Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Harrowing tales

I don't seem to be able to stop writing awful headings. I spent too long working for newspapers, clearly.

I went to a school in Harrow today as part of the Harrow Words Live festival. No - not that Harrow school - Harrow High School. It is all part of an initiative by Harrow council to get authors into schools - and a good thing it is too. Having said that, I almost cancelled at the last minute because the storms seemed to be playing havoc with the rail system. But actually I got there quicker than I thought I would.

I did two sessions with two groups of children in the huge library and I spoke a bit about myself and writing and then read one of the stories from Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror. They were amazingly attentive for the most part and asked lots of good questions.

As I have said before, school visits are tricky things. It is a weird thing reading to an audience who have not chosen to be there, who might much prefer to be in the drama or cookery lesson they are missing because of you; who, even if they do read, might not ever want to read your work. Who don't know who you are and are not going to hand you their attention on a plate. It is like busking to a crowd who can't simply snort with derision and walk on. They are trapped.

But it does no harm, every now and then, to test your work in this way. Not all books stand or fall on their ability to be read out loud, but Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror are all about storytelling. And however much a child might claim a disinterest in books, most are more then willing to give themselves up to the magic of having something read to them, whatever it may be.

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