Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Using Story to Teach ICT

Wow! I'm so excited!

What should be delivered to me this morning but, six beautiful copies of Using Story to Teach ICT ages 5-6. It is the first book in a series of four on teaching ICT in a creative, cross-curricular way and was published by Hopscotch Educational.

It is great being able to hold the books in my hand. This is the absolutely best things about being a full-time writer. I LOVE IT. Can you see my name on the cover?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Colours Around Me

You know it has been five months since I updated my blog.

Five Months!!! A lot can happen in five months. I have had several new books published for a start. These are the covers for my Colours Around Me Series published by QED.

There are four educational picture books in the series, aimed at 2-4 year olds and they are designed to help children recognise different colours in their own environment.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Oxford Literary Festival

On Mothers' Day, I travelled into Oxford on the train with my youngest son, Joseph, to see Candy Gourlay talk about her book at the Oxford Literary Festival. Candy's book, Tall Story, was shortlisted as one of Blue Peter's favourite stories in the Blue Peter Book Awards, along with Philip Reeve's, A Web of Air (Mortal Engines), and the overall winner, Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John.

When we arrived the first thing we did was go and buy some cake, which was yummy. We then took a look around and met Christopher Lloyd. Not the actor but the author. He has written the What on Earth? Wallbook: From the Big Bang to the Present Day. The Wallbook features more than 1,000 pictures and captions that tell the story of the planet, life and people from the beginning of time to the present day. Christopher gave Joe a quiz to do. All the answers were somewhere on the giant Wallbook. We got about half-way through but, had to stop to go to Candy's Event.

(C) Sarah McIntyre

The session took place in Christ Church Hall, which is where they filmed the meal scenes for Harry Potter. It was a stunning place, very grand but also very cold. Whilst we were waiting for everyone to find a sit, who should arrive but, my friend Sarah McIntyre. She was doing an event later in the day about one of the books she has illustrated, When Titus took the Train.

The panel was chaired by the Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood. After the question and answer session we were able to get our books signed and Joe was so excited about getting Barney's autograph and having a photo taken with him. I think that was the quietest he was all day.

After getting Barney's, Candy's and Sarah's autograph, we went back downstairs to have another look around and to finish the The What on Earth? Wallbook quiz. When we had finished Christopher marked it and Joe got 20 out of 20. Christopher Lloyd told him he was a genius. I knew that all ready. :)

We were going to have a picnic but, unfortunately it was raining. So, we walked back to the railway station and decided to eat our picnic on the train home. It was a lovely way to spend Mother's Day and it was brilliant to be able to spend quality time with my youngest son.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Miri's Book Launch

Yesterday, I visited the Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town for the launch of Miriam Halahmy's young adult novel, Hidden, published by Meadowside Books. It is also available for the Kindle.

Hidden is the first in a trilogy set on Hayling Island. It is about a fourteen year old girl called, Alix, who hides an injured illegal immigrant and all the complications that entails. Alix has never really thought about asylum seekers before as she has a whole load of her own teenage problems to worry about. But, now she is confronted by the... 'international politics of war, terrorism and refugees.'

Miriam has tackled this gritty subject with empathy and expertise. Get a copy and read it, I know you will be impressed. I was lucky enough to read a first draft and  was drawn in from the start and everyone knows that if I'm not hooked by the first few pages I will not bother reading the book. I can't wait to find out what changes were made before it reached the final version in the book.

Here is Miriam at her launch talking to her agent Eve White. That is my copy of the book she is about to sign on the table.

Miriam also writes poetry and runs creative writing classes in London. You can find out more about her and her books on her website:

Friday, March 18, 2011

100+ Fun Ideas for Science Investigations

The other day, I had a little rant about one of the sad things that had been drawn to my attention by signing up to Google Alerts. Today, I thought I should let you know about one of the good things.

One of my publishers, Brilliant Publications, has set up a lovely website where they publicise their books. Each day they post a teaching activity from one of the books they publish, to give you a flavour of the book.

Well, I was very pleased to find out that one of my ideas was used for their Activity of the Day. It was actually the second activity they posted and was from my book 100+ Fun Ideas for Science Investigations.

The activity is to investigate, 'How can you make your shadow bigger?' and is linked to Physical Processes in Science (Ages 9–11). The book contains lots of practical and fun experiments that can be easily carried out in the classroom and help to developp the children's skills of scientific enquiry.

But, don't take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Literacy Teacher Training Handbook

Now, some of you know all ready how I spend hours seaching for myself on the web. Yes, I do! And I have mentioned that I have set up Google Alerts for my name so if anyone writes about me I get sent an email with the link so I can go check it out.

Sometimes this brings up things that make me sad, like the bad review I got for my book, The Literacy Teacher Training Handbook on Amazon. It's really mean. :(

This is one of the books I am most proud of writing. It covers the whole of the Primary Literacy Framework suggesting three or more activities for each of the learning objectives from Year One to Year Six. It is jam packed full of ideas and I would highly recommend it to new teachers, highly-experienced, supply teachers, learning support assistants and I would also recommend it to anyone who needs an idea for a school visit activity.

There are ideas for drama, reading, writing, speaking and listening and working creatively in groups.

I think it is a brilliant book, even if I did write it myself. In fact, it is the book I wished I'd had when I was still teaching full-time.

OK, rant over! Go have a look at it for yourself and make up your own mind what you think.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Voice and Viewpoint

At the last SCBWI Professional Series meeting, Elizabeth Hawkins talked about Voice and Viewpoint. Using manuscripts volunteered by those attending, she demonstrated how a story could be told in a different way by changing the voice and the viewpoint. 

Every writer has to make their own choice. It does depend on the book. No matter what the viewpoint you have to bear in mind the question: 'Is that my character speaking, or is it me?'

By changing a text into the present tense she showed us how it could be more immediate. We were able to compare this to a more traditional narrator style viewpoint. It was good to see how it subtly changed the feel of the story. The present tense is fashionable at the moment but, very tricky to bring off. 

Elizabeth explained that in an action-packed writing scene it is easier to use third person, as there is not so much reflection and interpretation to stop the flow of the action. The reflection requires prior knowledge of what is going on and tells the reader how they should feel about this. We need to avoid telling the reader what to think. A tighter viewpoint helps the reader to see and feel the action. The actions needs to go at the speed of the character - seeing what they see, in the order it happens. Strangely, the third person, even if it is written in the past tense gives the experience of reading it as it happens. In intense danger scenes, a tighter viewpoint adds more tension but, you can pull back this tension in other scenes to let the reader reflect.

With viewpoint it is better not to be original but, to let your story do the talking. A lot of teenage books are written in first person. When writing in the first person and present tense you have to consider how much you are supposed to know at any one time.

The omniscient narrator, such as the Victorian, 'My dear reader', can work in a different way. However, if you talk to the reader you distance them. The omniscient narrator where you don't even change scenes to change viewpoint can suit a big saga. But, it is important to make sure the character is mentioned before you change viewpoint.

Back-story can slow the pace. When adding back-story, the writer needs to seriously consider if it is really needed. It slows the tension and you may find you do not need all the detail. Ask yourself why you are putting it in, as it losses the ability to catch the reader early on. It is better to take out this narrator intrusion.

It is good to experiment with viewpoint within a story. Keep in mind it is the book we are really concerned about. What makes it great is the hard draft of the writing. You can read a book and not remember what person it is written in - it is the essence of the story you remember. You can do anything as long as your reader like it. Elizabeth suggested we ask the children what they prefer to read.

Elizabeth had many little gems of wisdom, which she conveyed to us during her talk Last week. Many of them I have included in my write-up. One of my favourites was: 'Write what is right for you, as you will write well what you like writing.'