On Saturday 18th April 2015 I heard Cathy Cassidy talk about her new novel Looking-Glass Girl, in the Cambridge Union Blue Room, Cambridge Literary Festival. I was accompanied by my youngest daughter who has read several of the Cathy Cassidy books, so she was happy to come along and hear this much admired author of her childhood. The audience consisted of lots and lots of young girls.
Cathy started off her talk by addressing the youngsters in her audience with the answer to the question that is most often asked by her fans:
What subjects did she like when she was their age?
She did like English but it wasn’t a 100% full on love. She enjoyed writing stories, but wasn’t too keen on spelling or grammar. Such excellent news and hope for all those amongst us who are bad spellers, and weak at grammar.
Cathy’s Route to Writing
After Cathy left school she started off at Art college in Liverpool, and later became an Art Teacher in a Coventry Secondary school. Her old art teacher at her childhood school wasn’t exactly inspiring, in fact he seemed a bit prehistoric. Those old school art classes seemed to be fashioned out of the “time of the dinosaur.” With the topic of teachers fresh in her mind she asked if there were any teachers in the audience who had managed to, “get through the net.” Of course, there was bound to be a teacher who had wriggled through the net, and there was, so she had to be careful. She jokingly said that, “alters what I can say to you.”
Now, this is the point in which Cathy Cassidy really switched on my listening ears, and I reckon, my daughters too, and no doubt the rest of the audience too. She said her favourite thing to do at school was daydreaming! She had been an “enthusiastic” daydreamer who got caught. Now she had devised a way not to get caught whilst daydreaming and had three daydreaming tips which she would like to share with us. Unfortunately she said that she couldn’t pass these tips on just now. There was a teacher present! So, she encouraged the youngsters in the audience to email her to get these daydreaming tips. What a lovely thought, daydreaming tips, maybe we should all have a copy of these! Cathy is a no. 1 advocate of day dreaming. She would love nothing better than for “daydreaming lessons” to be part of the classroom curriculum! In her opinion daydreaming is “never wasted.” After all, she gets paid to do it. What a lucky woman, just imagine all the fabulous places she has been to, touring, promoting her books, Beijing, Singapore, Poland, France, these were just a few of the places that she mentioned that she has been to.
She started off her writing career in Scotland. At the time she had teenagers at home who would make a lot of noise, playing musical instruments, so she resorted to writing in a shed in her garden. It was her own personal writer’s retreat. We should all have one of these, though in my case it isn’t my teenage daughters who make such a noise, it tends to be my husband! He is a teenager at heart, he always has his music up full blast or is playing one of his many guitars. I think he secretly likes it when I’m not around then he can make as much racket as he wants! Digressing a bit, oops, back to Cathy. Now Cathy has moved to Merseyside, she has an indoor writing area but she still remembers that shed with great fondness.
150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland
It is the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. So not altogether surprising that Cathy the previously crowned queen of teen was approached to write a Alice themed book. She was desperate to do this “lovely challenge,” being that she had always been inspired by the Alice in Wonderland story which she had read at the age of nine. The Alice story is “like a fairy story,” which Cathy identifies with, though “perhaps Alice is braver than I.” It has this quality about it that makes it feel, “like it has always been there.” At thirteen she returned to the story again and her response was a little different, she seemed to notice a “dark, sinister,” aspect that she had overlooked when she was younger. She liked the idea of “time being really important.” I do too! Time plays a bit part in my writing too! John Tenniel’s original illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland grabbed her attention, particularly Alice’s sticky out skirt, and her wavy hair. Alice developed into quite a style icon for Cathy. It is a look that Cathy really likes and one that she still models today.
Cathy’s Childhood Reading
Cathy spent her childhood going to three different libraries a week. If you consider that she could get six library books per library that’s a lot of books! It became such a compulsion that her mother resorted to hiding Cathy’s books.
Cathy’s Favourite Book as a Child
Cathy’s favourite book as a child was Watership Down by Richard Adams. She remembers one occasion in which the coolest boy in her school came up to her and asked, “What you reading?” She had been really worried what his response would be when he saw the book, but to her surprise he said,”Watership Down is the best book.”
Cathy’s Favourite Character in her books.
Her favourite series was The Chocolate Box Girls and her favourite character in this series is Honey. Cathy likes how full on and interesting she is.
How She Started Off Her Writing Career
Cathy started off her writing career by sending stories to Jackie magazine. She sent off hundreds of stories and at the age of sixteen she received a nice rejection letter. Ironically she ended up at an interview for an Office Junior job at Jackie magazine, and became Fiction Editor.
Cathy’s publisher wanted her to write a dark and a little bit scary story, not a re-telling of the classic Alice in Wonderland story, so she came up with Alice’s Looking-Glass Girl. In the novel there is a themed party in which everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Her Alice in Looking-Glass Girl is a year 8 pupil. The novel explores jealousy, friendship problems, and bullying. The bully Savvy, intrigues Alice so much that Alice feels compelled to go to Savvy’s Alice themed party even though this is most probably asking for a shed load of trouble! I like the sound of a bully intriguing you, that’s an interesting way to go.
Goodreads Synopsis of Looking-Glass Girl
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, a compelling modern-day re-imagining of Alice’s story by every girl’s favourite author, Cathy Cassidy. Alice is thrilled when Savannah invites her to a Wonderland-themed sleepover; she’s wanted to join this circle of friends for so long. Finally, she’s fitting in. But an accident suddenly changes everything and Alice is rushed to hospital. As her friends and family rally round, a mystery begins to unravel. Was Alice pushed, and why – who would want to hurt her? Can her loved ones – and the gorgeous boy who doesn’t want to leave her side – help Alice survive? Looking-Glass Girl is the stunning new book from Cathy Cassidy, an unforgettable tale of friendship and love from one of the UK’s best-loved authors. Cathy Cassidy is Puffin’s top-selling author for girls. She was an art teacher, a magazine editor and an agony aunt before becoming a full-time writer. She has worked at Shout magazine and previously at Jackie, the magazine named after Jacqueline Wilson. Cathy tours extensively around the UK – meeting over 10,000 young readers in 2012. She has twice won the prestigious ‘Queen of Teen’ award. Cathy lives with her husband, two teenage children, two dogs, two cats and a rabbit.
Cathy’s Writing Process
Cathy doesn’t tend to plan much, she uses methods that work best for a “visual person like me,” such as drawing, creating a collage of the “world of characters,” as well as the daydreaming method to come up with her characters. The story plays out like a “movie that runs through my mind.” She writes directly onto her laptop. I don’t plot much either Cathy so with you on that one!
The Inspiring Force
Her father was the inspiring force behind her writing. He repaired cars but he was a big believer in dreaming. He supported and believed in Cathy. We all need someone like this to inspire and guide us.
Her Daizy Star books are based on herself, and the covers and illustrations are done by Cathy.
A Bit of a Secret
There were lots of girls with the name Catherine in her class in school. So nowadays she likes to steal cool interesting names at her book signings. What a great idea! So next time Cathy asks you to sign her book, you’ll know that she’s up to mischief!
Such An Inspiring Talk
It was an amazingly inspiring talk. I really enjoyed it. I thought Cathy was a wonderful speaker. I’ve always been enthralled by the fantasy element in the Alice in Wonderland story. Cathy delivered a “you believe in you,” talk and a remember to daydream message that are so incredibly important. As we left the talk my daughter and I talked about daydreaming, she said that she liked to doodle in the margins of her workbooks but not all her teachers appreciated this creative artistry! That’s a shame as she is a visual person too, who likes creative pastimes such as photography, art, textiles, and writing.These childlike daydreaming qualities are often forgotten when we become adults but these attributes are the ones that allow us to explore our creative side fully. I shall have to doodle again! So next time you find yourself daydreaming, allow yourself to drift off, you never know where it might take you.
Cathy’s Blogzine: http://cathycassidydreamcatcher.blogspot.co.uk/
In this Blogzine there are lots of opportunities for young readers to contribute, and to write reviews of her books.
A very interesting About Me page: http://www.cathycassidy.com/me
Her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cathycassidyauthor
150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland: http://lewiscarrollresources.net/2015/
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