Why I love school visits (dedicated to Year 7 at St Laurence School!)

So here’s why I love going into schools to talk about writing and work with students. Only before I tell you I need to say that this blog is dedicated to the fab Year 7s at St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon who’ve put up with me for the last two days. I mean, it’s the end of term and this midget author woman comes in and makes them act and audition for a talent show and all sort of other totally embarrassing things (sorry, kids!) – and you were totally and utterly brilliant! Oh and this blog is particularly for the lovely boys on the back row who told me I hadn’t been blogging enough recently! This is for you, boys!

Anyway, so I love school visits for various reasons. Firstly, it always makes me giggle to be described as a ‘celebrity author’ – I get to feel like Jessie J or Beyonce for a few brief seconds before I remember that I am not a) tall enough b) young enough or c) actually able to sing AT ALL! Still, a girl can dream!

Secondly, I love the honesty of the kids you meet. One girl told me this morning, ‘I started Pop! and I thought it was dead boring at first but now I think it’s brilliant and I’m actually going to finish it!’ She then added, ‘I don’t often finish books so you’re dead lucky!’ What more can I ask for?

I also love the kid who tweeted me from a Physics lesson (seriously – how do you even do that? I am in techno-kid awe!) to say he was reading ‘We Can be Heroes’ under the desk because the lesson was dead boring and he needed to know what happened next or he was going to spontaneously combust.

I think my all time favourite is a boy who said, ‘I’m half way through Pop! and I love it and I know how you should do the ending! I know what should happen!’ He almost had me convinced that I hadn’t actually written the ending – or that I needed to rewrite it so it turned out how he thought! actually woke up in the night in a cold sweat several days later because I’d dreamt I’d forgotten to write the last chapter!

But I think most of all I love seeing how students at different schools interpret my stories. I always turn bits of the book into script and get students acting them out, and I often then get them to write their own scenes using my characters. And I totally LOVE that! In every school there are kids who are amazing actors and it is the most exciting thing in the world as an author to see your characters come to life on stage (seriously, Spielburg, I hope you’re listening – Pop! and We Can be Heroes would make awesome films, man!) And they’re never the same – so I love seeing what different spins students bring to the scenes and the characters – gobby, funny, brash, funny, silly, serious and sad – never the same twice. Which just goes to remind me as an author that everyone interprets stories in different ways. That the way I think things are is no more right than anyone else’s!

There was no chance to do any writing this morning but it’s always amazing on school visits to get students doing a bit of ‘flash fiction’ – I generally come away inspired and depressed at the same time. Inspired by the genius, hilarious brilliance of the ideas kids come up with and depressed cos they’re so darned good! What hope is there for a little writer like me with such great young writers up and coming out there?

Lastly I love the students who get in touch with me afterwards – researching projects (on me! I know – how hilarious!), asking questions they’d been too shy to ask the workshop, wanting advice on writing- and sometimes even sending me their own writing to look at! I love the idea that they may have been inspired to write (and read!) and I always encourage them to enter some fo the amazing writing competitions there are out there!

Oh, I should add that I love the signing bit when I get to hear lots of awesome names to steal and put in books. I met a Willow this morning – that is a name that totally is going into my next book, I can tell you! Oh, and a Zenna in the last school I went to – she’s already in a book!

So, thank you to all the lovely schools who have invited me to come along and speak. You are all awesome and totally inspirational. Here’s hoping I’ve inspired you even a teensy weensy bit as much as you have inspired me!

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