In light of the current public health situation (Autumn/Winter 2020 and into 2021), my author events have all gone online. I’m available to speak to schools and library groups via Zoom or Skype (please get in touch if you prefer to use a different video-call platform, and I’ll do my best to get au fait with it!) I will provide handouts/worksheets in advance of the virtual visit, in order that participants can take part in any creative activities, and I welcome queries from anyone interested in booking me – please click here to send me a message.
The talks and workshops I offer are listed below.
I offer an author talk lasting about 30 minutes, suitable for children in Years 5-8 (United Kingdom), fourth class to sixth class and first and second year Post-Primary (in Ireland). The talk can be followed by a Q&A session, and can be adapted for class or assembly-size groups; I am also happy to speak for longer than 30 minutes if required. In the talk, I cover my childhood love of books and reading, the stories which meant the most to me and how they fed into my later life and career, and the connections between the things I loved in childhood and the books I have written, aimed at helping children to cherish and nurture the things that they love. I use a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate my talk.
My aim with all talks is to encourage children in their own ambitions, and to show them that determination, hard work and a resilient attitude to life’s challenges can see them accomplish great things.
Please feel free to contact me to inquire about my availability and fees.
Writing Workshops Based on The Eye of the North
The Mystery Satchel
I currently offer a writing workshop based on the central image of the satchel in The Eye of the North. The workshop invites the children to form a story around a collection of random objects, placed into their ‘satchel’ over the course of a group activity. This workshop aims to focus on imagination, teamwork, and creative thinking.
I can also offer a workshop on mythical and legendary beasts, which includes learning about creating characters through building our own mythical beast, and the writing (and, if suitable, performing) of a heroic tale. This workshop aims to focus on imagination, historical detail, creativity and confidence building.
A Dogsled Adventure
This workshop introduces the children to the history of dogsledding, and allows them to draw, design and name their own dogsled team. I also discuss the role dogsled teams played in the salvation of the town of Nome in 1925, which was threatened with destruction due to a diphtheria outbreak. Then, each child writes their own dogsled adventure – how will they, and their heroic dogs, save the day? This workshop aims to focus on imagination, historical detail, and creativity.
Writing Workshops Based on The Star-Spun Web
The workshop participants join me in imagining a wartime scenario, similar to the one which faces the characters of Thomas and Tess in The Star-Spun Web. Using the book as our guide, we imagine how it might have felt to have lived during World War II and we write a diary entry or a newspaper-style article about the events we’re experiencing. This workshop has a historical flavour but will involve imagination, creativity, and empathy-building.
The plot of The Star-Spun Web relies on Tess’s ability to travel between her own reality and other realities, and some scientific ideas are brought into the book during the course of her story. This workshop asks its participants to think about things like the multiverse, many worlds, and different dimensions; we imagine other worlds, drawing or using words to describe them, and then brainstorm ways to travel between them just as Tess does in the book. This workshop encompasses simplified scientific ideas, imagination-building, and invention.
Tess and Thomas have some unexpected animal companions who help them on their quests. This workshop takes a look at the reasons why characters so often have animal companions in books and stories, and why they’re so important, as well as giving an insight into Tess’s pet Violet and Thomas’s beloved Moose. We also get a chance to draw, describe, name, and write about our own animal companions – anything from dormice to dragons!
Writing Workshop Based on Skyborn
Roll Up, Roll Up!
Skyborn is mostly set in a circus, which is full of drama and death-defying stunts – as well as mystery and intrigue and fun! In this workshop we’ll talk about the history of the circus, as well as some of the real-life inspirations behind the characters in the book, and then we’ll come up with our very own circus act. What sort of thing would you do, if you could be part of a circus troupe? We’ll design and draw a circus poster, and/or write a story about our act.
Writing Skills Workshops
Writing a ‘Good’ Baddie
What makes a good baddie? In this workshop, I’ll talk about some of my favourite antagonists, including Thanos (from the Marvel Universe), Eudora Vane (from Vashti Hardy’s Brightstorm books) and The Other Mother (from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline) as well as some of my own ‘baddies’ from The Eye of the North and The Star-Spun Web, to examine what they might have in common and what makes them work so well. Our creative exercise for this workshop will be to design our own baddie, make a fact-sheet about them, and draw their terrifying portrait. This workshop builds on critical thinking, story construction, creativity, and empathy.
A Visit to the Ideas Shop
I’m often asked ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ as though ‘Ideas’ are something that are only available to certain people. This workshop will demonstrate that growing and nurturing a creative, idea-filled mind is something that anyone can do! I’ll talk about my own idea-making process, where my inspiration comes from, and aim to give participants the tools for a life-long process of developing their own imagination. We’ll focus on curiosity, observation of the world around us, using our senses, and playing with language, and as an exercise participants will be asked to use their new observation skills in combination with a strange fact or a burning question to create a story or a piece of art.