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Oh my words!

Something gorgeous and shiny came in the post today! My very own special bound copy of BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words Competition book, with all the winning stories in it!

I illustrated 10 year old Ellie Aitken’s story ‘For the last time’, a moving and devastating account of a Jewish family’s final Sabbath meal. Ellie won a silver award in the 10-13 year old category for this wonderful piece of heartfelt writing. Well done Ellie!

Click here to see the winning stories.

I WON SOMETHING!

Okay, so I didn’t win Indie Book Awards. That pleasure went to the lovely Sophie Anderson for The Girl Who Speaks Bear, a book that will definitely go on my To Be Read list.

BUT….

I did win ‘Simply The Book’ category at the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards! This makes Chinglish an award-winning book so I am very happy indeed. Big love goes out to the organisers and all the dedicated readers who voted for me – you are simply FAB!

BBC Radio 2 500 Words winner

BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition was launched in 2010, after Chris Evans dreamt of getting children excited about reading and writing. All children: no matter what their ability, experience, or background. The idea was simple; pen an original story, no more than 500 words in length, about ANYTHING you want. Stories are judged anonymously, without regard to grammar, punctuation or spelling.

Since the competition launched, over 1 million stories have been submitted. This year was the FINAL one so imagine how excited I was to have been chosen to illustrate one of the winners! I couldn’t believe it, here I was alongside these great talents: Tony Ross, Axel Scheffler, David Roberts, Margaret Sturton and Fiona Lumbers. The story I illustrated was by Ellie Aitken, who was awarded Silver in the 10-13 category for the extremely emotive ‘For The Last Time’ and read by Blue Peter presenter Mwaksy.

Congratulations to all the winners in the history of 500 Words. Keep writing your fantastic stories!

Click here to see the winning stories.

Shortlisted for Indie Book Awards 2020!

Ok somebody slap me now!

I’ve been shortlisted for quite a few awards since Chinglish was launched, and in each one I’ve been side by side with some real heavyweight authors who have won awards already, some of them multiple times. But this particular one was a surprise because Indie Book Awards is national, it’s a BIGGIE! Supported by Books Are My Bag which is run by The Booksellers Association who support independent book shops in UK and Ireland. I’ve not won anything yet and may never, but right now it doesn’t bother me, because being on this list alone is such a high achievement.

For someone who struggled at school, I’m living proof that you don’t have to be an exceptional academic to be able to write a book. Just plain self-belief and a bit of hard graft is enough to get you where you want in life.

However having said that, there’s no way I would have got here without my agent, editor, the brilliant team at Andersen Press and the countless people that have supported me along the way – so thank you so much everyone!

Staying chilled during lockdown

We’re into week 3 of lockdown and the world is a very different place. So many extreme adjustments have had to be made in such a short space of time. If anything this enforced break will make us slow us down and give us time to reflect: did we really need to go that fast, buy that stuff, eat that junk, act without thinking on so many occasions because we didn’t have time to do anything else?

Even before this happened, I felt the world was going at a ridiculous breakneck speed. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier but actually it fuels the need to deliver even quicker. Our brains and bodies can’t cope with the constant daily demands because technology advances faster than we can keep up with it. Before you know it we forget who we are and forget nature around us.

I started meditating over 10 years ago. It took a long time for me to accept that it might work as with many things these days, we want instant gratification. Meditation takes a while to ‘kick in’. It might take 3 weeks or 3 months but the key is to persevere until it happens, and you know when that is because that feeling is what I call ‘bliss’.  It’s when you start taking charge of your own mind and your mind is no longer controlling you. Look at it like going to the gym, it’s just like exercising another muscle.

From my experience I could clearly see the benefits of meditation to people of all ages and I really wanted to spread the message. I especially wanted to teach the next generation how to utilise this tool so that they could take it with them into adulthood and live calmer, happier, peaceful lives, without all the unnecessary clutter in their heads that can lead to mental health issues.

I wrote and illustrated a picture book that could spread that message. It’s called Chill with Lil and includes a guided relaxation to help calm kids down when things get too frantic. I’ve read it to lots of children in yr 1&2 at schools, at library sessions and to individuals and it works every time! Of course, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this particular chill time, anyone can join in.  Watch my story reading video here: tiny.cc/myb0lz

Much love and light to you all as we navigate our way through the coming weeks, Sue x

Last event for now…

This is me with the librarians and some of the students from Collingwood College, Surrey, a couple of weeks ago. At this point COVID19 was emerging as a threat but we hadn’t yet been given any official guidance from the government, so I went to the event as planned and enjoyed the talks.

I called my husband on the way back home. He was finishing work early as he wasn’t feeling well. Then I spent the next 14 days self-isolating while he recovered from flu symptoms. That was the start of the whole world downward spiralling.

The last few weeks have seen catastrophic changes. We don’t know when or if things will get back to normal but in the meantime we need to do the best we can to carry on reading, learning and adapting to our new way of life. Maybe when we get to the other side, we’ll have had enough time to reflect and become better human beings. More compassion and kindness towards each other and nature. Less ego, speed and mindless consumerism, that’s my hope.

Accumulate – Charity for the homeless

The lowest point in my life was when I was pregnant and living in a squat at 18. That’s why I didn’t hesitate when Accumulate asked if I’d like to help out at one of their workshops. The charity provides learning to young, homeless people who have gone through hardships and are now living in hostels or temporary accommodation in London. They also fundraise for scholarships so that participants can continue their creative education and study at college.

Students are currently working on a unique, crowdfunded book which will showcase their drawings, texts, visuals and poems, and give them ownership and control over who tells the stories of their lives and in what context. I spent the day listening to their stories and guiding them with their artwork: photography, illustration, painting and writing, which fascinating to see.

It’s easy to forget marginalised groups  and that’s why charities like Accumulate are so important, because they give these young people life-changing opportunities that open up a new world of positivity.

The Book Of Homelessness launches 4 June 2020.

I DID IT!

Just here to spread a message of positivity to all those aspiring writers and artists out there. You see I’m 49 today and can finally announce that I am now a FULL-TIME WRITER & ARTIST!
When I was a kid I devoured every Beano and Dandy under the sun then later, Dahl and Townsend. I wished I could make people laugh like that too, but thought writing was for other people, not me.
My dreams were further dampened when a senior school teacher told me my English was terrible (things were different back in the 80s!).
I squirrelled away my ideas anyway, until the pile grew too big to ignore. I was in my 30s when I sent my first submission and it took 3 years of rejections before I got a 2 book picture book deal. Wow, I was a published author!
I produced another 2 picture books then last year published my first novel. It took almost 4 years to complete and became a surprise best seller.
Right now I’m working on an illustrated children’s series, doing talks and engaged in other artistic projects – I don’t necessarily need to supplement my income anymore (as an advertising/marketing creative).
How did I get here? I never lost sight of my goal to do what I love, which is to entertain, enlighten and spread joy through my words and pictures. I want people to feel like I do when I read my favourite books!
It was hard work at times, but finding your true purpose is a long and winding road. Keep faith, focus and determination, be genuine and kind, surround yourself with positive people and watch as your world unfolds perfectly…YOU CAN DO IT TOO!💞

2019 – so many thanks to give!

This year was so epic! Multiple goals were kicked including:

HEALTH – I’ve been alcohol-free for 14 months straight now. The longest stint I’ve ever done and it will continue as I’ve no intention of going back on the booze. I’ve found it drains so much time, energy and money and it addles your brain and stops you from getting shiz done. So yep, it’s a definite no-go for me from now on.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE – Me and hubby took a 3 month sabbatical in Bali and Corfu this summer with the objective of doing as little as possible…WORK that is. We did LOADS of other stuff like swimming, running, yoga, gym, sightseeing, reading, painting, eating and, oh sleeping (don’t forget that!). Basically experiencing life unhindered by the obligations of work. We returned fully rebooted and raring to go!

SPIRITUAL – I’ve carried on meditating. It’s got me through a ton of crap since I started doing it 7 years ago and works every time; when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, angry, down, confused…anything negative just melts away after 20 mins of quietening the mind. Then ta-daaa! Everything becomes 100% cool again : )

PHYSICAL – At 48 I’ve never been fitter in my life. The 3 month holiday in the sun helped, as I spent a lot of it exercising. But one of my biggest achievements this year was learning to do the headstand properly, as taught by a wonderful, local yoga teacher in Nusa Lembongan Island, Bali. I’ve also taken up strength training and incorporated pilates into everyday life so that even my running has improved.

FINANCIAL – It took a lot of hard graft over the years including 10 of them slogging away in the advertising industry in Central London, but we’ve now paid off our mortgage! It’s given us the freedom to invest in other things, do up the house a bit and travel more, which both of us absolutely can’t get enough of. We’re thinking Seoul or Shanghai for our next trip.

CAREER – Well where do I even start with this? My debut novel Chinglish took off in a BIG way. Unexpected for a book I didn’t want to write in the first place! I was thrust into the spotlight doing live BBC TV and radio and ended up writing for The Guardian too. WHAT?! HOW?! Bonkers. It couldn’t have happened without the support of the amazing team around me though: my agent, publishers, PR, event organisers, family and friends. I sincerely thank you all.

So 2020 is looking super juicy already with loads of events booked, discussions around various adaptations and talk of a sequel. I’m now fully rested up after a frantic book launch and tour and ready to face the New Year with excited anticipation. I hope you are too, whatever your own special personal goals may be.

Good luck and much love, Sue x

The Guardian Best Book 2019!

Holy crap! If ever I’ve felt like a gatecrasher it is well and truly now. Yesterday I got the news that I had been included in The Guardian’s Best Books of the year list (YA) alongside Philip Pullman(!) and Malorie Blackman(!) as well as others in the star studded list. I still can’t believe it a whole day later – somebody slap me please.

When I was writing Chinglish there was no way I imagined the response it’s getting now. I was a lowly, working class minority lacking what I felt anyway, the background or skills to ever achieve anything this grand. It was just me dumping my angst about being dragged up in a Chinese takeaway. What I enjoyed the most about it though was the serious opportunity to write comedy, I’ve always wanted to succeed at making people laugh and somehow I BLOODY DID IT!

I want to thank everyone who had faith in Chinglish when I didn’t, and cheerleaded me all the way to the bitter end: my agent, editor, publisher, husband, family, friends, my cats who doubled as stress balls against their will, the media who have been amazing and the hundreds of supporters on social media. What a fabulously surreal way to end the year!