Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Monday, 13 October 2014

Visit to St Louis Grammar

It is always a joy to be asked to visit schools, either to discuss my books, read for pupils or to provide creative writing workshops.

To be asked back year after year and help year 8 pupils to prepare for their first written work is an absolute honour.

I spent the 6th and 7th of October this year back in St Louis Grammar in Ballymena among some old and new faces. We played games, laughed lots and worked our way through the 'How To's' of essay writing. There was even time at the very end of the last class for a 'selfie'.

Thank you so much, folks. I hope to see you all again next year :)

‘I found everything about the workshop enjoyable. I’m obsessed with books and meeting authors makes my heart and brain do somersaults! Ashley was really fun and interesting.’
(Lana 8 Lismoyle)

‘I thought Ashley McCook made the workshop really enjoyable, especially through the games she played with us. Her personality made it so much fun!’
(Cora 8 Laragh)

‘The games we played were so enjoyable. They were with story blocks and Ashley was very nice.’
(Clodagh 8 Lismoyle)

‘The creative writing workshop really helped me prepare for my CM task as Ashley McCook gave us lots of pointers on how to improve creative writing  and told us how enjoyable reading can be’.
(Neve 8 Laragh)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Deep Breath Before the Plunge

I walk on the beach most mornings.

If I'm being honest, it's the best part of my day - fresh air, exercise, beautiful scenery, salt on my lips, sand in my shoes - I come home relaxed and with a clear head, ready to face the day.

There are people who, like me, walk there regularly - the lady with the pink shoes, the trio of pensioners who laugh lots and seem to have as much fun as their equally jolly dogs, the bare-foot jogger (a shade over six feet tall, dark hair, brown eyes, cheeky grin), the man who used to walk slowly using a cane for balance and who now puts me to shame striding up the beach (the cane is long gone), the couple who swim briefly every morning, no matter the weather. During the summer the beach was overtaken with tourists jumping into the waves or exploring the sand hills and, for a few days, the 'Game of Thrones' crew filmed there.

This morning I came across a pair of rather beautiful size 11 leather shoes sitting on the sand, dark grey socks tucked inside them. Not unusual - people leave their shoes on the shore all the time while they dip their toes in the water. This pair, however, were under threat - a large red setter had spotted them, sniffed them and had decided to claim them. I lifted them just as he lifted his leg.

Turned out they belonged to a rather dapper man, resplendent in a suit and tie who was paddling a few feet away, trousers rolled up to the knees, tie slightly askew and glasses pushed onto the top of his head. After sharing a laugh at the close call, we got talking.

Keith was about to drive to Belfast to make an important presentation to the owners of the company that he worked for. If successful, he would move up the corporate ladder, secure his future in the company and relocate to London where the company have their headquarters.

He was nervous about the presentation but fairly confident in his own ability to perform well under pressure. He also knew that he was good at his job and was considered an asset to the company. In reality, it was a done deal - the presentation was the final step. He was on his way. Everyone was happy for him.

And yet...

He had driven to Portstewart Strand at 8:30 in the morning because he felt he needed to take a deep breath of sea air - he was conflicted about moving away. He would miss home. He would miss walking his dog on the beach. He would miss meeting his mates for a pint. He would miss standing on Harbour Hill and looking down on the Promenade. He would miss his girlfriend. He would miss his parents. He would even miss his bloody annoying older sister and her quartet of mad children.

Having had several similar conversations recently, I let him talk it all out until he ran out of steam and then I offered the only advice I had, 'Are you ever likely to have this opportunity again?' He thought about it, smiled sadly and shook his head. 'Then go for it. This is home and you can always come back.'

Good luck, Keith.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Live and Learn.

 'Due to circumstances beyond our control the Booked! convention for 21st and 22nd November 2014 has been cancelled.'

This is definitely NOT the kind of email I want to read after all the excitement of realising that I was going to be heading off to my first convention as an author, and just days after starting to promote the event all over the place.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Booked! 2014

Very tickled to be attending this and looking forward to meeting other authors and readers. Can't wait!

This convention will take place in Bristol in the Mercure Holland House Hotel and Spa. You can find out more about it by visiting the Booked! blog HERE

Sunday, 13 April 2014

World Book Night 2014

I'm really looking forward to celebrating World Book Night on April 23rd in Waterstones, Ballymena with Tony MacAulay and DJ McCune (yes, I will be taking my autograph book!!!). It promises to be a fun night - wine, chat, readings and books all around - so if you're in the area then please call in and say hello.

DJ McCune

Tony MacAulay


Friday, 4 April 2014

Reversal of (phone) Fortune.

Towards the end of last summer (remember summer? sunshine, heat, beach days? Yeah, it's been a while) I reversed over my phone. I know, I know. I was going to wash the car, you see, and was reversing it back up the drive with the door open, my phone slipped out of my pocket and CRUNCH! 

My poor phone went into emergency surgery (on the kitchen table, lots of sellotape involved) and, apart from a rash of spider-webby cracks on the screen, he still worked. I celebrated (of course).
I was aware from the beginning that the sellotape surgery was not going to be a long term solution and eventually my phone and I were going to have to part company but, as with all things that have the potential to break my heart, I put it to the back of my mind and carried on as though it wasn't a big deal.
Now, I don't know about you but I had never really considered what a huge part of my life that little bundle of electronics had become - he's just THERE. 
Until he started to act up.

Nothing major really, at the beginning, just the odd little quirk that I found endearing - like I can't answer/make a call normally - the phone has to be on speaker. Funny, right? Slightly inconvenient but no big deal. Recently, however, my trusty pal has gone into a downward spiral of little eccentricities that can no longer be laughed off; he is selective about which texts he lets me know about; some days he will allow me to post to Facebook, tweet on Twitter etc etc with no problems, 24 hours later? No chance of any communication with the outside world. Added to the fact that he chooses which games he will allow me to play (this changes on an hourly basis depending on his mood) and has now begun to 'forget' search requests (for example - I decide to check my sales on Amazon and hit the Amazon bookmark...he starts to search and then the search bar goes blank and the phone sits there doing a phone version of looking around and frowning in confusion) and I have starting to get very concerned about his health.

My contract is up around September time. He may not make it :(