Empathy, Excursions, and Exciting New Books

Last Thursday I took a trip into London to meet up with my editor Fliss. Fliss has edited my book A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES but last week was the first time we’d actually met. Editors and authors don’t always get to meet, but it really helps what has to be a trusting creative partnership, so it was lovely to meet up with Fliss and chat about The Next Book and how it might pan out. I think she got part of my life story too…! She gave me a copy of A LIBRARY OF LEMONS – in Korean! The book has sold to lots of countries, and they will all have different covers, because what’s ‘on trend’ in the UK isn’t necessarily what’s popular in France or China or Timbuktu. So this is how the book looks in Korean – and haven’t they done a SUPERB job with the cover?!

Calypso and Mae pick books and lemons from the tree that supports their Wendy House - a subtle reference to family trees too. SO clever!
Calypso and Mae pick books and lemons from the tree that supports their Wendy House – a subtle reference to family trees too. SO clever!
This is from the back cover Calypso and Mae sit together on a lemon, sheltering under a book. You can see they're best friends. I love this!
This is from the back cover Calypso and Mae sit together on a lemon, sheltering under a book. You can see they’re best friends. I love this!
The Contents page inside, with beautiful silhouettes
The Contents page inside, with beautiful silhouettes
And the text itself - in Korean! So cool to see my words written in a way that I can't read...doesn't Korean look cool? I think it looks like tiny stick people.
And the text itself – in Korean! So cool to see my words written in a way that I can’t read…doesn’t Korean look cool? I think it looks like tiny stick people.

While I was at the Piccadilly Press office, I got to meet the Empathy Lab team, who were having an all-day meeting there. One of those really serendipitous coincidences that wasn’t planned! I’ve been really keen to know what the Empathy Lab is up to since I met its founder Miranda McKearney last year at the Hampshire Book Awards. (She’s got an OBE, you know!) The idea behind Empathy Lab is really simple: using the creative power of words to build empathy and make the world a better place as a result. Given recent political events, and their already visible impact on society, empathy is more important than ever, and as always, the best place to start is with children, who will be the adults of the future.

Productive discussion about how empathy is important in our professional lives
Productive discussion about how empathy is important in our professional lives

I felt very privileged to be allowed to sit in on part of the Empathy Lab’s afternoon meeting, and want to say a special hi to Julie-Ann, who’s a big fan of my books!

The Empathy Lab team, with me in the middle and Julie-Ann on my left
The Empathy Lab team, with me in the middle and Julie-Ann on my left

It was great to end the day feeling positive about something in the world, and I believe Empathy Lab will be a great force for good. I look forward to getting involved with its activities in the future!

And then I came home to these little beauties!

As You Like It. By me, and some dead bloke
As You Like It. By me, and some dead bloke

This is a retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It suitable for upper KS2 children. The publisher encouraged me to think of a fresh way to tell the story, so I chose to tell it from Celia’s point of view. When her beloved cousin and best friend Rosalind is banished from court, Celia goes with her into the forest, where they disguise themselves and fall in love with two men, though it all gets very complicated and funny because of the disguises! It was a real challenge to work on this play because rather like so many of Shakespeare’s plays, the plot doesn’t stand up to modern scrutiny! People continually manage to miss each other by total coincidence, and characters fail to ask the really obvious questions. I had to come up with ingenious ways of dealing with these problems in my version! I also had to give illustration guidelines for the first time in my writing career. (Although I write the comic strip sections for Electrigirl, the way the panels are laid out on the page are decided in a team meeting.) That was interesting, as I had to learn all kinds of design jargon like ‘vignette’ and ‘full-bleed’. (The latter, to my relief, does not involve actual blood.)

Anyway, they look really cute and the artwork by Shahab Shamshirsaz is adorable. Available now and look out for them in schools!

This week, I am working on a new story for 10-11 year olds, and looking after my youngest daughter who is off sick from school. January and February are full of nasty viruses – I hope my readers are still in good health!

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