The Seven Unlocked Competition

In July of this year several schools in Powys took part in a very special competition based on The Seven and the remarkable artwork local artist Rose Foran produced which was inspired by it and the sequel The Eighth Gateway. Children were asked to produce either a picture inspired by the artist’s images or by the book itself. Alternatively a piece of writing inspired by either. Guilsfield, Maesydre and Meifod schools all produced winning entires and were prevented with their prizes at school by both myself and Rosie. Each winner was given either a book prize, kindly donated by Gomer Press, or their choice of prints from Rosie’s work.

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Beginning at the top we have the winner of the creative writing competition, Jocelyn McKenzie from Guilsfield School. The judges were particularly impressed with her use of atmosphere and mood, and the way that she began the piece with a single word, ‘Falling’.

The remaining two creative prizes of books published by Gomer Press, including a special Gateway edition of The Seven, went to Nell Walsh, (for second prize) and Grace Evans, (third) from Meifod School. Both piece were also rich in atmosphere, ideas and character, with Grace’s put together in the style of Branwen’s diary and Nell’s evoking a rich gothic feel.

Now we come to the art competition. The judges thought that the above picture by Luke Van Hulzer of Tony rummaging through his attic and finding his mother’s mysterious paintings in the first chapter of the book, was highly effective. You can see a box of Tony’s old toys and the swinging light below the skylight. There is a real sense of discovery, taken from just one small idea. Luke is from Guilsfield School.

Next to it is Ruby Shepherd’s second prize winner – also from Guilsfield School. Ruby has clearly had fun re-inventing the idea of the churchyard in which even some of her classmates names are on the gravestones. Again the churchyard and Tony’s mysterious alder tree, in which he believes he can see Eleri’s face, feature at the beginning of the book.

The final third prize winner beneath is from Zoe Baker from Maesydre School in Welshpool with this beautiful and accurate painting of The Seven’s cover. There are of course seven trees on the little mound, as you will find there are throughout the book.

The actual competition was only part of the fun we enjoyed throughout June-July with the Seven Unlocked.

I made several visits to local schools before the competition in July, in order to encourage years 5-6 to enter. Then in July itself Welshpool Library hosted an exhibition of twelve images by Rose which were inspired by both books. At the end of term all of these winning entries were framed and added to the competition so that children could see their own work.  Some schools paid special visits to view the artwork. All winners received their prize of either book or print, along with a special competition and a report for each detailing just what the judges had enjoyed most.

Our special Seven Unlocked Quest however proved so difficult that even library staff were unable to solve it!

There will be more on this in a future post.

You never know – you might be the one to solve it.

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Lucy’s Wanderings In The Grove of Books

I’m a writer. I write children’s books mainly and sometimes the other kind. I read a lot and a life without reading would be desolation. I could just about give up music, favourite TV and DVD but I would be lost without being lost in a book.

I”ll shut myself in one, draw those book curtains and snuggle down with my book cocoa or if it’s daytime my book caffeine. Who needs drugs? I’ve been addicted all these years and hardly realised it. There are millions of fellow addicts to encourage me in my own personal twelve step book programme. Step one – read more books. Step; two. – well you get the point.

I’ve had one book published and hope to publish a good many more. I’m fifty five but in my legs no more than thirty five. I”m a child at heart perhaps because I’ve kept my early love of children’s books close and never felt ashamed of it. Oh it nodded off for a few years, just in case someone more adult and mature was watching. Now however I”m out and proud carrying my children’s books in their own covers unashamedly jumbled up with the so called adult ones.

So why write another blog about books? Because I’m a writer who reads a lot but never records what I think. Because I could write a list of the great books I’ve read in the last few years where some opinion or insight has been forgotten in the spider web which has entangled them in my memory.

Because I want to write a blog which shares my love of books for both adults and children and to explore the unexpected bridges between them

My favourite book is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

It’s a book within which I can find fun and joy, love and wisdom time and time again. Then there are the three books which make up The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. These remain the best things I have ever read in the fantasy genre and always leave me newly stunned after each reading. I”ll add to the list Music and Silence by Rose Tremain, which among many other strengths has the best collection of well drawn and eccentric, earthy and true female characters ever assembled in one historic period. Three writers and works with wholly different things to recommend them. Ain’t reading great?

I’ve read all of them many times and that’s my criteria for a favourite book; to want to pick it up again and willingly be lost in its world again.

My favourite book for children is Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond.It was given to me and my late wife Celia by a dear friend and I wish she knew half of how much it’s meant to me. I’d never heard of David Almond but now I devour everything he writes. His gift to me as a writer is the ability to create memorable female characters as a ‘side-kick’ to the male protagonist. Girls so wonderful in their own right that that they upstage our hero and sometimes and quite rightly end up with their own book.

I also love his sense of place and the close knit family community ready to pull together at the slightest hint of adversity even if they don’t always agree with every bit of it.

The first book I remember enjoying was either read to me at Nunsthorpe  School in Grimsby, or by a family babysitter when I was seven or eight.

I went out and bought The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe soon after. If I were to pin down what made me fall in love with the Narnia books then I’d have to say it was the snow. I’m a sucker for anything set in snow because I love the stuff. Having said that I don’t drive and would doubtless change my mind pretty abruptly if I did ! But I also loved Mr Tumnus the Faun, and the snow queen witch and Edmund and the turkish delight and Aslan coming back from the dead. I also loved brave Lucy who no-one believed. I must have loved her because when forty odd years later I came to write The Seven, I called my favourite character Lucy.

My Lucy is the same age as I was when I first read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. She’s never been a happy child and can’t really understand why. She has a secret place, a grove of seven trees where a beautiful lady once taught her a rhyme. Every birthday she goes up there and sings it and nothing happens. But this time its her seventh and we all know about sevens.

The bridge between Lewis’s Lucy and mine has been a long one with, like the best stories, a lot of unexpected turns and diversions. Sometimes I couldn’t see the wood for the trees ahead.

But the books have always been my guide.

The New Publicity

It also seems appropriate that the new look kitchen has evolved just as I have finished the final draft for the sequel to The Seven, The Eighth Gateway. At the moment it’s holding on around 56,000 and was achieved with the help and support of 34 wonderful women writers on the nonnywrimo support groups – one of thee best decisions I ever made. Thanks all of you for the laughs and the chocolate and the barrels of brandy.

The major part of The Eighth Gateway concerns ‘what happened that night’ ie Following on from Arthur and the warriors appearing in the grove when Tony was left unconscious.  It follows the journey that night of Chris and his mother and alternates with events over a a year later when my favourite character really comes into her own.

As for Tony himself. Well you’ll have to see. But I can also promise you more Merlin and two intriguing female characters, one good and one bad.

Kitchen madness

Through the Keyhole

Ok there isn’t really a keyhole but I hope you’ll agree that there’s a rather splendid door. Behind this gateway you never know what you’ll find.

The Seven has been out just over a year and after a slow start is beginning to pick up readership. What better way of getting tis message out there than parading it in your very own kitchen. With this in mind Rosie has used her splendid creative abilities to risk take on our own doorstep. Here’s the result – A Seven themed kitchen with a doorway into the mysteries.

Here also is the new publicity for the book – a wonderful job by Gary at Gomer adapted from both the cover and an original picture by Rosie of Lucy approaching the doorway which changed her future. It’s gateways and doorways galore at the moment.