The thing about Brand New Things…

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I’ve just finished writing the first book of a BRAND NEW series by me and Sheena Dempsey. It feels amazing! To celebrate, I treated myself to a curry with the family, apologised for being cranky whilst I wrote and went straight to the library to pick up a book to the read that couldn’t be more different to what I’d just written.

There is no better feeling in the world, for a writer, that hitting those final two words: The End. It’s like completing your last exam or crossing the finish line of a marathon. Writing is gruelling and it can be draining and I have to admit, this one has been a struggle.

The deadline for the book was originally in September. When we found out we were moving in August, I knew there was no chance I would make that deadline, and with my tail between my legs, I asked my lovely editor for an extension. Of course, she completely understood and very graciously let me set a new deadline for the following month but that was hard for me. I pride myself on always meeting my deadlines and often getting work in ahead of deadlines. The guilt of asking for an extension weighed heavy on me and as September whizzed by, the pressure to produce perfection stalled my writing.

Soon, the blank page became my nemesis. Writing even just one sentence became my Everest. I tried all my go-to remedies to revive my muse: baths, music, sleep, rest, walks, more baths. But nothing worked. The more time passed, the more anxious I felt about not being able to deliver. Writing this new thing wasn’t at all like writing a Dave Pigeon book. Four books on, writing Dave Pigeon and his world felt like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers. The characters were old friends now. It was comfortable.

This new book was not comfortable. Though Sheena and I had talked through ideas over the last year, with all the noise of publication and book deals this year and taking Dave Pigeon (Racer!) on tour, I’d not given myself the time I needed to get to know this new world of characters. I was switching from comfy slippers to pinchy stilletos.

I had to kick-start my writing again. I hadn’t recognised that a summer of goodbyes, the move across the world and the process of finding and settling into a new routine in a new environment would take such a toll. I hadn’t prepared for it. Looking back, I should have set myself daily writing goals to keep my hand in the game. Though that’s not usually how I work, it would have helped to keep a writing constant in the upheaval of moving to New Zealand.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. In fact, I know I’m not alone. Whatever the reason, I imagine all writers go through a time when the words don’t come easily so I thought I’d jot down a few things that helped me battle the slump.

Make a list: This sounds simple but it’s so important, especially if you have more than one deadline looming. It will help you prioritise what needs to be done first, rather than leaving you free to just pick what feels easy to tackle in that moment.

Don’t wait: The time is now. No matter how painful, you can’t afford to wait for the perfect moment or the perfect mood or the perfect lighting to start.

Give yourself achievable goals: For some this might be a word count; for others this could be a time limit. Stick to the goal. Even if you feel a sudden burst of writing energy, don’t be tempted to push on. Sticking to limits will give you the down time you need to rest and recuperate.

Forget perfection: Work can be messy. It’s OK. You just need to get words on the paper; the polishing will come later.

Ask for help: Writing is emotional. You’re invested in your work and when it’s not coming together it can feel overwhelming. Reach out to your support system, your friends, your family, your agent, your editor, whoever it may be. They want you to succeed and they’ll help you a way to get through the slump.

Good luck, fellow writers. Know that there is probably a curry waiting for you on the other side.

Cover reveal: Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!)

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Pigeontastic news Dave Pigeon fans: Dave and Skipper are coming home to roost with their fourth book! In this latest adventure, our favourite pigeon duo will be rubbing feathery shoulders with royalty and of course, Dave is about to suggest a catbrainned idea that lands the pigeons in a crate full of chaos.

Team Dave Pigeon are so proud to reveal the brand new book cover for Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!), illustrated by Sheena Dempsey.

Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!) will be landing on shelves in March 2019.

New Zealand: one month in

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We are back from our mini-tour of the South Island and here is a Halfway Round the World with the Haddows update on how we are doing.

The three flights were long but with an excellent selection of movies, a never-ending supply of in-flight cookies and only one mad dash between two airports to make our final flight, we arrived in to Christchurch without a hitch. And of course first up, was finding Archie and giving him the biggest belly rubs and lickiest kisses.

Next up, a walk to the beach to breathe in the ocean air and remind ourselves why we’d been travelling for the last twenty-nine hours.

We’d planned a few days in Christchurch to get the lay of the land and to see some of the city. The devastation of the 2011 earthquake is still evident but what is also clear is the resilience of the Christchurch folk. These are a people who are still dealing with the aftermath with a stoicism that makes me feel honoured to join their community.

  

By day two, we had a car, a house, a bank and by day three, Phoenix had picked a school and met his deputy headteacher. We’d even found the local library and spotted a familiar book roosting in the ‘H’ pile!

And then we were off. With no other commitments for a couple of weeks we packed up the car and headed off on a mini road trip round the South Island. Here are a few snaps from an incredible first few weeks in Aotearoa:

The slopes at Cardrona, near Wanaka

The glorious Lake Tekapo

Hiking by Mount Cook

Beautiful Lake Pukaki

The Blue Pools

The Pancake Rocks

The breathtaking west coast

My photos don’t do this beautiful, magical landscape justice. You have to see it to believe it so book your flights and come say hello!

And we’re off!

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The Haddows are finally off halfway round the world on Halfway Round the World with the Haddows! I have to admit I had a bit of sleepless night before moving day but it went off without a hitch and though we were leaving our lovely flat, a place that I will always remember as the happiest place I have ever lived in London, it wasn’t a sad farewell; instead it was one of fondness and love. No matter where I am, I think I will always be a Londoner at heart.

Now we start the twenty-seven hour journey to New Zealand where we will spend our first month in the Godzone, travelling the South Island before the husband starts his new job and I crack on with writing my next book. With two October deadlines on the horizon, (more on those later), I can’t wait to get back to my writing desk and I’m sure the land of the long white cloud will inspire many stories.

Cheerio, London… And kia ora Aotearoa!

I have NEW book news!

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I have pawsome news! Thanks to the team at Macmillan Children’s Books, I will be joining forces with the formidable, illustrator extraordinaire Dapo Adeola to create my first picture books. This is an absolute dream project and I can’t wait to share more with you soon but for the moment you’ll have to bear with me as everything is a bit TOP SECRET. Watch this space, folks!

Meet the team (left-right): Lorna, Kaltoun, Penny, Dapo and me

The Haddows top pick of the New Zealand books

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Moving to New Zealand has come with a mix of emotions for Family Haddow. Both the husband and I have been to New Zealand and it was our trip back in 2004 where we fell in love with the country. Here are a few snaps from our travels back then:

Whilst we are both so excited, our son has never been to New Zealand and though we have regaled him with tales of our adventures, he’s found himself picking up books to help him find out more about the country. Today, on Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, we’ve picked three of our favourite books that have helped Phoenix get to grips with what life will be like in New Zealand.

Title: New Zealand (from the Countries Around the World series)
Author: Mary Colson
Illustrator: Oxford Designers and Illustrators
Publisher: Raintree

Though this book was published in 2013, much of the content is still up-to-date. This read is great for finding out facts about New Zealand, with photos and easy-to-understand infographics for children aged 7 and older (and their parents too).
Phoenix’s best bit: I really liked learning the Māori words in each chapter.

Title: A Kiwi Year: Twelve Months In The Life Of New Zealand’s Kids
Author: Tania McCartney
Illustrator: Tina Snerling
Publisher: EK Books

This one is our Family Haddow Favourite Pick of the Books. It’s a brilliant introduction to life for children in New Zealand, with relatable characters sharing what they enjoy the most each month. It’s the sort of book you can return to time after time and has really helped Phoenix understand what he might be in for when he gets to New Zealand.
Phoenix’s best bit: I loved hearing about the rugby in March and all the sports I can have a go at. I can’t wait to go skiing.

Title: The Pacific Islands: A Moana Discovery Book
Author: Paul Dichter
Illustrator: Disney Storybook Artists
Publisher: Lerner Publications

As part of the Disney Moana franchise, this book is all about the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand. There is a focus on culture, nature and storytelling with characters from the movies featuring throughout, which is perfect for Family Haddow who happen to be massive fans of the movie.
Phoenix’s best bit: I liked learning about how they built the canoes and I am excited to be a wayfinder.

There you have it. Our three favourite books. What books would you add to our list?

These Londoners turn tourists in London (and Dave pops along to do a bit of research for his next book)

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It’s a well known fact that as a proud Londoner, I have done absolutely nothing to understand the fascination tourists have with my home city. In fact, if I know a spot is a tourist trap, I’ll do everything in my power to avoid it. Firstly, because like most Londoners, I can’t afford the tourist attractions because I’m too busy spending my money on a mortgage and Ubers and secondly, it’s the hidden parts of London that I adore the most, the bits that I’ve discovered that don’t come in the guidebooks, the hidden gems only the Londoners know about.

Of course, once I had my son, I found myself caving in on my strong avoid-the-tourist-trap views and showed him both the London I love and the London the world loves. We went to the museums, the galleries, the London 2012 Olympics and all manner of attractions but there were a bunch of places we didn’t manage to see and in a spizzwhopping week of ticking these off our London bucket list before we leave, we turned tourists and dusted off an ancient A-Z.

In this next instalment of Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, you’ll get to see all the touristy things we did in our last week and Phoenix, who has been invited back to the blog despite is unhelpful debut on Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, is going to give you an interesting fact he learnt about each place:

First up, the shiny and very impressive Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the Queen wasn’t in but Dave Pigeon did join us on this first leg of the London tour for crucial research for his new book Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!), which is out in March 2019.

Phoenix: Did you know the hall were they hold state dinners can fit up to 72 buses?

Next up: the London Eye. We braved the forty minute queue, entertaining ourselves by singing almost the entire album of The Greatest Showman and drinking two huge slushies, (which I do not recommend because the London Eye hangs right over the Thames and inevitably, the minute you get on and they shut the door and you can’t get off, you’ll need the toilet).

Phoenix: The London Eye used to be the world’s tallest ferris wheel. It’s not anymore.

As we were just around the corner from the London Dungeons, it made sense we finally visited them. The dungeons were definitely not as scary as we thought they might be but Phoenix has found a chilling fact for you anyway.

Phoenix: A few years ago, one of the skeletons at the original London Dungeons was discovered to be actual human remains.

With Dippy the Diplodocus on his UK tour, we took a trip to the Natural History Museum to meet Hope, the blue whale skeleton, who has taken Dippy’s iconic place in the Hintze Hall.

Phoenix: Blue whale poo is pink because of all the krill they eat.

This next one was on my London bucket list. I’m ashamed to say, as a lover of pies and mash, I have never had an actual east end pie and mash. Fear not, this has now been rectified with a trip to F. Cooke in East London for the full works and at the mere cost of £3.95. The experience came complete with a grumpy eastender and a union jack.

Phoenix: Pie and mash and liquor is pie and mash and parsley sauce. Liquor sauce is not alcohol; I had to Google this because the man serving us was a bit grumpy and didn’t seem in the mood to answer all my questions.

Finally, and definitely not in London but still must-sees, were two UNESCO sites: Stonehenge and the Roman Baths. We’d driven past Stonehenge a few times on the way to the in-laws but this time we stopped off to look at the ancient wonder in all its glory.

Phoenix: There are two types of stone: the little ones are bluestone and the big ones are sarsen and they are all very heavy.

I’d missed out on a school trip to the Roman Baths so this one had been on my bucket list for nearly twenty-three years. Despite the sudden downpour and feeling very much liked I’d had a bath fully-clothed, the Roman Baths did not disappoint and I was left awestruck at how the Roman stonework had remained in good nick for two thousand years.

Phoenix: People were allowed to swim in the baths up until 1978. That was when my dad was born. My mum says the two events are not related.

Archie is off to New Zealand!

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This week on Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, the first member of Family Haddow is off to New Zealand. That’s right, our dog, Archie, has jumped aboard a flight to Singapore, where he will have a break to stretch his legs and buy a box of doggie shortbread from doggie duty free, before he gets on a flight to New Zealand for the final leg of his journey.

It was an emotional goodbye, though Archie was in high spirits and very excited to meet Peter the handler. We are missing him so much so I apologise if you find members of Family Haddow hanging around the dog park, looking for dogs to cuddle.

Here we are, trying to get a final selfie with Archie, outside our home…

…That’s Phoenix, giving Archie a huge cuddle before saying goodbye…


…And here’s Archie in Singapore, investigating lots of new sights and smells.

You might be wondering why Archie set off without us. It’s not because we asked him to go ahead and sort out a place for us to stay because we would all end up on a tiny couch with him if he had his way. It’s because New Zealand has rules about pets entering the country and one of those is that dogs must spend ten days in quarantine before they can be allowed into New Zealand legally.

The quarantine area is based near the airport and when we arrive next month we can go straight to Archie and pick him up. It will be a Family Haddow reunion full of hugs, kisses, nose boops and belly tickles.

Safe travels, my love, my Archie. We will see you very soon.