16 Jun Three libraries. Three schools. One Author.
I spent yesterday meeting my first ever school groups. Visiting schools and working with school groups is an important part of the work for an author whose audience is primarily younger people, so it feels like I’ve passed a bit of a milestone in my new career.
The sessions were organised by Sean Edwards, the Principal Librarian Children and Youth for Haringey Libraries, and so each one was with a different school in a different library. The presentation I’ve prepared for occasions such as this is still very new – until today I’d only road-tested it at my event at Pickled Pepper Books ten days ago – and it’s still developing. There’s a section in it where I talk about how real places in North Wales inspired me to write The Box of Demons, and so what I did today was add some slides specific to each area/school I would be visiting. I think it went well, so I’m going to keep developing that idea as I go along.
We started in Wood Green, where I met the whole of Year Five at North Harringay Primary School. I was a bit nervous, but they were really warm and welcoming, and it went well. I did learn, however, that if you are going to give a Keynote to a whole school year then a 13″ laptop screen really isn’t going to cut it. So that’s one thing I need to keep in mind in the future. There was a moment during the talk where I was talking about Chris Riddell, and how he was the new Children’s Laureate. I mentioned he’d taken over from Malorie Blackman and as soon as I said her name there was an audible gasp of excitement. It was so great to witness first-hand a group who were so excited about reading, and writers.
At the end of my talk, after I’d signed books for everyone who wanted one, Sean reminded the group that we were in a library and so they needed to be silent when leaving. Which they were, accept for the cacophony of clacking noises as they began clasping and unclasping their new copies of The Box of Demons. The magnetic latch on the cover makes a really satisfying noise, and it’s even more awesome when thirty ten-year-olds do it in a quiet library. (I know I’m not supposed to approve of noise in a library, but for that moment I did.)
— North Harringay (@NHPN8) June 16, 2015
Next up, it was a trip to Hornsey Library in Crouch End to meet St. Gilda’s. The staff at the library made this lovely welcome board, which uses images from my website.
They were a much smaller group, but no less enthusiastic, and I learned another important lesson: before you launch into a reading about the apocalypse, check your audience knows what one is. (“What’s the apocalypse?” was the first question in the Q&A.)
Sean and I stopped for lunch at a small café on Alexandra Park Road (I forget its name, unfortunately). As we ate, we were spotted by the author Jonny Zucker, who knew Sean and had spent the morning writing in the library we were going to visit. Sean introduced me and Jonny said he’d try and pop down to see my event.
The final library of the day was Alexandra Park Library, which it turns out I had been running past for about two years (it’s on one of my regular routes) without noticing it was a library, which is a shame, because it’s a nice one. (Not that I was ever in a position to stop for a quick read, all red and sweaty in my running gear.)
St. Martin of Porres were my last school, and I think this was the presentation that went the best. They were a small enough group not to have to crane their necks to see my presentation, and I tried reading a different section of the book for my second extract, which went down better. (Ben meeting the dog-demon for the first time, instead of the Battle on the Orme.) There was a great moment towards the beginning of the talk, after I got a copy of the book out and showed everyone the pop-up, one boy on the front row said “sick”.
After the event, I met Jonny again. He told me that when Jacqueline Wilson started she spent years visiting three schools every day, which helped her build a following. After the day I had, I found myself thinking, ‘yeah, I would love to do that.’ I’m so excited for my next school visits – I have a few planned in the North West at the end of the month – I can’t think of anything better than travelling round the country, meeting young readers.