16th April: Book Launch and Boat Launch


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.


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.


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.

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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.


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Paper Boats

Some years ago James Mayhew and I did a book called Starlight Sailor. At the heart of the book is a paper boat.

I had been fed up with walking into bookshops to be met with a wall of ‘product’ related things that linked to books. As a parent myself I know how hard it is sometimes to make ends meet and I wanted to make a book that had something that couldn’t be bought, but could be played with, for hours.

Now my lovely friend Karin also has a paper boat book, a gentle tale full of love called A Paper Boat for Panda. It is the first of her 3 books being launched at The Blue Ginger Gallery on 19th March, after the preview for The Peace of Wild Things exhib. ( 3 more to follow in June)


To celebrate she is asking people to make a paper boat and send it to the gallery. These will be ‘raffle tickets’, the prize being your own panda made in the shed of great making by Celestine and the Hare. For more about this read her blog post.

I was thinking how wonderful it would be if other artist friends of mine might make a boat. I spent the day yesterday working on just such a thing. Painting a sheet of paper to fold. I think the paper I used was a little too thick. I want to try to make one with gold leaf on too. Perhaps we might auction one or two later, from charity. I will ask Sue at Blue Ginger what she thinks. One of these will be the boat in which Celestine’s panda rides. The other is for Karin’s Little P. A boat for him to sail in the shed.


It was good to step sideways from work for a short while and play.


The instructions for making are on Celestine’s site. Also on the paper boat page on my website.

You can make boats to take out and play with, wax them so they float for longer, string them up to make mobiles, boats of different sizes, write wishes inside them or worries and let them float away, build rivers of fabric for them to float on, whatever. The limit is only your own imagination. They make a wonderful activity for a whole class.

And I urge you to take a look at Celestine’s website and the gentle and playful world she creates. The books are just lovely, threaded through with kindness and love and sharing. In a busy world they bring calm. Her films are a delight ( my particular favourite is the hedgehog film, with soundtrack from Mike Harding).

So, make a boat, send it to Blue Ginger, or better still come yourself. Don’t forget to put your name in or on the boat. It’s a better world in the land of Celestine and the Hare.

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Manuscript; The Seal Children

In 2004 The Seal Children was published. It was my first longer piece of writing, written in the 1990’s and it took a short while to find a publisher. The thing is, I kept it hidden, didn’t show it to anyone, but when I did, to Janetta and Jude at Frances Lincoln, it found a home straight away. It was the first story I wrote on a computer. Tidying up, some time ago I found the printed out manuscript and the edited manuscript.



So interesting for me to look and see how this is changed. Even the ending.



The book was published, in the UK, in Denmark, Korea and USA. It won the Tir Na N’Og, my first book award. It continued to sell steadily, it went into paperback……and then I realised that people were contacting me because it was impossible to get hold of. Hardback copies online were being offered at ridiculous prices. It was out of print. A couple of times I asked my publisher if they would reprint, but answers drifted off into the ether. Eventually, after more people getting in touch I asked for the rights to the book back. I knew there was a demand for it. The Hamilton Trust had built a program of lessons around it.

The book will be available again in hardback from April, with a new cover and a few changes, beautiful paper that isn’t shiny, and there will be a launch for the book in Solva Woollen Mill on 16th April. The book is on Solva Woollen Mill’s site now and as ever I am happy to sign and dedicate books. Anna and the team will post them anywhere in this world.

For teachers here are some ideas of how to work with The Seal Children.

scc obb insidebook sealchcover

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Elmo the Ginger

For those worried about His Lordship Elmo the Ginger, he is now senior pack member, lord of misrule, and very much still alive. He sleeps the day away, curled up with The White Cat or Lady S.

Here he is, by the fire, with The White Cat, holding paws.


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Something About a Friend, and journalism.

Tamsin Abbott came to stay a couple of weeks ago, just briefly, but it was good to see her. I first met her work, through the Earth Pathways Diary, and then was introduced to her by Hannah Willow at Art in Action. We swapped some work.

We walked a bit, talked a bit and did a jigsaw.

foxyladyOn the way back from London I called in to see Tamsin and Mike, to stay for a night, to rest in their friendship. I had written most of Something About a Bear in Tamsin’s garden, and in conversation over breakfast in sunshine it had been Tamsin who came up with the word ‘peaches’ for the baby panda, “born as soft and small as peaches”. The book is dedicated to Mike and Tamsin and their family. Like bears, they love the woods. So, my intention had been to find headspace to write again, but my stay was too short…. but, we did another jigsaw together, a fine way to share time, drinking wine with streams of bright bubbles, talking about work and family. Resting.

And the next day we took the dogs for a walk, up the beautiful hill. Ivy ran wild in the fieled where the grass grew scrubby on the hill and islands of hawthorn held endless possibilities. And then we heard a yikerring of excitement and saw a great hare come bounding across the field and up, up, up the hill with Ivy running hell for leather after it. Huge hare, golden brown against the green, running with ears up and off and away, and even though Ivy ran fast, the hare ran faster, and away. Beautiful.

Lynney towardswales

Staying with Mike and Tamsin is always inspiring. This time I joked with them that it was like staying in the pages of Country Living. Why? Because in the March issue of the magazine there is a wonderful 6 page article about Tamsin and her work.

zazatamsin1contactdetailsbeautifulpicsReally wonderful to see Tamsin here. I have been getting so worried about arts journalism of late. I’ve been approached recently by a few magazines offering to produce an article about me if I pay for an advert in the magazine. Some even offer to ‘allow’ me to write an article if I pay for an advert. I don’t think this kind of ‘journalism’ should go unchallenged, because it gives exposure only to those who have the funds to pay for it. What is wonderful about this article is that Country Living approached Tamsin. There was no suggestion that she should advertise, though there was an offer for her to be in one of the Country Living Shows, which in itself is a bit of an honour as they only have beautiful quality work on show. So, good to hear there are still magazines who work on the merit of the artist to produce interesting and beautifully illustrated articles. To read the whole article purchase the March edition of the magazine. And to see more of Tamsin’s work keep an eye on her website and come to Blue Ginger near Malvern in March where she is orchestrating an exhibition called The Peace of Wild Things.


Tamsin’s studio is a place of heat and light and glass and wild magic. There are curious collections of things including a hare’s foot ( from a roadkill hare). In summer the garden is filled with fruit. In the evening owls hoot in the trees.


haresfoot sealsswim

As I said, I met Tamsin a few years ago and am very lucky to own some of her work. Some was swapped for paintings, some was bought, and some were gifts. Here are just a few of the pieces.

t4This small beauty was a gift some time ago and the bear is a detail of a larger piece that Tamsin gave me because she knows I love bears.

t3The painted crag I am told is a piece Tamsin was working on while we chatted on the phone one day. Love the more painted style of this.

t2And then there is my glorious garden gate and wall of glass. You can see more of it here: it’s wonderful. I have more.

Tamsin Abbott. Go to her website, get lost in its beauty. Her work is just magnificent. Her husband is pretty clever too.

panellonger pannel lookingfortigers gardengate genjighostcat

How glad were we both that Ivy did not catch the wild, bold hare? Very. How thrilled were we both to see that glimpse of wild magic running over the field. Heart glad and breathless. Time stopped as the swift hare ran.



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Gathering images

This morning we walked in sunshine to the hill’s top then over along the ancient pathways to the old village of Maes y Mynydd. Soon The Seal Children will be republished in hardback ( second hand hardback copies seem to be priced at a ridiculous £1000 plus and the book is used in schools and studied alongside wonderful works) so I will be working again with this book and I need to gather images to make a new presentation.wcwk helenm mymwc Here, where the white cat walks, I took a photo, trying to stand where a photographer stood over a century ago, when people still lived in these small wind blown houses. If you look very carefully in the picture below you can see someone standing, watching the person with the camera, trees, great chimneys on these small houses.

maesymynyddWe went into the ruin where I had scattered Mr Griffith’s ashes some years before. The White cat talked with the ghosts.

inside firecatw ruins bluewhite standoff On the way home the White Cat decided to play ‘Gandalf’ with Ivy. “You will not pass”, said the White Cat. So Ivy stood. Crept a bit closer. Waited…………

and then made a dash for it, chased by the White Cat. quick Home down the Green lane and past the beautiful wall of Tamsin’s glass which reminded me of something I wanted to write.greenlane

Included in the glass are the lives of many of my cats who have lived with me, including The White Cat’s brother Genji, who loved to walk. He was shining, true to his name, ‘The Shining One’.genjighostcat


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Library Cards

So many people have said how much they love the library cards that I asked Graffeg if they might make a set of postcards from them. These were launched on National Library Day.

Mary and Little P decided they needed to show them to people.


3card 8card 9card 2card4card 5card 6card10card card131card 7card card14And I have 2 sets to give away. One set I will send one of each at random to people who comment on this post. I will get in touch to ask for addresses when Mary and Little P decide who to send to. The other set I will pick someone out at random and send the whole set to. There are two of each design, twelve designs altogether. If you can’t wait you can get them from Graffeg.

So, leave a comment and tell me, what is your favourite library or bookshop, where is it and why? And Mary and Little P might just send you a card.

Some have special stamps on too:


( Mary and Little P were born in the Shed of Celestine and the Hare, a place where magic happens and much chocolate is consumed by weasels)


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#NationaLibrariesDay 2016

Some time ago I was commissioned to design 12 library cards for 4 London library authorities. The brief was very open.

The last 3 cards were launched on National Libraries Day and to help Chiswick and Gayton libraries celebrate I travelled down to London, with paints, by van and by train. It’s a long way from Pembrokeshire.


The new cards all had birds on them. There was a kingfisher, as it is one of the words Robert MacFarlane and I are making a book around, an acorn, with a jay as acorn is another of the words and the jay is his daughters favourite bird, and goldfinches, because both Mr MacFarlane and I like them.

In the morning I painted in Chiswick library, in the afternoon in Gayton.

12640302_10153893016031779_5969750221842906000_o 12622392_10153893015811779_8493752985080284442_o 12710833_10153893015661779_1361850478144830892_o Lovely that Ann came all the way from near Cambridge, and great to see Liz and Deb and Cathy ( taking the photo) again.12622060_10153893015441779_9164583261393734958_o I had a small block of real gold with me, and used it on the dragon’s wings, because it was National Libraries Day. 12525367_10153893015421779_7535467873240962772_o 12694628_10153893015306779_7597195944279213315_o 12657905_10153893015181779_5229122337318569441_o 12669473_1270605789623332_8585659329201587674_n 12651195_10208401269810147_1655995184839285820_nIn Gayton, in the afternoon I painted a bear and met lovely browsers in the library and librarians too.gaytonl In both libraries they had collected books for display, though it had been a struggle as many of the books were out on loan. At one point I sat and listened as a mum read Tell Me a Dragon to her son. It was a quiet moment and wonderful to hear the two sharing the book.librarybooksTired, on the way home the train was delayed as there was a tree down on the line. It was chaos at the railway station, but Chiltern Railways managed it so well and the trains were only delayed by an hour. I had been so wrapped up in the palaces of books I hadn’t noticed the fearsome weather outside. And in the station there is a piano. So many people sat down to play it. I had no idea that so many people still learned to play and it was a pleasure to take some quiet time to sit, wait, listen.

To find out about the postcards of the library cards have a look at this blog post.

The two paintings, completed on the day, remain in the libraries, at Chiswick and Gayton.

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Time and tide

At the end of the beach the light was so beautiful, the stone so sculpted by time, tide and weather, that I walked back to the van to get my phone to take photos so that I could share.

I was walking to find words. I was walking to feel better. I was walking to breathe.


The sand has moved, and bare rock is now exposed that often lies beneath the beach. Sculpted and cleaved and hollowed by wind and water. Barnacles mark the place where the sand usually begins.

sculpted ivyrock2 carved

My favourite hollow bowl is a mirror for rock trolls today. Sometimes you can stand on the sand and look down into it. Today I had to climb up the sea smoothed rocks to take the photograph.

rockmirror beachdog We hunted, me and Ivy, she for odd things to eat on the tideline, me for words that sing.

lines rockdog darkstone Dark rocks, light on rippled water. No words needed. Peace and beauty. Water, air, light.rockstone In places the rocks are mountain ranges in miniature.

mountainous ivines whsn drowningpoolAnd in this week I have received wren words from Robert MacFarlane, and a beautiful picture from James Mayhew who is illustrating Mrs Noah’s Pockets for me. Such a wonder to see my words through another’s eyes again. What luck I have to work with two such brilliant people.

Home, to tidying up.

First, owls.



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The Space Between the Fox and the Hare; or, a Curious Love Story

curiouslovers1Momentarily, in between books, a painting escaped, requested by Patrick Rothfuss to add to his range of things on the World Builders website.

The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s fear are a wonderful epic tale. I wait patiently to read more. And meanwhile I paint the space between the hare and the fox and it sings in different ways to different people and sometimes not at all.

I’ve only just sent the scan across. Waiting to hear if he likes it. I’ll put all info and links up when the card comes up for sale, but I think it will be at some speed if it does, because it’s a Valentine. Valentine’s Day is Book Giving Day. As part of Book Giving Day Quarto, my publishers, sent a box of books out to the children in the Dunkirk refugee camp, which makes me very proud of them. You can donate too, via Marilyn Brocklehurst’s shop in Norfolk. I phoned and paid for a copy of Tell Me a Dragon to be added to their library. A strange thing to do but I hope they can escape for a while from the grim place they find themselves in and  fly with dragons. Children everywhere love dragons.



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