I’ve always liked Bookwitch’s blog, but today I like it even more than usual.
Before I left Burkina Faso last year, I filmed several short sketches with the ‘Laawol Dartingol’ drama group. The sketches explore different issues in Fulani society. In this one, Inna Moumouni’s money has gone missing, and she suspects her husband of stealing it. I miss these people, they were such fun to work with!
If you are looking for an author to visit your school, look no further than Authors Abroad and their stable of bushy-tailed children’s authors. I joined up just nine months ago but in that short time I have been hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and efficiency of this agency.
The ‘Abroad’ in Authors Abroad does not primarily mean overseas (although the agency does cater for schools all over the world), but rather ‘far and wide’ or ‘in circulation’ or at the very least ‘out of the house’. It’s fun to sit at a desk dreaming of knights and dragons, but it’s lonely as well, so what could be more fun than a day out in Weston-Super-Mare or Accrington? I’ll tell you what. A day out in a school in Weston-Super-Mare or Accrington, encouraging young uns to dream of knights and dragons, too.
One speciality of Authors Abroad is the famous Able Writers Programme in association with Brian Moses (writer, performance poet and progenitor of Able Writers Days everywhere). Brian’s big idea was to offer a whole day of workshops for children who are already demonstrating a knack for writing. One school hosts the gig and three or four other schools pile onboard, each sending a carful of their brightest and best scribblers.
Since last September, I have tutored Able Writers Days in primary schools all over the country. My favourite thing about the Able Writers Day is that I get to spend a whole day with the same students, rather than gadding about from class to class. This means the students have time to delve deep into the soil of storytelling, unearthing precious #writetip nuggets.
Write what you know. Show don’t tell. Chase your character up a tree and then throw stones at him. Good advice, all of it, but it needs time to percolate. Able Writers Days provide a synthesis of theory and practice designed to take your most gifted writers to the next level.
Here is the format of my Able Writers Day for Years 5 and 6. Note, this is only what I do. Other authors do different things.
Session 1 (9.30 – 10.45)
a) Write What You Know – an introduction to my books, and my life in West Africa
b) Premise – I describe the ingredients of a strong story premise, then everyone thinks of one
c) Character – how to come up with an interesting MC (main character) – students work in groups to develop a character, then present these characters to the class.
Session 2 (11.10 – 12.10)
a) Putting pen to paper: Each student writes the first paragraph of their story, introducing setting and character. Through sharing and peer criticism, students learn how to Show, not Tell.
b) Inciting Incidents – We watch a video montage of ‘inciting incidents’. Each student writes their second paragraph.
c) We talk about how to write suspense and action. “There is no terror in the bang of a gun, only in the anticipation of it” (Alfred Hitchcock).
Session 3 (1.00 – 2.10)
Stories are driven forward by either a problem to solve or a treasure to find. We talk about plotting, ‘story mountain’, setbacks and climax. Students work on their stories for an hour, during which time I aim to give individual comments/help to each student.
Session 4 (2.20 – 2.40)
a) Able Writers Award Ceremony – prizes for best premise, best character, best opening, best story
b) Ten Minutes of Q&A about storytelling and writing
c) Book sales, signing, photographs, goodbyes.
Ofsted have highly praised these Able Writers Days. The programme gives the children the opportunity to work with an established writer, builds links between local schools, and serves as an excellent professional development day for accompanying members of staff.
For more information about Able Writers Days, or to book an author, contact Shelley Lee at Authors Abroad.
Yesterday was World Book Day, and it was my favourite World Book Day EVER. I spent it with the fantastic staff and students of Mudeford Junior School in Dorset, who had all dressed up for the occasion. I was thrilled to get a photo taken with the fancy dress prizewinners – see how many book characters you recognize!
I enjoy visiting schools regularly to conduct creative writing workshops. Here is a link to the Stephen Davies School Visits webpage (with details of what these visits involve) and below is a list of the schools I will be visiting this term and next:
14 January Cinnamon Brow Primary School, Warrington
27 January Bournville Primary School, Weston Super-Mare
2 February Wyvern Primary School, Leicester
3 February Liverpool College Prep School
4 February Greenbank Primary School, Liverpool
5 February Lancaster Road Primary School, Morcambe
6 February Henry Cort School, Fareham
10 February Invicta Primary School, Blackheath
26 February Macaulay School, Lambeth
2 March Marlborough House School, Hawkhurst, Kent
5 March Mudeford Junior School, Christchurch
6 March Prendergast Vale School, Lewisham
9 March Burstow Primary School, Horley
11-12 March William Cobbett Junior School, Farnham
29 June Gloucester Road Primary School, Cheltenham
As you can see, there is still plenty of space on the itinerary. If you are a teacher or librarian and you would like me to visit your school, don’t hesitate to get in touch.