Monday, 28 October 2013

School visit with Purple Paw Prints

Yesterday was full-on for the assistant to the Purple Paw Prints storyteller!

Here is Sarah Mounsey, talented author of Purple Paw Prints and Paw Prints on the Magic Sofa, talking to six year-olds at the Australian International School here in Singapore.
The kids, aged from three to six, lapped up her story with the same energy and enthusiasm as the shaggy dog, Oscar, left purple paw prints all over her stories!
Here she is in the beautifully designed and well stocked library with librarian, Denise Jackson. The day went with a whizz and a bang and a bump-bump-bumpety-bump.  Now listen, you have to clap your hands on your knees as you do that, and I do suggest you buy Paw Prints on the Magic Sofa and follow the text right the way through! 

Alongside listening to Sarah retell her story and packing bags for those who'd bought the books, I was kept on my toes, helping to run the workshop. Pupils were set to devise their own 'Magic Adventure' and then perform it as a storyteller with as much aplomb as Sarah. Well done to all those creative minds, where flying kitchens led characters back to Medieval times (with plenty of fighting!), and ponies flew to Ice Cream Land. 

So, hands up who's had a great Purple Paw Print Day! And who's going again today? Well, Sarah and me, of course.  Check out Sarah's website at 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Scooby or Squibby?

I've been hunting for answers today.

Maybe it's a way of making myself switch off. I don't know. But what I do know is that these answers won't appear all of a sudden.

To give you a taste of the questions - just a taste, mind you....

Do you say Scooby or Squibby?

Any children's author worth their salt will know what I'm talking about.  It's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  Try saying that every time you want to mention the group you belong to: the group that has given you fantastic support and made sense of writers' cramp.

In London we pronounce it Scooby. It's fast, and easy to remember.  Moving to Singapore, I had to learn a new word - Squibby.  It doesn't roll off the tongue as well, it doesn't entice the taste-buds as Scooby does. Basically, it doesn't taste as nice.  Sorry, folks, I'm going with Scooby.  

No! Hang on! Remember your mantra, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans.'  I try to reach a compromise, running the two names together. Eargh! I produce a dreadful Squirbibooberly.

Oh dear, when will I know what to call it?  

Here's another one: Why do bananas grow upside-down?

Every other fruit I know of that grows on a tree, grows down from the stem. But the humble banana grows up.  I can verify this.  Nearby is a garden full of papaya and banana trees.  The papayas grow down.  The bananas grow up.  Could someone please have a word with the bananas? It's worrying.

And why does pandan leaf smell either sweet and enticing, or as smelly as fifty year old socks? 

My helper showed me how to boil pandan leaves in my kettle.  The flat smelled divine.  The tea I made with the water tasted delicately sweet and fragrant. The kettle still exudes pandan scent when I boil up for a brew. But my life-partner can only smell those abandoned socks.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hats off!

I'm excited! I'm happy! I jump up an down with joy!  All because of a little icon.

For months now I've been jotting things down on my phone, under NOTES. All the obvious stuff - shops or temples I've stumbled across, new bus routes, recipes shared at the wet market. And ideas for stories.  Whenever I'm without a notepad, a paper napkin or an envelope, that's where I jot!

So why haven't I noticed the little brown arrow at the bottom of the screen? Why should I? I'm concentrating on writing. This page is just for jotting. And when I need the jotting, I look under NOTES. And there it will be, in all its mistyped glory.

But now I'm wiser. Much wiser.  I can send my jolly little jotting to myself by email. And save the trouble of retyping.

It's as good as finishing a lego kit with a six year-old.  Or making the perfect apple crumble. Or finding that lost earring.  It's sheer unadulterated joy. But before I jump around so much I do myself an injury, I'd like to say -

Hats off to all the clever people who put these phones together. 

And talking of hats ... well, that's the subject of the story that made me look at the little brown arrow. 

And these hats in my local mall would go down 
a storm on a hot day in Japan.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How to catch a bus

It's so easy to take the bus in Singapore!

There it is, on my iphone - the icon which tells me which bus is coming to my nearest bus stop (five minutes walk away).

All I have to do is check the 141. It will drop me 200 yards from the Blind Association.  I won't be hassled. I won't be stressed. I won't be 'glowing' in the heat. And the whole journey will cost me a fraction of a bus ride in the UK.

So here's what I do. I click on the icon. The bus isn't coming for 15 mins.  I do some emails. Hmmm. Lost in cyberspace, I lose that 15 minute safety net.  I go outside. It's very sticky.

I catch a cab....

Or, I leave the flat early. I haven't checked the timetable. I'm leaving everything up to chance.  It's more fun. I'm taking risks.  I say a cheery 'morning' to the guard. I wander along the road. It's not too hot. There's even a slight wind. The wind is stronger...drops of rain. By the time I have skirted Revenue House and am within a gecko's gasp of the bus stop it's tipping down.

I catch a cab...

Here's another way: I saunter along to the bus stop. No rain, no blazing sun even. The roads are full of buses. I check my phone. And while I'm checking it, the 141 whizzes by.  Oh no! My bus! I start to run. I wave my arms.  The bus drivers are usually very nice.  They are used to us mad foreigners, thinking we can break into a canter and still smile as we galumph onto the bus.  Yes!! I made it. I flop down on the bench reserved for 'aunties', pregnant women, disabled. I am disabled. My forehead is a swamp. I'm panting.  I pull out a flannel (always keep one handy). I arrive, on time, but still panting.  "Have you been running?" asks Jane, the Librarian.

And then, not infrequently, I know exactly when the bus is coming. I'm as cool as a cucumber. I wait in the shade of the bus stop. I ignore the legion of taxis winking their green lights at me.  The 141 will be here soon.   Look, it says 'ARR' on my phone.  It's ARRiving I tell myself.  But it isn't. What's gone wrong? Has the driver stopped for a coffee? Has someone given birth on the bus? (We are surrounded by hospitals.)  Did a dragon spirit whisk it off to another planet?  I see a bus. It's not the 141, but I'm sure it will do. I know this bus... when it's going in the opposite direction. One of my favourites. A double decker even, so I can peer at the rain trees, the bougainvillea on the bridges, the beautiful ferns and palms....

My iphone bleeps.  Messages that must be read.  I laugh at a friend's comments. I glance up.  The road is a bit too wide, isn't it? I don't recognize these tower blocks.  But then I do recognize this road. THE P.I.E! Main cross-island route to the airport.

"Jane, hello, it's Emma.  I took the wrong bus.. Haha, I know... Yes, I'll go on to Bishan and get the train... see you later!"

The ten minute journey takes forty five.

It's so easy to take the bus!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A new hat

I’m at one of those strange moments, about to put on a new hat. 

It’s because I’m going to be a publisher.  

I’ve worn lots of different hats over the years as an editor, a language tutor and a writer amongst others. And I wore hats all the time I was at school. So I'm sure this hat will fit. 

My publishing company is called Cool Beans Books. And my first book is called Princess Petunia’s Dragon. 

It's illustrated by a fabulous artist, Charlotte Micklewright.

And the thing is, my mind is now working overtime, my fingers won’t stop typing, and so I’ve started this blog. 

I'll tell you loads about the book later, but here’s something about me. 

Recently I was in Tokyo (wearing my business-trip-companion hat).  I usually live in Singapore. Some of the year I live in England, too, which is where I’m from. But wherever I go I can see stories. One day in Tokyo I saw two girls sitting barefoot in a sandpit.  They were playing on their own.  No Mums in sight.  No shoes either.  Playing pretend, patting sand onto a large plastic dinosaur.  Maybe one was making the dinosaur as pretty as a princess, the other spinning a yarn about helping her find her lost friend. That’s my guess. 

Anyway, I completely forgot I was in the centre of Shinjuku. I forgot it was drizzling. I forgot I’d promised myself a long walk through this leafy park. I very nearly kicked off my shoes and joined them in the gritty sand.  No matter that I can’t speak Japanese, we would have moulded stories out of sand, and gone on a dinosaur journey together. 

Then I remembered that I wasn’t nine years old.

The next day I went back and the girls weren’t there. A couple of grannies were playing with their grandchildren, their faces shrouded by hats against the sun. I couldn’t see their faces. But their hats seemed to take on a character of their own.  And so I started thinking how important hats are, because they can show what you do, or hide you, or protect you. And slowly a story began to take root.