What I offer
I can deliver a variety of sessions when visiting a school, library or community group. I offer a talk and q&a session which can be for any size of audience. Usually an hour long, this aims to be informative and entertaining about the business of writing, employing some of my many AV resources and involving plenty of interaction and a reading or two. As I like to keep things fresh, no two talks are exactly the same!
I’m happy to introduce a creative element into my talks, creating characters or initiating stories with the audience and leaving them with a starting point for their own writing. However, I also offer a workshop session in which I set up a writing task and then guide pupils or students through the writing process. Again, this can be for an audience of any size, but for most effective teaching, the smaller the group the better, so that I can discuss each person’s ideas.
For the very small, I can offer a session with my very own puppet, the highly appealing Daley B!
Besides these standard sessions, I am always willing to negotiate a visit customised to your needs. I have helped pupils and/or students create plays, story videos and songs. I love working with kids and can guarantee they will find my visit inspiring.
As a bonus I can also leave schools with a short musical for KS1 based on Daley B: script, songs and backing tracks.
See above for current special offer. My rates at all other times are very reasonable: generally the minimum author fee recommended by the Society of Authors. I also keep expenses to a minimum, partly thanks to having a senior railcard! I am happy to visit for just an hour, a half day (normally two hours) or a full day (normally four). If my workload allows, I am also available for short or long residencies. For further details, email me.
Listen to tuition
Read work I’ve created with children
In early 2017 I worked with year 5 pupils in Penrhiwceibr Primary School to create a myth based upon the history of this former pit village. I used a wide variety of techniques, developed over 30+ years of teaching, to stimulate pupil creativity. This was the result:
The Ceiber Dragon
Long long ago there was a deep deep valley, and in this valley was nothing but trees.
Oak trees, beech trees, apple, birch, pear, fir, ash and elm.
One day, into this valley came a woodcutter. His name was Gareth Bean.
“There’s plenty of wood here” he thought. “If I stay here a few days, I can fill my cart and make a small fortune”
First he cut down some strong timbers and made himself a hut, with a moss-covered roof that came down to the ground and bones and skulls nailed up outside to frighten off wild animals.
When his day was done, he lay down in his hut and prepared to go to sleep.
It was then he heard a strange unearthly noise.
The noise seemed to come from the bottom of the valley, but when he looked out he could see nothing.
It was if the noise came from below the ground.
Next morning he resolved to find out what was making this strange and rather scary noise.
He went to the bottom of the valley and began to dig.
Down and down he dug, deep into the earth, until he came into an almighty cavern. And there, at the centre of this great cavern, he saw the most terrifying dragon.
The dragon was as large as a house. Its scaly skin was red, yellow and black, and blue flames came from its mouth.
Gareth Bean was terrified. He fled back up the tunnel he had dug and back to his hut. But when when he had calmed down, he began to think. Imagine if he could catch the dragons fire, and sell it! He would become fantastically rich, and never have to cut wood again!
That night, Gareth dreamed of a fantastic mansion, with swimming pools and stables
I must make my dream come true, thought Gareth. But I can’t do it alone. I need a thousand people to help me raise the dragon, look after it and sell its fire.
So Gareth put a poster up around all the villages of the valley, offering work to anyone who would help and promising great rewards: everyone would have a mansion.
So the valley was flooded with people, full of ideas about how to raise the dragon.
Blodwyn, a frail old woman, said “I’ve hypnotised this bee, see, and he’ll do anything I say, and the thing is, he’s amazingly strong, see, so if I tell him to go down the cavern, he’ll do it, see. And I swears on my mother’s life he’ll get hold of that dragon and by sheer brute strength he’ll yank it out after him.”
Brynmor spoke up. “It’s very simple”, he said. “It’s not bees that we need, it’s peas. We roll the peas under the dragon, then fit a collar on him, and a rope, and get a thousand people to pull on the rope. With the peas under him the dragon will roll out as easy as pie.”
Gareth Bean did not think much of that idea either.
Next it was Gwilym’s turn to speak. “I keep chickens,” he said, “and I’ve heard there’s nothing a dragon likes more than chickens. So my plan is to throw a pile of corn down the cavern and send two dozen chickens down after it. Dragon goes for them, they run back out, dragon gives chase, hey presto, we’ve got him.”
Gareth Bean said very well, let’s give it a go.
The villagers dug an enormous tunnel, big enough for the dragon to pass through, sent down the chickens, and waited. And waited. And waited.
“Can anyone smell roast chicken?” someone said.
It was back to the drawing board.
“Wait a moment” said Gareth Bean. “Where’s the old woman who said she could hypnotise?”
Blodwyn stepped forward.
“Could you hypnotise a dragon?” asked Gareth Bean.
“I could try” replied Blodwyn. “But my pocket watch is too small. I will need a great clock hanging from a giant chain”
The villagers fetched the clock from the nearest town hall and tied it to a chain made from train couplings. A hundred villagers took hold of the chain, lowered it into the cavern, and with a mighty effort began swinging it from side to side.
“You are feeling very sleepy!” cried Blodwyn. “When I cry SLEEP! You will fall to sleep. SLEEP! And now you will obey my every word!”
All was quiet in the cavern as Blodwyn went down to meet the dragon. Everyone held their breath, hoping not to smell roast hypnotist. But, to a great cheer, Blodwyn returned, triumphant. “Get ropes and a great pulley-wheel” she said. “It is time to raise the dragon!”
So it was that the Ceiber dragon, who had lain underground for a hundred million years, finally saw the light of day. First its head, with its fiery breath, then its great shiny body, then its long terrifying tail. Under a milky moon the villagers dragged it to the fields by the river and tied it down with chains of iron.
“We have raised the dragon” said the villagers. “Now we want our mansions!”
Gareth Bean laughed. “How can you have mansions when the dragon has not yet earned us a penny?” he said. “First you must capture the dragon’s fire, then take it to the city, and sell it!”
So the villagers went to work, bottling the dragon’s fire and sending it down to the city. “Get your dragon’s fire here!” they cried. “Dragon fire makes steam, and steam drives trains and boats and engines! And just one bottle of dragon fire will heat your home for a month!”
The dragon fire was a sensation. Soon the villagers were working twenty-four hours a day to satisfy the demand for it. They fed the dragon, they cared for it, they cleaned and polished it, they made the fireproof jars, captured the dragon’s fire and sent it down the railway tracks on handcars and giant trucks.
Meanwhile Gareth Bean had built himself the mansion of his dreams.
“But when will we have our mansions?” asked the villagers.
“Very soon” replied Gareth Bean, “and in the meantime, I shall see to it that every one of you will dwell in the finest hut”
Gareth Bean had a great garden party in his new mansion. He invited every VIP in the land: mayors, generals, judges and MPs. They ate a lavish banquet and were entertained by acrobats and fire-eaters. Only one villager was invited: the hypnotist. Gareth Bean treated her like royalty and announced that she would have her own small mansion in his grounds.
By now winter had arrived and the villagers were growing colder an colder in their huts. Discontent was growing. “Why should Gareth Bean live like a lord” they said, “when it is we who feed and care for the dragon, we who bottle and transport its fire?”
Dilys, one of the youngsters, decided it was time to take action. She took a fireproof jar, snuck into the dragon’s field in the depth of night, and bottled some fire. But when she took it down to the city to sell it he soon found that Gareth Bean had eyes everywhere. Dilys was arrested and Gareth Bean ensured she got the worst possible punishment: sent to Australia for a life of hard labour.
When the villagers heard what had happened to Dilys they called a meeting. No-one believed Garteh Bean’s promises any more: it was time for them all to take action. They declared that from now on, the dragon was their dragon: they would take its fire to heat their huts and open the field up for the children to use as a play park.
When Gareth Bean heard of this he swore that if the villagers did not hand the dragon back, he would have it killed.
This made the villagers more determined than ever. Every one of them swore an oath to give their lives to save the dragon. They formed a human chain around the dragon’s field and prepared to repel any army Gareth Bean might send.
Nothing could break this chain. But the struggle took its toll of the villagers. They grew wearier and wearier. They could not stay out in the field forever.
It was then that the hypnotist reappeared. “Let me through the chain” she said, “and I will tell the dragon to wake from its sleepy state, fly into the air, and burn Gareth Bean’s mansion to the ground!” she said.
The tired villagers agreed, and the hypnotist went through the chain and up to the dragon. No-one could hear what she whispered into the dragon’s ear, but suddenly there was an almighty roar and the dragon’s eye flashed blood red. It rose with terrifying power and broke the chains which held it, then flew up into the air with a clatter of its almighty wings.
Suddenly, however, the villagers realised that the dragon was not flying towards Gareth Bean’s mansion up on the mountainside. It was flying down into the valley, back towards its cavern. With horror the villagers saw it disappear back into the ground with such a crash that a mountain of rocks came down after it. In seconds its fiery breath had turned the rocks into molten lava, which cooled to seal the dragon into a tomb which a million men could never open.
The hypnotist was gone, and the villagers were filled with despair. Their beautiful dragon was gone and the valley was as empty and cold as the North Pole. But as they sat with their heads slumped in the freezing air, there was a sudden cry:
“Look! Look what is coming out of our mouths!”
With astonishment the villagers realised that a small cloud of steam was coming from each person’s mouth.