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Cressida Cowell - Author

About the Author

Cressida Cowell, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019–2021

Cressida Cowell grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. The name of the island is a secret, but it was such a small island it wasn’t really big enough to have a name at all. There were no roads or shops or electricity on the island, just one house and a storm-blown wilderness of sea-birds and heather.

Every year, Cressida’s family spent four weeks of the summer, and two weeks of the spring, on the island. The family had to catch their own fish to eat. The house was lit by candle-light, and there was no telephone or television, so Cressida spent her time drawing and writing stories.

In the evening, Cressida’s father read the children tales of the Vikings, who had invaded this island Archipelago over half a millennium before, of the quarrelsome Tribes who fought and tricked each other, and of legendary dragons who were supposed to live in the caves in the cliffs. This was how Cressida herself first began to write stories about Vikings and dragons, back when she was eight or nine years old. Many years later, she turned her original childhood ideas into the book How to Train Your Dragon, featuring Hiccup the reluctant Viking, and his equally reluctant dragon, Toothless.

When Cressida wasn’t on the island, she was going to school at Marlborough College in Wiltshire where she met and became close friends with Lauren Child, a fellow author/illustrator and the creator of TV’s Charlie and Lola. Cressida and Lauren remain close friends. Indeed Lauren is godmother to Cressida’s daughter Clemmie.

After school, Cressida obtained a BA in English Literature from Oxford University, a BA in Graphic Design from St Martin’s and an MA in Narrative Illustration from Brighton.
Cressida wrote and illustrated her first picture book, Little Bo Peep’s Library Book, for Hodder Children’s Books in 1998. Her first novel for eight to twelve year olds, How to Train Your Dragon, was published to popular and critical acclaim in 2003: ‘The next big thing in children’s literature,’ wrote The Independent on Sunday. ‘Irresistibly funny, exciting and endearing,’ said The Times.

How to Train Your Dragon has now been published in over thirty languages. Film rights were sold to DreamWorks Animation in 2003 for a substantial sum and the filmed version was released into cinemas in March 2010. The 3D animated film from the studio that created Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, was directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (the directors of Lilo and Stich) and produced by Bonnie Arnold (who produced Toy Story).

Cressida Cowell is the head judge of the Wicked Young Writers Award and provided these top tips to budding writers:

* My top writing tip would be to read lots, to give you a feel for the way different stories can be told. Also practise writing as much as you can – write, and re-write – don’t worry if you don’t finish a story, as long as you are practising, that’s what matters. Also don’t worry if your stories aren’t very long: I didn’t start out writing books as long as the ones I write now.

* You can still do research when you are creating your own fantasy world. Kids often think that ideas get beamed into an author’s head, or that when you write fantasy you can’t do background reading, but many ideas in The Wizards of Once were sparked by books I read about the history of magic, and magical creatures. 

* You can be inspired by your own experiences. Ideas I had about Vikings and dragons during summer holidays when I was 9 years old became 12 books, and a film and TV series. I had a slightly unusual childhood (I spent my summers on an uninhabited Scottish Island), but the world we all live in is full of extraordinary, wonderful idea for stories. You only have to watch an episode of Blue Planet to see that’s true.

* I always begin my stories with a map of my imaginary place. Lots of other authors have done the same – Robert Louis Stevenson drew a map of Treasure Island before starting to write. This is a really easy way of thinking about characters and setting. 

* Often kids say to be that they aren’t very good at writing, but I know that’s not true – what they’re struggling with is the mechanics of getting the words onto paper. If you can make up a game in the playground, or you tell your friends stories, you can be an author! Get an adult to write or type for you, if you need to. 

* Keep an ideas notebook so you can scribble down ideas and drawings. This doesn’t need to be neat, and no one should be correcting it for spelling, because spelling doesn’t matter. I kept an sketchbook for The Wizards of Once for about 5 years.

Featured books by Cressida Cowell

How to Fight a Dragon's Fury

How to Fight a Dragon's Fury

7+ readers

Author: Cressida Cowell Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/09/2015

Dragons vs Humans: is this the end? Find out in the twelfth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series. It is the Doomsday of Yule. At the end of this day, either the humans or the dragons will face extinction. Alvin the Treacherous is about to be crowned the King of the Wilderwest on the island of Tomorrow. His reign of terror will begin with the destruction of dragons everywhere. The fate of the dragon world lies in the hands of one young boy as he stands on the nearby isle of Hero's End with nothing to show, but everything to fight for. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third's Quest is clear. First he must defeat the Dragon Guardians of Tomorrow and prove that he is in fact the rightful king, even though Hiccup has none of the King's Things and Alvin the Treacherous has all ten of them. And then he faces his final battle: Hiccup must fight the Dragon Furious and end the Rebellion ...ALONE. As Doomsday draws to an end can Hiccup be the Hero of the hour? Will the dragons survive? How to Train Your Dragon is now a major DreamWorks franchise. How to Train Your Dragon 3 is scheduled for 2017 starring Cate Blanchett and Jonah Hill and the TV series, Defenders of Berk, can be seen on CBBC and Netflix. Read all of Hiccup's exploits in the series: How to Train Your Dragon, How to Be a Pirate, How to Speak Dragonese, How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse, How to Twist a Dragon's Tale, A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons, How to Ride a Dragon's Storm, How to Break a Dragon's Heart, How to Steal a Dragon's Sword, How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel and How to Betray a Dragon's Hero. Check out the brilliant website at www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com It's the place to go for games, downloads, activities and sneak peeks!

ebook of the month

Other books by Cressida Cowell

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

Author: Cressida Cowell Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/11/2011

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