Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Girl Online ... For the Record

For legal reasons I'm not able to talk about the specific details of my involvement with Zoe Sugg's novel Girl Online.

However, now that I'm receiving messages from complete strangers accusing me of things that are a million miles from the truth, and now that my family are becoming furious and distraught at some of the comments about me on twitter - I feel I need to set the record straight as far as I am able to.

Firstly, I did not agree to work on Girl Online to 'get rich'.

Neither did I do it to 'get famous'. People who know me know how ridiculous that accusation is. But for those of you who don't know me, here's what I think about wanting to be famous...

I think it's a hollow and dangerous dream.

When you build the foundation of your life and happiness on the adulation of strangers it's like building a house on sinking sand. It could disappear at any moment.

Far better to build your happiness on the rock solid foundation of love. Love for yourself. Love for others. Love for what you do.

I love books.

I love writing books and I love helping others write books.

And I especially love being involved in the creation of books that help others.

Books that deal with real and serious issues such as cyber bullying, homophobia and anxiety.

Books like Girl Online

I was hugely impressed that, when given the dream opportunity of a book deal with Penguin, Zoe Sugg chose to create a storyline that dealt with these serious issues - out of a desire to help her fans.

And, when I was offered the opportunity to help Zoe, I also saw the opportunity to help get important and empowering messages across to her incredibly huge fan-base.

Messages about self belief, anxiety, sexuality and - oh the irony - online hate.

That was my sole motivation for taking the job.

But - and this is a big but - I did have some issues with how the project was managed. Issues which I expressed on more than one occasion. Issues which I'm afraid I'm not allowed to go into. And issues which have nothing to do with Zoe. I've seen at first hand how caring and considerate Zoe is. I've been very impressed with how she finds ways to use her (completely unexpected) fame to help others, whether that be through her vlogs, blogs, books or becoming a digital ambassador for the mental health charity MIND.

So, to those of you who have accused me of acting like a victim because I dared thank some of the people who have been sending me messages of support, you don't know what has been going on behind the scenes in this project. 

Whilst I was very grateful for the acknowledgement, I didn't know that my full name would be in the book. 

I did not invite any of this attention upon myself.

I'm not remotely interested in cashing in on someone else's fame. The thought of doing so turns my stomach.

This may seem hard to believe in our current celebrity-obsessed society, but I'm really not interested in fame, full stop.

I truly don't care how many twitter followers I have.

I do not need to 'get verified' to feel validated.

All I want to do is be a good mum to my son and get on with my life, writing and coaching others.

Mistakes have been made, but I still feel very proud to have worked with Zoe on Girl Online.

By breaking sales records - because of Zoe's humungous fan-base - book stores such as Waterstones are ending the year on healthy profits.

Penguin, and many other publishers around the world, are now able to afford to offer more unknown writers book deals. Whether you like it or not, this is the financial reality of today's publishing industry.

Thousands of young people across the world have been tweeting excitedly about reading a book!

And countless young people have been talking about how the book has helped them.

I think it would be really healthy to have a broader debate about transparency in celebrity publishing. But please don't blame Zoe personally for a practice that has been going on for years.

I really hope that once this storm settles, people will focus on the serious issues at the heart of Girl Online.

In the UK alone, 45,000 children contacted Childline about bullying last year.

Over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have experienced homophobic bullying in school.

More than 16,000 young people in the UK are absent from school due to bullying.

Research suggests that 20% of young people have a mental health problem in any given year.

Surely statistics such as these are what we should all be getting outraged about? 


You can find the new site here.

Fresh new posts include:

15 Things I've Learnt From 15 Years as a Writer

Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome my illness and become a speaker

An Exciting New Chapter for Dare to Dream

Friday, 17 October 2014

Dear Dare to Dream: Should I Self Publish My Novel?

Dear Dare to Dream,

I feel a bit like I've lost my mojo.

This year, I started sending the first three chapters of a novel I've written out to literary agents.Three of them asked to see the whole thing but then never got back to me, not even to say no. 

I've worked on this book for four years and I feel it's good enough to be published, but I am now losing my confidence and I worry that if I self publish I will make a fool of myself. Basically, I feel like a crap writer.

A writer friend of mine is dead against me self-publishing, telling me that I'm good enough to get a book deal, but I just don't know and I'm such a hands-on type person. It hurts sitting around doing nothing.

I've started working on another novel but it feels as if I'm just building sandcastles. I want to have something published to give me the confidence and power to write.

Have you ever felt this way? So down in the dumps?

And should I take the bull by the horns and just self publish, even if so many tell me that it's 'vanity publishing'? I know it sounds silly but I can just see my colleagues sniggering behind my back and saying, 'she thinks she can write!' Stupid, I know. 

I guess I just need some encouragement, or just to know that others have felt this way too...

Dear Down in the Dumps,

Once upon a time, writing made me so sad, I sat in the corner of my kitchen floor and cried.

I cried so long and so hard, I forgot I had a chocolate cake baking and it burned to a cinder.

Normally, nothing makes me forget I have a cake baking, so yes, writing has definitely made me as down in the dumps as you are feeling right now.

But I wasn't crying because I couldn't get a book deal. I was crying because I'd got a book deal, had three novels published, and then been dropped by my publisher.

And the reason I felt so cake-burningly bad was because it truly felt as if my life was over.

And it truly felt as if my life was over because getting a book deal had meant so, so much to me.

It had made me feel good about myself for the first time in years.

It had made me feel as if I'd finally achieved something in my work life.

It had given me the confidence to leave a relationship that had been destroying me from the inside out.

It had made me believe that I was finally a writer.

I wasn't a university drop-out any more - I was a writer.

I wasn't a loser in love any more - I was a writer.

I wasn't worthless any more - I was a writer.

I thought that losing my book deal meant that I was no longer a writer. Just as you think that not getting a book deal makes you a 'crappy writer'.

But I was wrong.

And so are you.

Having a book deal does not make you a writer. 

Writing makes you a writer.

Writing even when you're bone-tired and emotionally drained.

Writing around the edges of your busy life because you'd rather do it then than not at all. 

Because you can't do it 'not at all'. 

Because the words and the stories and the characters and the feelings are just bursting to come out.

And they all want to burst out through you and your own unique voice.

So, dear Down in the Dumps, you have a choice.

You can either let a bunch of strangers who can't even be bothered to reply to you determine your fate, or you can take full control of your writing destiny.

That's what I did, when I lost my book deal.

After crying and burning a cake and throwing a pity party for about a month, I picked myself up and I found my way back to the beginning. Back to the time when I wrote purely for the love of it.

And I wrote a novel, purely for the love of it and I self-published it so that I could give it away for free, purely for the love of it.

About a month after the book came out, I was invited to speak on a panel at London Book Fair.

My fellow panellists were two best-selling authors, a very well-known literary agent and the head of a major publishing house. I was invited along as the token self-publisher.

During the course of our debate I was roundly sneered at and put down by my fellow panellists - to the point where one member of the audience walked out in disgust.

There would have been a time when this would have really upset me, especially when one of the novelists suggested that the book I'd self-published was probably crap.

But if anything, her sneering only got me more fired up. Because I wasn't writing to massage my ego or for money or fame, I was doing it for the love of it. And I might not have been a best-selling novelist with a book deal, but at least I wasn't a self-important twat.

My self-published novel went on to win a national book award and I now have book deals with eight different publishers, in three different countries. But I'm also building my own indie imprint where I can enjoy complete creative control over my writing career.

I'm proof positive of the incredible things that can happen to writers when they take their careers into their own hands.

But don't just take my word for it, pay a visit to The Creative Penn, a fantastic website run by indie author, Joanna Penn. It's crammed full of inspirational interviews with writers who are achieving phenomenal success without a traditional book deal. And it also contains loads of helpful tips and advice for writers who want to achieve the same.

I also recommend you read the Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. It's a kick up the butt in book form.

The only people who sneer at self-publishing and call it 'vanity' publishing these days are old-school, self-important, literary snobs or unhappy people too fearful to chase their own dreams.

I'm sure your writer friend has your best interests at heart, but self publishing isn't a sign of failure - it's a sign of enterprise and passion. It's the sign of a true writer who doesn't want to let anything hold them back.

If a musician builds a following on Youtube prior to getting a record deal they aren't laughed at or called stupid. Just ask Jessie J or the Arctic Monkeys or Lily Allen.

So, why not follow their example?

Get your book out there. 

Get writing the next one.

Get back to the beginning and write and publish for the love of it. Nothing else.

You aren't building sandcastles, you're building imaginary worlds for others to enjoy.

And you're building a happier future for yourself by daring to dream.

As Ray Bradbury so eloquently puts it:

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” 

Wishing you much love and writing happiness,

Siobhan x


You can find the new site here.

Fresh new posts include:

15 Things I've Learnt From 15 Years as a Writer

Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome my illness and become a speaker

An Exciting New Chapter for Dare to Dream

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Dear Dare to Dream

Dear Dare to Dreamers,

It's September, the start of a new season and a new school year, and so, in the spirit of fresh new beginnings, I'm very excited to announce a brand new feature on this blog.

I've been wanting to introduce a more personal and interactive element to Dare to Dream for some time now and as I often receive emails from you, asking for advice, I thought it would be a nice idea to incorporate this into the blog.

So I'm starting a Dear Dare to Dream feature, where you can write to me directly and anonymously, for advice on achieving your dream and I will answer your letter on this blog.

Just think of me as an agony aunt for dreamers.

So, what should your dreams be about?

Pretty much anything really. Here are some prompts to get you started:

:: Maybe you dream of achieving a particular career goal.

:: Maybe you dream of finding true love.

:: Maybe you dream of not feeling so lonely, stressed out or sad.

:: Maybe you dream of feeling more healthy and vibrant.

:: Maybe you dream of being able to let go of a past hurt.

:: Maybe you dream of manifesting a happy future.

:: Maybe you dream of being able to start all over again.

:: Maybe you dream of being able to deal with a very difficult person in your life.

:: Maybe you dream of finding the confidence to stand up to a bully.

:: Maybe you dream of being able to get over a break-up.

:: Maybe you dream of finding the something missing from your life.

:: Maybe you dream of working out what that 'something missing' is.

:: Maybe you dream of not having palpitations every time your bank statement arrives.

:: Maybe you dream of conquering your job or exam stress.

:: Maybe you dream of coming to terms with a loss.

:: Maybe you dream of getting over a failure.

:: Maybe you dream of coping with success.

:: Maybe you long to be seen - or heard.

:: Maybe you dream of finding your way back to your true self.

Whatever the dream, I'm here to help.

All you need to do is drop me an email at:


All emails will be published completely anonymously, along with my reply.

And my reply will be full of practical and heartfelt advice, drawing upon my own personal experience and my work as a coach.

Over the years, I've been able to achieve ever single dream on the prompt list above so I feel certain that I'll have plenty to offer and share.

Another thing I've learnt over the years is that when you give up on your dreams, you give up on yourself and your right to be happy.

We all have a right to be happy but sometimes we need a helping hand.

Or a supportive blog post.

The Dear Dare to Dream inbox is ready and waiting.

Here's to reaching out and helping each other...

Siobhan x


You can find the new site here.

Fresh new posts include:

15 Things I've Learnt From 15 Years as a Writer

Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome my illness and become a speaker

An Exciting New Chapter for Dare to Dream

Monday, 3 February 2014

Julia Buckley: Dreaming of a Fat Burn Revolution

I'm really proud and excited to welcome a special guest to Dare to Dream today. Julia Buckley is a fitness journalist and trainer. She is also my friend. When she recently achieved her dream of seeing her first book, The Fat Burn Revolution, published and it became an Amazon bestseller within a week, I knew I just had to get her on the blog.

Here she talks about going from PE hater to fitness expert and offers her advice on daring to dream . . .

Welcome to Dare to Dream, Julia! First of all, massive congratulations on the recent publication of your book. We first met several years ago at the Harrow Writers' Workshop, so I know that having a book published has been a long held dream of yours. How does it feel to actually achieve it?

It's been such a long process, but now the book is out there it hardly seems real (I signed with Bloomsury back in July 2012). One thing that brought it home the other day was when one of my clients said she spotted two women doing one of the workouts from the book together in the gym. It's amazing to think people all over the country (and beyond) are really out there doing the training. ...I think I'm still working on getting my head around it!

Former PE hater, Julia!

Have there been any scary aspects of achieving such a big dream? And if so, how have you dealt with them?

Oh yes, lots of scary aspects! First, I was worried about whether the editor at Bloomsbury would like it, then I was worried about whether people would buy it, and then whether they would like it. And even now people are buying it and telling me they love it I still get scared that they'll change their minds!

I've never doubted that the advice and programme presented in the book were good - I've seen it make such a positive difference to so many people's lives, even I couldn't convince myself TFBR wasn't a highly effective and enjoyable fat loss fitness programme. I just kept reminding myself of that when those worries start to creep in. I suppose the real fear was that I might not have presented the advice in a way that people would connect with. But feedback so far is that, quite the opposite, people are saying the book speaks to them in a way that no fitness or diet book has before, which is absolutely fantastic for me to hear.

Back when you were coming to the Harrow writers'  workshop you were initially more interested in writing fiction. Can you tell us a bit about what led you to make this change in direction with your writing? And do you have any advice for anyone reading this who might be having doubts about an initial dream of theirs and wondering whether they ought to change direction?

I haven't really thought of it as a change in direction before... I'm not sure if it is really, I still dream of publishing a novel. I think I'll have a lot more confidence in that now I've had this experience with The Fat Burn Revolution. As a freelance journalist I've been writing for a living for a long time so I approached the book in a similar way to landing a magazine feature - just massively scaled up! I knew there was a need out there for a book like TFBR so I just went for it. Sometimes you have to go with the flow I guess!

How did you stay focused on your dream in the early days? I know from my own personal experience how hard it can be to write an entire book. What it was that kept you going?

I don't remember ever thinking I wanted to give up, but I was certainly very daunted by the size of the project. Sometimes I wondered if I could ever get it all done. With a book like this, there's a bit of "donkey work" involved. The introductory, advice chapters flowed out quite easily, but writing the exercise descriptions was a bit of a slog. I think my background in fitness probably helped, you get used to pushing your boundaries and keeping going when your brain starts offering excuses to stop. The willpower and self-belief you build up through that definitely carry over into other areas of like and help you deal with all types of challenges. 

So fitness clearly plays a very important part in your life and yet you hated PE lessons - which I was really shocked to discover by the way! Can you tell us a bit about how and why you changed your opinion of fitness in this way. And do you have any advice for any reluctant keep-fitters out there?

Yeah, I talk about this in the first chapter of the book, it has surprised a lot of people! PE at my school was all about competitive sport and I just wasn't the competitive type. Plus I wasn't good at any sports - which meant I'd spend the whole lesson getting shouted at, both by the teachers and the other girls in the team. I don't blame the girls at all now, of course, or even the teachers that much really, that's just how it was then. I believe PE lessons are lot better nowadays, I certainly hope so! The first time I discovered that exercise could be fun was when the PE teacher got us doing a Jane Fonda workout video one day. I liked it so much I went out and bought the video! And it all sort of snowballed from there over the years. I wrote about that in the book to help people realise that even if they've never been "sporty" fitness can definitely still be fun. Starting out with something you can do in private at home that you can adapt to suit your own level is a great place to start for a lot of people and that's something I'm offering in The Fat Burn Revolution.

Obviously with fitness programmes like The Fat Burn Revolution the emphasis is on the physical benefits of working out but can you tell us your experience of the emotional benefits of exercise? 

I mentioned above about how fitness helps you build up confidence in your abilities and "staying power". With the type of training in TFBR people tend to make progress very quickly and that can be very affirming. Feeling healthy and energetic makes you feel confident and lively, which gives you a more positive outlook on life. Increasing your physical strength helps you to feel mentally and emotionally strong too. When you pick up a weight that you couldn't lift just a few weeks ago, it makes you think "what else can I do that I couldn't before?" You realise that even things that are impossible for you right now can be made possible in the future if you put in the effort required to make it happen. And that's pretty powerful stuff.

So, having seen your first book soar up the bestseller lists, what are your dreams for the coming year?

To spread the Revolution far and wide! I want to help as many people as I can discover the fantastic difference fitness can make to their lives.

The TFBR Facebook group already has over 300 members and is buzzing with people sharing their experiences of the programme. Of course, it's early days because the book was only released a couple of weeks ago, but they're doing really well. I'm so looking forward to seeing the results they get and hearing about how good they feel at the end of the 12 week programme.

And finally, if you had to sum up your attitude to life and achieving your dreams in one sentence, what would it be?

There's a little card I keep on my desk on which I've written (in glitter pen!) How can I make today awesome - for me and at least one other person? 

Thanks so much, Julia and vive la revolution!

You can hear more from Julia about The Fat Burn Revolution on the video below, filmed when she was interviewed for Magic FM.

And to receive bite-sized pieces of inspiration of a fitness and fat burning variety, you can follow Julia on Twitter, here.


You can find the new site here.

Fresh new posts include:

15 Things I've Learnt From 15 Years as a Writer

Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome my illness and become a speaker

An Exciting New Chapter for Dare to Dream