What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'author talks')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 7 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
<<February 2017>>
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: author talks, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 20 of 20
1. On school visits....a school librarian's perspective from Dawn Finch

When I first started doing author visits as a published author, it wasn't really new to me. I’d been doing them for a very long time, but it had always been from the other side of the table (so to speak) as I spent ten years as a school librarian. During that time I’d learned a lot from the good visits, and even more from the bad ones. One day I'll blog about those, but only if I'm so rich and famous that the people concerned won't be able to afford to come after me!
 I’m the vice-chair of the London and South East School Libraries Group and early in 2014, we had our annual LibMeet. Part of this day was taken up with a workshop about author visits. Money is tight in schools and, even though librarians know how inspiring an author visit can be, they find it hard to convince their leadership team to stump up the costs. One of the key things that came out of this discussion is that whilst a freebie is great, it’s genuinely not the deciding factor. All of the librarians said that they had turned down free offers from authors that they felt had little or no merit or who looked “poor quality”. It was very reassuring to discover that they are looking for quality and will pay if they can convince their head teachers and business managers that it is worth it.
When librarians gather....not a "ssshh" in the house!

So, what are they looking for? All of the librarians agreed that they were looking for pretty much the same things from an author visit. Some of these points will probably seem completely obvious to you, but I hope that you find at least a couple of useful things!
Before the visit and from the first approach….
·         An author who knows the school and has taken the time to find out the librarian’s name.  
It sounds like a minor point but every librarian liked it when an author emailed them in person, and mentioned something about the school.
·         A package.
It sounds obvious but a clear package for your visits can make you stand out. School librarians get dozens of emails and flyers each year offering author visits and most are clearly sent out as a bulk email and are ignored. Please put the price on, and include your expenses in the amount. All of the librarians said that they prefer seeing a clear package and would be far less likely to follow up an author who is cagey about the price as it creates awkwardness all round!
·         An author who offers something to contribute to lesson plans.
Time is short in schools and they don’t know your books as well as you do. If you can offer some ideas for lessons relating to your books then they are more likely to invite you in. Think about the key curriculum areas and refer to them in your plans. If your books don’t tie in to specific curriculum areas then look at PSHE (personal, social, health and emotional) issues instead.
·         A pre-visit pack
Librarians are very keen to have the children prepared for author visits and appreciate linked materials in advance. If you can spring for a copy of your latest book as well as some publicity material that can often be the clincher for a booking. If you are not able to send a copy of your book, extracts are appreciated. (Don’t forget to check with the librarian which extract they have read so that you don’t repeat it on the day!) Offer this material in both disc and email format. Include a pre-order form for your books in this pack so that the librarian can tweak, add school branding, and send it straight out.
·         Competitions
As part of your visit offer a competition – a free signed copy of your book for a story competition is usually the favoured one among both children and teachers. Offer to host the winning story on your blog or website, and interview the winner. If you include the details of the competition as part of your package the librarian can start that off with the English department long before you arrive.
On the day…
Feel the fear...and do it anyway!

During the visit the librarians and literacy coordinators are looking for key things that will make them consider the visit useful and purposeful (“purposeful” being one of Ofsted’s favourite words!)
They are looking for an author who…
  • ·         relates to students the importance of good and accurate research and how they accomplish it
  • ·         communicates with the students well and in an unpatronising way
  • ·         talks about the work of other authors, and about books that were an influence in their lives
  • ·         is able to show that they got where they are by working hard, and that working hard is enjoyable and rewarding
  • ·         is able to do a presentation with or without technology (not all schools can afford it)
  • ·         gives a presentation that is lively, engaging and witty (even for more serious books they are still looking for lively performances)
  • ·         shares the hardships of their lives with the pupils in an appropriate way (I won’t write here about the author I once booked who shared way too much….!)
  • ·         talks about other media and not just books. They like you to talk about comics, movies, plays, blogs, social media – not all children want to talk about books
  • ·         gives the same level of performance to ten children as to a hundred...or more.

Things that the librarians found helped the visit along…
A little bit of bribery helps! Authors who had badges, bookmarks or little treats as rewards for asking a “good” question, coaxed much better questions out of the pupils and were remembered for longer.
Bribes (ahem..sorry) incentives.
Repeat the question. Most children are a bit mumbly and confused when asking a question and often can’t be heard by the rest of the room. If you repeat their question loud enough for the other children to hear you can tidy it up a bit, and make sure that no one else is sitting with their hand up and the same question in their head!
Trying to be cool does not help at all! The “cringe factor” can be the death knell of an author visit. Children have an expectation of mild eccentricity (ahem – speak for yourselves!) with authors and the ones who are a little like that are generally better received.
Keep moving. Make use of the stage or the area that you are presenting in and keep moving about. Young people drift off easily and if you keep moving, you are more likely to keep them engaged. Nothing wrong with being a little bit of a windmill at times!
Involve the pupils. Get them up to demonstrate something, or to be dressed up, or to wear a hat or hold a sign – anything that makes them part of the show will get all of the others sitting up and paying close attention. (I have a monk’s habit and pick a child to dress up, they love it, even very surly teens)
It's a bad habit, and I've no one to blame but myself.

After the visit…
"sooooo excited!" I love this picture.
Stay engaged after the visit, offer to help with a short story competition, or be interviewed for the school website or magazine. A few days after the visit (or when you send your invoice in) email the head teacher and thank them for inviting you to the school. (You’d be amazed how few authors say thanks after an event. I know you were working, but if you enjoyed it, please say so!) This is also a good time to email the librarian and send them a “further reading” list of other authors who write in a similar field to you.  You might also like to create an A4 poster of the books that influenced you so that the librarian can print this and display it in the library. After a successful author visit the pupils want to know more about the author and a couple of posters of “what influenced me” and “my favourite books” always go down well.
If a visit doesn't go very well it can often be saved after the event by an author being lovely and by staying engaged. I remember one visit when the author was not very well and he was obviously exhausted and not properly engaged in the process, and the children just didn't click with him. After the event he apologised and we did some online interviews and he sent some hilarious photos of him reading the children’s stories and in the end it worked out rather well – despite a terribly awkward visit!
Now, I can hear some of you screaming from the back, “what?! I don’t have time for all that! You've lost your mind woman!” Well, that is your choice of course and, if you are getting masses of bookings and repeat visits, then clearly you are already giving what people want. If you are GREAT BIG NAME, then you will be booked anyway and are possibly drowning in offers, but not all of us can claim that.
The bottom line is that librarians talk to each other. Most school librarians work alone and so to survive (and stay sane!) they have an extensive virtual network. There are almost a thousand members of CILIP SLG, and that's only a fraction of the school librarians in the country – and they all connect through various closed forums. If you are giving a fun, engaging, lively and purposeful visit then it will come up on the networks – and the same goes for a visit that doesn't go as well! The forums are often buzzing with “I've had an email from Miss Doobery Whatsit, children’s and YA author, anyone know what she’s like before I book?”
If you pitch it well, and give the librarians and schools what they need then your ears will burn as the forums light up with positive comments about you, and your email will run hot with bookings, and everyone wants that!

Written by Dawn Finch - School Library Consultant and author of Brotherhood of Shades

0 Comments on On school visits....a school librarian's perspective from Dawn Finch as of 1/9/2015 2:54:00 PM
Add a Comment
2. The wonderful magic of author visits - C.J. Busby

Whenever I'm lucky enough to be invited to schools to give talks or run creative writing workshops, I always enjoy the visits, and get a fantastic boost from them. But it can sometimes be difficult for a lone author to gauge the usefulness or value of what they do on a school visit - after all, you rarely get the chance to hear what the children really thought of you. Are they just being polite when they say it was great? Are the teachers rolling their eyes behind your back? When they tell you about the last author visit they had, and how inspired the children were, are they drawing unfavourable comparisons? Are you really doing it right? So when I got the chance to volunteer as a steward at the Appledore Festival Schools Programme, near where I live, I jumped at it. I could get to sit at the back, and watch another author do their stuff! I could learn how it looks from the other side of the room, see some examples of what works, check out what other people do.

I'm so glad I did. Because what I discovered is that author visits are magical, wonderful and amazing, and there are probably almost as many ways of being magical, wonderful and amazing as there are authors. Both the authors I shepherded around north Devon were fantastic, and they connected brilliantly with their audiences - but they both did it in almost opposite ways.

John Dougherty is an old hand - he does a lot of author visits, and he's written a lot of books. His latest series - about brother and sister Stinkbomb and Ketchup Face and their adventures foiling the dastardly plans of a group of no-good scheming badgers - is pure silliness in the best tradition of Roald Dahl and Mr Gum.

John had the children rolling on the floor (literally) with his special brand of humour, guitar playing, singing and interactive mayhem. His talks were high octane fun, but he had some very important things to say as well - things like: you are all authors, all of you, because you've all written or made up stories, and that's what being an author is. Things like: there are no right or wrong books to read - read what you like, see if you enjoy it, try something else if you don't. Don't worry about people saying it's 'too old' or 'too young' or 'for boys' or 'for girls'. As he pointed out, no one shouts at a 70 year old reading a magazine saying, 'You're too old to read that! You're seventy! It's too easy for you! You should be reading Aristotle. In the original Greek!'

Lucy Jones is much nearer the beginning of her writing career - she's published two books, and she's currently working on a new one.  She doesn't play the guitar, or sing, and she didn't have the children rolling on the floor. But she did have them equally spell-bound.

Lucy talked about her early writing - and even read out a short story she'd written when she was seven, with her original illustrations projected on a powerpoint. She talked about the books she'd loved as a young reader herself, and the trials and hurdles of becoming a published author. And she read some extracts from her books - spooky, spine-chilling extracts which had the kids open-mouthed, wanting to hear the next bit...

She talked to them about how to write, how to build up ideas and believable characters, and she gave them a challenge - to come up with their own character, based on a picture. The twist was, that the character they were inventing was dead - they had to decide how he had died, and what sort of ghost teacher he would make, in the ghost school where her new story was set.

What struck me, sitting at the back, was just how excited the children were by the presence of an actual author - someone who'd written a real book! And how intrigued they were to hear just simple things, like how books are made, how the covers are designed, how long it takes an author to write a book, where do authors get their ideas from?! It was immediately obvious, as one of the audience, how valuable it was for children to be told, by someone who really writes books - you can do this too! In fact, you do it - every day! We get our work corrected by editors just like you get your stories marked by your teacher. It's more words, it takes longer, but it's not different in kind from what you do. And although very few of those children are going to grow up to be published authors, it gives them a new sense of the value of what they can do, what they are capable of, what they could aim for if they decided to. It reinforced the value and importance of stories and creativity of all sorts, whether it's their writing or their made-up playground games or their engagement with stories in books, magazines, TV, or computer games or films.

Traipsing round with my two authors, and watching the magic being kindled again and again in their sessions, I realised that I needn't have worried about my own sessions. Children's authors write for children, so they have a pretty good idea of what engages their interest, and how to talk to them. They are creative, clever people, with inventive minds and a way with words. When they tell a child, "That's a fabulous idea!" or "You see? You're an author too!" they give that child a warm glow that you can see from fifty yards away - a gift that will stay with that child for the rest of their life.

So if you're an author, and you do school visits - take a bow, you are making a difference! However unsure you may feel abut your sessions, you are touching the children you talk to in ways you probably don't realise. And if you're a teacher or parent or librarian - beg, borrow or steal the money from the school budget (or PTA jumble sale?) for a local author to visit your children. Or even better, have a look to see if there's someone available to be your Patron of Reading. That one visit will kindle a magic that will inspire those children for the whole school year and beyond.

C.J. Busby writes fantasy for ages 7-12. Her most recent book is Dragon Amber, published by Templar. The first book in the series, Deep Amber, was published in March 2012.

"A rift-hopping romp with great charm, wit and pace" Frances Hardinge.



0 Comments on The wonderful magic of author visits - C.J. Busby as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
3. Author Visit to Greater Atlanta Christian School

At the end of August, I spent some time in Atlanta, giving talks at two schools, a library, a girls' group, and a book club. Greater Atlanta Christian School was kind enough to take pictures as I spoke. I've found the pictures entertaining enough to share with you!

I know several of my former students occasionally stop by. I figure they'll be just as humored as I am.

8 Comments on Author Visit to Greater Atlanta Christian School, last added: 9/19/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
4. Adorable Thank Yous

6 Comments on Adorable Thank Yous, last added: 10/9/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
5. What the Small Boy said to the Author - Joan Lennon

The author was packing up after a boisterous session with 5 classes of 8-9 year-olds in a large, echoy gym.  She became aware that someone was quietly trying to get her attention.

It was a small boy.

The boy was bespectacled, goopy-looking, earnest. A boy who did not now, nor probably ever would, find the world his oyster. The author looked at him. It was like looking at a small boy version of her own small self.

The boy looked at the author, as the noise of the dispersing classes swirled around them.  "I keep your books in a box under my bed," he said.  "And when I can't sleep in the night I take one out and read it." 

The author babbled.  She thanked the small boy for saying such a lovely thing and that he couldn't have said anything nicer to her.  Ever. 

"That's all right," said the small boy, and walked away.

The author knows that she cannot go round schools and libraries and festivals saying, "Hello!  I'm an author and I'd like to live under your bed."  But in her heart, she thinks it would be the nicest thing.  Ever.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.

0 Comments on What the Small Boy said to the Author - Joan Lennon as of 5/20/2014 3:22:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. Writer's Guilt…. Or Have I Done Enough? by Megan Rix / Ruth Symes

What I love most about writing, and thought I would love most even before I was published, is the freedom it gives you. Freedom to write when you want and where you want, about what you want and how you want to.

For a few years I probably averaged a 1,000 published words a year (this was when I used to spend 6 months in the UK and 6 months travelling round the world). Now my average is more like 1,000 words a day. (I try not to work weekends unless I’m really behind on a deadline or so desperate to tell a story that it just can’t wait. I’m writing this on Saturday though - so I probably write more often at weekends than not.) If I've written a 1,000 words in a day I stick a sticker on my annual wall chart. I like seeing the stickers build up only... only there never seems to be enough. Not every day’s got a sticker and I want to write more. I always think I could do more, if I was more focused more, more disciplined yaddah yaddah yaddah.

I call it writer's guilt but really an average of a 1,000 words a day is good.... isn't it? I’ve won two children’s books of the year this year (Stockton and Shrewsbury) and will have had 3 novels out this year in 10 days time.

'The Hero Pup' is written under my Megan Rix pseudonym and being published by Puffin. It follows an assistance dog puppy from his birth until his graduation as a fully-fledged Helper Dog. Anyone who knows me knows how close this book is to my heart and I'm very much looking forward to working with guide dogs, medical alert dogs and PAT dogs on the book tour.
But not only do I have ‘The Hero Pup’ coming out under my Megan Rix pseudonym on the 1st of October I also have the first in a new series of books about the Secret Animal Society coming out under my Ruth Symes name. 'Cornflake the Dragon' is being published by Piccadilly. It’s about a school lizard that turns into a dragon when it’s taken home for the holidays.

How many words do other writers write each day? I don't know. They probably all do much more or maybe they do less but every word they write is pure gold.

And what about the thinking time? You've got to have thinking time, or I have. I like to mull over the story for a month or so these days. Not forcing it to come. Just researching and thinking about characters until I know, absolutely KNOW it's the story I want to tell. I don’t get a sticker for thinking but it’s just as valuable.

Then it comes to the talks at schools and festivals – meeting your target audience. In the past year I've spoken at 16 schools and 5 festivals - an average of little over one a mouth. Is it enough? It feels like the right amount for me but I know of other writers who do lots more. Should I be doing lots more? I don’t know.

And that's what comes with having a career where you choose so much for yourself. There's so many choices that it's hard to know if you've made the right one. But better to make the mistake yourself than be living someone else’s mistake. Maybe there shouldn't be writer's guilt or writer's goals maybe we should just have the aim of improving every day.

Chris Rock (excuse the swearing) has a very funny sketch about the difference between a job or a career His main point, and I agree with him, is if it's a career there's never enough time for all you want to do to advance it but if it’s a job there is always far too much time and you can’t wait for it to be over. Writing is definitely a career and I wouldn't have it any other way :)

My website's are: www.meganrix.com and www.ruthsymes.com.

0 Comments on Writer's Guilt…. Or Have I Done Enough? by Megan Rix / Ruth Symes as of 9/21/2014 2:36:00 AM
Add a Comment
7. Jayne Jaudon Ferrer: Your Daily Poem Editor & Creator

Jayne Jaudon  Ferrer is thepoetry editor and creator of my favorite poetry website:  www.yourdailypoem.com,and a first class poet. What she promises is that the poems she shares dailywill “not be boring.” I think she certainly fulfills that promise each day,while championing a website with TLC, whose cup run-eth over with inspiration,resources and poetry interaction. The quality of the poems she presentsencourages readers to leave behind positive poetry comments and seek more poems(written by the same author), thus affirming the daily poet’s path and writing process.

Jayne is a“poetry missionary” converting the skeptics to believers in the power ofpoetry. Go to her website, read a sample of the poems in the archives, and youwill discover that poetry can be “outrageous,inspiring, hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting, sobering, and surprising.”Then sign up for a free daily poem delivered to your e-mail box. You will haveno regrets.

Want to know more about Jayne? You can find this biographical sketch on her website:  

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer is the author of four books of poetry that focus on family life, one of which has remained consistently in print for more than twenty years. An award-winning copywriter and freelance journalist, Ferrer speaks frequently at women’s and book events; her poetry and articles have appeared in publications ranging from Boca Raton Magazine to Christian Parenting Today. Jayne lives in Greenville, South Carolina; learn more about her at www.jaynejaudonferrer.com.

Since this month is National Poetry Month, Jayne showcases a month's worth of poem that even extra special. Subscribe and see for  yourself.

If you wander into the archives, you might even stumble on a poem of mine in the archives...
0 Comments on Jayne Jaudon Ferrer: Your Daily Poem Editor & Creator as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
8. When did you last get out of your comfort zone?

If you're like me, you'll have a little voice in the back of your head that speaks up whenever you think about stepping outside your comfort zone. It's not easy, but if we want to achieve our goals and dreams we have to learn to ignore that voice.

(Read more ...)

Add a Comment
9. Author talk: Siobhan Vivian

This morning I attended a lecture and mini workshop at my local library, led by YA author Siobhan Vivian.  In a little room with paintings of princesses and castles on the walls, and a giant dragon on the floor, Vivian spoke to an audience mainly of teens and young readers (though there was one little [...]

0 Comments on Author talk: Siobhan Vivian as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
10. New Photos Are Up!

"New" photos are up, just follow the link... 

0 Comments on New Photos Are Up! as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
11. Leaving On a Jet Plane

Three years ago, May B. won first place for a novel excerpt at the Jambalaya Writers' Conference. This year I'm headed back to Houma, Louisiana to present at the conference. It's a thrill to be included on the roster this year! If you happen to live around the New Orleans area, I'd love to meet you.
Here are my topics:

Verse Novels -- From Homer to Ellen Hopkins: Long a mainstay in classical literature, the verse novel has made a comeback in children’s literature in the last fifteen years. What’s the appeal? Learn about the authors and titles which have had an impact on the genre, why an author would choose to write this way, and if your story might best be told through verse.

DIY Marketing Plan: Authors nowadays are expected to play bigger and bigger roles in spreading the word about their books. What, exactly, does this look like? Learn to identify and reach your target audience in traditional and non-traditional ways, produce materials to compliment your book, and create your own marketing plan.

I'll share about the conference once I return -- and don't worry: I'll eat a bowl of gumbo for you.

10 Comments on Leaving On a Jet Plane, last added: 3/27/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
12. IRA 2012 Recap

I've just come home from my first International Reading Association convention, an annual event that draws teachers, librarians, and other bookish types to discuss literacy and teaching methods. It was a wondrous time!

Uma Krishnaswami, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Carolee Dean, Kersten Hamilton, Carolyn Meyer, Esther Hershenhorn
Lisa Schroeder, Caroline Starr Rose, April Halprin Wayland

On Sunday I was a part of an institute -- an intensive session that lasted from 9-5. The title of our panel was Rekindling the Reading Fire - Using the Story Strategies of Professional Authors to Inspire a Love of Reading and Writing, headed up by Carolee Dean. The session included panels on magical realism; plot, setting and story; verse novels; and historical fiction.

I also had the opportunity to meet fellow Project Mayhem author, Hilary Wagner, and my dear, dear author friend, Sheila O'Connor.
It was lovely to meet Random House Children's Books tireless sales and marketing team and a number of literature-loving educators as well as dozens of other authors I'd up to this point only known on-line or through their books.

My only regret is not having more pictures to share!

3 Comments on IRA 2012 Recap, last added: 5/6/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
13. Missouri Mini Book Tour

I've spent the last week in Missouri doing six different author events. Here are some highlights (...the times I remembered to take my camera):
 Springfield, Missouri: The Library Center

I've never seen a library this amazing! There's a gift shop, coffee shop, gorgeous children's wing, and a variety of programs for all sorts of readers.
I did my Buckboards, Buffalo Chips, and Bloomers presentation, an interactive talk about the American Frontier.
 I also met blogging friend and librarian extraordinaire Sarah Bean Thompson, of Green Bean Teen Queen.
 Here I am taking a snooze while signing books.
Neosho, Missouri: book club

These colorful ladies are members of my mom's book club. Anyone remember my post about The Little Nippers, my mom's childhood club? Three Nippers are in this picture. My mother also enjoys napping while pictures are taken.

 Dad and Mom

12 Comments on Missouri Mini Book Tour, last added: 5/25/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
14. Meeting Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale was in town on Thursday, talking up her most recent book, THE PRINCESS ACADEMY: PALACE OF STONE. I never tire of hearing other authors talk about how they work, how they manage with children, writing, and life. It's very much an iron sharpens iron thing.

Shannon talked about getting ideas for stories daily (a story isn't one idea but many, she said), writing down those ideas, and coming back to them at a later date. She works on two books at once, turning to one when the other is in edits. A sitter comes to watch her four kids for three hours a day, five days a week, and she commits to 1,000 a day.

I felt a kinship with Shannon when she mentioned she's drawn to stories that are hard. If a story is easy, there really isn't anything to say. I'm in the midst of my own hard story, and hearing I'm not alone in this challenge was reassuring -- and fuel to help me finish my work.
 This girl in front of me was adorable. She'd worn out her first copy of THE PRINCESS ACADEMY, so she bought two more: one for regular reading and one for backup.

10 Comments on Meeting Shannon Hale, last added: 9/19/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
15. Midnight school chats

I don't know how many school talks I've done over the last twenty years, including quite a few online (text) chats, but last week was a bunch of firsts!

The Burr Elementary School in Connecticut has been doing Nim's Island for their One Book, One School program. (I've heard from a few schools around the world who've done this, and it gives me a thrill every time. There are so many wonderful books in the world that it's great honour to have one of mine chosen for a whole school to read. (Or, in the case of Rye State School, to encourage the whole town to read!)

However the Burr school wanted to follow up with an author visit, and as I couldn't zip across from Australia to Connecticut, we decided we'd do it with Skype. Of course, just as in the emails between Nim and Alex Rover, the ten hour time difference made this interesting. I did a trial run with the teachers first, so early in the morning here that I was still in my pyjamas (definitely the first time I've been videoed in pjs),but we did the actual talks at 9:30 am for the kids,and 11:30 pm for me.

There was something quite special about doing it so late, and also about inviting the kids into my messy writer's office as we talked. (This time I was properly dressed!)I put a table up beside my desk to spread out more books and things to show, and was able to turn the computer around so they could see the office itself. My little dog, Harry,was asleep on the couch behind me, and I gather it was quite a highlight when I brought him up to the camera to say goodnight.

Of course it wasn't the same as being physically in the same room, but it was far more than a second best. The feedback from the school and the kids has been wonderful, though perhaps the real test was simply how good the kids were - 50 minutes is a long time for kindergarteners to sit on the floor and pay attention at the best of times!

I think my author talks have just entered the 21st century - this is definitely something I'd like to do more of.

0 Comments on Midnight school chats as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
16. Starstuff & Supergiants

On Tuesday I’m heading over to Science Oxford to give a talk on Starstuff and Supergiants, which will be a bit of a science of Johnny Mackintosh sort of thing. I came up with the title ages ago, with no plan of what I was going to say on the subject. I thought I’d have months to prepare – where does the time go?

Happily, it’s kind of all sorted and I’m hoping to make it as fun as I can and also inspiring. It’s the first time in my life people are paying to see me (the princely sum of £3), so I’m desperate to give everyone their money’s worth, and a bit more besides. It will be great (if scary) if the place is full.  Science Oxford is

1-5 London Place

This is part of the wider Oxford Science Festival that runs to the 21st March. If you can’t be there in person, I have a dreadful feeling this might be webcast at some point. Just off to buy props…

Add a Comment
17. Maggie’s Animal Life

On Wednesday evening I found myself trudging home late at night through the kind of incessant downpour you feel is never going to end. Rain that infuses every part of you, seeping up your trousers, down your sleeves and occasionally washing over you as a car drives past too quickly. My thoughts turned to a marvelously funny, insightful and poignant novel I read recently called The Flood, by Maggie Gee.

Set in the City, where it’s always raining, flood waters are steadily on the rise. Battered boats rescued from scrapyards serve as makeshift buses for the tower blocks, around which the waters are rumoured to have been diverted from the city centre. In that centre, the wealthy are ferried to the opera in gondolas. While all the inhabitants of the city are struggling not to drown in their various problems, their President Bliss tries to deflect attention to far away, pursuing a Blair-like war against the unfortunate inhabitants of a  poor distant country. Neither his cabinet nor the general population has any enthusiasm for the crusade, but somehow Bliss is able to continue with the war (for the sake of peace, naturally).

As well as the rain, I was thinking of this particular novel because I was travelling home from the launch of Maggie’s latest book,  My Animal Life. I’m not sure the Al Saqi bookshop on Westbourne Grove has ever been so crowded. Three of us were there because we’d all had the privilege of meeting Maggie a year earlier, and sharing a writing month with her at Hawthornden Castle as the finishing touches were put to this memoir (I was beginning Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth). It’s a wonderful thing to see a physical book when you were also able to watch it in the late stages of development in the womb. It’s also great to meet fellow writers and on the night I chatted with several I’d not met before.

Maggie spent a little time in conversation with Colin Grant, another author as well as BBC World Service Broadcaster, talking particularly about the candour of her new book, and what had led her to write about herself rather than her characters. Maggie’s a very deep thinker. She puts a lot of science in her books, she’s often tackled difficult themes (check out The White Family), and she comes across as very honest and full of love. While Colin asked her about “sex”, she ended their conversation saying the greatest taboo in writing is “love”. As the place was bursting at the seams, concerned for her audience, it wasn’t long before she stood to read to us from My Animal Life.

I had a very religious upbringing and, although I know now that we’re from all the same stuff as the other creatures on the planet, I still often think of people as separate from animals. That’s strange because my philosophy is very anti the rationalist/logical school that’s dominated so much of our thinking since the Greeks. Intellectually, I believe we’re social creatures, rarely motivated by logic precisely because of our animal

Add a Comment
18. "On the Other Side"

I had the pleasure of meeting author Marianne Smith on Oak Island at the Senior Recreation Center.  She gave a wonderful talk about her life and the novel On the Other Side, which she wrote for her grandchildren. Marianne grew up in Germany during World War Two facing the dangers of war, bombings, hunger, and life without a father. The story is based on facts, events, and real life experiences. At the author talk Marianne Smith stated that “Everything in this book is real. I couldn’t write a book like this and imagine these things.”

Marianne admitted that it wasn’t easy putting on paper many of these painful teenage memories, but they defined the person that she became. And they show what it was like to come of age in Germany during war-torn times on the other side. Our teens need to text less and read more books like Marianne’s masterpiece.

After meeting and talking with Marianne, I felt like I made a new friend. As a poet and a essayist, I feel like I can't write about anything unless it's true. All of my poems, stories, and essays are brimming over with real life experiences. I have three books in the works, and whom did I write them for? My grandkids.


0 Comments on "On the Other Side" as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
19. Poets Talking About Poetry

Robert Frost (1875-1963) American Poet.
Poetryis finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses theuniversal, and history only the particular.

Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) Greek philosopher.
Poetryis not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not theexpression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, onlythose we have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape fromthese things.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-English poet andplaywright.
IfI feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that ispoetry.

0 Comments on Poets Talking About Poetry as of 3/15/2011 9:39:00 PM
Add a Comment
20. If You're in Albuquerque in April

Stop by!

6 Comments on If You're in Albuquerque in April, last added: 3/28/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment