Empty Chairs

When your friend emails and asks if they can read you something, something that is a rough first draft, and that friend is Nicola Davies you know you are in for a treat.

Nic face-timed me. I was doodling a design for a Christmas card. But not for long. Because what she had written was a heart-tugging soul song of a piece of writing.

She sent it to Emily from the Guardian, and fast as lightning Emily came back asking if there might be an image to go with it. The only image to come to mind was this.

empty

Read here what Nic read to me. The Day War Came. Share it. Send it to your MP, if they voted against allowing the 3000 children in.

Don’t stand by and do nothing. For that way lies only darkness and desolation.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A small cry in dark times

Dear Stephen Crabb,

You are my member for parliament. Yesterday you voted against allowing 3 000 unaccompanied children into the UK. Now, as a children’s author and illustrator I should declare an interest here. I write books about the wild world, about peace. I want to sell these books. 3 000 more children would boost my audience, and even if they couldn’t afford to buy my books, because after all, these children have nothing, not even parents to care for them, well,  they might boost the demand for my books in libraries.

That’s not why I feel a sense of shame in the actions Britain has taken, or should I say inaction, in failing to provide these children with a safe have. And it is shame I feel.

Are you aware that 10 000 children have gone missing from the camps? They are targeted by those who would exploit them for the sex trade, for slavery. You were voted into office in order to govern, given a position of privilege which comes with a duty, not just to govern the UK, but to act for and on behalf of people. 3 000 unaccompanied children. And you say no.

Would these children be safe if they were to come here? Possibly not. It seems that even in the UK children disappear once they have been registered for asylum. Perhaps this is what worried you, made you take this awful decision? You were worried that in the UK we fail to protect those who are most vulnerable?

Could you for one moment put yourself into the shoes of a 4, 6, 10 year old who has travelled across a continent fleeing from war, who has survived so very much to be denied entry into a safe place? Can you for one moment imagine having lost everything? Home, family, toys, school? Can you imagine what it must be like to have seen your friends killed? To have had everything taken away from you, and to live in constant fear? I can. It’s part of my job. Using my imagination. And I pray that such circumstances never befall myself or my children, so that we never have to experience such trials.

Hunger, fear, sorrow and loss. And now you have denied them hope.

It is a sad time when Britain cannot welcome to its shores those who are in such desperate need.

Shame on you sir. And shame on us all if we stand by and do nothing to help these people.

Yours Jackie Morris.

 

NB: He wasn’t alone alone. There were many others, but the margin was narrow. If you can, write to, tweet, facebook message you MP, and let them know what you think.

And send them this also, from my wonderful friend Nicola Davies who wrote the perfect book, Perfect, and The Promise, a story for our time. If they read it they might begin to understand. These could so easily be our children. They are our children. We are failing them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Seals, falcons, boats, books and mills.

Get a cup of tea. This blog post is about to break ALL the rules of blogging. It’s long. You will need refreshment along the way. But that’s what some rules are for, to be broken.

Last weekend saw the relaunch of The Seal Children, republished in a beautiful hardback edition by Otter-Barry Books. This is the first book to be released by Janetta Otter-Barry. Years ago it was the first book I wrote AND illustrated. A few weeks ago Ffion Rees, of Queen of the Sky fame, put her first boat on the water for her new venture, Falcon Boats.

People talk about a ‘perfect storm’. The coming together of these events formed a ‘perfect calm’. Why not launch book, publishing house and boat in one event? This for me was made all the sweeter by the fact that the girl in The Seal Children was named after Ffion and the book is dedicated to Hannah ( my daughter), who crewed Ffion’s boat, Atlantic Storm, and Tom ( my son) and Robin ( my poor long suffering partner), whose idea it was to link up all three events.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything. The whole day would be weather dependent, wildlife don’t work to schedule and nerves leading up to the day were somewhat fractured at times as Anna and Ffion tried to organise everything. ( At the time of planning the event the boat had no seats, paperwork needed sorting, insurance etc…..)

Well, on the day everything came together to make for a perfect day. For those who couldn’t be with us here is an attempt to record the day. I wish I could add to it the smell of the salt sea and the cold wind and the sunshine. I’ll do my best. So, if you have your tea at the ready come aboard.

startWe had two trips going around the island. The day before it had looked as if we might have to call the whole thing off, with a force 6 rising 7 northerly wind and a 2 metre swell it looked as if boarding would be impossible. But Ffi got up early to check conditions and all seemed well. We had planned to take the boat around the back, the north side of St Davids Head, to the seaward side of Maes y Mynydd. This was out of the question with the wind direction, but we would still make it out to the island to see seals.

falconboatsffi

stdhead

After the safelty talk Ffi crossed the Sound. It began to rain and we sheltered a while in a cave, talked about The Queen of the Sky. A seal swam in the cave as we sat, waiting for the rain to cease.

13015262_959112800871011_5991053052651357922_n

We talked about Queen of the Sky and why it is that Falcon Boats is called Falcon Boats, and Ffi talked a little about what it was like to take this wild bird she had rescued from a watery grave, build back her strength and then set her free, back to her home in the sky. There couldn’t be a better environment for talking about this.

12973512_1029336927157683_513371663546726021_oNext we travelled down the coast and out across to look for porpoise feeding on the ebb tide. So lucky, we saw so many. It was cold out on the water, but the air felt beautiful. Karin got a great shot of a porpoise rising.

13040935_1030013663756676_8307408555915904480_o

Next we went in search of seals.

sealsbeachrs2 greyseals bullseal

Beautiful Atlantic Grey Seals.

How wonderful to sit offshore reading The Seal Children while seals swam around us.

12973203_1007031872718968_5458171410131763973_o 13002431_1007031509385671_8009007662179573771_o 13029501_1007031369385685_6987107804917370216_o

ags ags2

I loved seeing the golden seal who looks like the seal straight out of Song of the Golden Hare.

goldenseal

Working with Ffion and Hannah was a great pleasure.

hannahs

We saw peregrines on both trips, and oystercatchers, gannets, chough, raven, so many seals both in the water and hauled out. Soon the small sea birds, the razorbills and guillimots will be back, and the kittiwakes.

Although we weren’t able to go around to the seaward side of Maes y Mynydd we seemed to have 2 boatloads of happy passengers as we returned to shore each time. I loved the feel of the salt on my skin, in my hair, the taste of it on my lips, and the wind blown wildness of the day. It was the first time I had been out on two consecutive trips and it astonished me how the water changed so fast. Ffion had talked about how high the waves can reach at the back of the island, with the fetch of the waves across the ocean, and now how the tide had turned while we had been out and we witnessed the wind against tide as it whipped up the waves. When she talks about the sea it is like listening to a wonderful language of sea poetry.

13055695_10153656587998348_4535952722223083782_o 13043612_959112700871021_1936674173715425639_n

Light, wildlife, water, time, tide all conspired to make the very perfect way to launch this book.

maesym1 maesym2

Had we been able to get around the head we would have been able to see Maes y Mynydd from the sea, the selkie’s element. On an evening trip, a few days before, we had taken the boat out to see just how much of the village we could see.

waterland

nothwards

stdhead23It was the most beautiful evening. St Davids Head looks so different rising from the ceiling of the sea. As we sat offshore from the old Quaker village one or two shearwaters skimmed past us, effortless in their beautiful flight. Soon there will be thousands flying past on the evening run to their burrows on Skomer.

seawardside penb carnllidi

Looking back to the land, these are the paths I walk, have walked, so often with cats and with dogs. In the photo above the highest rock on the left side is where I wrote much of The Ice Bear while ravens circled. And you can see, if you click on the image to make it larger, the field systems of Maes y Mynydd. Astonishing. To be on the water off this coast where I have walked for 24 years, to see it from this different viewpoint, the light, the water, the land, the smells, everything.

gorgeous georgeous2

In the evening both boatloads of people reconvened at Solva Woollen Mill for supper. Walking in to the mill on a book launch day is always magical, and this time Anna had tables set beautifully with flowers and food and everything just looked so perfect.

beautifulmill

CgaE8stXIAAc9cF

12985364_10153614771446314_455392579793483511_n

13000209_1186168744751453_7853773052561682020_n 12974300_1186168791418115_4815882279380200235_n

I had taken sketchbooks and book proofs and was talking about the old village and the book, and after a wonderful supper of cawl made by Joy I read from the books I am working on now. I have 5 books coming out this year.

The food, the company, the sea, the seals, the porpoise and the weather, all combined to make a wonderful day. My thanks to Robin, for being clever enough to think of something so magical, Ffi and Hannah from Falcon Boats, Anna and all at the Mill for a wonderful end to the day and to all who made the journey, some from the far away land of England. Also thanks to Janetta, for reprinting this book. It’s a real heartsong, soulsong of a book for me and it’s great to see it given such a beautiful makeover. Thanks Gail for making sure the books arrived, and Nicky too.

Ffion has some great plans for other events on boats so keep an eye on her website. You can hire the boat if you have plans of your own and I would recommend to all artists to get out there and take a look at Pembrokeshire from a different angle. You can order signed copies of The Seal Children, and all of my other books in print from Anna at Solva Woollen Mill, and even add a dedication if you wish. And Joy has a wonderful restaurant that can be booked for private parties, The Other End of the Rainbow. Have a look at her facebook page for details.

So, if I have broken the blogging rules, I am sorry, but sometimes one requires mor ethan the recommended number of words and images. And if I have used the word ‘perfect’ too often, then I refuse to apologise. I have had a few weeks of feeling so downhearted and disillusioned with books, publishing, everything, struggling to work and pull myself together. I stepped off the boat on Saturday feeling like something magical had just happened. It hadn’t ‘just happened’. It took a lot of work to organise. Thank you my friends. You are the best.

sch

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Something About a Book

wellloved

When a book is shortlisted for the Greenaway award they send a film crew to talk to you about the book. Some films are made in the publishers offices, but for me, the crew came to my house. And I didn’t tidy up.

Having Something About a Bear on the shortlist has made me go back to this book and think again about why I wrote it. It has also give it more of a platform, so that I can talk about the wild and wild things and touch on some of the bad things we, as humans, do to the bear people of this world.

Above is a picture of my bear, bought for me so many years ago by my aunt. She travelled everywhere with me this bear, when we were young. Now she is sitting beside me as I type. I loved all he fur off. My mum stitched her paws. She used to have a red jumper I had knitted for her. I think I will knit her another.

Watch the film. Share it is you will. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

International Children’s Book Day 2016

2nd April, Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday, and since the 1960’s International Children’s Book Day.

To celebrate, here are some of my favourite International authors, books.

  1. Shaun Tan.st6 st5 st4 st3 st2 st
  2.  Rebecca Dautremerrd rd1 rd4

And I am pleased to say that many of my books have been translated into many languages too, my favourite editions being the French language ones because they are big, and the ones with a completely different alphabet, like Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Greek.

french mine

Next week it is the 2016 Bologna Book Fair. Hoping my books find homes in the hearts of publishers from other lands.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Beneath the surface of the sea….

Beneath the surface of the sea silver seals swim. And when they come to land they lie upon the pebbled beaches, dappled skin blending with subtle sea smoothed stones.

And once, when walking, years ago,  the landscape encased in mist and water thickened air the stones and the seal song caught on the soft wind told me a story of long ago, a story that had happened where these stone walls now stood to mark where once there was a village.

coversch

Over time I caught the words that held the story, built around them images. It was a love story, set between the land and sea, two people, so different, who came together through a love of music and the waves. Shared love.

sealch1

Books come and go, like waves on the beach, but this one lived a while and found its way into hearts and minds, and then, for a short time it went out of print. But once again it has a publisher, and now is back in beautiful hardback with a cover that shimmers silver like moonlight on water. And to celebrate I commissioned a silver selkie from Maria at Little feathers Gallery. She curls around a beautiful moonstone, delicately crafted with a swirl of movement.

silverseal

You can buy the new edition of The Seal Children from Solva Woollen Mill. You can come and help us celebrate the launch on 16th April, when we take to the water with stories in search of selkies ( weather permitting). And you can see more of Maria’s work at Little Feathers Gallery in Cornwall.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Falcon Boats

On Wednesday, after months of very hard work, my wonderful friend Ffion, of Queen of the Sky fame, launched herself into a new venture. Ffion has worked the waters off the coast of Pembrokeshire all her adult life. She loves them with a passion, and loves to bring others to a better understanding and appreciation of the wealth of wildlife we in Britain have on our doorstep, from seals to spider crabs, jellyfish to whales.

It’s not been an easy journey, with so many decisions to be made, including the company name, although for me this seemed obvious. Falcon Boats, after that lucky day when Ffi picked up a sick peregrine from the waters at the back of Ramsey Island. Peregrines, the fastest bird in the sky, sleek and streamlined, beautiful, wildly wicked. So, after going around in circles Falcon Boats it is, and on Wednesday I was lucky enough to be able to down tools and head out with Ffi and Hannah for the launch of the Atlantic Storm, the first of Ffion’s boats.

FB LOGO                launching

The boat was launched out from Porth Clais harbour, deceptively calm and quiet, sheltered from the wind. Outside the harbour there was a swell, the result of the tail end of storm Katie. tomffi falconb crewskipper

It was the first time the boat had been on the water for a year, so there was engine testing in the harbour and alarms and excitement. Blue Ocean Adventures were also launching their boat and Mike stood off the harbour for a while incase of any problems. But all was well and we headed out into the beautiful waters and across the Sound where the blowhole as making astonishing sea music and throwing up rainbows like sea spirits.

mike thewater sploshing twowomen seaspirit spirit2

Hannah is crewing for Ffion. There’s something about watching your child competently working, fuelling up a boat, checking things over, that’s just wonderful. And best of all was to see the smile on Ffion’s face. Back behind the wheel of a boat, in her element.

Pete will be handling the slip work and shore work and filling in for Hannah when she takes days off. The logo, which was mostly designed by Hannah looks great on the boat.

pete dogonboat

The aim of the trip that day was to get the boat on the water, test the engines and moor her round at St Justinians, ready for work. Ffion was still waiting for the seat pads to arrive, and they came just in time for the first trip, yesterday. And how wonderful that on that first trip one of the things they should see was a beautiful peregrine falcon. Surely a sign of good things to come.

lifeboatst happywoman mooring

You can book by calling Falcon Boats, or online from their website. Obviously all trips are weather dependant. The boat takes 12 passengers so can also be booked for groups, and Ffion is up for doing bespoke trips on request. I am working on her doing early morning breakfast trips with coffee and pain au chocolate and also evening supper trips with shearwaters and supper. There will also be trips for writer’s, photographers and artists, where there is more of a chance to linger, watch and really get time to experience life on the water.

Meanwhile we still have a few places on the book launch trips. Have a look here for details. This is to celebrate the re-launch of The Seal Children and will involve a trip across to Ramsey and then around to the seaward side of Maes y Mynydd where The Seal Children is set, so we will be in the element of The Selkie. Later there will be a talk and supper at Solva Woollen Mill. Booking for this is essential and there are limited places available for the boat trip.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Something…..

Something about a bear_banner

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Three things

On 15th March I will be going to London for a party to celebrate the longlist of the Greenaway and Carnegie medals. Something About a Bear is on the longlist and I want to make the best of this. All the Bears in the Wild Wide World were so excited they jumped into the van. The party is at the Amnesty Buildings in London.

bannar

writingbears

On 16th March I will be in the Natural History Museum shop painting, probably a bear or some bears. Do come along if you can.

On 19th of March I will be at the glorious Blue Ginger Gallery for the opening of The Peace of Wild Things ( thanks Tamsin Abbott, for putting this together with Sue from Blue Ginger) The show has such beautiful work in it. Again, do come if you can, and help us spread the word about the exhibition.

12687832_10153238882111594_9170125907936283293_n

12801502_10153514778336314_1573974840448084783_n 12800226_10153514778461314_3101252858774134165_n

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

16th April: Book Launch and Boat Launch

CcyLWqKWIAE4D_7

On 16th April we will be celebrating the relaunch of The Seal Children, written and illustrated by me. For more about the book have a look here.

scc

The book will be one of the first titles to be published by Otter-Barry Books. It was one of the very first books I wrote and I am so pleased that Otter-Barry Books are bringing it back into print in this new hardback edition for a new generation of children. So, Anna at Solva Woollen Mill and I thought we should have a very special celebration to launch the book.

The book is about many things, land and sea, love and loss. It is set in the landscape I live in. Sometimes I wonder if it is a true story. You can walk up the hill, and over, to the place of ruins, a magical dreaming place where the stones whisper stories, and I did that on many days when I was working on the book.

mm1

mm2 mm4 Along the way you can see many things and all changes with the light and the seasons. Today celandine starred the banks yellow and gorse flowers were beginning to hang heavy on the bushes. The blackthorn hedges that make a tunnel of the path that leads to the hilltop have the smallest tight pearl buds of blossom. By April these will be gone, maybe. Foxgloves will be growing, the lane will be pink with campion. Today the fields around the old village are alive with the bleats of lambs and buzzards calling from the sky and chough.mm5 mm6

What we hope to do to launch the book is to take people out, away from the land and into the selkie’s element. Our plan is to make one or two trips by boat, out to Ramsey Island where seals can be seen all year round and where many of the seabirds threaded through the pages of the book can be found. With luck we might see porpoise, but it’s early in the year for them. We will keep a sharp eye out for peregrine and chough, for Ramsey is where The Queen of the Sky began. The the plan is next to swing around St Davids Head and follow the coast to The Gessail, where the old villagers from Maes Y Mynydd once kept their fishing boats. Places are limited for the boat trips. 11 people per boat.

Now, there’s a lot of magic tied up in this tale, some of which I will talk about during the day of the 16th, but here is a small piece of it: The boat trip will be run by Ffion Rees who has started up her own boat company. So, in a way the book launch will also be a launch for Ffion’s company, Falcon Boats. And Ffion is the wonderful woman who rescued a drowning peregrine from the sea and helped her back to the sky, the story of which is chronicled in Queen of the Sky published by Graffeg ( and Ffi is shortly to publish a book about her life on the water, again with Graffeg who published Queen of the Sky). Ffion is also the name of the selkie’s daughter. I’ve been out on the water so many times with Ffion and there is no one better to take to the water with. She knows the sea so well, well enough to hold a great respect for it.

11393381_10153368033796197_5874762546464292643_o westernmail

So, the first part of the book launch will be a very exclusive boat trip, with readings from Queen of the Sky and The Seal Children. The cost for this will be £25 each and when you book you will receive an exclusive signed ‘ticket’. To book contact Anna at Solva Woollen Mill. The trip will depart from St Justinians and you will need to be there approx. 15 mins before, but all details will be confirmed when you book your place. The trip will last about an hour and a half.mm9mm8The only problem with this is that the boat trips are weather dependant. Obviously if the weather is awful we won’t be able to go, but instead we will do a slide show and talk with film, coffee and cake at the mill, with myself and Ffion, talking about both Queen of the Sky and The Seal Children. But given the magic that follows this book it should be calm and warm and beautiful.

In the afternoon there will be a talk and slideshow, again with film, about the story of the book and about Maes y Mynydd, where the book is set and a reading of The Seal Children.  After this there will be a supper of cawl and home made bread which will be followed by a talk about some of my work in progress, which includes Robert MacFarlane’s The Lost Words, Found, Fox and The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow. This event will also be ticketted at a cost of £25, and the ticket price includes supper, the talk and a copy of The Seal Children. Again places are limited, so book soon.

To summarize:

All day with boat trip with Falcon Boats and talk and supper: £50 ( includes copy of The Seal Children, signed) Please book before 8th April and pay in full to secure your place.

Afternoon event with supper at Solva Woollen Mill:£25 ( includes copy of The Seal Children, signed)

To book tickets contact Anna at Solva Woollen Mill. Places are limited but if there is a large take-up we may be able to run extra boat trips ( 11 spaces per boat)

If you can’t come remember you can still order copies of the book, signed, and all my other books from Solva Woollen Mill.

The Seal Children inhabits a place of magic, part this world, part faery, between the land and the sea. We are hoping this launch will also inhabit this place and be a wonderful launch for Otter-Barry Books, a new and beautiful voice in the children’s book industry.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments