Tag Archives: school talk

Reminding an Author about writing: Visiting Braco Primary School

This post is long overdue. I normally like to post about a school visit within a few days but I’ve been swamped with writing/book related work over the past couple of months.

Finally, I have a little breathing space so I thought I’d pop on and talk about my visit to Braco Primary School.

I was lucky enough to get to talk to the whole school. The children were brilliant, welcoming, and they asked some really interesting, and surprising, questions (like ‘Do you talk about ethics in your books?’ and ‘How does an author make money?”).

Everyone likes a story

multi colour rainbow shoes john bray author crieff perthshireI don’t always talk to younger year groups, as the Jack Reusen books are aimed at children aged 7 years and up. However, I came prepared with a wee story I wrote a while ago called ‘Drip the Bogey Ogre’ (you can read the whole thing by clicking this link). The primary ones and twos were lovely and we had a fun five minutes or so talking about my shoes as well (I wore my multi-coloured shoes).

From there I went on to talk to the older school. There seems to be a collection of would-be authors in the older school and they all had questions about improving their writing and about aspects of the writing process like motivation and inspiration.

I hope I didn’t sound too repetitive but one thing I kept going back to was the fact that writing is like exercise; you need to do it regularly to be in good shape, and you have to have good quality ingredients to put into it.

With writing, you get out what you put in

Just as a healthy body comes from regular exercise and good nutrition, so too does a healthy capacity for writing come from writing regularly and consuming only good quality books.

These sorts of things always have more impact when you use an example. I shared an experience from when I was writing ‘Marcus‘ last year. At the time I hadn’t written a horror story for young adults (12 and up) before so I started reading around to get a feel for the topics and limits associated with that age group.

Some books I read were fantastic but there was one (it will remain nameless) that was less so. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story but I didn’t see what it was doing to my writing until editing time came along. It turns out that the chapters I wrote whilst reading this particular book were some of my worst, characters grew flat and I found it hard to get my bearings. Much editing was needed before they went public.

This was my takeaway advice for Braco Primary’s writers; do everything you can to make sure that what you are reading is good. Combine this with paying attention to the world around you in your own way. Understanding what your own point of view is will enable you to find your own voice. However, you’ll find that, only by reading work by experienced and talented authors, will you be able to make that voice as articulate and coherent as it can be.

Thank you for the enthusiasm boost!

Not only was my visit to Braco Primary an enjoyable one but their questions and enthusiasm for writing gave me a much-needed boost in the midst of this year’s NaNoWriMo (something that’s always welcome).

Thanks again for having me Braco Primary. I hope you enjoy the first two Jack Reusen books and I hope to have book three ready in the near future.

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Crieff Primary visit

Crieff_PSI knew it was going to be a different kind of talk today because the whole class had already read the book. In fact they had literally just finished the last chapter when I got there, so they had lots of questions about the characters.

The great thing for me was seeing that I’d managed to make a story that they had clearly all enjoyed. I tried to write the books so there was something for everyone and today made me feel like I’d managed to get pretty close to that goal.

The added bonus of knowing that the class had all heard the first book was that I could get away with reading a wee sample of ‘…the Spark of Dreams‘. I think they enjoyed their wee teaser, and they certainly asked a lot of questions about what to expect in future books.

It was a fantastic day and a genuine thrill to see that Jack’s world had clearly appealed to them all so much, and I’ll definitely be down there again (if they’ll have me) to talk about any future books. In the mean time it sounds as though I might be getting some illustrations from the class, inspired by characters from the book, to share with you soon. I’m looking forward to what they think Jack, Thea, Sparky, and Harold look like.

Weirdly enough I spent yesterday in my p2 classroom in Comrie primary and today I was in my p3 classroom. The last couple of days have been really enjoyable and a wee walk down memory lane. Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about it, thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Comrie Primary

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Today I was at Comrie Primary School for a book talk. It was lovely to revisit my first primary school, and odd to see how different the school looks now I’m not four feet tall.

By the sounds of it there are a good few budding authors among Comrie Primary’s pupils and they had a lot of interesting (and some very practical questions) about writing.

That’s the fun thing about these kinds of events. Aside from getting a bit of feedback on my writing, these talks definitely help me build self-awareness as an author.

How do you make a character? Why do you write in this genre? What should someone do to become an author?

It’s tough sometimes; some of these questions are relatively easy to answer, yet I feel a little under-qualified to answer others.

What do I do if I want to be a writer? I was tempted to answer ‘you write’ but that’s too glib (and dangerously close to sarcastic) an answer for a budding young writer. The truth is that there doesn’t seem to be one way to ‘be a writer’ but even that would be an unsatisfying answer.

Instead we got into discussing some surprisingly practical elements of the writing process: from sentence structure and grammar, to royalties and the earning potential of writing. It was a surprisingly thorough discussion to be having with primary school children.

I’ve just been informed that the pupils have decided to create illustrations of some of the characters from the book. I look forward to seeing the results and will hopefully get a chance to share them on here if I can.

Of course; if you know any children who have read the book(s) and who feel like sending in pictures of characters these are more than welcome (adults can send things in too if they like).

I love doing school talks so if you’d like me to come to your school please get in touch and we can try and arrange something.

As always, thanks for reading, all the best, John

That was brilliant!

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Just finished my talk at Our Lady’s RC Primary School, Stirling. All the kids were fantastic, loads of good questions and they seemed to really enjoy meeting Jack.

I had been particularly worried about what the older kids would think to the book but I got big laughs for a good few bits (don’t worry they were supposed to be funny).

I would do that again in a heartbeat. If you’re a teacher, or are connected to a school in some way, and you think the children at your school would enjoy a book talk/author visit please let me know.

Grabbing a cup of tea in the staff room now, I’ll post again soon with an update on the progress of ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’. All the best, John