little books for little loves

I’ve absolutely loved getting to pick out stories every day for our 11am story time at The Little Bookshop Leeds. I’ve been so encouraged by the reactions my *terrible* voices have got from the little children who come to listen. It’s also such a treat getting to read some of my childhood favourites to them, and seeing them follow along with the story, often joining in if they know it well enough.

Along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Comet In Moominland, and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, (my most favourite favourites) I’ve been introduced to some really fab picture books which have all been loved by the little ones who arrive to story time. I’ve picked some of my new favourites out, hopefully to give you some inspiration if bedtime reading is getting a bit repetitive!

1.Florence Frizzball – Claire Freedman and Jane Massey

This is an absolute joy to read at story time and also a story I relate to lots as a girl with untamed and frizzy locks. It’s funny, and a good one for little listeners to follow along with, especially those with curly hair!

2. Here We Are – Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is a delight. His writing is so beautiful and he is a true born storyteller. It’s a book even the adults will enjoy reading, and his illustrations are stunning. The story follows a child’s journey into the world, punctuated with illustrations of the night sky, and the world.

3. How To Catch A Star – Oliver Jeffers

This is another one of Jeffers’ beauties. It follows a boy who dreams of catching a star, and his journey to find one. It’s full of beautiful spreads, and has some real funny moments and interactive parts which the children love.

4. I Wrote You A Note – Lizi Boyd

This is another beautifully illustrated book which follows a friend who writes a letter to another friend. Along the way, the note gets lost and the story follows who has found the note and where it ends up. A lovely story about friendship, as well as animals and wildlife.

5. Grandma Bird – Benji Davies

Benji Davies is fab. His book The Storm Whale was my first introduction to his writing, and now he has adapted his tales of the sea and families. This one follows Noi who spends the summer at Grandma’s. He gets into a storm, and the beginning of a new friendship is revealed. Davies is a fab storyteller and anyone who loves The Storm Whale will love this.

6. In My Heart – Jo Witek

This is an emotional story about feelings, great to read with children who are maybe struggling with expressing themselves. It is vibrant and humorous, whilst also dealing with hard emotions for children to understand. It is more of a celebration of the many different emotions we can feel, and is illustrated with different coloured hearts which fan out of the centre of the book. It would make a lovely gift, too.

7. Katinka’s Tail – Judith Kerr

Renowned for The Tiger Who Came To Tea and her Mog series, Kerr has put together a beautiful story of a cat with a rather remarkable tail. It’s a great story for children to follow, with gorgeous illustrations to keep the story going from each page. It is a good traditional storybook, with lots of humour and emotion, as well as a lovely dreamy element which includes a trip to the moon.

I hope this list is helpful to you if you’re ever looking for fresh inspiration, and if you’ve come across any of them already I’m sure you’ll agree they’re all great examples.

If you have any of your own favourite picture books, let me know!

love sophie

 

the blog turns one

It’s our birthday *does happy dance* and officially one year since write me wild began… where did that year go?!

It’s been a weird one, full of finishing off third year, starting a Masters, and handing in manuscripts, along with some other bits of busyness in between, but I’ve enjoyed sharing my blog with you all and hope to have more time to blog this year.

I’ve continued my monthly soundtrack series, my lactose free loves recipes, and my book club, all of which will be staying, and I also have some more super exciting things coming that you can look out for…

More recently I’ve even added a tab for my artwork, for those of you who don’t have Instagram, and tried to keep on top of my ‘a letter from’ series, which relies on me actually leaving the writing desk!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my posts, and although I haven’t updated Instagram as much as I’ve blogged, I hope you’ve still had a mooch when you got chance.

If there’s anything you’ve particularly enjoyed, or something you think I could do more of, let me know! I want the blog to be a space of interest, and something you want to read.

Thank you for sticking with me.

love sophie

channeling my inner dolly parton

Welcome to the real world, Sophie.

After several applications, lots of CV editing, and interviews, I landed my first job – post MA – at the gorgeous The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton last week. It’s the only children’s bookshop in Leeds, and it’s right up my street.

As well as teaching me how to use a coffee machine, it’s keeping me on my toes about my knowledge of children’s books, as well as what’s current and up and coming in young fiction.

What I love most, apart from being surrounded by books all day, is seeing books I’ve never come across before. There really are some scrummy books out there for children, illustrated so beautifully. The big, hardback non fiction books are my favourite at the moment. They make learning about space, history, and the world so fun, and fancy.

I’m still getting used to how things work, and what sells, but I am thoroughly enjoying being back near books. If it’s quiet, I enjoy putting them back in alphabetical order and organising the shelves, getting a closer look at the covers and reading lots of blurbs. It’ll be chaos again after little fingers get intrigued, but I don’t mind. (I’ve got a to be read pile longer than my arm and I’ve only been in a couple of days!)

As much as I probably should feel like an adult now, I’m still enjoying letting my imagination run wild when kids, and parents, come in and ask me for recommendations or ideas.

As for the gorgeous autumnal smells coming out of the kitchen, it’s a heavenly torture. With the new menu, and increasing popularity, it’s lovely to see so many people trying it (even if it does make my jealous tummy rumble as I bring it out of the kitchen!)

I’m looking forward to a bookshop Christmas, and dressing the shop ready for it. There’s something so magical about bookshops, and the festive season, so I’m excited for what it will bring, and the books I’ll discover.

love sophie

 

reader, i finished it.

Reader, I finished it.

The pen has been dropped, the printer is out of ink, and I don’t think my hands would let me type another word if I tried.

I’m back in Bath after handing it all in, and it feels surreal.

I stayed with Nina, a friend I met at uni, and we celebrated by dancing to ABBA, drinking prosecco, and making vegan cookies. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I drove to Corsham Court to hand it into the uni drop box, making sure it was presented in pristine condition and that I’d filled out the correct course and the right details (knowing my luck I’d have put the wrong module number, or student reference).

I’d been in touch with some of my classmates and we all ended up meeting for a picnic before the ceremonial photo in front of the building and dropping our manuscripts off before heading to the pub! I don’t think I felt like I was sending my baby out into the real world.

It wasn’t perfect, and in places it was very rough, but it was a first draft novel. And what’s important, is I had finished it.

I’m heading back home to bask in my success before the job hunt and adult life seriously begins. That’s the bit I’m dreading most.

But I’m one chuffed writer. After the last few months of struggling to write paragraphs, I’m so pleased I managed to complete my manuscript and hand it in with my peers.

Now to celebrate properly back home in Leeds!

(And no, you can’t read it yet. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for eager eyes, don’t worry.)

love sophie

book club: eleanor oliphant is completely fine

I closed the last page on this beauty yesterday, and I was sad. How could a book this good actually come to an end?

From the very beginning I was fixated with the main character, Eleanor, a twenty-nine-year-old, set in the odd ways she goes about her business. Her routines, her likes, her dislikes. The characterisation Gail Honeyman employs is incredible. Eleanor’s voice is sharp and clear throughout the whole story, keeping you with her and routing for her.

She’s far from ordinary, but also so totally ordinary that she’s relatable. Maybe we don’t all sink a few bottles of vodka over the weekend, or go days without a human interaction, but the principles are there and we can relate, along with hard hitting themes. Loneliness. Depression. Social awkwardness. The pages encourage it all. So much so that I couldn’t put it down.

She’s a complete creature of habit, so seeing her unhinge throughout the story keeps you turning the pages for reactions and her awkward emotions.

With her unusual appearance, including an eczema glove and a scar on her face left by her mother, she’s perceived as a loner. The only contact she has, other than with the people she’s always worked with and the man in the local off license, is a weekly phone call with ‘Mummy’, who’s in prison for an unknown crime.

Then we meet Raymond, someone Eleanor works with.

Slowly and surely, the cracks of the past start to fill, and Eleanor – with the help of Raymond – addresses her childhood, and the reasons why she is the way she is.

It’s a book that will no doubt speak to introverts, those who are unsure of themselves and their quirks, and those looking for someone just like them.

The book is bold, moving, and original.

With such skilled writing, you can’t help but follow Eleanor’s journey and feel familiar with it from the off. To say it’s a debut is insane. Hats off to you, Honeyman. You are ace. Eleanor is ace. I blooming loved it.

love sophie

book club: northern lights

There’s something so spectacularly magical about the way Philip Pullman writes. His lyricism and imagination work so well together and the images he conjures are stunning. His Dark Materials make me want to read children’s books forever.

Set in a completely parallel universe, the book follows Lyra as she journeys to the Arctic in search of her missing friend, Roger, and Uncle Asriel who becomes imprisoned. It’s the first book in the trilogy and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to pick up the next book as soon I’d shut the back cover.

The idea of human souls manifesting outside of our bodies is a major plot point, and these dæmons embody a sentient animal, bringing aid, comfort and companionship to their humans. The idea is genius, and one I loved as soon as I started reading. Lyra is intrigued after overhearing a controversial lecture on Dust from her uncle, Lord Asriel, and this leads her on her adventure.

Often fantasy novels take me a while to get into, but from the end of the first few pages I was hooked with Lyra’s character, and the idea of her dæmon.

Set initially in Oxford, Pullman uses varying forms of description to indulge the reader in the setting and life of Lyra. He does it so well it’s annoying. Pullman includes only what’s needed, and the scenes are visual and vivid, so much so that you can imagine them, and feel the atmosphere. Top writing, done well.

Along her journey, Lyra meets and interacts with many other people. There are themes of theology – particularly with the Gobbers – as well as abandonment and loss, which Lyra deals with both internally and externally. She’s a lot more than just her blonde hair, blue eye exterior, and this is developed throughout the novel and her journey, and the obstacles she has to face.

She’s crafty, brave, and equally curious. With Pan by her side, she manages to steer through the troubles and challenges until…

If you haven’t yet discovered Pullman and His Dark Materials, go and buy them. This introduction will leave you wanting more of his indulgent writing.

love sophie

my love for letter writing

Call me old school, but there’s just something so special about receiving a handwritten letter or note in the post.

Since I started uni in 2014, I’ve regularly kept in touch with my family, friends and the people back at home by writing updates and sending them away in the post. There’s something so lovely about a day out ending with writing a postcard to back home telling them about what you got up to, or receiving one back. If anything, they’re lovely to keep yourself. I know lots of people who write to themselves whilst they’re away on holiday, almost like a brief diary entry, which they stick in the photo album and can use as a keepsake. I think it’s a really nice idea, I just never seem to remember to do it, or end up just keeping a diary in a notebook.

Letter writing has always been something I’ve done. My mum would make us write thank you letters after every birthday, every Christmas, every time we ever received something from someone. There was something so therapeutic about writing them, and including what you did to celebrate or what you’ve done with the present. When I was younger, I used to hate writing them out, and preferred ringing up my Grandma’s and thanking them on the phone, or in person. But now I’m older, and my hatred of phone calls has grown, I’d much rather write a letter. I think there’s something so personal about it.

I’ve kept all of the letters I’ve ever been sent, and lots of them are organised and numbered or dated, so I know when they came and where they came from. It’s lovely to have them to look back on now, especially those from my first year of uni where I’d forgotten most of what I’d got up to, and when I was younger and can’t remember the presents I’d been given.

I’ve heard of people writing letters to themselves and opening them in twenty years time, but I’m yet to do that. You’re supposed to write what you hope to have achieved and where you hope to be, but the idea just scares me. Who knows where I’ll be in twenty years time. Who knows what life will be like then.

If you don’t usually write letters, or haven’t ever really thought about it, give it a go. Ask a friend in a different city or country to be a penpal and get writing. It’s surprising how much fun you can have with it – I always send a teabag with mine, so the person receiving it can take five minutes to read it with a brew.

There are lots of companies and charities who also provide letters for people in hospitals, those who are in nursing homes, as well as people receiving treatment. This is something you could look into if you were getting started. There are lots of things in your life that someone would like to hear about – you just don’t realise it.

 

love sophie

manuscript meanderings feat. tea

It’s coming to that time in my Masters where I need to start prepping myself to work independently now that my contact hours will soon be over, and I’ll have 40,000 words to  prepare, write, and edit for my hand in. This is always something I’ve struggled with, as I know I’m easily distracted and often pop the kettle on just to have five minutes away from the reality of my workload. (Surely I’m not the only one?)

I’ve started thinking about my manuscript, where it’s up to currently, and where I see it going for my deadline in September (which is creeping closer and closer each minute.) Planning is a crucial thing for me right now. Even though it’s not my favourite thing in the world, I know it will help in the long run.

As much as I rave about planning it all out, I don’t find it easy and often spend more time planning than I spent writing. That in principal is fine, but if you’re me, it can often go the opposite way and hinder your writing because you are trying too hard to fit a mould you’ve spent ages creating. Finding a balance with planning is something I’ve been working on so that I am able to plan bits and not get caught up in the concrete parts, but rather use it more as a flexible structure.

As my novel is dual narrative, and written in months as opposed to chapters, it’s quite hard for me to pinpoint a whole selection of plot points to include. What I can do, however, is take each month and write out what scenes I think will be included and how my characters will be feeling.

Are they having a crap day at school? Spending their free time somewhere they really don’t want to be? Lost somewhere and unable to find there way home?

Bringing the characters emotions into the plan really helps me to see their character arc developing, as well as the novel, without thinking too hard about concrete structures. Sometimes we get too caught up in things that we think are crucial, and actually lose focus on the main plot, and our characters, which are the story.

If you’re struggling to plan out a long piece, or with structuring a small piece, try piecing together what the scene looks like and what emotion your character is carrying at that moment. It might help you to see what doesn’t work, which is just as helpful as finding out what does!

Let me know if it helps!

love sophie

 

 

bogged down in word counts: where did my story go?

I’m feeling pretty rubbish about writing at the moment. I don’t know if it’s the impending doom of deadlines, or the fact I’m struggling to write even a word of my manuscript, but the pen has been dropped and I’ve left the writing desk. I even devoured a full punnet of blueberries and scoffed a full block of chocolate in misery (did I mention I’m lactose intolerant?) I can honestly say: it doesn’t help.

I just can’t blooming do it.

And I’ve decided, for now, that it’s fine.

Writing is such a solitary venture that even with a head full of characters you can feel more alone than ever. My attempt at giving up social media during the daytime to focus on my work was an absolute disaster which hasn’t helped. And the worry of falling behind with work has left me skipping fun sociable things which in reality are helpful for my writing and spark my creativity.

I’m finding the balance of it all really difficult, and every time I think I’m getting there, the scales start tipping.

Alas! I’m hoping a couple of days off topic, mooching around on my bike, and reading other people’s words, will do wonders to mine. Here’s hoping!

Have you got any top tips on how to keep ploughing through your word count? And how to keep motivated? If you do, I’m all ears!

love sophie

gay in YA

My research project this term has surrounded the growing presence of LGBTQ+ characters, and stories, in YA fiction, among other children’s books.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading books for research around the topic, and learning more than I thought I knew about the topic. It is so easy to become ignorant to topics, so I think it’s really important, especially when writing and analysing it, to be aware of the facts, and talk to the community, being involved and understanding, listening to what they have to say.

I read Kalaidoscope Song, by Fox Benwell, an alumni from my course, as well as Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan which are both completely different examples of representation, from characters right through to plot. Both authors are also both members of the community.

Something I found whilst researching was that lots of the books covered the same plots and themes: coming out, being accepted socially, self acceptance, bullying, mental health etc. which I didn’t think fully represented the community. Obviously these themes are prevalent, but they don’t equate to everything the characters are feeling. Surely they’d want to read something where the character, no matter what part of the LGBTQ+ community, had the normal teenage life, and where their sexuality didn’t define them?

I think there is such a gap in the market for these books. Many of the books I looked at for research were fairly recent to the market, with only a few years between them, a couple proving to be quite ahead of their time. But more recently, we are seeing more LGBTQ+ books being published, along with authors from the community which is really important.

I hope this brings with it a new wave of publishing for this community. Books are a platform to bring controversial and often unspoken topics into the open and for many they are the way they learn things about the world.

‘These characters and narratives can shine a light into the corners of possibility for children searching for signs that they are not alone in their otherness.’

love sophie