• UNICORN NAMED 'BOOK OF THE MONTH' BY THE IRISH BOOKCENTRE

    'I Wish I'd Been Born A Unicorn' has been chosen as Children's Book Of The Month for November by The Irish Bookcentre chain. This is a great accolade for Rachel's new book, which looks set to be a huge hit!

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  • RACHEL'S SECOND BOOK READY FOR RELEASE!

    Rachel's second story, I Wish I'd Been Born A Unicorn, hits bookshops on 28th September.

    Telling the tale of Mucky, a rather Scruffy horse who has more fleas than friends, it charts his desire to become a glamorous Unicorn in a bid to become more popular. But does true freindship really rest on how we look, or is it what's inside that counts?

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  • CAUTIONARY TALE SHORT-LISTED FOR NATIONAL AWARD

    Rachel's debut story, The Cautionary Tale of The Childe of Hale, has been short-listed for the Best Picture Book Award at the 2014 Heart of Hawick Children's Book Awards. Rachel joins esteemed company in the short-list, including Richard Curtis - best known for writing films including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Acutally.

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  • RACHEL'S WORK WINS FAMOUS FANS

    Comedian and Actor turned Director, Johnny Vegas, posted a picture of himself on Twitter recently brandishing his copy of The Cautionary Tale of The Childe of Hale, telling Rachel he was looking forward to reading it to his son. We hope you both enjoyed it Johnny!

    St Helen's other famous son, award-winning Children's author and script writer, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, recently told Rachel he too had got a copy of the book - having bought it in Speke Hall's National Trust gift shop. His verdict? "I think it's fantastic'. He said meeting Rachel had made his day. Rachel, likewise, was thrilled to mee him. Thanks Frank!

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  • FANCY A HOLIDAY IN THE CHILDE OF HALE'S ACTUAL COTTAGE?

    Well, now you can, because The Childe of Hale's actual thatched cottage has been opened as a holiday let!

    Information on staying at the cosy Grade II listed property, where it is said the giant's feet poked through the windows as he slept, can be found at www.childeofhalecottageholidays.co.uk

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  • FANCY A HOLIDAY IN THE CHILDE OF HALE'S ACTUAL COTTAGE?

    Well, now you can, because The Childe of Hale's actual thatched cottage has been opened as a holiday let!

    Information on staying at the cosy Grade II listed property, where it is said the giant's feet poked through the windows as he slept, can be found at www.childeofhalecottageholidays.co.uk

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  • The Writing Process Blog Tour

    Recently I was asked by talented children’s author, Steve Howson (who, like me, is published by Maverick Arts), to take part in The Writing Process Blog Tour. The aim of the blog is to find out what, why and how we, as authors, write. My responses are below, and at the end you’ll find out the name of the incredibly talented, bestselling author who I’m handing the baton to next week!

    In the meantime, Good Luck to Steve, whose debut picture book, Hocus Pocus Diplodocus comes out this May! (see www.stevehowson.co.uk for details).

    Hope you enjoy the blog!

    1) What am I working on?

    I’m currently working on the final edit of my second story for publisher, Maverick Arts. It’s another rhyming picture book called ‘I Wish I’d been born a Unicorn’.

    Unlike my first book, (The Cautionary Tale of The Childe of Hale, which was based on a real-life historical giant), this is a made up story about a scruffy horse called Mucky who thinks he’d have more friends if only he was a Unicorn. A wise owl, with the help of some other farmyard animals, sets about making his dream come true, by tying a seashell horn to his head and painting him with churned up cream. Mucky is thrilled, until it rains and he turns back to drab old brown. The story ends happily though, when Mucky realises that the other animals cared enough to try and make his dream come true, and that he has genuine friends after all.

    The book comes out in September, and the illustrator, Andrea Ringli, is currently busy bringing it to life. She’s a Swiss-based first-time illustrator, and I absolutely love her style and characterisation. She’s the perfect choice for the story, and I’m just working to fine-tune the odd word here or there but nothing that will affect the illustrations.

    2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

    I think I’m probably a little old-fashioned in my style – not that it’s a conscious thing, but there are lots of picture books out there that are silly and humorous, whereas I tend to enjoy telling tales that give children something to think about, rather than just laugh about.

    My first book was about a poor real-life giant who was so tall he had to sleep with his feet dangling through the windows of his tiny cottage. He is called for by the King (in real-life, James I) and taken to London, where he’s given fancy clothes and accommodation. The King has an ulterior motive, however, and puts the giant in a wrestling match with his champion. The Childe wins – but he is saddened because he feels he’s been used. The lesson he learns, as he says in the story, is; ‘Kindness, you see, is what makes us stand tall, whether born in a Palace, or a house that’s too small.’ That’s the lesson that I want children get from the book, too, and the fact that they enjoy reading it – and love the giant and finding out about him – proves that stories don’t have to be silly to hold their attention. It’s been short-listed for the 2014 Heart of Hawick Picture Book Award, too, which I’m thrilled about. Ultimately, I’m not ashamed to put a moral in a story. ‘I Wish I’d Been Born A Unicorn’ has a message, too, which is that you don’t need to be glamorous or famous to be loved or valued.

    3) Why do I write what I do?

    I’ve probably answered that in the previous question, partly. I write for children because I’m still a bit of a child at heart myself, so I find it easy to spot an idea that’ll make a good story. Also, I write in rhyme because I love the musicality of it – you can build a rhythm that carries the reader along, and there’s the added anticipation of what the next rhyme will be. I think children can get lost in a good rhyming picture book.

    4) How does my writing process work?

    I’m always listening-out for good ideas. I say listening, rather than looking, because it’s the sound of a matching phrase that matters. ‘I wish I’d been born a Unicorn’ came out of another rhyming phrase that came into my mind a couple of years ago – ‘a horse with remorse’. It seemed an interesting idea, so I thought about what a horse might regret, and eventually it lead me to invent Mucky. The phrase doesn’t appear at all in the story, but it was my starting point.

    My first story happened much more quickly – I came across the history of The Childe of Hale and wondered why no one had written his story for children. Two days later, I had done it myself, and six weeks later signed a publishing contract. It was easy because the plot and characters already existed; I just had to write it out in rhyme. Inventing your own plot, as I’ve found this time, is much harder! I’ve lost count of the different versions I’ve written – and, ironically, I ended up going back to the first version and using that one. Sometimes you can overthink or overwork things.

    One thing I learned early on is not to be precious about the words you put on a page – if they’re not right (and you usually have a instant gut feeling when something is right) then try something different. Sometimes, in rhyme, you do have to make small compromises in order to make something fit, and that can grate a little (especially if you’re a perfectionist like me!), but in the grand scheme of things readers probably won’t even notice, even though you’ll have lost sleep over it!

    It’s also good to get perspective – leave something for a while before you edit it – so that you’re reading it almost anew – as the reader will – and can more clearly see where the awkward phrases or glitches are. Getting feedback from people you trust is also priceless.

    Next week….George Mahood!

    The tour will continue next week when I hand the baton to my old Uni friend and, rather impressively, Amazon’s Bestselling humorous essay writer, George Mahood. George’s bestselling books, ‘Free Country: A penniless adventure the length of Britain’ and ‘Everyday is a holiday’ are available through Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/bestsellers/books/274120/ref=sr_bs_1).

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