Tag Archives: Advent

4 December: Sara Grant


On Day 4, Sara Grant participates in our festive Q & A.sara-grant

Sara Grant writes fantastic stories for children and young adults. Her Magic Trix series is aimed at younger readers, with Chasing Danger being her latest novel for teens. Sara has worked as an editor, is a lecturer at Goldsmiths, has co-created projects to help writers get published and regularly blogs about books. She was born and raised in Washington, Indiana, graduating from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology. Sara later earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths. She lives in London and writes full-time.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Lots of books, of course! Tickets to see Hamilton the musical. And spending time with my mother, who will travel from the US to spend Christmas with me in London.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? We’ve got a bit of a wacky New Year’s tradition. On New Year’s Eve, if you are in any way, shape, or form related to someone with the last name Murray (my maiden name)…you calculate…you strategize…and you endeavour to be the first to ask ‘the riddle’ – a riddle that has been handed down through the generations and that can only be delivered on the last day of the year. It may seem strange, but it has become a beloved family ritual. I can guarantee I will speak to every member of my family on the last day of the year. The question leads to conversation. I’m not sure if it’s what my grandma intended. Or maybe it was her grandfather who started the tradition. No one knows for sure how it all began. But it keeps a scattered and growing family connected on one day each year. So what’s the riddle: Have you seen the man walking around with as many noses as there are days left in the year?

(What an amazing tradition…I don’t think I can possibly work out the answer!)

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? There’s not one bo26258306ok I gravitate to again and again. Instead I like to pick a new holiday-themed book to read at Christmas. I met Rachel Cohn and David Levithan at this year’s Cheltenham Literary Festival so I have my signed copy of The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily all ready to read at the holidays!

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? My dad. He passed away in 2014. He was a great man. He served in WWII. He had a song for everything. He was the most positive person I’ve ever met. Even when diagnosed with cancer, he told me it was ‘only a little bit of cancer’ so I wouldn’t worry. He always made the holidays special. I would love to share Christmas dinner with him again.

You have said that you like to use your fantastic Magic Trix series to encourage children to think of others and, like Trix, act as a fairy godmother by performing random acts of kindness. What random acts random acts of kindness would Trix do at Christmas time? I imagine she’d hand-make her very own holiday cards, using lots of glue and glitter –she’d probably ending up with more glitter on her than on the card. She’d personally deliver her special holiday cards and visit with people who might be sad at Christmas time.1454444664

Your novel Chasing Danger has been described as an explosive action adventure! At Christmas what do you find is the best way to take a break from the action and relax?! Thankfully my life is not as full of peril as my main character Chase’s life. No pirates, or vicious eels, shark attacks or dead bodies in blocks of ice. I like to relax with a bubble bath and a good book!



Reader’s question from Jamie, Age 11, Great Walstead School: why did you decide to have a female heroine in Chasing DangerThanks for your question, Jamie. When I was a young girl, there weren’t many action stories where girls were the heroes. It’s important to me to give girls great role models – smart, feisty and athletic girls who can catch the baddies. There are too many books, movies, TV shows and video games that portray girls as damsels in distress. I’ve never been that kind of girl – and I know a lot of girls and women like me.

(Chasing Danger reminds me a little of Nancy Drew, but with more edge! I loved the fact that the heroine was a girl!)

Turkey or goose?  Turkey! I love it on Christmas day, but I love the turkey sandwich later that night or the next day even more!

Real or fake tree?  Fake. No pine needles or mess.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? No contest – mince pies!

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Over the fireplace, if I had one, which I never have. So we’ve always lined up stockings on the couch.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve?  Christmas Eve. It’s my tradition to go to a show in the West End on Christmas Eve. I love the theatre so the tickets are one of my Christmas presents. I’ve never seen a pantomime so I’m taking my mom to a pantomime this year. Oh, no you’re not! Oh, yes, I am!

(I couldn’t agree more about turkey sandwiches!!)

Thank you for participating and have a Happy Christmas!


Find out more about Sara Grant at www.sara-grant.com and follow her on Twitter @AuthorSaraGrant

3 December: Patricia Forde


Day 3 of our author calendar.

img_7368-soft-copy-copy-730x410Today we’re featuring the wonderful Patricia Forde, who lives in Galway, in the west of Ireland. She has published three Picture Books, lots of Easy Readers, and in May 2015 she published her first novel The Wordsmith with Little Island. Patricia has written plays and television dramas for children and teenagers as well as writing on both English and Irish language soap operas. She was a primary school teacher and the artistic director of Galway Arts Festival. She lives with her husband, two teenagers,and a dog called Ben. In her spare time, she collects vintage children’s books and reads them late at night.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Snow. Tasteful Ornaments for the Tree. (See 2) Dystopian weather. (See 4)

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Worst family tradition: Every year we dress the tree together as a fa16934523_1300x1733mily. I always imagine that we will be like a scene from the Waltons – all peace and harmony. It always ends in civil war.  Usually, because I am the only one who wants classy ornaments…and a little more dignity.  Everyone else wants tinsel.

(Ah ha. The old lets-throw-everything-on-the-tree vs. keeping it simple and sophisticated argument! I’m sure this is echoed up and down the country!!)

7468548d1640257e44b26fc5df79b2f4What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas (which may or may not have been written by Clement Clarke Moore) is a tradition in our house. It calms people down after the Christmas Tree row. (See 3). The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis – because of the snow. I intend to add Katherine Rundell’s Wolfwilder this year because of the wolves and well… the snow.

(Twas the Night Before Christmas is my absolute favourite!)

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? I would love to have dinner with J. R.R Tolkien. I adore The Hobbit. I could get him to read a bit aloud as we dress the tree. (See 2) Then we could talk about Galway. He used to come here to the university where he was an external examiner. He loved the west of Ireland. Obviously a man of good taste.

the-wordsmith-coverYour novel The Wordsmith is set in a dystopian world. What would a dystopian Christmas look like to you? It would look very frugal. There would be beetroot, of course and apples. Also carrots.  I’m thinking beetroot crumble with an apple and carrot salsa. Dystopian worlds suffer a lot from bad weather, so there would be snow, which might brighten the thing.

You collect vintage books, if you could have a copy of any vintage book in the world for Christmas which would it be? I would love a first edition of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I love his poetry and the illustrations, and when I’d finished admiring it, it could become my pension.  What’s not to like?



Reader’s question from children at the Inkpots Writers’ Hut: do you type your work or write by hand? I do both but for volume I type. I write notes by hand and draw little diagrams and the odd map. When it comes to the serious writing – I type, badly, with two fingers.


Turkey or goose? Turkey.

Real or fake tree? Real!

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both though not together.

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Over fireplace.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? OMG! No contest! Christmas Eve.


Thank you for taking part and have a very Happy Christmas! 


Find out more about Patricia Forde at www.patriciaforde.com and follow her on Twitter @PatriciaForde1

2 December: Gwyneth Rees


Day 2 of our author Christmas calendar!


Gwyneth Rees is half Welsh and half English and grew up in Scotland. She studied medicine and qualified as a doctor, working as a child and adolescent psychiatrist before she became a full-time writer. Her bestselling books include the Fairy Dust series, Cosmo and the Magic Sneeze – always huge favourites in the library! Gwyneth’s book The Mum Hunt won the Red House Children’s Book Award. She lives near London with her husband, two young daughters and one noisy cat.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! A new sofa (might be a bit heavy for Santa to carry but still!), a Terry’s chocolate orange (I always got one of these in my stocking when I was a kid) and a new diary for 2017.

(I always remember the Terry’c Chocolate Orange ad with the Indiana Jones type adventure!!)

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? We usually give out family Christmas cards on Christmas Eve and put them up in a specially reserved spot. We buy stuff that never gets eaten – bread sauce, those orange and lemon segment jelly sweets in a round container (they taste disgusting but we always had them at Christmas when I was a kid). We have to have After Eight mints after dinner. We get out all the old decorations my children made from toddler group onwards and look at them all and choose some to go up.


What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? The Grinch – it’s really funny but also has an important message.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? I would love to sit down to Christmas dinner with my grandparents as they were when I was a child. I still miss them and think about them loads.


(That’s really lovely. It’s amazing how Christmas can bring back so many memories of childhood and the people we share Christmas with.)

You’ve created some wonderful magical characters in your books. If you were to write a Christmas story about one of them, who it would be? I’d write about Cosmo the witch cat having a Christmas adventure with all his friends (and enemies). It would just be a lot of fun to write!

Christmas is a time when family comes together. The Honeymoon Sisters features a family who foster children in the short term. What do you imagine Poppy and Sadie’s Christmas to be like? I imagine their first Christmas together might be a bit different to what either of them have had before. Sadie would bring her own expectations and traditions from her previous family and Poppy will be used to sharing Christmas only with her mum. So they will both have some adjusting to do. But I think they will each be pleasantly surprised by some of each other’s Christmas ideas too.winter-1027822_1920

Reader’s question from students in Year 10 at Warden Park Academy: you write stories featuring lots of fantasy characters; where do you get your inspiration from? A lot of my inspiration comes from real life – mine and other people’s. With fantasy stories I tend to blend real life with imaginary ideas which is great because it lets real people do amazing things that wouldn’t be possible in real life!


Turkey or goose?  Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both!

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Fireplace

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve is my favourite!


Thank you so much for participating and have a very Happy Christmas! 


Find out more about Gwyneth Rees at www.bloomsbury.com. You can read reviews of Gwyneth’s books at lovereading4kids.co.uk. Follow Gwyneth on Twitter @gwyneth_rees


Christmas is coming!

This Christmas to celebrate the wonder of writing, we’ve made our very own Author Christmas Calendar!

Featuring fuchristmas-1015350_1920n and festive Q & As with a whole host of brilliant children’s authors, every day throughout December.  There are questions from young readers and budding writers, including some from children who go to the Inkpots Writer’s Hut and some who attend Warden Park Academy.

We’ll be finding out, amongst other things, what stories our authors enjoy at Christmas, what their Christmas traditions are and most importantly – mince pies or Christmas pud?!!

Authors participating include Michelle Magorian, Paul Gamble, Gwyneth Rees, Chris Priestly and Abi Elphinstone to name a few.  We’ll also be running a BUMPER Christmas giveaway with an incredible prize for ONE lucky winner!  So watch this space because Christmas is definitely coming!