Don’t Spill the Milk artwork

Back in September I enjoyed visiting Bishop MacKenzie in Lilongwe, Malawi. It is now Book Week there and Year 4 have been doing some wonderful paintings inspired by DON’T SPILL THE MILK. Well done, all of you!

If art is your thing, you may also enjoy these ALL ABOARD colouring sheets, drawn by Christopher Corr. Click on an image to download a printable pdf.

colouring1

colouring2

How to Write a Chase Scene

Have you ever walked down a deserted street and had the feeling of being followed?
Have you ever dreamed you were being chased?
Have you ever had to run away from real danger?

In addition to my other school sessions, I now offer an hour-long secondary workshop on how to write an exciting chase scene. This works well with years 7 to 9, particularly boys. The aim is to provide an enjoyable writing experience whilst also imparting useful fiction tips.

The session begins with a three minute montage of chase scenes from films: The Matrix, District 13, Walking with Beasts and the now-famous iguana vs racing snake scene from Planet Earth 2. This stimulates general discussion of chase scenes in fiction: Why do we enjoy them and how do storytellers maximize the excitement of these scenes? I elicit from the students a set of instructions for writing an exciting foot chase. We discuss techniques such as close POV, show-don’t-tell and maintaining pace.

Students work in groups to create a chase scenario for the beginning of a thriller, and then do ten minutes of speed writing, employing the techniques we discussed. Four students read their work aloud. We discuss what is already effective and what could be even better.

For more details on my writing workshops, please email Trevor Wilson at Authors Abroad: trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk

School visits in Lilongwe and Blantyre, Malawi

Just back from a wonderful two week trip to Malawi, organized by Authors Abroad. I visited Lilongwe in the centre of the country and Blantyre in the south. I am very grateful to the five international schools which hosted me there, to the students at Saint Andrews who regaled me with folk tales, and to the Morse family who took me to see the Majete Wildlife Reserve – a truly magical day.

Here are some pics of my time in Malawi. Most of the animal photos are by Tracy Morse.

Blood and Ink at Harbour Front Literary Festival in Hamburg

Just back from Hamburg, where I spent a couple of days at the kind invitation of the Harbour Front Literary Festival. Two readings, one at Aladin (who this summer published Blood & Ink in German) the other at a youth event laid on by the festival. What a wonderful city Hamburg is. Can’t wait to visit again.

Summer in France

I turned forty over the summer, which was a great relief, because I’ve felt forty since I was about fifteen. Even though I am now officially old, the September Back to School period still makes me want to rush out and buy shiny new pencil cases, protractors, set squares and exercise books. I managed to resist the urge this year, and have instead invested in a box of Sharpies, which will enable me to sign books without smudging them. There, you see. Progress.

I spent the summer with my family in Brittany, France. In the afternoons I cycled, swam in the sea and played Pokemon Go. The Pokemon Go was with my six year old daughter, but the truth is, I sometimes play it without her, too. I LOVE that game. Don’t judge.

krabby

In the mornings, I wrote. I managed to write a whole book in a month, which just shows what you can do on a diet of pain au chocolat. The book is set aboard the Titanic, and it’s told from the point of view of a twelve year old boy called Jimmy. I wrote the second half of the book in the drawing room of a very grand chateau, which made it easy to imagine the opulence of the Titanic’s first class state rooms. I would very much like to write in that room all year round, but no, I’m back in London now and back in my cupboard at the top of the stairs.

Chateau_reading_room

Now that September is here, I am myself going back to school. Or rather, back to schools. Getting to visit lots of schools in the UK and around the world is one of the highlights of my job, and plenty of bookings are coming in. If you would like me to visit your school, do get in touch. I am particularly looking forward to visiting Malawi later this month, where I will be touring five schools and no doubt meeting plenty of enthusiastic readers.

Talking of enthusiastic reading, I’m devouring The Borrible Trilogy at the moment, which is a fantasty series set on Battersea High Street where I live. Borribles are outcasts and runaways. They are skinny, scruffy, quick-witted and pointy-eared. They dwell in the shadows of London, living by their wits and a few Borrible laws – the chief one being Don’t Get Caught. Great stuff.

As for picture books, the current favourite in our house is Miss Fox, which my wife says is dark and subversive. It sort of is, but it’s also great fun and my three year old loves it. It was our Book at Bedtime every night for a month, no kidding. I wrote to the author Simon Puttock and the illustrator Holly Swain to tell them so.

Comment below, if you feel the urge. Let me know what you’re reading at the moment, or indeed your Pokemon Go #CatchoftheDay. I will be genuinely interested in both!

Spring and Summer 2016 author visits and Able Writers Days

Author visits in schools inspire children to read widely and to write for pleasure. Here is my school event itinerary for the coming weeks. I won’t add any more events in May or June, but if you would like me to visit your school in July, do get in touch. For rates, testimonials and session content, see Stephen Davies Author Visits, or drop me a line at sahelsteve@gmail.com.

DateSchoolLocationNature of Visit
28 April 2016St Mary's Catholic Primary GillinghamAble Writers Day
3 May 2016Holy Trinity CofE PrimaryMaidenheadAble Writers Day
6 May 2016Burntwood AcademyBalhamWriting Workshop
13 May 2016Burntwood AcademyBalhamWriting Workshop
18 May 2016Whitgift SchoolCroydonTalks
24 May 2016Alveston PrimaryStratford-upon-AvonWriting Workshops
7-8 June 2016Westfield PrimaryWokingAble Writers Day
9 June 2016St Mary's Catholic PrimaryGillinghamAble Writers Day
14 June 2016Ottershaw CofE JuniorOttershawAble Writers Day
15 June 2016TBCWandsworthWriting Workshops
16 June 2016Brentwood PrepBrentwoodAble Writers Day
22 June 2016Stocks Green PrimaryHildenboroughAble Writers Day
23 June 2016Willington Independent PrepWimbledonWorkshops
6 July 2016Monks Orchard PrimaryCroydonAble Writers Day
Claires Court Able Writers
Claires Court Able Writers Yrs 1 & 2

These girls from years 1 and 2 had a good time at a recent Able Writers Day. Here’s their own account of the day.

Dhaka rickshaw ride

The most interesting way to travel in Bangladesh is by cycle rickshaw. Dhaka is known as the ‘rickshaw capital of the world’ and the drivers (pedallers?) are known as riksha-wala (রিকশাওয়ালা).

One of the most striking aspects of these vehicles is the rickshaw art. Starting in the late 1940’s, the faces of movie stars started appearing on the hoods of cycle rickshaws. Since then a huge variety of bold bright designs proliferated. Illiterate rickshaw artists do this work for two to three dollars a day. Author Joanna Kirkpatrick writes:

I consider it “peoples’ art”. It is not necessary to force it into a unitary category as it combines folkloric, movie, political and commercial imagery and techniques. It serves the expression of heart’s desires of the man in the street for women, power, wealth, as well as for religious devotion. Rickshaw art also serves prestige and economic functions for the people who make, use and enjoy it.

Here is a thirty second video sequence I took on Wednesday afternoon – the edited highlights of a journey from the International School of Dakar to the Royal Park Hotel near Banani bridge. My ricksha-wala ‘Geniral’ was given his rickshaw by a New Zealander living in Dhaka – hence the Kiwi themed rickshaw art!

Visit to Solmaid Community School in Dhaka, Bangladesh

I arrived in Bangladesh today, and had the pleasure of visiting Solmaid Community School, a low-cost school run by Bangladeshi teachers for 130 children from their own community, with some support and training provided by expat teachers from the International School of Dhaka. This unique partnership seems to be bearing good fruit. The school currently has a waiting list of over 600 children.

Over the next few days, I shall be doing some talks and workshops for ISD students. But first some sleep – I’ve been awake for thirty hours now, and am feeling as goggly as a goggle-eyed goat.

Happy World Book Day 2016

I spent World Book Day 2016 at the wonderful Brickhouse Primary School in Rowley Regis, Birmingham. They’re saving their costume day for tomorrow, so no Skullduggery or Hermione pics, I’m afraid, but a good time was had anyway. Years 1 and 2 were reading DON’T SPILL THE MILK and then designing an extra spread for the book. One lad came up with the idea that Penda could come face to face with an amazing desert-dwelling spider called a – wait for it – cartwheeling spider! I looked it up as soon as I got back to the hotel, and he’s absolutely correct, such a creature really does exist. It was discovered in Morocco in 2014 and it turns cartwheels to escape from predators. That has totally made my day.

Two or three children chipped in ideas for some text for our new Cartwheeling Spider page, and very well they did too:

cartwheel_text

The other highlight of today was getting this pic from home – my daughters in their own World Book Day costumes. Well done girls!

World Book Day 2016 costumes
Noddy and Merida, ready to go…

World Book Day 2016 author visits for schools

World Book Day (Thursday 3 March) is looming large on the 2016 calendar, and children’s authors all over the country are filling their diaries with lovely schools to visit. An author visit can spark bookish enthusiasm in primary school pupils and launch hitherto reluctant readers on a quest for their next fiction fix. If your school has not yet organized its activities for that week, then now is probably a good time. If you leave it until mid-February then it will be nigh impossible to book any author.

The World Book Day website contains all sorts of useful information about this year’s featured books and how to organize World Book Day activities. On 22 February 2016 there is going to be a bumper book quiz extravaganza – a Guiness world record attempt for the most people participating in simultaneous book quizzes!

Here is my itinerary for the coming weeks. As you can see, I am still available in mid-March for author visits and Able Writers Days. And in mid-April I am planning a series of school events for KS1 and EYFS to celebrate the launch of a new picture book ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD, beautifully illustrated by Christopher Corr.

DateSchoolLocationNature of visit
3 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
8-9 February 2016The Mill Primary AcademyCrawleyAble Writers Days
10 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
11 February 2016St Martin's C of E Primary SchoolBrightonAble Writers Day
22 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
23-24 February 2016Queen Eleanor's Junior SchoolGuildfordAble Writers Days
26 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
29 February 2016Headington SchoolOxfordWorld Book Day sessions
3 March 2016Brickhouse Primary SchoolBirminghamWorld Book Day sessions
4 March 2016Anglesey Primary SchoolBirminghamWorld Book Day sessions
8 March 2016Henwick Primary SchoolElthamAble Writers Day
21-25 March 2016International SchoolsBangladeshAuthor Visit
14 April 2016Macaulay SchoolLambethBOBO ROAD launch
19 April 2016Alveston Primary SchoolStratford-on-AvonAuthor Visit

Ideas for World Book Day 2016 costumes

My daughters’ school (along with thousands of others around the country) encourages children to come into school on World Book Day dressed as one of their favourite children’s book characters. Here are some suggestions for World Book Day 2016 costumes:

  • an enormous cardboard nose (Barry Loser)
  • a scary scull mask (Skull from THE DREAMSNATCHER)
  • a big pile of (fake?) books (The Incredible Book Eating Boy)
  • little horns on a hidden headband (Jinx from the wonderful D’EVIL DIARIES)
  • a pantomime unicorn costume (I Believe in Unicorns)
  • any one of a hundred fantastic Japanese monsters from Jason Rohan’s SWORD OF KUROMORI and sequels

Or perhaps you could take inspiration from one of these prize-winning costumes at Mudeford Junior School in Dorset. My personal favourites are the Demon Dentist (back right) and the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, complete with enormous pocket watch.

World Book Day 2016 costume ideas

If you have a good idea for a World Book Day 2016 activity or costume, please do share it in the comments below!