I’ve been doing school and library visits since the publication of my first book, Dear Diary…, in 2000. I also do workshops and have spoken at festivals and conferences.
- I read a couple of short extracts from my work, usually including one from the most recent book.
- I briefly discuss a particular issue relating to writing, e.g. motivation or ‘where do you get your ideas from?’
- I have a Q&A session.
- I prefer to let students have as much input as possible. If they want to talk about publishing, books for teenagers, basing characters on people you know, why reading doesn’t have to be boring, whatever it might be – I’m all for facilitating that.
- I’m completely happy to sign students’ own copies or library copies of my books. If you need to order copies of any of my books, you can do so straight from the publisher.
- Sometimes when students are told they have to take notes or write up a ‘report’ on the visit, it can make it less fun for them and for me. One alternative might be to have them each come up with a question to ask beforehand, or to take five minutes at the end of the session so that they can jot down impressions without having to scribble frantically the whole way through.
- It is a good idea to prepare students as much as possible so that they’ll get the most out of the visit. Reading at least one of the books or at the very least visiting this website is a good starting point.
- Sessions that go on for more than a hour are usually tiring for all concerned. However, if students need to move to a different room/building and get settled, trying to squeeze a talk into a single class period isn’t always the best idea. Somewhere between 40-60 minutes seems to work well.
- Any more than 2 sessions a day will wear me out. I try to be as enthusiastic as possible when doing visits, but I am not a Duracell bunny. Tragically.
- Small groups tend to work better (e.g. under 30 students) though I have had successful experiences with larger groups. If you’ve had the same group of students participate in other events, consider what might work best – are they likely to be shy in larger groups, or less well-behaved?
- Keep sessions shorter for reluctant readers (and please let me know that I am dealing with that kind of group in advance – I will need to be extra energetic!). If you’ve hand-picked interested students, or if they’ve been heavily involved in inviting me to speak, a longer session might be needed.
- Recommended age groups: fifth and sixth class in primary school, and all years of secondary school. I’d also suggest girls’ or mixed groups – for some reason, all-male groups seem less enthusiastic about angsty-adolescent-girl books…
- I will not need a projector or anything exciting like that. Water is nice. A comfortable chair is a bonus. A cup of tea would be utterly fabulous.
Aside from school/library visits, I’ve also spoken at various conferences and festivals on issues relating to writing for children and teenagers, creative writing in general, how to get published, young adult fiction, etc. If you’d like me to speak at one of these events, please contact me.
Last but not least, I also teach creative writing, to all ages. I’ve delivered both once-off and multi-session creative writing classes in primary and secondary schools. If you’re interested in a creative writing workshop for your school or library, rather than a talk, please let me know. If it’s a blend of creative writing, song writing, drama etc that you’re looking for, check out Song and Writing workshops; and if you’re looking for poetry, memoir, or drama one of my colleagues at the Big Smoke Writing Factory might be able to help.