Posts Tagged ‘The WIshcatchers’

Daisy bouquets and spontaneous applause

May 14, 2016 1 comment

This week I visited Davidson’s Mains Primary for some author sessions with the P4s and P5s.  I’ve done quite a few school visits over the years, but this week two things happened to me which have never happened to me before.

First there was a spontaneous round of applause after I read a chapter from The Wishcatchers.  I can’t tell you how lovely that was! And then, later in the day, before I’d even started my session, two girls presented me with a little bunch of daisies.  How wonderful was that?


Not only that, at break time I was offered chocolate in the staffroom.  Yum!


The rest of my visit went well too.  The P5s hung up some brilliant, nail-biting cliff-hangers (not on a cliff, but on a string instead).  There were some amazing ideas there, involving anything from escaping snakes to the sudden realisation of magical powers.  The P4s went to some very interesting places in their imaginations.  Some of them even travelled to other planets.  They also got really good at describing objects to each other – sometimes even without using any adjectives at all.

So a big thank you P4 and P5 at Davidson’s Mains Primary!  You were a fantastic audience and you made me feel very welcome.



Don’t Annoy the Writer

January 22, 2016 4 comments

Sometimes people ask me if I ever base characters in my books on people in real life. Some people get really nervous around writers for this very reason.  They’re scared that the writer might put them in a book and that they might not like how they’re portrayed.  And it’s true that some writers have taken revenge on people by making terrible things happen to them in a story.

I think my mum might be slightly worried about this, because she bought me this mug for Christmas.


Sneakily, you can only really read what’s on the mug when you fill it with a hot drink, because then the background changes colour.


Ta-da! When the mug is filled with coffee, the words appear like magic.

I have put one real-life character in The Wishcatchers – but she’s only ever referred to and we never actually meet her.  Pupils at Corstorphine Primary school might recognise her, but shhh! Don’t tell anyone else.

In general though, I don’t put real life people in my books, even in a disguised form.  Many of my characters have bits of me in them or bits of people I know well or even have just met, but none of them are wholly based on a real person.  I might include events in my books that have happened to me or somebody else I know.  I might include bits of conversation that I’ve heard (or overheard) or use a way of standing or a habit I’ve observed, like shrugging or someone never quite coming to the point of what he wants to say.  But much of who my characters are and what they do comes out of my imagination.  I wonder what they would do if such and such a thing happened or how they would feel if someone said a certain thing to them.  My characters are a big mixture of things I’ve heard or seen or experienced, as well as things I’ve completely made up.

So don’t worry, I won’t put you in one of my books.  Although I can’t guarantee I won’t steal some of your words or one of you mannerisms…

Ever wonder what happens on an author visit?

June 10, 2014 1 comment

Every writer has their own way of doing school events, but I can tell you a bit about what might happen at one of mine.

A couple of weeks ago I visited the P2s at Blackridge Primary and we had a whale of a time.  Literally – as you will see if you look at the photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  There are a few whales on there – including, if you look carefully, a blue squirty whale on the table.  That whale was quite special, because he was a prize.  When I go into schools, I always take my wishing box and the children have a chance to write their own wishes and put them in.  There’s always a prize for the best one – something sea- or beach-related, but not always a whale.

That’s just one of the fun things we do on a school visit.  At Blackridge, we talked about creels and dog whelk shells and woke up our imagination by playing the “what if” game and I can tell you that the P2s had loads of great ideas.  We also did some wondering about what could be in my sparkly box.  (It’s a secret!  I can’t tell you what it is.  But it’s very, very important.  And if you come to one of my author events, then you’ll find out the answer.)  I read a bit from my book, The Wishcatchers, and the children asked lots of really good questions.  As you can see from the pictures, P2 at Blackridge was a fabulous audience. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before I left, I signed some books.  That’s what I’m doing here, although you might be forgiven for thinking there was more chatting than signing going on.


And finally, there was a big surprise for me – a lovely bouquet of flowers!

flowers resized

I enjoyed my visit to Blackridge Primary School hugely.  I wonder what stories the P2s have been thinking up since then…

What’s in the box?

I had a whale of a time today on a visit to Echline Primary School.  But now for the hard bit…

What’s in the box?


Well, this is my special wishing box and on every school visit I do, the children get to make a wish and put it in the box.  There’s always a prize for the best one.


See?  It’s full of wishes.  But I can’t show you what they say – wishes are secret!

The trouble is that it’s always so difficult choosing the “best” one – is it the one that makes me laugh out loud?  The one that makes me wish I’d thought of that? The one that is so kind it makes me want to cry?  I’ve chosen all these kinds of wishes before.

I don’t know what’s in these wishes yet, but I’m dying to find out.  Wish me luck in choosing the winner!

When chapter 1 turns out to have been chapter 3 all along

How many times have I started a piece of writing, only to find that I haven’t started in the right place at all?  Too many times to count, that’s how many.  But now I go with the flow.  If I’ve started in the wrong place, it will become clear eventually, and I can fix it.  I can move sections around.  I can invent a new beginning.  I can construct a whole new plot strand if I need to.

Everything can change – this was one of the best things I learnt from the editing process with The Wishcatchers.  Nothing is fixed in stone.  Story is fluid.  You can catch it in one container and it will be that particular shape.  But equally, you can choose another vessel and it will take another form.  Bits of it will be essentially the same, but bits will be different or even entirely new.  You can take a story and shake it up like a kaleidoscope and make a new picture. The new picture might be better than the old, or it might not, but unless you do the shaking, you will never know.

Or you can get even more radical and take out what you think is a supporting wall and find out that the story stands just as firm without it.  Or again, maybe it really was a supporting wall, and your story collapses.  Even then a new pattern might emerge from the rubble which is twice as good.

To me this is one of the things which makes writing so exciting. But also, scary.  If everything can change, how do you know when to stop shuffling the cards?  How do you decide which kaleidoscope picture is best?  How do you know when a piece of work is finished?  Or at least when to let go and stop tinkering?

Oh no! A big brown envelope!

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I came home today to find a big brown envelope from my publisher.  When you have submitted work, this is not a good sign, as any unwanted submissions are generally returned in a big brown envelope, so I was not pleased to see it behind my door.  However, when I opened it, it wasn’t anything sinister.  Quite the contrary.  It was a copy of the latest issue of Carousel, the children’s books magazine, which included a lovely review of The Wishcatchers by Stella Madden. 

Here’s a little snippet: “This is an engaging story that encompasses well-observed, everyday experience (particularly the details of the bullying) and magical and fantastical elements…An interesting read for young people.”

All this in a double spread which also includes reviews of two of my favourite books – Tom’s Midnight Garden and Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas.

It made my day!

Fun at Low Port Primary!

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

What a lovely morning I had yesterday with the P3s at Low Port Primary, Linlithgow!  The children there had already started reading The Wishcatchers as their class novel, so I was able to read them some bits from further on in the book – a nice change from always starting my readings at the beginning.

There were some big imaginations in that class, I can tell you, and we had great fun thinking up new ways of describing everyday things and wondering what would happen if…

The children all made wishes at the end of the session and posted them in my wishing box.  I had promised a prize for the best one – but it was so hard to choose.  There were so many good wishes.  Some were funny; some were sad; some made me think.  In the end I managed to choose a winner – and I’m just off to post the letter to tell the class who that winner is.

Thanks to everyone in P3 at Low Port for being such a brilliant audience.  And thanks to Jill from Little Owls Bookshop for arranging the visit.