Monday, 6 February 2017

A Tale of Two Schools

In my last post, I blogged about the first three days I'd spent at Wolsey Hall Primary School in Leicester.

Last week was definitely a tale of two schools because I spent another three days at Wolsey, followed by an afternoon at Stamford High School in Lincolnshire.

First, Wolsey. The children were beginning to recognise me and greeted me with smiles and waves when they saw me. I had a gift brought to me on Monday - a pencil with a handmade topper - by three of the older girls, and then I had another young lady read me a couple of stories she'd written in her notebook.

As we worked our way down the years, the sessions changed and I used simpler ideas to stimulate the creative writing. Mind you, once again it proved that I'm not a teacher; despite my best intentions to make the activities suitable for all abilities, there are still improvements to be made. I take my hat off to teachers everywhere who do their utmost to engage children of widely different abilities within the same class. Having said that, where activities didn't quite go according to plan for some of the children, the teachers were generous with their suggestions as to how I could create the necessary structure to help the pupils - suggestions which I've taken on board for next time.

On Wednesday, my last day, I'd been allowed to take the two Granny Rainbow books in to sell to anyone who wanted them. The queue blocked the foyer at breaktime...I had a steady stream at lunchtime...and after school, the line wiggled its way from the activity area up to the foyer. It took half an hour to clear it! And even then, one child came back because her mum'd forgotten to bring any money. (I left a box behind at school for anyone who had forgotten their money, and there have been a few more sales since!) Talk about writer's cramp, nearly one hundred books later!

I've had some smashing feedback from staff and pupils, which indicates that in spite of a few minor problems, the children were enthused and inspired and encouraged in their reading and writing. And I've been invited to go back at some point in the future, which is wonderful.

A thank you from Wolsey

 And so to Stamford.

I woke Thursday morning with a bad head (probably due to not eating and drinking properly the day before because of all the book signing!). Fortunately it had cleared sufficiently by 10am, when I packed tens of copies of StarMark and a few Granny Rainbows into a suitcase, organised my sheets and directions to the school.

The journey out was...interesting. A major diversion on the way out added on quite a few miles and about twenty minutes to it, but I got there. Once I'd found the school reception I dropped my suitcase off and went in search of lunch. Stamford is a lovely town, all honey-coloured brick and church spires. It's also got a lot of arty designer and antique shops, so I was relieved to find a Pizza Express which did takeaway nestled among them.

Lunch was eaten in the cemetery of St Michael's Church(the one in the forefront of the photo above), with the late Mr or Mrs Stokes for company.

Then it was back to the school to meet the Stamford High School Book Club in the library.

Huge thanks to the girls, who'd brought flapjack and cookies and sweets to share over a pot of tea. I was quizzed with some really good questions before they headed off to the studio to meet up with the rest of Year 7. Did I mention their  library is in the roof space of a fabulous old building? It's light, airy, and there are brilliant displays by Miss S, the Learning Resource Manager. It was a really lovely place.

The welcome banner the girls had made

The talk to Y7 - all 70 of them - was a brief account of my author journey so far, and then we got stuck into writing.

Remember my paint samples with wonderful titles? We started with those - and the ideas were amazing. Here's a small selection...

Puddle Jumper: every puddle you jump into transports you to a new place or time
Fire Within: a dragon, whose lost her fire
Luck be a Lady: a girl called Luck, who does NOT want to be a lady
Ginger Kitten: a poor kitten who someone tried first to drown, which then got run over (!) and eventually the kitten turns nasty (not surprised!) and attacks people...
Moonlit Pebble: something that looks like a pebble but is in fact a dragon's egg - and it needs moonlight to hatch.
Eye of Horace: an old man (Horace) has had a watch (the eye) all his life, and the watch tells Horace's life story.

Then we used the antique glass bottle story, where more fabulous plans and openings to stories emerged, although I can't remember them! Wish I could... I'm hoping the girls will be able to finish them off at some point in the future - I'd love to read some when they do.

At the end, the girls had an opportunity to buy books - I sold a few StarMarks and a smattering of Grannys and realised I could've taken a considerably smaller suitcase... (On the bright side, at least I have some copies to take to whatever I do in future).

Then it was home again - another eventful journey when I got mixed up between the A606 and A6006 which led to another diversion via Oakham to Melton Mowbray, with a stop off in a Sainsbury's carpark to work out where the Asfordby Road was when I couldn't see any signs for it...

One thing that came out of both school visits is that I need to put my prices up. I've tried to keep them reasonable up to now, as although I'm a full member of the SoA and they recommend what to charge for author visits, I haven't felt that, as a relatively unknown author, I could justify charging hundreds of pounds each visit. But the feedback is coming through loud and clear that what I'm delivering, I should be charging more for. So there's an increase in booking fees on the cards as a result.

But until I get another booking, I'd best do some writing and practise what I preach! Catch you later, Scribblers!

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