Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Never be bored again

Wow, what a summer! First of all, the Tour de Schools tour (described by one teacher as the best visiting performance he'd ever seen in a school) finished in style with a great show at an Ikley primary followed by a fun cabaret performance at the White Rose Book Cafe in Thirsk. Then I dashed to the car, drove to the Dales and spent a truly memorable day on Saturday 5th watching Le Tour in beautiful Swaledale where there was a terrific atmosphere of fun and enthusiasm. The sun shone and the race itself was amazing.



Since then I have been busy promoting The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff at events and bookshops. I've had some wonderful feedback from readers and the reviews have been fantastic. As well as being reviewed on CBBC (see previous post) it's had two reviews in the Guardian (here and here).


Numerous other reviews include these:
The Swallow's Nest
Wondrous Reads
What Lexie Loves
Amazon


Big Book Bash
I've just returned from the lovely town of Matlock where the excellent Derbyshire Big Book Bash 2014 took place. This is a special event for children in care and their families and is funded by the admirable Derbyshire County Council. No less than eight children's authors and illustrators were there including Cathy Cassidy, Alan Gibbons and Robert Crowther, meister of pop-ups. I ran two sessions and really enjoyed them. The organisers and volunteers deserve a huge cheer for all the work put in.



The Anti-Boredom Book is almost here!
I was delighted to receive an advance copy of my next book, The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Things to Do published by Bloomsbury. It's launched on 31st July so very soon and it looks ACE:


The design team that produced The Silly Book have done another top job and once more the talented Scott Garrett's illustrations are witty and enhance the contents so well. Inside you'll find an amazing array of fun things to do from amusing talking games to wacky mini-quizzes, things to score and challenges to face. It is GUARANTEED to keep boredom at bay for any kid of 8-12 this summer and beyond. Pre-order from you local bookshop pleeeease, but if you live all rural then here's an Amazon link.


Events coming up 2014

Sat 26th July - The Deer Shed Festival, near Thirsk
Come along and join in Andy's Silly Fun Workshop (details here)

Sat 2nd August - Book signing at Waterstones Northallerton
Get a signed copy of All Teachers Bright and Beautiful, or the Anti-Boredom Book or Silly Book for kids: 10am-12 noon

Wed 3rd Sept - Prankenstein launch
The exciting launch of Andy's first novel for children: details to follow

Sat 20th Sept - Book Signing at Waterstones York
Come along to their shiny new store and get a special free gift plus a signed copy of The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff, The Anti-Boredom Book or Prankenstein! 1-3pm

Sat 27th Sept - Bath Kids Literature Festival
Booking is essential for Andy's fun workshop, Seriously Silly Stuff (details here) 3.15-4pm

Sat October 4th - Book signing at Waterstones Northallerton
Get a signed copy of All Teachers Bright and Beautiful, or the Anti-Boredom Book or Silly Book for kids: 10am-12 noon

Sunday October 12th - Ryedale Book Festival
A fun children's event - details to follow: Festival website.

Sat 25th Oct - Talk at Starbeck Library, Harrogate
An entertaining talk for adults about Andy's teaching experiences in the Dales (afternoon)


And finally, back to Le Tour
Here's my poem celebrating the race coming to Yorkshire:







Thursday, 29 May 2014

Silly and Busy

Le Tour continues...
May has been exciting. First of all the Tour de Schools Show has been out and about travelling around Yorkshire Schools and getting lots of laughs and enthusiastic responses from children and teachers. It would be good to have some photos but, despite asking several times, no one ever sends us any! In the mean time here's me with my yellow jersey and Chris Froome's helmet from his 2013 Tour de France win.

The bike is the same model used by naughty Lance Armstrong
The Silly Book launches
I had a fun time at Amotherby Primary School launching The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff. I dedicated the book to the staff and children of my excellent local school and they were delighted. BBC Radio York did a very good piece about it, interviewing six children. About 70 children bought the book and they've been enjoying it since. I love this photo - a rare non-posed one - taken by a local press photographer:

How it should be...
The Silly Book is published by Bloomsbury and you can buy it for less than £5 from various places including tax-paying shops and Amazon.
In case you don't know it's a collection of funny facts about silly people, inventions, animals and more, along with silly jokes and poems. Perfect for ages 8-14.
Oh, and CBBC presenter Hacker reviewed the book at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/faq/book-club-silly

 The first time I've been reviewed by a mutt!
AND there's a taste of the book on Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/bloomsburypublishing/9-silly-british-laws-from-bygone-days-fmox


The Anti-Boredom Book is coming
The Silly Book has a sister, published in August, also by the lovely Bloomsbury. The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Things to Do is full of amusing games to play, puzzles, fun quizzes, interesting things to do on long journeys and excellent ways to pass the time. The cover has just been released and it's top quality:

Out in August

Pre-order this fab book from your local indie store or from you-know-where here.


All Teachers Book 3 paperback
The popular 'All Teachers' trilogy of memoirs about my days as a young village school teacher in the Yorkshire Dales back in the 1980s is now complete with the imminent release on 5th June of the third paperback: All Teachers Bright and Beautiful. I'm talking to the Yorkshire Post about the book tomorrow and will be doing a signing at the very good White Rose Bookshop in Thirsk on Saturday 7th June from 10.30-11.30am.

The final book in the series

If you like a good true story, enjoy a laugh and a bit of Yorkshire nostalgia, don't miss this book. Amazon are selling it here but buy it from your local shop, do.

Lavtastic
Finally, Mike Barfield and I have been to some wonderful Primary Schools for our Tour de France already: Riccall and South Milford last week were lovely, friendly places, but Northfield Primary in South Kirkby near Pontefract deserves a special mention: not only is the headteacher Liz Bradley a total superstar but this school has the most amazing staff bogs in the history of education. Eee, it's all changed since I were a teacher...

They know how to live in Pontefract...




Monday, 19 May 2014

Blog tour

An author I met recently in Bath (not a bath, I hasten to add), Mel Menzies, asked me recently if I'd like to be part of a blog tour. I have to confess I didn't know what she meant but a little explanation made it all clear. A chain of authors write some interesting answers to the questions below then link to two more authors in their post. Sounds easy, so let's give it a go!
The tour was the idea of author Fay Sampson so well done, Fay.

What am I working on?
I'm actually working on several books at the moment - it's an amazingly busy year. But since the one foremost in my mind is my first children's novel, Prankenstein, I'll focus on that. 
For some time I've wanted to write a story for kids that would appeal to the sort of child I was when I was about 10: something funny with a good story and a twist or two. I think there aren't enough novels out there that appeal to boys in particular (especially reluctant readers) so I've set out to do something about it. Prankenstein is the tale of a boy called Soapy who lives in an immaculate house under the thumb of a strict, safety-obsessed mother. He dreams of playing pranks but doesn't dare: the consequences are too awful to contemplate.
Then, after he spends a night at his granny's, Soapy's world is turned inside out: for a start, someone has turbo-charged her stairlift and shot her through the roof. Then, someone is playing incredible, outrageous pranks on his family, friends and neighbours, but who is it?
Soapy sets out with his Estonian pals Arvo and Loogi to investigate. They discover something truly shocking...
Prankenstein is published in September by a new name in publishing, Fat Fox. They are looking for new writers, BTW...

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Good question. There are a lot of children's novels out there and many good ones. I suppose one thing that sets it apart from a lot of books is the humour - I like wacky ideas and the sort of cheeky wordplay that gets kids giggling. But I also like a good story and I think Prankenstein doesn't veer off too far in the nutty stakes: the characters are believable, the settings realistic and there's enough tension and mystery and action to keep the reader turning pages (I hope!). So, I would say it's about finding that balance between humour, plot, intrigue, relevance and appeal.


Why do I write what I do?
Cor, these are tricksy questions for a Monday morning. Why do I.... Well, for a start I love writing humour and this book gave me the platform for using several comic ideas that I'd been playing around with for some time. My other great drive for getting this book out there was my strongly held belief that reading for pleasure is profoundly important for children. So many kids are losing an interest in reading and it's hardly surprising - just think how many distractions are there are today. It used to be just TV but now the web, video games, mobiles, handheld games, ipads, consoles... the list goes on. The other big factor is that so many parents don't read themselves.
So, books have to be spot on to appeal to children. My recent funny fact collection, The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff is another title written to grab those children who struggle with language (and thinking and school and all sorts) because they don't read.
But I also write because I have an urgent desire to tell a good story, to share a good joke, to elucidate a fascinating piece of information. I love the freedom and creativity of writing. What a job.

How does my writing process work?
I do spend quite a lot of time planning. But there comes a point where you just have to start - to write. Get it down on paper/screen then step back, leave it, read it critically, apply those criteria and see if it works. Then tweak. I am not a fan of rewriting so I try REALLY hard to get things right (or nearly right) first time. 
In the case of Prankenstein, I jotted down the kernel of the story which popped into my head one day when I was riffing on the name Frankenstein. What about a prank-playing monster who drives a town mad? The central character is vital and I spent a while getting to know Soapy and writing a profile of him: his likes, his loathes, his habits and foibles, his patterns of speech. It's a good idea to do this for protagonists and other main characters, and for the baddies too, of course.
Dialogue is a huge part of story for me and I make sure it moves the story along, elucidates the characters, entertains and informs and reveals nuggets which get the reader thinking. Reading it aloud is a good trick.
The pace of a story is important and so I tend to use shortish chapters and cliff-hangerettes to maintain interest. I like to lead the reader down garden paths and invites guesses as to what's happening. While doing all this it's a good idea to enable your audience to relate to the characters too - even antagonists should have some redeeming features.
Finally, children love to have fun, especially at adults' expense so I make sure that youngsters like Soapy stay one step ahead or get their own back in clever, amusing ways -the reader wants to imagine himself or herself doing that naughty, smart, rude, hilarious thing...

Right, where next on the blog tour?
Try these two talented writers who should be answering the same questions by Mon 26th May:
Ben Jeapes: http://www.benjeapes.com/index.php/blog/




Thursday, 1 May 2014

Lots of exciting news

2014 is proving to be a busy year here at Andy Seed HQ in sunny North Yorkshire...

Le Tour is underway
First of all I have started my special Tour de Schools project with fellow author and performer Mike Barfield. This is an exciting one hour show for primary schools to celebrate the Tour de France which is starting off in Yorkshire in July. The tour is fully booked with 37 dates right across Yorkshire. The first 3 performances have already taken place and it has been enormous fun.
If you'd like to see it then we are doing a public performance at Helperby Village Hall on 22 June - details here. We will bring along Chris Froome's yellow helmet from his historic 2013 Tour win.

Andy and Mike
The Silly Book has landed!
The first of three exciting children's titles for Bloomsbury is finally printed and I have my author copies:

Yipeee!
The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff is full of funny facts about all sorts of things and is superbly illustrated by the talented Scott Garrett - here are some of his pics from the book:




And here's what the book looks like inside:


The book is published on 8th May and can be ordered from your local bookshop or Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Silly-Book-Side-Splitting-Stuff/dp/1408850796


Audio fun
Just yesterday the postman knocked on my door and handed over a curious package which turned out to be this: the first audio book of my best-selling memoir All Teachers Great and Small:


It's very strange hearing yourself being portrayed by an actor! The book is read by Brian Trueman who older types might recall as the presenter of Screen Test on TV and the voice of many cartoon characters including Stiletto in DangerMouse. He does the Dales accents well which is a big relief! The pack can be ordered from Oakhill here.

Furthermore, the paperback of All Teachers Bright and Beautiful (book 3 in the series) is out on 5th June:



Watch out: Prankenstein is on the way...
I am ridiculously excited to announce that my first children's novel is being published in September by a new name in children's literature, Fat Fox.
It's a funny mystery story with lots of twists about a boy called Soapy who loves pranks but is too scared to play them at home where his parents are very strict about their shiny house. But someone is playing pranks - outrageous, hilarious pranks - on Soapy's family, his friends, his neighbours and at school. Who could it be? Soapy sets out with his comical friends Arvo and Loogi as detectives to find out who is responsible.
Anyone aged 8-12 with a sense of humour will like this lots. The Amazon pre-order page is here.

Whatever you do,  DON'T miss this



Events on the way
Here are some of the events I have coming up:

Sat 10 May - Book signing for The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff at White Rose Books, Thirsk, 10.30-11 - more info here. You can get to see Chris Froome's yellow Tour de France helmet!

Tues 13 May - Book launch at Amotherby Primary School for The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff 12-1: this will be featured by BBC Radio York.

Thurs June 5th - Tour de Schools at Nawton Primary Schools is featured on BBC Radio York.

Sat June 7th - Book signing for All Teachers Bright and Beautiful at White Rose Books, Thirsk, 10.30-11.30, details here.

Sun Jun 22nd Tour de Schools public performance, Helperby Village Hall, 7pm (cost £3) - details here.

Sat Oct 11th Ryedale Book Festival - details to follow






Wednesday, 26 March 2014

How to make the most of a school author visit

Well, it's the author visit season and I've barely had time to gather my thoughts as I've dashed from school to school across the country, trying to answer emails and even do a bit of writing in between. So many schools want an author in World Book Week and many are disappointed - there are only so many of us. Why not have an author in during another part of the year: we are just as good then!

It's been very interesting visiting so many schools over the last few weeks, particularly as a former teacher. So much has changed. Most of the schools have been wonderful but in a few the visit has been, well, 'interesting' is being kind. This has me thinking: what makes a good author visit?

It's all about the preparation: in the best schools the teachers get hold of the authors' books and introduce the children to them; they look at the writer's website and find out about him or her; they think of some good questions to ask. I know teachers are busy, but it's worth it.

In the best schools there's someone there to greet the arriving author (who has often got up very early and travelled a long way), maybe offering a heartwarming cup of tea. What a difference that makes. You get a little tour and see where you'll be based, you're shown the location of the loos and staffroom and maybe meet some of the teachers and head.

In other schools you're left sitting in a lobby or shown to the hall and abandoned, perhaps to find a table to put some books on. In these schools the children will often walk in to the hall with no idea who they are meeting. I find it hard to believe that this still happens. It's rare, but it does.

In the best schools the children enter assembly to classical music (in my view) - what has happened to this tradition? It used to take place in every school. I came to appreciate composers this way. Too many children shuffle into halls in awkward silence or chatter.

In the best schools the author is given a brief introduction by a teacher (not too long, so it reduces your time) although often I am left, awkwardly, to introduce myself - I don't mind doing this but it would be nice to be given a warning.

In good schools children are encouraged to bring money to buy a signed book from the author. This frequently baffles me - on so many occasions in school I am surrounded by children looking longingly at the books saying, "Aw, we didn't know we could bring money..." The flyer I sent has not gone out to parents... the children weren't told or reminded... When authors come into school it gets children excited about books and reading: they want to read and if they can get a signed book from an author they've met they WILL read - this can be a significant moment in a child's life. And yet so often I put my books away or only a tiny handful of children bring money. Don't schools want to encourage reading? Sometimes I am left feeling that it's somehow distasteful or wrong to sell books in school, to ask for money. That's how authors (try to) make a living! And we are desperate to encourage reading too. Please, teachers, tell children and parents that the £5 is a great investment. And, yes, I know some families can't afford books - so I always leave free copies in schools.

The thing that makes the greatest difference to a school author visit, however, is the ENTHUSIASM of the teachers. I have met some fantastic, keen, motivating teachers over the last few weeks - they've listened as intently as the kids, asking questions and modelling the interest of a reader. But I am sad to say that increasingly I come across the opposite: teachers who sit and mark books while I'm talking, or they chatter to a TA in the corner - what message does that give to the children? I met an all time low at one (nameless) school I recently visited where a male member of staff checked his phone while I told a story. I found this just downright rude and nearly said something.

But these are the exceptions; in most schools the children are fantastically responsive, the staff are warm and encouraging, the atmosphere is pro-books and reading. Ah, if only so many school halls weren't noisy corridors...

How it should be!
News

  • I am very excited to become Patron of Reading at Heather Garth Primary School at Bolton-on Dearne in South Yorks - I can't wait to visit and meet the children and staff. If you want to know what a Patron of Reading is, look here.
  • I am incredibly excited to announce that my first children's novel has been bought and will be published in September: it's a funny mystery story for 8-11s. More news about this to follow soon.
  • The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff is published on 8th May - a collection of comical facts about all sorts of silly people, animals, inventions, ideas, names and more.
  • I am visiting a school in Milan in April: stupendo!
  • Tour de Schools, my show about the Tour de France is now fully booked and will be performed in 36 schools across Yorkshire from April to July. I am performing this with fellow writer Mike Barfield and it will be great fun. What's more we have been lent a piece of Tour history: the yellow helmet worn by 2013 winner Chris Froome no less!
We have this very helmet!


Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Silly Book is on its way!

For the last few months I've been working hard on a new series of children's books for Bloomsbury. The first one is called The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff and I'm delighted that the cover has now been finalised. Here it is:


The book is a fun non-fiction collection of all sorts of silly and amazing information. Here's what the blurb says:
This laugh-out-loud book is bursting with lists, facts, jokes and funny true stories all about silly people, silly animals, silly inventions, silly names and much more. Discover The Great Stink, the man who ate a bike, a girl really called Lorna Mower and a sofa that can do 87 mph.
Find out about famous pranks, crazy festivals, nutty cats, gross foods, epic sports fails, ludicrously silly words and really rubbish predictions. There are even lots of great silly things to do. Unmissable!
This book is guaranteed to keep children of ages 8-12 (and adults) amused, amazed and reading! It's published in May and costs less than £6 - ludicrous value!
Pre-order from Amazon here.



Thursday, 6 February 2014

Newark Reigns

Authors never quite know what's going on out there. What I mean by that is, we have books spread around the country (and indeed the world) lying on shelves in bookshop, in piles in warehouses, by bedsides in homes, tucked away in libraries and in people's bags. We don't really know who's reading what we write, or what they think of it, save for the few who review, and generally we don't know where our books are popular or even, most of the time, how well they are selling.

I know my memoirs are popular in Yorkshire because they are set there, and they also go down well in Surrey, for some reason - I'm aware of this because I once randomly checked online library catalogues to see how many of my books were out on loan and was amazed to find that Surrey libraries have 57 copies of All Teachers Great and Small. People of taste...

What isn't easy to find out is which bookshops stock your books. Some who are supposed to have it sometimes don't; some indie bookshops do and some have never heard of it; some places sell a lot and others find books gathering dust. There are all sorts of factors at play here, of course, but what is certain is that it's always a pleasant surprise for a writer to discover that his or her book is a hit somewhere unexpected.

And that's what happened to me today. I'm very grateful to a fellow children's author, football fan and friend Helena Pielichaty who saw the page pictured below, in a Newark newspaper. I had no idea that I was so popular in this most excellent of Nottinghamshire towns - and certainly not the number one bestseller! What an honour - and, I must say, it's been a lifelong ambition to beat KNIT YOUR OWN BOYFRIEND. Thanks for sending me the pic, Helena, you're a vnp.