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!

Fulani folk tales about Rabbit, Hyena and Crocodile

One of my favourite things to do in Burkina Faso was to visit remote cattle-herding settlements and listen to folk stories told by ingenious Fulani men, women and children. Many of these stories were ‘trickster’ tales, where a small cunning rabbit succeeds in outwitting larger, fiercer creatures. The downfall of the big creatures tended to be provoked not just by the rabbit’s cleverness, but by their own greed, pride or anger.

Crocodile and Rabbit in Fulani folk story

Last September my new book for schools came out. Published in the Harper Collins ‘Big Cat’ series, it is a collection of four traditional Fulani tales in which the wily rabbit pits his wits against Hyena and Crocodile. It is illustrated by Steve Stone, who has brought the tales wonderfully to life.

new book of Fulani folk tales

Fulani folk tale workshop

This year I am offering Year 4 workshops based on the book. The format of the session is as follows: we start with a quiz that highlights the importance of the ‘trickster’ figure in ancient and modern storytelling, from Anansi to Puck to Robin Hood to Bart Simpson. Then we use concrete examples to tease out general characteristics of trickster figures. Finally, children work in twos to create and present their own trickster characters. This workshop is a great introduction to stories from other cultures. See my school visits page for details, or write to me at sahelsteve@gmail.com.

Able Writers Day pupil self-publishes debut

inspired_by_Able_Writers_Day

I met Parris at a recent Able Writers Day. This Year 6 girl had a great imagination and a real feel for dialogue. Over the course of the day, she learned some techniques for building interesting characters and she applied them cleverly in her own work. By the end of the day, she had the makings of a brilliant short story, and won some ‘Goggle-Eyed Goats’ postcards for her trouble.

That was at least a month ago. This morning I got a message from Parris’s mum, to say that Parris was really inspired by the Able Writers Day and has just finished her first book, a gripping ‘memoir’. I am totally thrilled to hear this, and wish Parris all the best in her onward writing journey. It’s exciting when a young person gets fired up about any sort of creativity, especially story writing.

I read Parris’s book and enjoyed it so much, I gave it a five star review on Amazon. Here’s a link to Parris’s book and my review: From Parris to London

Able Writers Days are coordinated by Authors Abroad, in association with Brian Moses.

The breakout novel and writerly obsession

I used to obsess about writing the breakout novel. ‘When I write The Breakout,’ I used to think, ‘then I’ll stop drinking instant coffee and start drinking real coffee.’ I was living in the future, and obsessing about the idea of what my legacy as a writer would be.

Which is ironic, because my favourite poem has long been Ozymandias by Percy Shelley. ‘I met a traveller from an antique land, who said Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert…’ The poem conveys the fleeting nature of human power, fame and achievement. ‘Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.’ Too right. (I used to recite the poem to my daughter Liberty when she was a colicy six-week old, to try and pacify her. Probably just made it worse.)

So imagine my delight to find these colossal disembodied fingers at the Amman Citadel this morning. Along with one sorry-looking elbow, they are all that remains of a thirteen metre high statue of (probably) Hercules. I am so grateful to Shannon O’Donnell for her permission to reproduce her wonderful pictures here.

photo by Shannon O'Donnell
photo by Shannon O’Donnell

Beside the fingers of Hercules stands the Jordan Archaeological Museum. It’s full of treasures. For me the highlight was seeing the mindmeldingly ancient Ain Ghazal statues, the oldest statues ever made (circa 7000 – 10000 BCE). Some have one head, some have two. The significance of the two-headed ones is not known. I just love their expressions.

photo by Shannon O'Donnell
photo by Shannon O’Donnell

As I walked back down Citadel Hill, I remembered STACKS, a David Harper art installation, and perhaps a literary equivalent to the fingers of Hercules. Stacks is a homage to trees and to the environment, but it also reminds me that ‘of the making of many books there is no end’. The grass grows around the bookshelves, as it does around the fingers of Hercules.

stacks

Let’s live and love and write while we still can. And if the ‘breakout novel’ never comes, that’s okay! Hercules and Ozymandias can testify that breakout isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be anyway.