The Superheroes of Brazil

I spoke, in my last post, about the writing workshop I’d given at a local school (Ormiston South Parade Academy) and how much I enjoyed it.

Well, today, I had the chance to visit the school again and talk to first year pupils in Miss Huddleston’s Brazil class. My youngest daughter happens to be a pupil in the class and, I’m told, was pretty excited about her dad going in for a chat.  He’s an author, apparently. She may have mentioned it once or twice.

I wondered if I’d find this a tougher job than previously. Miss Harding’s Italy class was wonderful and was thoroughly engaged in creating the story. Being a couple of years younger, I wasn’t sure if Brazil would want to join in or would keep their concentration – I know what my little girl is like!

I need not have worried. Not at all. I had, yet again, the most fantastic time.

I was asked if I wanted the children seated on the carpet around me or at their desks.  As they were already gathered around, I opted for this. It was more informal and less like a class. Before I had really had the chance to introduce myself, they started asking questions. I couldn’t help but smile. There was I, wondering if I’d be able to get the children interested and actively participate, and they blew me away!

It was wonderful, from start to finish. I spoke about my books, my writing journey and read some of my work. The children were inquisitive and they were genuinely interested. They were a delight. I was so proud to be standing in front of my daughter’s class talking about my dreams and achievements.

Then we came to the exercise part of the session. The class’s topic at the moment is Superheroes (how cool). I’d deliberately worn my Superman t-shirt and Batman socks for the occasion. We were going to create a story, or more accurately a poem, all about superheroes. My favourite children’s book is The Gruffalo, one they’d recently read, so we were going to follow the story but with a super twist. I left all the choices to them, with me writing down the suggestions they made and then having a show of hands to decide what we’d use.

Firstly we needed the main character. As the new Doctor Who was announced yesterday, the wonderful Jodie Whittaker, they wanted the superhero to be female. Powers or no powers? Well, Superman can fly and has x-ray and laser eyes. Batman has no such abilities, and it was this that had the vote. How about a name? The animals we’d meet, instead of The Gruffalo’s fox, snake and owl? The monster? The setting? The name? For every aspect, the class had so many brilliant choices. Here they are:

Animals

  • Woodpecker
  • Dog
  • Cat

Character Name

  • Superlady
  • Catgirl
  • Harley
  • Super Jasper
  • Lee
  • Agent Eagle Eyes
  • Super Noah
  • Betty
  • Leah
  • Rebecca
  • Super Roxy
  • Red

Monster

  • Loud monster
  • Dragon
  • Tarantula
  • Lava monster
  • Professor fish

Setting

  • Lava cave
  • Stream
  • Dark woods
  • Invisible bridge
  • Dark hole
  • Volcano
  • Car with a magical road
  • Dinosaur filled woods

Titles

  • The Adventures of Roxy the Superhero (you’ll see why in a moment)
  • The Horrible Woods
  • Roxy and the Invisible Bridge
  • Roxy and the Invisible Hole
  • Roxy and the Invisible Trap
  • The Dark Hole
  • The Adventures of the Lava Monster
  • The Terror Forest

As there was a stuffed raccoon called Roxy watching me in the class (she had sneaked up behind me without my noticing), it was soon decided that she would be the star of our show. From the myriad suggestions, we narrowed it down to… (drumroll please):

Super Roxy is a black suited raccoon who lives in the woods with an invisible bridge and a large, dark hole. She meets a woodpecker, a dog and a cat whilst doing battle with a lava monster. The title (due to a draw) will be The Adventures of Roxy the Superhero in the Terror Forest! And, if I can, it will be written to the tune of The Gruffalo! Well, they certainly made it easy for me – not!

So, let’s begin.

The Adventures of Roxy the Superhero in the Terror Forest

A raccoon took a stroll

Through the deep, dark wood.

The raccoon saw a lava monster

Up to no good

She ran up a tree

To put on her black suit

Then ran back down

As the beast melted the roots

It disappeared across a bridge

That nobody could see

And vanished down a hole

So dark nobody could see

Hmmm… it’s not quite to the tune of The Gruffalo. I’ll work on it and see what I can come up with. Perhaps, it’ll be a continuation of what I’ve written above, if matching the rhythm becomes a little difficult, but I’ll certainly do my best.

Either way, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the children of Miss Huddleston’s Brazil class. Your teacher commented that the workshop had been amazing. I can only agree. It was amazing, she was amazing and you, the pupils, were amazing. You were all superheroes!

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Imaginings of Italy

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Writing is a wonderful thing. Reading is up there along with it too. Since I’ve been able to hold a pen, I’ve written.  Since I’ve been able to figure out that those letters thrown across the page were actually words and meant something, I’ve read.

I truly believe that such things can not only broaden one’s vocabulary, but their horizons too. I’m the perfect example – I’ve had a bestseller, travelled, met amazing people and written for the movies. It’s an amazing feeling when people you’ve never met tell you something you’ve written is their favourite story.

So, I am more than happy when I can pass this love for the written word onto others, particularly children.

Last Thursday, I was invited by the wonderful Miss Harding of Italy class at Ormiston South Parade Academy, which my own daughter attends, to give a literacy workshop. The school genuinely is a fantastic establishment. We moved our older daughter there (she’s since moved up to senior school) from one where she was having numerous issues. She began to flourish immediately with their positive attitude towards learning.  My youngest, there now, is enjoying the same experience.

I was delighted to be asked, of course. I was a little unsure what I might talk about. My books, obviously, but what else? What could I bring to them that would engage and inspire their imaginations?

After chatting about my work and my achievements, which I hoped would give them some aspirations and see that it’s good to follow a dream because they do, sometimes, come true, we worked together on a story. When I say we worked together, that’s exactly what happened. In turn, they wrote it, line by line. I guided them and the energy displayed by the children was so infectious. The enthusiasm, a delight. Many were practically jumping from their chairs with their hands up to offer the next line and the next and the next. I was so very proud.

I’ve been told that they spoke afterwards about how I inspired them. That’s quite humbling.

I have said that I’ll take their work and write it into a story myself. I will indeed but, in the meantime, here’s what they came up with. The title is theirs.

Power in Need by Miss Hardin’s Italy Class

Jess, the Red Queen, stole a super delicate shoe. It was a magic show. It took you anywhere you wanted. It takes you to a dark place but she thought it took you to a nice place.

She landed in dark place under the sea with dark spiders.  There was a figure that made an orb. They destroy all the world and blow it up. The final ingredient is a human soul but a powerful one. A ritual had to be performed. He wanted revenge so the people had to fly out. He needed three ingredients. The first one is a broken bone, rotten pizza, uranium 192. The figure lurked in the underworld with the spiders by his side.

Jess had to escape. She found a decoy so she found clothes to make it look like her for the ritual. The spiders went after the decoy while Jess was escaping. The figure created an unidentifiable creature to catch her. She was stealing the orb and she fell into a trap.

She wanted to warn the villagers that the ingredients were at her castle but they didn’t believe her because she was horrid. She took it to her castle to destroy it. The figure and the spiders captured her. She is in danger so she doesn’t break out. While he sets up the ritual, after an hour or two, the creature that the figure summoned came to rescue Jess.

At the last minute the figure realised that the uranium has gone. Only Jess knew where the uranium was kept, so the figure forced the creature to release her so she can help the figure find it. Jess leads the figure down to the basement while the creature was locked in the dungeons. Jess pours the uranium on him after finding it is his weakness. The she takes the orb, running away.

Now she has the power she always needed.

As you can see, the children of Italy class have a wonderful imagination. Both Miss Harding, a lovely person and talented teacher, and I were left open mouthed by their suggestions. I’ve been invited back next year and I can honestly say I can’t wait.

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Happy Birthday Harry Potter

Twenty years is a long time. It’s like, pretty much, two whole decades, isn’t it?

Yes, twenty years. So much can happen in that time. Here’s just a handful of the advances we’ve seen – some epic, some useful and others just cool:

·   Stem cell research

·   Tivo

·   Genome sequencing

·   Smartphones

·   Large Hadron Collider

·   Mars Curiosity Lander

·   Flat screen TVs

·   WiFi

·   Bluetooth

·   Xbox Live

·   Social Networking

·   Wearable technology

Amazingly, many of these things feel like they’ve always been here. What did we do without WiFi (well, I can remember <shudder>)? One thing not listed above, among many others of course, is something I can’t actually believe is celebrating its twentieth birthday today. Or should I say ‘his’?

Mr. Potter, please step forward!

Yup, the mighty Harry Potter is twenty years old today. The Philosopher’s Stone was released on this day back in 1997. I’m shocked at this. The Potter phenomenon shows no sign of dying out (thankfully) and is, in fact, gaining momentum. With theme parks, attractions and new films in the same universe – I’m looking at you Fantastic Beasts – Harry Potter continues his world domination.

I remember going to see the first film. It was at a small, three screen cinema in my home town of Grimsby. The only time I’d seen that amount of enthusiasm for a film there was when Tim Burton’s Batman came out. My friends started queuing for Gotham’s finest at 8am. I and another friend joined them at about 1pm – we were covering for them at the training centre we were all meant to be at. For Harry Potter, it was a scene so many times more impressive. I don’t believe the staff there had any real idea of what to anticipate. I had pre-booked the tickets so had to join a certain queue. Those who hadn’t were in another line. The problem was,because there were so many people, the lines crossed (don’t cross the streams!). The staff had no real idea who had paid and who hadn’t. They just needed to get them into the screen.

I also remember reading the first book. I had a copy from the US, where it was called The Sorcerer’s Stone and had ‘jello’ in. Of course, for those of you across the pond, this is normal. Way back then, the world was a much smaller place so it was a bizarre occurrence for me.

So. Harry Potter has shot the lovely J.K. Rowling through the stratosphere and well done to her. She has shown us mere mortal writers that you can come from nowhere and conquer the world. Or at least your own fears.

Harry, happy birthday. 

J.K Rowling tweets…

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Sherlock – Abominably Wonderful

*SPOILER ALERT – I’ll try to keep them to a minimum though!*

I’ve always liked Sherlock Holmes.  Though I admit to not having read much of the printed material (which surprises me), I’ve been a fan of the television series (what’s the plural of series – serieses?) for many years.  From the days of Basil Rathbone, watching it with my dad, through to Jeremy Brett, I’ve been an avid watcher.
So, I was delighted when the show was brought back to life by the people who make Doctor Who (another show I have watched all my life), starring this guy I’d never heard of with a funny name.  Also, it starred Martin Freeman, so it couldn’t be bad.
And I watched the first episode.  And the way the texts were done on screen and the way Benedict Cumberbatch played the part and  the way the it was set ‘today’…  And I was hooked.  Immediately.
Of course, now, Benedict (may I call you that) is a hot property.  From Star Trek Into Darkness, to the amazing Imitation Game (historically correct or not), to the forthcoming Doctor Strange, he’s hitting the big time.  He’s also helped make Sherlock a worldwide sensation.
Regarding Doctor Strange, one of my favourite Marvelcharacters, I read yesterday that Marvel actually altered their movie timeline to fit it around Benedict’s super-busy schedule.  That’s how much they wanted him in the role.


So, onto the New Year’s Day special, The Abominable Bride.
It’s been soooo long since the last season, I was understandably excited by its appearance.  The fact it was going to be going back to its roots, as in being set during Victorian times, only made it more anticipated.  For some reason, my Sky box didn’t record it.  I noticed about half way through and was gutted.  I remembered setting it to record on my smartphone app (so convenient), so couldn’t understand why it hadn’t.  I checked the planner and the next showing was the next night.  Could I wait that long?  Hell no!  I checked On Demand, through Sky.  Nope, no sign.  OK.  BBC iPlayer app on the Smart TV?
YES!
Phew!  Saved.
So, I sat down to watch it.  And I was hooked.  Both Cumberbatch and Freeman, along with the rest of the cast, donned their period costumes and personas wonderfully.  I thought the story was intriguing and pretty well thought out.  I noticed the odd comment like ‘data viruses’ which was out of place in such a time, but then…  BAM!  They suddenly fitted right in when we saw what was really happening!  If you haven’t seen it, I’ll try not to give it away, and I’ve seen reports that some people didn’t ‘get’ it.  Personally, I thought it was a brilliant twist.  It’s been likened to Inception meets Adaptation.  I can see why.  I don’t necessarily agree but I have to say I’d love to take a walk in Sherlock’s Mind Palace!
Seeing an ‘old friend’ was cool too.  A perfectly manic and demented version of the character.  I did wonder if the scene of Sherlock’s suicide after his nemesis shot himself back in – was it Season 2? – was the modern take on the classic Reichenbach Falls.  I remember Jeremy Brett facing them so long ago.  I was delighted when I saw I was mistaken.
I can’t believe it’s only been three short (very short) seasons of this show and it’s proved to be gripping, fun and compulsive.  Apparently, it’s not going to be back until 2017, which I think is FAR too long, but with so many film commitments for the two main stars, I can understand why.  The time will drag too.
At least we have Moffat’s other baby to kep us going – Doctor Who.  It seems Peter Capaldi has hinted the next season might be his last.  That’s a shame.  I think he’s brilliant.  Any criticisms need to be aimed at the writing, as sometimes it’s not been as strong as others, but when it’s good, it’s VERY good.  Some of the episodes, particularly towards the end of this last series, were brilliant and Capaldi showed what a great actor he really is.  I hope he hangs around a little longer.  It seems the Doctor is only in the house for a short time and he moves on though, I suppose, three years isn’t exactly a short time.


Anywho-be-do.  This is Sherlock (did you see the Sherlock meets Doctor Who mashup on YouTube).  Was it good?  No.  Was it abominablygood?  Definitely!

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Darker places released May 1st!

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AMAZON | KOBO | iTUNESSMASHWORDS | GOODREADS

What if you could steal the final moments from the dying?  What if you had the darkest secret, but couldn’t think what it might be?  What if you entered the forest in the deep of the night.  Who is the melting man?  And are your neighbours really whom they appear to be?
So many questions.
To find the answers, you must enter a darker place.  Thirteen stories.  Thirteen poems.  Thirteen more doorways.
Publication date: May 1st
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StoryVille event

I had a lovely day at Freshney Place Shopping Centre (Grimsby, UK), where I appeared as part of their Storyville event.
My 11 year old daughter, Meg, came with me and we read from my Zits’n’Bits and Rudolph Saves Christmas books as well as colouring with the children and drawing pictures from the poems.
Meg was utterly amazing and took on board the storytelling herself, with lots of voices, arm flinging and laughs. It was a real pleasure having her there with me and I was very proud of her. All the children were wonderful and it was great to meet you all.

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