‘The whole year have had follow up lessons in story construction, which have been very effective with good outcomes. Quite frankly, we all enjoyed the day so much. You were wonderful.’ Head of English, Guilsborough School, Northampton.
I pride myself on the feedback and testimonials I get from students and schools. I’m happy to give up to three author talks/workshops in a day, lasting roughly an hour, depending on how the school day is organised. I can also work for longer periods with specific groups for really strong improvements in writing skills. I’ve been teaching (and hopefully inspiring!) children and teenagers in school for 16 years, so I’m very experienced in working with able and less able students of all ages. Let me know what your needs are, and we can go from there.
Author Talks – up to 60 minutes
I love talking to students about my writing life – how I started out, the influence of my daughter on my ideas, as well as the ups and downs of a career in fiction. I can command an audience of any size, and there’s ample time for Q&A plus those burning questions students always have. I'll dig down into deep themes of writing with teenagers, but I'm equally happy to engage with younger pupils on a lighter level. I've put together a funny and (I think) heart-warming talk/show about my time fostering dogs for Battersea Dog’s Home. It's proven hugely successful with children aged 7-11.
Here are my main workshops:
1. How to Craft a Story. A simple five-step technique for creating a compelling story. Even the most reluctant students who have problems generating ideas and characters can follow and use it immediately, making it extremely popular with teachers as well as students.
2. The Ghost. My approach to the chiller. This workshop always focuses the attention of students.
3. Heroes and Villains. We study what it is that makes us love and despise characters. In the process students learn the essence of story - how to create deeply motivated characters that drive natrratives forward.
4. Creating Fantasy Worlds. Pupils conjure up a believable fantasy world. A fun, illuminating session that is all about how to make the fantastical credible.
5. Descriptive writing. Looking to unlock the descriptive gene in your students? Hands-on exercises to get them excited about their own prose.
6. The 4 Great Stories explores repeated archetypes in fiction (such as the Dream Come True, Overcoming the Monster and Character Transformation). I use the students’ own favourite books to explore how archetypes can make their own fiction far more powerful. Sounds dry, but in fact works fantastically well with KS2 as well as KS3 and upwards.
7. Tell me a picture is for younger students (KS1 and lower KS2). I use ideas from my Doomspell novel to stimulate the visual imaginations of the children. They go on to create their own personal images, which become the basis for an exercise in expressive descriptive writing.
8. Humour. A fun session for students Years 1-4 where we write humorous descriptions and think about what makes readers laugh.
Do your teachers need inspiring? I've specialised recently in teaching teachers how to engage students in the craft of writing. Please contact me if you would like some details and testimonials on that score.
I charge £350 per day, plus travel expenses.
Here are just a few:
'You visited our school recently and we loved it ... we were hoping you might be interested in coming again.’ Librarian, South Hampstead Junior School.
‘Fantastic, inspirational. Great way to teach story writing.’ – CDC Teaching Programme, Kent County Council.
‘The children loved every moment of it.’ – Head of English, St. Michael’s Primary School, Highgate.
When Cliff McNish’s debut fantasy novel THE DOOMSPELL appeared The Bookseller immediately hailed him as ‘a great new voice in writing for children.’ The Doomspell Trilogy went on to become a huge international success, translated into 26 languages. He then turned his attention to the ghost story. The resulting BREATHE was voted in May 2013 by The Schools Network of British Librarians not only as one of the top children’s novels of all time, but made the top 100 combined adult and children’s list in that category.
McNish is one of our most talented thriller writers [for children and young adults] with an ability to make your spine crawl and your heart pound with his stylish pared down prose.' – Amanda Craig, THE TIMES.
'Such is McNish's skill [in Breathe] that when you read of the young hero Jack's asthma attacks, you'll find your own breathing feels constricted. He evokes the same empathy when dealing with the ghosts who haunt Jack, taking us into the realms of inventiveness that are his trademark. Breathtaking.' – Philip Ardagh, THE GUARDIAN
'Breathe is a brilliantly inventive ghost story, compellingly written. It is spine-chilling, disturbing and truly frightening. A real page turner.' – BOOKTRUST
'Gripping, racy, children have been fighting to borrow it [The Doomspell].' - THE GUARDIAN
GOING HOME, about four dogs stuck in a rescue centre, ' is a must for animal lovers ... amusing and heart-warming.’ - THE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN
Cliff was great with the students. There was a wide age range and he catered for them all. The workshops with year 7 & 8 were very impressive. Hope he will visit us again.
I have written over fourteen novels for children and teenagers. These range from dark ghost stories and fantasy to warmer animal-relation fiction. BREATHE was voted in 2013 by British librarians as one of the top 100 novels of all time.