Tag Archives: folklore

Blog Tour: Flexing Your Creative Muscle with Maz Evans

Today, I’ve got Maz Evans here as part of her Who Let the Gods Out blog tour (see below for more on the fab Greek-mythology-based romp for 9+)

As our heartfelt New Year promises to nurture physical muscles languish at the bottom of a selection box, I propose that now is a good time to turn our attention to a different muscle – our creativity.

No, I’m not high on my gluten-free, alkaline, low-GI protein smoothie – creativity is a muscle like any other. Use it often and it will become more powerful. Let it waste and no amount of supportive underwear can help it.

Think about it. At some point in your life, maybe you’ve learned to play an instrument or taken up a sport? You weren’t born with these skills. You may have had some natural ability, but in order to fully realise it, you had to practice. The more you play the violin, the less your neighbours want to move. The more you practise your penalty shoot-outs, the fewer windows needed replacing. The more creative you are, the more creative you become.

When I run my Story Stew workshops, I always start by asking everyone if they believe themselves to be a creative, or non-creative person. Various hands go up – as does a sigh of disbelief when I tell them there is no such thing as a non-creative person. But you have to be creative to get through a day on planet Earth. You solve problems – creative. You tell stories – creative. You persuade people to do things for you – creative. You probably tell at least one lie – wrong, but creative.

Next time you’re writing a story, force your creativity to work harder. If you’re writing about a man who wants a dog, why not make him a woman? And she’s a hippo. And she actually wants a parsnip. But she lives on Jupiter where no parsnips will grow. And unless she delivers a parsnip trifle by 3pm, the Lesser-Spotted Krinkenshlob will eat her favourite orange stripy hat…

As demonstrated, you may come up with a load of rubbish. Sometimes your first idea is your best. But somewhere in the mental seed-tray, an idea might start to germinate. At the very least, now your brain is warmed up, you will make your original idea more inventive. Your brain is busy and looking for an easy solution – make it work harder.

So this February, resolve to tone up your creativity and whip your ideas into shape.

Because let’s be honest. It’s got to leave a better taste than this smoothie…


Maz Evans runs creative writing workshops for all ages. For more info visit www.maz.world.

Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

Who Let the Gods Out is Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for February and is out now from Chicken House.


UKMG Review: A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson

28168228A Girl Called Owl, Amy Wilson, (Macmillan Children’s Books, 26 Jan 2017)

Genres in the mix: fantasy, contemporary, school setting, folklore

Age target: MG

Story basics: (blurb) It’s bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl, but when you’ve got a dad you’ve never met, a best friend who needs you more than ever, and a new boy at school giving you weird looks, there’s not a lot of room for much else.

So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she’s tempted to just burrow down under the duvet and forget all about it. Could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she enters the magical world of winter for the first time?

A glittering story of frost and friendship, with writing full of magic and heart, A Girl Called Owl is a stunning debut about family, responsibility and the beauty of the natural world.

Review-in-a-tweet: Classic-toned story in today’s world. Great on big themes of family, friendship and fitting in, woven through a fantasy landscape using folklore.


Plotting and pacing: I felt this was managed perfectly for its tween audience. There’s quite a bit of complexity to it, portioned out slowly enough for young readers who are unfamiliar with the folklore to handle.

Main character: Owl is a lovely character – very easy to relate to and empathise with. Young readers will readily engage with her all-too-familiar worries about not fitting in if she reveals her secrets, even though her problems are magical in origin.

Supporting cast: I loved the relationships created in this book; they are very emotionally realistic. I’m sure many readers will also love Mallory (Owl’s best friend) and Alberic (mysterious new boy at school).

Hearthfire rating:  8/10 Sizzling

A Girl Called Owl  comes out on the 26th January in the UK from Macmillan Childrens, who provided me with a review copy.

Accepting a review copy does not affect my view of a book and I only finish and review books that I feel able to recommend.

Reading is… #1: Reading is a comfy blanket

Welcome to my new series! Reading is… where I’ll explore the reading experience, along with some recommendations for books that fit that particular category for me.

Today’s topic is how reading is like a comfy, cosy blanket, or something warming and comforting. One of the many reasons we read is for the comfort of the familiar. How often has your enjoyment of a book been enhanced by its relation to your uniqueness? Whether it’s a familiar place, experience or interest, books with that personal link never fail to make a connection.

Familiar places

sea books

I grew up in East Anglia, living on the coast for several childhood years, and on the Norfolk Broads for my mid-late teens. This makes books set in this region, or with similar characteristics, comfy and familiar to me.

That’s definitely one of the reasons I enjoyed Kendall Kulper’s The Witch of Salt and Storm so much recently – although this is very much an insular, island fishing community and I grew up in a touristy seaside town, the sounds and smells of the sea were so brilliantly evoked as to feel homely. I’m also familiar with a fair bit of fishing community tradition in the way of shanties and ballads, having spent a considerable amount of time in folk pubs in my youth and many of those old tunes came back to me as I read.

Familiarity with the setting was also a factor in my enjoyment of The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths. Set in North Norfolk and making great use of a fictionalised salt marsh landscape, this crime series opener felt wonderfully bleak and unforgiving.

Familiar experiences

Teentalk recommends

speech recs 2










I teach English – mostly Language – to teens, including things like how conversation works and how language varies around the UK (and world) and between different age groups. This makes me particularly aware of how teens speak, both from being surrounded by teens most days and from teaching them to actively  analyse their own and others’ speech patterns. So, as I have blogged before, I am especially fond of UKYA and UKMG books which evoke this speech well. I have highlighted the keen skills of James Dawson, Keris Stainton and Keren David at this before, but would now add recommendations on this count for Zoe Marriott’s marvellous trilogy opening with The Night Itself; Ruth Warburton’s A Witch in Winter series and Non Pratt’s Trouble.

Familiar specialist knowledge

folklore fantasy






One of my interests is folklore, ranging from fairy and folk tales to beliefs in fae creatures and moon lore. I have loved many fantasy novels for their use of these elements, but recent particular folklore-focused reads have been Liz de Jager’s Banished, Katy Moran’s Hidden series and Katherine Langrish’s West of the Moon, which in quite different ways centre on the traditional notions of fae creatures as a threat. While the Banished series is a sharp urban fantasy, with occasional forays into the fae realm, the Hidden series has a more ethereal quality, feeling more timeless and less contemporary. West of the Moon is aimed at a younger audience (the others are both YA) and is set clearly in the past, in a time when belief in trolls was part of everday life.

So, these are some of the books that have evoked a comfy blanket feel for me (some despite their less-than-comfy subject matter!) due to familiar elements within them. I suppose the other large category of comfy books would be those that are repeatedly re-read. I tend not to do that, although I have read through the Harry Potter series more than once and have revisited some childhood favourites with my own children.

Of course, as well as reading to see the familiar, we also read to seek out the Other, and that will be the topic of my next Reading Is… post. What gives a book that comfy blanket quality for you?