Last week I spent two days at a secondary school in Newbury talking to the whole of Year 10. Just when I though my teaching days were over! I was invited to talk to the eight tutor groups for an hour each, which was a somewhat daunting challenge for me.
Year 10 will be starting their Creative Writing GCSE coursework very soon and it was hoped that as a writer, I'd be able to give the students some tips and maybe inspire them a bit. Mrs Tyrrell the librarian had made a wonderful Stonewylde display outside the library and also made me very welcome. It was so strange going back into a school environment, having been out of teaching for two years. But I soon realised that coming in as a guest was very different to teaching (a great deal easier!) and the hours whizzed past.
The students (14 to 15 year olds) were a lovely bunch and very attentive indeed. I spent an hour with each class, talking about the Stonewylde Series, writing in general, and how everyone has stories and experiences that they can put to good use in their writing. Everyone took part in an activity that demonstrated this - drawing maps of their locality and annotating them with anecdotes - and there were some pretty hair-raising stories that emerged! I read them an extract from my second book, Moondance of Stonewylde, and told them how this had been inspired by an incident from my son's school days. It's amazing when you write how you dredge up real memories and put them to good use, often unconsciously.
I really enjoyed my two days at Park House School, meeting so many youngsters and teachers. I do hope some of what I said will help them in their own writing - and of course that some of them will now read Stonewylde too. Mrs Ellard, the Head of English, confesses to being "stonewylded" herself, and is about to embark on writing a story of her own that emerged when she did the mapping activity! I'm looking forward to reading it, and wish all the students the best of luck with their GCSE coursework.