Monday, 14 April 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Just for this week, I’ve joined the Writing Process Blog Tour. This is a worldwide event where writers share insights into their work by answering the same four questions. I was introduced to this tour by my Twitter-friend and Young Adult writer, Antonia Lindsay. Check out her Writing Process blog here.

What am I working on?

Right now, I'm about 3/4 the way through draft 3a of a new book called TYGER. I can't say too much about it, as my books always change a lot as I write them, but I can tell you this: it's a story set in a parallel world; one of the main characters is a tiger; and I'm really enjoying it!

I started thinking about this parallel world about 25 years ago. About 6 years ago, I found a story to set in that world.  And about a year ago, when I finished Phoenix, I started to write it.

This is a very different process for me. Usually, I start with characters, and then the world develops around them. With Varjak Paw, it all began with the idea of a kitten leaving home for the first time in his life.  With Phoenix, it began with the idea of a boy going on an epic quest to find his absent father.

But in the case of TYGER, it all started with the world, and the writing process feels very different. More solid, somehow – though that might just be because I'm a more experienced writer now!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have to admit, I don't really think of my books in terms of genre. Varjak Paw and Phoenix might seem different in genre terms – an animal story and a space epic – but to me, they're very similar. They're both stories about characters who feel small in a big world; characters who don't start out with power, but have to find a way to save the day.

I think of my books as places where I can put all my favourite things. I enjoy reading all sorts of genres: sci-fi and fantasy, adventure stories, horror, realist fiction, historical fiction, romance, crime, animal stories, martial arts stories, superhero stories, ancient myths… I just love stories, of whatever genre!

So I think that although I use elements from lots of genres, in the end, the stories I'm trying to write are 'my' stories; stories that no-one else could write.

Why do I write what I do?

I think you can only really write what you love. I've tried writing other things, but it doesn't work for me. I always go back to the single best piece of writing advice I've ever heard, which is by JD Salinger.

"If only you'd remember before ever you sit down to write that you've been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world would you most want to read if you had your heart's choice? The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself."

How does my writing process work?

Drafts, drafts and more drafts. On a first draft, I just try to have fun. I set myself an achievable target - 1000 words a day, or 4 sides of A4. In this period, I don't edit or look back, and I don't ask myself if what I'm writing is any good – I just move forwards.  If I think of something that needs to be changed, I make a note about it in a notebook, and move on until I reach the end of the story.

Then I have a break, and re-read what I've written – but as if I was the reader, not the writer. I ask myself what I would want to see different here, as a reader – and my answers to that question form the basis of the next draft. I go all the way through it, finding any possible way I can to make it better.  At this point, I'll often make big structural plans.  Here again, notebooks are very useful!  I think it's helpful to have a good notebook by your side, so here's one I've used for TYGER:

I go through this process again and again until I can find no possible way to improve the story; until it has all the effects on me as a reader that I want it to have. Then I show it my agents and my editors, and we go through the process all over again! As many times as it takes, until everyone feels it's as brilliant as it can be.

Only then do we publish it. Many, many drafts will have happened by this point. That's why my books take such a long time! I complain about it a lot, but the final draft is always the best, and it always feels worth it in the end.

If you want to know more about my writing process, I'm doing a series of writing tips here on my blog, and I also talk about it on Twitter, where you can find me as @whatSFSaid.

And now I’m handing over the Blog Tour baton to another friend and fellow writer who will share his thoughts next Monday: Joe Craig, author of the Jimmy Coates books. Here's Joe's own introduction:

Joe Craig writes novels, songs and movies. He’s best known for the Jimmy Coates thrillers, which The Times calls ‘The Bourne Identity for kids... Pure gold’. He lives in London with his wife (broadcaster/adventurer Mary-Ann Ochota), his dog (Harpo the labradonkey) and his dwarf crocodile (Professor Sven). His website is and on twitter, facebook and instagram, he’s @joecraiguk

Saturday, 12 April 2014

School Visits: Foxford School

Most of the schools I visit are primary schools.  I love them, but I love visiting secondary schools too, and I'm always very glad to be invited to one.  So I'd like to say an extra-big thank you to the brilliant Hannah Thomson and Foxford School, who I had the enormous pleasure of visiting this week!

I met some outstanding readers and writers at Foxford, mainly from Years 7 and 8, but also some in later years including Year 11, which was fantastic.  There were also some visitors from Holbrook Primary School and Grangehurst Primary School, mainly from Year 6.  We talked about Varjak Paw and Phoenix, and the process of becoming a writer.

I was asked lots of great questions, including one about the ending of Phoenix which made me really happy, as the ending was something that took a long time to get right.  It was an absolute pleasure at the end of the day to sign copies of Phoenix for students, and on their way out, a lot of people told me how inspired they felt by the visit.  All I can say is that I felt exactly the same – so thank you to everyone who made it such an inspiring day!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

School Visits: Yeomoor Primary

I'd like to say a very big thank you to Matt Walker and all the Year 4s and 3s I had the pleasure of visiting at Yeomoor Primary last week!  It was a great visit, and a really warm welcome – I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you all!

It was fantastic to see all the work you'd been doing on Varjak Paw, and to hear such enthusiasm for reading and books in general.  It was also very inspiring and encouraging for me as a writer to see the brilliant reactions of Year 4 to my reading from my new book Phoenix!  If you'd like to know more about it, here's a short book trailer that Dave McKean made, which brings the opening of the book to life with animation based on his original illustrations:

I'd love to hear what you think if you have a chance to read it!  And if anyone would like to leave me a comment about any of my books, or about the visit, this is the place to do it!

Friday, 28 March 2014

School Visits: Wix Primary School / École de Wix

I'd like to say a big thank you and merci to Schnell Donacien and the fantastic Year 4s of Wix Primary School / École de Wix, who I had the pleasure of visiting last week!

It was wonderful to meet so many great readers and writers, and to be asked so many interesting and thoughtful questions.  It was also very nice to hear how much everyone had been enjoying Varjak Paw and Phoenix.  One Year 4 told me he read Phoenix in just 5 days!  Given that it's 490 pages long, that's an amazing compliment for a writer to hear!

Thank you all again for your wonderful warm welcome.  And if anyone at Wix would like to make a comment about the visit or my books, this is the place to do it – I love hearing from readers!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Writing Tips #3: The Secret Of The First Draft

So here's the third tip I would give any writer (if you want to know the first two, they're here).

On a first draft, give yourself a daily minimum word count: something you can easily do.  The amount will be different for everyone, but I usually aim for 4 sides of A4 – 1,000 words.  If I feel like doing more, that's fine, but it doesn't mean I can do less tomorrow; I have to do at least 4 sides a day.  While I'm doing this, I don't look back or edit or even wonder if what I'm writing is any good.  I just write 4 sides a day, every day, picking up where I left off yesterday, always moving the story forwards.  

Every time I stick to this, within a couple of months, an amazing amount of writing has somehow happened.  That's how I wrote the first drafts of Varjak Paw and Phoenix, and that's the secret of how to do a first draft.  Don't judge it, don't worry about it: just get those words down on the page, whatever they are.  Momentum is everything.  If you try to edit while you're writing a first draft, chances are you'll never finish it.  But keep moving forwards, and you'll reach the end before you know it.  

Then it's time for the next draft... which I'll talk about in the next writing tip!

Monday, 17 March 2014

World Book Week 2014

Every year, World Book Day gets bigger and bigger.  This year, it became an entire week!  I was honoured to take part in a special video made by The Guardian to celebrate the occasion.  Along with my fellow authors Jacqueline Wilson and Jim Smith, I was interviewed by a reader dressed as a character from my books: in my case, Varjak Paw!  The video is here and is absolutely fantastic; there's also a full transcript of the interview that you can read here.

I also visited many schools, and met lots and lots of great readers and writers!  First up was Our Lady Queen Of Heaven Primary School in Wimbledon, where I met Years 6, 5, 4 and 3.  It was brilliant to see so many Varjak Paw fans, and so many people interested in my new book Phoenix.  For anyone who missed it, here's the Phoenix book trailer again:

On World Book Day itself, I visited Montem Primary School in Islington, and talked to Years 6, 5 and 4.  It was inspiring to see so much enthusiasm for books and reading – and I was delighted to see a tiger on the way out of the school, because the new book that I'm working on is called TYGER!

Finally, I visited Friars Primary School in Waterloo, where I met Years 6 and 5, many of whom had read both Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw, and some of whom I understand are now reading Phoenix!  I hope you all enjoy it... and I hope that everyone I met had a totally brilliant World Book Week!

Monday, 10 March 2014

School Visits: New North Academy

Some sad news: my trusty old computer, on which I wrote Phoenix, died a couple of weeks ago. So I haven't been able to update this blog for a while.  But I've been busy doing school visits, and I hope to make blogs about them all in the coming week.

I think my visit to the New North Academy in Islington was one of the best I've ever had.  I met some brilliant readers and writers from Year 6, and fantastic teachers like Fiona Gunn-Stokes and Alexander Hall.  They showed me the excellent work they'd been doing on Phoenix as well as Varjak Paw.  It was really inspiring to see all the enthusiasm for books out there!

It was amazing afterwards to find messages on my site like this:
Dear SF SAID, you have visited new north academy and I was one of the pupils. So far I have written 5 MINI SHORT STORIES because you have inspired me to do so. I have learnt a lot from you and I will cherish your visit. I hope you write another Varjak one of my ideas was varjak having a twin called varjak Claw and he could be bad. That could be a special edition . I really wish you would use some ideas in your books such as Holly and Varjak getting married! Thanks again

It really means a lot for a writer to hear things like that!  So I'd like to wish everyone at New North Academy all the best with their writing and their reading – and thank you for saying such nice things about my books!

Friday, 21 February 2014

School Visit: Sydenham High School

I'd like to say a big thank you to Pauline Jiminez and Sydenham High School for inviting me to visit last week!  I had the pleasure of meeting some really fantastic Year 6s, 5s and 4s, and talking to them all about writing.  It was very inspiring for me to hear so much enthusiasm for books out there, and so many great stories and dreams!

It was amazing at the end to see how many people wanted to buy a copy of Phoenix – so many that the bookseller sold out! If there's anyone who didn't manage to get a copy on the day but would still like one, here's a link to my publishers' page, where the 'buy now' button links to lots of places you can order it, including Foyles, Waterstones, Blackwells, WH Smith, Amazon, and local independent booksellers via Hive:

Friday, 14 February 2014

School Visits: Bancrofts Prep School & Oakridge School

I had the great pleasure of visiting Bancrofts Prep School last year – here's the blog post I made at the time.  It was a brilliant visit, so I was excited to hear from Joe Layburn, the fantastic Head (and fellow author) that they wanted me to come back again this year.  If anything, this year's visit was even better than last time, so I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone at Bancrofts for their wonderful welcome – especially all the amazing Year 4s who've been working on Varjak Paw!

I also visited Oakridge School last week, where I met some fantastic Year 6s & Year 5s who were working on Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw.  I had some brilliant comments here on my site even before the visit, so I was prepared to meet some great readers – but even so, it was inspiring for me to hear all the enthusiasm for books and reading out there!  Thank you so much to everyone I met – and if you'd like to see the Phoenix book trailer again, here it is!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

School Visits: Park Hill Junior School

Late last year, I received one of the nicest letters I've ever read.  It was from a teacher called Sally Greenaway at a school called Park Hill, in Kenilworth.  She had just used Phoenix as a class book with her Year 6s – the first teacher I know of who has done this – and she was writing to let me know how it had gone:
"We began our space topic in September and this book worked perfectly alongside our topic work... When reading the book in the classroom, you could hear a pin drop and the children got thoroughly lost in the story of Lucky...  Thank you for writing such a moving and stimulating book."
She also enclosed some letters that her class had written to me.  They were so amazing that I really wanted to meet the people who wrote them!  So I offered to go and visit.

I discovered that they'd done a huge amount of fascinating work.  They'd visited the National Space Centre in Leicester, to learn more about the stars.  They'd made diaries from various characters' points of view; made newspaper articles and fact files; they'd even made Axxa boots!  Unfortunately I didn't get to see the boots, but I did see some of their writing and it was outstanding!

It was fantastic to meet these brilliant readers and writers, and to hear all their thoughts and questions about the book.  It was also great to meet all the Year 4s and 3s who were doing Varjak Paw at the same time!  So I'd just like to thank everyone at Park Hill for the wonderful warm welcome.

I found a lovely comment here on my site shortly after the visit:
Hi, I am called Molly
I am from Park hill Junior school in Kenilworth and you visited my school today I wanted to thank you
Thank you very much, Molly! And if anyone else would like to leave a comment about the visit or my books, this is the place to do it!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Paws And Whiskers

I received an amazing book this week: Paws And Whiskers.  It's a brilliant anthology of animal stories, chosen by the great Jacqueline Wilson... and Varjak Paw is one of the stories she chose!

It's an incredible honour, especially when you see the other writers in the book.  There are some of my all-time favourites: Rudyard Kipling, Ursula Le Guin, Philip Pullman, Philippa Pearce, Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, Dick King-Smith, Joan Aiken, Noel Streatfield, Dodie Smith, Kate DiCamillo – and of course Jacqueline Wilson herself.  Her introduction to the Varjak Paw excerpt is so lovely, I have to quote it!  She says:
"I think my most delightful and interesting interview ever was with SF Said.  He knew so much about children's books and we found we had all sorts of things in common – we even shared a passion for gothic silver jewellery.  He told me that he'd written a children's book himself and so I asked him to send me a copy when it came out.  
I was thrilled when I read Varjak Paw.  It's new and contemporary and original, and yet it already reads like a true classic of children's literature."
It's absolutely amazing to see one my favourite writers saying such things about my work!  Here's a link to the interview she mentions, which we did back in 2001; and here's some more information from her own website.  Please do buy a copy of the book if you can – royalties from every copy sold will go to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Phoenix Inspirations: Writing Music

I've made a few posts before about the music that I listen to when I write.  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you won't be surprised to hear that I listened to quite a bit of the The Cure again while writing my new book, Phoenix!  But there were some new bands on my soundtrack this time.

This is the first song I ever heard by Sigur Rós. They're a brilliant Icelandic band who make music as epic and huge as the sky. To me, they make the sounds I imagine when I think about the stars singing, as they do throughout Phoenix, from the first page to the last.

This is a song from their untitled album ( ).  It's the song I listened to the most in the seven years of writing Phoenix.  It's what I was thinking of when I wrote that the stars made "a small, soft, silvery sound, like the chime of a faraway bell."  And it's the kind of thing I had in mind when I wrote about how the sound "surged and swelled, rising up into the sky."

The concert that Lucky, Bixa and Frollix go to on Scorpio Six definitely owes something to the various Sigur Rós concerts I've been to in my time... like this one, at Alexandra Palace, back in 2008! Though there were a lot of other concerts in the back of my mind... and lots of other music, too!

If you've enjoyed this post, and would like to hear the whole () album, I've made a Spotify playlist for you here.  And I'll be posting another blog soon with more music that inspired Phoenix...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Writing Tips #2: Everyone Writes In Drafts

Here's the second tip that I would give any writer (if you want to know the first, it's here).

No-one can write a great book in one draft.  I've never met a single writer who could do that; a book is just too big and complicated.  You need to build it over a number of drafts.  Everyone does this differently – but believe me, everyone does it.

The best example I can think of is Jon Stallworthy's Between The Lines: WB Yeats's Poetry In The Making.  I found this in a second-hand bookshop, and it changed my life.  Stallworthy meticulously went through all of Yeats's discarded drafts, and reconstructed evidence of exactly how he'd written his poems.

Here's the finished text of my favourite Yeats poem, The Second Coming (click on the image to see it large):

Brilliant, isn't it?  Hard to imagine it could ever have been any other way.  But have a look at the first draft:

"The germans are now to Russia come"???  And look at this – several drafts later:

"The second Birth"?  Clearly, he didn't even know what the poem was going to be called, well into writing it!  Even very near the end, he was circling around the incredible final image that now seems so inevitable – developing it through sheer bloody-minded trial and error:

When I read this, I realised that even someone I thought of as a genius had to build their work layer by layer, draft by draft.  No-one just sits down and has perfect work pour out of them.  And if this is true of a poem, how much more true must it be of a novel?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish my readers a very happy new year, and all the best for 2014!

Thank you so much for all your comments & questions in 2013 – I've really enjoyed hearing from so many of you.  Please keep them coming!  I'll be posting lots of news in 2014 as we build up to August, when Phoenix is published in paperback, and I'll be doing lots of events to support it.  If you haven't read Phoenix yet – please watch this brilliant book trailer by Dave McKean!

I'll also be working hard on my next book, TYGER.  I've just finished the second draft, and I hope that by this time next year, I'll have something I might be able to show a few people...  In the meantime, I'd just like to share this amazing image with you.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

End Of The Year Round-Up

So after seven long years of writing, this was the year that my new book Phoenix was finally published!  It's been amazing to see it get some fantastic reviews, and even appear on some Book Of The Year lists...

The Guardian picked Phoenix in their Best Children's Literature Of 2013 selection, where Michelle Pauli described it as an "epic space quest", and said: "Not only is the story of boy hero Lucky's journey through galaxies completely absorbing, launching the reader into an alien world with its own mythology, but the book is beautiful – lavishly illustrated by Dave McKean, with words and pictures working seamlessly together." (Click the links to read the full reviews)

Metro picked it in their Top 20 Books Of 2013, where Imogen Russell-Williams described it as "fierily poetic on a galactic scale... totally transporting – as are McKean’s space-spanning illustrations."

Phoenix featured in the Independent On Sunday's Christmas Books, where Daniel Hahn described it as: "A powerful story of great scope and ambition, from an expert storyteller. And with these gorgeously deep black-and-white illustrations, the great McKean is on absolutely top form here."

I've been delighted to see Phoenix appear on some excellent book blogs recently. Georgia Walters of Books and Writers JNR featured it on her End Of The Year Books Survey, alongside books by writers like Patrick Ness and John Green. She gave Phoenix a fabulous five-star review, and said: "I feel in love with this story... HIGHLY recommended for any sci-fi fans, fantasy fans, etc., out there- and also anybody who wants a new favourite book (:"

Phoenix was also featured in Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Favourites Of 2013; and Mr Ripley was kind enough to offer me a guest spot on his blog. So I wrote a piece about the inspirations behind Phoenix, where I talked a lot about collaborating with the great Dave McKean.  Definitely worth reading if you want to know some behind-the-scenes stuff about how the book was made!

The Book Addicted Girl also kindly offered me a guest spot on her blog, for her 'Book Addicted Boys' feature.  So this time, I wrote a piece about space stories, and why I love them

Sister Spooky gave Phoenix a lovely review, where she said: "I zoomed through Phoenix... [It] will tickle fans of Doctor Who and Star Wars that love a bit of adventure with a dash of morality."  I also did Sister Spooky's fab Twenty Random Questions interview, so if you'd like to know my answers to questions like "What superpowers would you have?", click the link to find out!

Finally, I was knocked out to see Phoenix reviewed in Interzone, a great science fiction magazine I used to read in the 1990s! Barbara Melville gave it a fantastic review, in which she said: "Not only does it break new territory – epic space adventures are, after all, not in abundance on the children’s shelf – but it is layered with depth and meaning right from the get go... These multilayered themes and ideas, reinforced by strong characterisation, make this book shine. It could have worked without them, making for a fun but depthless guilty pleasure. I’m glad Said picked the path he did. The result is a touching, meaningful story for children and adults alike." 

Unfortunately Interzone is not available online, but if you'd like a print copy, you can get one here.

I'd like to say a huge & heartfelt thanks to all these writers for taking the time to read Phoenix, engage with it, and write such lovely things about it!  You have no idea how much it means to see someone take your work seriously; it really makes those seven years feel worthwhile! 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Author Visits: Hazelwick Book Awards & Greenfield Community College

My school visits have taken me to many primary schools over the years. But last week, I visited two secondaries, and absolutely loved the experience!  So if there are any more secondary schools out there who would like me to visit, just get in touch.

On Monday, I visited Greenfield Community College, and met lots of fantastic readers and writers from Years 8, 9, 10 & 11.  It was totally brilliant to meet you all, to hear your stories, and to see the amazing work you've been doing with my new book Phoenix. I heard some really excellent pieces of creative writing during the day, saw some fabulous artwork – and was presented with incredible cakes shaped exactly like Axxa eyeballs!  Fortunately they were delicious...

On Wednesday, I visited Hazelwick School, for the Hazelwick Book Awards.  I met lots of awesome Year 7s from Hazelwick, as well as students from many other local schools, who are all voting in the Awards.  There were many interesting questions and discussions, and much enthusiasm for reading and books, which was great to see!

If anyone from any of those schools would like to leave me a comment about the visit, or my books, this is the place to do it!  In the meantime, I'd like to wish you all Happy Reading!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Writing Tips #1: Finding Your Story

People often ask me for writing advice. So I'm doing a series of posts here, where I'll be giving my own tips, and collecting some favourites that have inspired me.

I'm beginning with my all-time favourite piece of writing advice. I like it so much, I have it pinned up on the wall of my study.  It was written by JD Salinger, in his novella Seymour: an Introduction.
"If only you'd remember before ever you sit down to write that you've been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world would you most want to read if you had your heart's choice? The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself."

Monday, 25 November 2013

School Visits: Christ Church Primary, Crowland Primary & Beckford Primary

I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone I've met on school visits in the last couple of weeks!  Firstly, all the Year 4s & 5s at Christ Church Primary.

It was great visit, very enjoyable indeed!  It was amazing for me to meet people who were already reading Phoenix, and really interesting to hear about all the other things you've been reading and writing.  If you have any more questions or things you'd like to say about my books or about the visit, this is the place to do it!

I'd also like to say thank you to all the Year 6s at Crowland Primary, who gave me a great welcome on Friday!  I've had a couple of lovely comments already from Crowland students on this site:
Dear SF Said thank you for coming to Crowland primary school.For answering all are questions and reading a little of your new book Phoenix. 
Dear SF Said I really enjoyed your visit our school Crowland Primary School. I hope you can try to have a look at the question sheet I gave you. i didn't tell you my name but I am Tran. From Parrot class. I hope you had a great time to. I hope you can visit again. have a Great evening
Thank you both very much!  And Tran, thank you for your questions.  There are quite a lot of them, so I can't answer them all, but I will answer this one:
Do you have any advice for writing a great story or book?
Yes, I have lots of advice!  Actually, people ask me this question quite often, so I'm going to start doing a series of blog posts about it.  I think I'll call the series "About Writing", and hopefully I'll make the first post this week – so please come back next weekend and have a look and see!

Finally, I'd like to say a big thank you to all the Year 4s at Beckford Primary who I met today!  It was great to hear all your questions and thoughts about Varjak Paw and Phoenix.  And, given the fantastic painting in the entrance to your school (see above), you may be interested to know that the new book I'm writing at the moment is called TYGER!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Authors For The Philippines

Here's an amazing initiative to raise money for the Red Cross’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal, to get aid to the people most affected by the typhoon in the Philippines.  A bunch of authors have donated items to an online charity auction.  Anyone can bid for them, from now until Wednesday 20th November.  If you win an auction, you'll receive the item, and all the money will go to the Typhoon Appeal!

I've donated the following items:

Signed first edition hardbacks of Varjak Paw & The Outlaw Varjak Paw - very rare these days! Unlike the paperbacks, the dream sequences are in colour (amber in the first book, blue in the second!) 

Signed first edition hardback of Phoenix - will be rare one day soon!  

Note: All these books will be double-signed: once by me, once by the brilliant Dave McKean.  We've hardly ever double-signed books before, so these will be super-rare!

Many other authors & illustrators have donated fantastic items: Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman, etc etc... Please please please, go to the site, have a look, and make a bid  – it couldn't be for a better cause!