Category Archives: Events

Free Author talks for schools

free book talks author scotland perthshire john bray jack reusen

I recently passed my driving test (at the tender age of thirty-five). The surest motivation in the weeks leading up to it was school book talks. I’ve ran school talks before but I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to get to the talk on foot, by bus, or on more than one occasion I managed to wangle a lift from a teacher (thanks Mr Scoogle!).

Now I’m fully mobile. I can get to the most remote little primary school in the middle of nowhere if I’m asked to. It’s a wildly freeing feeling and I can’t wait to see what it brings.

I’m aiming to have a new batch of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ (book 1) printed up over the next few weeks and then I’ll be all set for book talks wherever the call is issued (within reason). For this reason my schedule will mean that the first talks will take place some time in October.

I’m based in Perthshire (Scotland) and I don’t charge for book talks but I do fund them by selling copies of the Jack Reusen books at the talks themselves. I can set up a pre-order option for teachers so that pickup and signing etc. is as smooth as possible.

However, I’m also happy to turn up on the day with a batch of books. That said, pre-order ensures that I have enough books on hand at the talk (I can also pre-sign books to help reduce wait time after the talk is finished).

Talks can be themed around the methodology of writing, book production, story-telling, research, or I can simply talk about the books (this allows me to cater to classes from primary 3 and upwards). I’m also happy to discuss a more regular visit schedule for things like writing or book making workshops (though I may have to charge a small fee for these to cover travel, and resources, etc.)

If you would like me to visit your class (or other children’s group, club, or organisation) to talk about writing and stories please get in touch using the form below. I look forward to hearing from you. All the best, John

Questions to make your brain whizz at Viewlands Primary School

viewlands primary school perth scotland

I was recently invited to talk about writing at Viewlands Primary School in Perth as part of their programme of activities for Book Week Scotland. I spoke to four year groups (primaries 4, 5, 6, and 7) and each year group contained two classes which added up to about sixty kids at each talk. It was taxing, enlightening, but most of all it was a lot of fun. Each age group had their own ideas and their own questions.

scottish book week free author talk

I was asked about the work involved in writing a book, the methods I use to develop a character, I was asked why I picked the fantasy genre, what my favourite books are, and hundreds of other equally interesting questions.

On top of this some of the older children were interested in the practical elements of writing; we discussed the fast-paced first-drafting I do as a result of my connection to National Novel Writing Month. This gave me a chance to describe some of the difficulties I’ve faced in the past in regards to forward planning (or the lack of it).

viewlands primary school perth scotland

I think the teachers were pleased to hear me sharing some important lessons I’ve learned about forward planning and the difficulties of redrafting rushed areas of my work that don’t contribute to the overall story (I get the feeling that planning ahead is something teachers have to remind pupils about a fair bit).

It was an exhausting and massively fulfilling experience and I’d like to thank Mr Scoogal and all of the other teachers for inviting me along on the day. I had an absolute blast and I hope the children did too.

nanowrimo national novel writing month

I wanted to post about this weeks ago but I’ve been tied up in yet another bout of National Novel Writing Month (guess I’m a glutton for punishment). NaNoWriMo is once again over (I completed my word-count of 50,000) and life is finally going back to normal.

The month was tough and some things I tried in my writing turned out to be a bit of a waste of time. One activity in November definitely wasn’t a waste of time and I’m extremely grateful to all the staff and pupils for the wee injection of energy I got right smack dab in the middle of the writers equivalent of a marathon.

Thanks for popping along to read this, feel free to scroll down to see more posts on writing, and thanks again to all the staff and pupils at Viewlands for having me along, all the best, John

Writing advice this Saturday

Are you three chapters into writing that novel but on the twentieth edit? Do you have extensive notes planning out a whole book but still haven’t written one paragraph? Have your writing efforts left you with a folder full of half finished chapters and sprawling notes? Well so have mine.

I’ve been trying to ‘be a writer’ since I was a kid. I started to take it more seriously in high school and actually made a solid attempt to write a novel while I was at uni.

However, I fell foul of a myriad of problems that I’ve come to recognise like old friends. I would over-plan, spending all my creative energy and leaving nothing for the writing itself. Then, to compensate, I would try to write in a free-flow style only to find my direction-less flow of words draining into stagnant puddles with no hope of turning into anything.

If this isn’t common of all writers I’d be very surprised. It seems like a necessary part of what we all go through. We all need to find the right pace and discover ways of retaining the creative spark in our writing whilst ensuring that our text actually means something (even if it is just to ourselves).

On Saturday I’ll be doing book talks and chatting about writing for most of the day. It’s part of Crieff Arts Festival hosted at Fun Junction in Crieff, and since I write kids books I expect I’ll be giving a lot of early advice (‘pay attention to your favourite authors’, ‘keep observing the world around you’, etc.). However, I’m also more than happy to offer advice (or even simply to mutually commiserate) to grown-up would-be writers.

I am not a break out success but neither are most successful writers (even J K Rowling still had to do the rounds with school talks to get the word out about Harry et. al.). I can’t be sure whether the Jack Reusen books make me an official ‘writer’ or not but that’s something that doesn’t bother me as much any more. I write and some people read it, and even better some of them seem to like it (at least that’s what they tell me). For me that’s enough.

If you’d like to come and bend my ear about writing you are more than welcome. I’m also considering putting together a sort of combined digital & ‘real world’ writers support group in the town. I’m aware that there are a few such groups already but I figure it can’t hurt to have more support for writers, plus developing the digital angle would make it easier to stay in touch.

I’ll be in Fun Junction from 11 until around 3 or 4 (depending on how busy it is). If you would like to talk writing, please pop along for a chat. All the best, John

School visits

apple-256261_1920I think we may now have officially hit the point where all local school children have returned from their holidays (or thereabouts). In light of this I thought I’d put out a quick reminder to any teachers reading about school visits. I’m available for book talks and writing workshops and I currently have a fairly clear calendar (though it is starting to fill up with other things).

I’ve never charged for school visits but I do normally bring along books for sale at a special price (I’ll figure out pricing long in advance of a visit to leave teachers time to get information out).

In the past I’ve hosted book talks for whole schools, for individual classes, and for middle-sized groups sorted by age. I’m also happy to spend a little more time with older children who might want to learn more about the writing process in a workshop setting.

If you think you’d be interested please get in touch. For those who want to do a more focussed book talk I can provide class copies of the Fey flame to give you/ your students a chance to read it in advance (either to review it or to let pupils get to know about the books before I come along).

If you are interested in arranging something please get in touch by e-mail (click this link) or by messaging below. I hope to hear from you soon,

All the best, John

Visit to Fun Junction

On the 20th August, as part of Crieff Arts Festival, I’ll be doing an author’s visit to Fun Junction in Crieff. This will be the first time I’ve done one in a while so I’ve decided to make the most of it. 

Fun Junction has kindly agreed to offer prizes for a new ‘design a character competition’ (three £10 vouchers up for grabs). I’ll also be running a crossword competition where you can win signed copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ and ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’.

On top of this I’ll be sharing a work-in-progress excerpt from book three (‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’). I’ll only be able to read this a couple of times on the day as the excerpt is longer than the usual readings. If you’re a fan of books one and two please try and make it along at either 1pm or 2pm to be sure to hear the sneak peek.

I’ve also ordered a reprint of the first edition of the Fey Flame. These will be the last original copies I’ll be printing. From then on the new edition will be released, featuring Karen’s amazing new cover art (along with some slight edits to the content). 

You can pre-order the new edition or get one of the last signed copies of the first edition on the day. I’ll also have plenty of copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ to buy on the day too.

So here’s a basic run-down of what to expect on Saturday 20th (this coming Saturday):

From 11am I’ll be in Fun Junction to sign books, read excerpts of the first two books, provide entry forms for both the ‘design a character’ competition and the crossword competition.

At 1pm I’ll read an excerpt from the new book and I’ll be happy to talk about writing in general to anyone (child or adult) who might be interested in knowing more.

At 2pm I’ll be reading from ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ again. I’ll be packing up sometime after this but I’ll be sure to leave entry forms for the wordsearch and ‘design a character’ competition at Fun Junction. Entries will still be accepted until the following Saturday.

Last year the winning characters were included in a Christmas story which was released on Christmas eve. This year I’ll be including the three winning characters in another story, but this time it’ll be released in spring 2017. 

The winners will receive a £10 Fun Junction gift voucher, along with signed copies of books one and two.

I hope you’ll take the time to pop up on Saturday. All the best, John

And the winner is….

2015-08-21 15.39.35Last weekend, in conjunction with Fun Junction (and to tie in with the Crieff Arts Festival and the mini book festival that ran within it titled ‘Writers Live‘), I ran a ‘Design a Jack Reusen Character’ competition. All the entries had to be in by the end of the weekend and I’ve had a tricky job on my hands ever since.

Basically I liked so many of the entries I received that I decided to have three winners. The fourth book will be out in November, it’s a condensed chapter story set at Christmas time, and I’ve left space for a short story to fit in along side it. I’ll be starting work on the short story tonight but in the meantime I thought I’d share the winners’ artwork.

20150827135455058_0001Congratulations to Jenny, who’s already had a wee mention in the Acknowledgements in ‘Spark of Dreams’. Jenny even submitted a character description along with her picture so here it is:

“Name: Stormfly
What is it: Dragon
Qualities: Friendly, cold dragon. She breathes ice straight up into the sky to make snow storm clouds and tail whacks the ground and is as strong as an earthquake.”

I’m looking forward to seeing what ‘Stormfly’ gets up to in the story (though I may have to ask Jenny if I can give her a different name as she shares her name with Astrid’s dragon in ‘How to train Your Dragon’). I have to confess that I’ve been hunting for an excuse to put a dragon into Fey to see what happens, so thank you Jenny, I’m really excited about this one.

wpid-wp-1440709009452.gifNext, congratulations to Summer. Summer’s character didn’t have a name but I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the picture. I’m not sure how well this will come across in the image here but basically almost every part of this picture sparkles. The twinkling black sky and the girl in the shimmering party dress already have me setting out a wee starting scene on a frosty night in Fey. Thank you Summer.

20150827135514242_0001Finally congratulations to Grace for her ’10 eyed monster’. I’ve a feeling that this guy is going to have an interesting role to play in the story. My first thoughts picture him living deep in a cave. He comes across as scary and I don’t want to lose that so I’ll need to think hard about what he’ll be up to, in what will basically be a Christmas story. Every good story needs some conflict and I think the ten eyed monster will be just the ticket. Thank you Grace.

It’s going to take me a wee while to get this story drafted up but I’ll be sure to post it on here when it’s ready and it will also be available in print in November. Of course it wouldn’t be fair to ask the contributors to buy a copy so I’ll be sure to set aside a free copy for each of them that they can get hold of before they appear on the shelves.

I’ll contact the winners shortly and will hopefully have their story ready for them in the next few weeks but in the meantime I’d like to ask people to give them a big social media round of applause with likes or favourites on their pictures (you can find them by clicking this link for facebook and this, this, and this link for twitter). As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

Goodreads

2000px-Goodreads_logo.svgI’m now officially a goodreads author. They were brilliant at helping me link together my books and even created a wee page to show the ‘Jack Reusen’ series in its own light. It’s a great wee (OK not so wee) site which helps you track down books that you might like based on what other readers have said about them. I’m looking forward to experimenting myself as it’s always tough for me to figure out what to read next.

I’m a dad, I work full time, and I write books (and blog about them, and do book talks on them) in my ever shrinking spare time. Because of this I don’t get much time to sit and read and when I do I like the book to be something really special that I can get lost in for a half hour or so. I can’t wait to see what kind of suggestions I start to see once I get a few reviews written up.

Speaking of reviews (wink wink) goodreads does have my books listed and they’re sitting there with no reviews attached to them at the moment. If you feel like popping over clicking on the stars and writing a few words that would make me a very happy part-time author.

Even if you’re not in the mood to write a review I do recommend checking out goodreads. It’s genuinely a great resource for readers, plus it allows you to connect with your favourite authors via their author pages (that is, if they man them). Short post tonight, more prep for Crieff’s mini book festival for me. I should also point you towards the arts festival programme, there is literally a heap of stuff on this weekend and you don’t want to miss it (Faerie folk are even taking over one of Crieff’s parks!). Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Playing to an empty room? (and some info about competitions)

theater-105573_1280Just a short one tonight as I’m getting my ideas together for my book talk at ‘Writers Live!’ on Saturday. Basically that’s the main thing on my mind at the moment; will people come to my book talk? The idea of talking to an empty room is far more daunting than the thought of talking in front of a big crowd.

So far responses on the events page seem promising so I’ll try and hold back on the anxiety, also I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the entries for the competition I’m running in conjunction with Fun Junction.

I’ve actually got two different competitions running in conjunction with my book talk for Crieff Arts Festival but only one of them ends this weekend: The ‘Design a Jack Reusen Character’ competition is being run in conjunction with Fun Junction (where entries can be handed in). Simply design a character to feature in a Jack Reusen book. I’ll write the character into a short story which will appear on this site soon after the arts festival, but it will also be appearing in print and released inside a book that’s due to come out just before Christmas (I’ll post the title of the new book tomorrow night 😉 ).

You can submit a picture, a character description, or both. Just in case you don’t get a chance before the talk, I’ll also be bringing a big pile of paper and pencils along to the Strathearn Artspace on Saturday so that children (and adults if they want) can draw up their characters and hand them in either to me on the day. You can also drop off entries at Fun Junction up until 5:15pm on Saturday (if you want to take your time drawing/writing). Judging will take place this weekend and entries should either be dropped in to Fun Junction, or scanned and sent digitally to either the Jack Reusen facebook account, twitter account, or to jackreusen@hotmail.co.uk.

The second competition will now be running until the end of August: Simply explain what you liked most about ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ on the facebook page to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of either ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘, ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ or (if you don’t mind the wait), you can get an early release, signed edition of ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ when it comes out in the Autumn.

If you haven’t already, please pop along to the events page on facebook and say whether you’ll be able to make it along to the book talk (if I know that people are coming I might be able to relax enough for that ‘humming’ noise in my ears to go away 😉 ). As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

Literature festivals are awesome (and you should come to Crieff’s)

11138141_527430924073593_2731289479583220078_n(*updated timetable) Many years ago I went to the Edinburgh International Book festival on a trip with my Higher (5th year) English class. We were dropped into the middle of an event that felt like it was part rock festival and partly like sitting down for a cup of tea in  a friend’s living room. There was excitement, humour, and we were introduced to a lot of incredible writing. However, the most striking thing for me was the way it felt to be talking to an author about their work.

Meeting an author, even of a book you haven’t read, can be a really interesting experience, mostly because writing is such an intimate art form and those who do it gain a lot of insight into what makes them tick. It can be genuinely refreshing to get inside someone else’s head and see how ideas form and develop into something tangible, which is then presented openly to the public. Not everyone acts like this and when I saw the type of people that writers are it made me even more sure that I wanted to be one.

crieff arts festivalWell, good news everyone! Now anyone in the Crieff area on the 22nd August can get the chance to have this experience too as, Crieff is getting their own mini literary festival! There will be a huge array of writers with very different writing styles in attendance and there will even be a talk on getting your own work published (for any aspiring authors among you).

1273863_342306299238716_2146995532_oDon’t forget to add the date to your diary, I’ve added a facebook event so that you can join and get a reminder closer to the time (click here to pop over and join the event). I’ve written about the ‘Writers Live’ event before but we now know more about the line-up. I should point out that I previously posted a list of authors who would be attending but was mistaken about Jess Smith who unfortunately won’t be able to make it along this year. Apologies for my mistake.

For those who would like to join me and many other writers on the day, here’s the timetable:

‘Writers Live’ Saturday 22nd August 10am-3pm Strathearn Artspace:

cover with blurb and barcode 2 trimmed10:00am: The day starts with me (John Bray). I’ll be reading from, and talking about, the first two books in the Jack Reusen series (click these links to find out more about ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ and ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘). I will also be reading an exclusive excerpt of (my still very rough draft of) ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’, so if you want a wee glimpse of what happens next you’ll need to come along.

bronte country10:25am: Peggy Hewitt: Peggy will be reading three of her children’s short stories which were commissioned BBC Children’s television. Peggy is also a real Bronte lover, you can get an idea of her work at her Amazon author’s page here. Probably her best known book ‘Bronte Country: Lives and Landscapes’ looks at the land that the Bronte sisters called home, and its history. Peggy is also one of only a handful of people who can say that they got to read about their own demise in the newspaper. You can read the retraction from The Telegraph and Argus here. It must have been a very odd experience for her, though she seemed to find the humour in it.

oatmeal_f6d37569e639d04c9762cbab553d1c4a10:45am: Margaret Bennet: Margaret is a writer, folklorist, ethnologist, broadcaster and singer. She has so many talents, and such a large body of work to draw on and is sure to bring something to ‘Writers Live’ which will be both entertaining and informative in equal measure. She will also be reading from her latest book: “We Are the Engineers!”

11:25am: Ann Petrie will be reading from her book about the 1920s rent strike

11:45/12 noon: Break for lunch (we’re leaving a bit of space to be safe)

HazelCover30June2015__38474.1439211779.1280.128012.45pm: Hazel Buchan Cameron: Hazel is a well noted poet and In 2014 she was the first Writer in Residence for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Moving away from poetry Hazel will read from her new book “Just Go In” which follows a seventeen year old as she sets off from a council estate near Glasgow to become a farm secretary in the East of Scotland. Her memoir spans the late 70s to the early 90s. “…Life is often stranger than fiction, and this story shows the fine line that is walked in relating true events whilst maintaining a believability.” (Hardeep Singh Kohli, comedian and chef)

FabulousBeast.2701.15pm: Patricia Ace (Poet): Partricia has a lovely, smooth yet disjunctive style to her work and her debut poetry collection ‘Fabulous Beast’ contains some intriguing and sometimes comical takes on some every-day or at least familiar scenes and scenarios. You can hear her read some of her own work by clicking this link. (As it turns out Partricia is also my mum’s yoga instructor, small world)

silent-saturday-200

1:35pm: David Cowan author of books on Ley Lines and the energies of the Earth will be talking about. Crieff’s secret societies and symbols.

1.55pm: Helen Grant: Helen will be reading from her ‘Forbidden Spaces’ trilogy of urban exploration themed thrillers set in Brussels and Ghent. Helen’s research for these books looked like a lot of fun, if you pop over to her Twitter account and look through the pictures you’ll see what I mean (warning, you’ll be clicking for a while). Helen is an international author and thriller extraordinaire who has enjoyed glowing reviews from The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Daily Mail.

2.25pm: Publishing talk with Q&A by Helen Lewis McPhee and Gonzalo Mazzei. Helen has worked with Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communications, and, currently Canongate Books. Gonzalo is from Grace Note Publications C.I.C, publisher of many the books listed here. They will both be there to talk about the publishing process and answer questions from would-be (and current) writers.

3pm: Finish: You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. (Actually you can stay, if you stick around you’ll catch a the concert that follows us, admission for the concert is £3)

So there’s a basic run down of the programme. There will also be the Jack Reusen window and competition over at Fun Junction to look forward to (click here for more information). The competition is a ‘design a Jack Reusen character’ competition which closes during the festival weekend, the winner will see their character feature in a short story to appear on this site sometime after the festival closes (and if I can manage I’ll try and fit it into one of the books so that the winner can see their character in print).

I look forward to seeing you along at the ‘Writers Live’ event, thanks for reading, all the best, John

Crieff Arts Festival competition

crieff arts festival James square yarn bombIn the run-up to the Crieff Arts Festival Fun Junction has agreed to help run a ‘design a Jack Reusen character’ competition with me. It’s all very simple; basically children are asked to design a magical character that they think would fit into the world of ‘Fey’, the winner will see their character feature in a short story to appear here on this website sometime after the festival. They can choose to submit either a picture, a character description, or even both. A winning entry will be chosen on the weekend of the arts festival (22nd and 23rd August).

The Crieff Arts festival has been on the go for a number of years now and has grown to include a wide variety of things to see and do throughout the town (for grown-ups and families). This year’s arts festival will be running on the 22nd and 23rd of August. A full programme of events will be available closer to the time but Fun Junction’s shop event is aimed to highlight a literary event that will be held at the Strathearn Artspace in Comrie street.

The event will feature readings and discussions from a number of local authors and poets including Helen Grant, Susy McPhee, and Jess Smith, along with an exciting array of other names to be announced closer to the time. I’ll be starting the event off with a few wee readings from both the first and second books (and possibly even a wee sneak peek at ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’).

If you can please try to pop along to the Artspace (at 10:00am on Saturday the 22nd) to join our mini literary festival, it would be amazing. It’ll certainly make my day to see a wee crowd gathered to chat about Jack. Thanks for reading, all the best, John