Thursday, 31 March 2011

school visits

I don't know why I enjoy school visits so much. I always think I get more out of them, than the pupils I speak to. I think it's the best research in the world for a children's writer. You see how your readers dress, how they speak, to each other and to their teachers. You can observe how they behave, how they wear their hair. And I can't remember the number of times a school  visit has sparked off a book. I used to tell stories about the funny wee men I would see around my home town, and let's face it, in Scotland we have an endless supply of funny wee men. Whenever I told these stories they would say, " you should write a book about them." And I did. I wrote Catch Us If You Can."  Recently, I've been talking about a football shirt I had seen pinned on a tree as a tribute to a boy who had died there in an accident. Told them how I would build a story from that. "Are you going to write that book," they would say. So I did.
    One thing about me, if they ask me to write a certain kind of story, then I will. When I was writing Underworld, I asked at one school. " What would you like to find in a story like that." And, almost as one, they said. " a monster!" Now, I don't normally do monsters. But there is a monster in Underworld.
     I can find characters at my school visits too. The boy at one school who insisted we swap autographs, because his would be worth a fortune one day on Ebay! And last year in Exeter a line of pupils waited for me to sign books and one girl stepped to the front. " There's a queue!" they all shouted. and she said. " The queue starts behind me."  and with hardly a word, they all formed a line behind her. How can you not use that in a story!
   The biggest benefit is meeting your readers. They make writing so worthwhile. The boy at Mearns Academy who said Grass was the best book he had ever read. The girl at Rothes who stood with her pile of my books, so excited, waiting for me to sign them. Did she know I was the one who was really excited? I hope so.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

world Book Week

I had such a good week last week, first I visited Pitlochry. I am invited there every year, and I love going to that school. I am always so impressed by the amount of work they do around my books. This year there was artwork based around The Beast Within, the second book in the Nemesis series. Such imaginative beasts they came up with! There was also artwork based on the opening chapter of Into The Shadows. The science department were doing forensic work around this book too, and some of the classes were making an animated comic strip based on the first chapter. The work they do, and have always done, takes my breath away. I remember the first time I visited the school a life size wigwam had been erected in the hall! I wonder if anyone knows which book of mine inspired that!
  The next day I was in Edinburgh, first at Stewart Melville's school where I received such a warm welcome and met a lovely fan, Juan, from Columbia, who loved my Nemesis series. Okay, I can't help it .I love compliments. Then it was a mad dash to my next school, also n Edinburgh, Mary Erskine's, I loved that visit too. When you step in front of an audience and see so many of them clutching your books, you know you are in for a good event.
  I finished the week at Dunfermline High School, where I was greeted by the librarian, dressed as a witch. The teacher who brought the class in was dressed as the harridan of a teacher from Matilda. I love how librarians and teachers get so involved in the World Book Week events.
  Home at last, and I had hoped to go to the cinema...what am I doing calling it the cinema? It will always be the pictures to me. Didn't get, not this week, but I do love the movies. What would we do without stories ?
  Tomorrow I am off to the Aye Write Festival in Glasgow, and four hundred pupils. I've already had e mails from young people who are going to be there to hear me. Hope I talk sense, and that they enjoy the day as much as I intend to.