All About Olivia Levez
Olivia Levez is a critically acclaimed author, writing mentor and former English teacher with over twenty years’ experience working in primary, middle and secondary schools. She has spoken at all manner of events, addressing and delivering workshops to children, young adults, librarians, Open University students, pre–published writers and anyone with a story in their hearts.
As well as visiting schools, Olivia mentors pre-agented writers and trains sixth formers in interview techniques. She is interested in characters that transform, characters that survive and characters that escape. Olivia likes to ‘method write’: when writing The Island, she foraged like her main character, and lived mainly on coconut water, porridge and Cuppa Soup.
The Island (13+) is a coming-of-age castaway adventure of survival and redemption. Raw and gritty, its flashback style make it ideal for teaching story structure, whilst its themes of survival and resilience have made it an ideal choice for inclusion in the PSHEC curriculum. The Island has been cited as part of a National Literacy Trust case study for its selection as a key text for the PSHEC through fiction scheme at Queensbridge School, and is a chosen text for the Ten For Ten school reading scheme in Leicestershire.
The Circus (13+) is the contemporary adventure story of a runaway – what happens if you step out of your old life and into another? Exploring whether it is ever possible to reinvent yourself and start again, or whether you take your old self with you, The Circus takes an unflinching look at the realities of running away from home and living on the streets, surviving only on dreams.
An experienced teacher as well as author, Olivia loves talking to students about all things creative. Olivia’s How to Survive Being an Author assembly mixes behind-the-scenes facts about having a writing career with weird and wonderful survival facts from researching The Island. With readings from both books, Olivia’s focus is on resilience, being realistic and why creativity matters.
She loves taking stories apart and putting them back together again, and her creative writing work shops have a structural focus. With the new emphasis on structure at Key Stage 3 and GCSE, Olivia gets students of all ages to write from different perspectives, zoom up close and far away, make shifts in time, space and pace, play around with crescendo and diminuendo, and have fun with cinematic techniques such as cutaways and match-cuts. Students will use visuals and sound effects as inspiration, and learn how to work in groups for real structural and line edits.
According to one attendee: “She gave us very helpful tips for creative writing, which we will all be grateful for and use in our writing in the classroom.”
And from another: “Olivia…is definitely somebody to look up to and listening to her talk about how she became an author was inspiring for many of us.”
Olivia’s School Visits
How to Survive Being an Author assembly –
Duration: 15 mins up to 1 hour
Presentation on the process of becoming an author, castaway survival tips and Hitting the Wall. Depending on time slot, includes readings from both The Island and The Circus, audience question and answer session, fascinating facts and behind-the-scenes look at the creative process. Interactive creative writing version also available. Links to resilience, creativity, and the tricky concept of failure.
Year groups: Key Stage 3, 4, 5
Equipment: Powerpoint for visuals
The Island ‘How to Write Like a Movie Maker’ workshop
Duration: 50 mins – 90 mins
Year group: Y7-11
Equipment: Paper, scissors, glue
Aim: to understand story structure through experimentation
Students get a chance to write, build and edit a castaway scene, using inkwasters, killer lines, cutaways and match cuts. With a structural focus, this is a very hands-on workshop, giving students and teachers an opportunity to see how authors build scenes, switch viewpoints, make time shifts and change the pace of their writing. Sea sounds, jungle clamour and chase music immerse the writers into the contrasting settings of a remote desert island and a busy Brixton street. But how to juxtapose these scenes? A lively workshop, with individual, whole class and group work. By the end, pupils will have a much clearer concept of structure, and have constructed scenes in pairs ready to further develop and edit.
The Circus ‘Shifting Perspectives’ workshop
Duration: 50 mins – 90 mins
Year group: Y7-11
Equipment: Paper to write on
Aim: to explore how writing from different perspectives creates suspense
Students settle into their seats as the circus begins…Will they get to be the hunter or the hunted? Writing from the opposing perspectives of the villain and the victim, the antagonist and the protagonist, students explore how to create voice and raise tension. Crowd noises and circus sounds immerse them into the exciting and dangerous world of circus performing as they wrestle with their inner driver and juggle with unusual perspectives – high wire, cannon or villainous mind?
After experimenting with free writing, students pair up to create a unified scene from their opposing viewpoints – harder than it looks! A chance, too, to enter the hula hoop challenge and win a signed copy of either book.
The Circus, published by Rock the Boat (Oneworld), May 2017, Age 13+
Willow has everything: a rich daddy, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. Everything except the one thing she really wants: a father who cares enough to find her when she runs away from home.
On the eve of her father’s wedding, Willow runs again into the unknown. Her mother was a circus performer and Willow longs to follow in her footsteps. But when all of her money is stolen and her only friend, a street performer called Suz, betrays her, Willow is left penniless and alone. So begins a gripping, exhilarating journey. Will Willow ever make it to the big top and find a place she can truly call home?
‘The Circus pulls you in. Beautifully written, with a compelling heroine. A story of survival, family, friendship – and fire.’ Patrice Lawrence (author of Orangeboy, Indigo Donut)
‘Dressed in Levez’ glittering prose, The Circus has the heart of a lion tamer and the thrill of a trapeze. Raw, compelling, and compassionate, this is a biting and beautiful examination of why we run, what makes a home, and how we find who we are.’ Kiran Millwood Hargrave (author of Girl of Ink and Stars)
‘A punchy explosion of a book’ Kathryn Evans (More of Me)
‘A fascinating setting, heart-cracking writing, and a big bold friendship at the centre. A deeply satisfying read about desperation and determination, with an ending that takes your breath away.’ Sue Wallman (Lying About Last Summer, See How They Lie)
‘Fed up with her life at home, Willow runs away to find her long-absent mother, a trapeze performer, and join her in the circus. This compelling journey of reinvention is studded with struggles, revelations, fire eating, and wire walking.’ Booklist magazine
‘The story never romanticizes homelessness; it’s represented as the harsh reality it is. Women in their infinite variety are celebrated… A beautiful and unforgettable story about a girl who learns she must lose who she thought she was before she can become who she’s meant to be.’ Kirkus
“A journey of self-discovery that is at once beautiful, sad, and—for anyone who has ever felt alone—familiar. Levez’s style is lyrical, infusing the story with atmosphere and emotion.” ForeWord
‘Much like the circus performances her protagonist longs to join, Olivia Levez’s (The Island) tale of life, love and family is thrilling and brilliantly alluring. Willow describes the circus by saying, “Some giant has dipped a brush in watercolour and splashed in the yellow amongst all the gray. A little patch of magic.” Her words can just as easily describe this enchanting sophomore novel. With equal parts coming of age, adventure and love story, under the big top of Levez’s Circus, readers will find grace and wonder.’ Jen Forbus, Shelf Awareness
‘Readers will enjoy this book a lot. The story is beautiful and amazing, with a lot of heart and heartache that arises from friendship, loneliness, and the desire to be loved by family. It will be easy for readers to care about and like Willow, as easy as it is to relate to her—she wants what everyone wants, to belong somewhere and to be wanted and needed. Levez’s writing is strong, the voice powerful, and the characters fully developed. With a unique, vibrant cast, this book has something for all readers.’—Rachel Wright, VOYA, USA.
The Island, published by Rock the Boat (Oneworld), March 2016, Age 13+
Frances is alone. Cast away on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, she has to find water, food and shelter. But survival is hard. Especially when she is haunted by memories of the things that she did before, the things that made her a monster. Pushed to the limit in extreme conditions, she battles to come to terms with her past, and find a future worth fighting for.
This is a gripping and thought-provoking story about one girl’s journey to become the person she believes she can be.
(Nominated for the Worcestershire Teen Book Award (WTBA) 2017; starred review in Publishers Weekly; selected for CLS Leicestershire’s Ten For Ten reading scheme)
‘Through short chapters, Levez effortlessly balances Frances’s past, present, and imagined future… Echoing O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, Levez’s story will keep readers riveted as determined, hard-edged Frances fights to survive.’ PW Starred review
‘This right-of-passage story has a vigour that will grip the reader from the first page and carries on to the last. Told by Fran as she faces present dangers while remembering the circumstances leading this point, the narrative has a powerful immediacy. It will not be easy to forget Fran, and Olivia Levez is a talent to watch.’ Books For Keeps
‘A book you can’t put down…. Fran’s story is one that is relatable. She has a depth; she isn’t perfect. Due to the harshness of life she has built a wall and become ‘a rock.’ But once she reveals all the intricate pieces of herself-—she is a character worth loving. This is one book that should be on everyone’s radar. Fast-paced and incredibly written, readers will be captivated by Fran and her desire to just survive.’ YABooksCentral
‘It’s strong, raw, harsh and filled with the kind of uncut emotion that will leave you stunned and feeling it all.’ The Guardian
Reviews and recommendations
“…a big success, both students and staff had a great time and were instantly drawn in by Fran Stanton’s story and listened with complete attention. Our students were thrilled to ask Olivia questions about being an author and the whole process of creating a novel.”
Amandine Neyses-van Schelven, SEN teacher/Literacy Coordinator, Mulberry School for Girls
“She gave us very helpful tips for creative writing, which we will all be grateful for and use in our writing in the classroom.”
“Overall, listening to a talk and participating in a workshop with Olivia Levez was undoubtedly a beneficial experience. She is definitely somebody to look up to and listening to her talk about how she became an author was inspiring for many of us.”
“She spoke about the characters and bits of the plot and read an extract, which was gripping and certainly made me want to read the entire book.”
Student, Mulberry School for Girls
“Olivia was really entertaining and immediately involved the students. She had a variety of props and techniques which were fun for the students too. It was fantastic to see the way author and audience engaged throughout the hour talk. This was an author visit that kept the children talking about it for ages afterwards. A very successful event.” Linda Bromyard, librarian, Blessed Edward Oldcorne
“It’s inspiring for students to hear how success can be achieved through dedication and determination.” Hannah Talbot, Head of English and Specialist Leader in Education at South Bromsgrove High School
To Make a Booking
To make an enquiry about Olivia Levez, 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 email@example.com