POEM: the day the school was shut

shut school

the caretaker lost his broom
did a cartwheel
across the classroom
the day the school was shut

the school PA charged the computer
went on Dateline
looking for a suitor
the day the school was shut

the teachers began to sing
skipping around
in a great ring
the day the school was shut

the cook threw the potato smash
juggled the plates
watched them crash
the day the school was shut

the parents all began to scream
ran out the doors
looking for ice-cream
the day the school was shut

the school nurse poured out  lotion
skidded across the floor
causing a commotion
the day the school was shut

the Head Teacher stroked his wig
hopped on a table
and did a jig
the day the school was shut

Pulling A Blank

 

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You will have noticed I haven’t written an entry for my blog for a while. There is no great mystery behind it. I was not kidnapped, transported to another planet or plummeted into a mystical realm like the children of Narnia. No. It is quite simple. I was going through what many writers go through at various points when writing: writer’s block.  I just couldn’t think of anything to write for my blog.

Maybe it was because my creative energies were being sapped by two other things: submitting my second book to Literary Agents (time consuming and somewhat soul destroying) and compiling the notes on my third book before settling down to editing proper. I’m still at both of these and they have become my obsessions.

This meant I had less time to just let my wander and play in the quiet moments. This is an essential part of writing. If you are told to ‘just write,’ often you’re mind goes immediately blank.

That’s why writing at school can be really hard. The blank page and your teacher asking you to come out with some great story just like that. And there are all the things you are told to remember: fronted adverbials, alliteration for effect, a simile or metaphor or two. No wonder you mind just freezes. How can anyone write under such pressure?

Take a moment and put your pencil down. Stare out the window. Watch the trees in the breeze, traffic passing or the rain fall. Take some calming breaths. Think about what you are interested in: A TV programme you watched; a computer game you play; a song you like; a pet you cuddle… Make that your story.

There are no rules when writing stories. You can have happen whatever you want. You are the magical master. If you want a tap-dancing zebra as a class teacher, so be it! You want to be skiing on the skin of a bowl of custard, go on! It is your world. Rule it.

The Writer’s Life

Writing and pen

When I visit schools, children often ask me questions about being a writer and what it is really like so I thought I would attempt to answer some of the most common questions I am asked here.

Are you rich?
The answer is no. Most writers are not rich. The average yearly wages for a writer is £10,500 so that means most writers have another job as well, like me. Unless, you are super succesful like JK Rowling. Then you can write all the time. I’m afraid to say I don’t live in a big house and have twenty-eight cats. I have two and a goldfish.

Are you famous?
No. Very few writers get recognised on the street. The ones that do tend to have been celebrities before they became writers, like David Walliams. They were famous for something else first. Of course, there are a few exceptions like Michael Rosen, Roger McGough or Anthony Horowitz who have also been on TV after their books became well-known. I’ve only been recognised in the street once by a girl whose school I had visited. She yelled, “Look, there’s that writer who came to my school. He’s going into that house!” Otherwise, I walk about never noticed. I could be sat by you and you wouldn’t know.

What do you do when you write? What’s it like?
When I write, I take myself out of the house away from distractions like the TV, cats, fish, reliable internet and go to a place I call ‘the office.’ There I can get endless cups of coffee for just £1.25.
I settle down at the table, look at the outline of my book I’m currently working on, open up my tablet and keyboard and begin writing. I write using a programme called Scrivener which was specially made for writers. While I write, I usually listen to music without voices to cut out any background noise that may distract me and put me off. I might write non-stop for an hour or three. It depends how easily the writing is coming. As I write, I talk to nobody except my characters and imagined audience. They are my only concern.
Writing can be lonely. You sit by yourself, not speaking, not knowing if your writing is any good or worth reading. You just hope it is and carry on. That is why I am also a member of two Writing Groups. There, I share my work, find out what people think of it, if my jokes work, and talk about writing issues such as the best way to solve a problem with point of view.
Sometimes things are different. Sometimes I get to meet my readers when I am invited to a school to do a talk or run writing workshops. Then I get to share my love of writing and talk about books and we do some writing together. It’s great fun.

Have you written any other books?
Yes. Three others but they’re not published yet. One is for grown-ups, one is a kind of Tolkien adventure, and another is about an elf which I’m sending to Literary Agents. I am also working on another one at the moment.

I hope all this helps clear up the things I’m most asked. If you’ve any other questions, just ask in the comment’s box below.

POEM: The Spelling Test

 

OK children
It’s time for the Spelling Test
Remember: no talking
If I see you talking
I will tear up your paper for cheating
Susan, what did I just say?
That’s right, NO TALKING.
Question 1
Suc-cess
Remember my clue:
Two cuffs, two sleeves
Michael, are you paying attention?

I’em a sawin bird in the ski
dragon wing tell mak me fli
a nite in rmer rides my bak
blazin sward helld hi for attak

OK
Question 2
Ne-ces-sary
Here’s the clue
One cup, two sugars
Remember that
One cup, two sugars
Michael, have you got number one done yet?

The prinsess waits in her towa
walls of vine and flowa
a which chains her too a bed
kacklin lowdly makin dred

Michael! You haven’t even started!
How do you expect to write
if you can’t spell?

WRITING TIP 4: About Spelling…

 

I’m sorry to say but often spelling gets in the way of good story writing, along with handwriting. Parents panic about it, pointing out any ‘simple’ errors to their children. Teachers fret about it because it can influence Assessment scores.

This is bad.

By all this panic and fretting, you get very worried. You begin to believe that spelling and handwriting make a good story. That any story where it is a bit wobbly is not a good story.

WRONG!

When a writer is writing their story for the first time (first draft) there is only one thing they are worried about: getting to the end of the story. That’s right! You should only worry about getting your ideas down, following your characters as they go on their adventure in whatever world or place you have put them in.

That doesn’t mean writers ignore spelling, punctuation and that grammar stuff. It just means we check all that when we do a second draft. That’s a time to fix that.

And handwriting?

Well, a published work should be readable. But you only worry about that at the very end. And you could always use a computer.

So stop worrying for now about that spelling and punctuation stuff. Sit down. Dream. And get that story down – to the end!

 

POEM: My Mum Don’t Come To My School No More

redschool

 

 

 

 

 

My mum don’t come
to my school no more,
saw the Head Teacher
hit him to the floor
said a lot of words
straight out the loo
punched and kicked him
black and blue

My mum don’t come
to my school no more,
she hit him with a right hook
to the ground
all the other parents
gathered around
they all enjoyed
a great good fight
but even they thought
“This ain’t right.”

My mum don’t come
to my school no more
she’s barred from the playground
not allowed through the doors
or all the teachers
will call the law
I wish she behaved herself
done what is good
instead of being
the talk of the neighbourhood.

POEM: Teacher says…

 

 

Teacher says
my writing is not very good
But I dream of slaying serpents
with a dappled sword of light

Teacher says
I should use more connectives
But I search the fathoms of Hades
for the last souls of the unforgiven

Teacher says
it would be better with subordinate clauses
But I dance with moonlight maidens
on an ocean of stardust from Mars

Teacher says
my work lacks imagination
But I journey home, sword broken
and the beast of burden victorious