Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Back To School


Over the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to visit lots of schools to talk to pupils about my books and run some writing workshops.

Back in September I dropped in to Bar Hill School in Cambridgeshire to talk to Year 3 and 4 - what great listeners they were and full of all kinds of fun questions. That afternoon I was also presenting the awards for the Circus Stars summer reading challenge at Bar Hill library.  I really can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than handing out medals to enthusiastic readers. And they even gave me some flowers at the end too! Bar Hill library is a fantastic local library - as soon as you step inside you can tell it’s a real community focal point, buzzing with life (and the post office is in the library too, which just adds to the activity going on). Thank you very much to the lovely librarians who invited me to come along.

Next, I was at King’s College School Cambridge, again talking to a big group of lovely year 3 and 4 pupils. They were so enthusiastic about reading too, and had all kinds of ideas for new investigators for mystery novels (not just dog detectives and hamster detectives, but armadillo detectives too!).  Here is the link to their report of the visit.

Sharing the stage with 
Harvest Festival food donations
Another day I spent the morning at Great Abington Primary School, a lovely village primary school south of Cambridge. I chatted to three classes and was so impressed by their interest in books and writing. The whole school was such a welcoming environment where you could really feel the values of responsibility, respect and caring in action (the picture at the start of this blog is from that visit).

And last week I spent I whole day at Coton Primary School near Cambridge. I did workshops with years 3,4,5 and 6 on developing characters and plots. We looked at why it’s important that even the good guys have weaknesses as well as strength (reading a whole book about Mr Perfect would be sooooo boring!). The pupils came up with some great characters of their own . . . strong warriors who bump into things and are always cooking things - badly, maths whizzes who are afraid of cockroaches and parrots called Roger to name but a few . . .

And I spent a lovely hour with Year 1 and 2 pupils thinking about words with lots of descriptive POWER! I read them a passage from The Whistling Caves with some of the words missing and asked the class to come up with ideas for their own words to fill the holes. Once we had lots of suggestions, the whole class voted on which were best. I think the version of the scene that Class 2 came up with was better than the original. After all, I didn’t think of describing an old Saxon helmet as smelling of Gorgonzola!
A nice photographer even came along from
 The Cambridge News and got us all to pose!

So, thank you to all the schools who’ve invited me to visit, to all the teachers for letting me borrow your classrooms and to all the pupils for your attentiveness and enthusiasm - it’s been great meeting you all!

And a big thank you to Heffers Children’s Book Shop in Cambridge, who have been so helpful in running book stalls to sell books at the school visits - it’s great to have such support from our brilliant local book shop.

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Author Interview

I was lucky enough to be invited to do an author interview on Morgen Bailey’s writing blog - a fabulous blog stuffed full of all kinds of writing-related information and interviews. Morgen's blog and website are  full of fascinating advice for writers and interviews with an extraordinarily wide range of authors.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Blog Neglect


Reasons for Serious Blog Neglect
  1. Through a bizarre distortion of the time-space continuum, the deadline for Adventure Island 9, The Mystery of the Smugglers’ Wreck came around much faster than I could possibly have imagined, calling for a total shut-down of all non-life-essential functions (including moving, speaking and shopping)
  2. Which may have had something to do with having blithely agreed to do lots of lovely school visits. I’d somehow conned myself that they took place in some parallel universe and therefore wouldn’t in anyway eat into the same pool of time as available for writing.
  3. As for (2) but substitute ‘school visits’ with ‘guest blog posts’.** 
  4. And then there was the histrionic meltdown.  My laptop, this time, not me. Just because I told it to hurry up when it was in the middle of a three hour upgrade (which I had neither asked for nor agreed to!) the hard disk self-destructed. Not too much work was actually lost but there was a great deal of faffing to get everything re-installed and up and running again (and thank heavens for Mac coming to the rescue as always).
But now the first draft of Book 9 has been despatched, the blog tour is over and the school visits are done and dusted, for a few weeks at least. Phew! Two days off this week to have a potter in town and take the dogs for a really long walk - they’ve been on minimal barely-enough walks for the last few weeks and feeling very put out about it. And I’ve made cakes for the boys too. The cupboards have been noticeably lacking in any home-baked goodies for some time.

They’d better make the most of it. I have to start Book 10 now!

** Blog tour: Here are the links to my guest posts on some really fabulous  book blogs ... all of them full of all kinds of great book review and discussions...

19th September: Book Angel’s Booktopia: Literally Random
20th September: Serendipity Reviews: The Big Break
21st September: Teenage Fiction for All Ages: Don’t forget your lifejacket
22nd September: The Bookbag: Lashings of Ginger Beer
23rd September: Cornflower Books; A den of one’s own
10th October: Girls Heart Books: Girls Heart Adventure