Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival 2018


Today I am absolutely delighted to be blogging from Pontypridd Museum for the very first Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival! A children’s book festival in partnership with Cardiff Book Festival and Pontypridd Town Council held today on Saturday 12th May 2018 at Pontypridd Museum from 9am-6pm.

It’s an all day festival for children and families to celebrate books of all kinds, inspire new authors and enjoy reading, writing and storytelling with joy, fun and friendship. It’s taking place at the beautiful surroundings of the Pontypridd Museum, spilling out onto the banks of the River Taff, under the shadow of the famous old Pontypridd bridge. The event has free entry, displays, props, music and activities as well as ticketed events with authors, readings, masterclasses and Q&As.

Throughout the day, you can see updates of the festival, author talks, events and goings on of the day here and through my Twitter feed (@MrEPrimary) and also at Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival Facebook and Twitter pages.



Authors and events

Storytime with How High Do Trees Grow? and Can We Walk to the Moon? by Mark Dorey (Language: English; Age Suitability up to 7 – 30 Mins FREE)

Storytime with Polly’s Magic Bubbles and the Quest for Dizzelwood by Mark Dorey (Language: English; Age Suitability 7+ 30mins FREE)


Mark started off by reading Can We Walk to the Moon? Inspired by a family holiday to Newquay. Looking at the biggest moon they’d ever seen, Mark’s son asked his dad ‘can we walk to the moon?’ and so the idea for this story was born.

Mark’s picture books are beautifully written in rhyme and illustrated by Mark’s wife Liz which makes them perfect for reading aloud! Mark told us that his wife used silver leaf in some of the illustrations to give the pages of his book that extra sparkle!

Joining in with the rhymes (even the adults couldn’t help joining in!), counting in Welsh and doing all of the actions, the audience grew and grew this morning.

The next of Mark’s books that he read was How High Can We Walk?, again inspired by a question from his son, Tom. The audience loved joining in with the voices and sound effects (Whoosh!), particularly the angry ice cream man.

Up… and up … and up! Full of brilliant illustrations and fantastic vocabulary, this is a super tale of a boy and his dad climbing trees and having an absolute adventure!

Mark’s second session was full of storytelling. This time he told the story, of his brand new book written for 6-9 year olds, Midge the Prince of the Giants about a GIANT baby with a small twist as Midge actually started off by being not very tall… at all.

Mark Dorey is a writer and publisher with over 20 years writing experience and is passionate about engaging youngsters to read and write. Mark has performed poetry and spoken word events all over Wales with National Theatre Wales.

Poetry Workshop with clare e potter (Language: English and Welsh; Age Suitability 4+ £3)


A very lively and energetic workshop that you couldn’t help but want to be involved in! Clare loves to use objects as prompts for creating poetry so much so that she brought all these wonderful objects, including hag stones, antique fans and all kinds of amazing artefacts.

Clare and all involved thought deeply and talked about the objects being ‘holders of memories’ and ’keepers of secrets’. Using an ‘Ode to Common Things’ by Pablo Neruda as inspiration, Clare helped everyone involved to take an everyday object like a whisk and give it a whole new meaning!

Putting an object in the hot seat and asking it questions together such as ‘What do you remind me of?’ and ‘Where did you come from?’ shows how creativity and imagination can spark from anything and everything around us.

clare e. potter is a writer and performer from Cefn Fforest. She spent ten years in the Deep South where she did an MA in Afro-Caribbean literature. She has had various writing residencies, works on collaborative community projects, and won the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry.

Create Your Own Comic with Huw Aaron (Language: WELSH; Age Suitability 8+ £3)

IMG_6203 2Plenty of giggles and lots of fun were to be had in Huw Aaron’s comic workshop even before the comic making(!) as children and adults took part in a pre-comic workout.

Armed with his trusty marker pen, Huw created a range of weird, wacky and wonderful cartoon characters with an audience lapping up every character (gymeriad) including a T-Rex wearing a tutu whilst riding a unicycle and a shark/gorilla hybrid which one of the children coined ’Sharkilla’!

Showing how to truly have fun drawing, Huw brings cartoon art to life so effortlessly and so full of energy!

Huw Aaron is a cartoonist and illustrator. His doodlings can be found in a number of children’s books and comic strips and he has also written and illustrated the welsh language comic/jokes/story/puzzle book Llyfr Hwyl y Lolfa.

Gaslight with Eloise Williams (Language: English; Age Suitability 9+ £3)

IMG_6206Reading from Gaslight, I particularly liked the way Eloise encouraged the audience to read along one line at a time by splitting the first chapter in to single lines or phrases for them to read along with her.

Eloise talked about her inspirations and interest in the Victorian era and architecture and how this led to writing about the finer details of the grittier, darker side of Victorian times. Spending her school holidays in Cardiff, she started to stop and stare at the sights around her, noticing things around her in much more detail. Eloise likes to write about experiences; places she’s been to as she can visualise details, large or small.

She wanted to write a book where the reader almost forgets that its set in Victorian times and has a main character that everything Eloise wishes she could be and everything she’s not.

We were also very lucky to be treated to a sharing of an extract of Eloise’s new book out in September, Seaglass: a modern ghost story inspired by a mist rolling in from the sea at Tenby, which the whole room was absolutely captivated by.

Eloise was born in Cardiff and grew up in Llantrisant. She now lives in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, very close to the beach where she walks her dog Watson Jones and collects sea glass with her artist husband, Guy Manning. She worked in the theatre in various odd jobs before going on to study Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Guildford School of Acting. After working for over ten years as an actor, she decided to change path a little and take a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University.

Writing Masterclass with Catrin Collier (Language: English; Age Suitability 11+ FREE)


Local author and writing heroine, Catrin started by sharing with us the opening extract to her daughter Sophie Anderson’s recently published novel, and Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for May, The House with Chicken Legs.

She followed this with talking about literary worlds and being lost in the world that you write in, being aware of your audience and projecting it so it becomes so appealing that others can’t help but be drawn in to it.

She also took questions from the audience talking about obtaining a publishing deal, working in writers’ circles and using her local knowledge of Pontypridd and all her wealth of experience to provide an invaluable insight in to the publishing world.

If Catrin has one word or one tip for aspiring writers, it’s to ‘persevere’ and that there is no right way to write; it just either works or it doesn’t.

Catrin Collier/Katherine John has published 55 novels in English and translation, 25 as Collier. Her novel, Hearts of Gold filmed by BBC Worldwide, attracted 6.8 million viewers on UK TV.  One Last Summer, based on the wartime diaries of her Prussian mother is recommended reading by the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust. The film she scripted from her crime book By Any Name is showing on Amazon Prime. She is currently working on commissioned film scripts and a series of books.


“Land of our Mothers” with Carolyn Hitt (Language: English; Age Suitability 7+ FREE)

In her workshop, Carolyn Hitt took us on a journey of awesome women of Wales and pioneering heroines of Welsh history. A much-needed workshop as we couldn’t believe that only a marginal amount of women featured in surveys and votes when asked about popular and historical figures from Wales. I particularly liked the way that Carolyn highlighted that even the word ‘history’ doesn’t seem to account for many of the stories of women in our past (his + story = history).

Learning about landmark women who put their own stamp on our history, Carolyn spoke about such women as Jemima Nicholas, Mary Jones, Frances Hoggan – Wales’ first woman doctor – and Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) who became the first woman to win a prize for poetry at the National Eisteddfod.

Finished off with the audience voting for which woman from Welsh history should be immortalised in statue for generations to remember.

An inspiring workshop that I will certainly be using the knowledge of in the classroom to highlight the leading ladies with even bigger ideas that have shaped the course of our history.

Writing for Children Masterclass with Claire Fayers (Language: English; Age Suitability 16+ £5)


Claire shared with us her expertise of writing for children of all ages; picture books (with a nod to Sarah McIntyre); early readers; chapter books; ‘middle grade’ and young adult.

After a phone call from her mother-in-law where her MIL couldn’t understand where all her ideas came from, Claire described this as her having to ‘make ideas, rather than getting ideas land in her lap’ for the creation of a story. She also discussed her ideas from her trusty notebook which included sword fights, unicorns and orange feet!

The audience created their own mix of stories using setting, character, action where one member gave the setting, another a character and the other the action which left the room laughing! Ending with discussing publication, Claire talked about the importance of writing groups like SCBWI and competitions like NaNoWriMo.

Thinking about characters was central to Claire’s workshop. She reiterated her belief that giving children characters who change their mind, have problems to solve and develop as the story progresses is good for children and this is something to think about when suggesting books for children to read in the classroom. 

Claire Fayers writes comic fantasy featuring swashbuckling pirates, evil magicians, heroic librarians and man-eating pengiuns. She grew up in South Wales, studied English in Canterbury, and is now back in Wales where she spends a lot of her free time tramping around castles in the rain, looking for dragons!

Writing Masterclass with Rachel Trezise (Language: English; Age Suitability 13+ £5)

IMG_6219.jpgRachel started her workshop by getting everyone talking as they had to introduce each other.

Rachel is known for writing short stories for young adults (13+) and shared a formula for planning short stories called the ABDCE formula: A – start with action or a question; B – background; D – drama; C- climax and E – ending. She also read one of her stories ‘Hard as Nails’ to demonstrate these elements of writing in action.

Rachel Trezise was born in the Rhondda valley in South Wales where she still lives. She studied at Glamorgan and Limerick Universities. Her first novel was In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. Her first short fiction collection Fresh Apples won the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006. Her second short fiction collection Cosmic Latte won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize Readers’ Choice Award in 2014. Her first full length play Tonypandemonium was staged by National Theatre Wales in 2013. She also writes non fiction.


Author Q&A & Giveaway: Eloise Williams (Elen’s Island/Gaslight/Seaglass)

I am honoured to welcome Eloise Williams, award-winning author of such wonderful books as GaslightElen’s Island and Seaglass to The Reader Teacher today.

To celebrate the cover reveal of her forthcoming novel Seaglass (which I am so excited about reading and reviewing!) which is out in September 2018 and also on the first birthday of Gaslight, Eloise is here to answer more than a few of my questions about Seaglass, about her reading and writing habits and about using her books in the classroom.

The giveaway follows on after the ‘Author Q&A’ interview!

Author Q&A: Eloise Williams (EW) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)


TRT: On The Reader Teacher, I describe books using #3Words3Emojis. Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Seaglass?
EW: 1. Ghostly 👻 2. Mysterious 🕵️ 3. Thrilling 😲

TRT: When recommending Seaglass to others on social media, I have had lots of replies (including from other authors such as Emma Carroll) commenting on how lovely a title it is. How did you choose and end up settling on such a wonderful title? Were there any other options that came a close second?
EW: How lovely! Emma Carroll is such a gorgeous and supportive author and is quite a bit brilliant with words herself so that means a lot! There were a few titles bandied about and they all contained references to sea glass. Sometimes simplicity is best.

TRT: So far we know that Seaglass will be ‘a salty, windswept, seaside ghost story for age 9+ will be published in 2018 to coincide with Wales’ Year of the Sea!’
Can you tell us any more than that at the moment about Seaglass?
EW: Here’s the information Firefly Press are putting out.
I’m being very careful not to give the plot away!

‘She will come for you.’

Lark struggles to settle when her Roma family moves to a new site by the sea. Her mother is ill, her little sister Snow isn’t talking and she has fallen out with her best friend. She distracts herself looking for sea glass on the foggy beach. But is someone following her? Who is the figure that Snow keeps drawing, the girl in green? Do the locals who tell them to leave the site just hate travellers, or is there something about the history of the beach that Lark needs to find out? A story that perfectly combines the chill of a ghost story with the warmth of a family tale about standing up for each other and being brave.

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Seaglass?EW: Where to begin? All the ghost stories I’ve ever read. From one of my very first books ‘The Worried Ghost’ by Seymour Reit to much later books read as an adult. I have a huge support network of family, friends and other authors. They help me to keep writing. My grandmother, who was a lovely woman and is still very much missed, was a driving force for this story too. Ideas and inspiration mostly came from the young people I work with and the landscape I live in. They mingled, knitted, wove together, fleshed out the story. When I got stuck along the way a young person would say something which would spark my imagination, or a storm would ignite an idea, or a beautiful jay would land in the garden and I’d be writing again. It seems strange to put children, storms and birds together but it’s the truth and truth is a big inspiration for this book too.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Seaglass?
EW: Ooh… difficult without giving too much away… Firstly, most importantly, a really good read. Secondly, that we are capable of change. Is that vague enough? I think so, yes.

TRT: The cover was revealed yesterday (Thursday 5th April) for Seaglass, can you tell us a little more about its creation or conception?
EW: Both the cover for Seaglass and for Gaslight were designed by Anne Glenn. I’m very lucky that Anne and Firefly Press take my views into consideration when it comes to cover designs. We discussed both of these covers closely and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with them! I think both depict beautifully the essence of the stories in the pages.

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
EW: The creativity of it. I was an actor for a long time and it meant I was consistently waiting to be given a role so that I could be creative. With writing I can be creative anywhere and at any time. It’s very freeing.

TRT: Where’s your favourite place to write and why?
EW: I have a writing shed of sorts. I often have to climb over a lawnmower to actually get to my desk but it’s lovely once I’ve made it. I can hear the sea from there, watch a mouse scurrying across the garden and the birds having a wash in the birdbath.
I also write everywhere else!
On the beach, in bed, at the kitchen table, in cafes, libraries, on trains…

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
EW: Energising things are creating the story and characters. Tossing ideas about and playing with words.  Inventing, wondering, deliberating, the actual writing. Living in an imaginary world.

Exhausting. Elements of the business side of writing can be competitive and I’m just not. Recognition for a tale well told is wonderful, of course, but I want everyone to do well.

 TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood and why?
EW: Without a doubt it’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It opened my mind to possibility. Magical worlds just around the corner. Lands where children were courageous and won battles. All that and it SNOWED almost all the time!

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember contacting any authors or them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
EW: No! None at all. Being an author was something otherworldly. I believed in Narnia more than I believed in my chances of being an author. Children, schools and authors get fabulous opportunities to connect with each other now and that’s such an inspiring thing. Working with young people always makes me determined to keep improving my writing so that my stories can be of the best quality I am capable of creating.

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things or things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
EW: I am constantly astonished by the amount of talent in children’s literature. I like seeing everything! There are so many writers creating work with such passion and excellence. We are all in it together. The more writing, art, creativity we all put out there, the more beautiful the world is.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested in writing and focused on promoting Seaglass but can you tell us about anything else you’re working on or what you want to work on after Seaglass? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up inside or outside of the publishing world?
EW: I am always working on something else. At the moment I have four books for young people in very early stages so it’s a question of deciding which one to focus on. I’m excellent at starting writing books but not so good at finishing them. I’d also like to do something crazy with my life! I have no idea what so suggestions on a postcard please…


TRT: I know that you often work in schools yourself, are you testing out the ideas for Seaglass on pupils or teachers?
EW: I’ve tested out the first couple of pages of Seaglass with a few schools now. It is the most nerve-wracking experience you can possibly imagine. So far, they’ve given it a huge thumbs-up, which is a relief!

TRT: Lots of teachers are using Gaslight in the classroom to complement their teaching of the Victorians. Could you suggest ways that Seaglass could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
EW: Some key elements are: Inclusion. A sense of belonging. Bullying. Anger. Friendship. Wildlife and nature. Facing fears. There are other themes, but I can’t disclose them without giving away the story!

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your books to teachers for them to use in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read them at home, how would you sum them up?
EW: Elen’s Island –  ‘A delightful, magical tale full of mystery, intrigue and the unknown.’ Book Lover Jo.
Gaslight – ‘A deliciously dark romp through the backstreets of Victorian Cardiff.’ Emma Carroll.
Seaglass – ‘You are trying to get me to give away the plot again aren’t you?’ Eloise Williams.

TRT: For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?
EW: I love working in schools and have a contact page on my website www.eloisewilliams.com


TRT: What has an interviewer/blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
EW: I’d like to be asked if I’ve touched the rocking chair from the stage show of ‘The Woman in Black.’ Answer: Yes, I have. Eek!

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
EW: I share my birthday with Hans Christian Andersen and Adrian Mole.

TRT: Thank you ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions today, Eloise!


Eloise was born in Cardiff and grew up in Llantrisant. She now lives in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, very close to the beach where she walks her dog Watson Jones and collects sea glass with her artist husband, Guy Manning.

She worked in the theatre in various odd jobs before going on to study Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Guildford School of Acting. After working for over ten years as an actor, she decided to change path a little and take a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University.

Her first book was Elen’s Island, published in 2015.

Her second novel, a Victorian Middle Grade thriller, Gaslight, was published in April 2017.


So to celebrate Gaslight being one and the cover reveal of Seaglass, I am delighted to say that Eloise has kindly given me a signed copy of Gaslight AND an original postcard sized oil-painting of the view from the beach which inspired Seaglass – created by Guy Manning who illustrates inside the books – to giveaway to one of my followers on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Reader teacher giveaway.jpgIMG_4560.JPG

Guy has also painted 365 consecutive paintings of Pembrokeshire over 365 days which you can see here at https://www.postcardsfrompembrokeshire.com/