I LOVE reading young children’s books!

Once a reader, always a reader...

Once a reader, always a reader…

A few days ago I spent a glorious hour in my local bookshop talking about books for the under 7’s with the very knowledgeable Kirsty who is in charge of the children’s section. Over a coffee we looked at some of the most popular and interesting ones in the store and discussed why they were selling (girls love the books about the Fairytale Hairdresser!).

I had to buy Oi Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field, a hilarious rhyming story about where animals sit. A very simple idea beautifully illustrated which kids of all ages will enjoy. As I said I couldn’t resist it either!

But picture books published several years ago are still selling: Judith Kerr, Martin Waddell, Sam McBratney, Nick Sharratt, Mairi Hedderwick and of course Julia Donaldson by the shelf-load. Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men and Little Miss series are still popular as are Dr Seuss books and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My copy of it is still on my bookshelf, somewhat battered now after being through the hands of my sons when they were young (which wasn’t exactly yesterday or the day before.)

For the 5-8 year olds, Roald Dahl and Michael Morpurgo are still there on the best-selling lists, now joined by David Walliams and the new children’s laureate, Chris Riddell. He’s also an illustrator which is such an advantage to a children’s writer as his drawings add so much to his wild, imaginative tales.

Kirsty introduced me to some newish writers that I hadn’t come across before like Dundee-based Pamela Butchart who writes about Wigglesworth Primary in a series of very funny, but nearly totally believable tales, and Jonny Duddle, whose name alone is enough to make you want to read his books.

I’ve now begun to try to sketch ideas for a story of my own as it’s been a while since I wrote for young children. When I was writing scripts for the BBC’s schools programmes, stories would regularly arrive in my head, ready to be written up. But my children’s writing muscle has atrophied in the face of competition from article and short story writing so I’ll have to limber it up and get it going again.

Next week, I’m visiting a friend who keeps a pile of books for her young grandchildren. I shall indulge myself in them in the absence of said children and hopefully glean a few more ideas and tips to help my writing on its way.

Watch this space!

Some Scottish memories…..

I received my copy of the August edition of Scottish Memories magazine today in which I have two articles; one on youth hostelling when I was a child and the other on my early schooldays which I loathed. They’re illustrated with some of the many photographs my father took of me and which served to jog my memory about events in the fifties. Photos are a great starting point for all sorts of writing – poetry, short stories, articles, anything at all can be triggered by them.

I’ve used old photos a lot for my articles for Scottish Memories but unfortunately they stop when I was about 8 or 9, which was when my father left us, but that’s another story.

However, I did find stashed away at the back of a cupboard, his photojournals written in the 1930’s when he was a young single guy in his twenties, and illustrated with his own photos. They tell of his trips round the UK on his tandem with his new girlfriend who eventually became my mother. I spent last summer transcribing his words – all 26,000 of them – as they were written in a white ink on the black photo album paper and were suffering the effects of age. But what do do with them? They provide a fascinating glimpse of a time leading up to the second world war as well as making me reassess my opinion of him, much coloured by his actions when I was a child.

Here’s a taste of them:

The Modern Magic Carpet 5th October 1937

Many people who have looked at my previous efforts at photography have kindly(?) remarked ‘You must have a very good camera.’ Although my tandem is to be seen in most of the pictures, it occasions little comment other than the usual ill informed ‘Cycling must be hard work!’ As the bicycle has been so much taken for granted, one tends to forget just what a wonderful invention it is. A collection of steel tubes, wire, rubber, leather and other materials, fashioned by a master hand can yield a steed capable of carrying its owner (probably 5-10 times its own weight) to the ends of the earth or merely along the street for a newspaper, according to his (or her) fancy. Bicycles can look very similar. Only when under way does the ‘class’ machine show its inherent superiority. Materials can be copied but brilliant workmanship cannot.

So at the commencement of this album I pay tribute to F.H. Grubb, the man behind the making of my tandem. Now well into its third year, it has carried me over 12,000 miles, as far north as Fort William, south to Cornwall, Wales also has passed under its rolling wheels, through fair weather and foul, speeding along smooth tarmac or bumping across desolate moors devoid of track, whatever the conditions we have emerged triumphant and always ‘arrived’. I can think of no higher praise than that bestowed by its maker when he christened it ‘The Grubb Pullman’.

The Ballantrae Smugglers Festival Short Story Competition

Over the past few weeks I’ve been receiving entries for the Ballantrae Smugglers Festival short story competition, especially those for the children’s competition. There were over 100 entries for this from youngsters just at the end of their first year at school, to older children who will move on to secondary school after the summer. And they’ve come from not only the local area but as far away as the Channel Islands.

Anyone who doubts that children’s imaginations nowadays are not being used should read some of the wonderful stories they’ve created. Some youngsters in one school created their own books, wrote their stories in them and illustrated them with gusto. In most cases, the smugglers met their comeuppance in the shape of the excisemen but one or two of the writers let them slip off to bed at the end, after a hard day’s work smuggling.

I’ve now passed them on to the judges who will have the hard task of picking winners though I feel they all deserve a prize. They’re all winners!

Last year’s winner, Abby Gray.

last year's winner

Writing Travel Articles

The editor at Buckettrippers.com has asked us writers to link with the site to increase traffic. So here’s the link to my articles that I’ve done for them in the past couple of years;


Can you visit the site and like it and help poor struggling authors earn a few more shekels?

And I’ve got plenty more articles I could be writing on my latest trip to Japan. One is done and waiting to be posted and I’ve been pitching for other markets to sell them to. It’s so depressing though, when they don’t even bother to reply. I know they’re busy but even a curt ‘no’ doesn’t take much effort and would let me cross that particular outlet off my list of possibles.

By the way, the photo at the top of the blog is of streams of origami cranes made by schoolchildren and displayed at Hiroshima Peace Park, the site where the first atomic bomb was detonated. The crane in Japan symbolises longevity and good fortune. I bought a mini origami set to try to make them but so far, the packet is unopened. Another distraction which I’m trying not to take up!

Writer of Many Things


Children’s stories and books, Postman Pat comic scripts, Moomin picture books, BBC radio and TV schools programmes, articles, short stories, even a novel and the odd poem. You name it, I’ve written it.

it’s quite an amount of published, broadcast and online work so why start a blog now?

You can blame Michael J Malone for it. MJM Ink, as his mentoring service is known. I spent an afternoon in his company getting a severe kick up the rear end and came home, sore but determined to DO BETTER.

So I will be posting here what I’m writing and what is being published. If I post nothing or admit to having written nothing, then feel free to chastise, castigate, censure, reprimand, rebuke or chide as the notion takes you.

Here’s one of Michael’s chosen quotes from his coursebook:

If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re usually right – Henry Ford

Think about it!

And Michael’s books are pretty good too.