Cathy Farr, author and founder of Bite Publishing, coined the wonderful phrase of 'bridging the gap between learning to read and reading to learn'.
Inspired by a chance meeting with a teenage girl who admitted that reading was a struggle and 'the words just don't go in', Cathy began to write books that were specifically accessible for that young girl, and other teenagers like her. Cathy teamed up with Afasic speech and language specialist, Zein Perira, in order to create a novel that was neither inaccessible nor patronising to teens with SLCN. Combining their skills, they not only created two amazing novels, but also teacher workbooks to further support the speech and language development of students. (You can read more about Cathy and Zein's process in the full article in The Link Issue 9).
We got to chat to Cathy and ask her some of our burning questions.
What book was important to you when you were at primary school?
I had a few: when I was quite young my brother and I had a book by Richard Scarry called 'What do people do all day?', which we always used to call 'What do apples do all day?' I loved that book; my Dad used to read it to us at night. When I was older I loved the Enid Blyton Malory Towers series - always wanted to be Darrel!
Is there a book that you are determined to read at some stage?
Way too many! Last year I finally read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, after many promises, then read Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek quickly after - fantastic! This year I've been ploughing through Lord of the Rings (has been on my list for years) - just started Book 3 last night. In the future? The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley is certainly on the list.
What would you take as your Desert Island book? Patricia Cornwall, Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Bronte or someone else?
Bronte - without hesitation - Emily is my favourite but I'd settle for Charlotte, too.
How easy do you find it to read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I'm quite sad actually - I go look for them! Luckily I haven't had too many 'not great' ones and no bad ones (that I've found anyway). The good ones I always read with great relief - the not-so-good ones haunt me for a while, but I do try to take any constructive criticism as part of the learning curve.
Is there one author that you admire the most?
Difficult to say but it would be a toss-up between Emily Bronte and Daphne Du Maurier at the moment although Terry Pratchet is way up there, too.
Have you a book that you have started to write and hope to finish one day?
Two actually! The first is the third in the Fellhounds series. I wrote Moon Chase and Moon Crossing in fairly quick succession and started Book 3 (working title: Ghost Moon) about four years ago but there is a story line about Wil's father that runs through the books and I lost my own Dad two years ago after a long and not pretty fight with cancer so that one is proving difficult to re-visit at the moment.
The second is loosely based on my Mum - it is funny. One day I'll sit down and really go for it. The trouble is, she's such a character there's way too much material to work with!
Who do you let read your first draft?
My husband - if he likes it, I stick with it. Yes, I know - he loves me so he's bound to say its ok. I have in the past slaved over a meal all day and proudly put it in front of him only to hear the words at the end 'It was ok, wouldn't rant 'n rave.'
With my last book - The Cat & the Fiddle - I read the draft to my Year 6 class - brave, I know! Fortunately, they loved it, and they were a tough crowd!
Kindle or book?
Book every time. I don't own a Kindle. I love the feel and smell of books - electronic just doesn't cut it.
What’s your next project?
I really must finish Ghost Moon as I keep visiting schools and promising enthusiastic children that it's on the way. I've actually just finished a screen play which was a huge learning curve. It may never get made but a producer friend of mine liked it - that's good enough for me. I'm also doing a Masters in Education in Applied Linguistics & English; I was going to give up after the first year because I found it really, really hard, but I got 93% at the end of my first year so I guess I'd better stick with it!
We certainly can't wait for the next Cathy Farr book! Keep up to date and find out what's available for schools on her website