Virtual Author Visits

I am an award-winning author with over twenty published books for children and teens. I enjoy giving talks and creative writing workshops in schools, and am now able to offer these as online sessions, via Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

  • Engaging, interactive workshops for young people
  • Good knowledge of Zoom and Microsoft Teams
  • 100 Mbps wired ethernet connection – no lag or pixellation

Years 1-2: African picture books

I read my picture book DON’T SPILL THE MILK, accompanied by hi-res illustrations onscreen (Christopher Corr), and then help the class to produce ideas for a sequel, DON’T DROP THE MANGO!

Years 3-4: Creating interesting characters for your stories

Using photographs of children from around the world as a springboard, I lead the class through the process of coming up with intriguing and believable story characters.

Years 5-6: ‘Limited third person’ point of view

Using examples from my book SURVIVOR TITANIC, I introduce the advanced technique of ‘limited third person’ storytelling and give students opportunities to experiment with it themselves.

I also offer thriller-writing or travel-writing workshops for secondary level students.

Read testimonials about my in-person school visits.

For more information, or to make a booking, email Yvonne at Authors Abroad yvonne@caboodlebooks.co.uk

I look forward to joining your class from afar, wherever in the world you may be!

Dear teachers

I understand that your capacity to invite visitors into your school is much reduced this term, and maybe further ahead as well. All the same, I want to let you know that I’m still available for visits, either real or virtual. Happy to engage with your class via Zoom/Teams if need be.

Drop me a line any time to discuss possibilities, or email Yvonne at Authors Abroad.

Warm wishes,

Steve

PS The display of Titanic memorabilia above was in Year 6 at Freeland C of E Primary School in Oxfordshire – just one of many amazing Titanic displays I’ve seen in your classrooms over the last few years.

March update

Dear friends, what a difference two months make. Re-reading my start-of-year newsletter, it seems absurdly carefree. All of us are affected by the various challenges presented by Covid-19. It is good to see friends and neighbours pulling together to help vulnerable members of their communities.

The closure of schools means that all of my school events this term have been cancelled or postponed. I do hope to offer virtual school visits at some stage. Watch this space for videoed talks and workshops.

A LOT of children’s books are going to get read over the next few weeks. If you can’t get to a library, the Libby app is brilliant in bringing your library to you.

For parents needing further literacy resources, the industrious librarian Mr Maxwell at Glenthorne School has compiled this useful list:

Reading & Literacy Resources 

Authorfy (www.authorfy.com) Free to join, contains several videos of authors reading from their books, creative writing challenges and much more. 

Book List (https://bit.ly/3b6O8oY) A searchable list of over 200 books that are popular at Glenthorne. Unless otherwise stated, all books are suitable for ages 11+. 

Booklings Chat (www.soundcloud.com/booklingschat) Hear Glenthorne students interview 30 different authors when they visited the school. 

BookTrust Book Finder (www.booktrust.org.uk Click “Books & Reading” then “Book Finder”) Great resource on finding books on a wide variety of genres. 

British Library (https://bit.ly/33tLmas) Make your own mini book with instructions from the British Library. 

English Media Centre (https://bit.ly/2xInjsE) Free Home Learning Pack for Key Stage 3 students. 

Goodreads (www.goodreads.com) Free to join, students can write their own reviews of books they have read, find book lists, take part in quizzes and discover new books to read. 

Grammar Cereal (www.classroomcereal.com) Practice your grammar with downloadable short stories. 

NPR Comic on Coronavirus: (https://n.pr/33s261Q) A short comic book and 3 minute podcast for kids that will help dispel fears, bust myths and reduce panic surrounding the coronavirus. 

Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) Project Gutenberg offers over 50,000 free e-books in various formats.

Reading Realm (www.thereadingrealm.co.uk) Creative writing resources that can be used with a free app. 

Reading Zone (www.readingzone.com) Book reviews, competitions and activities for all ages. 

Scholastic Learn at Home (https://bit.ly/33rFZss) Four new learning experiences posted every day for a wide range of ages. 

Toppsta (www.toppsta.com) Giveaways and hundreds of book reviews and activities for a wide variety of ages.

Warmest good wishes to you and yours. Keep home, keep well, keep reading.

Happy New Year

Warmest wishes to all my readers for a happy and productive 2020. Looking forward to reading lots of great new fiction this year, and to writing some more of my own stories as well. September sees the long-awaited release of Hilda season 2 on Netflix as well as the publication by Flying Eye of the first of three brand new Hilda books written by me and illustrated by Seaerra Miller (numbers four, five and six in the series).

Since visiting Cairo with Authors Abroad last year I have become obsessed with Ancient Egypt. I have surrounded myself with books on the subject, am learning to read hieroglyphs and am haunting the British Museum like a very tall, camera-wielding spectre. Here’s hoping that something creative will come out of this obsession in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, I have loads of school visits planned for this term and next, both in the UK and further afield. My Key Stage 2 Titanic-themed workshops (based on my book Survivor: Titanic) are popular and space in the diary is rapidly diminishing, so please do enquire sooner rather than later if you’re a teacher wanting to organize a visit. Drop a line to Yvonne Lang at Authors Abroad yvonne@caboodlebooks.co.uk.

A special shout out to Sayes Court Primary School in Addlestone and Ditton Park Academy in Slough who I’m glad to serve as patron of reading this year. I’ll be keeping an eye on all new mid-grade and young adult fiction coming out over the next six months, and shoving plenty of recommendations your way.

One rather special book I discovered over the Christmas break is Pharaoh’s Fate by Camille Gautier and Stephanie Vernet, illustrated by Margaux Carpentier. It’s a thrilling story set in Ancient Egypt where YOU play the part of detective, following clues and deciphering codes in order to foil a plot against the pharaoh’s life.

Keep adventuring and keep reading!

Author visit for KS2 classes studying the Titanic disaster

cover design: Two Dots Studio

If you are a Year 5 or 6 teacher and your class is studying the sinking of the Titanic, please note that I now offer a Titanic-themed author visit. We can do this right at the start of your Titanic unit (as a hook to create interest) or later on when the children have already been studying the topic for some time. It may be that your pupils are already reading my book Survivor: Titanic but this is not essential.

A recent report by the National Literacy Trust highlighted the positive impact of author visits. Pupils who had an author visit this academic year:

  • Were twice as likely to read above the expected level for their age (31% vs 17%)
  • Were more likely to enjoy reading (68% vs 47%) and writing (44% vs 32%)
  • Were more likely to be highly confident in their reading (37% vs 25%) and writing (22% vs 17%)

Content

The day starts with an hour-long assembly for the whole year group. We do a Titanic-themed quiz (harder or easier questions, depending on how much the children have already studied the topic) and then discuss the importance of primary sources: photographs, deck plans and survivor accounts.

Jack Thayer

I tell them about four of the passengers in particular: Jacques Futrelle, John Jacob Astor, Al-Emir Fares Chebab and Jack Thayer. We look at Jack Thayer’s exciting first-hand survival narrative, which influenced Jimmy’s escape story in my own book. After the assembly, I lead a historical fiction workshop with each class. These workshops last either an hour or ninety minutes.

Titanic-themed writing workshop with author Stephen Davies

Over the course of the workshop, I guide pupils in planning their own survival stories set aboard the Titanic. We work on characterization, suspense and show don’t tell. The workshop is punctuated by short bursts of speed-writing by the children. By the end of the day, pupils should be well on the way to completing the first draft of a short story, a task which could perhaps be completed or redrafted for homework.

The day ends with Q & A and then children have the opportunity to share some of their writing. I give plenty of affirmation and encouragement, along with gentle suggestions for improvement. When I do Titanic themed KS2 visits, pupils often end up wanting their own copy of Survivor:Titanic. I am happy to bring copies with me for sale and signing.

Testimonials

Steve’s visit was brilliant; it was a really engaging day that left our Year 6 pupils excited to write.  It was great for them to see the process a real author follows when planning a new story and showed them the importance of knowing their characters!  Steve created a great atmosphere for learning, celebrating everyone’s ideas and pushing them to think more deeply.  The stories produced as a result were excellent and really showed that they’d taken his advice on board. 

Ms Jelley, Year 6 teacher, King’s Park Academy, Bournemouth

Stephen Davies has visited our school twice now, and on both occasions the children have been truly inspired. The topic of the Titanic intrigues the children and Stephen’s presentation, knowledge and explanation of how he researched the historical event to write his novel captivated them. The writing workshop engaged all pupils and enabled them to create their own character and consider ways to bring them to life, which resulted in the children producing some outstanding pieces of writing. They thoroughly enjoyed the day because of Stephen’s inspiring words and the time he spent talking to them about books, authors, their interests and his experiences. Fantastic, amazing and inspiring are some of the words used by our children to describe the day, with many commenting that they are now considering becoming an author in the future.  

Ms Rochelle, Year 6 teacher, Park Hall Junior School, Walsall

We couldn’t recommend Stephen enough. His knowledge of Titanic was extraordinary and the children were engrossed with the stories and knowledge he could share. The aim of the session was to learn more about the Titanic but also to support our children with story writing. Stephen’s workshop was invaluable. The children were very excited to write their stories and use the advice given from Stephen – their stories were out of this world! ​

Ms Foster, Year 6 teacher, Manor Community Primary School, Swanscombe

This letter is a thank you for the amazing assembly and class workshop. I found both sessions really inspiring. I appreciated your picking me to get up and share facts about the Titanic. I felt really proud. Another thing that I enjoyed was the class quiz. It was a shame that our class lost. I enjoyed designing my own character that I could later on use in my own survival story. One of the best parts was transferring my planning into an amazing story.

Kerim, Year 6, King’s Park Academy, Bournemouth

Steve visited our group of Y6 pupils as part of our history topic where we were exploring different sources of evidence linked to the Titanic. During his visit, he exposed the children to a range of primary sources such as deck plans, photos and survivor accounts, introducing the children to life on board the ship. As a result of viewing these sources, the children were able to imagine their own character and setting for a short piece of narrative in the first person. Steve also told the children about a young man on board called Jack Thayer who was the inspiration for his own character ‘Jimmy’. The children were incredibly engaged by Steve’s presentation, enjoying the opportunity to ask further questions about the Titanic and listening to him read a few chapters from his book. 
It was a fantastic day which brought our topic to life and sparked the imagination of our children. We would definitely recommend anyone embarking on this topic to invite Steve in!

Years 6 teachers, Mosborough Primary School

To book a Titanic-themed author visit, please write to Yvonne Lang at Authors Abroad: yvonne@caboodlebooks.co.uk or contact me for further details.

Related post: 8 Children’s Books about the Titanic Disaster

Visiting the KAUST school in Saudi Arabia

At the beginning of April I visited the KAUST school in Saudi Arabia, to encourage secondary school students in their own creative writing. Exciting to find so many keen writers among them, including some who are using Wattpad to work on their own novels.

KAUST (the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) is located an hour’s drive south of Jeddah and occupies 14 square miles of Red Sea coastline. In a row of towering seaside laboratories, scientists pursue cutting edge research in impressively mysterious disciplines such as laser diagnostics, chemical kinetics and supercomputing.

The rest of the campus is tidy and somewhat sterile – hundreds of identical, cream coloured staff houses and insipid crossroads where careful, considerate drivers wait for their traffic light to turn green. On my second day at KAUST I was riding a borrowed moped to the school and ended up hopelessly lost among those bland intersections. Five minutes before my assembly was due to start, I was rescued by a kind librarian, who had come out in her car to search for me.

I love international schools and the KAUST school was no exception. I worked with eighteen classes of warm, funny, globally aware students – all of them wired to tell stories, even (or perhaps especially) the less academic ones. I’ve added a few photos below, as well as a couple of testimonials on my author visits page.

Sincere thanks to Catherine de Levay for rescuing me from the neat streets of Pleasantville and for overseeing an otherwise enjoyable visit. Thanks also to Authors Abroad, who are so good at organizing international escapades for authors and poets.

Author Visit to Kazakhstan

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting two international schools in Kazakhstan: QSI Almaty and QSI Astana. Thank you to staff and students at both schools for making me feel so welcome, and to Authors Abroad for organizing the trip.