Sunday, 11 March 2012

This week's word is: VISITS2

Hello, dragon fans.  Gadzooks has gone to lie down in a darkened room, exhausted after another hectic week of school visits.  So it's my turn to write the blog. A-ha!

The last seven days has been a little less exhausting than the week before, mainly because we only had three visits to do, and they were all great.  We left our Devon home late on Monday afternoon and journeyed first to Cardiff in South Wales.  Over the years we've made lots of trips to North Wales but rarely the southern end.  Gadzooks was particularly excited about this trip because a certain television programme is filmed in Cardiff - the dragon's favourite - Doctor Who!  I think he was hoping to see a flying dalek or the TARDIS materialising in the hotel car park, or at the very least be provided with a sonic screwdriver with which to open the door to our hotel room.  Sadly, there was none of that.  Neither did we have time to explore the city, but we did at least go over the magnificent Severn Bridge, one of the largest suspension bridges in the world.  There's something very restful about driving over a wide body of water (the Bristol Channel), especially at night when there is little traffic about. 

At school the following morning, in leafy Llandaff, we knew we were in for a good session when we stepped out of the car and saw two grey squirrels bounding about in the school grounds.  For once, I wasn't carrying any acorns in my pockets (I often do - conkers, too) but the squirrels looked pretty well fed and went about their business completely unaware that the author of Snigger and the Nutbeast was in their midst. We were then met in reception by two fantastic school librarians, Ceri and Kelly, who told us the squirrels were a regular feature of the school and that we could expect to see lots of them during the day.   Entirely appropriate, of course.  Anyone who has ever been to one of my talks will know that I often show an image of a squirrel when I tell the story of how THE FIRE WITHIN came to be written.  At the Cathedral School in Cardiff, that moment in the presentation received the biggest cheer ever! It was a delightful day all round, but next time we will definitely stay a little longer and explore the city.  Maybe we'll bump into a cyberman!

The next day it was onto England's second city, Birmingham, and a very different school in the Oldknow district there.  Over the course of the day, we spoke to 600 children between the ages of 7-11. For many of these boys and girls, English was not their first language.  So it might have been assumed that the talks would be a little more challenging or the children less responsive.  No way!  What an amazing bunch of students.  Attentive, well-behaved, and overflowing with interesting questions.  There was one who wondered if I'd ever bought Mrs Author harpoons for Christmas - at least I think he said harpoons.  Maybe it was spoons!  This was an incredible school in more ways than one.  We often go into places where there is an aquarium in reception, or maybe a hamster running round a cage in a classroom.  This school had its own zoo! There was an aviary filled with cockatiels and budgerigars, a large run of chickens, a giant rabbit (allegedly - it was asleep in its cage) and a reptile house which housed lizards, snakes and a tarantula.  I politely declined to sit the, erm, spider on my hand.  It looked quite happy where it was, thank you!  I was also interviewed at this school in a custom made radio studio.  Two bright young girls quizzed me about writing techniques and character construction.  I was very impressed.  We must say a big thanks to Kosar, the librarian who organised the visit.  In her library she had some ENORMOUS images of famous authors and/or books.  On one of them was a picture of Grabber! Gadzooks was pleased to see that.

The Oldknow goat 
In between the journey to our next destination, Stockingford in Nuneaton, we had an interesting chat on Twitter to Philip Reeve, author of the brilliant Mortal Engines series and many more books besides.  Philip is one of those authors we have a lot of time for.  He did some amazing illustrations for three small books of mine which were released before the dragons ever saw the light of day (Hrrr! Ouch! That was Gretel scorching my ear.) If you're ever lucky enough to find a book called The Table Football League (long out of print) you can chuckle at my daft text and Philip's superbly witty drawings.  We're hoping to meet up again soon, an occasion which will no doubt merit a blog post all of its own.

So, last but not least, we dropped into Stockingford Junior School and did one huge talk followed by an even longer signing session.  It would be wrong to measure the success of an event by the number of books that are sold, but it is very satisfying when children want to read The Chronicles or the Wayward Crescent books after hearing about them.  And these guys bought them in some number.  Thank you Annie for inviting us back in and putting me in front of such enthusiastic children. And a huge thanks to art teacher, Jusna (I hope I've got that right!) who was a star with the books.

We got home exhausted on Friday evening after a four hour drive.  We were greeted by the dragons and Mrs Author, of course, and we also discovered two nice boxes, one of which contained a number of FIRE WORLD paperbacks from the USA, and in the other was six advanced copies of THE FIRE ASCENDING. Yes, it has been printed and will be going into distribution very very soon. It looks awesome.  Not long now!  Until next time, when Gadzooks will be back, happy reading.  Hrrr!

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