Thursday, 6 October 2011

Bishop's Stortford

I spent the day at the Bishop's Stortford College today with the wonderful Rosie Pike, librarian there.  It was my first time at the school and my first time in Bishop's Stortford actually, despite it only being half an hour or so away.  Not that I ever get to see anything of the places I go to for events.

It was a very varied day.  I spoke to sixth formers who were just starting a module on Gothic fiction and who had just read Frankenstein.  Responses to Mary Shelley's novel were varied, but we had a good discussion.  It was interesting, actually, to see how underwhelmed many of them were by the experience of reading a novel I remember being so excited by.  But it has to be said, the central section where the creature learns to read and write via Milton's Paradise Lost, is both tedious and a bit ridiculous.

I spoke to the Year 7 Book Club, all of whom were reading Mister Creecher.  I was amazed at how many of them had already finished the book already.  But more than that, I was so impressed with the questions they asked about it.  We had a very good discussion about whether Creecher and Billy were good guys or bad guys.  Or both.  Or neither.

In the afternoon I helped (well, kind of) while the students tried to complete poems based on a theme of games for Write Path.  Write Path is an amazing international collaborative writing scheme established by Bev Humphries.  The brief is to carry on the poem for a verse or two then hand over to the next school at a set time by logging your competed work on the website.  It was really tough.  My role was more to observe and give moral support.  I was amazed at how much they managed to get done in such a short space of time.  I would have struggled.  The fearlessness of youth!

Lastly I gave a talk to a whole hall full of students and for this talk I had brought along a Keynote presentation.  This is unusual for me.  I tend to be low on technology.  Mostly I turn up with a book and chat.  This is not because I hate technology or can't see the benefits of it, but because it so often causes problems and wastes time.

The presentation was basically a slide show of images related to the story of Frankenstein - both the novel, the movies, and the story of Mary Shelley herself and how the story came to be conceived.  I used as many contemporary images as I could - which is not hard, given that Goya, Turner, Constable, Blake, Gericault and Caspar Davis Friedrich (to name but a few) were all working at the time.  I had saved it as a Powerpoint show and Quicktime movie on a memory stick, but I had also put it onto my iPhone.  That's right - my iPhone!

I had saved it as a Quicktime movie and exported it to my iTunes Library which then allowed me to synch it with my iPhone.  I had bought a VGA adaptor and all I needed to do was attach the adapter to the cable going to the projector.  Once connected, the screen would mirror whatever happened on my iPhone screen.  Magic!

But though this would have allowed me more control and, frankly, looked a lot cooler - there was a panic in the eyes of all concerned and as soon as I told them I had a memory stick, they sighed with relief and waved the iPhone nonsense away as crazy talk.  I did not know enough to persuade them otherwise and so we went with the safer option.  Maybe next time. . .

It certainly did not spoil what was a busy but really enjoyable day.  It was great to meet everyone and I will definitely be back.

I hope.


  1. lovely day indeed, how i wish i had been there. Would have loved to hear the frankenstein talk and seen the images you chose. I loved reading frankenstein, i remember being amazed at how much more it was about than i had imagined! The same with Mr. Stoker, wonderfully written books. Such a shame such books are so little read now, as opposed to Twilight etc! That's why i love what you're doing so much, bringing the dark, creepy, gothic and mysterious to new generations. I've always loved Poe, M.R. james, lovecraft and so on, so it's wonderful to have writers like you, darren shan,alexander gordon smith, neil gaiman, joseph delaney, celia reese and so forth keeping the doors creaking and daring to be bad! You are definitely my favourite though, i want to live in uncle montague's house.... Thankyou.

  2. Thanks Meera, that's very kind of you. I agree that those books should be more widely read by teenagers, but as you also say they are lucky enough to have a lot of great contemporary writers to chose from. I'm not sure I'd want to live in Uncle Montague's house though!