Artist of the Month May 2018 – Kathryn Evans
Our May artist of the month is ‘More of Me’ author Kathryn Evans. A gifted writer and inspirational speaker who always engages excellently with her audiences.
What a Visit From Kathryn Entails
Kathryn has talks suitable for years 7 and up:
Resilience and Reading: A combination of the most popular elements of Kathryn’s Passion for Reading and Down but Not Out talks. 50 -60 minutes.
Creativity, an interactive cross-curriculum talk that makes an excellent opener 15-20 minutes
Creativity can be combined with either of these two talks
A Passion For Reading, designed to inspire a love of reading in even the most reluctant 25-30 minutes
Down But Not Out, an inspirational talk on grit and resilience in the face of knock backs. 25-30 minutes
Kathryn also provides writing workshops on Ideas, Plot and Structure and Ideas, Character and Voice. She will also try and tailor something to your needs. Within reason. She doesn’t bake. Or juggle. Or breathe fire – oh wait, she can do that, but maybe not…health and safety…
What Schools Have Said About Kathryn
“The Passion for Reading talk set a fantastic tone for our World Book Day of Events and the workshops were lively and engaging – highly recommended –Anne Underwood, Librarian, Northwood School.
“Flexible, funny and interesting, Kathryn is a great speaker who knows how to interact with her audience.” – Kate Angus, Chichester High School.
“Young adults can sometimes prove to be hard to engage and yet they were listening and laughing consistently throughout.” – Will Bowerman, Southdowns College.
“What is happening? Am I actually choosing to read a book over playing the guitar or watching something on Netflix? Your book brought me back to actually wanting to read. I cannot thank you enough, your book was amazing.” – HF Age 15
“Kathryn is very easy to work with and has an excellent way of interacting with children and young people. The children were completely engaged and the talk was relevant to their age and interest.” – Kerry Brookes West Sussex Libraries.
“I was grateful you were flexible enough to start a bit early. Our Year 9 boys were fully engaged in what you had to say, because of your use of humour and excellent IT.” – Susan Mulkern, Chichester Boy’s High School
“I just wanted to drop you a line to say how absolutely fantastic Kathryn was today. She delivered two workshops and two whole-year group presentations and her energy and enthusiasm were infectious. Kathryn helped our year 10s understand how to develop believable characters and year 13 were treated to a workshop on ideas, plots and structure. I particularly enjoyed the presentations she did with our year 7 and 8 students on resilience and reading. It was perfect for our theme for book week and everything a librarian likes to hear (the importance of reading, using the library etc….).
I would not hesitate to recommend Kathryn to any school who wants to be entertained and inspired. She is such a lovely, warm person it was a delight to have her here today.” –Librarian, Tor Bridge High
“We were so pleased with Kathryn. It was absolutely incredible that she had the commitment to brave the snow, which at that point was not just a threat but a clear and present danger. She stomped in, arriving early, and gave a us wonderful morning. I’m not sure if she mentioned it, but due to the uncertainty we had with staffing and who could teach what, we asked Kathryn if we could throw the whole school into her first session, which she accepted head on. It was a five star experience, as well as a great example of the resilience she discussed in her talk.
Having hosted Kathryn Evans at our school during the Worst the Beast from the East had to offer, it seems fair to say that nothing seems to stop this author from giving pupils a first-rate experience.
We really enjoyed hosting her and certainly hope to get her back sometime.” – Librarian at Dean Close School
Interview With Kathryn Evans
When and how did you come to join Authors Abroad?
I love doing school visits but was finding it hard to reach out to schools that I had no pre-existing connection with. Then I did an event with SCBWI – a debut Authors boot camp! Sara Grant was one of the facilitators and she suggested we consider contacting Authors Abroad if we wanted to do more events – I did exactly that and it turned out to be a great piece of advice.
At what age did you decide you would like to be an author? Did you ever have any other dream job?
Apart from running a sweetshop? I wanted to be an actor pretty much all my life. One of my earliest memories is making my brother and sisters put on a circus show in the bay window of our tiny little house In Birmingham when I was about four years old. I just love pretending and writing is just an extension of that – and a bit more manageable for a mum and a farmer’s wife than traipsing all over the country looking for acting work.
Why did you decide to write for YA rather than younger children or adults?
I didn’t really decide. I always wanted to write picture books but the stories that popped into my head were just too long – 80,000 words is too many for a picture book. I guess, in my head, I kind of stuck at that age, 16/17. It was when I really began to become me, and to be comfortable with that. The themes I write about are often connected with identity and discovery of who we are and who we want to be.
Where did the inspiration for ‘More than Me’ come from and how long did it take from writing the first word to holding your published book?
My daughter was leaving home and I was looking at pictures of her as a baby and a toddler and a young girl and a teen and thinking how part of me mourned the loss of those versions of her and how great it would be if they still existed. It was a weird idea though, and difficult to write, so I wrote a couple of chapters and then put it to one side but I subbed it for a professional critique , really expecting that to come to nothing. The editor loved it though and wanted to see the rest of it, so I wrote it like a whirlwind, it was done in eight months, and the finished manuscript sold really quickly. Still, the publishing process takes a while, so I think it must have been at least 3 years from first word to finished book!
What genre would you class it as? As a reader I found obviously the concept for the story fantasy, but what kept me glued was how despite all this is was the realism of teenage moods, school politics and family drama that most people, if not everyone, can relate to.
Thanks! I describe is as contemporary YA with a sci-fi twist and a spoonful of horror. I think the great thing about YA is that you can mash up the genres and nobody cares – as long as you’re telling a good story.
Since you will have spent so much time creating Teva do you feel as if you know her like a real person?
Yes and no. As an actor, I think it’s important to keep a line between what’s real and what’s not. I once did a film in which my screen actor got burnt at the stake – it really got me down for about two weeks afterwards. So I try and immerse myself in the character while I’m writing, but then deliberately decompress to shake it off, particularly if I’ve been writing a really painful scene. It’s hard though. I’ve had a number of instances when people have come into my office and I’ve been crying my eyes out…
What types of book do you read for pleasure?
I read EVERYTHING. I’m in a book club and we take turns in choosing the books so I’m always being presented with things I might not pick up for myself. I do love YA though, and older middle grade books. Anything with a bit of a twist on normal life – authors like Patrick Ness, Teri Terry, Geraldine Mcaughrean, Francis Hardinge – and I absolutely love Sarah Crossan’s books – such deep story telling but so lightly told.
What book would you recommend every teen should read?
That’s so easy – I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Books teach you compassion, what better way to heal the world than by understanding what’s going wrong in it and wanting to change?
What advice would you give to a parent wanting to encourage their child to read?
I have two children, well, adults really now – with one it was easy, the other, not so much! I brought them up exactly the same way, always read to them at night, always had a houseful of books, always visited the library. So firstly, try not to stress about it. Secondly, don’t force them to read what you want them to read – let them choose. Thirdly, get a librarian to help, they can advise different kinds of books – in the end, for my son, it was non-fiction that was the key and a school librarian, the wonderful Mrs Bone, who cracked it. I don’t think it matters too much what they’re reading, as long as they are reading – because it’s like a muscle, the more you do, the easier it gets. Also, get their eyes checked if they’re really struggling – my son had a tracking problem that we didn’t work out until he was 13. That didn’t help one bit!
What is your favourite thing about visiting schools?
I think I inspire young people to strive to achieve more than they think they are capable of. I messed up badly at school but I worked hard to overcome it – when I tell my story you can quite often hear a pin drop in the school hall – I love that. But my favourite thing is listening to student ideas in workshops, especially in a class where you have a group who think they can’t do it, they can’t tell a story, or create a character, and they’re deliberately being a bit silly about the whole thing but that’s a gift to me because creativity is so much about play. It’s a great feeling when you have a child who leaves your class and I know and they know that they’ve done something a bit special – especially when they didn’t think they could. There’s nothing like it.
Are there any school visits that have had a memorable impact on you?
It’s always lovely to meet readers who really get your work, I never forget those encounters. Or the days when children are rushing up to you in the corridor to tell you how much they enjoyed your talk, that’s pretty great. But there are a couple of visits I’ve done that I’ll never forget. One school had me take four small workshops with all their most struggling students. There was a boy in one of the groups who sat with his arms crossed and a look of fury on his face but slowly, his arm crept out and he picked up his pen and when he left, I looked at his work and he’d done pretty much everything I’d asked him to do. The teacher told me he never engaged with a class, ever. That was pretty special. Another time I did a talk to a group of children who were outside of normal timetable – for whatever reason, these children couldn’t cope with being in lessons. Now I quite often do talks to about 300 people but this was a group of eight of all different ages, with three members of staff. I’d been told they might leave, or kick off, or generally be difficult but because there were so few of them, it meant I could make my talk more of a conversation. It was amazing, I have no idea if what I said will stay with them or make any difference, but for that hour, we had a connection, for that hour, I did make a difference. They were in school, listening and taking part. I’ll never forget that.
Do you think books dealing with sensitive subjects and prejudices can help build bridges and create more tolerance?
Absolutely. Books are a safe space to explore ideas, create understanding and build empathy. Books are powerful weapons for a better future..
Which author do you admire the most?
Oh that’s too hard! I do love Sarah Crossan’s writing – she creates such believable characters with so few words, it’s like a kind of magic. She’s also incredibly modest and would hate me saying it, but it’s true. If this was the middle ages she’d be burnt for a witch.
What book or school related moment are you most proud of from 2017?
Being nominated for the Carnegie Medal was just incredible. I have such huge admiration for librarians, to know that one of them thought More of Me was good enough to be on that incredible list was just fantastic.
Are you planning another book?
Yes! I know it’s taken far too long and I can’t say much about it at the moment as it’s all still Top Secret but there will be a new book in the Spring/Summer of 2019!
Paperback or kindle? Paperback
Would you rather be able to fly like a hawk or swim like a dolphin? Fly like a hawk.
Would you prefer to be able to read minds or talk to animals? Talk to animals!
Would you rather have unlimited time or unlimited money? Oooo – money. So many things you could do.
What daft thing makes you smile? My dog’s tongue poking out of his mouth when he’s asleep.
If you were Prime Minister for a day what law would you introduce? That houses empty for more than a month have to be offered up to council tenants. The housing crisis in this country is a disgrace.
Arrange for Kathryn to visit your school
To make an enquiry about Kathryn Evans, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org