7th March 2013 was World Book Day. As usual, the requests came in: “Would you like to visit our school for Book Week...the children would love to meet a real, live author”. This year I visited primaries in Sheffield, Leeds, North Yorkshire and Edinburgh and, now that all the rushing about is over, I’ve time to reflect a bit about what authors can bring to schools.
As well as talking to the children, I do workshops. I spend a lot of time preparing these, and asking myself the question – what extra thing can I, as a writer, bring to the children? What can I provide, that a teacher, however well-trained and inspired, might not?
|....What if your mother was a witch?|
Illustrator: Emma Chichester Clark
|Imagine Jessica's problem....|
So most of my workshops are about finding different ways into a story. Whether it’s about inventing a surprising character (a mermaid who can’t swim, a dragon that can’t breathe fire), looking at a place you know and searching out the things that happen there, or thinking about a “What If...” situation...What if your mother was a witch? (Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher). What if your new dog turned out to be a wolf? (Wolfie).
Some of the most fun I’ve had in schools recently has been creating stories in groups. I start the ball rolling...”What is your character’s name?” “How old are they?” And in a surprisingly short time we will develop a story...sometimes an amazing story, in which I will be astonished by the creativity and imagination all around me. “I think I’ll steal this one for my next book” I tell them (actually quite tempted!)
Best of all are the comments from teachers, about the children who have taken their stories home, or gone on working at them at playtime or in class. Sometimes I’m sent copies of the finished versions!
Emma Barnes's web-site
Emma's latest book is Wolfie - available from Amazon
Wolfie: "funny, clever and satisfying" - Book of the Week, Books for Keeps