I’ve had a busy Spring. Since half-term I’ve visited Avon House, Norwood Green Junior, Oaklands Community, Otterton, Westbury Park, Holymead, Fairfield, St. Luke’s and George Mitchell schools. I’ve met hundreds of children and made up dozens of stories, each one different. I’ve had one school dinner, one attack of the giggles with a girl I nicknamed Chortle, one unexpected assembly and several parking issues. I’ve had a tour of a school eco-garden, read some Year 6 stories using diary entries to provide structure and called a Deputy Head ‘Big Man’ to the delight of his charges. I’ve driven too many miles to count, eating Hobnobs and listening to Radio 4, and been late once and early every other time. I’ve worn mauve, grey and denim dresses and a holey cardi in a very cold school hall.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Kingsbridge to celebrate Book Week. I’m meeting all the children in Key Stage 2 and we’re going to be noisy and creative and laugh, I hope. All I need to do is pack my dustbin. Chameleon is out of favour so I think it’s Yellow Duck’s turn.
It was lovely to go back to St. Anne’s Park Primary and see the Year 4s that I worked with last year. It was as though we were old friends. I spent a whole morning working with 25 children on openings, dialogue and endings. All of the children, even those for whom it was tricky, summoned the courage to stand at the front and read their lines aloud. Each child developed their own story using one of the Tribe characters from my books. The only given was that the Triber had to go missing, the rest was up to them. I really enjoyed the morning as there was less frantic hurrying than there is in the usual TM Alexander storymaking workshops!
It’s been a busy couple of days. I was very pleased yesterday to go and see the wonderful teacher that is Bridget Norman in her new school. I met two Year 6 classes and we had a good time making up characters to star in our story. We had a goth, and a punk with green hair and piercings. It’s a non-uniform school, as you can see, and had a happy vibe. I read from the Tribe book, Monkey Bars and Rubber Ducks, and then in answer to a question told the true and tragic story of how my Olympic hopes were dashed by a catastrophic knee injury. I left out the gore as once before I went on a bit too much and a child had to leave the room!
After a meeting at my children’s school I finally managed to complete the edit of my next book and sent it off to my agent at David Higham. Always a good feeling.
Today I drove down the M5 in the pouring rain to a very pretty school in Wellington that oozed calm. It was unbelievably quiet. I watched the KS1 children leave assembly in complete silence, smiling, but quiet. Whatever it is they do in that school to make it so tranquil, they should bottle it. I saw Years 3/4 first and was pleased to discover they could make a noise when requested. They were excellent story makers, used all the information about the characters and laughed at my jokes. Result!
Years 5/6 came next and we started off a story with a chameleon and a pipe. It’s not easy to know where to go from there. Luckily there were hands up every second of the hour we spent together so they sorted it out themselves. Despite being in the same school the two workshops were very different in flavour. The younger ones wanted to get it right, and the older ones wanted laughs or destruction.
So, three workshops in two days. In the Q&A at the end, children always ask me which of my books is my favourite. Like my workshops, they’re all my favourites.