Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 02085632224 / 07958060748
I live in Barnes, southwest London and have two sons who inspired me to write when they were younger. My five children's books span from Reception up to Year 4 and I love meeting my readers at school visits, book signings (I've had many at Waterstones in SW London over the years) and books festivals. I regularly go into primary and prep schools in London and am available to visit schools outside of the London area where time and budget allows.
My other writing life :)
As well as writing for children I’ve written for business (including government) for over 20 years – as a plain English copywriter, writing trainer and strategic web content consultant. Important and impressive as that may sound, I far prefer making up stories and meeting my young readers!
My previous life: In my early career I was teacher and Director of Studies in an English Language School in London. I have also lived and worked in New York and Oslo and speak French and Norwegian (oh, and American!).
Interesting to know. My bestselling time travel mystery, The Secret Lake, was considered for adaption by CBBC a couple of years ago, after recommendation by their Head of Independent Commissioning. It continues to be my bestseller with both girls and boys at school events – and has been described as “a modern Tom’s Midnight Garden”.
My School Visits
My five books span from Reception through to Year 4 for which I offer readings, an author talk (including fun slides) and Q&A, as well as the option of curriculum related writing workshops. I then have a more general talk on writing and publishing in the digital age for Years 5 and 6. See below for more detail on format.
Reception - Ferdinand Fox's Big Sleep - 30 mins
This a colourful rhyming picture book based on the true story of a fox that once fell asleep in my garden. The session includes a rhyming warm-up and lots of fox and favourite food discussion!
To ensure that everyone can see, I bring along A3 colour posters of every picture from the story, which I hold up as I read. Or (depending on set-up) I use a Powerpoint of the book pages which includes a short video of a real fox that fell asleep in a friend's garden and strongly resembles Ferdinand! There is also a Powerpoint version available on a memory key to share one-to-one on a laptop with any child with special needs.
I intersperse the reading with questions relating to foxes and food (which is very much the theme of the story). The children love joining in with sound effects/actions, such as the fox snoring or Peter Maceever yawning, and I encourage them to practise counting as we hear the church clock strike from one through to five o'clock as the story progresses. Depending on time, I may also run back through the story with the children calling out the missing rhyming words!
At the end of the session I show the children my interactive iPad bookapp of the story, where they can drag and drop simple word bubbles onto their matching images – this is a very popular way to end! There are downloadable colouring sheets as a follow-on activity as well as tips on how to draw your own fox.
Year 1 - Henry Haynes and the Great Escape - 40 mins
This is a fun illustrated chapter book about 10-year-old Henry who falls inside his library book after complaining that it's boring. Henry soon finds himself caught up in a zoo escape plan being managed by Brian, a bossy boa constrictor, and Gordon, an extremely smelly gorilla...!
The story starts out in a library so (after introductions) I open the session by asking the children about libraries and librarians they know. We also talk about how magical it is to get lost in a story - and about whether anyone has ever wanted to become part of the story they were reading. I then introduce the book and give a 10-15 minute reading. This is followed by questions from the children about being a writer, how I get my ideas, my other books and so on.
As part of the Q&A I show the children how I work with my illustrator who lives in Bosnia - from rough drafts through to final images that go into the books. They always find this fascinating - and everyone loves Brian the boa with the cage keys stuck down his throat, which he then burps up for Henry to release the lions! Where time allows I can aslo offer a simple workshop where the children can brainstorm and write their own simple descriptions of the key story characters, then choose and draw their favourite.
Years 2,3,4 - Eeek! The Runaway Alien (7-10 yrs - used by Get London Reading), Walter Brown and the Magician's Hat (7-9 yrs), The Secret Lake (8-11 yrs) - 50 minutes
See the book summaries below. I am happy to see Year groups individually or combined, depending on the class sizes and number of intakes. Ideally I'd aim to keep groups to around 60 at most but I have presented to double that!
After introducing myself and briefly showing the children my website, I ask the children a bit about their reading habits and what they think makes a good story. I go on to briefly talk about the inspiration for all three books, then focus on one or two for readings. Which book/s I choose for the readings depends either on a show of hands from the audience or on whether the teacher would like a particular book or books covered to tie in with other school work/ themes.
The Q&A session for these year groups tends to go on longer and during this time I show the children slides and live web connections demonstrating how I work with my illustrator and editor. In particular, for Walter Brown and the Magician's Hat I have a fun series of slides showing how the story went from first idea to finished product, highlighting some of the key changes that took place along the way to improve the characters and storyline. My slides are set up so that I can tailor what I cover to meet the audience's questions and interests.
I can also offer curriculum based writing workshops using extracts and illustrations from Eeek! and The Secret Lake as my starting points . The emphasis is certainly on fun for the younger pupils using Eeek! - moving towards more structured creative writing using The Secret Lake for years 3 and 4. In all cases the aim it to show the children how we can use words to paint a picture in the reader's mind. Workshops are for single classes and I take feedback on overall ability in advance.
Years 5/6 - Optional extra session if I'm at the school all day
For Years 5 and 6 I can also offer a more general talk on the creative writing process and how exciting it is to be a writer in our new digital age.This includes looking at the different writing styles in my books (first vs third person - how and why I've used them) and demonstrating the power of 'show don't tell' in writing. I also cover working with my editor - and all the hard work that goes into rewriting! Finally, I round off with a set of funs slides that show ‘how books get made’ digitally, including formatting for print and eBook and uploading to Amazon and other platforms where author publishers are able to track sales online.
My books for ages 6-11 have been praised for getting the most reluctant of readers turning the page :)