My first book was published in 1998. That’s right, kids. The last century! And ever since, I’ve been visiting schools and appearing in theatres and at literary festivals throughout the UK and beyond. I’ve been to literally hundreds of schools, including schools as far afield as Dubai, Oman, Qatar and Nigeria, speaking to thousands of children, of all ages, from nursery, all the way through to Y11s.
Coming from a background in stand-up comedy, my ‘normal’ sessions tend to be more of a performance. It’s basically a show. My aim is to engage with my audience and in doing so, hopefully smash certain stereotypes about what authors are supposed to be like. I try to demonstrate that books and reading can actually be fun and that if someone like me can end up doing what I do, then anyone can! As an author, there’s no greater compliment, than hearing that I helped inspire a reluctant reader to pick up a book. Even if it’s not one of my own!
My normal session/visit, will typically include a bit of chat, a bit of singing, a bit of reading, a Q&A and quite a bit of mucking about. I’m equally happy doing that in front of 20 children in a library, 200 children in a school hall, or 2000 in a theatre.
But just because that’s what I normally do, doesn’t mean that’s all I can do. I like to think that I’m nothing if not adaptable. So, I’m just as happy doing a nice gentle storytelling session with a group of 5-year-olds, as I am having an informal chat, with a bunch of 16-year-olds. Having tutored adults on a couple of Arvon courses, I can also do creative writing workshops, if required.
And if you’re looking for something, not covered above? Just ask.
Age-wise? I’m happy talking to pretty much any age-group. Having said that, the full-on, rock ‘n’ roll performances probably work best for Y3 – Y7 inc. And the more informal chats/workshops work best with smaller numbers, say 20-30ish. But everything’s flexible. Nothing’s set in stone. So, again, just ask.
Fees? Well, a day in your school will cost £450 + return travel from and to Edinburgh + accommodation, where applicable/necessary. That might consist of one or two of the big performances, plus smaller chats/workshops/whatever. But we can talk about that, nearer the time.
I can also do half-days, although that might depend on my schedule and whether or not I can tie it in with another nearby school. Or perhaps a school, either on the way, or not a million miles out the way.
At the time of writing – May 2021 – I can also offer online/virtual visits. I’ve done plenty during Lockdown – and whilst a little bit different – and a lot less frenetic and ‘wacky,’ they seem to work perfectly well. At least, I haven’t had any complaints yet.
How do virtual visits work? Well, firstly, I can pre-record a series of one or more personalised videos for your school. They’re usually between 5 and 10 mins in length. I’ll say hello, have a waffle, say a little bit about myself and what I do. I can then talk about a specific book. I can also do a reading, as well as answering questions, if I get them in advance. One video would be £60. Four videos would be £200.
The other option would be a live virtual visit, via Zoom, or similar. It’s obviously not possible to recreate the atmosphere of a live performance. In my experience, what works best, is a general chat, possibly a reading, followed by a slightly longer than normal Q&A. A 40-minute session like this, would cost £100.