Local to Me- Author Spotlight- Ruth Fitzgerald

Suffolk has so much to offer, not least in the beauty of the landscape but in our talented authors and illustrators. This feature, Local to Me, started with Rob Ramsden (I saw a Bee, We Found a Seed, Scallywag Press) and then featured Sophie Green (Potkins and Stubbs trilogy, Piccadilly Press). I am really pleased to welcome Ruth Fitzgerald to this series and have a couple of others planned for the summer.

Please read on for Ruth’s post about latest book, Find your Girl Squad as well as tips for friendships…

When editor, Liza Miller, heard clinical psychologist, Dr Angharad Rudkin speaking on the radio about helping girls establish healthy friendships, she thought the ideas discussed would make a great book.

Liza contacted Angharad and children’s author, Ruth Fitzgerald to see if they’d like to collaborate on a book for Hachette’s children’s non-ficton imprint, Wren and Rook.

‘I was really intrigued,’ Ruth says. ‘Angharad had all these great ideas, but we had to find a way of making complex psychological concepts accessible to a younger audience. As I generally write fiction, it seemed natural to me that there should be some sort of storyline to follow.’

Find Your Girl Squad, is a unique concept. It combines practical advice on topics such as finding your values, building resilience and handling bullies, with the story of Poppy, a girl managing the break-up of a friendship and rejection by her peers, all told with heart and humour. Poppy sends back live reports about her day via the PoppyCam!

‘We wanted to make it really practical but also full of empathy and fun,’ Ruth says. ‘I didn’t want it to come across as a heavy, didactic self-help manual but something girls would really want to read.’

Ruth is well known as a local writer and creative writing tutor at Suffolk New College. She is the author of the Emily Sparkes series, funny, school based books which look at friendship and family. She frequently visits schools all over the country, inspiring children to find the books that are right for them.

‘I am passionate about the power of books to support children as they grow, to broaden horizons and deepen empathy.’ she says. ‘Girls often tell me how much they identify with the characters in my books and that’s where you can really slip in some positive messages!’

Find Your Girl Squad is full of bright and sassy illustrations by Sarah Jennings, adding to the friendly, readable quality. Interest has come not just from young readers and parents, but also from schools, looking for support materials around managing friendships and relationships.

‘I think these issues have come to the fore now more than ever before because of the problems around social media with girls feeling they need to compete with each other and show a ‘perfect’ face to the world. With Find Your Girl Squad we really wanted to help girls build resilience and sense of self-worth. To say, you are unique – and that’s just great!’

Angharad and Ruth’s Top Tips for handling Friendship Fiascos!

1. Accept change happens. It’s a natural part of life. Friendships come and go, people grow apart and new opportunities come along. Life is full of change and challenge -not always enjoyable and not always easy, but always interesting.

2. Accept your feelings. It’s perfectly normal to feel sad or cross when we’ve been rejected or hurt by friends. Be kind to yourself. You’re doing great. Be proud of the way you’re managing this difficult time.

3. Realise this is your opportunity to make new and better friends. Think about what you really enjoy. Were there things you ‘couldn’t’ do while you were in your old friendship? Are there other people you like, but never really had time to hang out with? Is there a club or sports team you haven’t got around to trying?

4. Think of the people you like. Do you like them because of their expensive trainers, fashionable haircut or new games consul? Or is it because they are friendly, make you laugh and listen when you talk to them? When we want to impress new friends, we

can sometimes think we have to be someone other than our natural selves. Focus your thoughts on the people around you instead. If you are interested in them, the more relaxed people will feel around you.

5. Talk it out. Share your feelings. Talk to trusted adults, your siblings or older cousins. Many of them may have been through similar challenges and can support you.

6. Refuse to accept bullying. Friendship difficulties are inevitable, but bullying is not acceptable. If things have got to the point where you are being regularly physically or emotionally hurt by someone you need to make a stand. Speak to an adult you can trust. Make some notes first if you’re uncertain about remembering what to say. Ask them to listen to you and to not take any action without your agreement (If the person is breaking the law this might not be possible, but then it will be taken very seriously). Agree a course of action to help you manage the situation.

7. Above all, know that any unhappy times will pass. Everything changes, and that includes the miserable stuff. If you are finding things tough right now, hang on in there and things will get better. You will have good times and feel happy again soon.

Thank you Ruth for such a brilliant post and for your time!

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