Just back from a fun four days at the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival. I was so pleased to be asked to take part with my Dark Skies book, Jacob Starke Loves The Dark – not least because I lived on Exmoor between 2000 and 2006, and it was great to have the opportunity to reconnect with the stunning landscape, lovely people and, of course, some very dark skies.
My final session at Lynmouth gave me the opportunity to share my newly-penned Dark Skies Ode to Exmoor National Park – the children, not only joined in the chorus, but drew some wonderful pictures of what they love about the dark.
As long as that’s not completely terrified you, please join me if you can, for stories, poems and crafts about space, nocturnal animals, and all things Dark Skies.
On Saturday 26 October, at 5pm
I will be at Porlock Pavilion and Rec reading Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. There will also be stargazing and a dark walk, crafts and games, hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows. What’s not to like about this free event?
On Monday 28 October from 3.45-5pm
I will be at Minehead Methodist Church Hall, for a story and craft workshop based around Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. Suitable for children up to 10 years. Session 3.45-5pm. Price: £2 per child. (Parents free). Booking recommended as spaces are limited.
On Tuesday 29 October, at 10am
I will be at Lynmouth National Park Centre, reading my book Jacob Starke Loves The Dark and my nocturnal poems, and getting the kids involved in some imaginative nighttime stories too. Free EVENT but booking recommended.
Today I received the best post ever: a whole book of thank you letters from the fantastic Year 1 class at Henham & Ugley Primary School. I visited the school back in June, and the Year 1 class and I bonded big-time over my dark skies book, Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. The children created some wonderful nocturnal pictures, as a starting-point for their own stories.
To hear that you have given a child the ‘best day ever’ or inspired them to become an author, is, to say the least, humbling. Thank you to their lovely teacher, Suzie Espie, for putting the book together – especially as several of the children say they would like to swap her for me! (I’m sure they don’t mean it, Suzie!) It is a very special thank you, and I will treasure it.
The 11-year-old and I decided to record our walk to the beach yesterday with wax crayon rubbings and collages of some of the living things we encountered. It made for a slow walk, but prompted the comment: ‘I would always say yes to a walk if we did this every time.’ Job done!
But it wasn’t all about half-term distraction. I am planning to do similar ‘scapbooking’ with schools later this summer, as a way of exploring the ideas about the importance of darkness in Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. But in the meantime: an idea to keep them occupied over half-term?!
It probably helps that when you step off the train at Barnes Station, you feel more like you’re entering an enchanted wood than a London suburb, but my first experience of the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival was really magical.
It was slightly nerve-wracking to discover that my 10.30am free session had an audience of precisely no one at 10.27am. But – abracadabra – by 10.30am a pretty-much full-house had appeared. They listened attentively to The Niggle, joined in the actions, and then made some awesome superhero capes and masks
And then I was left spell-bound by some real-life superheroes: Axel Scheffler with his enviably fluid drawings; Frank Cottrell Boyce with his ease of expression; Libby Jackson with inspirational tales of women in space. Magical!
Flamingo shopping trolley. Check. Superhero cape and masks. Check. Wool, glue and felt tips. Check. Copies of The Niggle. Check.
Yes, it looks like I’m nearly ready to take part in the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival this weekend. I’ll be in the Bookshop Marquee at 10.30am, reading my book about being brave and resilience, The Niggleand helping children turn themselves into superheroes with the help of scissors, glue and some off-cuts of kite material, disposed of as part of a house move.
I only mention the provenance of the materials I’m using in my craft activity because I am making a conscious effort in all my workshops now to use, as far as possible, only recycled or otherwise-destined-for-the-bin materials. In the past, I have been as guilty as anyone of buying those brightly coloured little packets of bits and bobs for crafts (and I still have industrial quantities of foam letters fromIsabella, Rotten Speller workshops to prove it.) But I now believe, not only that it’s cheaper and greener to craft out of recycled and reused materials, it’s more creative and satisfying too.
If you’re in the Barnes area on Saturday, please come along for some story and gluing fun. My event is part of the Free Programme (more details here), so it won’t cost you a penny!
I had great fun this morning, visiting the super-creative Year 3 children at St Thomas of Canterbury R C Primary School. They have been finding out about the benefits of darkness, so they invited me into their class to share my book Jacob Starke Loves The Dark, and work with them to develop narrative through illustrations. What a clever bunch they are!
We used two lines from the book:
The Dark then whispered: ‘Don’t you see:
All living things depend on me?’
The children were challenged to illustrate the lines but also tell me something the words don’t say. We ended up with some really fantastic illustrations, extending the story in all kinds of unexpected directions! From bunnies and black panthers afraid of the dark, to martians holidaying in the moon! The children were full of ideas! The illustrations will make fantastic starting-points from which to write their own stories.
The visit was part of an initiative by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) on the Isle of Wight to highlight the importance of Dark Skies. The CPRE gave a copy of Jacob Starke Loves The Dark as a Christmas present to every primary school on the Isle of Wight, and I am supporting this initiative by giving FREE, YESFREE, authorvisits to Isle of Wight primary schools between now and the end of February 2019. I still have a few slots left! So to claim a visit, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press coverage of recent visit to Nine Acres Primary
Last month, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) gave a copy of Jacob Starke Loves The Dark, as a Christmas present, to every primary school on the Isle of Wight. To support that initiative, I am pleased to be able to offer FREE, YESFREE, authorvisits to Isle of Wight primary schools between now and the end of February 2019.
To claim a visit, please email me at email@example.com.
From 1 March, I will be charging for school visits again as usual – though watch out for some special offers around World Book Day on Thursday 7 March. Find out more about my school visits here.
Lovely day today! Thanks to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), I got to share my dark skies rhyming picture book,Jacob Starke Loves The Dark, with the very receptive and super-polite year 3 and 4 children at Nine Acres Community Primary School.
‘How come?’ I hear you ask. Well, at the end of last year, the CPRE very kindly bought 42 copies of my Jacob Starke Loves The Dark and gave one as a Christmas present to every primary school on the Isle of Wight. My visit today was part of that initiative; the first visit to a primary school with the CPRE, highlighting the importance of dark skies and the issue of light pollution.
With Dawn Haig-Thomas of CPRE
So pleased with the reception from the Nine Acres children (nothing like a spontaneous round of applause to raise the spirits!) – and particularly pleased by their plans to explore the book’s themes in more detail in their story sessions which now close each school day.
I was inspired to write Jacob Starke Loves the Dark by the work of groups such as CPRE, Vectis Astronomical Society (VAS) and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to win International Dark Sky status for an area on the south west coast of the Isle of Wight, near where I live. So it’s exciting to be working with them to take the message about the dangers of light pollution into local schools.
Pleased to see the initiative has also been covered by the Isle of Wight County Press.
I have fallen into an accidental pattern of working over the last few years: I have published a book in October or November, spent the remainder of the year promoting it, and then started the new year with a new project.
But 2018 has been slightly different. Perhaps because I published my latest rhyming picture book – Jacob Starke Loves The Dark – a few weeks early, in September, but I am coming to the end of the year having already written an 800 word rhyming text for my next book and started the sketches for the main characters. There’s even a chance I will have mapped out some of the pages before Christmas lunch hits the table.
Which is all very un-me. Having been a journalist for many, many years (yes, I know, my looks belie my great age), I can’t usually do so much as put my socks on in the morning without a deadline (even a self-imposed one). But I have to say, I am liking the feel of being ‘ahead of the game’ – especially as I have a second story I want to start in the new year.
In fact, I hope to work on the two books simultaneously. It’s not something I’ve done before, but when I took part in the author’s panel at the Isle of Wight Literacy Festival Youth Zone in October, I heard from the other authors that this is a way that many of them prefer to work. I can see the potential benefits. When I work on writing and illustrations at the same time, the two things feed off each other. I am hoping that developing two stories simultaneously will have similar benefits.
Of course, I could just end up getting horribly confused…