Halloween is over and it’s time to get excited for Christmas! Fresh off the press is ‘A Children’s Literary Christmas‘ which features my story ‘A Winter Surprise’. And look how gorgeous this winter delight is:
This is the perfect read in the run up to Christmas to get you in the Christmas spirit and I couldn’t be more delighted to see my story about Jumbie the squirrel, snuggled between The Wind In The Willows and The Phoenix and the Carpet.
Thank you so much to Karen Trebilcock and the Otago Daily Times for this brilliant feature in today’s Otago Daily Times.
I was interviewed for the article ahead of the WILD Imaginings Children’s Writers and Illustrators Hui next weekend, where I will be running a workshop on ‘Writing a Young Fiction Series’. If you are coming along, do pop by and say hello!
Timeless classics from Charles Dickens, Clement C Moore and Louisa May Alcott sit alongside award-winning and contemporary voices, such as Matt Haig, Shirley Hughes and me in this gorgeous collection. There are illustrations from the Library collections and some original artwork too.
This is a real Christmas treat with twenty four chapters to enjoy in the run up to Christmas. Perfect for advent, along with a mince pie or two.
I’m so proud to announce that my publisher, Faber & Faber, are supporting the very brilliant Block Books, a project working hard to get one hundred free books into the hands of young people living in socially neglected neighbourhoods in London every month. Dave Pigeon (Racer!) will be amongst the selection of books donated by Faber & Faber.
It’s been a whole year since Family Haddow arrived on the shores of Aotearoa and we have had the most incredible twelve months. I can’t even begin to list all the amazing adventures we have had but needless to say, it has been a year of surfing, snowboarding, beautiful hikes and making wonderful new friendships.
I keep waiting for the homesickness to kick in, but with family visiting twice in the last year, meeting our brand new nephew for the very first time and of course the wonders of FaceTime, Brexit and heatwaves haven’t been enough to pull my heart back to the UK.
Next month we take our adventure further south and move to Dunedin, a UNESCO City of Literature and home to one of my good friends from university. We are so sad to be leaving our new friends in beautiful Christchurch but they know our door is always open when they come to visit Dunedin.
So what have I learnt and how easy is it to uproot your family and rebuild your life on the other side of the planet?
It’s not that easy but it’s also not incredibly difficult. Firstly, you need patience and the ability to pack up your life quickly. Whilst the husband managed to secure a job offer in New Zealand early on in 2018, it wasn’t until August that our visas turned up when we were set to leave at the beginning of September! You can’t speed up the process so we just had to be patient.
Secondly, you need money. The upfront costs of relocating, even with an employer willing to pay your relocation fees, add up. The flights and required vet fees alone for our dog to travel to New Zealand were more than the rest of our flights put together. We also had to have money to rent a house when we arrived, buy furniture and buy a car as we waited for our UK belongings to arrive three months after us.
It was a lengthy three months of taking turns to sit in the dog bed whilst we waited for our couch. This was not helped by the fact it took a year longer than we hoped to sell our flat in London and we were pushed to take a price lower than we wanted so having savings on hand was very important.
The writing community around the world is full of the most generous and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. Fact. I was so worried about how I would find my place as a writer in New Zealand but I needn’t have. I have been welcomed with open arms by everyone from librarians to teachers to parents to the book council to festival organisers to bookshops. It has been wonderful. I have had an amazing year of events in schools and at festivals including Auckland Writers Festival and KidsFest Christchurch. I’ve been a very lucky sausage.
So if you are an author moving to New Zealand, be brave, send out a hello email and watch the love flood your inbox.
Kiwis are wonderful people. Also fact. In the days after the terror attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, the people of Christchurch stepped up in a way I have never seen before. The outpouring of love from all people in Christchurch was overwhelming from leadership down.
Street gangs united to protect Muslims visiting mosques and many months later, the beautiful artwork created by the locals to encourage love and peace still hang around the city.
We have made so many good friends in the last year and have been given so many excellent insider tips that New Zealand felt like home from the moment we arrived. (Kiwis also like to feed you so wear an elasticated waist if you are invited over for dinner.)
It is still stressful even though you feel settled. Well, it’s not nearly as stressful as not having your visa until after you’ve put your house on the market, told everyone you’re leaving and it’s only a few weeks before you fly but there are still stresses. As non-residents we don’t have the same rights as residents and costs such as doctor appointments mount up. As non-residents, we can’t vote. We also can’t buy a house so we have to rent which comes with its own problems when you need a landlord/landlady that will be comfortable with your pet dog, but Kiwis are understanding and one look at our good boy Archie and his excellent references usually helps bend the rules. We are in the process of applying for residency but that takes time and a whopper application so again, that patience thing proves very useful.
Everything you need is on TradeMe. And that is all you need to know. Oh and everyone who lives in New Zealand has their own opinion of where you can buy the best pies. Me personally? I recommend The Doughbin in Wanaka.
I’m so pleased we made the move to New Zealand. It has been fantastic for our little family as a tribe and as individuals and I can’t wait to see what new adventures lie ahead for us in Dunedin.
Alison Friend’s gorgeous illustrations of Little Rabbit in Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise got me inspired to create a plushie of the character. During my travels of New Zealand’s South Island, we stopped off at The Woolshed Canaan to enjoy some delicious ice cream and I took the opportunity to learn about needle felting.
That’s right, folks! I needle felted a Little Rabbit and I’ve put together this tutorial post so you can make your very own too.
First off, I had a good long look at Alison’s illustration of Little Rabbit.
For ease of needle felting, she is essentially four colours: brown, white, with pink and black for features. I used merino wool but any sheet of wool will work.
To make a Little Rabbit, you will need brown wool, white wool, black wool and pink wool. You will also need a couple of felting needles of different gauges and an old cushion to lean on. (Trust me, it’s not fun getting a felting needle in the thigh.)
Tear off enough brown wool to form the ball of the head and the tubular shape of the body. You will want to form the shape of the head and the body and I found this tutorial here really useful for perfecting the technique.
Essentially you are poking the felting needle repeatedly into the wool to create the shape you want. Use an old cushion to support your work and protect your knees and furniture from the needle.
Once I finished shaping the head and body, I used the same technique to place a white belly on Little Rabbit’s body.
Next up, the features on Little Rabbit’s face. You will want to switch to a finer felting needle to neaten up the features, using the same technique of pricking the needle into the wool repeatedly.
I finished by creating Little Rabbit’s legs and ears, all the while using Alison’s illustrations as a reference point and decided I wanted a seated Little Rabbit to sit alongside her books.
Today, I was at KidsFest, in association with WORD Christchurch, at the beautiful Tūranga in Christchurch where I got to introduce an audience to my terrible but financially rewarding habit of telling tales.
We had a game of Guess Which Statement Was One of Swapna Haddow’s Many Many Outrageous Lies and then I got to meet with twenty-two budding young writers for a two-hour writing workshop.
I had such a blast meeting the young writing talent in Christchurch and it was an absolute honour to be part of KidsFest 2019. Thank you so much to all who came along and made this a very special afternoon.