVERYBODY NEEDS SOME HYGGE!

Reader Penny explains the Danish idea of hygge... and how to enjoy it!


Penny says:
You've probably heard of hygge by now... the Danish art of finding happiness in the small things. It's pronounced 'hooga' which is quite a lot like the word hug, and from what I have seen hygge is like a big warm hug for all of us in the middle of winter, when we need it most. I think it is worth trying out, because the Danes are supposed to be the most content people in the world, so they must be doing something right!

What do you need for a hygge evening? An open fire, a blanket, a favourite book, candles, a meal shared with friends... all of these can be part of your relaxing chill out. It is about enjoying the simple pleasures of life with those we love. Choose a weekend day and plan a brisk walk in the countryside (or in the park!) with your family. Leave your phones behind and focus on the sights, sounds and smells of your adventure. Instead of taking Instagram pictures, pick up fir cones and pretty leaves. Back home, share a warming bowl of soup - something home made is best. Look up some recipes and make one earlier in the day to give your family a treat! When you think about it, this is something the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS do naturally!

Once you are all warm and cosy again, turn the lights down low and snuggle in for a quiet evening in front of the fire or log burner. If that's not possible, light some chunky candles instead (be safe!) and curl up with blankets, books and board games. How long is it since you did a jigsaw with your little sister? Played Cluedo with your mum? Talked about happy childhood memories? Switch off the TV and switch off the grumbles too... a hygge evening is about reconnecting and have a fun family time. Drink hot chocolate and toast your toes by the fire, and keep those mobiles turned off so you can find happiness in the little things. The Danish have it right, I think!

Cathy says:
I think hygge sounds brilliant... even if it's just one evening now and then, having some quiet time with family or friends is really important. What would YOUR perfect family evening be? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 24 February 2017

ANNA WILSON: THE FAMILY FIASCO!

My fab fellow author Anna Wilson has a new book out... I asked her to tell us all about it!

Anna says:
I am very excited to have a new book out this week - THE FAMILY FIASCO. It's the sequel to a book I wrote last year, THE PARENT PROBLEM, and continues the story of Skye Green, a (nearly) thirteen year old who has the Most Mortifying family ever. Her mum is always doing embarrassing things like signing up to ballroom dancing classes, wearing Outrageous Clothes and singing in public. Then there's her brother Harris, who also likes dressing up - in girls clothes - and dancing with the dog. When he tells Skye that he's auditioning for the part of Dorothy in the school's production of The Wizard Of Oz, Skye thinks she will Literally Die. As if all this weren't enough for a (nearly) thirteen year old to handle, Skye's mum is dating the man next door, and they choose her birthday as the day for a Very Special Announcement!

Families! They can drive you bonkers, can't they? Annoying little brothers, bossy older sisters, irritating parents... I know I annoy my own family sometimes! Particularly when I end up putting them in my books. We have a sign in the kitchen which says 'Careful, or you might end up in my novel!' and my family knows only too well how true this can be. They have known for a long time now that anything they say or do might well be used in my stories. Now, that's not to say that we are quite as crazy as Skye's family... but there might be a 'few' ingredients in THE FAMILY FIASCO and THE PARENT PROBLEM that have come from real life. Basically, however, Skye is me. I had an embarrassing name before I got married - MUCH more embarrassing than Skye Green! (And far too embarrassing to tell you here...)

There are more than a few memories from my own teenage years which have gone into the mix. I remember cringing with embarrassment when my parents went to a fancy dress party where mum went as a man and dad went as a woman - in one of mum's dresses and her make-up! Then there was the time dad turned up to collect me from a really cool party wearing the lycra clothes he used to go canoeing in. I spent most of my teen years feeling embarrassed, so it wasn't difficult to go back to that time and think about how Skye would feel. I loved the book THE DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE AGED 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend when I was younger. I'd say her wonderful book had quite an influence on me while I was writing about Skye. And Skye is a bookworm, just as I was at her age.

I know now that everyone goes through a phase of thinking their own family is crazy or weird and that everyone else's is normal (or better!). But as Skye says at the end of THE FAMILY FIASCO: 'I'm with Dorothy on this one: 'There's no place like home.''

Cathy says:
Ooh, sounds like a must read! Do YOU have an embarrassing family? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

JESSICA: I WANT TO LIVE IN THE PAST...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Jessica has some questions for Skye Tanberry...

Jessica says:
I love history, and sometimes I wish I could travel back to the days of finger-wave curls, embroidered shawls and velvet dresses; I would give anything for a time machine.I find it hard to fit in with reality and often find myself daydreaming. I try to insert a little vintage style into my look, raiding charity shops and jumble sales, but the best vintage pieces are extortionate. I'd love to be a modern day history chick - do you have any advice on how I can upcycle a vintage look, hobbies, music, school uniform... life? And which vintage shops are good to try in Glasgow?

Skye says:
You sound sooooo like me! It takes a while to get into your stride with vintage style - I have worn a few odd combos in the past before working out what pieces go together, don't worry! Charity shops are good - have you tried the Oxfam Vintage shop in Glasgow's Merchant City? I don't know Glasgow too well, but Cherry tells me that Mr Ben in King's Court, King's St, is well worth a visit and that the Great Western Road is full of treasures. A quick google came up with this helpful link - I'm almost tempted to nip up north and go vintage hunting with you! Don't be afraid to mix vintage with modern and to adapt charity shop pieces to suit... if you're handy with a needle and thread, there's almost nothing you cannot do. The main thing is to let your style evolve naturally - I love 1920s and 1930s styles, but I have a friend who rocks a garish 1970s look, and that's totally right for her! Hobbies... go with your interests, and the same for music - I love 20s jazz, but also listen to modern stuff! Explore different sounds until you find an era that suits you, whether it's the upbeat 60s or the emotional, jazzy wartime swing sound. You asked about customising school uniform - there are some great hacks for giving everyday stuff a vintage twist in the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS... a must have if you are creative and love the vintage look! Good luck!

Cathy says:
I can vouch for those Glasgow vintage shops - they are some of the best in the country! Skye's advice is good - and it definitely sounds as if Jessica is on the right track. Have YOU ever tried a vintage look? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

HAYLEY: WALK AWAY

Reader Hayley writes about a friendship gone wrong, and how she found the courage to walk away from it...

Hayley says:
I met Lucy and Yasmine on the first day of Year Seven. My family had moved to a new town because Mum was starting a new job, so I'd been anxious about making new friends and I was over the moon to meet Lucy and Yasmine because they were confident, fun and cool. I quickly found myself pulled into a big friendship group that had them at the centre, and for a while life was great.

A few months in, though, I started to see there were rules for fitting in with these new friends. You couldn't be more popular than Lucy and Yasmine; you couldn't attract more attention from boys; you couldn't be seen to be trying too hard at school work or in sport. I remember in Year Seven when a girl called Priya came in with a very cool new haircut and a pair of gorgeous shoes... I think they had been a birthday treat. Lucy and Yasmine must have felt she was outshining them, because suddenly rumours sprang up about Priya and she was excluded from the group. I was certain the rumours weren't true but that didn't seem to matter - Priya was gone. There were little things too... we all had to do what Lucy and Yasmine wanted, whether that was eating salad for school dinners, wearing certain colours and brands, or drinking skinny lattes in Costa in town.

Things went wrong for me when  boy called Ben asked me out in Year Eight. I wasn't ready for a boyfriend but still, I was upset when Lucy and Yasmine told me I couldn't go out with him. I had no intention of going out with Ben anyway, and in the end some of the group convinced me to apologise to Lucy and Yasmine even though I'd done nothing wrong. I did, but Lucy said I had to prove I was loyal to them by shoplifting a lip gloss she wanted from Superdrug. This upset me so much I stayed off school for three days, and in the end I told my mum who was horrified. We talked about it and I could see just how twisted and unfair it was. Saying no to Lucy and Yasmine meant letting go of my friends, but Mum made me see it was a no-brainer. I had to walk away.

I went back into school and found a different place to sit in class. I sat alone at lunchtime and in lessons, and I knew people were looking at me, spreading rumours about me. It was horrible, but it made it clear that these girls had never been my friends in the first place... they were mean, controlling, spiteful. In the end, Priya and her new friends asked me to join their group. It's early days, but I have real friends again, and I will never let myself be treated like dirt again just to stay part of a group. Walking away was the best thing I ever did.

Names have been changed to protect privacy. Fab photo by reader Emily; thank you! 

Cathy says:
Teen friendships can be very tangled, but Hayley did absolutely the right thing here, and I'm glad it worked out for her. Have YOU ever been stuck in a toxic friendship? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

AMY: SMALLS FOR ALL!

Reader Amy tells us about the vital campaign her school have been running to help women in third world countries.

Amy says:
I wanted to tell you about a campaign my school ran recently called 'Smalls For All'. Smalls For All is a charity that collects bras and underwear for girls and women in third world countries who cannot afford their own. This matters more than you might think; it's not just a comfort issue, the women are less likely to be attacked or raped if they have underwear. Also, girls are stopped from going to school when they have their periods as they have nothing to help them.

We managed to collect so many bras as part of this project, it was into the thousands I think! I loved helping with the running of the campaign as I was head girl at the time... it was a great campaign for an all girls school and focused attention on many issues and problems that we don't talk about or think about enough. The charity need packs of new underwear/ pants suitable for children from age three upwards, and women up to a size 16. They accept either new or 'gently worn' bras and lots of us can pass on something like that as there are usually little-worn items lurking around somewhere at home.

If you would like to help too, why not see if your school can take part and collect items? Or perhaps your office of place of work? Go to www.smallsforall.org to find out more and download a poster to help spread the word. Even if you have just a few things to pass on, that helps too... your donations can be posted to the following address:

Smalls For All,
108 Buchanan Crescent,
Eliburn,
Livingston,
EH54 7EF.

Illustrations by Cathy's fab writer friend Fiona Gibson - many thanks.

Cathy says:
Well done Amy! I've heard about this charity and love that such a simple idea can make a genuine difference. Have YOU helped with a charity project recently? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 17 February 2017

JOANNE: STILL READING CC!

Reader Joanne explains what CC books meant to her as a teen - and what they mean now she is at uni!

Joanne says:
As a pre-teen and young teen, I adored CC books, and it'd be a lie not to admit I still flick-read them sometimes even now. I once owned every book, read them all several times and went to see Cathy to get my books signed a few times at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

The books left a lasting impression and helped me cope with issues I had faced in life. My dad rather than my mum was the wild, free-living traveller that Storm in DIZZY was, and my Nana, like Molly in SUNDAE GIRL, has severe Alzheimer's Disease. With my family around me I leaned to cope with these issues, but another important coping mechanism for me was reading. Literature is a wonderful escape for children, but it can also help young people to put their worries in context and see that there is always hope. To know you are going through hell and seeing that someone, despite the character being fictional, has gone though something similar and survived... that can really help. Even if we don't have that particular problem, we learn to understand how it feels to be in that situation.

I am nineteen years old now and in my second year of a primary teaching degree. I'm working on an essay about how children's books can help young people to handle the difficult experiences life may deal out to them, and this started me thinking once more of the CC books I loved so much. Reading is amazing, and a big part of why I want to teach now. Most of my CC books have now been passed on to my thirteen year old sister in the hopes she would love them as much as I do (she does, what a cool girl!) From a huge fan both past and future, I can only hope CC goes on writing fantastic books that will help the children of the future know that they are not dealing with their problems alone.

Cathy says:
Naaawww... I am blushing now! I am so very proud of my grown-up readers, many of whom, like Joanne, have gone on to do amazing things! Have CC books ever helped YOU to deal with a difficult issue? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

IMELDA: VINTAGE DILEMMA

Reader Imelda has a vintage themed dilemma for Skye Tanberry to solve... will she be able to help? Find out in this week's DREAMCATCHER problem page post!

Imelda says:
Recently our teacher told us we would each be be doing a personal three week project, on any subject. I want to do a project that links with my hobbies of vintage, history and daydreaming... or do something based on Clara's love story from MARSHMALLOW SKYE perhaps. I've also thought of doing a 1920s project but I'm not sure whether to do something written or to make something. I can't make a decision! Any ideas?

Skye says:
What a great opportunity! I'd have loved a chance to do something like this, and it seems to have really sparked your imagination too! It depends how much time you can spend on the project, but three weeks may not be long enough to make something like a dress, for example. A written project may be simpler, but I think if it were me I'd choose to tell Clara's story in project form! You could illustrate it with drawn 'photographs' of Clara and her fiance and her traveller love, and include your versions of some of the letters she sent, mocking up envelopes with old fashioned stamps. It could be a lot of fun to do and would really stand out - and you have the story there in MARSHMALLOW SKYE to use as a template! Best of luck!

Cathy says:
What a great project - I'm loving Skye's advice, too! What is the coolest project YOU have ever done? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 13 February 2017

KAREN Mc COMBIE- COVER COULD'VE BEENS!

My writer friend KAREN MC COMBIE is guest blogging here today, and she's talking new books and cover looks... very cool!

Karen says:
My latest book is out - wheee! And the cover of ST GRIZZLE'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, GOATS AND RANDOM BOYS is just fab... a riot of sunshine yellow and silliness, complete with garlands of loo roll. Perfect for my story of a kooky boarding school!

But I got an unexpected peek at the Cover Could've Beens that came BEFORE the finished article too... very interesting!

The illustrator of ST GRIZZLE'S is Becka Moor (check out her fab website page for lots more amazing drawings - the link is below). When I recently put together a PowerPoint to take out on school visits, she very kindly let me have images of some of her 'roughs'. This is because I wanted to show students that - just as with the story itself - the cover artwork goes through several stages of try-outs and tweaking before it is done.

I love all of Becka's versions, but it is down to the book publishers to choose in the end. They show the options to lots of experts; their own sales and marketing team, booksellers and children.

It's only after all this that they decide on a clear favourite. I was sad to lose Zed - my random boy - from the final version, but he's done a wheelie round to the back cover, so he hasn't gone too far!

Next time you are admiring the cover of a book in the shelves of a shop of library, take a second to realise you are probably looking at version four or five of a very long but fascinating process!

ST GRIZZLE'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, GOATS AND RANDOM BOYS is the first in a new series by Karen McCombie from Stripes Books. Look out for it in all good bookstores now!

Check out Becka Moor's website here... http://www.beckamoor.com/ 

Cathy says:
Whoop... I am a fan of Karen's work and love the look of the new book. Plus, goats! I NEED to know what's going on! Have YOU read an awesome book lately? What's next on your reading list? And most of all, which cover version do YOU like best? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

KATE: LIFE, DEATH AND ALL THE BITS IN BETWEEN...

Reader Kate has been doing some deep thinking lately - about life, death and all the bits in between! Here she shares some of her thoughts in an unexpectedly inspiring post!

Kate says:
We're all going to die. Everyone. We can't stop it, it's going to happen. It doesn't ask for permission and sometimes it comes very unexpectedly. It just comes and takes you. This is why life is so precious - and why we should cherish every moment, no matter how boring it may seem - because someday life will run out. You may not realise how much you would beg and plead to live through those few seconds of boredom again, to have them come back to you... because someday, we are all going to run out of seconds.

I wish I could go back to the time when I was three (even though I am eleven now.) Life seemed simpler then. Life can be stressful as you get older, but we have to keep the big picture in mind, and think of how the long term results and consequences will make your life easier and more enjoyable later on. Hard work now will make things easier later, or so they say! I often wonder if that's true and I wonder why I'm alive - am I more than just 'science stuff' on legs, or am I some kind of walking experiment?

Is there such a thing as the afterlife or is it just a myth so we're not scared to die? I hope it's real because I'm really scared that I won't think anymore once I've died. I'd like to think of it as a sleep, but the truth is that for most of us, after fifty years or so, when all the people who knew you are gone, your life is forgotten too. Unless you make a difference. Have you ever been taught about the amazing life of the person who sat on the sofa watching TV all day? No! Instead, you have heard about the people who stand up and do something amazing with their lives, people like Martin Luther King Jr who stood up for black people's rights in the US, and is remembered now for his bravery and vision.

Would YOU like to be the forgotten person who slumps on a sofa, or do you want to be remembered? Do you want to get out there and change the world, explore your potential, learn and understand and make a difference? You only have one life, and it will end, but your legacy is a whole different story - your legacy can live on. But you can only create a true legacy if you live your life to the full and do something meaningful with your time on Earth! We can do it!

Cathy says:
Wow... lots of things to think about here! I love Kate's take on life and death, and love that it has motivated her to be the best person she can be! Would YOU like to be remembered for your achievements? What kind of things would you like to do with your life? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 10 February 2017

LILY: BIRTHDAY SURPRISE!

When reader Lily met Cathy on a recent tour and bought the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS, it didn't take long for inspiration to strike!

Lily says:
I met Cathy Cassidy at a book talk at a local school recently, where lots of schools came together to take part. Afterwards, I bought the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS and got it signed by Cathy. I loved meeting Cathy and found it the whole day quite inspiring! Then very soon after, it was my mum's birthday and I decided to bake a birthday cake from the book. I planned to make the cake while Mum and Dad were out at their school Open Evening, so they wouldn't know... it would be a surprise! The baking part went well, and then on the actual day I sent them off for a birthday dinner and decorated the cake while they were out - it was all ready when they came back and they were so surprised at the result!

The cake was Skye and Summer's three-tier birthday cake from CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS and the recipe seemed straightforward. The cake looked delicious and I knew right away I wanted to make it for Mum's birthday. I loved reading about Skye and Summer in the series, so making Skye's recipe was exciting! The recipe was quite easy and fun to follow... the only tricky part was trying to do it all in secret so I could surprise my mum! Luckily, my grandparents were over from Spain and staying with us, so my grandma supervised me while Mum and Dad were out, which meant it could be a real surprise!

Everything was set out clearly and worked the way it was supposed to, which was good because I don't bake much - well, never really! It was fun, and although the cake looked amazing it was quite simple to put together with the three tiers of sponge, the cream and the fresh fruit.Mum loved the cake and said it was the best surprise she had ever had! We all had a slice, and it was absolutely delicious! I even got to have a glass of champagne with it - well, OK, it was fizzy water, but hey! The cake was scoffed in record time, and I think I will definitely be trying more projects from CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS soon!

Cathy says:
This is probably the best ever book review ever - and when Lily's mum sent me a pic of the awesome surprise cake, I knew I had to find out more about the story! Have YOU ever been inspired to make or do something because of something you've seen in a CC book? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

AMANDA: READING CC IN HOLLAND!

Another in our series of CC readers all around the world... meet Amanda, who began reading CC books in Holland, and now lives in France...

Amanda says:
I'm from Holland, and this is me with the first CC book I ever read. When I was about fifteen, I found a copy of DIZZY in English at the local library and loved it so much I actually read half of it there! I took it home and finished reading it the same day. That book just stuck in my mind! When my sister started reading in English a few years later, I told her about DIZZY and took her to the library. We found more CC books, like INDIGO BLUE, SCARLETT and DRIFTWOOD. We've been fans ever since, and my sister even got her first library card so she could read CC books at home.

I moved to France to live a few years later, and I still live here now. CC books in French are very popular, but I try not to read translations when I understand the original language. Although the English versions of the books are hard to find here - you have to order them - I have started collecting them. It brought back very happy memories when I got DIZZY; I now have CHERRY CRUSH too, and I plan to find the rest! I'm a lot older than fifteen now, but I still enjoy CC books and I hope I always will!

Cathy says:
I love this... it's always cool to hear from readers overseas, but even more so when they've grown up but still loving the books! Whic CC book was the first one YOU ever read? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

LINDA: NOT GOOD ENOUGH

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Linda has a problem for Skye Tanberry to solve... will you agree with her answer?

Linda says:
I've never been confident in myself or my abilities, and it affects my schoolwork and the hobbies I have outside of school. Recently, though, it's worse. Instead of me telling myself I can't do something, it feels like others are saying it. In school, I am being told my work is not up to standard and that I don't participate in class. I feel I'm a disappointment at home too, and I'm so sick of being told I'm lazy, irresponsible, or a slacker. I always mess things up. Please help!

Skye says:
Confidence is a key issue for all of us - once you begin to doubt yourself, the fear of not being good enough can spiral out of control and even affect the way others see us. Likewise, confidence can help us be the best we can be. Whatever is going on, you need the truth... ask your teachers how you can improve your grades and what you need to do to change things. They will be impressed by your determination and may offer extra classes or support to get you back on an even keel... and you may find out things aren't as bad as you feared. At home, you need to talk to your parents and let them know how low you are feeling. They may have no idea you feel this way, and can perhaps try more to build up your self esteem. If this isn't going to happen, find help yourself - Cathy's non fiction book LETTERS TO CATHY has lots of advice on boosting confidence and learning to believe in yourself. Work on this and you'll find you can turn your whole life around... isn't that worth your best effort?

Cathy says:
Good advice as always from Skye, but is there anything YOU would add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

LAURA: IS FEMINISM A DIRTY WORD?

Reader Laura looks at what feminism means and why we shouldn't be afraid to embrace it!

Laura says:

Feminism can be seen by some as a 'dirty' word - but do you actually know what it means? By definition: 'the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of equality of the sexes.' In short, it means equal rights for men and women. Sounds simple enough - but sometimes the media can spread a different message. Feminism can be seen by some as a 'women over men' ideology, which it is NOT, and some are put off using the word for this reason. In a 2014 interview, INSURGENT actress Shailene Woodley said she wasn't a feminist because she didn't believe in the idea of raising women to take power away from men. A year on, she repeated that she doesn't wish to be seen as a feminist because she sees it as a label, and 'Why do we have to have a label to divide us?' It's OK to appreciate people's different views, but the word feminist should not create a 'divide'. It is simply the desire for equality between men and women. Far from dividing us, it seeks to close the divide!

Sadly, feminism still has a stigma attached to it, much like mental illness. People don't want to be linked to it and many still don't understand. Recently at my school, when our mixed class watched Emma Watson's #HeForShe speech, some male students commented 'Women aren't better than men,' and 'There is no divide... it's not true.' Some people are blind to the facts because they have never experienced that inequality personally, but as Emma Watson later said, 'If you stand for equality, you're a feminist. It's an equality club.' And that's what men and women need to know - equality is for everyone.

Feminism doesn't have to mean running around the streets in protests and rallies, but it does mean to support and empower each other, men and women alike. Feminism doesn't have to be outrageous or scandalous. What we need to do, in the name of feminism, is to create change. In March 2015, the pay gap in Australia rose to 18.8% - that is, men earned 18.8% more for doing the same job. How can a pay gap still exist when that debate has been going on since the 1970s?

If you choose to be a feminist, you don't have to make drastic plans to change the world (although you can!). You DO have to be mindful about spreading the right message in an age when the meaning of feminism has been twisted by those who'd rather keep things as they are. Feminism is about uniting men and women to harmonious equality, inside and outside the workplace. Isn't that something we can all agree on?

Cathy says:
This is something I feel very strongly about... I am proud to call myself a feminist and in no way am I a man-hater, or someone who believes women are better than men. I just want a fair and equal world! Do YOU call yourself a feminist or is it still a bit of a 'dirty' word to you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER?

Readers share their friendship stories in this fab, feelgood post... let's celebrate those special friends who make life extra cool!

Imogen says:
My best friend Eden and I have been best friends since we first met in Year one - we're twelve now! I'd just moved to that school and was feeling kind of lost - I has no idea where anything was and I didn't know anyone. Then I met Eden, this funny, bubbly person who just wanted to be everyone's friend. She's still just the same, only more mature! Eden has moved away now, but we text almost daily and are still the best of friends. She has always been there for me, no matter what. If I'm having a hard time, she'll make me feel better... that's one of my fondest memories of my best friend!

Nicola says:
I've known Bethany for just under two years now, but in that time she has helped me to find out so much more about myself that I didn't know before. We both have times where we feel down, but we will always help each other out - normally through talking and music! She reminds me of Summer Tanberry because she can put herself under too much pressure at times, but I guess that is part of her personality. I really admire Bethany's ambition and drive... it gets her to great places! I hope this post makes her see how much I care for her and how much I appreciate her friendship!

Mekhala says:
My best friend is Keerthana and I wanted to write something to let her know just how much she means to me. She is very supportive, funny, caring... and the most amazing friend a girl could have. I am a very shy person, but Keerthana understand s and always helps in an any situation I need her to. We are sixteen now and don't see each other as much, but I miss her a lot and want her to know that she is my number one friend - nobody can every replace her.

Hannah says:
This is my best friend Chloe - she's the blonde one and I'm the one with brown hair. We are both fifteen years old and we've known each other since we were six. We've pretty much grown up together, and are still pretty much joined at the hip! Seriously, I could not ask for a better friend and I wouldn't trade her for anything. Our favourite thing to do is just to chill out and watch Norwegian dramas (SKAM) and eat pizza. Plus, she's so pretty! I am blessed, I swear, to have such a brilliant friend.

Cathy says:
Awww... I love these feel-good friendship stories! Have YOU got a best friend who means the world to you? Email your story to me through the link on cathycassidy.com or COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

PICTURE PERFECT: MY FAVE CC CHARACTER!

Readers get arty, inspired by their favourite CC character... and explain why they like them so much!   


Lucy says:
I decided to draw Skye Tanberry as she is my favourite character from all of Cathy's books. I love her vintage style, and the fact that she has developed it more since finding the trunkful of 1920s dresses in MARSHMALLOW SKYE! I can really visualise her and imagine what she might be like as a person. Skye is a true individual who is full of imagination and lives in her own world of dreams. She does not care what other people may think of her style, and that's what I like about her… she may be shy and dreamy, but she is strong too! I love drawing as I can express my feelings and imagination in what I draw. I can get lost in my own world. It was fun to draw Skye!

Georgina says:
Although I love all CC books, SCARLETT has always been my favourite. I think it's because most of the novel is set in Ireland, where I live, so I felt more connected with the book and with Scarlett. I love how rebellious and wild Scarlett is - she's totally different to me, so I found it fascinating to learn about her thoughts and personality. Because I am such a fan of this novel, I decided to make my own personal piece of fan art using photos I had taken myself. It was fun pretending I was Scarlett for a little while; I felt like I was in the book! Making the collage was something cool to do over the school holidays - I used my iPhone and a photo editing app downloaded from the app store. Now I've made one, I hope to try many other character collages in the future!

Al says:
SCARLETT... what can I say? She is my favourite CC character. Behind her harsh actions and words there is really so much more to her... she is very mysterious. I don't want to give too much more away, but of course you can read the book if you want to know more about her! It's a very dramatic story. I'd like to say I was a little like Scarlett, but actually I am quite the opposite... my teachers and I get on great and I am never in trouble, luckily! I love drawing so it was fun for me to sketch Scarlett... I used felt pens and aimed at a comic book illustration kind of look! I also wanted to capture her rebellious nature... I think I have managed!

Francesca says:
Honey is my favourite CC character - I like that she has strong opinions and sticks to them, and that she does finally sort out her problems. I don't like the way she lashes out, but she does accept her mistakes later on, which is something. She has a sadness about her... she has always wanted her dad to notice her, and when he finally does in the book SWEET HONEY, she sees that he is not the person she thought he was. Like Honey, I can have a quick temper, but I am getting better at controlling it! I love drawing, and as I sketched the image made me think of Honey, so I tried to capture her sadness and personality in it. To make the picture, I just used a pencil, an eraser and my imagination!

Cathy says:
I LOVE these creative artworks based on my characters... how cool? I love the contrast between the two pieces inspired by SCARLETT! Have YOU ever drawn a pic of your fave CC character? Email your pics though the 'email Cathy' link over on www.cathycassidy.com and I will put the best ones into a blog like this one!

YOUR STARS FOR FEBRUARY

Horoscope time again... and Skye Tanberry has been consulting the stars to see what the coming weeks have in store for you!

Aquarius: 21 Jan - 19 Feb
A new chapter is starting for you - whether you choose to step things up or whether life forces the changes on you, things are looking exciting. Remember, it's always a good time to follow your passions, but now more than ever!

Pisces: 20 Feb - 20 Mar
If things have been a little dull recently, change is coming - it's time to step outside your comfort zone! An unexpected offer is coming your way too... don't let uncertainty stand in your way, this is an opportunity to grasp with both hands!

Aries: 21 Mar - 20 Apr
You've waited long enough for good fortune to find you... it's time to take matters into your own hands. Believe in yourself and your abilities, focus on that dream and work your socks off to make it happen. Success has never been closer.

Taurus: 21 Apr - 20 May
Sometimes, putting all your efforts into school and study leaves little time for your true talents and passions. It's time to make room for the things you REALLY love - you'll reap rewards, and others will respect your decision.

Gemini: 21 May - 20 Jun
You may have been feeling stuck for quite a while, but new beginnings and fresh starts are coming and the time is right to put those self-improvement plans into action. Small steps for now, but have no doubt, this is the start of something big!

Cancer: 21 Jun - 22 Jul
Money's been tight for a while now, but suddenly that doesn't seem to matter - you're flooded with ideas and inspirations for a new project or adventure. Whatever you are planning, it's sure to open up new horizons for you!

Leo: 23 Jul - 22 Aug
Something is coming to an end, but don't be sad - you've done your best and it's time to call it a day. Letting go won't be half as difficult as you've imagined, and new paths will open up for you the moment you find the courage to move forward.

Virgo: 23-Aug - 22 Sept
A project you've been working on for months looks set to come together this month, but keep your feet on the ground - stay calm and keep your logical head on alert. A friend may not be as supportive as you'd hoped...

Libra: 23 Sept - 23 Oct
Romance is in the air... just in time for Valentine's Day! The interest may not be coming from the person you'd hoped, but don't dismiss it - this person is well worth taking a risk on. Opportunity is all around you this month!

Scorpio: 24 Oct - 22 Nov
Let go of any control freak tendencies and allow the universe to unfold in its own way for a while... it's all about trust! You'll find that even if one door closes, another will open, so stay calm and hold your head up high.

Sagittarius: 23 Nov - 22 Dec
An exciting month for you - you're driven by new ideas and passions and change may well be on the cards, even if it takes a while to come about. The hard work you put in now will bear fruit later in the year, never doubt it.

Capricorn: 23 Dec - 20 Jan
A somewhat tricky start to the year is now firmly behind you, and it's full steam ahead. Set your sights high, because hard work and sheer good luck will join forces to smooth the path for you - new and exciting possibilities are yours for the taking.

Cathy says:
Ooh... my stars are looking good at last! Do YOUR predictions sound likely?  COMMENT BELOW to have your say!