Monday, December 19, 2011

All I Want for Christmas . . .

Hi All,

This was first posted on the Girls Heart Books site - do check it out for a great read!

Not long now until Christmas! And I for one can’t wait. Every year I ask my friends and family for one present, and one present only – book tokens!

Walking into my local bookshop – Dubray Books in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin – and knowing I can treat myself to those hardback books I’ve been gazing longingly at all year makes me so happy.

In case some of you also get book tokens for Christmas, or are looking for a brilliant read over the holidays, I’ve collected together a few of my favourite books of the year below.

I read a lot of books which are supposed to be for children or teenagers as they’re so darn good! I was a children’s bookseller for years and now I review children’s books for The Irish Independent, but to be honest I’d read them anyway. I like strong characters, clever, original plots and a sense of hope, all of which I get in books for young readers.

My Book of the Year: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I love, love, loved this wonderful book. Part time-travel novel, part family and friendship drama, it’s original, compelling and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s set in New York too, and I love books set in NYC. It’s a cracking read.

I also loved Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer by Derek Landy, a fantasy-horror adventure about a skeleton detective and his teenage side kick. It’s a hilarious, rip roaring read and I’d highly recommend the whole series. If you like something a little different, this book is for you.

Eva’s Holiday by Judi Curtin is just perfect for girls who like warm, funny reads. Eva loves fashion and hanging out with her friends, so when she has to spend the whole summer in a cottage down the country, she’s not happy. But soon she finds out that there’s more to life than clothes and having the right friends.

And I also adored Marshmallow Skye by Cathy Cassidy, the second in her warm, sweet Chocolate Box series. And finally another wonderful book is The Real Rebecca by Anna Carey is the story of Irish teen, Rebecca and her ultra embarrassing mother.

What will YOU be reading this Christmas?
Happy Christmas to all! May 2012 bring you many wonderful things . . . including brilliant books!
Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winners of the Young Editor Competition

Ta, da! I can finally announce the winners of the Young Editor Comp. It was so hard to judge - we got so many great entries. But the Irish winner is Yazmin from Shankhill, Dublin and the UK winner is Anna from West Sussex, England. They will be helping me edit the next Amy Green book, Dancing Daze. I can't wait to work with them. I hope it gives them an insight into how a book is written and edited!

As there were so many fab entries, we also have 3 runner up prizes - which will go to Abby, Tasha and Keelin. Well done to everyone!

And we'll be holding another Young Editor Competition next year as it was so popular - so keep reading!

Sarah XXX

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Ideas Shop Hits Navan - Sarah, Judi and Oisin

On Thursday 13th October we arrived at the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan to be greeted by the lovely Maedhbh from the library services. After tucking into tea and toast in the café with fellow Ideas Shop writers, Judi Curtin and Oisin McGann, we all set up our props and waited for the 350 school children to take their seats.

They came from all over Meath, a lovely mix of schools. As we waited nervously backstage, they spilled into the front seats, grinning, and we sneaked a few peaks through the black curtains at their faces. Waiting backstage for an event to start is scary and I’m always jingling with nerves – will I be OK, will the audience laugh at the right places, will they ask any questions? On this occasion there was nothing at all to worry about, the Meath audience were completely engaged and watched and listened eagerly from the very beginning.

We each spoke first about growing up and what inspired us to be writers. We had a Memory Box on stage – a great big wooden box filled with all our memories. For me it was books I loved as a child, my tutu and ballet shoes and ballet fuzzy felt; for Judi one of her old dolls (very unloved as she pointed out!), old books and diaries; for Oisin an art kit, books, and his special memories of driving diggers and playing in building sites. Oisin lives in Meath and he was a big hit, especially with the boys!

Next we spoke a little about how we write a book – I talked about research and the role that plays in my work, and meeting the elephants in Dublin Zoo; Judi explained how a book is like a Russian Doll, full of different parts (or dolls) that all fit together to produce a story; and Oisin drew a very fab skeleton which he covered in clothes and explained how you add things to the ‘bones’ of a story, a bit like dressing the skeleton.

And finally we al talked about how books live on through our readers – YOU! Which was followed by a lively question and answer session and a super signing.

It was a real pleasure to meet so many fantastic young readers and thanks to CBI, and most especially Maedhbh and her team for organising the event so beautifully. And look out for me, Judi and Oisin – we’ll be doing some more Ideas Shops very soon.

Sarah XXX

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amy Green Signed Copies and T Shirt Competition

Hi Amy Greensters,

Just to let you know that I've been madly signing copies of the new Amy Green book all over Dublin this week. If you are looking for a signed copy try any of the Dubray shops (Dublin), Hughes and Hughes in Dundrum, Eason shops in Dublin or The Exchange in Dalkey.

There's also a very special Amy Green T-shirt available at the Eason shops and you can win one over on my Facebook site .

Talk soon, and don't forget to enter the Young Editor Competition!

Sarah XXX
PS The pic above is from the West Cork Literary Festival - hope you like it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Getting Strangled by Darren Shan

I had great fun at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival last week - I'm only just recovering. I got strangled by Darren Shan - see the pic! I went for dinner with Cathy Cassidy and Judi Curtin - two brilliant writers that I adore, and fab women too! We had a lovely evening.
I also listened to fantastic talks by Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Derek Landy and lots of other great authors.
Have you ever been to a book festival? If you get the chance, do go! It's most inspirational. Now, back to work on Amy 5!
And don't forget to enter the Young Editor Competition before the end of October and you could be helping me with my plot dilemmas very soon!
Best, SarahXXX

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Young Editor - Kate

My lastest blog for Girls Heart Books

Back in 2008 when I started working on the book which became Ask Amy Green: Boy Trouble, I had a dilemma. My main character, Amy was and still is thirteen (it’s been a long, dramatic year for Amy!), but it had been a long time since I was a teen. Maybe things had changed, moved on. Maybe girls weren’t as boy, fashion and friend obsessed as I had been at thirteen. I decided that before I went any further I needed to find out how modern teens thought, and most importantly felt about everything. Which is where Kate came in.

Kate was in my son’s class at the time – 6th class at Glenageary/Killiney National School – and was and still is a huge reader. She is smart, funny and chatty, and I asked her to gather some friends - Emma, Sinead and Isobel - and meet me in a coffee shop to talk all things teen. It was wonderfully interesting and informative, and I came away knowing for sure that although, yes, a lot of things had changed for girls since I was a teen, a lot of things were exactly the same. A lot of the hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears and worries sounded so familiar I could almost taste them.

It was both helpful and inspirational – they are such great girls! And it made me realise how cool Irish teenagers are and how much I wanted to write for them, give them the kind of books they deserved: funny, smart, immersive books set in Dublin. Most of the books Irish teens read are set in the US or England. We are a small country of four million people (smaller than Birmingham!) and this year I’m delighted to report that this year many other new Irish authors have started to write books for teens set in Ireland.

Above is a picture of Kate and Emma and if you’d like to find out more about them check out my Amy Green Fanzine here.

Kate is now sixteen and is heading towards important exams, so I’m looking for some new young editors. She’ll always be part of the Amy Green team of course, I couldn’t do it without her!

So I’m holding a competition to find some new young editors in September – when the new Amy Green book, Love and Other Drama-Ramas is out – I’ll put the details up on the Girls Heart Books site, so watch this space!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hot off the press - the cover of Amy Green 4: Love and Other Drama-Rama

Hot off the press - here's the cover of the brand new Ask Amy Green - out in September - hope you like it!
And don't forget you can find other Amy Green fans on Facebook - - check it out! And stay tuned for more news in early September.


Monday, June 27, 2011

The 21 Books I'm Taking On My Summer Holidays!

Summer Holiday Reading

This is the pile of books I’m taking on my summer holidays, whittled down from a much larger selection. I’ve been collecting them for months and I can’t wait to get stuck in. The best popular fiction, a Patrick Ness short story collection I’ve been meaning to read for ages, some fab sounding teen fiction that’s coming out in the autumn, some non fiction, including Moneyball, about baseball (I love good sports books and films), and a couple of research books for my next adult novel and Ask Amy Green book, which is called Dancing Daze and will be out in 2012.

The problem is, I only have three weeks to read all these books! But I love having choice. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for anything too heavy, other times I want to get my teeth into something a bit more challenging (which is when I’ll pick up one of the teen books!). Different books for different moods.

My idea of a blissful holiday is this: quiet beach, sitting in the shade, reading while my children play in the sand or sail.

What books have you packed?

Yours in writing (and reading!),

Sarah XXX

I’m off to West Cork for most of July, so see you in August. Have a great month, hope you too get some good reading time in.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Amy Green Covers - Italian and American

These lovely covers are the Italian and American versions of the first Ask Amy Green book, Boy Trouble. There is also a Polish edition I will post a pic of soon - aren't they lovely? Very different.

And stay tuned for news on the brand new UK and Irish covers.

Best, Sarah X

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Best Things About Being a Writer Part 2

Hi everyone,

This is a blog I did for Girls Heart Books -
Hope you like it!

So far in the best things about being a writer list we’ve had:

1/ You can write in your pjs.

2/ The research – writers get to travel and meet fascinating people and elephants (along with their glittery poo!).

Number 3/ is:

Ta, da! The readers. One of the best things about being a writer is definitely having readers. Especially readers who send lovely cards, emails and letters. The other day I got my first email from an Italian reader. Unfortunately I don’t read Italian so I had to get my friend, Tanya to translate it, but it was still thrilling.

I also get to meet lots of readers at festivals (like the one I was just at in Listowel) and school events which is also brilliant. More than anything else, us writers want readers, lots and lots of them! We’re quite a needy little bunch really.

4/ You can stare into space and daydream and imagine strange and wonderful things and scribble away in a notebook and ask really odd questions and be incredibly nosey and curious and no one will think you’re mad.

5/ Best of all you get to invent characters and give them friends and families and complicated lives. You get to create a whole world for them – like your own personal soap opera or drama. And there’s nothing as much fun in the whole entire world. Especially if you love your characters (and I do love my own characters, Amy and Clover very, very muchly – I’d want to, the amount of time I spend with them!).

So if like me you’re a huge and passionate reader, there is no better or more exciting job in the world.

On the flip side – The Worst Things About Being a Writer

1/ Numb bumb – from sitting at your desk all day.

2/ It can be lonely if you are a sociable soul like me.

3/ It gives you less time to read and watch Glee and Grey’s Anatomy.

Please do add to the list if you can think of any, Girls Heart Books blogging team!

For me, that’s pretty much it – nope, can’t think of any more negatives. So in short, be a writer, it diamond rocks!

Stay tuned for the next blog – about my writing uniform – including incriminating photographs!

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Best Things About Being A Writer Pt 1

This is the blog I did for - a brand new blog for girl readers - check it out! Other authors involved include Cathy Cassidy, Judi Curtin and Cathy Hopkins.
When I visit schools there are three questions I’m always asked:
1/ How much money do you make?
2/ Where do you get your ideas?
3/ What’s the best thing about being a writer?
So I thought I’d start with the third question first – and if you stay tuned I’ll add to it and answer the other questions in my next blog.
So here you go – The Best Things About Being A Writer Part 1 – Ta, Da! . . .
1/ You can work in your pyjamas, or ancient tracky bottoms or a giant pink bunny suit – whatever takes your fancy. The postman may get a shock if you answer the door a bunny suit however!
2/ Research
Writers get to travel to interesting places to do research. It’s a great excuse to explore the world. Recently I’ve been to Paris, New York, Miami and Budapest to research locations for the Ask Amy Green books. Summer Secrets is set partly in Miami, Bridesmaid Blitz in Paris, and Budapest and New York will feature in future books.
You also get to meet really interesting people, like ballerinas, fashion designers, surgeons and even zoo keepers.
Last year I spent a wonderful day with one of the elephant keepers in Dublin Zoo. She showed me the industrial looking kitchen where they prepare the elephants’ food, the large beds of sand and straw where they sleep, the hidey holes where the keepers put the elephants’ food to make eating more fun for them.
But my favourite bit was the glittery poo discovery. Did you know that in order to track the elephants’ nutrition, they have to test their poo every morning? And to do this they have to mark each elephant’s poo in some way – so they put glitter into their food. Yep, glitter! So each great big dollop of elephant poo sparkles in a very individual way – red, silver, gold, green, blue. Strange but true.
Plus their trunks feel like coral, all rough and bone-like – I was amazed, I expected them to feel warm and leathery.
And that’s what I love about research – you discover the most weird and wonderful things that really can make your books come alive.

Stay tuned for more in my next blog on 5th June.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

Monday, April 4, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

The most common question I get asked is 'Where Do YOu Get Your Ideas?' And the answer is not 'From a big lightbulb in the sky' - even though there is indeed one above me in this picture! No, ideas come from all over the place: *Books, movies, magazines, newspapers *Things I overhear on the train *Dreams and daydreams *Things that have happened to friends and family * Things that might never happen to anyone, but that I worry about! Dramatic things. *And often - real things that happened to me. In the 4th Amy Green book, a character gets very bad stage fright - no spoilers, I promise! This is based on something that happened to me when I was 12. I was Cinderella in the school play and I got terrible stage fright. The curtains opened and I just stood there - frozen - and when I started to sing my solo, my throat was all tight and I just squeaked. So I had to start again. This time it wasn't so bad. But being on stage is terrifying, and I was able to remember how it felt to be so scared and to use this in my book. At least something good came out of the experience - I could use it to make my book scene very realistic! Book 5 is set in Budapest and Dublin and features Claire Starr, Mills's sister who is in a ballet company over there. So recently I visited Budpest for research, and that also gave me ideas. See, I get ideas all over the place. Till next time, lovely Amy Greensters! Best, SarahX PS Look out for the next Amy Green newsletter later in April.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sort it Out, Sarah on RTE telly

Hi All,

Here is a clip of my lastest Sort it Out, Sarah on RTE television - the link is below. Hope you like it!
Every month I appear on the show Elev8, sorting out problems. They range from advice on what girls like (boys with a sense of humour!), what to do if your mum is your teacher, to how to cope when friends turn mean, and or you get left out of things.

It's a really great experience, and fun too. I love getting my make up done - there's something very relaxing about lying back on the special chair (like a dentist's chair) and having someone do your face up.

One day I might even make Amy and Clover on screen agony aunts and use what I have found out - what do you think?!

Sarah XXX

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Problems, problems . . . from the vaults of Sort It Out, Sarah!

Problems, problems . . .

Every second Thursday I’m Sort it Out, Sarah on RTE telly’s show, ELEV8.
Viewers send me their problems and I try to fix them.

Here are 2 problems from last week and the answers I gave:

Hi Sarah,

My friend always wears the same kinds of clothes as me and it’s really annoying. I get annoyed at her but I can’t say it because then we’ll end up having a fight. How do I tell her to dress differently without hurting her feelings?

Well, that’s a tough one. Your friend is copying your style because a/ she thinks you look cool and b/ she is unsure of her own style. So it’s a compliment to you that she’s copying your clothes. But saying that, she needs to find her own style.

So here’s what I’d suggest:

Be her stylist – all the movie stars and singers have stylists. Go through her wardrobe and pick out some outfits that suit her and show her how to put cool looks together.

Go shopping with her and help her to pick out some great new clothes. They don’t have to be expensive.

Good luck!

Hi Sarah,

When we’re in hockey and we’re picking teams, I find it hard to pick my friend for my team because she’s not as sporty as I am and I don’t want our team to lose but I also don’t like making her feel bad. What can I do?

That’s another difficult one. I’m quite competitive too, so I know what it’s like. You want to win but you don’t want to hurt your friend.

Here’s what I’d suggest:

Tell your friend you can only pick her every few weeks as otherwise it would look like favouritism.

After school or at the weekend practice with her and help her pick up a few tips.

Hope that helps!

Best, Sarah XXX

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The New Blog is Here! Don't Miss Out - Read It Right This Second . . .

Before and after pics from the Irish Book Awards!

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, and I’m feeling good . . .

I’ve been reading a couple of other writers’ blogs recently and I came to the conclusion that:

a/ some people put a whole heap more effort than others into blogging

b/ some blogs are boring

c/ no-one (me included) wants to hear about what writers had for breakfast – unless they ate something mad like ostrich eggs

and c/ my own blog is starting to get very *yawn and stretch* BORING indeed!

So I asked my teen son, Sam, is my blog boring. He said ‘Yes, Mum, snoozeville.’ (And he’d only read 3 lines)

So I asked one of my teen editors who was far more polite.

‘Well . . .’ she stalled. ‘I wouldn’t say boring exactly. I’d say informative.’

Informative – not good. School is informative. The Irish Times is informative. Emails from the bank are informative. But blogs should be fun, right? You’re tuning in to be entertained, not put to sleep.

Maybe you’ve had a rotten day in school, your mum’s nagging you about homework again, and you just want something funny to read.

So there’s going to be a change around her, my friends. Starting now, I’m going to say exactly what I like, when I like and no-one can do a thing about it.

Maw-ha-ha-ha! (Evil laugh)

You will learn the secret weird and wonderful workings of my very odd mind. I mean really, who spends hours thinking about school lock downs and how cool a story that would make?

Who spends hours discussing Wimpy Kid books with a gang of third classers just for the hell of it?

I tell you, I’m so far off normal sometimes, I scare myself.

Must be all the cool children’s books I’ve read – they’re seeping into my brain and turning it into a huge glowing ball of strange ideas and concepts.

Every day I wake up thinking something like – what if there was this surfing dog, now that’s interesting. No, no, surfing hamster. No, no, a boarding school for children of spies . . . and on it goes, all day, every day . . .

But that is how all books start . . . the big WHAT IF.

And I know a whole heap of you like writing too, so in this blog I’ll try to demystify (good word, huh!) the whole writing process – and tell you how a book is written from start to finish.

- OK, honest question to teen editor number one, is this blog boring?

- No way! But I hope you don’t mind me saying this – are you OK? You sound, well, different.

- Different in a good way, or in a bad way?

- In a good way I guess.

- Most excellent, my work here is done.

Till next week, Amy Greensters. Friday is blog day so check back every Friday from now on for your weekly blog fix.

Be warned, if you like this post and leave comments it will only encourage me! The more comments, the more blogs . . . it’s in your hands, folks!

Toodle pips as Clover would say.

Sarah XXX

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all the Amy Greensters out there.
I haven't blogged for a while - Christmas was kinda busy in chez Webb.
I'm currently working on Amy Green 4 - which is very nearly finished and will be out in May - exciting!
I'm also making notes for Amy Green 5 - and off to Budapest to do some research for the book in March.
And I have 2 Transition Year girls - Amy and Kate - coming in Feb to help me in my office. They both want to be writers, so they will be blogging about their experiences right here!!!
Stay tuned.
January is a funny old month, isn't it? Lots of things starting up. But for me September has always been the month things really begin - I think it's 'cos it was always back to school time.
Anyway, Happy January, and talk soon.
Sarah XXX