CREATING A BOOK
From my experience of producing "What happened to the hippy man?", "The Magistrate's Son" and "The Warning", I can talk about and answer questions on the business of producing and publishing illustrated books. This is probably of interest to older classes. I can ask Johanna Gousset to come along for a joint presentation on "words and pictures - the illustrated novel", which would be interesting to Art students as well as English students.
RESILIENCE: "BAD THINGS HAPPEN, BUT PEOPLE SURVIVE"
I have run a workshop for year 7 and 8 children based on the story of the PA 073 hijack in Karachi in 1986. This is a potentially disturbing story that has to be handled sensitively for children, but the world seems sometimes to be becoming a more dangerous place, and we owe it to children to help them understand what they will already see on the television and in the papers.
The workshop involved a brief account of what happened to me on 5 September 1986, followed by writing exercises in which the class put themselves in the mind of people involved in the incident - hostages, hostage takers, security forces, negotiators, people waiting at home for their family members to return. The results were fascinating and in many cases very moving.
At the end of the session, the teacher asked the class if they understood that these things are very rare, and expressed the hope that they were not more frightened as a result of what we had discussed. An 11-year old girl said, "I feel better about these things now, because I can see that bad things happen, but people survive." She summed up the point of the session so much better than either of us could have done.
This can also be presented as a talk for a larger audience, based on years of experience presenting my story, mainly but not exclusively to people with a professional interest in the subject (police negotiators, commandos, cabin and air crew, NHS staff and many others).
WRITING WORKSHOP: TELLING STORIES
I have presented several writing workshops for years 4 to 8, exploring "what makes a good story?" and "what makes a good character?" The material is readily adaptable for older classes.
The usual workshop runs for a single lesson, but can also be extended to a double period. I am happy to see several classes in the same visit.
The key to my approach is finding out what the children are reading - I ask the class teacher to take a poll two weeks before the workshop in which the pupils name their three favourite books, their one favourite character in all books, and three words that describe what they think makes a book good. I compile the results and use them to start a discussion of the ways in which authors bring a story, a character or a world alive for the reader.
I have some writing exercises to illustrate "show, don't tell", character building, and the different types of plot. I keep it interactive and encourage orderly discussion.