Posted in Reading, Writing

Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child

A post about my latest book review feature for Today’s Child Magazine

banner advert for Today's Child showing magazine cover For the last few years, I’ve been writing a regular books feature, reviewing and previewing children’s books for the free parenting magazine, Today’s Child. I first wrote for them when I was still working part-time for children’s reading charity Readathon, which provides free books and storytellers for children in hospital, and encourages children in schools to read for pleasure. But as the magazine has grown and I’ve switched roles, writing full-time from home now, we’ve changed to a freelance arrangement, though I still sneak in plenty of Readathon references! Continue reading “Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child”

Posted in Type 1 diabetes

Why I’m an Embarrassing Parent

(Why my imminent book launch is an embarrassment to my daughter – a post originally written for the November issue of the Tetbury Advertiser)

New cover of Coming to Terms
Revealing the new cover of the paperback edition, to be launched on 13 November

Mummy, I never gave you my permission to put my picture on the cover of a book!”

So said my daughter Laura when I showed her the proof copy of my latest book, “Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes”, to be launched in paperback this month to mark World Diabetes Day (14 November).

It’s a lovely photo that captured her unawares, looking characteristically dreamy, described by her doting grandpa as “St Laura”.

Now that Laura’s at secondary school, I’m probably on borrowed time for posting her photos online or for writing about her exploits in public. I’d hate to become an embarrassing parent – to which her retort would probably be “too late!”

Justifying the Means

In this case, however, the serious purpose behind the book justifies the use of her photo, with or without her permission: it’s raising awareness of Type 1 Diabetes and raising funds for the search for a cure.

This serious, incurable disease affects both Laura and my husband Gordon. Laura was diagnosed at the age of just three. Her diagnosis hit me like a bereavement, and I went through the classic stages of grief, from initial shock and denial to acceptance.

Determined not to let our family life be dictated by a medical condition, we have learned to move on in positive spirits and live life to the full. I hope that sharing our experience in this book will offer moral support to those in the same situation. It should also help others understand what it’s like to live with Type 1 diabetes, without having to ask potentially embarrassing questions of those who have it.

Profits from sales of the book will be donated to JDRF, the leading charitable funder of Type 1 diabetes research. The more funds raised, the closer we are to a cure  – which is nowhere near as close as was misreported in the national press last month. Sigh.

Invitation to the Launch

Group photo of JDRF team, Laura and Dr Gillespie
From left: Lee and Danielle of JDRF, Laura and Dr Kathleen Gillespie, snapped when we toured the Southmead diabetes research project in the summer

If you’d like to come to the launch event, join me at Foyles Bookshop, Cabot Circus in Bristol on 13th November from 6-7.30pm for an entertaining evening. Special guests include Paul Coker, who has just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for JDRF to prove that having Type 1 doesn’t stop you doing anything, and research scientist Dr Kathleen Gillespie, who will be telling us why good cooks make good lab researchers, and vice versa. That could add a whole new twist to the Great British Bake Off.

To help me plan seating and catering, if you’d like to attend, please contact me via the contact form.

“Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes” will also be available to order at bookshops worldwide and from online stores for those who can’t make it to their local bookshop. Please support your local bookshop if you can! The ebook, launched last year, will at the same time be updated to include the revised text plus new material.

Posted in Reading

Books Are My Scarecrow’s Bag

A post that kills three birds with one stone – what a shot! – for Books Are My Bag, the Hawkesbury Scarecrow Trail, and the Little Free Library.

Photo of bluestockinged scarecrow with Books are my Bag bag and Little Free Library
Meet Virginia, Hawkesbury Upton’s very own bluestocking bookworm

Last weekend I pulled off an especially fine piece of multitasking – I managed to promote three different worthy causes in one fell swoop:

  • The first ever Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail
  • The second Books Are My Bag campaign
  • The year-round Little Free Library programme

As you can see from the photo, my scarecrow, Virginia, is a stylish bookworm. Her Cheltenham Festival of Literature t-shirt complements her blue stockings, and her whole outfit is set off by last year’s must-have accessory for anyone who loves books, the exclusive Books Are My Bag campaign souvenir bag. Keeping her well supplied with reading matter is my new Little Free Library, set up as a British offshoot of the free community library campaign founded in the USA a few years ago.

Books Are My Bag is a national movement in the UK to remind everybody of the value of the independent high street book shop. What the publishing trade likes to call “bricks-and-mortar stores” offer many benefits unavailable from online retailers, (though they can usually order you a book in just as fast as Amazon and the like, without charging you postage or a membership fee), or recent entrants to the book market, such as grocery superstores. High street bookshops have expert staff able to help you find the perfect book for yourself or for others. Over the next few days, participating stores will be sharing their passion for books and reading with special events all over the country. For more information about Books Are My Bag, and to find an event in a local indie bookshop near you, visit their website: www.booksaremybag.com.

Scarecrow with picnic basket
Life’s a picnic, whatever the weather, for Hawkesbury Youth Club’s scarecrow, tucking in outside the Village Hall

The Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail offers a fun display of 14 scarecrows dotted about the village. You can pick up a free map from the village shop or post office all this week. The trail will be in place until the end of Sunday 12th October. There’s no particular theme or cause, other than a bit of autumnal fun! See if you can spot them all.

The idea of the Little Free Library was set up by an American chap, Todd Bol, in 2009, with a single box of books, in the shape of an old-fashioned schoolhouse, in memory of his late mother, a schoolteacher who loved reading. The idea quickly caught on – after all, what’s not to love about free books? – and now there are estimated to be over 15,000 around the world. Mine’s the first in Hawkesbury Upton! Todd’s mother would be very proud of him.

Close up of my Little Free Library
Something for everyone in here
Debbie by the Library
Well, I always wanted to be a librarian when I was little

My Little Free Library is starting off with a stock of books from our home and donated by others. I’ll be adding lots of new books as space becomes available, including those that I receive free to review from authors and publishers (I do a lot of book reviewing for various magazines and organisations).

Photo of Gordon with the finished Library
Meet the architect and builder, my husband Gordon

Anyone is welcome to help themselves to a free book (or more than one!) If they’d like to treat it as a swap, and put one back, that would be great, but it’s not essential.

My Little Free Library will provide an extra source of books in the village, supplementing the shelves of donated books that are sold for £1 each by the Hawkesbury Shop and the village hair salon, Head Start Studio, in aid of the village school’s PTA. But my Little Free Library offers books at no cost at all, so everyone can afford them, and they’ll be accessible outside the shops’ opening hours. For more information about the Little Free Library scheme, to order your own official sign, or to make a donation to its cause, visit their website: www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Of course, you have to take pot luck with a Little Free Library – you’re unlikely to find a particular book that you’re looking for, but it’s a great no-risk way of being more adventurous with your reading, trying out a genre or author that you wouldn’t normally pick up. Who knows what new interest you might discover?

But if you’re bent on getting a specific book, you don’t have to go far. We’re lucky enough to live within a short drive of three independent bookshops – the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth and Tetbury, the Cotswold Bookroom in Wotton-under-Edge, and, 20 miles away in Bristol, the fabulous Foyles bookshop in Cabot Circus, where I’ll be launching the new paperback edition of my must-read book for anyone affected by or interested in Type 1 diabetes. Like to get an invitation? Just contact me and I’ll send one right over.

And if that’s not enough – Hawkesbury Upton is also served by a mobile library, sent out once a fortnight from the fab Yate library a few miles away. (I’ve just had a flash fiction story inspired by our mobile library accepted for a new anthology, Change the Ending, to be published shortly – more news of that soon!) We really have no excuse for not getting stuck into good books in these parts.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy these others on the theme of books and reading:

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Posted in Writing

A Month on the Wagon with “Go Sober for October”

(This post originally appeared in the October edition of the Tetbury Advertiser)

Go Sober for October banner advertEarlier this year I reached that magical age when the NHS summons you for a personal MOT, to be repeated every five years, presumably until you’re no longer roadworthy.

I’m always grateful to the NHS for the wonderful care that my family receives. But any self-respecting woman of – ahem – a certain age, will understand my trepidation at the thought of a battery of questions and blood tests, an official weigh-in and a height check. The height test was not a problem: I was confident that I hadn’t gained height. My weight, on the other hand, is precisely 20% more than it was when I was 20.

Judgment Day

Photo of plastic heart with stethoscope checking itA week after the tests, you’re called in to review the results with a nurse. My husband despatched me to the surgery with a knowing look, as if expecting me to be sent home with a diet sheet and a registration form for Alcoholics Anonymous. To his surprise, the nurse had only good news to report. I apparently have only a 3.5% risk in the next ten years of a cardiovascular event, a euphemism that makes a heart attack sound like an agreeable trip to the seaside.

“What about my nightly two glasses of wine?” I enquired. “Isn’t that something I ought to change?”

“No, you’re borderline, no problem,” the nurse reassured me.

“And my BMI? I thought it was meant to be less than 25?”

“No, we only really worry if it’s over 30.”

Well, that news certainly lowered my blood pressure. (It’s a calm 100/60, if you’re wondering.)

Her prescription for my future well-being: “Go home and treat yourself to a cream cake!”

Turning Wine into Water

Actually, I’m not keen on cream cakes, which is probably just as well, but I don’t want my current state of health to make me complacent. Therefore shortly after my return from my appointment, I searched online for more information about a sponsored health-related campaign to which a friend of mine had alerted me earlier in the week. Raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, it’s succinctly called “Go Sober for October”. This isn’t the first time they’ve run it, but in previous years I’ve clearly missed the boat, or rather wagon.

Just as I was about to sign the pledge, into my email inbox dropped a message from the esteemed editor of this magazine: “This month we’ll be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Tetbury Advertiser!”

I’m hoping it won’t go amiss if the glass I raise in its honour will be filled with nothing more than elderflower fizz? Here’s to the good health of the Tetbury Advertiser!

Go Sober badgeTo join Macmillan’s Go Sober for October campaign: www.gosober.org.

To sponsor me to Go Sober for October: www.gosober.org.uk/profile/authordebbieyoung

To find out more about the invaluable work done by Macmillan Cancer Support, visit their website: www.macmillan.org.uk

 

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

Tour of Hope at Southmead Hospital

Group photo of JDRF team, Laura and Dr Gillespie
From left: Lee and Danielle of JDRF, Laura with her JDRF mascot bears Ruby and Rufus, and Dr Kathleen Gillespie

Just before the summer holidays, my daughter Laura and I were lucky enough to be invited to tour some of the research laboratories of Southmead Hospital. The purpose of the tour was to see at first hand some of the work being co-funded by the JDRF to search for a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Regular readers of this blog will know that Laura was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of three, a few years after Gordon, my husband received his own diagnosis of the same disease.

JDRF logo and URLJDRF funds a lot of research projects all around the world, and by chance some of these happen to be based in the hospital that helps us manage Laura’s diabetes. It’s also the hospital in which she was born. So there were lots of good reasons to go along for a look behind the scenes, even though the tour happened to fall the day before we were about to depart to Greece on holiday. I’m very glad I made the slightly reckless decision to abandon our packing and go for it!

What We Saw on our Tour

Photo of Dr Gillespie syringing liquid
Dr Gillespie demonstrates DNA extraction – from a kiwi fruit!

Accompanied by our regional JDRF team, the lovely Lee Newman and Danielle Angelli, we were shown round the labs by Dr Kathleen Gillespie, a researcher in molecular medicine with special interest in the genetic mechanisms underlying immunity. Apparently 50% of the occurrences of T1D are thought to be genetic-related – although it’s by no means straightforward, as there are incidences of identical twins, one of whom develops the disease and the other doesn’t.

Photo of technician with full tray of samples
“And here are some I prepared earlier”

Dr Gillespie introduced us to her cheerful and welcoming team of staff who have dedicated their careers to amazing projects investigating the prediction and prevention of the development of Type 1 diabetes. We toured a series of small laboratories, each with a special set of expensive machinery – but the machinery would be worthless without the intelligence and imagination of the extraordinary staff who operate it. Their kit included some less costly items that you’d find in any kitchen, such as fridges and microwaves. When Dr Gillespie showed us how to extract DNA, she did so on a kiwi fruit!

“Our work does look a lot like cookery sometimes,” said Dr Gillespie. “People who are good at cooking are usually good at lab work too!”

How the Work is Funded

Every research project that goes into the jigsaw of the search for a cure has to be funded separately, in blocks, with submissions made to fundholders in order for the work to continue. The tour made us all aware of the importance of raising funds for the JDRF long-term, so that their work can continue.

We all came away motivated to work harder to raise funds and awareness for JDRF. We were also inspired by the imagination, creativity, positive attitude and dedication of Dr Gillespie, her team, and their equivalents around the world, for helping bring the cure for diabetes ever closer.

Photo of Laura looking at contents of test-tube in lab
“So that’s what DNA looks like!”

My Book Launch in aid of JDRF

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"
Cover design by SilverWood Books

This November, to mark World Diabetes Day, I’ll be launching the paperback edition of my book Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, to make more widely available the ebook that I published for WDD last year. A new chapter will be included entitled “Diabetes Is Always With Us”. If you’re within reach of Bristol and would like to come to the event launch at Foyles Bookshop, Cabot Circus, on Thursday 13th November, the eve of World Diabetes Day, please send me a message to reserve you a place at the event. I’ll also send you more details of the launch.

For more information about the JDRF, please visit their website: www.jdrf.org.uk.

For more information about Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, see this page on my website here: Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes