The ‘Dressing Up’ competition winner

And now …. and I’m sorry this took so long but the posts have been piling up … I can proudly announce the winner of the ‘Dressing Up’ (design an outfit for your favourite character and I’ll put it in book 3) competition.

This isn’t the competition that Jewel won. It’s a different one. (It’s competition city round here.) In case you’ve forgotten the details, I described them in this blog.

I’ve had some great entries and the competition has produced some unexpected side effects. It’s made me realise how closely you’ve read the book (you lovely people!), and how well you understand the characters, and how vivid your imaginations are – and therefore how much I need to raise my game. Scary!

Favourite characters to dress were Nonie (my madcap narrator), Jenny (my reluctant red-carpet actress character) and Crow (my designer). Nobody wanted to dress poor Edie, my pretty, academic character with a slightly-boring-minor-royal dress sense. Can’t imagine why.

It’s been a tough judging process, and can I say – to reassure you and also because it’s true – that I really enjoyed every entry. They were all good. I loved the fact that you’d thought about the accessories, and the colours, and the inspiration, and even how the tricky bits were going to be attached to the main part of the outfit. Above all, every outfit was appropriate for the girl wearing it.

I ended up with a runner-up and a winner. My runner-up is Martha Ford, age 11. This is because Martha’s outfit for Jenny is so right that I’ve actually already included something very like it in a key scene in book 3. Look out for Jenny on the steps, Martha!

And the winner is …

But first of all, how did I pick her?

Well, I have a feeling we might have met on my International Book Tour last year, but that’s not why I picked her at all. I picked her because what she suggested was unexpected, but totally in character for the wearer. Because it had very unusual details and I was really cross I hadn’t thought of them myself. Because it not only referred to the wearer, but also her home life and her family.

I loved Nonie’s skirt that used to be a best tablecloth, the bag made out of her brother’s unwanted CDs and above all, the belt made out of her brother’s bicycle chain (‘cleaned!’). The licorice bracelet with polo mints threaded on was a nice touch too.

Congratulations, Rachel (11) from Bramhall. I have no idea, yet, where and when (and why) Nonie will wear this outfit, but I’m looking forward to fitting it in. A worthy winner. And if I run out of inspiration later on in the writing process, I know who to call.

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Alexander McQueen at the V&A

While I was visiting the V&A with Jewel on Sunday, I was interested to see if they were marking the career of Alexander McQueen in any way.

They were. There was a dress from his last Spring/Summer collection, in a case all to itself, with a detailed label acknowledging what a master he was.

What a waste of a bright, shining light. RIP, Lee. And Isabella, too.

The best day ever

Jewel (see last post) has very kindly sent in her account of her prizewinning day. And here it is.

‘OK. breath. best day of my life so far(yes, that about sums it up)but I’ll say a bit more than that. Where to start? i’ll  start with homework(yes homework)on the train for two hours and finally after lots of are we their yet? from my part we arrived at Paddington station.

We then took the tube to the v and a and sat down with Sophia Bennett and Mary Byrne which was totally amazing (so was her dress by the way). So we sat down and talked about being an amazing author over juice and coffee(my juice, her coffee) after this we took a taxi too the fashion show where we saw…TWIGGY and SIENNA MILLER!!!!!!!!!

The show was gobbsmacking, amazing, fantastic so inspiring, just WOW after the show(why did it have to end?) we went outside and met street photographer and all around nice guy Scott Schuman so cool, really talented.

Then after a long idontwanttogotomuchofagreatday kind of goodbye I went off to get lost on oxford street and spend  some of my tammy vouchers.

On the train I home I felt sad (and not just because I had loads of homework)that the day was over but all around I had the BEST DAY EVER!!!!!!!!’

Thank you very much, Jewel. It was fun, wasn’t it?

Jewel comes to London

Sunday was Part 1 of the fashion competition prize, sponsored by Tammy and Bliss. (Part 2 happens when the winning dress is featured in the June issue of Bliss. You know. In that typical fashion competition way. NOT!!!)

Anyway, Part 1 involved Jewel (yes, that is her real name – I know!) and her mum coming to London and meeting up with me and the fabulous Mary Byrne, my publicist and all-round wonderful person (as you can see here) at the V&A.

Mary

Jewel is 11, much cooler than me, and an aspiring fashion designer. I hope she enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Jewel

and her mum

and her mum

The day went like this …

  • Drinks at the V&A cafe – the one mentioned in Threads, with the incredible decor and glorious lights.
  • An extended visit to the V&A shop. I bought 2 necklaces, a purse, a good luck charm made out of bits of kimono and several postcards. Jewel was more restrained.
  • Oh yes, a London Fashion Week show. The Matthew Williamson one. We were opposite Twiggy, Sienna Miller, Zandra Rhodes, Joan Burstein (from Browns; fashion legend; I think she smiled at me) and someone Mary thought might be Lady Gaga. He wasn’t.

That's Twiggy in the background!

... and I counted them all home again

  • By the way, I’m hoping to get a fashion report from Jewel when she’s done stuff like school and homework. When it comes in, I’ll share it with you.
  • After the show, we were standing about and I spotted someone I thought looked like Scott Schuman, the guy who created my favourite blog EVER, the SartoriaList. Scott is a street photographer. He takes pictures of cool people looking chic without trying too hard. If I need a bit of fashion inspiration, I check out his site. Anyway, it was Scott. I went over and said hi [Major Fashion Moment] and introduced Jewel. And Scott asked if he could photograph her. So she coolly posed for him. This is the street photography equivalent of coolly posing for Mario Testino.

Major Fashion Moment

Sure - no problem

  • Later, Jewel went off to spend her Tammy vouchers (more of her prize) at the Oxford Street Bhs.
  • I went home to recover.
  • All I can say is, Jewel rocks.

Today I am loving …

Today I received some copies of my first edition of Threads in a foreign language. When I was writing the story I imagined many, many things (the copies in my local bookshop, the film, in some unhinged moments even the branded pencil cases …) but I never pictured the book being translated. At all. How rubbish is my imagination? And to think I rely on it for a living …

Anyway. It’s out in Norway, as I may have mentioned. It has a great translator and enthusiastic publishers and the hardback is simply beautiful. Also, 5 krone from every copy go to Save the Children. Here it is.

Recently I received a wonderful present from Angela Thurston, who made my dress for my launch party last year. It’s a printed silk scarf that makes not only my wardrobe but the whole house look more chic and up to date. Thanks, Angela!

For Valentine’s Day, I forced my husband to buy me Balenciaga’s new perfume, Paris. We’d been out with the children in Harvey Nichols (very good Yo Sushi on the 5th floor/impressive exam results to celebrate) and their famous windows were displaying nothing but bottles of this perfume. It worked! I love the bottle – it looks like the sort of thing a Victorian collector and part-time alchemist would have lying about. And I loved the perfume too. It’s supposed to smell of the start of spring. It doesn’t remotely remind me of spring in any form. Maybe I don’t go around smelling violets enough in March and April. But it smells yummy anyway. My husband also, very kindly, bought me other things. The grey tights, while very useful, are sadly unphotogenic though. And this blog is not appropriate for the thing in the black box with pink tissue wrapping. But that was much appreciated too.

Finally, I am loving the fact that I’m off to the V&A on Sunday to meet Jewel, the winner of the Threads fashion competition and accompany her to a show at London Fashion Week. Which one? My lips are sealed. More next week …

Smiley author face

It was Threads launch day in Norway today and I’ve been excited all day, thinking about it.

It’s been a busy day. Half term holidays. Two boys to entertain. Took the nine year-old to see Astro Boy (much better than the critics make out) in what looks like a scout hut in Wells. It reminded me of seeing films in the Seventies, in a similar scout hut in Hong Kong. There is something magical about seeing a very big film in a very small space.

Back at my parents’ place, internet access was working intermittently. I think the signals struggle to make it through the Somerset weather systems. So it took me a while to catch up with my emails and it was nearly tea-time before I found out that …

Threads SOLD OUT in Norway today!!!!!!!!!!

That’s right. Got launched. Sold out. Same day. How can that happen? What does it actually mean? Not sure. Like it, though.

And, meanwhile, Threads has been SOLD TO JAPAN!!!!!!!!!!

The bits of me that are left over from being excited about Norway are now excited about Japan.

I told the boys. One of them was deeply into Charlie and Lola. The other was busy waiting for the computer so he could go on Club Penguin. They weren’t as impressed as I hoped.

But I am, nevertheless, happy.

As you can probably imagine.

It’s a bit strange, because in my head the girls have moved on four years and are busy having adventures in book 3, but I’m sure if they could have read the emails over my shoulder they would have been thrilled to look back on their lucky, happy earlier lives and like me, they would be thinking

OH. MY. GOD.

*smiley author face*

La vie est un conte de filles

You guessed it! (You regular blog reader.) Threads in another language! And not any old other language, but one I actually speak!

Here are the things I like about ‘La vie est un conte de filles’.

  1. The title. It’s beautiful. It’s a play on words (good). It’s got a hint of ‘conte de feé’ (fairy tale) about it. Very good.
  2. The translator. I haven’t met or spoken to her yet, but her name is Aude Lemoine. How cool is that? For some reason, all my translators have cool names, like I specified it or something. I don’t remember doing it, but maybe it’s in the smallprint somewhere.
  3. It exists!!!! Well, it will from April. Yay!!!! Threads in French!!!! C’est manifique, c’est formidable, c’est chouette, c’est super.
  4. It’s published by Hachette. In my student days I bought many, many a French novel and I always particularly loved the Hachette ones. *happy author face*
  5. It’s on the Fnac website. Fnac has always been one of my favourite French shops. Like a cross between HMV and Waterstones. In a good way. Even just the word Fnac, and the way you have to struggle a bit with the consonants to say it. J’adore.

Here’s the start of the blurb:

‘Nonie baigne dans le milieu de la mode depuis sa plus tendre enfance. Jenny est actrice. Eddie écrit un blog dédié aux nombreuses causes qu’elle défend. Ces trois amies improbables vont venir en aide à Crow, une jeune fille de douze ans originaire d’Ouganda et réfugiée à Londres …’

I mean, it says things like ‘depuis sa plus tendre enfance’ and ‘ces trois amies improbables’ and even ‘Ouganda’ – pure poetry! Can’t wait to read the real thing.

One slight surprise. The remainder of the blurb includes a major, and I mean MAJOR, plot spoiler. But perhaps that’s deliberate. After all, France is another country. They do things differently there.


Teaser Tuesday #3

I’m not sure what Threads 3 will be called yet. ‘Beads, Boys and Bangles’ took AGES to think of. I quite like the idea of ‘Stars and Spangles’, but I have a feeling the publisher he say ‘no’. It’s a bit early to be sharing stuff. I wish it wasn’t, but I’ve been busy, OK?

So instead, here’s a bit of book 2, to celebrate the fact that I SENT THE PROOFS OFF YESTERDAY!!! and I won’t see the text again until it’s a real book with a cover and everything. I call this the ‘silver dress’ bit.

‘And it’s not the top award or anything,’ Edie continues. She really is so embarrassed about this. ‘It’s just the “rising star” category.’

‘OH MY GOD!’

‘Nonie? What’s happened?’

It’s what’s about to happen. The words ‘rising star’ have reminded me: I have a DATE with my nearly-boyfriend in TWO HOURS! What have I been thinking?

‘I have to go. Alexander … but well done. And good luck. And do the tee-shirts, of course. I’ll even buy one. And Crow’ll be fine. I’ll just …’

‘Oooh, Alexander!’ she yells at me, excitedly. ‘Shut up and get going! We’ll sort it out later. Just have a good time, OK?’

It’s how we stay friends. She can switch from Saviour Of The World to normal person, just like that. And she totally understands how cute my nearly-boyfriend is.

Ninety minutes later, I’m in Crow’s workroom, staring at myself in the mirror. Crow’s staring at me too, needle in hand, just in case I need any last-minute adjustments.

She gives me one of her rare, incredible smiles.

‘I think we’re done,’ she says.

We are. I have been transformed from wonky-haired midget into glamorous fashion queen. I’m in a gorgeous, silver knee-length dress that makes me look at least eighteen. I have proper, grown-up tights on without any patterns, sequins or holes. I have not only high heels but PLATFORMS that give me ten precious extra centimetres in height. Designer platforms by Prada that I shall probably leave to my children in my will.

I’m wearing enough eyeliner for an emo convention and individual fake eyelashes, for extra oomph. And possibly a tiny spritz too much perfume, but it’s too late now.

I have never looked like this before and I probably never will again. I’m a hot babe, basically, and Alexander is going to adore me.

‘Jewellery?’ I ask, panicking suddenly.

Crow shakes her head. She’s probably right. There’s enough going on already.

I grab my jacket and my vintage bag from a little pile on the workroom floor (I’m not totally careful with my clothes, I admit), and I’m ready to go.

Mum’s standing in the hall, waiting.

‘Wow,’ she says. ‘You look … different. Go gently on him, darling. He won’t know what’s hit him.’

Different good or different bad? It’s too late to find out, so I give her a quick kiss and head out of the door before she realises quite how much of her perfume I’ve borrowed.

‘Back by midnight, don’t forget,’ she shouts after me.

SO Cinderella. I’ve been given an extension because Harry will be there.

‘And don’t let him …’

Yada yada yada. I can’t hear because I’m rushing into the taxi and concentrating on not doing a Naomi Campbell in my platforms down our front steps. They’re not quite as easy to walk in as I’d hoped.

Teaser Tuesday #2

So, about those extracts …

I am currently reading ‘Summer Secrets’, the second in the ‘Amy Green Teen Agony Queen’ series by Sarah Webb. I’m reading it because it’s funny and real and has wonderful, complex, life-affirming characters and it makes me feel like I’m on holiday on the West coast of Ireland, which is no bad place to be.

I’m not reading it because I happen to be going on a mini-tour with Sarah and another writer called Judi Curtin in October (YAY YAY YAY!!!!) and I’ll be spending 3 days in Ireland talking about nothing but books, music, girls, clothes, music, books … you get the general idea.

Here’s the bit of Summer Secrets I’m on now:

‘Clover whistles under her breath and pokes me in the side to get my attention. “Would you look at Dr McSteamy over there?”

“Which one?” I stare over at the band.

Him. Hubba-hubba. Must be the new lead guitar.”

Clover is staring at a tall, muscular boy with a tattoo of a skull on his hand. He’s adjusting the strings of his guitar. “I do like a tasty Indi boy. Hubba-hubba,” she says again. “He can tighten my strings any time.” She gives a dirty laugh.’

Clover is every teenage girl’s perfect aunt. Young, trendy, loyal, unshockable and with an irrepressible sense of humour. I’ve mentally adopted her. She’s mine, OK? She’s mine …

Teaser Tuesday #1

I’m not remotely an expert on this, but I gather from bloggers younger and wiser than me that there’s a bit of a tradition of posting up extracts from work you’re writing and/or reading on a Tuesday. Well, it beats actually having to think of something original, so I shall do both.

But before I do, here’s another teaser. Barry Cunningham (head of Chicken House and therefore as close to a boss as I’ll ever have as a writer) has tweeted (he’s @barrychicken if you’re interested) that he’s chosen the shortlist for the 2010 Times/Chicken House children’s fiction competition and informed the winners. Some of whom cried. And one of whom was so disbelieving that Barry had to call him/her back. So hopefully they’ll be announced in the Times soon. Keep a lookout.

In 2008 the inaugural competition was won by Emily Diamand with Reavers Ransom, later retitled Flood Child. This book was sold to 18 countries and given to 55,000 11 year-olds as part of the Booked Up programme. The sequel is out in August.

In 2009 the competition was won by a very lucky aspiring writer from Wandsworth. Wonder what happened to her.

Extracts coming shortly. Watch this space.