Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Cracking Cragside!

What a fantastic day I had yesterday at Cragside Primary in Newcastle. What a lovely school in every way! I want to say a special thank you to deputy head Mrs James for looking after me so well, and for Julie and all the other teachers and staff who made the day such a pleasure. Of course the kids were fantastic too! If only all author visits were like this...

Some are not. There are some days when you arrive at a school and the gate is locked. You park 400 yards away, hoping it's not a restricted zone and you lug your two bags and 80kg box of books around to the door only to find that the entrance for visitors is around the other side. You buzz and no one answers. A passing parent looks at you suspiciously. Eventually, a harrassed assistant lets you in and you sign the visitors book then wait for a badge with a broken clip.

After a delay of ten minutes a naggy woman with no name demands to see your CRB certificate and four items of ID. You scrabble in your bag and find two tram tickets and a receipt for a ladle. The phone goes. Two parents with money problems turn up. A kid sneezes over you.

Eventually a teacher appears and whisks you down a corridor into the hall where 300 five and six year-olds are waiting in assembly. Before you get a chance to say that you were expecting to do a writing workshop with a single class of top juniors you are introduced as a poet, even though you're not, and have to wing it for 15 minutes while all the teachers file out and an infant is quietly sick on the front row.

At break you try to find the loo and are told you must use the disabled. You pull the light switch and discover it's the emergency help cord. Hundreds of people come running and a passing group of children want to know why you're stuck on the toilet. The bell goes. You don't know which room you are in next. You will pass out unless there is access to coffee within the next 4 minutes.

You arrive in a class and read some of your book. The children look bored. The teacher is marking books. You invite questions and they want to know if you're rich and famous. The room is hot and there are no windows open. Someone has farted and the rest of them are noisily peeling and fastening velcro on their shoes. You tell them about being an author and they think you make the books yourself. You explain about editors and publishers and printers. They glaze over even more.

In the staffroom at lunchtime you accumulate black looks by sitting in Mr Preston's chair. You accidentally use Miss Hobbs's mug too. No one talks to you.

The afternoon is worse. The Powerpoint you prepared doesn't work on the school's computer. You write on the whiteboard with a permanent marker and then are left with half a class as children file out for violin and oboe lessons. The last session is in the hall. A cleaner is still sweeping it. You set up and some children file in hoping to do PE. You show a book which those at the back can't see. Teachers walk past, then parents, then Class 6 going to the library and you relaise the hall is in fact just a wide corridor. Two noisy children bring back some musical instruments and drop the cymbals. No one is listening.

The final bell goes and you get out some books, hopeful that someone might want a signed copy. No one turns up. They didn't know to bring money. You drag your hefty box back to the office and hand over an invoice to a harrassed admin person who is just a temp and knows nothing. You mention a cheque and the head turns up and says that she thought county were paying for this. You try to get out of the school but the door is locked. Eventually you exit, your throat parched and your head throbbing. It's raining and your car has been clamped.

But not at Cragside in Newcastle: that was FANTASTIC! (and they bought 60 books: the parents clearly value reading too: what an excellent community....)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Thanks Seton Primary!

Well, it's September and the school author visit season has started again. Yesterday I was at the mega-friendly Seton Primary School which is located in the marvellous little fishing port of Staithes, North Yorkshire. It was great fun telling stories, performing poems and answering questions with Classes 3 and 4. Special thanks to Miss Barningham and Mrs Hill, the teachers, for their enthusiastic welcome and joining in!

The children al learnt my 'What's your name?' rhyme which I now must have taught to thousands of kids across the country! I wonder if they can remember it? Actually, I bet a lot of them can - I went into a school in Selby last Autumn then returned in the spring and briefly worked with the same class of 7 year-olds. I asked them, 'What's your name?' and to my (and the teacher's) complete amazement they recalled the whole thing without a glitch. I wonder if the Seton juniors can do that... I bet they can!

So, well done to the excellent Mrs Barningham for looking after me with cups of tea and a good chat: she has the poshest Head's office I've ever seen: leather sofa, rugs, original Picassos...(OK I lied about the paintings but the rest is true). She also bought a copy of All Teachers Great and Small for the staff - what a brilliant person to work for! The children were delightful too - I can't wait to go back again.

Wonderful Staithes

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Book 2

I'm currently writing the follow up to All Teachers Great and Small and enjoying reliving those glorious days in the Dales in the 1980s. There will eventually be a three-book series (and who knows, maybe even more?). As I write I've penned about 76,000 words which sounds a lot but there's still about a quarter of the manuscript to go and, of course, this is only the first draft...

But what can you expect from Book 2 (working title: All Teachers Wise and Wonderful)? Here are a few snippets - well, just insights into some of the stories that await:

- The very naughty thing that some kids did to us on Mischief Night
- The terrible fate that befalls the school's new young, trendy vicar
- What happened when I tried to cut down a big tree
- When we hear mysterious noises next door and see a ghostly face in the window
- The tale of a comical sledging accident
- When an Egyptian mummy comes to life
- A very embarrassing hospital incident
- The day when a TV series was filmed in the village
- One of the children being attacked by a vampire

You can also read about:
  • exploding pigs
  • funny nuns
  • a giant igloo
  • the world's worst snooker
  • bottle rockets
  • cow poo
And, as they say, much more! So, there we are - it's due for hardback publication sometime in mid 2012 but before then don't forget that ATGAS is out in paperback in May: the perfect gift!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

More ATGAS reviews

All Teachers Great and Small was one of LOVEREADING's books of the month for August. Sue Baker said, "A wonderful peep at school and village life that has all but disappeared ... warm, funny and packed with incident." Read more at:

The Gazette & Herald, one of Ryedale's great institutions, asked their book man Bill Spence to read ATGAS recently and his verdict was: "...a good light-hearted read; most enjoyable." Full review:

Not a review but a bit of background about how the book came to be, from The Northern Echo:

And a similar piece here from York's The Press:

Lit fest and more

The weekend of October 22-23 sees Malton's second Literature Festival and Andy Seed will be running two events as well as sitting on a Q&A panel to offer advice to prospective authors. There will be lots of writers, readings, workshops, books, poetry and more so do come along and get involved if you live in Yorkshire.

On Saturday 22nd October Andy will be running an Interactive Poetry Performance Workshop for children aged 7-11 at Hope Central cafe, Castlegate, Malton from 10.30am to 12 noon. This will be a fun event with wacky wordplay, funny rhymes and lots of chances to join in and perform if you want to. The cost is only £2 and places can be booked by calling Hope Central on 01653 697796.

On Saturday 22nd October Andy will be giving a talk for adults called Dales Tales. This will include some interesting backgound to his new book All Teachers Great and Small, plus an entertaining reading and Q&A session. There'll be a chance to buy a signed copy of the book at the end. This will be at The Milton Rooms (Fitzwilliam Room), Malton, at from 6.30 to 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 (to inlcude a drink) from Malton TIC or on the door.

Ah, the joy of the local newspaper posed publicity shot...
PS Did you know that ATGAS has its own Facebook page? Take a peek at it here.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Yorkshire Signing Tour

It was reet fun this week visiting five Yorkshire towns to sign books. Headline's lovely sales rep Jenny drove me to York, Harrogate, Ripon, Thirsk and Northallerton where we were warmly received into 11 bookshops, including Waterstones, WH Smiths and three independent stores. Thanks to everyone who welcomed us and had those lovely big piles of All Teachers Great and Small ready to sign.

Ooh, and thanks to Headline too for the lurvely lunch at Betty's...