Diana Shaw is a brilliant children's writer and a good friend of mine. She's agreed to be a guest on my blog today! She lives down a little cobbled street in a Cheshire village with her husband, Brian, and a very mischievous cat called Chloe!
As a full time primary school teacher, writing stories became a hobby for when I had time to spare. I enjoyed encouraging the children with their reading and writing. When I retired I began to devote more time to my writing. I decided you’re never too old to have a go!
In 2007 I read an article in a writing magazine about a small publishing company in York. They published my first book for children in 2008. ‘Septimus Smythe and the Spectre Detectors’ heralded my first short series. The funny ghost stories are about some ghosts that haunt at a castle to entertain the tourists! Why ghost stories? Well, I thought having my ghosts perform all sorts of haunting tricks would be fun and give plenty of scope for my imagination. I tell my stories from the ghost’s point of view – a different slant from many stories I’ve read.
In 2010 I was busy working on a different project – not ghosts! Inspired by a holiday in Italy, I had an idea for an adventure story. I’d almost completed my first draft when the email arrived... An independent publisher of children’s books invited me to submit work to them. They asked for more ghost stories, so the Italian adventure was shelved for the time being! My new character is William, the ghost of a Tudor watchman, who befriends a boy call Thomas. I have lots of fun telling stories about their adventures as detectives, solving funny mysteries that happen in the local villages. I’ve written two books about them so far. At the moment, I’m dreaming up a few more adventures for William and Thomas and I’ve resurrected the Italian adventure- I’d really like to finish that.
I’m all in favour of ‘a book in your hand’ and I spend a lot of time in bookshops talking to children about my favourites and theirs. As a child, I enjoyed ‘The Borrowers’ by Mary Norton and adventure stories like’ Treasure Island.’ Today, my favourite author for children has to be Michael Morpurgo. I love it when children want to read my books of course, but if ghosts aren’t their thing I’m happy to recommend other stories. I’ve had a few adventures in bookshops. On one occasion I was left ‘holding the baby!’ I was reading a picture book to a group of toddlers when one little girl realised her mum wasn’t there anymore. Mum had sneaked out for a cigarette and she told the bookseller who tracked her down that her child was fine - ‘Diana is looking after her.’ That was the first I knew of it!
I visit lots of schools too. I’ve held workshops with children and it’s great when they are so enthusiastic about writing. They always want to ask me lots of question s about being a writer. (They often have a fascination with your age too and want to know if you’re famous.)
‘You’ve been waiting very patiently,’ I said to a little girl who’d been sitting with her hand up for some time. ‘What would you like to know?’
‘D’you go out with your mates?’ she asked.