Tuesday, 30 January 2018

AMELIA: I THREW MY IPHONE AWAY

Reader Amelia writes candidly about why she was driven to throw her smartphone away... and what happened next...

Amelia says:
I got an iPhone on my thirteenth birthday - before that I'd had a cheaper version, which I'd had since I was ten. I saw having a phone as a right of passage and a sign of being grown up. Lots of my friends had them, almost all by the time I was thirteen. I didn't know a single person who didn't. It was the number one way of staying in touch for me and my friends. It sounds gross but I took it to the bathroom and everything, and checked messages two or three times a night. I was addicted, but I didn't worry about it because everyone else I knew was the same... it wasn't a problem, it was just the way things were.

I would never have questioned it at all if the bullying hadn't started. I posted a selfie one night - I got loads of likes on my Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and then, on Twitter, some negative posts that told me I was ugly, stupid, shallow, vain. I didn't know the posters so I tried not to take it personally but who doesn't get upset when people label them that way? I got sucked into it. I posted more selfies, trying to look better, less shallow (I did pics of me with books, or doing stuff). My Instagram page began to turn nasty, people saying I was trying too hard, that I thought I was better than other people. I deleted the bad stuff. Twitter was worse. I didn't know what to do. The people posting the bad stuff weren't people I knew, but some people I knew did click like on comments that were critical and that hurt.

Suddenly, I felt paranoid, depressed, scared. I tried harder and harder to get people to like me online, and became a bit of a hermit in real life. The harder I tried the worse it got, and every time I checked my phone there'd be something horrible there. I became withdrawn and stopped trying at school, my friends commented and my parents were really worried. I couldn't tell anyone what was upsetting me and I couldn't delete the people who were commenting, I wanted to win them over even though it seemed impossible. We broke up from school and that was worse, I felt alone with it... a phone buzzing every few minutes telling me I was rubbish, and I had to hide the bullying from everyone. I got so low I started thinking about running away or evening ending it all, because I wanted it to stop, but I knew I didn't  have the guts.

One night I was looking at my iPhone in the bath and another horrible comment came up. I started to cry, and I let the phone slip through my fingers into the water. I scrabbled to get it back again but then I realised - why? Without the iPhone, the comments would stop. I dropped it back into the water and left it there, and after my bath I fished it out and stuffed it into the outside bin. I felt scared - what would happen to my Instagram account, my Twitter? I had three or four days of quiet, and it was amazing - I stopped worrying about what comments would come next, started to relax again, breathe again.

On the fourth day my friend K turned up at the house to see if I was OK, and I told her about the messages and what I'd done. She hadn't even realised. I told my mum I'd lost the phone and I didn't want to replace it, at least for a while, and I've gone through the last few weeks without it. I couldn't bear to be without my phone before, but now I see how addicted I was, how hooked on it. K and I have done more stuff in the last few weeks than we have in years. Gone to see plays and films in town, winter picnics in the park, swims at the leisure centre, joined a drama group. We meet up every day and do stuff with other friends, and K is using her phone less now. I don't feel left out, I feel relieved. Will I get another iPhone? I don't know. I feel so much better without it... I'm going to see how long I can last without.

Cathy says:
Amelia's post is really interesting - research has showed that too much screen time is really bad for our health. Could YOU go screen free? For an hour, a day, a week... or longer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 29 January 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: THE FOX

A gorgeous short story from our talented regular Blue... a wintry story with a twist!

I didn't dare breathe as I inched towards this strange but beautiful creature. I didn't want to frighten him. I'd heard they were jumpy creatures, prone to scampering off if we got too close. My family had warned me away too. 'Don't go near those nasty things,' they'd said 'They're vermin. Horrible creatures! They probably have all sorts of diseases!'

I wasn't so sure though. I wanted to listen to my parents, trust their advice... but this one seemed different. His eyes were anxious but bright as he sat in the snow, lost in thought, his nose was pointed and twitched occasionally (mine did too, someone nearby must have been cooking a roast dinner and it smelled heavenly). His fur was silky and speckled with snowflakes, ruffled by the slight wind. He didn't look diseased. He looked intriguing.

I wondered if I'd be able to touch him. I stepped closer and he noticed me, his wide eyes darting towards me. We froze simultaneously, stock still on the icy ground. I thought he might run away, but he didn't move. I didn't either. It felt like hours that we both stood there, staring at each other, waiting for one of us to make the first move.

He broke our game of statues, rising and venturing cautiously towards me. I flinched, my parents' words ringing in my ears. 'Vermin.' 'Horrible.' 'Diseases.' Yes, I thought he was cute but what if they were right, what if, despite his long dark fur and shining intelligent eyes, he was riddled with fleas, ticks, diseases, even something fatal? Part of me wanted to run back home and hide... but part of me was curious. I took a step forward.

The human produced a piece of gingerbread from his pocket and I wandered closer, sniffing cautiously. He smiled encouragingly and I closed the distance between us, my paws crunching on the ice hidden beneath the powdery snow. I twitched my whiskers back, out of the way, as I reached for the gingerbread in his outstretched hand. I tentatively took a bite. It was spicy and still warm. The human grinned and gently squatted down so we were at the same level. I reached for the rest of the gingerbread as he scratched my neck, the anxiety in his eyes fading.

'Good foxy' he murmured, his voice quiet and low. I liked this human. My parents said that humans were monsters, plagues who were ruining the earth and destroying our homes. But here in his garden, sharing gingerbread, calm together... I thought this one could be different.

I thought we could be friends.

Cathy says:
What a fantastic, unexpected twist! Brilliant stuff, Blue! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

TAYLOR: YOU'RE GOING TO DO AMAZING THINGS!

Reader Taylor has struggled with self-esteem issues, gender dysphoria and eating disorders - but a conversation with an understanding nurse has helped him to see things in a different way...


Taylor says:
I’ve got two separate eating disorders and also gender dysphoria, so it’s pretty safe to say that I definitely have self esteem issues. Until recently, I didn’t understand how someone could look down at their body and not want to cry, but things have begun to change for me and perhaps some of what has triggered that may help other readers too.

Five months ago, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and I was discharged just under a week ago. For most of this time, I didn’t really make much progress self esteem wise. Then something happened that changed my life. Eight weeks ago, we got a new student nurse who was in her second year of uni. I’ll call her Lauren. To start with, I felt quite awkward around her, but after a couple of days, we talked more and then gradually got incredibly close. I learnt that I could trust her, and she started to trust me too. We talked a lot, I opened up to her properly about how I felt about myself. She broke down and cried during the conversation, and kept on hugging me - this was seen as unprofessional by other staff - how dare nurses have feelings! 


She kept on apologising, and I didn’t get why. She then told me this: 'I had this same conversation when I was a bit older than you, with one of my teachers. We’re not so different, actually.' Side note: this seriously shocked me, as Lauren seemed like the last person who would have self esteem issues. 'My teacher was not the sympathetic kind, I have no idea why I went to her,' Lauren continued. She wiped away tears and laughed a bit at this point. 'She didn’t really help me at all. You know what I found out on my own, though? Every human being is special. Everyone has potential. Look at you...' - meaning me - 'You’re young, you’re so young. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Man, I know that I’m going to switch on the TV one day and see you in a movie, or on the music channel, or on stage...'


She actually thought I’d be good enough to become an actor/ musician - I’m still not sure what she was basing that on seeing as she’d never heard me sing but oh well! 'Even if you don’t go down that road,' Lauren went on, 'You’re still going to do amazing things, and how you look isn’t going to change that. How you look defines nothing other than what the mirror shows you.'


That was it. Life changed forever. After the conversation, I went and watched TV with the other patients. When I went back to my room that evening, the photos covering my mirror had been taken down, and I could see myself for the first time. Well, partially anyway. Lauren had written all over the edges of my mirror. She had put down loads of positive things that she thought about me, things like she liked my hair colour and my glasses suited me. Of course, that didn’t instantly solve everything. I had to (and still have to!) work so, so hard to get to where I am now, where I’m able to look into a mirror and not breakdown in tears, and sometimes actually like what I see! To some people this may not sound like much, but honestly, for someone who from the age of seven had cried almost every time there was a mirror, it’s a lot.


So, my advice to other people? Get yourself a Lauren. Or listen to her advice. YOU are capable of doing amazing things. YOU are capable of doing amazing things. How you look (or how you think you look) does not define you.

Cathy says:

Wow... such an honest post, and so simple and life-changing too. I think there is something we can all take from this, myself included! Have YOU got any tips on boosting self-esteem and confidence? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

AVA: A PASSION FOR DANCE!

Reader Ava has a talent for dance - and the passion and determination to push it as far as it can go! Read her inspiring story!

Ava says:
I started dancing when I was five years old - I went to a local dance school not far from where I live and took lessons in ballet, jazz and tap. At the age of eight I decided I wanted to learn new styles of dance; I loved watching Dance Moms on TV and Maddie Ziegler was a huge idol of mine, someone I aspired to be like. I pestered my mum and she did a bit of research and found out about a dance school just a few miles away which offered more of a variety of dance styles. I went for a taster session in lyrical and was immediately hooked. I’m normally a quiet, shy girl, especially in new places, but I was so determined that I made the big decision to leave behind the comfort of my old dance school and start somewhere new. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Since being at The Big Dance Company I have grown as as a dancer and performer and I feel I am at my most confident when I am dancing. 2017 was a fantastic year for me - I was among the 150 9-15 year olds that received a callback to  the CBBC dance show ‘Taking the Next Step’ and the only nine year old to audition in London. The junior company ‘Animate’ which I’m a member of at The Big Dance Company came first in every competition we entered, and in July I won a three year full dance scholarship.

All of this is very exciting but I know that winning isn’t actually what dance is about. Dancing for me is a feeling within me, I am a dancer above anything else. It’s about making others happy, about me being able to express my feelings and emotions and putting them into my dancing whether I’m happy, sad or angry - this is what makes me the dancer I am. A highlight of last year was taking part in a performance and dance workshop with the poorly children at Chelsea Children’s Hospital just before Christmas. To be able to put smiles on their faces and bring fun to their day was a great feeling!

I am now doing at least 12.5 hours of dance a week although at the moment it’s more like 15-16 hours a week because of extra training. There is always something we are in training for - my mum says she has crossed the whole of March out of her diary  as we have exams, our annual show, British hip hop Championships and then a group of us are going with our dance teacher and our mums to L.A. to attend a dance festival. We are going to be taught by some of the best choreographers and dancers in the world, and will be performing on a stage at Disneyland!

I’m always busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be part of such an amazing dance school and in my opinion I have the most inspiring and supportive teachers on the planet. I’m living my dream but I wouldn’t be doing any of these things if I hadn’t believed in myself enough to make the leap. If quiet little me can do it, anyone with similar passion can too!

Cathy says: 
I LOVE this story! As Ava says, believing in yourself is key to making yourself happy - it's difficult sometimes, but never give up! Have YOU got your own story to share? COMMENT BELOW...

Friday, 26 January 2018

BEST & WORST THINGS...ABOUT JANUARY!

We asked what your best things about January were... and your worst! This is what you said - and what I said, too!

Cathy says:
I'll start! My best... wood fires, thick socks, frosty morning walks, soft scarves, fairy lights, books, hot chocolate, a sense of fresh starts. My worst... sleet, high winds, dark days, ice.

Helen says:
Getting up in the dark, going to school in the dark, coming out of school in the dark, going home in the dark... those are my worst things!  Roll on longer days and lighter mornings & evenings! Best things? Spotting early signs of Spring!Snowdrops and other bulbs coming up; robins beginning to sing to stake their claim in their territory!

Katie says:
Best: Exam results are coming out tomorrow...
Worst: Exam results are coming out tomorrow. Now that we’ve cleared that up....
The best things are being absolute Newt Scamander trash, like every other month of the year, buying goods online to feed my Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts addiction, Mum giving me an allowance so I can very carefully manage my own finances (a little bit daunting,) seeing friends, reading, watching the Harry Potter movies (like every other month of the year,) swimming, It’s 2018!!! (which is also scary,) writing for/to you, Cathy!! ... seaside markets, fangirling. And the worst... holiday boredom,
going back to school next month (which is also a good thing... I live in NZ by the way!) and the fact it’s not 2017! (Which is also a good thing)

Sophie says:
Best... cosy blankets, cosy boots, hot chocolate, winter craft activities, making bird food, books, libraries re-open. Worst... dark mornings and dark afternoons, freezing cold weather (not many really!)

Melissa says:
The best thing about Jan is my birthday! It lifts the whole month, and gives me something to look forward to, because otherwise it feels like a VERY long month! I hate the dark nights and the cold, wet days but I do love it when it snows!

Kellie says:
I love the sense of a new beginning, and the buzz of feeling that all my plans and resolutions for the new year will come true. That buzz doesn't always last but it's great while it does! I am very determined this year and hopeful that things will work out well! Those hopes light up a dark, gloomy month!

Cathy says:
Great to hear so much positivity in what can be quite a gloomy month! Keep it up! How do YOU feel about January? Post-Christmas blues? Or New year - new you positivity? COMMENT BELOW...

Thursday, 25 January 2018

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES: YOUNG CARER'S AWARENESS DAY

25th January is Young Carer's Awareness Day... mum and daughter Victoria and Adele-Caitlin tell us just why that awareness matters...

Victoria says: There's a hidden army in this country, doing an incredible job, helping communities and saving the government almost £60 billion a year, but do you know who they are? Carers! Yes, unpaid carers of all ages including children (young carers.)  A young carer is a child/young person under twenty five years of age who helps to look after someone at home and takes responsibility for them. It might be a parent, sibling or family member who has a disability, long term illness, mental health condition or a problem with drugs or alcohol. Illness and disability don't discriminate. - they can affect anyone at any time in their life. 

When someone becomes disabled or has a long term illness it has an impact on the entire family, and children become young carers.  This is exactly what happened to my family in 2003 when my children were only five and two years old. Their Dad was diagnosed with an incurable rare brain condition called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (I.H.) Our lives changed overnight and we became carers (with it being such a complex condition everyone was affected.) More recently my children have started caring for me after I was diagnosed with Ehler Danlos Syndrome.  The Caitlin's Wish young carers awareness work has evolved from what we've experienced as a family. My daughter Adele-Caitlin's 'wish' was to make a difference for other young carers... our aim being to raise awareness of what it's like to be a young carer so that they're treated with the respect and understanding they deserve. That's the aim of Young Carers Awareness Day too!

Adele-Caitlin says:
Being a carer is never easy. It’s full of ups and downs; one day, life seems perfect and another it’s falling apart. Caring makes us too empathetic, so we feel everyone's pain but we feel as though nobody understands our pain. Caring makes us feel lost and alone at times, so I asked my Mum (Victoria) to write books to help all young carers, including myself, to realise that we’re not alone and that although it causes heartache, being young carers can make us stronger, smarter and braver than most kids our age.

For more info please go to -
www.caitlinswish.com
www.victoria-lewin.com
https://www.slideshare.net/VTaylorAuthor/caitlins-wish-young-carers-awareness
https://www.slideshare.net/VTaylorAuthor/what-is-ih-and-how-does-it-affect-families
http://https://youtu.be/pDPSE_jV17o whocares4us.wixsite.com/website
https://www.facebook.com/CaitlinsWishOfficial/
https://carers.org
http://aacy.org
http://www.youngcarers.net.au

Cathy says:
I know how very exhausting it can be to be a carer, emotionally and physically, and can only imagine how much tougher this must be for young carers. Have YOU ever had to look after someone in this way? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

MOLLIE SAYS: MY FEELINGS ARE ALL MUDDLED UP...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Mollie has a problem for SKYE TANBERRY to solve...

Mollie says:
I have this friend, and he's a boy, and I used to have a crush on him but now I am just really confused and I don't know if I still like him or not. I know who HE likes, and I try my best to be a good friend and give him advice... but I don't know why I do that when I'm so confused about how I feel about him. We chat online no problem, but when we talk in person it always feels a little awkward and that makes me feel bad because he's a great friend and I don't want to lose that connection. I hate it when we chat when others are around, too, because I always think his friends - or mine - are judging us. It's such a muddle - help!

Skye says:
I think the crush may be fading - or you wouldn't need to ask me if there's an attraction or not! That's the nature of a crush - it can be quick and intense and all-consuming, and then it's over almost before you realise. You're left with a good friendship and that's great - just don't try to push it. I can't help wondering if the friendship is part of why the crush is fading - as you know each other and get on well, there would have been a chance to take things further, but I suspect neither of you would be ready for that. Keeping things on a friendship basis is safer! I hate the feeling that people are judging me for who I talk to, but in school people can be silly and make assumptions when nothing is going on. Brush off any silly remarks and just enjoy this friendship for what it is! Good luck!

Cathy says:
I agree with Skye - a crush can be short and sweet, at this age especially! If Mollie's feelings DO deepen at any point, she will have a strong friendship base to work from, and that can only be a good thing, but for now I think the muddles feelings signal that that friendship is all that she wants. What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 22 January 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: SNOW MAGIC

A magical wintry story from talented young writer Blue... take five minutes out of your day to relax, curl up and enjoy!

Stepping out of the front door, I exhale and watch my breath swirl in the air before drifting away. I love winter. Yes, it's cold, freezing actually - but it's magical all the same. Especially January. It's often overlooked in favour of December, but January, smack bang in the middle of winter, is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, a time when anything seems possible. Well... almost anything.

A young girl jogs down the street, struggling to keep pace with the lanky teenage boy she's with, dragging an old-fashioned sled behind her. She beams at him in admiration; he looks like he'd rather be anywhere else than with his little sister, heading for the play park. From my bench at the edge of the park, I can hear everything they say. 'What d'you want to do first, Cleo?' the boy asks, shivering in his hooded sweatshirt. 'I can push you on the swings?'

Cleo pouts. 'No... I want to go sledding, Ben!' she says, gesturing to the wooden sled.

The teenager runs his hands through his hair. 'Cleo, we've been over this,' he sighs. 'You can't go sledding when there isn't any snow. We tried last year, remember? You fell and tore your new jeans, and Nan yelled at us. No snow, no sledding. I'm sorry, Cleo.'

Cleo is dangerously close to tears now. 'But it never snows!' she argues. 'It hasn't snowed in years! I am never ever ever going to get to go sledding again because you won't let me - you're the meanest big brother in the whole wide world!' She sits down on the sled, head in her mittened hands.

'Cleo, I don't control the weather!' Ben snaps. From my vantage point on the bench, I smile. They remind me of my younger brother and I growing up... we were forever fighting and throwing tantrums. Cleo does have a point, though. Winter, though bitingly cold, rarely brings snow these days. Soon enough, Cleo will grow up, wrapped up in teenage life like my own little brother is now, sleeping till noon. She'll forget about simple joys like sledding down a hill on a blanket of fresh snow. Her brother may not be able to control the weather - so it's a good job I can.

Slipping off my gloves, I rub my hands together, feeling the chill spread from my wrists to my fingertips. I shake my hands and small, barely noticeable blue sparks shoot up into the atmosphere. I grin as the first flakes of snow start to fall, gently at first and then a flurry.

'Wow!' Ben splutters, pulling his hood up. 'Where did this come from? Looks like we get to go sledding after all!' The excitement in his eyes betrays the nonchalance in his voice and I realise that eight or eighteen, you are never too old for sledding.

Cleo is spinning in the snow, her hands stretched out to catch the flakes as they fall. 'Magic!' she breathes.

Magic? I'm not sure about that. It's simple atmospheric excitation, no wands or abracadabras required. Slipping my hands back into my gloves, I get up and head for a walk in the snow, Cleo's squeals and Ben's laughter still ringing in my ears. I love midwinter, the start of the new year with the future spreading out before me like a fresh blanket of snow. Anything is possible. Anything at all.

Cathy says:
This gorgeous story gives me shivers... I LOVE it! Brilliant stuff, Violet! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

PLEASE HELP OLIVIA!


Four years ago, a cool, clever and feisty girl called Olivia won our MY BEST FRIEND ROCKS competition with her friend Ella. Now, Olivia is suffering from a serious spinal condition... she and her mum Estelle explain how WE can help...

Estelle says:
I still remember how excited Olivia was to win Cathy Cassidy's MY BEST FRIEND ROCKS competition in 2013... now fourteen, Olivia has been diagnosed with severe scoliosis, a deformity of the spine which has left her misshapen and in a great deal of pain. We first noticed a hump in Olivia's back just before Christmas 2016, and a consultant gave us the devastating news that she had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis which sometimes occurs during puberty for no known reason.

There was no cure, physiotherapy would not help and Olivia would have to wear a thick plastic brace to slow the curvature - but only major spinal surgery could prevent ongoing deterioration and disability. Sadly, conflicting advice and admin delays have held up this urgent treatment and caused great stress to us all. When we heard of a new kind of scoliosis surgery which was less invasive and could restore full spinal flexibility, our hope soared. We travelled to Germany to meet the surgeon, and were certain this was the right thing for Olivia - but it was not available on the NHS. We need to raise £35,000 to fund an operation in Germany in March... can YOU help us?

Olivia says:
I started noticing the pain in the summer of 2016; it is a deep and constant pain and it's hard to stand for long periods. The brace feels quite primitive - it's like a plastic corset, thick, restrictive and unwieldy. I cover it up with baggy t-shirts, and at least wearing it is a positive thing as it supports my spine. I have to wear it every day, only taking it off for sports or showering, but I'm getting used to it. I am worried about the surgery, but we met a girl who had successful VBT surgery and that was reassuring. I would like to start a national campaign to get all primary schools to carry out spinal checks so that problems like mine could be spotted and corrected earlier, and other children wouldn't have to go through what I'm going through now.

Can YOU help Olivia to get this ground-breaking surgery before it's too late? All money raised will be put towards the cost of Olivia's life-changing surgery and associated costs. If the option for VBT becomes unavailable, all donations will be refunded. Please share our story with friends and on social media - any donation, however small, can help.

To donate, click HERE - but please check with your parents/carers first if you are under 18!

Watch Olivia and Ella's awesome entry for MBFR 2013 and please think about donating and help Olivia find the fun in life once again.

Cathy says:
As you can imagine, this story feels personal to me... no fourteen year old should be going through what Olivia is. If your family can donate - or your class at school perhaps - that would be amazing. THANK YOU on behalf of Olivia and her family! Please COMMENT BELOW to leave a message of support for Olivia.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

KATIE: LOVING LOVE FROM LEXIE!

NZ reader Katie reviews LOVE FROM LEXIE in her own inimitable way... best review ever! Blush, blush! And thank you!

Katie says:
LOVE FROM LEXIE - the novel in which Cathy Cassidy does All The Things!

- THE TORTOISE THING. Mary Shelley is tortoise goals and she is the reason I was hooked before the 30-page mark. Like, 'Oh, look, we're going on a tortoise hunt!'!

- THE BAD BOY THING. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. We have another bad boy on our hands. He;s just as scrumptious as the last ones but he's got a big ol' secret. Nevertheless, the show must go on! Can you tell I'm pumped?

- THE LIBRARY THING. OK - so there's this librarian based on a real life person and her dresses are just TOO MUCH. I have a Harry Potter dress that I think Miss Walker would approve of! The tears and the hot chocolates and the cookies - librarians are the best, right? And the super cool library with the super cool things and the importance of the libraries. I just can't. Libraries are SO VERY IMPORTANT. My local librarians didn't bat an eyelid when LOVE FROM LEXIE got chewed up by my puppy Luna! She didn't mean it!  cannot stress enough the importance of reading, ad Cathy Cassidy articulates it so beautifully, and what a library has to offer, which is a whole heckin' lot!

- THE HARRY POTTER THING. I can't breathe. I. Am. Obsessed. As if BROKEN HEART CLUB wasn't enough (go read it!) Cathy Cassidy did the thing and sprinkled Harry Potter references all through LOVE FROM LEXIE and now I can't even... because Harry Potter is MY LIFE and Cathy Cassidy recognises and acknowledges this and she is willing to raise other children's books up. To be honest one of the parts I cried at was the library performance for the TV news, because they used PHILOSOPHER'S STONE...

- THE HITTING ME IN THE FEELS THING. So there's Lexie who narrates the story, and the whole time I am thinking, 'I will protect you from the Dementors, child...' and then there's the band, and then there's MARLEY. Marley is just a whole other level of feels and I thought LOVE FROM LEXIE couldn't get any more powerful, more important, and then the thing with Marley happened. Wow.

Honourable mentions go to THE CAKE THING; THE MINORITY INCLUSION THING; and THE SONG LYRICS THING. Roll on the sequel!

Cathy says:
I totally love this review... if LOVE FROM LEXIE never gets another one, I'll still be content with all the loveliness here! Have YOU read LOVE FROM LEXIE yet? What are you waiting for?COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 19 January 2018

HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS... OR NOT!

Reader Ruby tells us about her vow to become a culinary superstar before leaving home for uni this autumn... maybe...

Ruby says:
I study hard, I am all set to get good A level results and I have an unconditional offer to the university course of my choice for October 2018. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person ever... smart, grown up, and independent, with my life on track. And then I step into the kitchen.

I don't know why it is that I can pass exams and yet be too dim to make a piece of toast without burning it, but that's me. I am allergic to the kitchen. If I boil an egg it turns out hard as a bullet - or gloopy and raw. The last time I tried to boil pasta, it formed a congealed rubbery slab in the base of the pan, and had to be scraped into the bin. I am a kitchen disaster.

This all started when I was little and was given a book for Christmas that had lots of fun things to do in it. One of the things was to make fudge, and I decided on Boxing Day afternoon to whip up a home made sweet treat for the family. I sneaked into the kitchen and started boiling up butter and sugar, just like it said in the recipe, and the next minute the smoke alarm was screeching and the pan was on fire and my dad raced in and had to actually throw it out of the back door into the garden. (The pan never recovered and had to be thrown away.)

The thing is, I know my kitchen allergy is pretty feeble. I also know that unless I learn to cook soon, I will starve to death when I leave home for uni... and my flatmates will laugh at me, which is almost worse. So my New Years Resolution is to learn to cook... starting with the basics, such as not destroying so many saucepans or burning the cooker every time I go near it. So far, I have mastered the skill of chopping and frying an onion (it made me cry but life is cruel, right?). I have learned not to burn toast (you have to stand over it and not take your eye off it, which is very boring). Next week I will be attempting to add cheese to the toast - NOT in a toaster, before you ask.

The plan is, by October I will be able to make a three course dinner and bake a show-stopper five-tier chocolate cake. I will be the hero of my student flat, and always in demand to cook student dinner parties, and they'll nominate me for Masterchef or Bake-Off or something. Move over, Nigella, I am on my way!

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy

Cathy says:
Ruby's post really made me laugh - and it struck a chord, too, as I am no great shakes in the kitchen either! I wish her well! Are YOU a kitchen queen? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

ANA: TIPS FOR CREATIVE BLOGGERS!

Ana is a successful creative blogger - with some great tips and advice for new and would-be bloggers! Read on...

Ana says:
I write about many topics such as crafting, tutorials, fashion, creative hobbies, photography and much more! In this post, I'm going to write about how to be a successful creative blogger and I will give you three of my top tips too! Blogging is a fun, creative hobby which improves your writing skills, helps you to come up with ideas fast and also helps your computer skills! Blogging has mad me more creative and inventive. My photography skills have improved and I've picked up many valuable computing skills along the way. My blogging career began on New Year's Eve 2016 and along the way I have made many online friends and fans, to whom I am eternally grateful! I've also discovered many lovely blogs which give me so much inspiration!

TIP #1: Organise Your Blogging!
In the photo above, you can see a piece of paper which I use to brainstorm creative post ideas. I like to concentrate all of my future post ideas on one pretty piece of patterned paper - you could try to do the same. Get a pen and paper and ask yourself   questions: what should I write that will make me and my readers happy? Which posts do I enjoy writing the most? Which posts are the most popular with my audience? Base your post ideas on these questions - or try making a survey for your readers to complete! Buying some post-it notes, stationery and notebooks all for blogging can help organise things further - you can draft out whole posts or parts of them in your notebook and then type it up onto your blog. It also helps to have a calendar which highlights the days you post - scheduling your posts can help you to get used to writing posts in similar time spaces!

TIP #2: Take Beautiful Photographs!
When I first started blogging, I mostly used images from the internet, but now I only use my own photographs whenever possible. When taking photographs for your blog posts,you need to first get a nice background which matches to the topic/ season. You don't need professional backgrounds - it's more unique to use what you have. In the photograph above, you can see lots of pens in a pack, a pile of books, my glasses, my bracelet and my pocket mirror all laid out in a pretty pattern - the background is a patterned picnic blanket! In the photograph to the right, you can see some stationery on a bright background - but although it looks professional, all I used for the background was a patterned raincoat!

TIP #3: Refresh Your Blog Look!
Every season, I refresh my blog's look by changing the background - you can give your blog a whole new look by giving it a makeover. There are plenty of online apps which create beautiful backgrounds - I use Canva to create my seasonal backgrounds but another alternative is PicMonkey. The picture is just one example of a seasonal background. As a creative blogger I think it adds a special touch to your page to add in unusual backdrops. Fill your blog with things you like, such as a sidebar that leads to different links, and choose the right font for your blog too, choosing one that is easy to read! Your colour scheme can reflect your content, so mix up pastels and brights if your blog has many topics!

Cathy says:
I love Ana's tips and hints - I think I've learned a lot, too! Have YOU ever thought of starting a blog? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 15 January 2018

CURL UP WITH A CLASSIC... THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE!

Reader Louise has a favourite classic book to share with you... and it's one with a real wintry flavour!

Louise says:
THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis is my favourite children's classic ever. I read it from the local library when I was in primary school and I was totally enthralled by it, the imagery of hiding in a wardrobe filled with fur coats and moving through the coats to find the crunch of snow underfoot was so, so powerful for me, I will never forget it or love an image as much! Things just keep getting better, too - a magical land where it is always winter and never Christmas, an evil witch on a sleigh who gives you Turkish Delight, a faun who invites you to tea, a heroic lion who makes you into a pre-teen freedom fighter... it's a perfect book.

Once I was hooked on the book, I read it several times and found out that the book was part of the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and there were others in the series... they fitted both before and after THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE. There was one with guinea pigs that I was obsessed with for a while, and one with a flying horse... they are all amazing in their own way, and completely magical. There was a film as well, and I got a DVD of that and watched it over and over. I got a boxed set of the books for Christmas and that was possibly the pivotal moment I went from enthusiastic reader and library user to geeky bookworm girl and would-be writer.

I am at uni now studying English and I am writing an essay on British children's literature. It makes me smile that I can write about the book I loved so much as child, and study he way it was put together. Mostly, though, I am just thrilled that I picked that book off the shelves when I was ten or so, the perfect age to begin to understand it, and that I had the series to dip in and out of all through my teens. Children's books are not just for children, you see, they are for everyone who needs a little bit of magic in their lives... and no book is better to open the door to that than THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE! How many marks would I give it out of ten? Eleven, at the very, very least!

Cathy says:
I absolutely love this book too... I know exactly what Louise means about the magic! Have YOU read it? Or do YOU have a favourite children's classic book you'd like to tell us more about? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

JENNA: THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY

Reader Jenna writes about the pain of losing a parent in this bittersweet and heartbreakingly honest post.

Jenna says:
Losing anyone that has a huge impact on your life is tough. Friends, family - they are the people who are there for you, during the good times and the bad. They pick you up when you fall down, brush you off and help you to try again. If you have someone like that in your life, you're a very lucky person. But when they're gone? Well, that's a completely different pain.

My dad passed away six years ago. He was my best friend and meant the world to me. He was the best man I ever met, always there for me when I needed him, when I struggled, when I was happy, no matter what - he was always there. Teaching me things about life, lessons I still keep with me today. Losing him was hard, but at first I coped by pretending he'd gone away for a while and would be back, he just couldn't contact me right now. It worked, for a few years.

As time went on, little things happened that I needed my dad for, or wished he was there for: birthdays, Christmas, school work, just reassurance that things would be OK.The fantasy world I had built began to fade and I began to truly realise he was gone, and then the grieving came on. I would go to school crying, feeling numb, wishing my dad was back beside me, that it was all a trick. But it wasn't, and I knew it wasn't, and that was the most difficult thing of all... knowing that he wasn't coming back.

The friends I had at the time didn't understand what I was going through. There's a quote that says 'hard times reveal true friends', and I definitely learnt who my true friends were. Rather than supporting me, they said I was attention seeking. 'I don't understand why she's still crying over her dad, it's been three years - she should be over it by now!' They never knew I overheard this, didn't understand what it felt like. Letting these people go was the best thing I ever did. Here is something I want you to know in case any of you are going through the same situation... there is no end time to bereavement; the pain will never fully go away. It may die down a little but it will always be there. You've lost someone who had a huge impact on your life, and that's not something you can get over straight away. It's about you and time. If you have people in your life that say hurtful things, they are not your friends... but remember they haven't been through what you have In time, some may come round and begin to understand.

Life now, six years on, is still difficult. I miss my dad - I always do. Like I said, the pain never fully goes away, but it does become easier to deal with. I think about my dad every day, remembering the memories we shared. Some days are more difficult than others, some days I wish he was here to give me a hug, some days I cry and get upset, but it's OK. No one is alone in this.

Artwork by talented reader NIAMH, age 12.

Cathy says:
This is such a brave and powerful post. Losing someone close to you is huge at any age, but as a young teen it can turn your world upside down. Have YOU ever lost a loved one? Or do YOU have any words for JENNA? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

LAURA: THESE BOOKS WERE MY ESCAPE!

When I met reader Laura at Cheltenham Book Festival in the autumn, she told me how my books had shaped her teenage years... and I asked her to share the story!

Laura says:
From a very young age I have always had my head in a book, from Enid Blyton to Jacqueline Wilson and more. Reading was my favourite hobby and I loved that I could do it almost anywhere! But then, aged ten, I discovered a new book which to this day - thirteen years later - is still my absolute favourite book. It was called DIZZY. I fell in love with the book straight away, loved the uncertain adventures Dizzy has with her mum Storm, the excitement of the festivals and the turbulent relationships she has with Finn and Mouse.

The next few years were a whirlwind of dreamcatchers, pin boards, tie dye t-shirts, camper vans, reindeer antlers, blue eyes kittens, rocky relationships, daydreaming and dreadlocks. I was mesmerised by each and every new Cathy Cassidy story and felt consumed both by the characters and the plots. I would write to Cathy, aged eleven, and she would write back to me, as well as sending me stickers with inspirational quotes to put at the front of my books. For me, growing up, that meant the world. Cathy's books came at a time when, as a child, I had a lot of family struggles. Her books to me were a means of escape - I would delve into the story and forget about the world around me. All that mattered was what was going to happen with Hannah and Joey, or where Indie and Misti would move to.

I am now twenty-three years old and working as a primary school teacher in Cheltenham. I often think of Cathy's work as I teach my class story writing. I try to inspire them with the same creative ideas that inspired me as a child. Recently, I attended the Cheltenham Literature Festival to hear Cathy talk about her books - this was a dream I had waited for for thirteen years to come true. Afterwards, I had the amazing opportunity to meet Cathy and share with her my signed stickers from all those years ago. She was exactly as I imagined her - kind, creative and full of joy. It was an absolute pleasure and I hope she continues to inspire young people for many years to come!

Cathy says:
Gulp! This post means SOOOO much to me... it makes all the hard work worthwhile to know that my books have made a difference to someone like Laura. Do YOU have a book that means the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Friday, 12 January 2018

YOUR STARS FOR JANUARY

It's horoscope time, and Skye Tanberry has been hard at work... does her star-gazing ring true for YOU this month?


CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
You're a natural-born planner and when it comes to sticking to those new year resolutions, you're top of the class! Beware not to over-do it and let your light burn out. Leaving room for error can be an important lesson to learn!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Like a mountain-stream, you carve your own way through life. Powerful, creative and thoughtful, you don't let others tell you what to do. While these traits are admirable, don't allow yourself to become too self-centred. Help a sister out, if she needs it. Kindness is cute!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
The visionary, the romantic, the dreamer! Yup, that's you! 2018 is yours for the taking but make sure you don't shy away from amazing opportunities. Take risks and face your fears, you may find rewards in the most surprising places.

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
Start your year as you mean to go on...with your heart on your sleeve and your hands reaching for the stars. Often without realising it, you inspire those around you. While your goals are important, make sure you leave time to indulge yourself now and again. 2018 has lots of treats in store for you!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Being in the limelight isn't usually your thing, you are quiet, clever and practical. Maybe this year is time to try a new hobby, try to capture your creative side by taking a crafting class. Who knows, a new love interest may come your way.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Your rainbow personality makes you a vibrant and loveable person to be around. Your warmth touches people, even if you do not realise it. Keep it up, this year has a whirlwind journey in store for you, just don't get lost along the way!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Like an ancient tree, you are earthy and wise. You bring people together in the most unlikely times. Things may be tough for you in the coming year, but you are strong, like wood. Be there for someone you love, for they may need your strength.

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Regal and elegant, you stride your way into 2018 like a queen! You have no problem letting your colours shine. You may chop and change your way through this year and at times it may appear muddled... but don't worry, things will work themselves out. For now, just live, love and laugh!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Health and wellbeing is at the centre of your life. Why not try a new skincare routine, natural oils and fresh, healthy eating will give you an envious new years glow! While this is all well and true, NEVER forget the importance and natural healing powers of chocolate!!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Peace, harmony and FASHION are your strong suits! See the new year in with style. Why not arrange a little shopping trip with your girl gang to grab the latests trends? This is a year of sisterhood, so keep your ladies close by your side.

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Often quite skeptical of your chosen path, maybe now is a time to start believing in yourself more. When you shine, others respond. Start a dream journal, often our brains digest what is indecipherable and create sense out of it in the form of dreams. This may guide you as you start the new year.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
Love is in the stars for you this year. You may not be used to this kind of attention as you are often too busy daydreaming to notice boys! Just keep an eye out for a mystery-boy, someone new. Just don't let it derail you from your path.

Cathy says:
How exciting!! I hope mine comes true! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

DANNI: HE'S IGNORING ME!

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Danni has a problem for CHERRY COSTELLO to solve! Take a peek...

Danni says:
Just before we broke up for Christmas, this boy in my year, K, gave me a Christmas card. Inside he'd written that he liked me a lot and hoped to get to know me more in 2018. I hadn't really noticed him much before, but he is in my French class, and I felt quite flattered that he liked me. I daydreamed about him all through Christmas. Then when we went back to school... nothing! He acts like I don't exist at all. I am so confused and hurt. I think he's quite shy but I don't understand why he would blank me.

Cherry says:
Arghhh - boys! I think he is probably quite shy and made a daring move before Christmas by giving you the card - then bottled out once the new term started. I'm pretty sure he still likes you, just isn't sure what to do now! Can you try smiling, saying hello and letting him know you liked his card? It might push him into saying something! I'm guessing you are both quite young, and this could be a factor too - you like each other, but are you ready for a relationship? Why not aim at building a friendship first, and take it from there? Much less pressure - and it worked for me and Shay!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry! Have YOU ever had a crush at school? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 8 January 2018

JANUARY BOOK CLUB: OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS

Reader Emma has a book to recommend to us this month... YA title OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS by Krystal Sutherland! Take a look and decide if it's one you might like too!

Emma says:
OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS by Krystal Sutherland is undoubtedly the most moving, heart wrenching YA novel of the year. It tells the beautiful, fragmented story of Henry page and Grace Town, who are brought together when they are both made editors of their school paper. Henry is ordinary, nice and slightly nerdy, but normal enough to get by; Grave walks with a cane, wears oversized guy clothes and frequently looks as if she hasn't brushed her hair. This novel, bought on my Kindle for only 98p, was one I thought I would dislike. Weirdo meets weirdo, they fall for each other's quirkiness and then they're in love. But OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS wasn't like that at all.

To start with, Henry and Grace's love story was mysterious, sure, but also very cute. There were lots of things that Henry didn't know about Grace, but that was just the beauty of their relationship. Then he starts discovering things about her - dark, awful things that should put him off her for good, but don't.

As well as having in depth, amazing main protagonists, Henry's friends were also very detailed and interesting. They added a whole new level of diversity o the book, as one was Australian and the other was descended from a few different cultures and was lesbian. The way the author handled these characters, by giving them quirks, problems and issues of their own created a new world inside of the book.

So if you are looking for an emotional read that will stay with you for a long time afterwards, OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS will definitely give you just that. With some more mature themes, it's probably more suitable for older readers, but all in all it is an important story that will stay with you forever.

Cathy says:
I'm curious now... I will have to check this out! Have YOU read a book that you really LOVED recently? Would you like to review it for the DREAMCATCHER BOOK CLUB? Email me via the EMAIL CATHY LINK on my website or COMMENT BELOW!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

MARIANNE: A RAINBOW OF MOODS...

Reader Marianne shares her struggles with anxiety and bipolar in this courageous and inspiring post...

Marianne says:
My favourite thing in the world is art. I'd never really thought about it before, but now when I put pencil to paper I find that I can really express myself. I don't have to feel lost anymore, not while my hand is connected to the canvas as I sweep bold colours across the fresh, blank nothingness of a beginning. Bring yourself into the open world; find your 'me' thing and show your true colours to everyone. We all have a gift, and when you have a mental health illness you should definitely find and use it... we were made to connect and to live life peacefully the same way we walk and talk and eat and drink. We were born to enjoy and be happy, and we CAN be happy. We will always be happy in the end.

Once when I was feeling deep and depressing thoughts, and hadn't had a good night's sleep for ages, I ran to my mum in tears and she took me to a doctor... all because I had opened up a bit. ALWAYS talk to someone when you feel sad or emotional. I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disporder) and Bipolar Disorder, which made me feel quite sad and hopeless for a while, but my mum is very understanding and does everything she can to help which I am very grateful for. I take 5-htp which helps me to sleep and Celexa, an anti-depressant, and have regular therapy. Nothing much seems to have changed yet but I know that as long as I keep believing, there will be a space in the future just for me, and for others going through the same thing.

I feel sad a lot. When I have a bad day, I don't want to get up or go to school, I don't want to do anything at all except lie in bed. 'What's the point?' I ask myself. Because of my anxiety, I hate parties and large social gatherings - the heat, the noise, the crowds - it all gets to me and I feel like running away. I don't like answering questions, performing or speaking in front of others, and I don't like having to do certain tasks, because what if I do it wrong? What if I disappoint? What if I forget all the other things I have to do? I self-harm occasionally to punish myself for this, and to try to take my mind off the hurt inside. Thankfully, I don't do this anywhere near as much as I used to - hurting yourself is NOT the answer. Pain or violence never is. On a crazy day, however, I go wild and over-excited and out of control, and overall, it's as if I'm in a rainbow of moods sometimes. That's what Bipolar Disorder does to you. It's terrible - and beyond - but none of those 'don't likes' or 'let's do (something potentially dangerous)' or 'I can't/ won't/never' will stop me from being myself and doing what I really want. I have learnt that I can be a free person; I can choose what my soul wants to do, and not listen to the monster voice in my head that tells me I'm rubbish all the time.

Because I self-harmed and still occasionally feel the urge to do so, I always wear long sleeves and tend to keep myself to myself and not go out much. I have the NHS, CAMHS (Children & Adolescent Mental Health Service), an awesome group of friends, my best friend who always knows what will make me happy and my family who are really understanding and supportive, including my star older sister; all of these people are helping me to see hope and light in the darkness again. Sometimes, we are not OK and need help, someone or something to break through the barriers for us. I wish life could be simple and things could always work out right; I wish there was no pain, no sadness, no anger. But there is. There is, because to find happiness and love in the stars, you need to start from rock bottom, don't you?

Cathy says:
Powerful words from Marianne, which I know will strike a chord with many of us... the honesty and hope in this piece are really moving. Have YOU ever struggled with mental health issues? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

MEG: INSPIRED BY SUFFRAGETTES...

Student Meg describes how the topic of suffragettes and feminism inspired an amazing dance piece for a recent college show...

Meg says:
I am studying Musical Theatre (HND 1) at a performing arts college, and our recent Christmas show was created by the HND 2 students as part of one of their assessments. It involved multiple dances across the years in college, whole class songs and solos which were auditioned for. We also performed pieces we had created within class. Our topic was feminism and the Suffragette Movement - we'd never worked on something like that as it was our first term of college, but our tutor Jenny guided us and helped us see what was possible.

The work progressed from discussion to practical movement. We printed off speeches by Emmeline Pankhurst, Emma Watson, Ashley Judd and the 'Nasty Woman' poem by Nina Donovan. We picked out key quotes and ideas began to flow. Most of the piece was created by us students, developing ideas into choreography, and forming small groups to create parts which could be added together to form a whole. Our teacher wrote the song we danced to and choreographed the final two minutes of the dance, which included sign language of a key phrase from Emma Watson's speech, 'If not me, who? If not now, when?'

Before beginning the project, some of us had a lot of knowledge on the subject and threw ourselves into the discussion right away - others in the class learnt as we went along and are now just as passionate about it! With this dance piece we wanted to make people more aware about the global situation in regard to gender equality and how it truly is a big deal. Feminists are not just working to change things for women but to make a fairer world for everyone. With this performance we felt that we could give our all in spreading this important message in an unusual and powerful way. The performance stood out, and we closed the show with it - we received huge applause and many people were moved to tears, including some of us whilst performing! It left us feeling empowered and full of positive energy afterwards.

Musical theatre to me is a sort of safe space in the way I can let all my emotions out and do so wholeheartedly - I am passionate about it. It means a lot to me, and it's something I feel comfortable doing. However, every time I perform or try something new I push myself further in order to make myself just a little bit better than I was yesterday!

Cathy says:
Wow... this performance took place not far from where I live, and it made quite a stir! I love that a concept like feminism can be developed into something so creative and so get the message across in a new and powerful way! Do YOU have passion for dance - or feminism? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

NESSA: NEW YEAR, NEW ME?

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER again and reader Nessa has some big changes to make in the year ahead - what advice can SUMMER TANBERRY offer to help her?

Nessa says:
I have been bullied at school for two years and I am sick of the way my life is now. I'm at middle school, so in September 2018 I get the chance to start again at a different school to the one where the bullies will be going. I want to make this the year my life changes for the better. I want to lose weight, get more confidence, get fitter, get a trademark style and find some true friends. It's a lot of changes I know, but I am determined. I just don't really know how to start. In the past, I have tried to be different and at the first hurdle I give up, because my confidence is at rock bottom and I don't really have faith in myself. Please help!

Summer says:
You've summed it up - this problem really is all about confidence. Work on boosting self-esteem first, and the rest will follow... and go steady. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, as the proverb goes. Read Cathy's book LETTERS TO CATHY, a non-fiction guide to growing up with a big focus on confidence to help kick start your journey... as the book says, you have to learn to like yourself first before you can expect others to do so. The bullying may not go on after middle school, but that's still another six months of it to suffer - my strong advice is to get help from your parents and teachers to tackle this now. See it as step one of the new, no-nonsense you. Next, look at health issues. Don't attempt to lose weight (that went very badly wrong for me) but focus instead on getting fit and healthy. Find an exercise or activity you love - cycling, swimming, dance, running, kick-boxing, judo - something that will get you moving and boost your feel-good endorphins and keep you smiling too. As for style, think about the things you love, the things you value, the things you admire - and base your style around that rather than trying to copy someone else or follow the latest trends. Be true to yourself and let your new, more confident personality shine through - the friendships will follow! Good luck, and Happy New Year!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Summer... big changes can be daunting, but breaking them down and taking them one bite at a time means you can achieve just about anything if you set your mind to it. Have YOU ever made a big change to your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

LISA: WINTER WONDERS...

Don't miss out on the magic of winter... embrace the season and make it special with reader Lisa's top ideas for finding the fun at the coldest time of year!


- FEED THE BIRDS! Put out bird feeders or sprinkle nuts, seeds and crusts on a bird table, unless you have a resident cat who might cause trouble! Most importantly, provide fresh water if it's freezing!

- MAKE A SNOW ANGEL! If it snows, you just HAVE to do this, right? Brrrrr!

- THROW A SNOWBALL! It's the law, y'know!

- DO A GOOD DEED WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE! This is like a sort of 'secret santa' without the santa bit... and you'll feel great for doing something kind, but doing it quietly!

- HAVE A DUVET DAY!
 Curl up with a hot water bottle, a blanket, Netflix and plenty of snacks... and do nothing, all day. Once in a while, a total go-slow is just what you need!

- WRITE A LETTER TO AN OLD FRIEND! Yes, a letter - take pen and paper and pour your thoughts out the old-fashioned way. A faraway friend or family member will get the thrill of seeing they have got post - and they might even write back!

- INVENT THE PERFECT HOT CHOCOLATE! Experiment with hot choc variations... add a spoonful of coffee for a rich mocha drink, try different milks like oat or coconut instead of cow's, add cream and marshmallows, a cinnamon stick... or make the hot choc from scratch by crumbling chocolate into a pan of warmed milk for a truly decadent treat!
- GO FOR A WINTRY WALK! Let your boots crunch over the frosty grass and slow down enough to look all around you - everything looks different and more magical with a frosting of snow or ice! Arrange to meet your friends at the other end for a cosy hot chocolate break!

- WRAP UP WARM! Winter fashion is all about comfort. Choose cosy jumpers, bobble hats, fluffy boots and gloves, and wrap a scarf around your neck and over your mouth on the coldest days - doctors say it can help prevent cold germs taking hold!

- LIGHT UP THE DARK! Hang fairy lights around your bedroom to get a bit of twinkle into the dreariest of days!

- CURL UP AND READ! The perfect pastime for a cold winter's day... and the fastest way to escape the gloom for somewhere warmer or more exciting!

Robin photograph by Bethanie Denyer; hot chocolate photograph by Lisa W. Thank you both!

Cathy says: 
Some great ideas to liven up the dark winter days... I'll definitely be trying some! What would YOU add to the list? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 1 January 2018

*WIN*WIN*WIN* THE BIG PARTY-THEMED CC QUIZ!

All partied out after Christmas and New Year? Curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and our fab CC quiz... then enter your answers into a FAB festive comp to win an exclusive MYSTERY PRIZE BUNDLE!

1. Which two CC characters rescue a mystery animal in a blizzard after a New Year's party in the story SNOWFLAKES & WISHES (first an e-book and on sale via amazon.co.uk at only £1.49 currently - but also included in the story collection LIFE IS SWEET)!

2. ...And what WAS the mystery animal rescued by those two characters in the e-book story SNOWFLAKES & WISHES?

3. Which CC character shows us how to host a cool Easter vintage tea party in the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS?

4. In which CC book does the character Jude reluctantly go to an Elvis-themed New Year's party at her dad's house?

5. Which CC character turns up to gatecrash the party in Q4 so that he can see Jude, on whom he has a huge crush?

6. Who invites Alice Beech to a Wonderland themed sleepover party in the book LOOKING GLASS GIRL?

7. How does the dramatic Wonderland sleepover in LOOKING GLASS GIRL end?
8. Which CC character invites an English teacher to her 13th birthday party in the book GINGERSNAPS to the alarm of her friend Ginger?

9. How does the ever-so-slightly eventful party in GINGERSNAPS end and why?

10. The book GINGERSNAPS opens with Ginger looking back at her 11th birthday party - at what venue was it held?

11. Why was Ginger's 11th birthday in Q10 above such a nightmare?


12. Where is the 13th birthday party of twins Summer and Skye held in the book MARSHMALLOW SKYE?

13. Why does Skye leave the party in Q12 early?

14. In the CC book MARSHMALLOW SKYE, the Tanberry-Costello parents host a festive party for their friends and neighbours on which day?

15. At the wedding party for Charlotte and Paddy described in SUMMER'S DREAM, whose date is the character Aaron Jones?

16. What gift does Eden give to Andie before the party in the book BROKEN HEART CLUB?

17. Where does Andie's 11th fateful birthday party take place in BROKEN HEART CLUB?

18. Where do Eden and Ryan hide out during the fight at Lara's disastrous teen party in the book BROKEN HEART CLUB? (Clue - Eden spends most of her time sitting on a washing machine while Ryan is sprawled in a laundry basket...)

19. Coco buys a fluffy tiger toy with proceeds from the purchase going towards an animal charity for her friend Sarah's birthday in the book COCO CARAMEL. What is Sarah's reaction?

20. The character Finch returns to Tanglewood for a brilliant Tanberry-Costello Hallowe'en party in the book MOON & STARS (e-book, just £1.49 from amazon.co.uk or read as part of the collection LIFE IS SWEET). But what message does Finch have for Skye Tanberry?

Cathy says:
So... list out your answers and email them to me HERE along with your name and postal address - at the end of January I will pick the winner and send them a special and exclusive MYSTERY PRIZE BUNDLE! (If there is more than one correct answer, I'll pick the winning entry from a hat.) Please COMMENT BELOW to tell me if you've entered, and whether the quiz was too easy or too tough!

YOUR STARS FOR SEPTEMBER

With the shifting of seasons, we all need a little guidance from the stars. Skye predicts once more, your future!  LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 2...