One of the best things about being an author is when children write to you about your books, or send you drawings of the characters. The other week I received a whole batch of amazing letters and art from St Mary the Mount RC Primary School telling me how much they enjoyed Cogheart. They had each done some drawings and written a fact sheet about mechanicals for one of their school projects. You can see some of them here, there’s a lovely drawing of Mrs Rust which I think is my favourite! And I even learnt some interesting facts about mechanicals from them… For example, did you know you can apparently cut a mechanical in half and both halves will go on living!! A bit like the Terminator! Also that some mechanicals and mechanimals run away from their owners because they are unhappy, but then they go rusty and run down and stop working. Thanks to all the pupils at St Mary the Mount for your lovely letters and inspirational drawings and thoughts on mechanicals. I hope you got my reply?
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
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
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.
It’s been a crazy busy September launching Cogheart. Although I managed to write a few blogposts – all about the book launch and the Waterstones Birmingham event with Katherine Rundell I intended to write a lot more about what’s been going on in separate blogposts. Unfortunately I just haven’t had the time, so here instead is a round up of events, blogger Q&As, and reviews of the book that I’ve managed to put together from various tweets of September….
Talking about the book with Jo Clarke’s ChatterBooks Group
Making zoetrope strips
Making zoetrope strips
Making zoetrope strips
Talking about the book with Jenny Hawke’s Chatterbooks Group
Reading from Cogheart
Making zoetrope animation strips
Playing some animation strips in the zoetrope with Anne’s group
Whitchurch Primary Chatterbooks group made this fabulous Cogheart Mural
Whitchurch Primary Chatterbooks group made this stunning Malkin
Notre Dame School made this beautiful Cogheart Display
One of the girls at Notre Dame even drew this stunning rendition of the cover
One of the girls at Notre Dame even made this super Malkin model – he’s been at the chickens!
Signing books and making zoetrope animation strips in Twickenham
Imagination in writing
Reading from Cogheart
Over the last two weeks I have gone from doing my very first school visit, with the lovely Jo Clarke and her Chatterbooks group at Whitchurch C of E School, to being a veteran of FIVE sessions! In the penultimate one at Whitheath Junior School, I even talked in front of the whole of years five and six, which felt like a lot of children… But I was helped SO MUCH by Gita Ralleigh’s brill Chatterbooks group who gave an introduction to the book, complete with costumes and scripted outline, and then asked a whole lot of fabulous questions during the rest of the session.
At points over the two weeks it was a little nerve-wracking. Just in those five sessions, I already feel like I have experienced every technology hitch possible. And that is thanks to the dreaded apple laptop – whose ports, programmes, and even a specially formatted usb stick that was supposed to be Windows compatible – were a total nightmare with the school’s PC systems. But on the plus side that meant I had a chance to do the talk twice from printouts, the second time with random slides popping up at intervals to help me out. I have also learnt that I need more props to combat the ever temperamental powerpoint technology.
Two things which went down very well, were a film clapper board that I took in for the last couple of talks, and my zoetrope. A zoetrope is a Victorian animation toy. The Chatterbooks groups were quite small and so I was able to do some drawing with them, making animation strips and then playing them back in the zoetrope straightaway to see how they looked. This was so much fun, and the children came up with such creative stuff. It’s a shame it would be difficult to do such a hands on workshop with bigger group, because it went down so well as an interactive element. I know I’ll be able to use that part of the talk for bookshops or small venues in the future, but for September I feel like I want to devise something interactive that will work for larger school visits as well.
All the Chatterbooks groups have been a joy to meet. And they have all said fab things about the book. Plus the librarians who run the Chatterbooks groups at the schools and libraries – Jo Clarke, Anne Thompson, Jenny Hawke, Gita Ralleigh Elisabetta Tosi – were all absolutely fantastic, and I am totally in awe of their enthusiasm to get their groups reading. Over all it has been so much fun, and a chance to hone my talk with small groups who have already read the book and loved it!