The Dog That Bites

The dog that follows me is not always black.

Sometimes I don’t even see it as a colour as such, more of a presence waiting in the wings, ready to pounce when I least expect it.

I liken it to a storm that’s brewing as a cluster of clouds form overhead, threatening to let their watery cargo fall to earth with great force and destruction.

Dramatic as that may seem, when the world stops spinning for a second and the realisation sets in that rain is on the way, there’s always a strange lull before the onslaught begins.

The undermining bleak aura fills the air, sucking all the life out of everything it touches. Turning yellow into grey and laughter into tears, it sweeps in and destroys happy safe thoughts with one swipe of its huge, bloody claw.

If I listen carefully I can hear the dog snarl and snap as it comes closer to me. It doesn’t care about the destruction it causes as it looms into view or the mess it leaves behind as it heads onwards to its next victim, a shadow of itself forever imprinted on my mind, reminding me of it all at every turn.

I’m lucky to have a salvageable gap between despair and freedom. A small slither of light that guides me home every time the dog appears. I wait for those who aren’t so lucky, I hold out a hand to guide them in but they never appear, they’re lost in the ether of the darkness that dog brings.

A familiar door is closed gently behind me and I can breathe again.


Words Are Beyond Powerful

Words are a spattering of letters jumbled together to make coherent sentences. They are the beginning of a story or the creation of a song.

Words twist and turn and meander across the page, their journey coming to an abrupt stop with the placement of pencil lead proclaiming the end of an idea with a small dot.

Yet words can be cruel, forever held in time for the world to see. Unforgiving and shameful in their lot, words prod at the mind as guilt spreads its talons and digs in deep.

Words can rejuvenate and replenish a soul but only once regret remains firmly on the surface. The words that brought hurt and pain should be a constant reminder to the uneducated.

Words can eventually be reinvented to blossom into something tangible and humble, their presence perhaps not welcome for now but needing to be written anyway as a genuine expression of remorse and concern for well-being.

Words are what we use to communicate our feelings and opinions but more importantly, to bring about long-awaited change.

Words are beyond powerful.

When a Thank You is Never Enough

The whoosh of the automatic doors lead me to the original stone staircase. I can still see glimpses of the 150 year-old structure if I look to either side, beyond the modern shiny linoleum floor to the bricks and mortar beneath. These steps hold a thousand stories from all the children that have walked up them since it opened in 1860.  I had entered The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

A few weeks ago, I approached my fellow members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and beyond, to see if they might consider donating some books for International Book Giving Day.  I was hoping to receive around twenty donated books, that would be a great number for the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services unit (CAMHS), I thought to myself.

Approaching authors and illustrators to donate their blood, sweat and tears to a good cause is a daunting thing to do and I never expected them to be so generous. I see posts all the time on Facebook groups asking for this, that and the other. There’s only so much they can give, right?


Parcels galore began to arrive at my work (Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity), the charity that raises much-needed funds for the children’s hospital. I even received doodles on jiffy bags, key-rings, magnets as well as the ‘here’s a couple of my books’ packages that just kept on flooding in. My desk resembled a sorting office until I took them home to wrap, before finding them all a new home. 

With a whopping 109 donated books, we headed out to the wards. Our trolley over-flowed with literary goodies as we quietly shared them out to open-mouthed toddlers, shy teenagers and their siblings. Tired mums and dads nodded and smiled at us as we brought a little light into their day, the constant beeping of machines reminding them why they were there.

Generosity comes in all shapes and sizes. For me, this was as big as the Forth Road Bridge. A thank you is never enough when amazing people go out of their way to help, but it’s all I’ve got for now.

Emma Perry, creator of International Book Giving Day and the wonderful book website My Book Corner, I salute you. Thank you for being you. 

International Book Giving Day – 14th February 2018

For those new to this wonderful day in the literary world, please add 14th February to your calendar. It’s not just for giving your sweetheart a home-made card on the universal day of love but for another special reason…

FEBRUARY 14TH 2018 – International Book Giving Day

Emma Perry, creator of the wonderful book review website My Book Corner, is the brains behind this amazing book giving day shout out. This year, the 6th year running, she has teamed up with illustrator Elys Dolan to create the much admired poster to promote this amazing event.

Elys is an author and illustrator based in Cambridge where she studied children’s book illustration. She works predominantly with ink, newfangled digital witchcraft and coloured pencils of which she is the proud owner of 178 but can never seem to find a sharpener. When not doing pictures and making things up Elys enjoys growing cacti, working on her PhD about funny picture books and eating excessive amounts of fondant fancies.

International Book Giving Day is a 100% volunteer initiative aimed at increasing children’s access to, and enthusiasm for, books. It continues to grow from strength to strength reaching places such as Nepal, India, Canada, South Africa, UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Nigeria, Fiji, Czech Republic, USA, Cambodia, Hungary, Philippines and Romania.

On the 14th February, #bookgivingday, participants are encouraged to give books to children, this can take many forms, the only limit is the imagination.

What can you do? How about…

1) gift a book to a friend or family member,
2) leave a book in a waiting room for children to read
3) donate a gently used book to a local library, hospital or shelter or to an organisation that distributes used books to children in need internationally.

Maybe you can help promote reading within your local school and community and help introduce children to the amazing worlds hidden within the pages of a good book.


My Reekie Lum and Other New Year lists

Before my lum reeks wi’ the fuel o’ ithers coal… for those unacquainted with this term, it’s a saying for when the bells chime in a new year at midnight. It means ‘may your fire always burn to keep you and yours warm and release lots of smoke from your chimney with the gifts of coal from your neighbours as you bring in another new year’, or something along those lines… I was thinking about new year resolutions and whether or not they are useful for me to create or if I’m just kidding myself.

Every year I say I will do this or that or even stop doing that or this in order for my life to be mellow and peaceful as I progress through a new year. It’s safe to say that I have never ever completed such a list, in fact I always add to it instead. And the year never works out the way I expect it to anyway, where’s the fun in that?

So I thought, this year I’d be realistic with my goals:

  1. When taking a break from writing, I will not eat the chocolate treat I have taken from the goodie box before the kettle has finished boiling. It is to have with my cup of tea, not before I’ve even taken one sip. If I do fall under its chocolate spell, I will not have two. One is enough (said no-one ever).

2. I will use a notebook for any ideas I have for my WIP instead of the back of receipts, post-its that always get lost, homework sheets or letters home that need to be returned with a parents signature. And definitely NOT with the words ‘if the house is on fire how will the kids get out? Sledge? Jump? etc’ on it. Writing PLOT or STORY IDEA beside such babble will not help in the slightest. Must try harder.

3. I will log out of all social media before starting to write. I only have XX minutes before XX happens/XX comes home, so I’ll just need to get on with it. Pandas, cats and other cuteness can wait. I mean it. Go. Now.

4. I will read as much as I write. I will try to stay awake after one page turn. I will not walk and read at the same time unless I am in a soft spongy land where it doesn’t matter if I bang into things/people/animals.

5. I will aim to achieve what all husband-shaped giants announce when they leave for work. I will try to ‘Be Awesome’ every day.

6. Most of all I will be the best me I can be. Everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde said so, so it must be true.

Happy New Year to you all.