Children's Author

Tag: School Visits (page 1 of 1)

Cogheart Summer Events

I haven’t posted anything for a while on these blog pages, because I have been so busy writing book three. There have actually been a few things I wanted to blog about to do with writing, but I haven’t had the time, yet. Hopefully soon, however.

In the mean time here are some pictures from Cogheart and Moonlocket events that took place over the summer – June and July mostly as I have tried to keep the whole of August free for writing.

On the 5th of July it was the Branford Boase Awards, which honours editors and writers together, and it was lovely to be there with my amazing editor Rebecca Hill, who on the same day was one of the Rising Stars at the Bookseller Awards. Here are a few pictures of the evening, congratulations to the winners, MG Leonard, Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leshon. The best thing about the evening is that there’s also an award for young writer – some of their fantastic short stories were read out – and at the end of the evening they receive copies of all the nominated books, so afterwards you get to meet them when they come up to ask for your signature.

In the last weeks of July I had a couple of final school events. Here are a few picture from my visit to King Edward’s Girls School in Birmingham on the 6th of July, where the year 7 girls had made lots of amazing artwork based on Cogheart as part of their end of year project…

On the 10th of July I visited Ashfield School in Kirkby where the Year 8s were doing a whole day of Cogheart themed events, I went and talked with them all and signed some books. And they had even made some airships…

Then on the 12th of July I was at the Warwickshire Junior Book Awards with Ross Welford who wrote Time Travelling with a Hamster, and Sue Durrant who wrote Little Bits of Sky. Congratulations to Sue, who won the award. It was fun day, especially seeing Ross’s magic act, and meeting all the students afterwards, who came to get their books signed.

On the 24th of July I was at Brentwood Literary Festival organised by the lovely Natasha of Chicken and Frog Bookshop and I got to meet some more readers and teach a little bit of animation at the end of my talk, which I haven’t done for a while!

Finally on the third of August I had afternoon tea with the winner of the Authorfy  Cogheart afternoon tea competition Megan Nichols and her friends, as well as Authorfy organisers Mel and Emily. Megan is an avid reader and book blogger. It was a great fun afternoon – thanks Mel and Emily for organising everything – and you can read all about that day, because Megan has written a post all about it on her Munchkin Megan book blog here… 


Cogheart events with the PopUp Festival

This year – on the 22nd of June, quite a long time ago now, but that’s how I roll with the blogging – I took part in the PopUp Festival

The Popup Festival is celebration of reading, writing and visual storytelling, taking place annually in 500 classes in schools from regions of the UK with the greatest literacy needs. Every participating class, from nursery to year 9, is matched with an exciting, engaging book, and provided with a set to work with over a period of six weeks. Then, over two weeks in June, each class meets the writer or illustrator of their book for a creative workshop.

Genius Cogheart comic – of the moment Lily and Robert first meet.

Thanks to PopUp and the organiser Saul, I was able to visit schools I might not ordinarily. The best thing about it was the kids in the classes had ALL read Cogheart, or had it read to them in class, and they were ALL engaged with it and excited to meet me. And because they had been so engaged with the book recently, their questions in the sessions were very unique and interesting.

The two schools I visited were Priorslee Academy and Coalbrookdale & Ironbridge in Telford and they were both fantastic sessions. The kids had made artwork and done projects around Cogheart which are always amazing to see, and had great questions – even about specific characters and events in the story – that they had prepared beforehand.  Coalbrookdale & Ironbridge School had even made some fabulous book trailers. Here are a few pictures from various student’s gorgeous work around the book…

There are some PopUp Resources for schools, featuring books from their other events here

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World Book Week 2017

One of the most AMAZING things about World Book Day is seeing pictures of children ( and some teachers) dressed as the characters from your book. It is so strange that these imaginary people, who for a long time only existed in your head, have suddenly become the favourites of all these young readers. Here are a few of the pictures that were sent to me of various World Book Day costumes. As you can see Malkin comes out on top in terms of who kids like to dress as.

Cogheart World Book Day Outfits

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I have also had a very busy bout of school visits around World Book Week itself, and dotted across the few weeks afterwards. At the same time I have been putting the finishing touches to the copy-edits of Moonlocket and then checking the proofs of that book – which has been hectic to say the least. The book has in fact gone to print today – just in time for the release date. But the Cogheart events that have been wedged in around it have been a lot of fun!

Over the month I have visited ten schools, and I must have done about fifteen talks altogether, because at some schools I did smaller sessions for single classes. I feel quite comfortable now presenting the smaller thirty to sixty sessions. They can be very enjoyable as they are more casual and chatty than larger groups and because there’s a chance in those workshop sized events to do some flip book animation with the kids. But to do three of those smaller talks in a row is tiring. I honestly don’t know how teachers manage a whole day of it! Some teachers and classes who I didn’t get the chance to visit sent me fantastic photographs of the Cogheart inspired activities they’d been up to with their classes too…

 Cogheart Class Activities

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Amongst the ten school I did get to visit, I found myself on occasion doing much bigger events than I’d done before, ranging from 150-200 students. At first this was nerve-wracking, but by the third go I had tweaked the content for that size of audience and felt much happier with the flow of the event. I think it helped that I had a microphone for that final large talk. It really made a difference to how confident I felt about performing. The kids at all the larger talks have all been lovely of course, and a big part of it is getting used to the sea of faces you encounter!

In the end all the different types of talk are worth it, because afterwards you get to meet your readers, discuss their favourite different types of stories, and hear about their enthusiasm for your book. And if they do love the book they will tell you in no uncertain terms how marvellous it is, which is the best thing ever to hear. Here are some pictures from the events of the past few weeks, thanks kindly to the teachers who took them, and to everyone who sent the photographs used in this post.

World Book Week School events

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Cogheart October 2016 Roundup

I was totally going to write this post a week ago but, what with Halloween and Guy Fawkes night, I didn’t get around to it. Anyway, now all that’s over, here it is…

A Cogheart update for October, where I had a whole week crammed full of talks and events, but before that, at the beginning of the month, I even managed to make it to a couple of other people’s events…

The Lost and Found Tour with SCBWI debut writers Sue Wallman, Olivia Levez, Eugene Lambert, Patrice Lawrence, Kathryn Evans – talking about their books and experiences as debuts had me nodding along with agreement. It was so good to hear others talk about the somewhat overwhelming experience of being a debut author, and how they’ve dealt with it. After that I went to my friend Richy K Chandler’s event for the final issue of his Lucy the Octopus comic book, where he and his band performed tracks about Lucy and her band Lammington Fuzz, in a comic book launch that was also a Lucy the Octopus musical!

Then, in the middle of the month, I was at Betram’s Book Fair in Manchester -which is a book fair for independent book shops – talking about Cogheart. I had to get up and give a speech in front of a room full of independent booksellers. There was probably more than 100 people and I had to speak without my powerpoint as a prompt which was something I’ve never done before. It was a little scary, but fun, in the end I just read out most of the speech because I was nervous, but afterwards lots of people came over to the Usborne stand to talk about the book, and get me to sign their personal copies of the book, so it must’ve gone OK.

The next day, with Liz Scott, I went around some Waterstones shops in Manchester and Liverpool to sign lots of Cogheart books and meet booksellers, before heading off home in the afternoon.

After that I had two days of fab Cogheart school events that same week, the first on Wednesday 19th of October with students from Bridlewood Primary at Isambard School Library as part of the Swindon Youth Festival organised by librarian Stella Rogers. Then on Thursday the 20th with the students from Edwards Hall at Southend Festival at Southend Library, organised by librarian Anne Bonham. Both sets of students had some great questions, and created some fabulous robot animations! There was even an article about my visit in the Swindon Advertiser

Finally on Saturday the 22nd I was at #YAShot an amazing YA Festival in Uxbridge organised with aplomb by author Alexia Casale. My event was a conversation with Kiran Millwood Hargrave called The Rescuers – children rescuing adults, and we had a great chat about Kiran’s book The Girl of Ink and Stars and Cogheart, as well as telling a few wacky anecdotes about writing and our childhoods. YAShot is such a fabulous day to go to – I went last year as a punter – because you get to see so many different authors – ya and mg – talking about their own and other people’s work and it’s totally inspiring. As a visitor and an author I have seen it from both sides now and the organisers and volunteers and authors are all so friendly, it really is a brilliant day out. Some of the highlights of the day for me were Mel Salisbury and Julia Gray talking about Gods, Monsters and villains in Ya Fiction, and an amazing panel on historical fiction with Catherine Johnson, Tanya Landman, Katherine Woodfine and Lydia Syson, called a history of violence, but that touched just as much on diverse representations in YA historical fiction…

So that just about sums it up for October, but this month on Saturday the 12th of November (2016) I’m going to be at my first steampunk event:  in Leicester Space Museum. I will be talking all about Cogheart, zoetrope and animations – so if you fancy it come and say hi… 

Cogheart Wolverhampton and Birmingham events

Thursday was a day of fantastic events in Wolverhampton and Birmingham…

On the way up to the events, I went to check if Cogheart was in WHSmith, and it had made the chart… Right next to Awful Aunty!

I arrived in Wolverhampton for first event, which was as Tettenhall College Prep School, and met with Alesha from Usborne. At the school we got to meet the lovely school librarians Debbie and Sue, and had some school dinners – pasta meatballs, and bright pink jelly. Then it was off to the library and the main hall,  an old red brick building that reminded me a bit of Hogwarts from the outside. The hall has a beautiful stained glass window that looks a bit like a big colourful bookshelf. The talk was really great fun, the kids joined in with lots of questions and answers and we even did a little bit of animation – which nearly worked. Afterwards we sold lots of books, and I got to chat to the children about their favourite books…


Then in the afternoon it was off to Birmingham, where Alesha is originally from. She took me on a whistlestop tour of the sights of her hometown, before we ended up at Waterstones for the evening event…


A talk with Katherine Rundell and Anna James. We were a little early so we got to have a coffee and looked about the shop. Then I met Anna and Katherine and we went off to do the event, Anna and the audience asked some really good questions about both books, and it was so interesting to hear how Katherine wrote The Wolf Wilder – which is a beautiful book – as well as to get the chance to talk about my writing process and inspiration. Afterwards we did another signing and met some more lovely readers, and there were at least three Lily’s who bought Cogheart!

Shadowing a school visit with Robin Stevens


A while ago I asked Robin Stevens if I could come and watch one of her school visits and she kindly agreed to take me along to shadow an event at Thomas’s School in Kensington.

I met Robin outside the school entrance on the sole nice spring day of the week. As we were shown through into the library we passed the dining room where one of the girls, sat by the door, mimed murder and books to her friends at the next table so they would know Robin had arrived!

Outside the library we spotted a big noticeboard featuring upcoming author visit, showing Robin and Abi Elphinstone – another fab middle grade author. Inside the library, above the bookshelves, I noticed some amazing murals of The BFG and Harry Potter. The nice librarian, Miss Barker, offered us both a cup of tea and explained to Robin that two of the girls in her class were big fans of the books and had formed their own Detective Society, naming themselves after Daisy and Hazel. Soon the rest of their friends had joined in as all the other characters, which was amazing to hear! Robin said she’d spoken to a few of the girls via email and they’d told her how excited they were about the event.

Then it was time for the talk in the main hall, I sat in the front row of the audience and managed to snap a few pictures of Robin while she spoke about the books. Robin managed to integrate a teaser for each mystery with telling the kids about her own life at boarding school – and how, like Hazel, she felt different growing up as something of foreigner in England. Interactive bits and questions and answers were peppered through the talk to keep it interesting, and at the end Robin got the kids to suggest a victim and setting for their own murder mystery. Then they came up with suspects and a solution.

Afterwards, at the signing back in the school library, it was lovely to see  how enthused the detective society gang and the rest of the students were about the books. I think that was the most inspiring part of the day: how excited the kids who’d read the books were to meet Robin and talk to her about the world and characters they truly loved. In terms of putting together a talk for my book it has definitely set the bar high, and given me a lot to think about!

Pirates, Pugs, School Visits, and Power Posing – my take on SCBWICON15

Two weeks ago I went to Winchester for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators UK conference – SCBWI, or Scooby, as it’s known.

It’s a brilliant event, with loads going on for both published and pre-published authors. This was my second year attending and, whereas last year I was a newbie, now I’m nearly a published author with my book Cogheart coming out with Usborne in 2016.

The conference weekend is a chance to catch a wealth of great speakers like David Fickling, Philip Reeve and Sarah Mcintyre, and Jonny Duddle, plus attend round-table sessions chaired by various lovely Scooby authors. You can also get a crit from fellow writers, or from agents and editors, but mainly the conference is a chance to meet friends old and new and discuss all things children’s-writing.



Scbwi Pirate Party 2015 – AARRRR!

This year there were so many opportunities to do that, including the brilliant Pirate Party on the Saturday night – an excuse to dress up in the latest skull & crossbones fashion and pull pirate faces, if that’s your kind of thing. But coming away from the conference two events stood out for me:


Reeve & Mcintyre in their Pugs of the Frozen North Costumes

The first was the Author Keynote by Philip Reeve and Sarah Mcintyre who, as you can see, are both masters of disguise. During their speech they demonstrated the many games, songs, drawing and stories they pack into school visits, and gave tips on how to create exciting events. There was a great game of Snakes and Ladders with both halves of the auditorium trying to win success and the legendary book shaped swimming pool.

But for me, the biggest take away from their lively and hilarious presentation was about the importance of moving around the stage, and making things colourful, energetic and fun.

Philip even advised authors to stand to read at panel events because it surprises the audience and makes you a memorable panelists. (Unless, that is, all the other panellists copy your move and do the same!)

The second stand-out session was the School Visits Demo with Mo O’Hara, Sarah Grant, and Steve Hartley. All three authors talked about issues you might encounter setting up school visits, as well as the fun of presenting your book to an enthusiastic audience of kids. All three performed a part of their school presentation –  big, inspiring performances that featured, among other things: giant alien underpants, superhero capes, zombie goldfish, a staring contest, and interactive storytelling exercises. Again the take away was: own the stage, make things fun, interactive, energetic and varied.

School Visits Demo

School Visits Demo- Mo O’hara adjudicating the mass stare-out contest- Photo credit George Kirk

The image that sticks in my mind, and seems to perfectly illustrate this ethos, was Steve, arms folded and chest thrust out, posing as Superman in his child-sized super-cape.

A few days after the conference I told a friend about these two great sessions. Her job involves speaking at a lot of corporate events, and she agreed that being confident and energetic is just as important, if not more so than what you have say. Then she mentioned this awesome TED talk by Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who you are. It’s all about Power Posing for confidence, and essentially a different take on all those presentation ideas.

With all this, and the many other amazing weekend sessions, I am beginning to feel much more prepared for the public side of being a published author, and I will definitely be back at #Scbwicon next year, and hopefully be part of their big author launch for 2016.


Scbwi mass book launch – Photo credit Candy Gourlay