‘An Ode to Mums’ by 13 yr old Wendy Quill illustrator – Mina May


‘An Ode to Mums’ by 13 yr old Wendy Quill illustrator – Mina May


Branford Boase Award (2013) Shortlist Announced!


I’m VERY EXCITED that ‘A Hen in the Wardrobe’  has been included on this lovely shortlist – announced today in The Telegraph.


Here’s the blurb:

Ramzi’s dad is acting very strangely. He’s sleepwalking because he’s homesick for his native Algeria. So Ramzi, Dad and Mum go back to Dad’s Berber village in the desert region of North Africa, and Ramzi meets his Berber grandmother and cousins. But can Ramzi help his dad and what will happen when they get back home again?

And here’s what the judges said:

“There’s not a wasted word… ideal for younger readers, and with a sense of humanity, reality and joy unusual in books for this age group”

Thank you judges!


Wendy Quill’s brand-new not-at-all second-hand book trailer



At last! I’m allowed to share Wendy Quill’s brand-new, not-at-all second-hand book trailer! It’s for ‘Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom’ – which isn’t actually out until May. So this trailer is hot off the press and my publishers have only just released it.

And the absolute best bit: all the illustrations (and the ‘voice-over’) were done by my 11 year old daughter – Mina May!

Wendy Quill front cover

We had such a great time doing this book together and now we’re working on the next two in the series! Mina May’s even got her own ‘agent’ – and does her drawings on the ipad after school.

Which just goes to show – you can do anything – however old you are!

Hope you have fun watching . . .

Thing One and Thing Two …..


This week, I’ve been busy trying new things. You know, things I’ve NEVER done before. Not sure why my brain chose this particular week. Perhaps it’s because it’s January and everyone looks a bit blue?


Or maybe it’s because I’ve got a deadline so I’m busy finding ‘other things’ to do?

Whatever the reason, let me tell you all about Thing One and Thing Two:


NO! Not them!!!! Let’s try again ………

THING ONE: A trip to a Health Spa!


Now, I always thought this was far too girly for me. And most of the ‘treatments’ sounded like torture. But no! I was wrong. There were showers with options like: ‘monsoon’ and ‘light rain’. You could be squirted from ‘above’ or from ‘the side’. (Yes. I know! Buttons to press!!!). And there were lots of rooms in which to steam yourself: ‘quite hot’, ‘very hot’, and ‘boiling’. (Well, they had fancy names but I can’t remember them all). But being steamed whilst chatting is hilarious. You keep getting out of breath. And there was a bubbling pool that pummeled you as you swam. Oh, and a room labelled ‘VIP’. (No, I wasn’t allowed in. But it added a touch of mystery). True, I wasn’t very good at ‘relaxing’. And I didn’t really know how to ‘unwind’. But it was great pressing buttons and giggling with my friend.

THING TWO:  Joined a Zumba Course!


Once again, I NEVER thought I’d do ‘Zumba’. I thought you had to be a leotard, legwarmers and lipstick type. But no. I was wrong! All sorts of completely normal (ish) people were there  – and tracksuit bottoms fitted in just fine. Yes, I joined in at the back (just in case I was severely uncoordinated). And yes, I can still hardly move. But once the Russian folk music, Jewish wedding songs, and trendy rap got going, I had an absolute ball. Actually, I couldn’t stop laughing (which again, may not have been quite the appropriate response).

But my point is: it was REALLY good fun.

So why don’t you go and have a bash? Try something completely new. Not necessarily spas or zumba.

Maybe join a steel brass band?

brass band

Or read your first ever crime novel? Or try to make a raspberry souffle? Just do something you’ve NEVER done before. Something that might make you giggle or slightly smile.



Must dash. I’ve got to go and find ‘THING THREE’!

Finding your (slightly silly?) ‘Voice’


To all those budding children’s writers out there, I’ve decided to give you all a bit of a advice. Here’s the thing. If you really, really, want to be a writer (whoops, bit spice girly), then it’s important that you ‘find your own voice’.


What on earth does she mean, I hear you ask? (Well, I don’t. But I’m pretending. Pretending is another thing that writers like to do. OK. Back to the serious bit). The ‘voice’ is the style in which you write – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. It could be a dark and mysterious voice, or witty and light-hearted one – but it’s that distinctive voice that tells readers it’s you and only YOU. (This isn’t exactly the same as the ‘character’, because a writer can have loads of different characters in a book(s), but we still recognise the ‘style’ or ‘voice’ that the writer uses).

Quiz time:

OK. Let’s see if it works. See if you can identify three very different writers’ ‘voices’ just by a tiny, little extract. I’ll give you their names –  just match them to their bit of text:

Beatrice Potter, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl

a)      ‘So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.’

b)      ‘This clot […] this black head, this foul carbuncle, this poisonous pustule that you see before you is nothing other than a disgusting criminal’

c)   One day little Lucy came into the farm-yard crying – oh, she did cry so!

Did you match the ‘text’ to the ‘voice’? If so, whippeeeeeee! Well done, you!

But how do you ‘find’ your voice?

There are lots of ways to ‘find your voice’. Hard work. Blood sweat and tears.  Or you could just do what I did: find it by accident.  You see, the ‘voice’ I have isn’t the one I was trying to have. Having spent years many years being an English lecturer, I naturally thought I’d have a sophisticatedclever and literary voice. *Ehem*. Yes! I was going to be a writer bursting with beautiful plots and wonderful prose: the sort that gazes at sunsets and sighs over moors. One that drinks tea from china cups and wears a long, floaty skirt. I’d got it all planned out(ish):


But when I met my soon-to-be agent, she said:

‘You’re actually really funny. Have you written any funny stuff at all?’

‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘But I haven’t brought it with me. I mean, funny’s so easy to write. Don’t you want to see stuff that took me AGES?’

‘OK,’ she said, kindly. I showed her a bit of a book that had taken LOTS of sighing to produce.

‘Hmmm. This is good,’ she said. ‘But can I see the rest?’

‘Oh, well there isn’t actually any rest yet,’ I confessed. ‘But there will be. One day. Soon.’

She laughed. ‘Thing is,’ she said. ‘You are very funny. And funny is tricky to write….’

‘Is it?’ (I was surprised).

‘Yes. I love your posts. (Gosh. I know, all you hopefuls! Yes! Agents actually visit people’s blogs!!!!) And the books that you’ve already written are really funny.’ (She meant A Hen in the Wardrobe and The Black Cat Detectives).

‘Are they?’ (I was surprised all over again!)

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Very funny.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘They weren’t supposed to be funny. I think I can be funnier if I try.’

‘Can you? Well, try then,’ she said.

So I did. And I can’t stop. I LOVE it. At last, I am being MYSELF. The writing just flows and makes me giggle. And I don’t GROAN or take AGES any more. (Oh, and it got me a lovely book deal with an even lovelier publisher. And brought to life the quirky Wendy Quill):

For those of a curious nature, have a sneaky peek and click here:

Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom

Wohoooo! I’ve FOUND MY SLIGHTLY SILLY VOICE!!! And though some of you are ABSOLUTELY meant to gaze at sunsets and sigh over moors …. writing paragraphs in long floaty skirts. I’ve finally realised, it’s just not me.

I’m more of a jeans and jumper sort 🙂

Judging a Book by its Covers


First of all, a BIG SORRY for taking a little break from posting on this site, but I’ve got a really good excuse! Honest! Yesterday, my second EVER book came out …. (*little drum roll please*)


But writing it wasn’t the hard part. Oh no. Doing the front cover and the pictures inside was the thing that nearly polished me off! Now, I know the final front cover looks all pretty professional. But it wasn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it took LOADS of attempts to get it right. Thing is, I’m not a proper illustrator, so I don’t really know what I’m doing. What I DO know is that I’m not very good at drawing cats. Seriously, my first attempt looked liked a dog. Don’t believe me? OK. Time for some public humiliation. Here’s my very first (extremely awful) rough draft:


ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I know!!! Very home-made and dog-like. And then there were the reject cats ….. the ones that nobody wanted. You know: too fat, too thin, too cartoon like, too silly. That sort of thing …. Well, I did a lot of those. This was my favourite ‘reject’ – the cartoony one:


And even when I managed to get the cover right, I still had to do all the pictures inside!!!!  Once again, it took lots of scrumpled up watercolour paper and too many bars of chocolate before I got them all done. But all that effort makes the book even more special to me. I hope you like it too – and it will be great to hear what you think. Meanwhile, here’s one of my favourite scribbles to leave you with: it’s a picture of some of my main characters whizzing about in a hot air balloon. Can you guess which one’s scared of heights?


It’s A Hen’s Book Birthday!!!


I don’t believe it!!! Finally, the day has come and my first ever book is OUT!  Wohooo! 

It’s about a boy called Ramzi Ramadan, his best-friend Shaima Stalk, and a dad who keeps doing crazy things in the night. Like getting stuck up trees and trying to sail to the moon in the bath! I know! Complete nightmare.  The problem is, Dad’s sleepwalking because he’s missing home – a little village in the mountains of North Africa. So Ramzi and Shaima have to come up with a cunning plan to stop him getting in to so much trouble! The story takes readers to North Africa – where Ramzi meets the scary Scheherazad, the Tuareg of the desert, and a most mysterious wise-man. But will they find a cure for Dad? Or will he keep having to be rescued from treetops forever? Here’s a sneaky look at one of the pictures I drew: A mysterious meeting! It’s soooooo exciting to see it in print. And if you get a chance to read it, I’d love to know what you all think ….

Links to some lovely reviews: http://bookwitch.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/a-hen-in-the-wardrobe/


Where to buy:http://www.guardianbookshop.co.uk/BerteShopWeb/viewProduct.do?ISBN=9781847802255


Or in you local bookshop 🙂

Please excuse me while I go and shout HOORAY a lot!

The Day the Books Arrived!


OK. I admit it. I’m just ever so slightly excited. *whohoo!*

What started out as a little idea has turned into a real thing!

And there’s lots of them, sitting above my fireplace. Between two home-made giraffes.

It’s so lovely making things, isn’t it? Cakes, quilts, motorcars, even papier mache giraffes. (I haven’t actually made a motorcar).

But if anyone out there fancies writing a book, I can definitely recommend it.

How to be an illustrator


This month, I had a deadline to meet. The artwork for A Hen in a Wardrobe needed to be handed in. At first, I wondered how I’d do it? I mean, it’s not like I’m a real illustrator. I drew a few  very strange pictures and started to panic. But just as I was about to give up, I discovered a clever technique: the art of tricking my brain. “You are an illustrator,” I told myself. And it believed me. At least, I think it did. Why don’t you give it a try?

A bit of good news ….


Guess what ?!!?  A Hen in the Wardrobe, has just been short-listed for the Muslim Writer’s Awards 2011 (yay!). It’s in the ‘unpublished children’s book’ category as it’s not due out until Feb 2012.

I’ve been invited to attend the Award Ceremony in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre!!! It’s on November 22nd and there’ll be loads of great writers there, like Na’ima Roberts, Irfan Master and Aamer Hussein. It looks fab – don’t you think?

Quite big though. And sort of scary. Especially when you look inside! Oh dear…

Right, best dash. Need to  practice my ‘I don’t mind I didn’t win’ face.  🙂

(Oh, and if you want to see all the other short listed writers, click on: http://muslimwritersawards.org.uk/node/1026 )