Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Swindon Ten Youth Festival of Literature

Last week I was invited to attend the third Swindon Ten Youth Festival of Literature. This is a collaborative venture, co-ordinated by the librarians of Swindon with 11 Secondary Schools involved and 10 Primary schools. If anyone doubts the worth and importance of school librarians, they should visit Swindon in Festival week. This is a huge feat of organisation but the rewards are manifest. The Festival attracted a stellar list of authors, including Charlie Higson and the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who took part in a celebration of reading, covering books of every kind and genre. The enthusiasm in the schools for both reading and writing are proof of the importance and value of this Festival.

I visited two schools, Isambard Community School and Greendown Community School, and talked to three groups of students about my books, reading, and writing generally. I was impressed by the enthusiasm I met, both for reading and writing. Isambard particularly seems to have a keen group of talented and motivated writers. I hope they get together and spark off each other. Writers don't have to work in isolation, sharing work and writing concerns with others can really help. I've been writing for more than twenty years and at each stage of my career, I've benefited from being in touch with other writers, both friends I've made through having a common interest and through the Scattered Authors' Society.

I hope the Swindon Festival continues and that its success inspires other places to follow its example. It is a wonderful way, not just to celebrate reading, but to encourage writers, too.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Ardingly College

Last week, I was invited to visit Ardingly College in Sussex to take part in a special day dedicated to reading. I talked about my books and then led a creative writing work shop. One of the classes had been studying Witch Child - some of their work is displayed on the board behind me in the photograph. I was impressed by the enthusiasm amongst the students for both reading and writing and would like to thank the library staff and the English Department for making it into such a good day.

By coincidence, the librarian remembered me from a visit I made to a school in nearby Crowborough. It was the early 1990's and I had not long been published. I had been invited to the school as part of the Conan Doyle Festival (I wrote thrillers then). I felt very honoured to be invited but it was my first school visit and I had no idea what to do. I was terrified, but luckily there were other writers there to calm me down and proffer suitable advice and encouragement. I've done hundreds of visits since then but I'll never forget that first trip to Crowborough!