This page is full of news about books and things that I've done. If you want to find out about future events, look on the Events page.
The latest news is at the top!
4th Today the website "For Authors" has published my list of the five best books about babies, in celebration of my new picture book with Ros Asquith Babies, Babies Everywhere! https://shepherd.com/best-books/babies
Well, the last year and a half have been a bit of a washout! I have of course been writing, even had some books published (see picture books page) but the whole of the children's books industry went into meltdown during the pandemic. For two years running the Bologna Book Fair, where Rights deals are done, has not taken place in physical form. It's looking promising for March 2022. Publishers have been on furlough for months on end and have not been reading submissions. Books have been postponed or cancelled. Meanwhile the public have been reading and buying books more avidly than ever and the children's books sector has, as always held up well. So let's hope things are getting better and there will be more news to report.
> I submitted "Out of the Sea" on 28th and have also sent it to a publisher who had expressed an interest. The person who had commissioned it at Ca' Foscari is pleased by what I wrote so now it's just a waiting game, which all writers are very used to.
> As well as Christmas, most of December disappeared on looking after my husband, who had a partial knee replacement on 2nd. It became clear I wasn't going to make my end of the year deadline for "Out of the Sea," so I wrote to Ca' Foscari asking for another month.
> I spent this month steadily writing "Out of the Sea," which is the Venice book's working title. But I also attended the Society of Authors' AGM, since I am on the Management Committee. We voted to pay the next and subsequent Chairs an honorarium of £7,500 per annum, in recognition of the enormous amount of work they do. And I went to be part of the Author Team of the Oxfordshire heat of the Kids' Lit Quiz. It was Wayne Mills' last year as Quizmaster, so we wait to see who will succede him.
> I flew back from Venice at the beginning of the month and got a nice inquiry via my agent. A young woman called Grace Shutti wanted to come and interview me for a video she was making for The Guardian on BAME reprentation in children's books. "Amazing Grace" had been a favourite book in her childhood. Here is a link to the video she made.
> Probably the biggest month for me this year. I flew to Venice on 15th and took part in a Symposium called "Library of Memories," linked to Edmund de Waal's installation, psalm. I was on a panel with Eva Hoffman and Faniz Oz Salzberger, the daughter of Amos Oz. Here is Edmund on the second day (L) in conversation with novelist David Grossman (R).
> I stayed in Venice till early October, writing my book and checking on locations and generally getting to know the city better. Here is a part of Edmund's installation, Library of Exiles. And me on the Giudecca, in the garden of the Hotel Bauer Palladio.
> August saw the publication of Invisible Blood, an anthology edited by Maxim Jakubowski and containing a story by me. "Fallen Woman," set in Siena, sits alongside new "murder and mystery" stories by Lee Child and Stella Duffy. I think it's the third I have written specially for Maxim, the master-anthologiser, who turned 70 this year.
> At the beginning of July, as in most years, I went to the Scattered Authors Society (SAS) retreat at Charney Manor in Charney Bassett. It's only about a half hour's drive from me and feels like a second home. I did manage to do some writing and, more importantly, my team won the famous annual quiz! We are always blessed with perfect summer weather and, as the swifts scream round the house and we sip prosecco and Pimm's in the garden, we briefly lead the life that non-writers believe we do all the time.
> In June we had two glorious weeks in the South of France, staying with family and friends. At first we were in Toulouse and the Gers and then we went, via Montpellier, to a place just outside Cannes, with a heavenly swimming pool. Many books were read and much relaxing done.
> In May I went to hear Edmund de Waal give a talk for Venice in Peril, about his installation, psalm. My Residency in the city is supposed to link to his installation, with its themes of exile, loss and identity. I am to write a children's novel exploring these themes, plus climate change and multi-culturalism. So it was a great pleasure to meet him afterwards before we had to get back to Oxfordshire. The hall was absolutely packed for his talk and he was a very moving speaker. As you would expect from the author of The Hare with Amber Eyes.
> Later, on Easter Sunday, we went to Venice and this was what the wisteria was like, a month ahead of its British counterparts. I met Shaul Bassi and Laura Tosi there, who were commissioning me to be Writer in Residence in Venice in the autumn
> Early April saw me in Bologna, as usual, for the Children's Book Fair, which I write up for BookBrunch online. One of my favourite images this year was Barry Cunningham (who discovered J K Rowling) at Chicken House, learning to knit to promote one of their books.
> March was a strange and eventful month! On World Book Day I talked to 40 prep school boys about The Ravenmaster's Boy in the Finchley Road Waterstones in the morning. Then a car took me, plus lunch, to a studio in West London where I met and was filmed talking to Alicai Harley, a Black British rapper.
> The Great Big Book of Life was published! Sixth in the series with Ros Asquith - hooray!
> Then it was the London Book Fair and I spent an enjoyable afternoon on the Society of Authors stand, persuading passers-by to join! (Aided by a bowl of sweeties)
> Early in March I had a great day at an infants school in Petersfield, Hants, talking about my Great Big Books, among others
> Later in the month, Ros and I were at the South Bank for an "Imagine!" event on The Great Big Green Book, which was just out in paperback. It was a lovely sunny day, which made it hard to get a good photo.
> We had a meeting at Ros Asquith's house to discuss "Babies, Babies Everywhere!" a picture book we are doing for Otter-Barry Books. "We" means Janetta Otter-Barry herself and Judith Escreet, our long time editor and art director.
> This is the month in which I have been deciding what to write next. So many ideas, so little time! But watch this space: great things are coming.
> I seemed to spend all this month cooking! A family gathering for Christmas and an even bigger family party on 30th December required a lot of planning and catering. All daughters and grandchildren seen. Not much writing done, except for my Wars of the Roses essay!
> A lot of this month went on the next Big Book with Ros Asquith. This one is The Great Big Brain Book and will be out in March 2020.
> And it ended with the AGM of the Society of Authors in Manchester on the day that high winds delayed all the trains!
> I began a course in Oxford on The Wars of the Roses. This is research for a Plantagenet project that has been haunting me for some years.
I> It was publication month at the Greystones Press for our two new titles: the Young Adult novel Tell me no Truths by Gill Vickery and the adult French Revolution novel, Black Wings by Sophie Masson.
> Oh, and we had a fifth grandchild, a little girl. That makes three girls and two boys now. We are blessed.
> This was a month mainly for family and house-hunting and making jam - lots of it! But on 18th our author Kath Langrish was giving a Prom interval talk on Fairy Tales, based on the book we published, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, and we went to give her moral support.
> The month began, as in most years, with a writing retreat at Charney Manor in Oxfordshire. Members of "the other SAS" (Scattered Authors Society) get together to share experiences, have quiet writing time, attend sessions on aspects of our work, drink quite a lot of prosecco and watch the swifts screaming round the roof of the Elizabethan Manor House. We always have fabulous weather and this year there was a treasure hunt as well as the annual quiz, which my team failed inexplicably to win.
> Ros Asquith and I went to film an interview for Milkshake TV, dressed as Pirates. But somehow I lost my tricorne hat on the Tube. This was PR for Pirate Baby.
> I spent the first two weeks in Siena, one of my favourite places in the world and the setting for Stravaganza: City of Stars. This time I was researching a short crime story, to be published in Maxim Jakubowski's anthology, Invisible blood, next year.
> I went to Hillingdon Civic Centre for the award ceremony for their Secondary Book of the Year Award. The Ravenmaster's Boy didn't win but we had lots of fun dressing up and writing our presentation. The children spontaneously went for gender and race-blind casting , so we had a girl to play Kit Wagsyaffe and a Sikh boy as Anne Boleyn!
> I signed another contract with Lincoln Children's Books at Quarto for The Great Big Brain Book. I have to write it by 7th September!
> Recovering from the broken ankle meant lots of hospital appointments and some ingenious ways round problems. Ros Asquith finished her amazing artwork for The Great Big Book of Life, which comes out from Lincoln Children's Books in March next year. We had a four way Skype visit with designer Judith Escreet and new (temporary) editor Katie Cotton from the Quarto offices.
> The latest of my Great Big Books with Ros Asquith , The Great Big Book of Friends came out.
> I was at the Bologna Book Fair towards the end of the month, as usual. But this time I came back with an unusual souvenir - a broken ankle!
> This month saw us parcelling up and posting out review copies of Bone Music and The Sword of Ice and Fire. We hope to get some lovely reviews around publication on 6th April.
> I gave a talk to Primary School librarians in Winchester as part of a day on diversity. It was a very committed and engaged group. I love librarians and am in despair about the number of cuts they've had to endure both in the public and schools services.
> This was also the month that Smile was published by Barrington Stoke, the "true" story of the model for Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Just look at that cover!
> Sadly, we didn't achieve our crowdfunding target for Alt-Write but I'm in touch with other publishers now that we have assembled most of the material so watch this space!
> To compensate, these two beauties arrived! They will both be published by The Greystones Press in April 2018.
> This month has been dominated by the crowdfunding campaign I'm running with my daughter Rhiannon Lassiter to publish Alt-Write: creative reactions to uncertain times. It's a collection for teenagers featuring mainly new poems and stories by top writers like Frank Cottrell Boyce and Celia Rees and illustrators like Jane Ray and Sarah McIntyre. Do go over to our IndieGoGo site and see what rewards there are from £4 upwards. The fabulous cover is by Chris Riddell.
> One of the things that happened in October was that I went to a meeting at CILIP in London, to dicuss the issues of diversity and inclusion in the titles long- and short-listed for the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals. Watch this space for developments.
> Oh, and I was elected to the Management Committee of the Society of Authors! The appointment lasts for three years and I'll be taking up my place after the AGM on 30th November. My email Inbox is already buzzing.
> While I had fellow author Ann (Vlad the Drac) Jungman to stay, we went to see the wonderful exhibition of Jackie Morris's art and Robert McFarlane's lyrical spells from the book Lost Words. This was at Compton Verney, which is worth visiting in its own right.
> We took a much needed short break in Cornwall opposite St. Michaels' Mount. The weather was atrocious but we had a good time and went over to the Mount twice. It also got me wondering about why it was so similar to Mont St Michel in Normandy, which I've also visited. I wrote about it here, on the History Girls blog.
> Just after I got back from Cornwall, it was up to London to launch my new picture book, with Ros Asquith, Pirate Baby. Here we are appropriately dressed, in a school in Hampstead entertaining some very young would-be pirates.
> The same week I did a 24 hour dash up to Glasgow to cover for a friend at the ScotsWrite conference. It was a bit mad but very worthwhile.
> This was also the month I got the final cover for my book Smile, to be published by Barrington Stoke next January. It tells the story of the life of the young woman who posed for Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Fabulous, isn't it?
> In August one of the things we did was to make a video to promote our author Katherine Langrish at the Greystones Press. You can watch here as I interview Katherine about Fairy tales. The video was directed and edited by our intern Rebecca McDowell.
> For the first time for years, with no grandchild imminent, I went to the Scattered Authors Society (SAS) annual retreat at Charney Manor. Batteries recharged and stimulated by contact with other writers.
> Later in the month we visited Stratford-upon-Avon again and this time saw Mary Arden's Farm (Shakespeare's mother) In Shakespeare's Ghost, Ned goes with the Poet to this house.
> Some years ago I wrote two successful collections of re-tellings for Dorling Kindersley - A First Book of Fairy Tales and A First Book of Myths. Now they want me to add 3 "new" myths and are going to produce a slipcase with the two books. It won't be available till March 2018 but will look a bit like this:
> We had a splendid holiday in Sicily, looking at mosaics both Roman and Byzantine and dodging the G7 meeting in Taormina. Here I am enjoying some Bougainvillea!
> The day after I got back from Bologna and was busily writing it up for BookBrunch, was publication day for the next three Greystones Press books:
> From Venice I took a train to Bologna for my annual visit to the Children's Book Fair.
> At the end of the month I flew out to Venice to take part in the Incroci di Civiltà literary festival. This is me in the garden of my luxury hotel:
> Then on 21st we had the virtual launch online, in a kind of webinar, of the app I have been working on for so long. It's now called Buried Alive! the secret Michelangelo took to his grave. Our first review was a rave in the School Library Journal. You can get it for free on iTunes or the App Store. Just serach under Time Traveler Tours & Tales and then the title.
>What a full month! The London Book Fair, followed by a meeting on historical fiction for children at the Society of Authors, which I wrote up here.
> Then next day off to Newnham College, Cambridge, my old Alma Mater, to take part in a day conference on children's literature. I was on a panel in the afternoon, chaired by Anne Rooney (2nd left, with Griselda Heppel and Sue Limb.
> I gave a talk at Somerville College, Oxford, as part of their equality week. Battled Storm Doris along the A40, but got there in one piece.
> Later this month will come Tilt, from Barrington Stoke, the story of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a very unusual 13th century girl. The lovely cover is by David Wardle.
> Eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book this week and so thrilled that Hilary Mantel liked it. The fabulous cover image is by Joe McLaren, who also did the cover for Shakespeare's Ghost. Cover design in both cases by Nigel Hazle. The Ravenmaster's Boy will be published by The Greystones Press in April.
>Basically December was about going to Venice, being ill and preparing for Christmas while trying to finish Smile. And then on 21st this beauty arrived:
>When she was Bad is my second adult novel and my second pseudonym! It will be published by The Greystones Press in April 2017
> This was a month for working on Pirate Baby, The Great Big Book of Friends and Smile, the book about Mona Lisa that I am writing for Barrington Stoke. But I mananged to get to the heat of the KLQ at Cokethorpe School, with team members MG Harris, Jo Cotterill and Cas Lester.
> I got the proofs for Pirate Baby, a picture book with fabulous illustrations by Ros Asquith, to be published by Otter-Barry Books next September.
> Not a great deal of writing got done this month - see below! But I made it to the the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) conference in London, which was very stimulating. It's so interesting seeing book production and promotion from the other side.
> This month The Greystones Press acquired an intern, Jane Chen, who set up our Instagram account (greystonespress)
> We also gained a new grandchild, Coco Anne Barber Sharp, born on 16th September in UCH and we couldn't be more pleased. Here is the blanket I made her:
> This month we at The Greystones Press signed a deal with The Rights People to sell our foreign rights. They will take our books to The Frankfurt Book Fair.
> I have been busy working through the final changes on In the Footsteps of Giants, the interactive app published by Time Traveller Tours and Tales. It takes Michelangelo as our guide through Florence in the years he was active there. You can pre-order it here and it will be available on the App Store early next year.
> But even on holiday work emails got through! Next February the new Otter-Barry Books, started by my friend Janetta Otter-Barry, will re-issue Parables and Miracles, my New Testament re-tellings, illustrated by Jackie Morris, under the new titles Lost and Found and Walking on Water.
>At the end of the month, I escaped to Rhodes for some heat and sunshine.
> June saw me in Riga, having a few days as a guest of the Latvian Literature platform
> While I was in Bologna earlier this year I talked to the lovely people at Barrington Stoke about another teenage book with an Italian theme. And this month the contract arrived - how prompt! All I can say at the moment is that it deals with a rather famous painting.
> Most of May was taken up with writing Tilt for Barrington Stoke. It's a short novel for teenagers about the Tower of Pisa!
> We look very happy because we are!
> And then on 23rd April, we published our first five titles, followed by a launch at Blackwells in Oxford.
> And then the London Book Fair! Here is my fellow-director at The Greystones Press (Stephen Barber) taking a lunch break.
> If March was busy, April was totally manic! After Florence came the Bologna Book Fair.
> And then at the very end of the month I left for Florence with Sarah Towle of Time Traveler Tours and Tales, to research the app we were working on about Michelangelo: In the Footsteps of Giants. Here is Sarah celebrating with a glass of Prosecco at Bologna station.
> The Bookseller ran a nice piece about The Greystones Press. And the week before, they chose Shakespeare's Ghost as one of six highlighted titles in a Shakespeare Spotlight feature.
> Ooh, March was busy! I was in Luxembourg for three nights - where it snowed! And talking to everyone in an International Primary School. Fortunately for me in English, which all the children spoke.
> I was on a panel with two other writers as part of the Imagine! Festival on the South Bank this half term. Lots of uninhibited children and their parents, willing to ask questions and even to dance! It was related to the Amazing Grace anniversary.
> The website for our new publshing house, The Greystones Press, has just gone live! And our first books have gone for prinitng. The official launch is on 23rd April, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Appropriate date to publish my new YA novel, Shakespeare's Ghost.
> Imagine my feelings to find this on Sir Mick Jagger's Twitter account today (14th January).
I hope he doesn't mind my reproducing here the photo of David Bowie reading my book Amazing Grace to a group of children in Mustique. The anniversary edition was published by Dial Children's Books in the US this month.
> This is a particularly exciting year for me as I'm starting an independent publishing house with my husband, called The Greystones Press. Our first titles come out this April. One of them is my new YA novel, Shakespeare's Ghost and here is a sneak preview of the gorgeous cover, illustrated by Joe McLaren.
> At the Oxfordshire and Berkshire heat of the Kids' Lit Quiz with Lucy Coats, Sally Nicholls, /Dennis Hamley, Mark Robson, Jo Coterill, M. G. Harris and Cas Lester. Wayne Mills is asking the questions.
> We celebrated the anniversary witj a cream tea in Cheltenham after a fantastic event with children. On the left illustrator Caroline Binch and on the right our editor Janetta Otter-Barry.
> This is the month that the Amazing Grace 25th Anniversary edition is published! Noone could be more amazed about this than I am. I wrote about how the book came about for Picture Book Den.
> On our last day we visited the Edinburgh offices of Barrington Stoke.
.> I had a great time at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with Ros Asquith, talking about The Great Big Green Book. Unfortunately I don't have any very sensible pictures: this one shows Frances Lincoln's ace publicist, Nicky Potter, and Ros warming up at dinner the first ight.
> I spent a few days at a writers' retreat in Devon with three good pals, Lucy Coats, Anne Rooney and Nicola Morgan. We did catually do some work - honestly!
> July is my month for having granchildren! This month one was two in New Zealand, one was one in London and one was born, in New Zealand on 16th.
> I've been asked to write another historical teen novel for Barrington Stoke, this time about the Tower of Pisa!
> A nice new reviewsof The Great Big Green Book, which you can find on the Non-Fiction page.
> My good friend and editor, Janetta Otter-Barry, has started a new publishing company, Otter-Barry Books. I hope to be publishing lots of books with her, as well as with Frances Lincoln.
> We made our Kickstarter target with two days to spare! $41,500. many thanks to all our backers.
> On 19th, Sarah Towle and her amazing team at Time Traveler Tours & Tales launched the Kickstarter Campaign for In the Footsteps of Giants. If you'd like to donate and win lots of special rewards, you can do so here. And if you'd like to feel you were at the launch party, watch here.
> Grace and Family (Boundless Grace in the US) has been chosen as a Power of Reading text by CLPE for 2015/16
> I went to the London Book Fair as it returned to its home at Olympia. The organisation and information was all a bit shambolic but I made it to the Opening Ceremony, with Mary Berry and publishing luminaries from all over the world.
> Hooray! Welcome to the Family has made it on to the shortlist of The School Library Association (SLA) Information Book Awards. Ros Asquith and I won our under-7s category with The GReat Big Book of Families in the inaugural awards.
> It was great to appear at the Oxford Literary Festival again and to meet up with old mates beforehand. Here I am at the Randolph with Philip Ardagh and Frank Cottrell Boyce.
> This was the month I signed a contract with Sarah Towle of Time Traveler Tours & Tales, to write a "suite" of educational materials, including an app, based on my novel David. You can watch campaign video here.
> After many happy year with my agent Pat White, on her retirement I shall be looked after by Claire Wilson at Rogers, Coleridge and White
> Another fabulous Bologna Book Fair, with my friend Lucy Coats. Bt in the picture I'm sitting in the sun with Sally Gardner and Sarah Towle - we had just eaten an ice cream and Daniel Hahn took the picture
> The Great Big Green Book was published, to general acclaim. Ros Asquith and I will be talking about it at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August (see Events)
> I had a fabulous two weeks in New Zealand, visiting my youngest daughter and her family and renewing my relationship with my granddaughter, whom I hadn't seen for thirteen months. I did one talk with librarians and teenagers in Hamilton, which gave me the chance to visit Hobbiton
> While I was in Chicago, I had a big love-in with Levar Burton, who has written a fabulous Introduction to the 25th Anniversary od Amazing Grace. What a Guy!
> I had a great time with Ros Asquith in Toronto and Chicago. In the first we went to see Niagara Falls in the snow and in the second a snow blizzard nearly prevented our return home.
> Two pieces of good news this month: a company in San Francisco want to make an opera of Amazing Grace and Frances Lincoln are re-issuing my Women of Camelot as a "classic." The new title is Queen Guinevere and other stories from the court of King Arthur
> It was a great privilege to give a short talk and present the prizes at one of my local secondary schools in Witney. I was very impressed by the literary and musical talent on display and greta achievements across the board.
> Had a great day "speed- dating" with librarians at the Reading Agency event at the new library in Worcester called The Hive.
> It was a poignant pleasure to visit the Toer of London on Remembrance Sunday in this centenary year of the outbreak of Word War One. We saw the poppies art installation and attended the service in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower. Strange and touching to remember the war dead feet away from the buried bodies of Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and others I have written about.
> Ros Asquith and I were on a panel with Sarah Garland at the IBBY conference in Roehampton, to talk about inclusion in our books. Frances Lincoln had a fabulous display of the many books I have written for them.
> I was invited to a preview of Dan Jones' series for Channel Five - Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty, which starts on November 27th. I expect you can guess which dynasty is referred to.
> There was an event at the Guardian for the Diverse Voices list of the best 50 books demonstrating culturaldiversity in the last fifty years. It was a great opportunity to meet up with my editor Janetta Otter-Barry and the illustrators of the two books I had on the list: Amazing Grace with Caroline Binch and The Colour of Home with Karin Littlewood.
> You may remember I wrote some months ago about working on a very hard text for a children's book. Well here is the result! Ros Asquith and I worked very hard on Welcome to the Family, just published by Janetta Otter-Barry Books at Frances Lincoln. It is a sort of spin-off from the Great Big Books of ... series we have been doing together. You can read about it on the Non-Fiction page. First reviews are very gratifying! For example, this one in Books for Keeps
> From the "Thai Bellini" through to coffee at Bar Italia, Barrington Stoke thoroughly celebrated the publication of Angel of Venice, my new teen title for them. It's set in Venice and on the sea during the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and features a love story, apricots and a severed hand.
> Barrington Stoke published Deadly Letter. This was originally a short story in an anthology I edited for Harper Collins, called Ip, Dip, Sky Blue. It's about an Indian girl called Prity, who has a hard time fitting into her new school until she learns the rules of a playground game. Now updated for 2014.
> It was Refugee Week and Karin Littlewood made this lovely video about a book we created together, The Colour of Home. This is the American edition as you can tell by the speling!
> I've just had the "final" page proofs for The Great Big Green Book, due to be published March 2015. We are getting firm orders through for co-editions, such as Korea and Italy.
> And The Great Big Book of Families was chosen as one of the 10 best LBGT picture books, on the Guardian website: "The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith is one of those brilliant books with loads of funny pictures with loads of details. EVERY family you can possibly think of is crammed in here. Whether you’ve got one dad, two dads, no dads, a step-dad, a funny dad, an annoying dad – your family is in this book. Yes it is. Mary and Ros made sure of that. Did you know that Ros, the illustrator of this book, also does cartoons for The Guardian?"
> Julia Eccleshare made The Great Big Book of Families the lead title in her Book Doctor feature in Guardian online about the best children's books featuring same sex couples..
> I had a wonderful time at the Aylsham Reading Festival in Norfolh. A group of children and parents acted out The Twelve Dancing Princesses with me, including net skirts, plastic swords and a paper crown. I wish I had a photo, as the Dads were specially game!
> It seemed I was no sooner back from Bologna than I was off to Italy again, this time to Florence, where I was again on Faculty for the Writer's Renaissance creative writing course. I've written about it here. It's always a pleasure to be back in Florence and I meet interesting women doing the course. I'll be back next year. Note: this is what a Faculty dinner in Florence looks like! Me with organiser Julie Foster Hedlund and co-tutor Sarah Towle.
> The month ended with another History Girls event for Daughters of Time at the very well-organised Oxford Literary Festival. I was Chairing a panel (that's me on the left) with Penny Dolan, Celia Rees and Leslie Wilson. But we were also lucky to have contributors Sue Purkiss and Katherine Langrish in the audience, who joined us afterwards. (Photo courtesy of David Wilson)
> Big fanfare at the beginning of the month for publication of Daughters of Time, the first book to grow from the History Girls blog. You can read the details here. A fun thing we did was to visit the tomb of Aphra Behn and place flowers on her grave. Here are seven of the contributors to the anthology, from L to R: Dianne Hofmeyr, me, Catherine Johnson (in front), Adèle Geras (behind), Katherine Langrish and Anne Rooney.
> The last weekend in February was one I had been preparing for since last year. I was co-organising - with good friend and writer extraordinaire Anne Rooney - the annual Scattered Authors Society (SAS) conference in Peterborough. It went very well as how could it not once we had organised our coup - our outside speaker and Guest of Honour was Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman.
> Valentine's Day saw me teaching again at Oxford Brookes' Publishing course. I was talking about Stravaganza and the changes in publishing from 2002 till the present.
> The Danes have now joined the Norwegians, Italians, Spaniards and the Dutch in putting in a firm order for Welcome to the Family, to be published by Frances Lincoln later this year. So we are up to five foreign co-editions before Bologna! This is the controversial title I hinted at last summer.
> Saw a revolutionary new depature for me - my first foray into Graphic Fiction! This book for HarperCollins Big Cat series retells a famous episode from the body of King Arthur legends, in cartoon form
> Like everyone's - or many people's - this month was dominated by Christmas. We were going to be twelve including my baby grand-daughter, as the sailing couple came back for six weeks, to introduce this lucky little girl to her huge extended family.
> Went to a brilliant Book Launch at the amazing Daunt's bookshop in Marlebone. What a gorgeous Independent it is! The book being launched was Charles Palliser's Rustication - highly recommended if you like atmospheric Faux-Victorian thrillers. And I solved lots of Christmas present problems at the same time.
> Amanda Craig's team at the PEN Quiz - including me, Lucy Coats, Anthony McGowan, Philip Womack and Alex Preston, sadly did not match our achievement of joint third place last year! But a good time was had by all.
> Delighted that my adult Crime story "The Day of the Dead" will appear in the Mammoth Book of Best British Crime next year.
> Booktrust has very flatteringly included books by me in its round up of this year's best titles: where they said these kind words about The Great Big Book of Feelings:
"This thoughtful, engaging and inclusive book has enormous universal appeal, and is ideal for primary schools and libraries, as well as for reading at home. "
> And blow me down if they didn't also include Amazing Grace in their list of the 100 Best Books for Children in the last 100 years!
> So in gratitude to them for featuring TWO of my titles in their recent promotions, I wrote them a blog about my favourite books as a child.
> I promised to give you a link to the Australian radio programme in which I talked about Michelangel's David with Sarah Dunant and William E. Wallace. Here it is
> I spent part of this month in Mexico, meeting my first grandchild. But writers don't really do holidays; I came back with an adult short story called Day of the Dead. More of this anon.
> My granddaughter lives on a boat, as her parents are sailing round the world. And that has got me thinking about another story ...
> Meanwhile, there will be a Norwegian edition of The Great Big Book of Feelings.
> And Ros Asquith and I have at last cracked how to do another book together - not in the series - of which I'll write more here in due course. It's another book for Janetta Otter-Barry Books at Frances Lincoln and a bit controversial.
> Ros Asquith and I did a gret event at the new Brent library at the Civic Centre, featuring The Great Big Book of Feelings. Above, game librarian Sarah Smith joins in our game of "feeling silly".
> The Great Big Books are doing very well. We got a wonderful review - a whole blog post actually - from someone who really understood what we were trying to do with Families.
And Brazilian primary school children are all going to see copies of Families, since their Government has chosen it as part of an educational scheme they run and printed nearly 91,500 copies!
> I discovered that Levar Burton (Geordi from Star Trek: The Next Generation) loves my book Amazing Grace!
> I'm going to do a broadcast for Australian radio about David. All part of a programme on the statue for "Books and Arts Daily" I'll put a link when I have one.
> I was in Venice at the Biennale, not really for it; it was a coincidence. I've blogged about it here. I was researching a new YA historical novel featuring the Battle of Lepanto. More to come!
> And I've made another trip to the Tower of London. Am getting on well with those Ravens!
> Very pleased to be asked to return to Florence next April to teach again on The Writers' Renaissance course in Florence.
> I have handed in the History Girls anthology to Templar, entitled Daughters of Time at present. It's going to be a corker! My story is about Lady Jane Grey.
> I wrote about Oscar Wilde's The Nightingale and the Rose for Katherine Langrish's series of Magical Classics.
> London Book Fair came soon after Bologna and I blogged about it here.
> And earlier in April I was teaching on the Writers' Renaissance course in Florence. This was the view from the terrace!
> I had a wonderful time at the Bologna Book Fair, seeing publishers, agents and friends (not mutually exclusive categories!) I wrote about it for BookBrunch and on Book Maven (Day One, Day Two and Day Three).
> Here's the video of our launch party. In this photo, you can see me and my illustrator Ros Asquith talking to our Faroese publisher
> The Great Big Book of Feelings is out this month and being launched at the Bologna Book Fair on 26th. This time my illustrator Ros Asquith will also be there. Both Feelings and Families, which now have 13 and 18 foreign editions respectively, are being made available this Spring as e-books on the Amazon and Apple stores.
> Frances Lincoln have created a poster for The Great Big Book of Feelings.
> We have being working on the text and illustrations of the third book in the series - The Great Big Green Book - and Frances Lincoln will be taking a full mock-up with two finished colour spreads to Bologna.
> I have more Bologna appointments than ever before! I am covering the Fair for Bookbrunch again, as well as for Armadillo and meeting my own foreign publishers.
cover of The Colour of Home.
> Mo Farah has said yes to a signed copy of The Colour of Home! Karin Littlewood, the illustrator, is always being asked about him in schools, since the main character is from Somalia. Our book was also seen prominently on BBC News at Ten in London recently. It was an item about the lack of Head Teachers in London and the classroom sequence showed a teacher reading The Colour of Home. I was researching the book in 2000 so it's lovely to find it's still gaining new readers, including a double gold medal Olympian!
> I have been having an interesting few weeks, writing a graphic novel version of a King Arthur story and meeting ravens at the Tower of London. Watch this space for more.
> Here is the cover of the Dutch translation of Stravaganza: City of Swords. It is a hardback with a cover designed by Ian Butterworth to match the original three UK books. He has designed all the Dutch editions and they have all been translated by Annelies Jorna, who sent me this image. I hope to have the real thing in my hands soon!
> I have been making a "Webinar" as part of the publicity for the Writers' Renaissance course I am teaching on in Florence next April.
> The History Girls are in negotiation with a publisher to produce an anthology for children. More details to follow!
> I received the first Chinese edition of Stravaganza: City of Masks. I know it's that, because the paper wrapper round it had my name on in western typography. The cover shows a boy with red hair (presumably Luciano, though in my book he has black, curly hair) and a swirling blue vortex. Maybe this = time slip?
> Amazing Grace has just gone into its 48th edition in hardback in the US! And the Spanish version is up to its 14th edition in the US too. Thank you, America.
> Books for Keeps chose Grace and Family as one of their Ten of the Best picture books valuing children's diverse families.
> I've had a very exciting Marketing Plan for The Great Big Book of Feelings, to be published in March 2013. It will be a busy winter!
> My tickets are all booked for next year's Writers' Renaissance retreat in Florence, where I'll be talking to other writers about a Sense of Place.
> I was Lucy Coats' guest on her Scribble City Central blog in October, as part of her Fantabulous Fridays series, talking about the Questing Beast.
> I joined in the Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries at the end of October. Writers were quite well represented among the 120 who marched to the House of Commons carrying banners and giving out leaflets. I blogged about it on my Book Maven blog.
Me, An Vrombout, Cressida Cowell, Philip Ardagh, Francesca Simon, Sarah McIntyre and Meg Rosoff
> There was a conference of the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) in Reading in September. Helena Pielichaty (current CWIG Chair) took this nice picture of me with fellow-writers Katherine Langrish and Anne Rooney. We are looking happy partly because we got one of the last bottles of wine that the bar was able to provide. You can read my account of the conference on my blog.
> My re-telling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Barefoot Books) is now published and here is its cover:
The stunning artwork is by French artist Miss Clara.
> I've been asked to teach on a writers' retreat in Florence next April, about the use of place in fiction - just the ideal sort of request for me. Full details here.
> Fantastic news is that a publisher in Brazil is taking twenty thousand copies of The Great Big Book of Feelings! And it isn't even out till next March. Well done those Rights sellers at Frances Lincoln!
>It has really been quite a month for foreign editions; I've had the German hardback of David, the German paperback of Troubadour, the Czech Republic version of The Falconer's Knot and the Finnish translation of Stravaganza: City of Ships! What a shame I can't read any of them.
> It's been a summer of culture for me. Not so much the Olympics, although I watched the Opening Ceremony with as much pleasure and everyone else seems to have felt. There have been Proms, exhibitions and plays, almost all in London. We have been whizzing up and down the M40 on a regular basis.
> The Great Big Book of Feelings has now gathered eleven foreign editions and will be launched at the Bologna Book Fair next March. I've had a contract for The Great Big Green Book so that's the next one I'll be working on with the marvellous Ros Asquith.
> I attended a small part of the IBBY Congress (also in London) and was delighted to meet my Dutch translator for all six Stravaganza titles.
> One of the most exciting pieces of news for me was that "my" contrada, Valdimontone, won the August Palio in Siena! It was the first time for 22 years so I can just imagine the excitement. If you have read Stravaganza: City of Stars, you will too. (see my Palio Diary).
>I celebrated publication day of City of Swords in two schools as part of the Manchester Children's Book Festival. It was a great pleasure to do it with my friend Adèle Geras.
> Then off for another successful retreat with The Scattered Authors' Society. Katherine Roberts took this nice photo of me with my book. And my team won the annual quiz on children's books in a delightfully Pimms-fuelled and competitive evening. (Maybe that's why we were dubbed "Mary's Marauders"!)
> Some of the History Girls had a get-together for a lunch in London but I forgot to take any pictures. The conversation was just too good. Don't forget you can find us at the History Girls blog.
> The main news is the publication of the sixth Stravaganza novel: City of Swords. It's ten years since the first one, City of Masks came out and we've had a long journey together.
> There's a new short story on the Stravaganza website to go with City of Swords, It's called Under the Walls.
> David has been nominated for the American award for Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) administered by the American Library Association (ALA)
> In preparation for the release of City of Swords next month, Luciano and Arianna now have Twitter accounts! They are @LCrinamorte and @ARossiDuchessa. Do follow them.
leaf I had a lovely time as midweek speaker on the Arvon course in Lumb Bank in May, in the middle of the heatwave.
> I have received my author copies of Venice Noir in which my first adult fiction appears. My short story is the last one in the book.
> We had a good meeting with the Frances Lincoln team and Ros Asquith looking at the final layouts of The Great Big Book of Feelings, which has just gone up to seven foreign co-editions (The Great Big Book of Families has sixteen!). I'm so pleased that our co-editions publishers are being so supportive of this series.
> I had a lovely time with other writer friends at the London Book Fair. You can read all about it on my Book Maven blog, I was being filmed occasionally by Lucy Coats who also blogged about the Fair. You can also read her account and see the film she was making, Here's a picture of Lucy herself in a rare moment of lowering her iPad.
> Another book almost ready to go to press is Stravaganza: City of Swords! I have been franticly reading page proofs and having long calls with my copy editor but we are on the verge now.
>I have been very busy with proposals and research for two quite different novels. And excitingly I have booked two weeks holiday in Costa Rica to visit my youngest daughter, who is sailing round the world! Look out for picture books about sloths and turtles and margays.
> Oh, and I must put an advertisement here for the wonderful coup we have on my joint blog, The History Girls. On 10th May, please visit the History Girls to read a fascinating interview with Hilary Mantel on the publication day of Bring up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall.
> I had a great time at the Bologna Book Fair, meeting publishers both UK and foreign. It was a special pleasure to meet the Italian publishers Lo Stampatello, who have published The Great Big Book of Families and are taking Feelings. You can read my three days of Bologna reports on my Book Maven blog. Next stop: London Book Fair!