All About Me

Mostly About Me

Where I Work

I write most days, in a little office at the top of the house. It has fairy lights in the ceiling so when I turn a switch, it’s like the stars coming out.

Ceiling About Me

My office is full of stuff: a witch hat, a broomstick, photos, singing witches and teddies, lovely letters from children and thousands of books.

Heathie-About-MeJeremy-Interview

My cats, Heathcliff and Jeremy, like to visit, and usually jump up and walk all over my computer keyboard, which isn’t very helpful.

My Childhood

This is me too – my friends would have said "there she is, showing off again"

This is me too – my friends would have said “there she is, showing off again”


Yes, that's me folks - chubby and freckles

Yes, that’s me folks – chubby and freckles

I was born in Plymouth, Devon, in 1946. I was an only child. We didn’t have a television and nobody had computers in those days, so I played out in the street with my friends (not many cars then) and went to the library a lot, because I loved reading books. I tried writing my own stories too.

Best Present Ever

Olivetti_Lettera_22_Typewriter_Marcello_NizzoliMy best ever birthday present was an old fashioned typewriter. I was eleven years old. It was so heavy I couldn’t carry it. It’s still up in the loft, probably bringing the ceiling down. I really should go and check.

School

mortarboardSchool was very different in those days. The teachers were a bit mean sometimes. I got into trouble because I daydreamed too much. My mum was a music teacher and taught me to sing and play the piano. I was put in for lots of music competitions, which was great because I got time off school. My dad was a retired teacher. He encouraged me to read a lot – not that I needed encouragement. I always had my nose in a book.

Then What?

When I left school, I came to London to train as a teacher. I taught in primary schools for years and years. I liked teaching drama, music and English – and I loved reading stories to the children. I wasn’t so good at teaching maths or science.

Mo-Umansky-Band-Pic

I did some acting and music in my spare time and carried on writing stories, just for fun. I never thought about trying to get published. I met Mo, my husband, in a club when he was playing in a soul band. We later formed a soul band together and played in the evenings and at weekends. We never became rich or famous, but we had a lot of fun.

When Did I First Get Published?

image013I got my first book published in 1985, just before I had my daughter. The book was a collection of songs called Phantasmagoria. I still write music books, along with plays, poems, novels, first chapter books and picture books. I never ever get bored.

My Bad Habits

I can be lazy. I don’t do enough exercise. I try and get out of cooking, although I love eating. I get grumpy when books aren’t going well. I eavesdrop on private conversations and sometimes use them in my books. Sometimes I forget to brush my hair. My husband empties the rubbish and clears up the cats’ fur balls. I am unsympathetic when other people are ill but moan a lot when it’s me.

My Work Routine

I write five days a week, sometimes more, in my little office at the top of the house. It used to be a big tip (I’m naturally untidy) but I’ve had it decorated and am trying to keep it looking nice, now it’s got a starry ceiling and everything. Sometimes I just sit and dream up ideas.

Charlie

Charlie

The cats come and visit. Charlie, my old cat, used to sit on top of the computer monitor and talk to me, but he’s gone now. He would leap down onto the keyboard and mess up the story I was working on. Now it’s Jeremy, dragging poor little furry or feathered things through the cat flap. Or Heathcliff, who sheds hair all over my chair and sneakily tries to drink my water.

I’m not always at home. I sometimes go and talk in schools and libraries and places, which is great because I can try out new things and see if they work. I love it when children write letters to me – it makes my day. I hate it when they forget to put their address, because I can’t write back.

My Wonderful Agent

My wonderful agent is Caroline Sheldon. She took me on when I was writing my very first Pongwiffy book. We have worked together for nearly thirty years. She deals with the scary business side of things and is the first to read everything I write (after my husband and daughter). She regularly buys me lunch, which I never refuse, and always admires my shoes.

You can check her out by viewing the The Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency website (http://www.carolinesheldon.co.uk) or emailing her at carolinesheldon@carolinesheldon.co.uk

BOASTING – my show-off corner

If you don’t like boasting, skip this bit, because here goes.

Sometimes I get shortlisted for awards, and occasionally (hooray!) win. Not often, though. (Booooo!). Four times, I think, unless I’ve won something else and no one has remembered to tell me. Anyway, four’s all right as it’s a very competitive world out there and there are some wonderful children’s writers, so I’m dead chuffed. I have won the following things:

  • The 1993 Nottinghamshire Book Award for Pongwiffy and the Spell of the Year
  • The 1999 Times Educational Supplement Junior Music Book Award for Three Rapping Rats
  • The 2005 Spoken Word Award for the audio version of The Silver Spoon Of Solomon Snow , read by Rik Mayall.
  • The 2008 Stockton Book of the Year with Clover Twig and the Incredible Flying cottage. I was so happy, I kissed the mayor!
  • In 2004, the Pongwiffy series was adapted for television by the animation company Telemagination. That’s not an award, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Sadly, no film deals. Yet.

My Family

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Intrepid motorist

1 nice husband – MO, retired engineer and ex bass player. He helps me with computery things because I am rubbish. He’s a good cook too.

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A bit mad sometimes

 

1 nice daughter – ELLA who is 28 and currently working as a producer for ITV.

 

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Heathcliff – bit of an aerialist


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Jeremy – just cute

 

2 nice cats – Heathcliff (white with black bits) and Jeremy (black with white bits)

 

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This is just some of of them!

 

 

1 nice extended family – 3 nice grown up step children (Dave Dan and Zoe), nice stepdaughters in law (Shella and Anne), nice step grandchildren (James, Zak, Luke, Dillan and Anjouli), various nice cousins including special cousin Dawn and a collection of aged aunties, all nice.

20 Things – Good And Bad
 A Random List of My 20 Favourite Things
  1. Writing books for children
  2. Reading – any time, anywhere
  3. My family
  4. My friends
  5. My fans
  6. Animals – especially my cats
  7. Eating – especially cheese, though I shouldn’t
  8. Travel
  9. Kids who tell jokes
  10. Good comedy on the tele
  11. SnowSnow. We hardly get any in London, so I spend all winter sulking
  12. Holidays by the sea. That’s because I was brought up in Devon
  13. The colour Red
  14. High heeled shoes
  15. Going to the cinema
  16. Broccoli
  17. Libraries. They’re free!
  18. Coming home after being away
  19. Playing games like cards and Scrabble but only when I win
  20. Lying in a hammock on a tropical island with a book and a pretty drink with an umbrella in

A Random List of My 20 Worst Things
  1. Drizzle
  2. Oysters/kidneys/liver/baboon’s bum/pink blancmange
  3. Wars and people being mean to each other
  4. Waiting for a bus in the rain, without a book to read
  5. Being ill in bed
  6. crocCrocodiles. Sorry, don’t like ‘em. Brrr
  7. Saying goodbye to people I love
  8. My house catching on fire (it did, once!)
  9. Arguments, especially ones I lose
  10. Monopoly. I’ve played it once too often
  11. Losing my purse/car keys/knickers
  12. Trying to read a map and drive at the same time
  13. The cats getting ill. Or people
  14. Slugs. Sorry, don’t like ‘em either
  15. Scratchy jumpers that make you hot. With a horrible pattern on
  16. When I get all my warm clothes on, plus boots, then go out and it’s stopped snowing
  17. Intolerance
  18. Forgetting the punch line of a really good joke
  19. Jumping out of an aeroplane. Never have, never will
  20. Nightmares about being chased by slugs/crocodiles who want to force feed me pink blancmange. And it’s all in slow motion and I try to fly away but can’t and I’m running and running… arrrrgh… save me from the blancmange

These are my Hobbies!

Eating

Even our daughter Ella likes a snack

Even our daughter Ella likes a snack

I do like eating. My motto is Never Refuse Lunch. My best food is cheese, but I’m only allowed it for a treat. I really can’t stand oysters. But my worst food is offal. I won’t make the obvious joke about offal being awful. Oops, I just did, never mind.

sausageOffal, for those of you who don’t know, is the insides of animals. The yucky bits. I like sausages, though. They’re full of yucky bits, of course, but ground up small so you can’t tell. So I eat them. But I will not eat tripe, kidneys, parson’s nose or baboon’s bum. And I hate blancmange. Even the word. If I come to your school, don’t ever say it to me.

Listening to Music

image033image037We’ve got a really big collection. I find the equipment a bit complicated to work, so my husband usually chooses, which is fair enough. Anyway, we mostly like the same things. We play a lot of soul, blues and jazz. I play the piano sometimes. We have a singsong when friends or relations come round. When not arguing about which way to go, we sing in the car and get funny looks at traffic lights.

Travel

The Umankskys, looking very pink in France

The Umankskys, looking very pink in France

I love travelling. I have been to Hong Kong, China, the USA (New York, San Francisco, Los Vegas and the Grand Canyon]Thailand, Corsica, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, Cyprus, Italy, Goa and several Greek islands. Also went to Slovinia to see some snow. That’s a lot of places, but I’m old, so I’m allowed.

TV

I watch a lot of comedy on T.V. I love the Simpsons. And Blackadder reruns. And I have a weakness for talent shows, although I never vote because I can’t be bothered and it costs you.

Exercise

Hmm. This bit is blissfully short. I swim in the summer and try to walk every day. That’s it. I know, I know

Reading

I read a lot. All sorts. Children’s books, grown-up books, all sorts. I do like fantasy. And good science fiction. And funny stuff. My favourite books as a child were the William books by Richmal Crompton, Lord of the Rings and The Swish Of The Curtain by Pamela Brown, which is all about acting. I have a dread of being stuck somewhere boring without a book i.e. on a slow night train, broken down on a motorway in the fog, or – oh, horror! – wrongly arrested by mistake and thrown in a cell where I have to wait until my husband can organize bail.

Partying

The Queen of the Night? No, it's me showing off again

The Queen of the Night? No, it’s me showing off again


The Prince of Darkness? No, my husband Mo

The Prince of Darkness? No, my husband Mo

As a family, we just love to party. Particularly if there’s an excuse to dress up.