Jennifer Killick
Jennifer Killick

All About Jennifer Killick

I have always loved stories. Growing up, I kept so many books hidden in my bed for reading after lights out that there was barely room for me! I also loved writing stories – my first being a tale about a baby bird called Snowy, who hurt her leg and had to hop her way to safety.

I started thinking seriously about being a writer when I was in secondary school, but didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t really believe it was possible. The thought of seeing a book in the shops with my name on it seemed too amazing to ever be a reality. I was afraid that I’d fail, so I didn’t risk trying– and that is definitely the worst reason in the world!

Having my first son was the kick in the bottom I needed. Suddenly I had someone depending on and looking up to me, and it made me want to do better. Once he started school I applied for a Creative Writing MA at Brunel University, intending to write grown up novels full of tragedy and despair. But then I got the idea for ‘The Really Big Stink’ and from then on, writing for children was all I wanted to do.

I have a Distinction in MA Creative Writing from Brunel University, I’m a Golden Egg Academy alumni where I was awarded The Chicken House scholarship and I have also been published in The Guardian!

Jennifer’s School Visits

A full day visit would typically include five sessions and a signing. I usually start with an author talk of about thirty minutes. This can be for the whole school together, but some schools like to have separate talks for KS2 and KS1. I keep the KS1 talk a little shorter. For the author talk I just need to use a PowerPoint presentation. I then typically run three or four workshop sessions for up to thirty children. I usually work with years three, four, five and six, but have run workshops for reception and years one and two also. I will bring worksheets for the workshop, but it would be great if the children could have pencils and colours to write and draw with. Depending on how many workshops the school want me to fit in, they can be from 45 minutes to an hour each. I like to hold a signing session for the children who want to buy books, to allow them to meet me and ask any questions they have. I also offer every child who attends a workshop a signed postcard (I can bring extra postcards if required).

A typical schedule would be:

9-9:35 – Author talk for whole school (powerpoint and large screen required)

9:45 – 10:40 – workshop 1 (up to 30 children) – pencils and colours required.

10:45 – 11:40 – workshop 2 (up to 30 children)

Lunch

1 – 1:55 – workshop 3 (up to 30 children)

2 – 3 – signing and individual questions

I’m happy to shorten the workshops and fit an additional session into the morning (or two author talks).

Outlines of sessions below:

Author Talks

  • My author talks are thirty to forty minutes long and are suitable for large groups of primary school children.
  • I’ll have a table full of colourful props related to ‘Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink’ on display.
  • I’ll use a Powerpoint presentation.
  • We will talk about why we love stories and how to go about writing our own – starting with a story seed and making it grow. I’ll talk about ‘Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink’– how I got the idea and started the story and what it’s like in Alex’s world. I try to be as interactive as possible, so I will be asking lots of questions, and playing games. I want every child to feel involved..
  • I will talk about how I became a writer, and life as an author, as I find most children are especially interested in this!
  • I’ll read a very short excerpt from ‘Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink’.
  • I’ll answer any questions the children have about writing or authoring, or anything they like!

My aim is to encourage the children’s love for stories, so that they leave raring to pick up a book and read, or to write one themselves.

Not-So-Super Powers Workshop

  • Suitable for Years 3, 4, 5 and 6
  • For up to 30 children
  • Lasts approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour

This session encourages children to look at well-known story devices in a new way. We will talk about classic superheroes and powers, and then, using ‘The Stink’ as a springboard, we’ll try to think up some more interesting powers, and the drawbacks that come with them. The children will create characters with these powers, and I’ll show them how to build stories around them. I’ll encourage the children to share their ideas and to help each other to build stories from them.

*NEW* Animal Agents Workshop

  • Suitable for years 2, 3, 4 and 5 (can work with year 1)
  • For up to 30 children
  • Lasts approximately 40 minutes

This session links with The Reading Agency’s ‘Summer Reading Challenge’, ‘The Stink’ and ‘The Furry Fury’. Using the idea of pets and animals leading double lives as secret agents, we will create agent profiles for our unique animal agents and build missions for them, creating exciting and imaginative adventures.

*NEW* Everyday Adventures Workshop

  • Suitable for years 3, 4, 5 and 6
  • For up to 30 children
  • Lasts approximately 40 minutes

Something that runs through all of my stories is the idea of looking at ordinary and familiar things and re-imagining them so that they become extraordinary or form part of an unexpected adventure.This session draws on, ‘The Stink’, ‘The Furry Fury’ and ‘Mo, Lottie and the Junkers’ and aims to encourage children to look at everyday things in a new way to create exciting adventures.

Books:

My debut novel, ‘Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink’ was published through Firefly Press in May 2017 and has been selected for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. The sequel, ‘Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury’ is coming out in May 2018.

The Alex Sparrow series is aimed at readers aged seven to twelve. They are comedy, mystery, fantasy adventures involving two main characters, Alex and Jess, who have funny superpowers, and a special goldfish called Bob who helps them with their missions. The first book in another series, ‘Mo, Lottie and the Junkers’ is coming out in 2019. It’s also MG, a comedy, science-fiction adventure.

Recommendations & Reviews

‘We had the pleasure of welcoming Jennifer to our school for our end of year Speech Day and what a fabulous day it was! From the moment she entered the school she exuded warmth and enthusiasm towards the children and her passion for reading and books was clear.

In the morning she spoke to the whole school about Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink. This was followed by a series of workshops with different age groups. The pupils liked finding out about how to become an author and were totally engaged by her talk. In particular they loved seeing her props and thinking up their own superheroes – especially ones with stinky or slightly gross superpowers. Jennifer provided all of the resources and was well prepared for the activities. She responded well to the pupils’ questions and was not phased by some of the funnier comments from our younger members!

In the afternoon Jennifer agreed to present the awards to our year 6 leavers and other prize winners during our final assembly. Once again her friendliness and connection with the children was evident and whilst she addressed the whole school (and their families) she certainly engaged the whole audience. A number of parents commented on how refreshing it was to have someone at Speech Day who actually spoke to the children, made connections with them and was clearly passionate about their work.

We had pre-ordered a number of books and Jennifer ensured that these arrived promptly and she had personalized them all. She also carried out a small book signing on the day which gave some of the staff a chance to talk to her too. All in all it was the most fabulous end to a very busy term and for me it was certainly a highlight of the year. The children were barely out of the school gates before they were all reading the Big Stink and I can’t wait to hear their reviews when we return in September. Thank you for everything you did Jennifer; I am sure that we will remain in touch for future projects and I am confident that you inspired many of our pupils to read and write over the holidays.’ – Amy Beck (Prep 4 Teacher Magdalene House, Wisbech Grammar School)

‘Thank you Jennifer, for visiting Grange Primary school. The two assemblies that you gave, one to KS1 and the other to KS2, were utterly engaging and breath-taking. When asked about the experience, many of the children replied that she made becoming an author, real and possible. The idea that you were a normal person, who liked Star Wars and tried for years to realise your dream, was an inspiration to our children. Children in KS1 created hats for Alex which fed into their maths and art topic of geometry, texture and materials.

The workshops were a perfect stimulus for the creative writing that stemmed from it. It was beneficial to have the workshops as the children were able to work with you in a class group. Your enthusiasm was infectious and as a result, children in two of the three classes wrote stories as a direct consequence of our workshop. The boys in my class were asking if they could write the story! Of course I obliged, since I was so thrilled by the vim and vigour.

The children really loved the book signing part of your day. Many children commented that they felt special and lucky to have a personalised book from an author they had met and started to know. It was delightful to see the warmth with which they had embraced you and your ideas. Many have been ‘caught reading’ your books walking around the corridors and lots of children have pledged to buy your new book.

Thank you so much for visiting Grange Primary school. It was truly memorable and has helped the school to foster a ‘love of reading’ throughout the school. ‘ – Mrs Monique Johnson (Year 4 Class Teacher/British Values and Pupil Voice Lead – Grange Primary School)

We had a fantastic day with Jennifer Killick. We found her assembly to be interesting and engaging. She pitched her talk appropriately for the children including her long road to being published. This was inspiring but also humorous!

She followed the assembly with well considered workshops. Jennifer was very personable and shared that these had been her own year 6 classrooms! She was well prepared with all the resources needed and the children were motivated throughout. Jennifer took the time to speak with each child individually about their ideas, during the workshop. The children were inspired to use their ideas in further English lessons to create their own stories.’ – Hillingdon Primary School

 

If you would like to book Jennifer for an author visit, please contact Trevor on trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk