Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Barcelona and Back

Hello to everyone at Bracken Leas Primary School - I'm really looking forward to meeting you all tomorrow to share stories, talk about writing and to answer all of your questions.

On Friday I will be visiting Croughton Elementary School and next week I will be a little closer to home visiting The Grange Primary School in Shrewsbury... so here's a huge HELLO to all of you. It's going to be a busy and fun few days - I can't wait.

The picture above is of The Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona... Since my last diary entry I made a short visit to Barcelona where, as well as getting to see the magnificent basilica, I had the privilege of speaking to teachers and publishers about writing for Fiction Express - which provides a really exciting platform where, not only can children can read new books as they are being written by the author, but they can also chat to the author on an online forum and choose what happens next in the story. 

So far I have written three books for Fiction Express and am looking forward to writing my next one in April...

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Year Is Whizzing By...

I can't believe that it has been so long since I last wrote in my diary. This year really is flying by. Over the last few months I have been very busy writing stories and visiting schools and I don't seem to have had a free minute to come and leave a message here.

Before I tell you what I have been working on let me say a huge hello to all of my friends and Brookhurst Primary School in Bromborough - I had a great time with you all and am already looking forward to coming to work with you all. And another huge hello to my friends at Venerable Edward Morgan Primary... it was great seeing you too and I will see you all again very soon.

Tomorrow I will be spending driving to Bury to spend the day at Hollins Grundy Primary School and later in the week I will be travelling much, much further - but I will tell you about that later in the week. 

This year I have been busy working on some more little stories for Franklin Watts for part of the Reading Champions series. At the top of the page you can see the cover of King Midas illustrated by Sonya Abby Soekarno (that book will be out next year), and to the left you can see the cover for The Blitz Baby illustrated by Nicolas Hitori De (also out next year). The artwork for these two books has been done by illustrators that I have never worked with before and who both have very different styles - but each one suits each particular story... I think they look great. 

I have also been lucky to work with the brilliant Ben Scruton again. Ben illustrated my Disastrous Dentist book and now he has illustrated Run Melina Run! a story set in ancient Greece. This book comes out next month.

As well as these three titles - I have written a book set in Chester which involves time travel back to the days when Chester was a Roman Fort. I have juts been putting the finishing touches to the story of Icarus and Daedalus and a story about Rama and the Demon King. More about these later.

That's all for now but I will be back writing in my diary very soon...
Happy reading...

Friday, 8 June 2018

Malodorous Hippo Water and Visiting Schools

As a writer you traditionally spend most of your working life sat quietly at a desk typing, pulling out what remains of your hair and banging your forehead on the wall for inspiration (other sources of inspiration are available and strongly recommended). But being a children's author gives another side to the job that's completely different - that of the school visitor (and this in itself also has two sides).

One is that of storyteller, performer and entertainer - while it's not something that all authors enjoy, I for one love it. I love the excitement of visiting a new school and introducing a whole new audience to my work. I share poems and stories, show how a book is made, answer lots of questions and even try out new work in progress... there's nothing like reading something out loud to see if it works. These days are fun and exciting and I love the feeling that by the end of the day I might have inspired someone to pick up a book and read - either mine or someone else's. 

The other side to school visits is that of the writing workshop. These can last for an hour if moving from one class/group to another but the best and most productive sessions can last for a whole day (or even longer). Rather than coming along with the start of a story for everyone to work on I like to start with a clean sheet, a blank page... That's how it is for any author setting out to write a story and that's what I like to show the children. This way, the children get to create a character and build up a story from scratch which gives them complete creative ownership of it. 

Yesterday I spent the day at Monks Coppenhall Primary Academy in Crewe, working with a group of year four writers - and we were joined by other eager writers from Beechwood Primary, Underwood West Academy, Leighton Academy and St Oswald's Worleston Academy... around 30 children in all.

Having the whole day together meant that so much more could be done, and at a better pace, than in a typical classroom environment with time constraints. Using a flip chart and pens we go on a story journey together - creating a character and marking out the rough map that our journey will take. 

The children get to see the reason why I don't illustrate my own books as I draw a character and add a bit of background that can be the cover of a book. The children are soon chomping at the bit and eager to get started on creating their own character and they all take great joy in making a cover for their book. Even the shyest and most self conscious of the children dive in once they realise how much fun it is and how no one is being judged or marked on what they do. 

Stories are made to be shared so I encourage anyone that wants to, to show what they have done to the rest of the class. A couple may be a little reluctant at first but it's not long before they are the ones wanting to share each new part of their story with the class.

Yesterday's story journey followed a little girl/boy whose adventuring parents had got themselves lost in the depths of a swamp. On the journey our hero encountered, amongst other things a giant talking frog - and there were far too many variations of this creature to go into here - some wore clothes, some had eaten the parents, one had the parents trapped in a giant pea pod and one was robotic...

It really was a joy to see how the children grew in confidence throughout the day and to see how much they really enjoyed writing and illustrating their own stories. Needless to say, there were a few tears shed, though that's what happens what you laugh so much. I can only apologise for the running mascara Miss. 

The story word of the day was "Malodorous" suggested by "R"...
The odd thing of the day was "Hippo Water"
The special type of person of the day was "People That Wear Underpants" (and just to clarify - that means superheroes).

A huge thank you to everyone that took part... it was a truly fun and inspirational day. Have fun writing and drawing...

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Curious Case of Dr Salamander and more...

First of all let me say a HUGE HELLO to everyone at Etching Hill Primary School in Rugeley... I'm really looking forward to meeting you all this week.                           At the moment I'm busy working on a few different books - not always a good thing to do but sometimes it's something that I have to do. One of the books is called The Curious Case of Dr Salamander. It's a book I'm writing for Fiction Express - if you haven't heard of them before you might like to take a look at their website. Authors write the chapter of a book and give the readers three options that they can vote on to happen next. This makes the book really interactive and lots of fun. There's much more to it than that though - click HERE to go and take a look at their website. 

I have just written two little books for Franklin Watts - one called Run Melina Run! set in ancient Greece at the time of the Olympic Games, and another story called A New Life on New Earth - a story set a long time in the future about a young boy and his family starting a new life on an enormous space station called New Earth. Just imagine how the young boy feels, having to go to a new school in a strange new place. I don't know who will be illustrating Run Melina Run! but I do know that the artwork for A New Life on New Earth is being done by a Spanish illustrator called Jose (Yayu) Rubert. So far I have only seen the rough cover but it's already looking great... I can't wait to see more.

One of my big books is on hold at the moment while I get another, not quite as big, book finished. I've been working on Mindy and Moose and the Howling Wolves for quite some time now and I'm determined to get it finished very soon. To keep me in track with this I've set myself the target of writing at least 1000 words a day to keep it moving along.

Writing that many words should mean that the book is finished quite soon, however, it's not quite as simple as that as I have to keep going back to edit and tweak things to make sure it all fits together properly. It's taken me a long time to write this book as I kept getting stuck... I think that the biggest problem has been getting the tone of the story right... I think of this as being the stories voice. Every story I think, has it's own voice and it can be tricky finding it or getting it right. Hopefully I'm on the right track now and Mindy and Moose and the Howling Wolves will soon see the light of day (or perhaps that should be the dark of night - with a full moon of course).

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Snow Joke

World Book Day and the whole of last week was amazing... lots of fun in wonderful schools around the country. Lots of driving too and more snow than I've seen in my life. It took me just over ten hours to drive home from the South Coast on Thursday night after spending a wonderful day with everyone at Eastergate Primary School in West Sussex... I had a fantastic time with everyone though so I'm not complaining... and at least I did manage to get home and not get stuck in the snow.

Yesterday I had lots of fun meeting everyone at Rhyl Library and today I'm in North Yorkshire and will be visiting Bolton-on-Swale St Mary's CE Primary School... see you soon... 

Monday, 26 February 2018

Book Week

This week is going to be busy, busy, busy... Thursday is World Book Day and I am driving up and down the country visit g schools and libraries to share stories and talk about writing and being a writer.

Today I'm in Farnborough Road Junior School in sunny Southport...  it's going to be a fun week. I just hope I don't get stuck in any snow. 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

A Balancing Act

World Book Day is quickly approaching and I'm going to be busy visiting schools and libraries around Great Britain so hello to everyone that I am going to be seeing over the next few weeks - and a special hello to everyone at St Margaret's Preparatory School in Calne - I'm really looking forward to meeting you all tomorrow.

This is always a fun and busy time of the year, but it can be a bit tricky too as I have to try and balance my time between visiting schools and libraries and also still find time for writing.

I've been busy writings story ideas for some little books that will hopefully be read by people in Year 4... Some times it's difficult coming up with ideas that fit what I'm supposed to be doing but over the last few weeks I've had lots of ideas so hopefully my editors will like some of them... ideas that don't get used can always be used for something else later - so nothing is ever really wasted. 

Here is the cover of a little book called The Big Match which will be published in July this year... It's quite a short story for young readers - just a little over 600 words. It's Jamal's birthday and he has a difficult decision to make... does he go and have a football party with his friends at the park or does he go with his Dad to watch the big game between City and United? It's up to Jamal to make up his mind but he feels that whichever one he chooses, he will be letting someone down. What you do? The illustrations in this book are being done by John Lund. So far I have only seen the cover but I can't wait to see more... I think John is doing a great job.

I've also been planning out and writing the first chapter for a little book called The Curious Case of Dr Salamander - or at least I think that's what it will be called... these things change form time to time. I will be writing the book properly in April so I've still got time to change things as I go along. Readers of the book will also be voting on some of the things that are going to happen in the book too which makes it interesting (and difficult at times) - I will tell you more about it nearer the time though.