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Last Updated: Saturday July 05 2008 09:36 GMT

Authors on the spot: Cathy Cassidy

Cathy Cassidy

Cathy Cassidy is the best-selling author of six children's books, including her latest release - Ginger Snaps.

The former art teacher and agony aunt now spends her time writing and travelling around the country with her Friendship Festival.

She spoke to Newsround to tell us more about it.



Who or what inspires you?

Kids are my inspiration and they teach me so much as well.

Having experienced 12-13 years as an agony aunt looking into people's problems, it makes you so aware of what kids care about and what problems they face.

Kids have an awful lot to teach us too, but they don't always have the life skills to deal with the things they have to deal with.


How did the friendship festivals start?

It's developed naturally from my first book, Dizzy, when they put a VW camper van on the cover.

A VW camper van is something I've always craved for so with the money I got for the book I bought one and thought it makes sense to turn up for signings and things in the camper van.

Then I realised we could do festival things from it too and bring in some of my other interests, like art.

So what happens at a friendship festival?

We take the festivals to schools, libraries, book shops and parks - it's basically a chance for everyone to get stuck in and have fun.

Ginger Snaps by Cathy Cassidy
The idea is to make reading cool and give kids something to remember.

They can get stuck in and make things, do a bit of face-painting or just have a chat.

I love doing something like that, that's all about the kids. It's lovely to talk about books and do readings, but it's also fantastic to talk to the kids and have fun.

Sometimes the kids will come with friends, often they come on their own or with parents. But by the time they've been there a while they've probably made more friends as well.

Why are friendships so important?

Friendships in your life are really important, but when you're 9-14 years old these are the years when your friends can become even more important because sometimes your family can't understand you as well as your friends can.

We should be celebrating friendships and treating your friends well.

Everybody could be your friends so don't write anyone off because they don't like the same things as you or don't dress the same way.

You have to be true to yourself. Don't look at someone else and judge them by the way they appear. We're all very different people.

Be inclusive. Think how you would feel in their shoes.

You need a wide spectrum of friends. It's about people and being open to what they can teach you and you can learn from them.


You're working with ChildLine to say no to bullying and yes to friendship at the festivals, tell us about that...

I think everybody admires the charity and I've always supported what they do.

ChildLine
I do feel very strongly about some issues like bullying and that is a problem that will never go away. We need to be aware of it and keep at it all the time.

It's not always taken seriously and it's not always easy to sort out. Even though some attitudes have changed there are still some parents and teachers who say 'laugh it off'.

But if it's not resolved, bullying can destroy someone's life and you can't take risks like that.

Always try to get some adult help on board. Anybody can ring ChildLine. No problem's too big or small.

Perhaps your family is part of the problem or you don't want to upset them. You can always pick up the phone to ChildLine and it's treated in confidence.

They're like the best friend you haven't met yet.


What's the Friendship Charter all about?

It's very simple. It's asking people to take six simple steps to make a difference to their friends' lives.

They're all nice fun things you can do easily, but they're things that often get overlooked.

For example, giving people you care about a hug, or doing a random act of kindness every day.

Also being aware of not wanting to hurt your friends and trying to think about things from their viewpoint.

It's all about doing something that gives people a little bit of help and belief in the magic you get from friends and family.

The charter is very, very new but we're already getting lots of people signing up.

Life is always going to throw all kinds of stuff at you - no matter what your age.

Friendship can give you the support you need to get through it. Friendship is something to be celebrated.

Cathy's Ultimate Friendship Festival is being held in London on Sunday 6 July.