Thursday, 27 September 2012


People, I have gone. But fret not: I have reappeared here, with a new permanent blog, where everything frabjous will happen. Please come and join me there. There be parties and cake. Well, not cake, because I prefer chocolate, but chocolate.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Patience, my friends, patience a while

My move to a new blogging home is taking a little longer than Andrew Brown (Design4Writers) and I had hoped, due to the unforeseen oddities of the set-up of my main website. I'm soon going to be asking Andrew to do a whole redesign of that - he didn't do the existing one, sadly - but meanwhile he's trying to get some of the oddities smoothed out before the blog goes live. And when it does go live, it won't be as sparkly and pretty as we'd like. (Well, OK, it's only me that wants sparkly and pretty; Andrew wants sensible and well-designed. Men - kuh!)

What we're aiming for is a blog seamlessly embedded in my main website, which will be better for SEO - yawn - and will be better adapted to my redesigned career as a retired advice-giver and a newly energised writer and speaker. Hooripity-yay!

It will still be purple. And it will still have chocolate. Obvs.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Moving again!

I'm moving! And I hope you'll come with me. No, not move in with me - I couldn't take all the extra washing - I mean come to my new blog home. Soon. (The decorators are in at the moment.)

I know, I know, I've been messing you around horribly with all this constant flux. But we will soon settle down together into a comfortable co-existence and, if I explain, all will become clear.

As you know, I started Crabbit At Home as a place to kick off my shoes and talk about more varied and more personal things than my Help! I Need a Publisher! blog allowed.

Then, as you also know, I very recently stopped blogging there, after tidying everything up so that all the lovely free info remains for anyone who wants it, along with links to the pretty books which convey that info so much more organisedly.

But when I did that, I said I had a plan. Because, as you also also know, I'm redirecting my career back towards being a children's writer. But I still want to carry on blogging. Just try to stop me!

And Crabbit At Home just doesn't have the right ring for my life as a children's and YA writer. Since there is to be no more crabbit, Crabbit At Home becomes redundant.

So, my wonderful tech expert / new website manager / cover designer / personage extraordinaire, Andrew Brown of Brown Media and Design4Writers, is working to integrate a NEW blog into my main website. (Blog coming soon!) Andrew didn't design that website and there are some complications caused by how it was built, so it's not a simple matter. I'm going to be asking Andrew to do a major redesign, probably next year, but meanwhile the blog will be there and I'll be able to do everything I want with it.

I can also run screaming to him at any opportunity. I have built that into our agreement. (Andrew, did you not read the small print? Silly man. *capers*)

At my new blog - which has a special name, a name which you will not know until you arrive there because it's currently a secret - you will find all the same sorts of things I have been blogging about here, same voice, same person. One blog, one place, one life. Tbh, I can't guarantee that there won't be a residual crabbit flavour occasionally.

How will you know when this house-move is taking place? Because I will tell you and because we will have a PARTY. Of course! Some things do not change.

Wonder if anyone can guess the name of my new blog? It's a single word. A word that's very important to me.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Parenting Teenagers - my talk today

Today I'm in Lancashire, doing a talk on the teenage brain for professionals as part of the Lancashire Children's and Young People's Trust. Before I catch the train, I thought I'd quickly put some tips up here, as I won't have time to go through them today. The main part of my talk is NOT parenting tips, because I am NOT some kind of older Supernanny, but the programme does say that one of the outcomes will be a better understanding about how to parent teenagers. I don't much like seeming to think I'm some kind of expert parent (ask my daughters about that) but I know it tends to be what people want. What I mostly want to talk about is how fascinating the brain is.

These tips won't make the fullest sense if you weren't there to hear me talk about what's going on in the brain during adolescence, but you know you can always read Blame My Brain for that...

Some tips for being a parent to teenagers

1. Understand some of the reasons for adolescent behaviour – this removes a sense of blame. (Lots of explanations in Blame My Brain.)

2. We have to learn to be parent of a teenager after being the parent of child. The parent of a child has a mission to protect. The parent of a teenager has to go against her/his own nature and resist that paramount desire to protect. The teenager needs to push against that in order to attain the evolutionary goal of both sides: independence.

3. Boundaries – if we set boundaries, they know we care (even though they may not show it!); they also like something to fight against. So, set your boundaries carefully and be prepared to be a bit flexible. A negotiated boundary is stronger than a rigid autocratic one.

4. Choose your moment to have a conversation - do you like being interrupted when you're relaxing or engrossed in something. Negotiate when the conversation will take place, if necessary.

5. Modelling good behaviour - we learn partly by imitation. As your teenager watches you managing to control your emotion, his own brain is preparing to imitate that. And vice versa...

6. Choose the battles to fight - do untidy bedrooms matter? On the other hand, some battles over less emotional/critical issues are safer grounds and may be satisfying to the teenager.

7. Sleep – operate sleep hygiene rules (certain activities to be avoided or encouraged during hour before desired sleep time); set bedtimes. (Interesting research suggests this may help a lot).

8. We are less responsible than we think. We can get all this right and still our teenager may struggle. Don't beat yourself up.

9. Put ourselves in their shoes – recognise how we bristle if given advice/criticism. So, treat your teenager more as an adult than as a child in how you talk to them. This takes a long time for parents to learn to do!

I'll have more details later but just now I must rush to my train...

Do comment!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Tears in the morning

You'll think I've gone a bit mad if I tell you that entering my garden office (The Crabbit Hutch) this morning made me cry. It was caused by two things. Well, three but let me tell you the first two first. Astrantia Masterwort and Stimulus Generalisation.

Let me explain.

Back in May, you may remember that I was lucky enough to acquire my amazing garden office. From day one, it revolutionised my working life. (I'll talk about that in more detail one day soon.)

In June, I went to visit a friend called Jane, at her home in Edinburgh. Jane was very unwell, but she and her husband and my husband had a lovely afternoon discussing lots of things, some of which were about her illness and some of which weren't. We stayed much longer than we'd planned, because a) we were all having a nice time and b) Jane and Ian were adamant that we were not outstaying our welcome.

Astrantia Masterwort from the garden
I took with me some flowers from our garden, which included some which we didn't know the name for. They grow outside my Crabbit Hutch, and I can see them as I sit at my desk. We discussed why it is that Jane and I were usually able to remember the names of plants when we'd heard them once, and our husbands usually couldn't. Jane was a highly experienced clinical psychologist and I'm interested in the brain, so there was lots to discuss here.

Another thing we discussed was how my new office had instantly changed my whole working life. Jane said, "Ah, that's Stimulus Generalisation," and she explained some more and suddenly everything made sense, in deep and clever ways that I've come to understand more and more. In very short, it describes how our brains link the cues around us to our behaviour and if we want to change our behaviour we need to change the cues around us. There's much more to it than that, but that's the essence.

The day after that lovely afternoon, Jane emailed. She'd identified the flowers. Astrantia Masterwort. Neither of us would forget the name.

So, why the tears when I entered my Crabbit Hutch today? And why the tears as I type this?

Jane died at the weekend. We knew she was going to and we knew it would be soon. I hadn't seen her since that afternoon, though we had emailed quite a lot, until she wasn't able to. She had been quite incredibly brave. I got the news while I was at the York Festival of Writing for the whole weekend and, because I had to do a load of really exhausting events and one-to-one sessions, I couldn't process this information. I guess I blocked it. That makes me feel bad.

When I walked into my office for the first time this morning, a new manifestation of Stimulus Generalisation kicked in because a part of how I understand how my Crabbit Hutch works for me is linked to Jane. So I cried. As I look out of the window, the Astrantia Masterwort are still flowering. And I'm just really, really sad.

(I've disabled comments, because I don't want everyone to feel they have to say something. I hope you understand.)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Blame My Brain - new cover coming!

I love the new cover that Walker Books have designed for the new edition of Blame My Brain, which will be relaunched in May next year, with an updated paperback version and an ebook version. I'll be doing events to support it. And I may have some special news, soon, too!

What do you think of the cover?

I also have another book about the brain, Know Your Brain, aimed at anyone from 9+/families, showing you how to look after and respect your brain. It features references to my dog... Great idea for a present for an enquiring 9+ child.

I'll see some of you in York today, at the York Festival of Writing. I'll be the one looked exhausted.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Of mice and a man and woman

(Warning: although there is no flash photography, there are scenes which may be disturbing to some.)

Normally, I use poison. (I did warn you.) But yesterday, Mr M and I managed to catch a mouse humanely (if having a large plastic box thrown on top of you and a larger piece of cardboard slipped smoothly under your bottom while you leap around like a giant flea counts as humane, which apparently it does to vermin-lovers.)

We managed to do this by a combination of speed, teamwork, planning, tupperware and enormous bravery, along with a determination to show this mouse exactly who should be afraid of whom.

I then carried it gently and almost lovingly up the garden while marvelling at it pretty eyes and how high it was managing to jump inside its box. Also its fatness and roundness and possibly pregnantness.)

I carried it a very long way up the garden, which is a very long garden. And I let it go amongst some shrubs that seemed to me to be either very good mouse habitat or else a very good place for it to meet a "natural" (and apparently therefore humane) death. (In fact, more likely a feline one, or else a freezing one.)

Mr M and I congratulated ourselves on a job well and humanely done.

An hour later, Mr M called me to the French windows, where we watched the mouse watch us. I think it was saying, "Well, that was nice, as far as it goes, but I'm back now." It practically knocked on the door, I tell you. Then it vanished. Last seen heading towards a tiny crack in the wall.

Last night, Mr M and I were woken by the home-coming party. What a scampering and popping of tiny champagne corks there was in the hall! I am absolutely convinced that while that mouse was outside, it was rounding up a whole load of garden mice and inviting them back to its (our) place for a hooley. Possibly, judging by that mouse's round belly, even to celebrate the imminent birth of a load more mice. How many mice can one (or, to be fair, presumably two) mice produce in a year? Don't answer that.

Next time, I swear, it's poison.