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!
I’m really not sure how it came about. We were having a nice afternoon, quite noisy but productive, and suddenly we found ourselves in a situation with some angry monkeys, that is, our characters did. The children from Years 5 and 6 at Sidcot had created bit-dipsy Cissy the Singer and clumsy-footballer Taylor but through some unfortunate events the protagonists ended up in a rainforest surrounded by a monkey mob. There was obviously only one thing for it, Cissy had to sing them to sleep. Now when we’re making up stories in my workshops I do like to take advantage of all opportunities so surely we needed someone to sing. I had a go. Poor. So I looked to the audience. Luckily there is no lack of confidence amongst the children of Sidcot. By the time we’d wrapped up the story three children had joined me at the front to attempt a version of the putting-angry-monkeys-to-sleep song. Here is the first to take up the challenge:-
She did a grand job. As did the other monkey warblers. It took some determination to get back on track after the singing, but I read an excerpt of Monkey Bars and Rubber Ducks and thankfully all was calm again. After a Q&A where we debated the use of ‘said’ as opposed to ‘remarked’ or ‘exclaimed’ there was book signing, and as can be seen from the pic, the book I’d read from was the most popular choice.
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.