Bookchat Roadshow. Just brilliant!

It’s a week ago today that we were busy welcoming parents to the Bookchat Roadshow at Harlands Primary in Haywards Heath.  This was a unique event, bringing together children’s authors, publishers, education specialists, along with local organisations and the Public Library Service to share ideas with parents and carers.  And being the second event I was possibly even more nervous than the first time round! The first event had gone so well, would this one be the same?  I can safely say it was even better, not least because after the main event, the authors ran workshops with 240 children at the host school!

“The atmosphere is positively buzzing” one parent said to me – and I couldn’t agree more. It really was exciting and I am so grateful to my brilliant fellow presenters, participating authors and the organisations who were exhibiting for helping to make it this way!  After a lovely introduction by the school’s Headteacher, Jane Goodlace, I spoke to parents about encouraging reading and the importance of reading for pleasure. It’s not easy to do this in such a short time – there is so much you could say!059_The-Book-Activist-Bookchat-Roadshow But the crux was how to help your child’s enjoyment of reading through helping them choose the right book for them, taking into account their interests. I truly believe parents can be the best reading role models a child can have but as parents we often worry about our children’s reading and this can sometimes remove the joy of the experience – for both parent and child.  If we can remove the stress from the situation and focus on what children want to read and get enjoyment from, the path to discovering the magic of stories is much smoother!

“It was really helpful to confirm I am doing the right thing and to give me new ideas” Parent feedback

I was followed by Jane Walker from Barrington Stoke, who spoke brilliantly about reluctant readers and making reading accessible. It was fascinating to hear how Barrington Stoke produce books that are so readable on a practical level and also really helpful to hear how whether your child can’t read or won’t read, there are ways to support them. “Reading is for everyone” Jane said.

Moving on from this, author Nikki Sheehan was totally inspiring on how to encourage children’s creative writing, with brilliant and achievable ideas that all parents – and of course their children – could benefit from.  Her final comment was ‘be their inspiration’ – what better advice could you get?!  I was delighted that both Kate Manning and Clementine McMillan-Scott from Scoop Magazine joined the line-up and shared the story behind Scoop.  Their presentation focused on the importance of celebrating all kinds of stories, sharing that every reader is different and how we can all play a part in encouraging all types of reading and writing.

“Congratulations on delivering such an inspiring and positive event!” Parent feedback

On that note, the coffee break arrived, and the celebrating continued with attendees having the chance to peruse the exhibition.  Parents had the opportunity to ask advice from organisations including local education service Discover & Be, dyslexia specialists Helen Arkell, Inkpots Writing Workshops and Nature Nuture Sussex. Even the Schools Library Service and the Public Library Service were represented with parents able to join up if they weren’t already members and find out about the Summer Reading Challenge!  With a bookstall provided by Waterstones Haywards Heath, and Usborne books it was a hive of activity!

“Attendance should be compulsory; it was inspirational!” Parent feedback

The grand finale of the morning was the fantastic author panel Bookchat featuring four award winning children’s authors; Nikki Sheehan, Jamie Thomson, A F Harrold and Jenny McLachlan which I was very excited to be chairing.  There is something magical about authors sharing their ideas – they create the worlds we inhabit when we read and I like to think some of the magic rubs off on those who hear them!

A lively chat ensued with questions from the audience and the authors shared their best tips for getting children into reading and writing and why stories are so important. As a parent myself I am eager to encourage my children’s reading and hearing the author’s childhood experiences of books and stories was just brilliant!  It was the perfect consolidation of all the wonderful ideas and advice heard throughout the morning, but with the extra inspiration everybody needs.

“It was a fabulous morning with excellent presentations and entertaining authors” Parent feedback

After a quick lunch break, it was back to work for the authors who ran workshops with pupils in years three to six at the host school as well as signing lots of books!  On visiting each classroom, I can’t tell you how incredible it was to see the look at the children’s faces as each author brought their stories to life and inspired them with ideas for getting into reading and writing.

Jenny McLachlan talking to Year 6

Jenny McLachlan reading an extract from Stargazing for Beginners

Nikki Sheehan talking to Year 4

Nikki Sheehan working her creative magic

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Jamie Thomson aka The Dark Lord!

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A F Harrold performing poetry

Schools don’t often have the opportunity to benefit from one author visit, let alone four, so this was a real achievement! As you may know this Roadshow was supported with funding from West Sussex County Council and I am truly grateful to them for recognising the value of the Roadshow and the importance of empowering parents and carers to support their children.   

The Roadshow was a great success… The combination of authors, publishers and specialists provided a focus for everyone in the audience… The workshops went down incredibly well with teachers and especially the children.” 

Jane Goodlace, Headteacher of Harlands 

I am so pleased we had fantastic photographer, Adam Hollingworth, to help capture some of the magic of the Roadshow! Feedback for the whole event has been even more positive than I could have hoped for and I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to EVERYONE who supported the event and made it so special.  Bring on the next one!

All photographs courtesy of Adam Hollingworth Photography.

If you would like to get involved please contact thebookactivist@gmail.com.

With thanks to our funding partner:

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For more information about the Bookchat Roadshow visit www.thebookactivist.com.

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Reading matters…at the Bookchat Roadshow

I’ve been fortunate to interview some wonderful authors on my blog and I’m thrilled to say some of them are here today with wise words on reading in support of the Bookchat Roadshow and the importance of encouraging children’s reading for pleasure.

 

 

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“I learned to love books, words and the worlds they created because of my Mum and now I try to pass on that love to my children – I’m so thrilled to see the Bookchat Roadshow helping this happen.”  

Alice Broadway

 

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Reading to a child is a unique experience you share together. You become travelling companions and join them on an adventure into the unknown. You meet new friends, you face adversity. You share how you feel and wonder at the world that unfolds in front of you. Finding time to read to a child is precious time. Find time. Childhood is all too short.” 

Gill Lewis

 

 

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‘No one’s ever too old to be read aloud to. Better yet, why not read aloud together. Showing your passion for reading, whether that’s reading aloud with your child or reading books together so you can discuss them, is the best way to inspire a lifelong love of reading. Pick things you can both be excited by and always go beyond the page. What do you think happens after the end of the book? Which character is your favourite? Where would you love to go in the book or which object would you most want to have from it? Reading is as much about what you put into making the book come alive in your imagination as what’s on the page. Seeing that is the gateway to writing your own stories…’ 

Alexia Casale

 

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“I love that this event is designed to support parents and carers to help and encourage their children to read and write for pleasure. That’s the key word here, for me. Pleasure. Not enough people read and write for pleasure. So anything that aims to encourage reading, writing and creativity as a form of pleasure, escape and fun, is definitely good in my book!” 

Maria Grace

 

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“I’m very pleased to be taking part in the Roadshow, because I like to read and I liked to read when I was younger too, and sometimes it’s nice to share those things that make you happy. In this day and age the empathy and other-person’s-shoe-ness that reading, both fiction and non-fiction, can help nurture and grow inside a human heart cannot be a bad thing to encourage, so let’s encourage it.”  

A. F. Harrold

 

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“I’m so excited to be taking part in the Bookchat Roadshow! As a reader, writer and story mentor with Little Green Pig, I’m very aware of the miracles that can happen when you allow children to take ownership of their reading and writing. There’s nothing better than the look on a child’s face when they realise that there really are no limits to the worlds they can explore and create, and as parents, teachers and librarians it really is within our power to help them to access to their own wildest imaginings.” 

Nikki Sheehan

 

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“Looking forward to receiving the oaths of allegiance on pain of death from all my minions at… no, wait, wrong speech. Umm…. Looking forward to helping parents getting kids reading and writing at the Bookchat Roadshow! Well, my books at any rate. Forget the other authors, pah!!!’ 

Jamie Thomson

 

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“I’m thrilled to be participating in the Roadshow and meeting parents and carers to talk about the wonderful world of reading. When I was a teacher, I saw first hand the hugely positive impact reading has on the lives of children and young people. Reading is empowering, encourages empathy and provides a calm oasis in what can be a chaotic world. A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child which is why I’m so excited to be taking part in the Bookchat Roadshow.” 

Jenny McLachlan

 

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The Bookchat Roadshow takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.   You can register for FREE to attend this unique event bringing together authors, industry experts and people passionate about children’s reading and writing for pleasure.  With inspirational talks and an author panel bookchat, plus a selection of exhibitors, we give parents and carers a huge range of ideas to help them support their children’s creativity. Presentations will include author Nikki Sheehan on creative writing, the team behind Scoop Magazine on celebrating stories and Barrington Stoke and reading and accessibility. With giveaways galore this is an event not to be missed!

For more information please visit www.thebookactivist.com or REGISTER your space for FREE via Eventbrite.

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A Super Saturday – at Oxford Literary Festival 2017!

WinnieTheWitchIntroducing Korky Paul at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival, Saturday 25th March.

The day dawned bright and fair. ‘Suited and booted’ wearing my favourite Dorothy-inspired book-ish shoes, I set off to the beautiful city of Oxford for the first day of the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival.  I had been asked to introduce none other than Korky Paul, illustrator of the fabulous Winnie the Witch books.  On arriving, it was with great delight I spent an hour or so chatting with Korky and helping a real life Winnie the Witch get ready to entertain the audience!

 

About 80 or so children and parents arrived, all hugely thrilled to meet Korky – and of course Winnie, who willingly posed for photos with them.  After introducing Korky, I sat back and watched in wonder as he brought to life Winnie, Wilbur and all their wonderful adventures.

With prizes and stories along the way, everyone went away utterly delighted. Korky shared brilliant illustrations tips and was so encouraging of all the children and even read aloud one of the stories.

It really was a special morning. There are few things more inspiring than watching an illustrator at work, perfectly capturing the expression, movement and magic of a character everybody knows and loves!

“Seeing the World Through Children’s Books”  with Elizabeth Laird, Gill Lewis and Anna Bassi, and Nikki Gamble

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This was a great opportunity to hear from two renowned authors and the editor of the fantastic news magazine for children, The Week. Chaired by Nikki Gamble from Just Imagine, the discussion focused on why it is so important to write about the real world for children. Each member of the panel gave a brief talk about their work, starting with Anna Bassi, editor of The Week, a magazine for children which aims to make the news accessible for younger readers.

Anna talked about balancing new stories “with fun stuff so that children could see that the world is not all bad; it’s huge and interesting”.  Having subscribed to The Week both at home and in the school library, I’ve always found it to be an excellent source of news for children and also full of interesting facts, competitions and great stories from around the world.  It is also, most importantly, as Anna described “a safe place to read about serious stories”. I think the whole audience could appreciate the challenge of making news accessible for children in the current climate.

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Gill Lewis, author of award winning wonderful books such as Sky Hawk and Scarlet Ibis, then shared her inspiration for her new book A Story Like the Wind (out next month), an incredible tale about refugees which Gill described as a “story about the power of stories”. She also spoke about Gorilla Dawn which focuses on the destruction of gorillas and their habitats through the mining of minerals for mobile phone technology.

Gill shared some wonderful insights into her writing, such as taking big events down to one narrative to make the story accessible for young readers.  She talked about finding the character within the story to enable you to create a narrative and enable children to relate to the story.  Gill described her writing as not writing for children, but writing as a child, “exploring what it’s like to feel utterly powerless in an adult world.”

Elizabeth Laird, whose work was characterised as “intrepid” by the panel chair Nikki Gamble and has been translated into 25 different languages, was the final author to share her thoughts.  Her books include the amazing, award winning The Garbage King and The Fastest Boy in the World. Elizabeth talked about her latest novel Welcome to Nowhere, a story about Syrian refugees.  Elizabeth shared an experience of seeing hundreds of refugees arriving at a train station in Munich, making her think of other historical events where multitudes of people have been forced out of their homes.

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This motivated her trip to the Middle East and led her to writing Welcome to Nowhere. Elizabeth made an impassioned plea to the audience to help those “people just like us with perfectly good lives who are now refugees”. Elizabeth’s presentation included images of the refugee camp she visited, home to some 80,000 people.  She also spoke about the children living in absolute poverty on whom some of her other novels are based, and moved many in audience to tears with some of her stories – including me.  Elizabeth encouraged all members of the audience to get involved in raising funds for The Mandala Trust, a charity supporting two schools opened especially for refugee children.  Find out more on her website www.elizabethlaird.co.uk.

The overall thread was the importance of ensuring a message of hope whilst still being true to the story or narrative.  Younger readers should not be patronised but neither should they be made to feel complete despair.  Nikki Gamble asked if there was a line the panel members wouldn’t go beyond with their readers. In response, Elizabeth spoke of having a duty to encourage readers, always showing hope. Gill has had readers who have thanked her for writing stories even about the most difficult of issues, because it helped them get through their own experiences.  And Anna shared that even with the darkest of news stories; there are always opportunities to remember what good people there are in the world, focusing on everyday heroes.

It was a fascinating hour, looking at the power of both fiction and non-fiction to enable children to see the world more clearly.  I think the conversation also showed the ability writers have to help children feel empathy and make informed decisions about the world around them.  This demonstrates why reading is so important, especially in a world which is so visible to children, but also so full of things that are difficult to understand.

Find out more about the Oxford Literary Festival at www.oxfordliteraryfestival.org which runs until 2nd April.

And look out for an interview with Gill Lewis coming up as part of our Spring Feature!

 

Spring Forward! Special feature coming soon…

Oh the irony of waking up to awful wet weather on the official First Day of Spring! It doesn’t feel much like spring today, so to provide a bit of spring time inspiration, I’m pleased to announce a new special feature coming soon!

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‘Just in time for Spring  will celebrate new authors, new books and general all round inspiration in children’s books. With participation from some wonderful children’s writers and publishers, I’ll be interviewing the people who bring to life new worlds and new characters, finding out all about their new projects. It all starts in the next few weeks, so watch this space!

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31 December: Mark Powers

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Happy New Year! What better way to celebrate the final day of our calendar than with a debut author?!

mark-hi-resMark Powers has been making up ridiculous stories since primary school and is slightly shocked to find that people now pay him to do it. As a child he always daydreamed that his teddy bear went off on top secret missions when he was at school, so a team of toys recruited as spies seemed a great idea for a story. He grew up in north Wales and now lives in Manchester. Spy Toys is publishing in January 2017!

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Chocolate, more chocolate, upset stomach medicine.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? In the Powers family, we are firm believers in the tradition of the Enormous Christmas Day Family Argument.  It usually starts over something trivial (“We’re not watching the boring Queen’s speech!”, “Why aren’t you wearing the lovely socks/tie/scarf I bought you?”, “Who made that smell?”) and ends up as a massive shouting match about who’s always been the favourite child (it’s me, of course) complete with neighbours banging on the walls and police sirens.

(Sounds like a nice ‘peaceful’ time!!)

‘What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Christmas is the perfect time for spooky stories – when it’s snowy and dark outside and you’re tucked up snugly inside with a hot drink and your feet slowly t51veqhzdbll-_sx321_bo1204203200_oasting by the fire.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? I would choose Sue Townsend (author of the brilliant Adrian Mole books, who died in 2014).  I think she would have been a fascinating and hilarious dinner companion.

Your debut book Spy Toys features amazing toys that are ‘alive’. If you could choose any of your Christmas toys from childhood to come to life which would it be? I had a toy Dalek for Christmas when I was six and it would be amazing to see it come alive and obey my commands.  It would definitely give me the edge in the Enormous Christmas Day Family Argument.

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You’ve been making up stories from a young age; if you had to make up a festive story for Christmas who would be your main character? I think I might write a story about a sad snowflake that has only five points instead of six.  Might make a good picture book.  Hands off my idea if you’re reading this, David Walliams!

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Reader’s question from the children at Inkpots Writers’ Hut; how do you start writing a story; do you type or write them by hand? I usually type them on my laptop; sometimes I make notes on my phone.

Turkey or goose? Goose.

Real or fake tree? Real.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Christmas pudding.

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

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve!

Thank you for joining our festive Q & A! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Find out more about Mark at www.bloomsbury.com and follow him on Twitter @mpowerswriter.

You can read a review of Spy Toys on the Bookshelf.

Spy Toys is illustrated by Tim Wesson who was born somewhere in England. As a young boy he enjoyed climbing trees and drawing pictures of dogs in cars. Eventually he became an illustrator who creates children’s books. Tim doodles and paints whenever he can and likes to draw the first thing that pops into his head. He lives by the sea in Suffolk with his family.

30 December: Kat Ellis

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YA Author joins us on our penultimate day!

kat-ellisKat Ellis grew up in North Wales and studied English with Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is an active blogger and amateur photographer. Kat has had short stories published and wrote Blackfin Sky last year after trying her hand at sci-fi. Her first published novel, Blackfin Sky will also be released in the US next autumn.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Notebooks (I have a bit of a collection building… some might call it a hoard), fancy coffee (because I usually spend January trying to be a bit posh in my drinking habits, but inevitably go back to instant), and a novelty mug (to put the fancy coffee in).

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Christmas Day for me usually involves bustling around to visit family members, but on Boxing Day – which is also my husband’s birthday – we traditionally go out for a curry, just to do something completely un-Christmassy.

(Curry on Boxing Day sounds like a great idea!)

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? Growing up, Jenny Nimmo’s The Snow Spider was my favourite Christmas read. Last Christmas I read Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder, which was snowy and wonderful, and I think this year I’ll be reading Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan for a bit of festive romance.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? David Bowie, for sure. As well as being an amazing musician, he was also an artist, starred in films like Labyrinth – which is one of my all-time favourites, especially at Christmastime – and he just seemed like a fascinating person. I bet he’d have some good stories to share over the Christmas crackers!

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Purge is your third YA novel. Mason is often in trouble in the novel; do you think Father Christmas would visit him and if so, what would he give him? I think if Father Christmas paid Mason a visit, the only thing he’d give him is a stern telling off. Not that Mason would be bothered, mind you. He’d probably nick Father Christmas’s sleigh and go joyriding.

(*laughs out loud* Definitely belongs on the naughty list!)

You’re a keen photographer; what or who would your ideal Christmas photo feature?Living in North Wales, I have plenty of amazing scenery to photograph, so maybe a nice snowy castle or forest.

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from the children Warden Park Academy: we sometimes have to correct our creative writing. How do you feel when you have to make corrections to your work? Before I share a story with anyone else, I read it over and over, looking for mistakes and polishing it to make it as good as possible. But – and I don’t think I’m alone here – I inevitably reach a point where I can’t look at my own work objectively, and I might miss a mistake that’s obvious to someone reading it for the first time. That’s why I’m always grateful to work with editors; they offer me expert guidance to make my stories flow better, and make my writing more polished. Writing is a skill you never stop learning and honing, so it’s great when you have someone helping you to improve.

(Wonderful writing advice!)

Turkey or goose? Turkey, always.

Real or fake tree? Fake (if you’ve ever trodden on pine needles with bare feet, you’ll know why.)

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Errrrr….neither? I’m more of a sherry trifle fan.

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

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve!

Thank you for participating in our festive Q & A! Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year! 

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Find out more about Kat at katelliswrites.blogspot.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @el_kat

29 December:Chris Priestley

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Photo by Martin Bond

Chris Priestley lives in Cambridge with his wife and son. His novels are brilliantly original additions to a long tradition of horror stories by authors such as M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe. Chris wrote one of the World Book Day books for 2011 and has been shortlisted for a variety of prestigious children’s book awards.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! A time machine, a holiday and socks. 

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? I’m a big fan of Christmas – can’t think of any bad traditions in my little family. The best are all pretty ordinary – good company, good food, a roaring fire, a walk on Boxing Day, a few films, the odd board game.

 There are wonderful stories shared at Christmas time. What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Christmas Carol has a special place in my affections. But I also like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. That was a regular when my son was little. As was 51hmtth98cl-_sx258_bo1204203200_John Burningham’s Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present.

 If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? My mum, dad and brother. Because I missed so many when they were alive. 

Your brilliant book The Last of the Spirits is a take on the classic A Christmas Carol. If you could write another take on any novel, which would it be and why? Well I’ve done my tribute to Frankenstein in Mister Creecher. That’s probably me done with other people’s novels now.

In Christmas Tales of Terror you feature lots of Christmas characters with a scary twist. If you had to choose one of them to write a full length novel about, which one would it be and why? I’m not sure any of the Tales would make a full length novel. They are very different things. I love writing and reading short stories. They are they’re own very particular pleasure. 

Reader’s question from students in Year 10 at Warden Park Secondary Academy; why do you write in this particular genre (horror)?  The fact is I don’t just write horror! I’ve written over 20 books and only a handful have been horror. I’ve written funny stories, historical adventures and non-fiction. I write what is most interesting to me at the time. I’m working on three books at the moment. One is horror, one is part of a funny series, the third is a YA story about love and loss and superheroes.

(We can’t wait to read them!)

 Quick fire round:

Turkey or goose? Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both!

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Back of a chair

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve all the way. Never quite got the hang of New Year’s Eve

 Thanks for the questions and Merry Christmas one and all!

Thank you for participating and a very Happy Christmas to you!

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Find out more about Chris at www.chrispriestleybooks.com or on Facebook or Twitter @crispriestley