Thursday, 12 February 2015

Inspiring writers

Yesterday, I visited St Michael's C of E Primary School in Pelsall, to talk to Year 6 pupils about Granny Rainbow, being an author, and to read some of the stories the children had written, based on Granny Rainbow story structure.

Reading the first of the children's stories...

I had a FABULOUS afternoon! The visit was a bit different to others I'd done - I wasn't leading any workshops for a start! The time we had was spent alternating between Q&A sessions and readings (mainly the children's stories, but I took along 'Froggy Fiasco', one of the as-yet-to-be-published stories from More Granny Rainbow) with a short book-signing session at the end.

I loved reading the children's stories. Their teacher had studied Granny Rainbow's story structure and encouraged the kids to take certain characters - Granny, Old Tom, the cats - and introduce both a problem and a new character to the plot. The resulting stories (and how I wish I'd had time to read them all out!) were wonderful.

We had the appearance of the Grey Shadow (the Black Shadow's son) seeking revenge. We had rainbow chickens attacking the teacher. We had a yeti called Betty. We nearly had another little green man story - but the title was changed to the little man in green, which fitted the leprechaun in it much better! What was really spooky, though, was how close some of the children's ideas are to some of the stories in the next book!

The Q&A sessions were interesting too - they were all very intelligent questions, by which I mean I wasn't asked how I write a book, or what's my favourite food or how long does it take you to write a book. The children had obviously really thought about what they wanted to ask about me and the process of being a writer:

Which author did I look up to? Terry Pratchett and anyone who sticks at it when the going gets tough. How did I get to swim with dolphins? Holidaying in New Zealand.
Why were rainbows important to me - and which was my favourite colour? Because I love colour, rainbows help me remember God's promise, and I can't pick one! I like them all.
Had I met any famous authors? Yep - Andy Cope and Lara, (THE Spy Dog) and Jeremy Strong.
Why Granny Rainbow - why not Boy Rainbow or Princess Rainbow? And how did the world of Granny get created? Because there are elements of my own Granny in there and everyone has/had a Granny. And the more I get to know her, the bigger her world grows.

It served to reinforce that being an author isn't about book sales or rankings for me. It's interacting with the readers and enthusing kids to read and write - and enjoy it! In fact, I left them with some homework - a 'Three Things' story, to include a tin of baked beans, a dragon and a police car. After hearing their Granny stories, I don't reckon they'll have any problems coming up with some super ideas again!

And as to the highlight of my afternoon... Am I allowed two?

The first was when I was asked to go back to the school later in the year, to run a creative writing workshop.
The second was when I overheard one of the children say "I have GOT to get the new Granny Rainbow book when it's out. And StarMark."

I've two more school visits booked for March, both during World Book Week. If they go anywhere near as well as this visit, I'll be very happy indeed. And next time, I'll remember to ask someone to take photos...

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