Visits & events

Talking to Year 6 at St Hubert’s Primary, Great Harwood

Online visits

  • The focus of an Online Visit can be the same as in a School Visit (see below). We can discuss what will work best for you and making the most of our online time together.
  • Online Visits are less expensive as I don’t need to travel except to my desk!
  • For more information, please see my Authors Aloud Online page

School visits

The Power of the Pen (One hour or longer)
This talk is a broad introduction to my work for a large or smaller audience.

Whether I’m talking to top primary, secondary students or adults, I aim to give a strong sense of how a writer can respond to real life through fiction. I read some extracts and show PowerPoint images linked to my background and books.
There is an opportunity to:

  • Understand the contexts out of which my novels have arisen (through listening to my personal story and viewing pictures of the South Africa in which I grew up)
  • Think about basic human rights and our responses in literature and in life
  • Develop awareness of ‘viewpoint’ in the way characters and situations are presented
  • Question me as the author (about crafting and drafting; sources for ideas, plot, characters, settings, viewpoint etc; my background and books etc)

Crafting a Novel or Short Story (One hour or longer)
This workshop is for a class or group who have read a particular book and follows on well from the introductory talk.

Drawing on the book, I talk about how experience, research and imagination are part of a creative process that begins with the glimmering of an idea.
In our writer-reader discussion, topics include:

  • Researching a theme and developing a focus
  • Planting the seeds for a story within the opening
  • Developing character and action
  • Using all one’s senses to write vividly

There is the opportunity to ask me detailed questions. In preparation, students can be encouraged to imagine themselves as ‘investigative journalists’ and to ask deeper questions about characters and plot, sources and settings, viewpoint and values. As follow-up, they can be encouraged to explore the power of the pen in their own writing.

For workshops on Journey to Jo’burg, students can ‘Hotseat’ me in role as the Madam. (She always provokes a lot of discussion!).

For workshops on The Other Side of Truth, students can ‘Meet Papa’, before questioning me as the author.

A small group, who represent a class or different classes, prepare a range of questions in advance. 4 is ideal, but the group may be a little larger.

This is an opportunity to learn what makes a good interview. A pre-condition is the background research and this session also involves collaboration. After the interview, the students need to work together to write it up e.g. for a school journal, or to edit if it’s a video. While only a small number are involved in the actual interview, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ stages can involve many more.

Writing workshop
A maximum of twenty (16 is preferable) and a minimum of an hour and a quarter.

This needs to be negotiated. Whether prose or poetry, the aim will be to start a piece of work and for participants to go away keen to continue experimenting with their words, images and ideas i.e. feeling positive about drafting.

Size of Groups
This depends on the nature of the session. Talks can be for a large audience but workshops are best class-size.

Storytelling and Picture Books
An interactive session for younger children about passing on stories through telling and writing. I tell African folktales or Aesop’s fables that I’ve loved since childhood. I talk about working with an illustrator or photographer (as in S is for South Africa) and publisher to make a book, showing samples of drafts and ‘roughs’. If Baba’s Gift is a focus, I talk about the origins of the story and writing it with my daughter Maya, and how we worked with our illustrator Karin Littlewood.

Anticipating a visit
School visits flourish with good preparation. I can send you a Preparation for Author Visit sheet so your students ‘travel’ as far as possible on the day. It also includes advice on running a ‘bookshop’ which allows time for informal chatting while I sign books.

The Society of Authors’ website offers a download: Guidelines for Schools Organising an Author Visit.

Most of my visits are organised by Authors Aloud UK.

Authors give up at least a day’s writing when they come into school and my normal fee is towards the upper-end of the Society of Authors’ recommended range. Online Visits do away with travelling time and are less expensive. A good visit provides stimulus and ideas for teachers as well as students! Please enquire by email here.

…a huge thank you for your inspiring visit for our Year 8s. They were all enthralled by your talk and thoroughly enjoyed the workshops in the afternoon. Several of them are busy reading your books. I think that more than anything it opened their eyes to a world they knew little about which is exactly what I hoped would happen. Some of the staff have been inspired to read your books too.
– Philippa Moyle, The Hawthorns School

Thank you so much for your visit to our school. The children produced a fantastic selection of work (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, artwork…) inspired by your visit – with very little direction from the adults.
– Gemma Kent, The Lyceum, London

The children were absolutely transfixed by the power of her storytelling and the emotive nature of her anecdotes. They also found her very friendly and funny too. I found myself engaged in the same way as the students. Excellent story-writing ideas.
– Mark Roberts, Burnage Media Arts College

T is for Telling us Tales of your life
H is for Hoping that words can end strife
A is for all the Advice for our writing
N is for Narrative that you make so exciting
K for the Keyboard that gives your words flight
Y is for Yesterday………what a delight!
O the Opportunity for our minds to flyaway
U for our Utterly wonderful day!

– Julie Thompson, Minehead Middle School

Festivals, Conferences & Literary Events

I have taken part in many festivals, conferences and literary events in the UK and abroad.  I enjoy talking to teachers, librarians, parents and young people. Perhaps I should just admit that I enjoy talking!  Moreover, I love the drama in reading aloud. (My parents were both closely connected with theatre and probably deterred me from a precarious profession, but that’s another story…)

I live in Dorset so, depending on where you are, overnight accommodation may need to be considered as well as travel.

With organisers of What a Story: Children’s Literature Conference, Beirut 2009