I live on the top of a windy hill in Derbyshire with my husband and two cheeky daughters. We have a bouncy black labrador, called Roo, who is named after the dog in a book called The Last Polar Bears by Harry Horse. We also have a fluffy black and white cat called Luna. My children found her at a farm near our house when she was a kitten. They wanted to take care of her because she was a bit scraggy so we asked the farm lady and she said, "Yes!" We feel very lucky to have her because she is very cute and funny. Luna says she's happy to stay with us for a while because it's much nicer than eating mice and living in a haystack.
Before becoming a full time writer, I was the web editor for a company that provides online learning for schools. I have also worked in outdoor education, wetland conservation and as a fundraiser for an environmental charity. I have been a medical secretary, bar maid and toilet cleaner. I was once sacked from a job on a telephone assembly line for playing Mrs Brown's Shopping Basket while I worked.
I was born in a tiny terraced house with no bathroom and a big crack in the wall that you could see out of. We had a tin bath hanging outside on the wall, which was used by all the local kids after they had finished playing on the coal heap. When my family left Barnsley, they sold the house for £100 and bought a cooker!
When I was growing up, I used to get up at 6.00 a.m. to do my violin practice before school. I still can't understand why my brother was always so grumpy in the mornings. My musical background has been a major influence on my writing and is probably the reason that so many of my stories are in rhyming verse.
I wrote my first book when I was ten years old. It was a diary about my life. I wrote down every meal I ate, what lessons I did at school and anything unusual that happened. On 25 May, 1978, I wrote: "Went to school. Went to library. Swimming. Karate. Ken chopped a brick in half with his hand. Home. Bath. Bed."
I started trying to write for children when I was 32 years old, after my first daughter was born. I decided to become a writer because I'd read some fantastic books in the library, but also some that weren't very good. I came home one day and said to my husband, "I could do better than that." He said, "Go on then." So I did. When I started writing I had no idea whether I was good enough. But I WANTED to be good enough so I worked really hard at it. My first real book was published in 2009 when I was 42 and by the end of 2020, I'll have published more than fifty. My goal is to write at least one hundred books in my lifetime.
When I am not thinking up rhymes, writing stories or creating characters, I run creative workshops in schools, libraries and for festivals. Click on Visits to find out more. I also work with companies, charities and other organisations on creative literacy projects. See the section on Special Projects to find out more.
I am quite adventurous and like doing things outdoors. When I was growing up I was always out on my bike with my big brother, and used to go kayaking and swimming a lot. I recently bought my own kayak and have joined the local canoe club. We paddle on a fast bit of river a few miles from my house. I'm still learning, and sometimes I fall in, but that doesn't put me off! In my 20s I went to Indonesia and Australia on my own, and in my 30s I spent a month trekking in Nepal.
I have been down the world's fastest zip line, and have also been sailing on a massive tall ship with the Tall Ships Youth Trust. While I was out at sea, I climbed right to the top of the tallest mast and waved at the seagulls. It was really REALLY high!! I go to the gym most weekdays, where I do crossfit training. This is where you learn how to lift weights and do lots of horrible exercises that make you puff a lot! At weekends, I love to go mountain biking or running with my husband. We usually manage to end up at a cafe for lunch, which is always a good thing. Most evenings, after the gym, I like to snuggle down by the fire with my family and watch television, though sometimes we go out into the city to see some stand up comedy or watch a film.
Over the years, I have set up several community projects including well-dressing in my village, African drumming workshops and a school grounds development project. I also helped organise the Tall Tales Story Festival for children, which took place in the Peak District in 2016.
Before I die, I want to drive a giant dumper truck and go whale-watching.