Saturday, 22 November 2014


     After finishing the training with the Royal Literary Fund, I thought life would be quieter, and I'd be back to posting a blog here every Saturday. Ha!

     Why the hollow laughter? Well, since the RLF had invested all that time and money in me, I couldn't let it go to waste, y'know. And I needed to earn some more money.

     Up until this year, I'd always let work come to me. I'm listed on Contactanauthor and various county library lists as an author who does school visits. I didn't do as many school visits as some of my friends, but I did quite a few - though the number had been falling off.. 

     It was time, I decided, to be pro-active.

     I was raised on the principle that you never pay for anything if there's any way you can bodge up the old item, make a new one yourself or do without it. So it took some gritting of the teeth, and long thought, to actually pay for an advertising campaign to be sent into schools. I made up my mind to do it, though. I reasoned that two gigs would pay for it, and I thought I could manage that. So at worst, I would break even and not lose anything.

     I used the excellent company, Sprint Education, who not only have their own data-base of thousands of teachers, but also give a lot of free advice on how to improve your ad and maximise the responses.
The Sprint Education brothers

     My emails went out at 9am on 11th September, and I had my first phone-call from a school at 12-10 pm the same day.

After that I answered emails and phone-calls solidly for a week. Things slowed down a little after that, but enquiries continued to come in - and they still are coming in, two months later. I have three times the work booked that I did last year.

But preparing all these talks and workshops, with powerpoint slides and hand-outs - and making the travel plans, and booking overnight accommodation and packing everything that's needed, and checking and re-checking - all takes a lot of time. So I haven't been getting much else done. And forget housework. If you visit me, you wipe your feet on the way out. Burglars break in and tidy up.

Still, it's all energising and great fun. I think the highlight of the gig I did this week was working with the Primary School class that was brought into the Secondary school. They were only nine, and over-awed by being at The Big School. They crept nervously into the library, staying close to their teachers, almost afraid to look at anything.
From StoryWorld Cards
I used the wonderful StoryWorld cards with them. First I gave them each a character card, and asked them to come up with everything they could about those characters. The cards are beautiful and packed with detail. In moments, the children were completely different - bright-eyed and smiling, all eager to tell me and their teachers what they'd 'found out' about their character.

Next, I gave out 'place' or 'object' cards - The Castle, The Key, The River - and asked them to find the connection between that card and their character. In the next round, I gave out animal cards. By this time, they were having such a great time, they'd completely forgotten to be shy. It was wonderful to hear how they took the tiniest clue and - I was going to say 'ran with it' but I think 'danced with it' would be more accurate.

The Princess was named 'Daisy' because of the flowers on her dress, and she was presently going to be leaving in the hot-air balloon to be seen in the distance, to answer the summons in her letter.

The cosy looking mother, stirring cake mix in a bowl, happened to be drawn with the Wishing Tree (above) by one group. They decided that she was secretly a witch, and that her wishing tree was hung with spells and curses - but that the bird at the top was going to destroy her by splashing her with water - which it first had to fetch from some distant place. (We discussed the possibility that the bird was someone under the witch's spell.)

Another group drew The Soldier, and invented his wandering by carefully examining the landscape behind him: distant town, woods, mountains. The cat in the picture was his friend and told him of a princess who needed rescuing - but when they reached the tower, the princess wasn't there. They happened to draw the 'Door into Faeryland' card, and so their soldier made tracks in that direction, only to be brought up short by the guardian trees one either side of the gate... But the eyes looking out from under the tree roots belong to the friendly cat, who is going to help him...

One of the teachers said, "These cards are amazing." So I gave her the details of their online site - and I pass on the details here, in time for Christmas. (They're available, here,  from Amazon too. I gave a set, last year, to an infant of my acquaintance, and have heard excellent reports of them.)


Anyhow, in short, this is why I still can't find time to blog reguarly. I have two more gigs coming up in December, and after that, it's all quiet for a bit until February. Book Week in March is going to be fairly frantic - and there's an RLF reunion that month as well. It's all hard work, but good fun - and paid too!

Still, I hanker for a chance to just write...


Anonymous said...

'To an infant of my acquaintance' love it ;)

Joan Lennon said...

"Burglars break in and tidy up." is there some kind of underworld register I could get on?

Susan Price said...

You want www.obsessivecleanersRus/larceny, Joan.

Joan Lennon said...

I do. I really do.

Candy Gourlay said...

Thanks for the school visit tips! When you decide to raise your game you really go for it! Respect!

Katherine Roberts said...

Those Storyworld cards are from my publisher Templar... they gave me two lovely packs when they contracted my Pendragon books! I have yet to use the cards in a workshop, but can see the possibilities for both adults and children.