Workshop in Italy

I haven’t posted in a while as I’ve spent the past three months travelling around Europe with only brief stays in the UK in between. In that space of time I have visited five different countries!

Last week I felt very privileged to be invited to hold two workshops at the Rolandino de Passaggeri Secondary School in Bologna, by Italian teacher, Marica Triola, who works on behalf of the Italian Consulate in schools in Cambridgeshire. The workshops were part of the “Libriamoci” project of reading aloud in schools and were aimed at promoting a dialogue between the two cultures.


I worked with two classes of twelve-year-olds who impressed me with their knowledge and understanding of English. Before reading aloud from the first book of the Agnil’s Worlds series, ‘The Rise of Agnil’, we explored vocabulary relating to character traits with a game of charades.

reading aloud

At least one of the classes had been introduced to Agnil’s Worlds by exploring this very web site. Both classes listened attentively and appeared to enjoy being read to by a native English speaker.

The ‘Libriamoci’ project was promoted by the Ministry of Education and Research along with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism.





Bronzed and beautiful!

Following closely on the heels of the lovely five star review for Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret from Readers’ Favorite, I received another email from them yesterday giving me a gentle nudge to check my author page on their web site.

We noticed that you have not logged in to your Author’s Area yet to read our September 1st contest update which explains how your book did in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. It is our pleasure to inform you that your book did place in the contest.”

I’d entered the contest towards the end of last year and promptly put it to the back of my mind, where it remained buried under the untidy heap of my busy life.

I eventually managed to login and discovered that The Rise of Agnil, book 1 of the Agnil’s Worlds series, had won the Bronze award in its category, Children’s Fantasy/Sci-fi.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 18.00.29

The 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries.

Readers’ Favorite has become the fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.

In addition to reviewing for some of the biggest names in the literary industry, as well as the first time independent author, they host a respected award contest which features entries from new authors to NYT best-sellers, as well as celebrities like Jim Carrey and Henry Winkler.

Sadly, I won’t be taking a hop, skip and a jump over to Miami for the awards’ ceremony in November (A pair of elf wings might have helped me!)  but I hope to be celebrating at home with a glass of something bubbly sometime soon.

Five glorious golden stars

It’s been a very long time since I last posted. Holidays and life in general have got in the way of updating the web site but yesterday I received a long awaited email. At the beginning of April I submitted the fourth book of the Agnil’s Worlds series, Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret, for review at the Readers’ Favorite web site. Readers’ Favorite is an important American book review site. There are two ways you can obtain a review there, one is to pay for it and the other other is to sit tight and wait for a free review. I don’t believe in paying for a review in any case, so I waited…and waited.

I’d been keeping my fingers crossed as the first three books had all received five star reviews on this site and I was delighted when, once more, I saw the five glorious golden stars at the top of the page!

This is what the Readers’ Favorite reviewer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford, said:
“In Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret by Susan Navas, Agnil is a young girl with an eye for adventure. Since she’s only part human, the other part elf, Agnil has some unusual, magical qualities and her adventures don’t just happen in the human world. In fact, these adventures happen in the in between world as well as the elf world. Her adventures lead her through portals to find hidden treasures that may or may not explain who she is, who her family is. It also helps her adapt to her dual ancestry.

You see, Agnil is also an elf princess, and she has already experienced several adventures and saved the elf world from evil and disaster. When a special book appears in the elf library that is centuries old and believed to be written in the language of the mythical creatures, the centaurs, Agnil is called by her grandparents, the King and Queen, to find the stone in the human world that will help the elfs read this ancient language and unravel the mysteries that this text records. In so doing, Agnil must seek the help of her father’s girlfriend, even though Agnil’s mother, an elf, is still very much alive. Torn by the conflict of two families within one, Agnil begins to find a way to reach out to this girlfriend without betraying her love for either her father or her mother.

Susan Navas has written a delightful story on a par with C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books. It is a wonderful fantasy tale of the ongoing, ever present battle between good and evil. The fantasy world of the elfs is coupled so well with the real world of a contemporary young girl struggling to come to terms with her parents’ separation and a split family. This becomes an underlying theme, but the plot leads the reader through an exciting series of adventures. Very well done!”

Readers' Favorite

If you’d like to see it on the original page, just click here.


A change of direction

This week I am mostly sketching on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, but I know I can’t keep drawing the same old sea view. Downstairs from the apartment where I’m staying is a ‘Hundred-year-old Olive Tree’. Well, that’s what they call it here. It just means it’s so old that nobody really knows how old it is! I decided it might be a good subject for a sketch but felt self-conscious about drawing ‘in situ’ so I took a photo with my phone and returned to the safe confines of my balcony. This is the result. 

100-year-old olive tree
I then had a couple of busy-doing-not-very-much days before revisiting cartoons. I’d really enjoyed doing the faces a few days ago and decided to challenge myself even further by looking at the whole body. As usual, there was plenty of advice on the Internet so I had a go with a couple of the sites I found.

My first attempt was not very successful but I’m showing it to you, anyway, just to prove I’ve been trying!

cartoon boy
I did a bit better today, I think, even though the legs are a bit wonky (wonkiness seems to be my style!) and even managed to adapt the drawing to represent one of the characters in the Agnil’s Worlds books! Can anyone guess who it is?

Which elf?
I do have a bit of a problem. My eraser/rubber is almost worn out! I must be able to buy one around here!

A mixed bag

Continuing with my drawing diary inspired by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell’s, Five Point Plan, again proved a little tricky over the past few days…but I’ve kept going, albeit not every day. 


Five Point Plan

Chris Riddell’s Five Point Plan

My first drawing is one that I set as a challange to myself. I have a friend who, along with his partner, keeps alpacas in the province of Cordoba in Spain. I wondered if I could draw one…here’s the result of that little experiment. A decidedly pensive/angry alpaca! 


Since the last time I posted, I’ve transferred to Spain for a holiday so my second offering is a sketch of the view I have from the balcony. The view is quite beautiful and I’m not sure that without colour I can entirely do it justice. I have simplified what I can see just a little bit, it’s not quite to scale and, like most of my other drawings, it’s a bit wonky! 

Cala Salions 

Yesterday, we were invited to lunch by some friends and the effects of a huge lunch, one or two drinks and the heat meant that the drawing of this ‘rustic’ chair is probably more ‘rustic’ than reality! Another decidedly wonky sketch! 


Today I decided to try something a bit different.  Having unsuccessfully tried to draw my granddaughter’s face and abandoning the attempt, I Googled ‘drawing cartoon characters’ and came across the TutsPlus web site. Following some very simple instructions, I managed to draw these two characters! I did have fun drawing these but I don’t think any of my illustrator friends need feel threatened!

boy  old man 

Life gets in the way

I started this project fully intending to draw every day. I haven’t. The past couple of days have been quite hectic for me and I wasn’t able to sit down and sketch on those days. Life gets in the way sometimes and I know I mustn’t feel guilty about this. It’s a fun project and if guilt taints the fun, it just becomes a chore instead. I did have some time today so I’ve done two to atone for my ‘sins’!

The first one, a pair of scissors, continues my earlier still life drawings but I was starting to get a bit bored of doing that.

When Lou mentioned drawing with her eyes closed, I decided that I needed a little injection of that here too. This is a frog. I used fingers of my left hand to help guide and gauge where I should draw. The only slight cheats happened when I realised I’d forgotten to give the frog two eyes. I closed my eyes again and drew the second eye. Because the lines were quite feint, I went over them again with my eyes open to make sure they could be seen clearly. I promise I didn’t change the position of anything!

Today I’ve attempted something a bit different. A few days ago I found some very old photos I took in Spain around 1970. They record a Spain very different to how it is today. I’ve tried to reproduce two of those photos as sketches. This first one shows the end of the road where my uncle lived in a village in Navarra called Murchante. There was no tarmac, just a dust track leading into the fields and a man riding a donkey approaches. I have to tell you it’s a donkey because I don’t think it’s very recognisable! Even though the it was only a small element, it was very hard to draw! 

The last of today’s sketches shows the village of Vozmediano in the province of Soria around 1970. My aunt and cousins lived there at the time. Again, there were no tarmacked roads here nor any running water, apart from the River Quieles which has its source here. Vozmediano is a tiny village. I just read on Wikipedia that in the 2004 census there were only 45 residents.

Highs and lows

A few days ago I decided to sketch daily for a month, inspired by Chris Riddell, the new Children’s Laureate and his Five Point Plan.

Five Point Plan - Chris Riddell

When my friend, Louise, started sketching daily along with her family, I decided to join this interesting journey.

I’m not going to blog daily but every few days I will upload what I have done.

The first sketch, the Love-in-a-Mist, I posted a few days ago so here are the rest I have done since.

My second attempt was another flower, a little viola picked from my garden.


Pleased with my effort, I decided to tackle something more ambitious and remembered my beloved teddy bear. As old as I am, worn and scruffy, one eye missing and the stuffing falling out of his feet, this bear has been with me all my life. Overall, I’m quite pleased with it even though the proportions aren’t quite right, the head is a little too small, one leg is longer than the other and one foot larger.

teddy bear

My next sketch nearly got the better of me. This shell was a real challenge, even more so than the bear. The curves and angles were difficult and I hope it looks 3D. I sweated over this one!


Today I decided to try to take a step back. I started one sketch and was very unhappy with it. It sits abandoned in my sketch book. I found instead a small glass tea light holder. Again, it was harder than I thought and it came out wonky. I’m a bit disappointed but I’m showing it to you anyway. It’s all about the journey for me, not so much the end result. This one shows that things don’t always turn out the way you hope, even when they appear straightforward.
I won’t give up though!



Inspiration is an elusive thing; a will-o’-the-wisp that dissipates as you approach. But this week I feel like I’ve won the jackpot as I’ve managed to grab hold of that bright light not once but twice!


When I wrote my last post about attending The People’s Books Prize Awards, I said that I came away itching to start writing again. Well, it didn’t happen for a while. Maybe I needed to come down from that euphoric cloud I’d been on.  I’ve been researching my new book for a long time but the story and the characters have been trapped inside me not knowing how to find their way out. I was worried it would never happen. On Tuesday I went into Cambridge to do some more research. I came away not having found what I’m looking for, which is quite frustrating. That afternoon I heard a voice in my head – the voice of one of my characters! I knew who it was and I was shocked by what he said but I knew I had to write it down. The first 350 words tumbled out onto the screen. I’d made a start. The saying goes, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. I have several tens of thousands more words to write, but now I’ve ‘met’ my characters and know who they are as people, I can move forward and plan things out a bit better. I ought to say at this stage that it’s not another book in the Agnil’s Worlds series this time but something completely different. I shan’t give away too much right now as the seed is only just germinating.

The second inspiration came from the blog of my friend, Lou Minns, who, along with her family, is taking up an idea from author/illustrator, Chris Riddell, the newly announced Children’s Laureate in his ‘Five Point Plan’. Lou and her family are planning to do a daily drawing which she will upload to her blog for the period of a month.

Five Point Plan - Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell’s Five Point Plan

I haven’t picked up a pencil in many years but I do have drawing materials around the house left behind by my three highly talented and artistic children when they left home. When I read Lou’s blog I immediately dug out a sketchbook and discovered I had a beautiful chunky sketching pencil. What to draw, though? I happened to be sitting in the garden eating breakfast at the time so I headed straight for one of my favourite flowers, Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella). In the past I have loved photographing this amazing flower and have a whole set of them on my Flickr photostream. This is the first one I ever took.


They self-seed like a weed around my garden but I leave them as I love them so much. I picked one and brought it over to the bench where I was sitting. Half an hour later I had drawn this.

11th June 2015

11th June 2015

Can I pledge to do a drawing a day for a month… or more? I don’t know, but I’m going to try. It’ll be difficult to post them every day so I may only do that once a week or so. It’s very therapeutic and a great incentive to move away from the computer screen for a while each day… though not for too long as I have a book to write! :)

The People’s Book Prize

After my very exciting day yesterday, attending The People’s Book Prize awards ceremony, I’m really very tired and perhaps I should be taking a nap rather than writing this blog post. The invitation had made it clear it was a ‘Black tie’ event, so I dusted off my best frock and matching bolero for the occasion. I don’t often get the chance to dress up for a formal event but always enjoy it when I do. On this occasion, however, it did feel slightly odd travelIing on the London Underground all dressed up in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday!Susan Navas at The People's Book Prize
I was the first to arrive ready for the official photographs and dress rehearsal. My feet were already hurting by the time I arrived as I’m not used to wearing high heels. After a short rest, I was led up some stairs in the beautiful historic building of Stationer’s Hall in London and had my photo taken, holding up my book. The holding up of books was a feature of the whole evening as were supposed to carry them around with us at all times!

After a dress rehearsal where we had to line up in our category groups in the correct order (alphabetical by book title), we were eventually taken down some steps and through to another very grand room where we had drinks and could mingle for a while before dinner.
We had to keep very strictly to timings as we’d been told that the ceremony was being filmed and broadcast live by Sky News, so when we were called into dinner, nobody lingered… we all followed each other, like a flock of sheep, into the dining room and sat down at our allocated places. I was lucky enough to find myself at a table of three women and six men – a very good balance of numbers, I thought!

photo 2I was the only female author at the table,  the others being: Joe Stein who was up for the fiction prize with his book, ‘Through Another Night’; Kevin Price with his children’s book ‘Curious Creatures’, Quentin Smith, another fiction author with ‘Huber’s Tattoo’; Rob Jones with his children’s book, ‘Bernard’, and, last but not least, Tim Wotton, who had written a memoir about living with cystic fibrosis called ‘How Have I Cheated Death?’

Beautifully presented and interesting dishes were presented to us, starting with pea mousse served with a sliver of air dried ham. You must understand they weren’t just any old peas and ham, the menu proudly announced the provenance of the two main ingredients – “Kentish Peas” and “Cumbrian Ham”.

photo 4For the main course we had Gressingham duck with fondant potato, cherries and glazed cabbage. The most creative course was the dessert which was a de-constructed trifle consisting of a sheet of Pimms jelly, blobs of lavender custard and mint and cucumber sorbet.

photo 6Waiters hovered, filling up our glasses at the first sign of a drop in the level of wine held within them. Throughout the meal I chatted with the others at the table, discovering a local connection with Rob Jones who happens to know a friend of mine. It’s certainly a small world! I had a lovely conversation with Tim Wotton and through the course of the evening was mistaken for both his wife and his mother!

photo 10As Frederick Forsyth, Patron of The People’s Book Prize, was unable to come along in person he had sent along a short video message wishing us all a fun evening. We watched and applauded politely.
Promptly at 8:20pm, the non-fiction finalists made their way to the stage, standing in their rehearsed positions as the camera panned along the line. Tension mounted as the presenter tore open the envelope. The winner was announced, “Grumpy Old Menopause” by Carol E Wyer!” Carol stepped up to the podium to receive the beautiful crystal trophy and give her little speech. It really was like the Oscars, only on a smaller scale.
Next up were the children’s finalists. Three of us from our table got up and followed the others onto the stage. My heart was pounding so loudly I was worried the microphone on the podium would pick up the sound and it would be broadcast across the nation!
Once again, the camera panned across as our names and book titles were read out and the presenter of the children’s book award ripped open the envelope.
“The winner is… Bernard by Rob Jones!” I was so delighted that someone on our table had won that I really wasn’t upset at all it hadn’t been me.
The fiction awards came next following exactly the same pattern, apart from having to wait while the adverts were on TV! Some of the people at the table had been following Sky News on their phones and so far nothing had been broadcast. This was to change with the fiction category. You can see the back of head at 3:24 on this video.

After coffee and some rather yummy chocolates we had to perform The Loving Cup ceremony. Rather than attempting to explain what we had to do and why, here’s a short video that shows it.

By that end of the evening, none of us were too certain what we had to do but we all helped each other along – symbolic of the camaraderie I felt and experienced throughout the evening.

I want to thank all friends of Agnil who have supported me and voted for the book in this competition. I would never have even been in the finals without you all! I didn’t win but I felt so privileged being there among such lovely people, breathing in the ambience. I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for writing and itching to get started on my next book. Perhaps I’m a winner after all!

photo 7

Last chance to vote!

I got back from holiday a few days ago to find my invitation to the awards ceremony for The People’s Book Prize waiting for me. It’s so exciting to even be a part of this! Next Wednesday, the 27th May, I will be heading to London in my posh frock, carrying a copy of The Rise of Agnil. invitationAs you can see the awards are being broadcast live on Sky News, starting at 20:20.

The voting session for finalists has now begun and ends on Wednesday the 27th. Even if you voted in the first round, you can now vote again on the special finalists page of The People’s Book Prize web site . You will be directed to register on the site and sent a password. The whole process is fairly painless and should only take a minute or two of your time. I’d really appreciate the support of all friends of Agnil. Please help her to win this important book award! It means a lot to me too. :)