Back In School

Today, I had the pleasure of working with the amazing Year 6 children at George Street Primary School. Like most authors, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to safely go into schools, and I was obviously cautious about heading in. I had a conversation with the school in the days leading up and they were confident in their own measures and I felt safe doing so, so we went ahead. I thought I’d jot down a few observations for any other authors or schools considering physical visits.

Firstly, I couldn’t have felt more “protected”. The school have clearly done a great job of isolating their bubbles. They are a single form entry which makes this easier, but the only people I came anywhere near during the day were the reception staff and the class I was working with. Within the class it was easy for me to maintain a distance from the children.

Secondly, any fears about the children not being up for it after such a long break disappeared immediately. It was only their second week back and they were already engaged and excited and full of brilliant ideas.

There were, of course, adaptations to be made to my workshop. Under normal conditions, I’d have worked with most, if not all, of the year groups in 40-60 minute sessions. Working with only one class all day meant I needed to re-jig my session. This was actually a very nice experience as I really got to know the children over the day and they were able to invest in the whole process. It’s something that I’d definitely consider suggesting to schools even during normal times. The weather was also very kind so we did part of the session outdoors. Authors will definitely need to reformat some of their sessions if they are heading into schools to accommodate perfectly reasonable requests such as this.

As I said earlier, the whole session was managed well by the teacher and support staff. They knew what could and couldn’t be done, and were on-hand to let me know. One of the biggest changes to my usual repertoire was refraining from heading over and sitting down with the children to help them. Little things like remembering to isolate any dice I handed out (they’re now spending a week in my garage) and being more stringent with what happened to scrap paper etc were also things I hadn’t necessarily considered before the fact – but, once again, the brilliant staff were there to sort it all.

Physical visits won’t be something that all or many authors feel comfortable with yet, and I’ll be taking precautions such as keeping a wide-berth from people who are shielding for a couple of weeks. I also wouldn’t be comfortable booking more than one physical visit per fortnight at the moment, I think that level of cross-contamination via myself would be unjustified. But, with all things considered, it was a really lovely day and I was glad to be back in school.

The Machu Picchu Mystery Cover Reveal

I’m so excited to reveal the cover for the new Monstacademy mystery!

The mountains are full of secrets…

Trixie, Gloria and Colin are off on a trip to Peru to study ancient monsters. When they arrive and find that the children of the local school for monsters are disappearing, it becomes a race against time. Has a dark secret that’s been trapped in the mountains come back to haunt them all? Has an ancient Inca curse been released? Or is it somebody much closer to home?

The Machu Picchu Mystery is perhaps the spookiest Monstacademy mystery yet. With Trixie and her friends on the case, whatever evil is at large has a fight on its hands!

Can they find the missing monsters and solve the Machu Picchu Mystery? There’s only one way to find out…

The book is officially released on December 7th, but grab a copy from the store here and get it a few days before everybody else!

Virtual Author Visits

We are living in strange times for education, right now. None of us knows what capacity schools will be able to open in September, or whether they will be allowing external visits. To try to move with the times, and to continue offering what I believe to be a valuable and exciting education opportunity, I am booking virtual author visits for the new term. If this is something that you think your school would like to know more about, check out my dedicated page and get in touch.

Author Visit – Stimpson Avenue Academy

In these uncertain times, it was great to still be able to work with some amazing writers today. More able writers from four different schools gathered together at Stimpson Avenue Academy and we had a great day writing our own “choose-your-own-adventure” stories.

I love many things about running workshops on this theme, not least the way it encourages children to think hard about story structure and how to develop characters through their decisions, but I particularly enjoy looking at the visual “shape” of each story. They are all so unique and varied in their form and I think it’s really important for children to see this to see how the ebb and flow of a narrative can impact a reader.

All of the ideas were brilliant and the children were so enthusiastic and engaged with the process. Thanks to you all!

I’d also like to thank Mrs Higgs for organising the day and for the staff who supported me throughout.

Would your children benefit from an author-led writing workshop?
Would your staff enjoy CPD on delivering and creating their own creative content?
Get in touch via my school page.

Author Visit – All Saints, Lessingham

I can’t think of many better ways to spend World Book Day than in the company of wonderful children and their enthusiastic teachers. I was lucky to spend it this year at All Saints in Lessingham, working with children from Year 3 to Year 11.

We had some lovely conversations on the writing process, their love of reading, or even the barriers they find when they try to read and what has turned them off it in the past. We played through the Monstacademy book, The Magic Knight, and I ran quick workshops on how to create believable characters from the world around us.

I had a lovely day, thank you. And a big thank you to Mrs Martin for organising it and for everybody else for making me feel welcome.

Would your children benefit from an author-led writing workshop?
Would your staff enjoy CPD on delivering and creating their own creative content?
Get in touch via my school page.

Author Visit – Countesthorpe Leysland Community College

I had a great day today working with Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 children at Countesthorpe Leysland Community College. We talked about everything from how a book goes from an idea to publication, to how much an author earns and what careers are out there involving writing.

All of the children were fantastic and opened up with some of the blockers they find when trying to read. An inspirational group.

Thank you to Mrs Challinor for getting the ball rolling and Mrs McKenzie for organising the day and Mrs Orton for helping make sure we all knew where everything was. Every school needs a librarian!

“An excellent day was had by all! Motivational in promoting a love for reading and that all have the potential to be writers. Thank you!”

Would your children benefit from an author-led writing workshop?
Would your staff enjoy CPD on delivering and creating their own creative content?
Get in touch via my school page.

Author Visit – Martinshaw Primary School

What a brilliant day today! I got to work with some amazing children from Martinshaw Primary School from EYFS up to Year 6. We investigated how a “choose-your-own-adventure” style story can help us think about the plot and the decisions we make as an author. Over the day, we wrote a collaborative CYOA story with the children guiding us all the way. We ended up with a brilliant story about a pirate dragon who went on a fruitless treasure hunt. You can play through the story below.

Thanks to all of the children and Mr Green for organising the day.

“The children thoroughly enjoyed the sessions which were fun, creative and engaging. The assemblies were a great way to raise the profile of reading and boost reading enjoyment. An excellent day which was very fun and enjoyable. The pupils really enjoyed the workshops as they were a really creative way for them to write their own stories and work as a team.”

If you’d like to play the amazing CYOA that the children of Martinshaw created, have a go below. I’ve added some words around the ideas, but the structure, decisions and imaginative ideas were entirely the work of the awesome children.

Would your children benefit from an author-led writing workshop?
Would your staff enjoy CPD on delivering and creating their own creative content?
Get in touch via my school page.

Carpool Readeoke

We all love reading. Encouraging reading for pleasure and a passion for reading in children is pretty much why most authors get into the game.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a great time recording a couple of videos with the awesome Phil Page of the DSAT academy. Phil shares a passion for reading and has worked tirelessly to grab, cajole and encourage tons of amazing authors and teachers into getting through their fears and to share their love of reading on camera.

It’s all in the name of encouraging children to read, and boy has it been successful. Each author has read some of their own work whilst the teachers have chosen their favourite books. Schools around the county have joined in and loads of children have taken it upon themselves to add to the project.

You can see my videos embedded below (and my daughter’s attempt on my YouTube channel), but check out the whole lot here (especially Halil Tamgumus – it will change the way you see the Gruffalo!).

Watch my reading of The Halloween Parade – I apologise for my awkwardness!
You thought that was awkward, my post-poetry discussion takes it to new levels!

Author visit – Birchwood Grove Primary School

On Thursday, I spent a brilliant day at Birchwood Grove Primary School in Burgess Hill. I had the fortune of working with all of the children from Year 1 through to Year 6 and they are definitely awash with brilliant ideas and enthusiasm for reading and writing.

Thank you to everyone there for making me feel welcome, and especially to Mrs Batchelor whose organisation made the day such a success!

Update: I’ve just received a brilliant poem from a Year 1 child inspired by the visit. I absolutely love getting this kind of thing, it makes the whole thing so worthwhile. Thank you to the amazing child who wrote it!

Would your children benefit from an author-led writing workshop?
Would your staff enjoy CPD on delivering and creating their own creative content?
Get in touch via my school page.

A Choose Your Own Adventure Sample

Whenever I speak to people about The Magic Knight, I nearly always have to explain what a choose-your-own-adventure book is and how it works. When I was growing up, there were loads of these around, particularly the exceptional Fighting Fantasy series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

To help people who aren’t sure how it works, I’ve uploaded the first few sections of The Magic Knight in a playable format. Hopefully, this will give people a chance to see how it works before they buy.

If you fancy having a go, head to the Magic Knight free sample page now.