Friday, 31 May 2019

WHAT CC BOOKS MEAN TO ME!

Two American readers share their memories of how CC books shaped their teenage years...


Khelsea says:
I was gifted DIZZY one year for Christmas at around eight years old. I was obsessed with it. I read it at least five times, and then I was eventually gifted INDIGO BLUE and SCARLETT as well. I did multiple book fair projects on these books, and even won a few trophies for them. The topics covered in these books were topics that were sensitive, yet necessary. I had never experienced a transient life, but by reading these books, I was able to understand the characters and even extend it to real life. I am so thankful for CC books. Now, at the age of twenty one, I am less than a year away from graduating college with a degree with English Education. I have hopes of teaching middle school and being able to impact students year after year. Now, as a senior, I am starting to begin to teach my own lessons. CC books will be taught in my classroom - I am doing a mini-lesson of SCARLETT now, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. The themes of these books are entertaining and cause the read to be empathetic towards the characters. So... Cathy Cassidy, thank you so much for writing DIZZY and for being my favourite childhood author!

Christy says:
As a child Cathy Cassidy was my FAVORITE author and honestly when I'm asked, I still say the same. Cathy changed my life. I was in an awful situation when I discovered her books at a Barnes and Noble during my father's visitation days. I found the website and emailed her, and was SO surprised when she responded time and time again. Cathy inspired me to keep going through my hard times and I could never thank her enough. As a young child going through the hardest time in my life, having my favourite author tell me to follow my dreams and to keep going, did exactly that. I'm twenty years old now. I found CC books when I was twelve, nine years ago. I was recently  talking to a girlfriend about the most influential people in my life and this happened to come up and I decided to email Cathy Cassidy and explain how thankful I am for everything. Honestly, I think these books saved my life. SCARLETT is still to this day my favourite book and I'll cherish my hardback forever! Thank you for taking the time out back then to respond to a little girl with way too much to handle.

Cathy says:
Awww... I love hearing from my older readers, it makes all the hard work worthwhile! It's lovely to see the US covers again, too! Is there a CC book that means the world to YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

STEPHANIE: EARLY YEARS PRACTITIONER

Next in our series of posts about cool and interesting careers options, we chat to Stephanie, who looks after nursery aged children!

Stephanie says:
I am a Early Years Practitioner - sometimes known as a nursery nurse! The nursery I work at is part of a chain with nurseries across London, Norfolk and Cambridge, and I am currently based in a 2-3 year old room, looking after up to fifteen toddlers a day. What I like about my job the most is watching the children grow into their own little people - it’s incredibly rewarding to see a child  do something for the first time, such as put their own shoes on, or catch a ball! As a child myself I wanted to go into teaching, which isn’t too far from what I do now! At first I wanted to teach secondary, then primary, and now I’m in a nursery! I’ve gone backwards with the age group but the line of work I have wanted to be in has always been to work in education and childcare.

I got into nursery work through an apprenticeship. After completing my first year of A-Levels at Sixth Form, I decided I wanted to work, but due to my age I had to remain in education in some way. I managed to find an apprenticeship in a local nursery where I would work full-time whilst studying my Level 2 in Childcare. To get into this apprenticeship, I didn’t need to have passed my Maths and English at school (luckily I got at least a C in both) as the apprenticeship offers functional skills in English and Maths, which is taught to you through your tutor, and you can take the exam as many times as needed until you pass. To work with children, you need to have a lot of patience. Every child is different and are all at different developmental stages, meaning some need extra support. Being good at communication is key, and although I started off a bit shy, I soon learned to chat more, which is essential when needing to pass on information about a child, and also when it comes to telling parents about their child’s day at nursery!

No two weeks in a nursery are ever the same. Every day, we welcome parents and children in, assist with the handover, giving a child reassurance when needed. We are highly child-orientated, meaning that we set up activities and toys based on what the children are interested in. We also plan activities that we would like run with the children, in order for them to learn and try new things. Every week, we complete observations on each child, where we either just watch what a child is doing, or run an activity with them, and write it either in a paper journal or an online journal. This enables us to show where they are in certain areas of development (known as the Early Years Foundation Stage) and know how to support them all the way from being a baby, right up until they go to school!

I am currently in the third nursery I’ve worked in, and I am still working towards new careers. I have just started my Level 3 childcare, and once that is completed I will be studying a degree in Early Years at my local university. I am hoping to work towards becoming a Family Support Worker - someone who works with families who have been referred to social services. Family Support Workers will work alongside a family to make sure that their best interests are kept in mind, and helping them reach services that will enable this.

The only downside to my work is that if you work full time, the hours can be long. I work a forty hour week, five days a week. Juggling this with studying for my Level 3 isn’t always easy, but I make the most of my bus journey to work each day to keep studying, and sometimes use the library that is next door to my work to study on lunch breaks. If you would like to go into working in the Early Years, there are various options. You could study your qualifications at college, complete an apprenticeship, or if you’re in a different line of work currently, speak to a nursery about training, as they are generally very good at taking on unqualified staff and training them if you can show you have the passion and drive to help the children grow!

Cathy says:
This is wonderful! Not an easy job, but such a rewarding one... thank you Stephanie for sharing your experiences! Have YOU ever thought of working with children? COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

SHORT STORY: EGGSHELL

Talented young writer Caitlin, thirteen, shares a gorgeous  short story to add a little magic to your bank holiday weekend! Read on...

I am here to tell you the story of the first dragon. Or at least, the first on Earth.

He was not so remarkable, to his own species, but to us, he seemed extraordinary. He was a pale blue, with the occasional white splotch. His body was long and serpentine, stretching into a thin whip of a tail. A single row of blue and white feathers ran down his spine, with a similar burst of quills at the tip of his tail. His four wings were like those of a bird of prey - long and sleek, built for speed and agility. They folded close to his sides, almost invisible against his scales, if you caught him in shadow.

Of course, he is far larger than anything we could easily imagine. One feather of his would bridge oceans.

All those long years, gazing at stars, creating religions based on them, making predictions of our futures using their paths - and we never looked closely enough at the moon. If we had, maybe we would have noticed the similarities between the moon and a simple egg. If we had dug a little deeper, gone beneath the surface, we might have found him. Curled inside, sleeping. Waiting. Not ready, yet.
The first sign back on earth was a kind of earthquake. But it was different - softer, muted somehow. While an earthquake is the violent shattering of reality in panic and screaming, what we experienced when the moon hatched was more like we were in a snow globe, being shaken slowly from side to side.

We gathered outside our buildings, staring into the night sky. The moon was huge and low, glowing a brighter white than we had ever seen it. It shook slightly, a hairline fracture appearing on the surface.
Of course, we panicked. Some ran. Some hid. Some just stood and watched, whether it be through the sheer inability to move or through curiosity. Inside his shell, the first dragon was scratching away at the inner wall. He started with a tiny horn on his nose, like a baby bird might. An egg tooth. Designed for breaking through the shell quickly and efficiently. Even with this, it took him hours before he managed to push away a chunk big enough for us to see a single bright golden eye.

After that, it was quite quick. He peeled away further and further, until he could crawl through the hole. He clung to the moon, seeing it as the only land. But without him, it was just an empty eggshell, and it fell into space and drifted from our vision. He hovered for a second, panicked, before heading our way. Then, even those who had been frozen before decided to move.

He landed on Australia, obliterating it completely and causing massive tsunamis along the coasts of Africa and Asia, as most of his body was submerged in the Indian Ocean.

Huh? I’m halfway through a lecture now, I can’t really talk - Oh.

Sorry, but I seem to have got the wrong time. Apparently this hasn’t happened yet in your reality.
This is why I don’t use time travel bracelets much, but you see, officer, I’d missed my train and needed a few more minutes - I must have put the wrong date in, changed the year a bit by accident -
Hey! Careful, I’m a respected researcher!

The researcher was dragged away in cuffs by a masked officer, and by the next day, anyone who attended the lecture had forgotten it completely, their heads filled with false memories of days well spent.

Except me. I wrote it down as he spoke.

Now, I have to go - I have a flight to catch. Sydney to London, one way ticket. I don’t feel quite safe in Australia any more.

To read more of Caitlin's stories, check out her Wattpad here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/SilkenStrand

Cathy says:
Wow... this is SO beautifully written, and so clever and original - thank you, Caitlin! Should we have more short stories on DREAMCATCHER? What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

KATIE: GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Young Graphic Designer Katie shares her insights into a career in art and advertising...

Katie says: 
I’ve always liked to illustrate and design. And because of how modern our world is becoming, with technology and how it is influencing our industry, I thought it made sense to go into digital design. I remember being asked as a kid where I saw myself as an adult and I remember saying 'advertising'. I never thought that it would actually happen when I grew up!. I have to admit though, it's a lot more work than I anticipated. I have many late nights and not many days off when I have a big project coming up, but it’s all worth it in the end, because I have managed to achieve my dream. My parents are both artists and as I have grown up with their influence and their talent, I had a very strong advantage with my art, when I was first starting out.

I became a graphic designer very unexpectedly when I was eighteen. I was reading a newspaper on a train, and it had an advert for an apprenticeship to a top advertising agency in London. I applied and did loads of interviews and tests and somehow landed the job! I wasn’t quite expecting to get the job, so when I did and I had to move, it was all very fast and shocking, but exciting!

I work on print adverts that you see on billboards and bus stops for brands such as McDonalds, Kleenex, Nespresso, Kit-Kat, Rowntrees, Calpol, L'Oréal and many more! I also do digital and social design for some of these brands and so many others. My work also includes branding, typography and illustration.

Graphic design takes you to all sorts of different places, I’ve worked in  London, Amsterdam, Manchester, Liverpool - all over the place! A few years ago, I decided to start my own business so I moved to York, as city life was starting to get me down. I set up a business creating ukeleles (busybeeukele.com ). But I missed the graphic design, so I’m now back in my home city, Liverpool, where I do plenty of freelance design, which still takes me back to London and other places like Manchester.

Working for a company was good, but working freelance for myself suits me a lot better, as I get to choose and work on lots of projects at the same time. In the future, I would like to travel more with my design.  I would love to be able to see the world through my work. And I find that one of the true joys of my job is that I am continuing to learn as I go along and I am continually growing as a designer.

Cathy says:
I love Katie's sneak peek into the world of Graphic Design... it's inspiring to see how a love of drawing can become a challenging and exciting career! What is YOUR dream job? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 17 May 2019

10 WAYS TO MAKE THE PLANET A BETTER PLACE

Reader Kerry shares her tips to live a greener life to help fight climate change - so cool, and much easier than you think!


1) Buy local!
Do you know how many miles that mango has travelled to end up on your plate? 4,674 (on average.) And that avocado? 4,407 (again, give or take.) Eek! I know what you’re thinking… “Gee, that’s a lot of fuel burned just so I can eat this juicy, fashionable breakfast.” Sadly, although its really yummy, cargo ships are one of the largest contributors to climate change. That’s why buying local produce from local businesses can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint, plus you’re helping out your neighbour!

2) Recycle!
This one’s pretty easy, these days. Most councils have a recycling service, but you can recycle way more than they say you can! Just take a minute to find out if you can re-use an item - and use your imagination. Creating art or using old fabrics to make new items of clothing are great ways to recycle.

3) Clothes swap!
The high-street fashion industry encourages us to chuck the old to make room for the latest fashion trend, pretty much on a seasonal basis if not more. Did you know the UK throws around 300,000 tonnes of textiles into landfill every year? That’s on average eight items of clothing per person straight in the bin!

4) Eat less meat!
Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to scientists. Beef consumption is the big offender. Cows. Their digestive system produces methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, and their manure emits additional greenhouse gasses. No one is saying to go full vegan here… but just be aware. Maybe start by having one day a week meat free and see how you go from there?

5) Compost!
Obviously not wasting food in the first place is important, but sometimes there will be a little food waste leftover. Instead of throwing it in the bin, use a separate green bin, or a larger compost bin outside. This will eventually turn into new soil which can be used to plant your own veg. Thus the cycle continues!

6) Protect bees!
The majority of our fruit and veg relies on honey bees and other insects to pollinate them. Without them, we would lose around a third of the food in our supermarkets. I can’t stress how important they are! Why not create a bee-friendly garden? Plant loads of beautiful flowers for the bees to pollinate and feel at home in. And support your local beekeepers by buying local honey!

7) Cut out plastic!
Replacing plastic bags with fabric ‘tote’ bags is an obvious one but also there’s a growing movement to remove un-needed plastic from supermarket foods and giving it back to the shop! Another great way to reduce your plastic use is to say no to plastic cutlery or straws. Any single-use plastic should be avoided at all cost.

8) Make-do and mend!
Repairing or fixing something is more environmentally friendly than simply throwing it away, although it may seem easier and cheaper at the time. With the internet so accessible, there is little excuse not to figure out a bit of DIY. And if it’s beyond fixing, can it be turned into something else?

9) Eco-friendly cleaning products!
Cleaning products contain some of the most harmful chemicals for the oceans and also for your own health. Fear not, there are some fab new brands such as Method or Ecover who don’t use micro-plastics or microbeads. Get on it!

10) Use eco personal hygiene products!
High-street brand Lush do a fantastic range of non-chemical products which we recommend checking out - try their shampoo bars for glossy, conditioned locks without a yukky plastic bottle to chuck away at the end. Not too expensive either, so there’s no excuse! It's even easier to ditch the bottled shower gel for a bar of soap... the Body Shop have some fab options!

Cathy says:
I'm trying to cut down on plastics and pollution myself, and love these clever tips. I can vouch for the Lush shampoo bars, too! Do YOU have any tips on going green to save the planet? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 13 May 2019

READING CC BOOKS IN PORTUGAL!

Reader Abigail writes about what CC books meant to her growing up... and what they mean to her now!

Abigail says:
Though it’s the middle of August, it was rainy today in the little town of Sintra, my hometown,  despite the rest of Portugal being sunny and bright. So I decided to nestle into my couch with a mug of tea and a blanket and watch Chocolat, a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for years, since CC referenced it in INDIGO BLUE. It has very quickly become one of my favorite movies, as so much of it reminds me of her books, of my childhood. The tiny chocolate boxes wrapped in string that Viviane sells, the chocolate fortunes... they remind me so much of CHERRY CRUSH and I absolutely adored it.

So I am currently in a bubble bath, re-reading the first book of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series and eating chocolate chips, and I’m remembering things. This year, I finished high school, and I’ll be moving to Scotland to study psychology at the university of Edinburgh once September comes around (these books were actually a subtle driving force for me to study in the UK, believe it or not!!)

Anyways, I’m remembering my twelfth birthday, when a box appeared on my doorstep that my mom had ordered, filled to the brim with the books I had asked for,  CC books that I still didn’t have in my collection at the time (ANGEL CAKE, GINGERSNAPS, LUCKY STAR, CHERRY CRUSH, and others) and I just remember that day so fondly. Or when my dad came home from a book fair when I was ten with a copy of DIZZY in Portuguese, and how I fell in love with the gypsy festivals and the characters, and how I talked about it with everyone in my class...

I’m  just glad I have CC books in my life. They are so, so comforting to me and I will continue to re read them when I’m sad or anxious or nervous. They bring me home. So thank you, Cathy!

CATHY SAYS:
Aww... this post is so sweet. My older readers are just lovely, and often share their appreciation in this way... it never fails to make me  happy and grateful! Do YOU have a fave CC book? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 12 May 2019

CAREER GIRLS: AMANDA - CUSTOMER SERVICE

Amanda's talent for languages led her to a varied and fulfilling job in international customer services...

Amanda says:
I grew up in the Netherlands, and languages have always been my passion. Before I started my current job, I had been working as a self-employed translator in France. However, this was not my dream job. I decided that I needed a place to go to and colleagues around me every day. I was not keen on being self-employed. I felt that the work never stopped, because I was working from home - and I was also struggling to earn enough money to pay my rent.

When I applied for a job in Customer Service at booking.com, it was a last resort to try and save my future in France. To my surprise and relief, I was hired. If you had told me ten years ago that I would work in customer service one day, I'd have told you that you were crazy. I was very shy, so I never thought it would be the right job for me. But it actually is! I work in an international environment with people from all over the world. I am part of a great team and we do our best to achieve our goals each day. I speak, write, read and hear foreign languages all day, every day, whereas I only wrote and read foreign languages when I was working as a translator.

The switch to this job was eighteen months ago and I couldn't be happier now. I help people experience the world by answering their questions and solving issues with their travel reservations. The reward when someone is happy after what you've done for them is happiness!

If you are struggling to find your way career-wise, hang in there. Dare to try something new. Get out of your comfort zone. The perfect thing might be waiting for you just around the corner, but sometimes it requires patience and a lot of effort to find it. Stay positive and never give up!

Cathy says:
I love this... it proves that a skill for languages can be applied to many different kinds of job, and that even a shy person can shine in the world of customer services! What would YOUR dream job be? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 11 May 2019

DEAR CATHY...

I get a lot of cool emails, messages and letters from readers. I wanted to share this one from reader Amy, because it made me cry... 

Amy says:
I have constantly gone over in my mind about whether or not I should send you a letter. And, at 1:49 am in the morning on the 14th April 2019 I have finally decided to do so. My name is Amy, and I am eighteen years old. For years I have constantly wondered how I would start my letter to you. I have always wondered what I should write, how I should write to you or when I should write to you. You are possibly wondering why I am writing to you.

I am writing to you because you changed my life. I know it sounds extreme in saying that but is entirely the truth. Everything that I am is because I read your books as a kid. Ultimately I just want to thank you - a massive thank you!

As a child I was told by teachers I would amount to nothing. My reading and my writing would be terrible. I would fail at everything. That is what they told my mum, but all that changed the day I picked up SCARLETT.

It is possible that my words may mean nothing to you but your words have meant everything to me. Your books have taught me so much. They have taken me to different places. They have been my escape for the past decade. I am so incredibly grateful to you. My love for reading and writing started the day I read Scarlett and it will never stop till the day I die.

SCARLETT taught me the importance of learning to accept people and to stop holding grudges. It also taught me I wanted an Irish boyfriend with a horse called Kian. LUCKY STAR taught me the importance of learning to accept my own scars. SUNDAE GIRL showed me the dangers of alcohol and the importance of a loving family. MARSHMALLOW SKYE taught me the value of being different. SUMMER'S DREAM taught me the importance of expressing your feelings. DIZZY taught me the importance of just enjoying life in a moment.

Your characters and stories are wonderful. Every book that I have read by you is dear to me.
They have changed me. Everything that I am is because I read SCARLETT. She had such a big impact on my life. I have read that book many, many, many, many times. Every time I read it, it is like coming home. Most people have HARRY POTTER as their first books. I have SCARLETT. I will forever treasure that book. I will treasure all of those books... and I can't begin to imagine how different my life would be if I had not picked up SCARLETT that day.

Cathy says:
THANK YOU Amy for your lovely words... they make all of the hard work worthwhile. Gulp! Do YOU have a book that changed your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

JESSICA: MARINE BIOLOGIST & TRAINEE MERMAID!

Jessica says: 
My passion to work with marine life has quite a funny origin! When I was eleven my Nan gave me a copy of Endless Ocean, a video game for the Nintendo Wii. In the game, you play as a scuba diver and learn about amazing animals and I knew from then on, what I wanted to do with my life! I'm now qualified with a BSc in Marine Vertebrate Zoology, but that's not currently my job title! I went into this line of study after working hard in school and then in college, studying biology, geography and art. I then applied to Bangor University and after repeatedly calling admissions and begging for them to give me a chance - I studied in the School of Ocean Sciences for 3 years! My current job is as a Guest Experience Team Member at Blue Planet Aquarium. I work day to day with an amazing team of hard working animal lovers, in which we teach the public about our amazing sea life. I do aqua-theatre shows, where I interact with our scuba divers, who do things such as feeding our Southern Atlantic stingrays by hand! I also work as an educator, were I help teach all different school levels, starting with ocean discovery and learning basic marine life anatomy, to teaching older children and teens about shark conservation and population decimation. It's never a dull day! I also help the dive team on weekends as a Dive Tender, were I assist the dive supervisor above our shark tank with tasks and health and safety for our customers who come to dive with our sharks!
In the future I hope to focus on Eco Tourism. Eco Tourism is the future of tourism, as so many people are desperate to see all of our natural world (myself included). I want to join, teaching people upfront and personal, in these amazing environments, what we can do to preserve and protect our planet. There is so much that we can do already, from coral reef propagation to wildlife animal tagging! While at Blue Planet Aquarium, on rare occasions we are joined by Perforance Mermaids trained by Steve Millard. I became enthralled by the sport, decoration and grace of these mermaids and instantly wanted to join! I'm currently still in training however, in the future, this would lead to teaching young children about conservation groups and beach cleans, working abroad and in general just a lot of fun! It's still early days, but I can't wait for the next chapter of my life to begin!

Cathy says:
Oh my days... being a mermaid is a job? How awesome is that! Actually, I think every bit of Jessica's varied work sounds amazing - from protecting marine wildlife to helping people look after our planet, it's so important. What's YOUR dream career? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 3 May 2019

YOUR STARS FOR MAY!

Skye Tanberry looks to the stars to predict your fortunes for May... take a look!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Some things that you have planned for this month may not go exactly how you want them to... but you shouldn’t let that deter you! If you open up to the idea of being flexible with your plans, then you may find that you have even more fun than was initially anticipated!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Work is important in everyone’s lives; but make sure to take some time for yourself. It’s essential that we all get time to relax and unwind, be it with a good book, or a nice walk in a park… as long as you make sure to prioritise yourself and your mental health for a moment!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Emotions may be running high this month, so remember that when people give you criticism, they are only trying to help you improve. And sometimes we aren’t able to show our full potential without someone there to guide us in the right direction...

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
This is the month to let your creativity shine! If you notice anyone around you struggling for ideas, find time to help them out and in the end, you will end up helping each other.

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
If you find that someone is being rude or thoughtless, try not to be quick to judge them. They may be in a worse situation than you and could be finding it difficult to express their emotions. Rather than trying to avoid them, try to see if you can help them.

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
If you have had a rough time of it recently, try to stop hiding away and come back in to the light! This month is a month to go outside and enjoy the sunshine! You’ll find that in time, it will help to melt away your problems...

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
You have been a true friend to those around you and they really appreciate that! Your friends would want you to know how much you mean to them, so don’t forget it! And don’t forget to tell them how much they mean to you too!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
Don’t try to take on too many tasks at once this month, or you won’t be able to complete them to your best ability. Where possible, try to finish the tasks that you already have, before making promises to too many people and becoming overwhelmed.

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
Although you have a lot on your plate at the moment and you may be feeling very stressed, don’t look for the worst! Picture yourself in your desired situation and you may just find yourself there!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
This is the month to finally express how you are truly feeling to that special someone - whether it is an annoying friend, or your possible true love! There is no point waiting any longer, whether the outcome will make you happy or make you sad - at least you will know!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
Now is the time to try something that you have always wanted to do! It may be some type of artwork, or perhaps taking up an instrument? It may take a long time to become good at it, but the outcome will be worth it!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
Your optimism really inspires those around you! Keep being the best that you can be and you will influence your friends and family to become more proactive and smile more!

Cathy says:
Does YOUR horoscope ring true this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

WISHES FOR A POST-LOCKDOWN WORLD...

We asked which things you'd like to leave behind in a post-lockdown world and which you'd like to hang onto... your answers were ins...