All About Nicky Singer
Nicky is a novelist, dramatist and librettist.
Winner of the Blue Peter Award for Feather Boy, her novels have been adapted for television (BAFTA winner for Best Children’s Drama); stage (including a musical with lyrics by Don Black and music by Debbie Wiseman) and opera (Knight Crew– premiered at Glyndebourne – and also filmed by the BBC for Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne). Her first play for young people Island (about ice-bears and the nature of reality) was staged at the National Theatre in 2012. Doll was shortlisted for the Booktrust Teenage Prize and The Flask has been nominated for the 2013 Carnegie Medal
Her work is translated into 28 languages and she is in demand at festivals and schools all over the world.
How Nicky became an author.
‘When I was six, I won a bar of chocolate for a story I wrote about a giraffe. This is easy money, I thought, I’ll do this again. My school thought so too and entered me for essay writing competitions sponsored by… Cadbury’s chocolates. Every year I won a box of chocolates, actually it was a tin in those days. I ate the chocolates, kept the tin and planned a life in writing. Two other things happened, I acquired a raft of younger sisters and, when I was fourteen, lost my father. That sounds like I mislaid him. I didn’t. He died very suddenly, very unexpectedly and he didn’t say goodbye. I often think all of us are born storytellers but those who become writers have a trigger and it’s often a cataclysmic childhood experience. For me it was that death. I could talk more about that, but I won’t here. I would if I met you because I like talking about difficult things – that’s also what makes me a writer, I think. As for the sisters, I started telling them stories…. That’s another thing we could discuss – why we are Homo Fabula , story-telling beings.’
Nicky’s School Visits
Nicky is comfortable giving small creative workshops for 15 or talking to 250 people. She will always tailor her presentation to the needs of the group that invites her and she is happy to talk about her novels, the creative process in general (particularly the importance of story), plus her adaptations for screen, theatre and opera.
Talk times: Most talks (see below) are 50-60 mins long and include time for Q&A. Nicky particularly likes running creative writing sessions where she gets to work with the students for an hour, leaves them to write for an hour (while she gives a full year-group presentation elsewhere) and then returns to the group for a de-brief. It is in the de-brief that the light bulbs usually go off!
Creative writing: flipchart and pens.
Talks with film clips: computer with hook-up to big screen.
Talks for 8-12 year olds include:
1. Ideas and how you get them. The inspiration behind Feather Boy (Nicky really did go in that spooky house….) and/or The Flask (what magical thing is in this bottle?). Plus an interactive story-telling game where one story becomes thirty (or as many as are children in the class) and each child goes away with the basic structure/genre for a story of their own.
2. Ideas and Adaptations. For slightly older groups, some of the above plus how a novel gets made into a musical and/or film/opera. Including clips from Nicky’s BAFTA award winning BBC film.
3. Creative Writing Workshop. For smaller groups. Exploration of character, beginnings and ends, points of view, the importance of empathy, thoughts on language, how to ‘push’ a story… Each child ends up with the beginning of a story which can be continued in class.
Talks for teens:
1. Ideas and How you get them for Teens. Talks based around a particular book – eg Doll (issues of identity and self-harm); The Innocent’s Story (issues of extremism, suicide-bombing) or GemX (exploration of genetically modified human beings and clashes between Haves and Have-Nots in society). These sound rather worthy. Actually ‘compelling’ and ‘moving’ are the adjectives most used to describe Nicky’s books and talks.
2. Knight Crew: Talk and Opera/Film. Nicky’s re-telling of the King Arthur legend set in contemporary gangland. A hard-hitting look into contemporary inner-cities and knife crime with myth thrown in. Can people who have murdered be ‘good’? Additionally Nicky can talk (with film footage) about the adaptation of this book for an opera at Glyndebourne, for which she wrote the libretto.
3. Creative Writing Workshop for small groups: workshops, a more grown-up version of the above workshop.
1. From Page to Stage for GCSE/A-level Students. Using Island (Nicky’s play which premiered at London’s National Theatre) as a model: how a play develops from initial idea, through re-writes to working with directors/designers/actors, the rehearsal process and final performance. Plus suggestions for improvisations around the script.
2. Adaptation: Film/Theatre/Opera – the process of adapting book to film; book to opera; play to novel etc. Including stills from Island and film footage of Glyndebourne’s Knight Crew opera and BBC’s Feather Boy film. The impact on story of different media.
Nicky’s novel The Flask (recently nominated for the Carnegie Medal)
Twelve-year-old Jess is grieving for her beloved Aunt Edie and anxiously awaiting the birth of her twin brothers, when she finds a mysterious glass flask hidden in a desk. The flask is beautiful to Jess and soon she starts to believe that it contains a magical life-force. When her half-brothers are born critically ill, Jess becomes convinced that their survival depends on what’s happening to the flask…
Through Jess’s stunning narration, Nicky Singer explores the meaning of life and the interconnected nature of all things – in a way which is entirely accessible to young readers.
Catherine would say it all began in a time that is yesterday and tomorrow and eternally present. But then Catherine’s a storyteller. I’m not a storyteller. I’m just the guy it happened to.
Robert is the class victim, the guy who’s never picked for the team. So no one is more surprised than Robert himself when a strange old lady sends him on a quest to solve the mystery of Chance House. Legend has it that a boy fell to his death from an upper window. But what has this past to do with Robert’s future?
To get to the truth, Robert must learn what it really means to fly.
After a gang feud claims its first life, violence escalates. But then the prophetic words of a strange old bag lady start to hit home and the girl he loves have one chance to make good, one chance to bring honour and peace to a murderous world.
Fierce tender and unflinching, Knight Crew breathes the passions of ancient legend into a contemporary wasteland – passions that can create or destroy.
Grumpy Western teenage, Cameron, arrives on an uninhabited arctic island with his research scientist mother, Pascale. Beneath the soil the permafrost is melting and the graves throwing up their dead. There are bear prints in the sand and Cameron, lacking for his computer and iPod, begins to hear – and see – things that science says cannot be there. One of them is an Inuit girl. The other is a polar bear.
‘No one’s an island, Cameron. You, your parents, London, Qikiqtaruk, the whales, the guillemots, the living, the dead. We’re all connected. If one moves we all move’.
Island played at the National Theatre (Cottesloe 2012) and also in 40 London schools.
To purchase Nicky’s books, click here.
Reviews and Recommendations
‘Singer is probably best known for the excellent, and prizewinning, Feather Boy. Like that novel, The Flask demonstrates a depth of emotional intelligence and the same predilection for a character-driven plot which is grounded in the recognisable, the everyday, the suburban – while simultaneously reaching out to the extraordinary and to the magical. The novel is written in supple first-person, present-tense prose that is clean and lean, and offers occasional flashes of poetry. The short sentences and short chapters will encourage young readers to keep turning the pages.’ The Guardian.
‘Feather Boy is simply fabulous… an emotionally intense suspense novel of the highest order.’ Michael Thorn, Achuka
‘A story for this generation…written with love, passion and intelligence.‘ Benjamin Zephaniah on Knight Crew
‘Nicky Singer’s new play Island highlights how theatre can move, motivate and educate children – as well as entertain them.’ Independent
“I just wanted to drop you a personal note to thank you so much for your fantastic contribution to Book Week. Everyone who worked with you commented on the way that you engaged the children – and the fact that you could work with the drama students was an absolute gift! You did not seem to stop when you were here and gave over and above anything we asked. All in all, not only did we think Book Week was a real success overall, but we feel that very strongly about your particular contribution, too, and I hope we will be able to stay in touch in the future.” Sue Woodroofe, Principal, The British School of Brussels.
To Make a Booking
To make an enquiry about Nicky Singer, 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