Zella Compton
Zella Compton

All About Zella Compton

Zella Compton’s first book, Foxy and Friends, was published in 1982. It achieved storming reviews from her year six classmates and was later adapted into a play and performed to the whole school.

With this, Zella caught the writing bug and produced numerous short stories, novels and plays throughout her school career.

In her twenties, she took a break from fiction writing to become a feature writer and then editor for a wide span of magazines (from Professional Builders Merchant to Your Wedding with many other titles along the way).

Her passion for writing remained and in 2004 Zella completed her first novel for children, called The Ten Rules of Skimming. She popped that in a drawer and went on with her life as a weekly columnist and freelance writer for newspapers, including The Times.

Seven years later, Zella finally plucked up the courage to send TTROS to a publisher. Mogzilla loved the story and, when an illustrator had added a graphic image to almost every page, the book was published in 2012.

Zella Compton also writes epic poetry which means she is invited to perform at many festivals and events.

Based on the South Coast, near Portsmouth, Zella’s spare time is swallowed up as a teaching and learning assistant at a senior school.

She has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being published and relishes hearing from readers who have loved her book – especially the sometime reluctant boys who are drawn in to the story by the sequential graphics and then can’t help reading more.

Zella’s School Visits

Zella has had a varied writing career in magazines, newspapers and fiction/poetry. She is willing to customise her visits to suit school requirements – whether the focus is creative writing (prose and/or poetry), or writing for newspapers/magazines/websites etc.

With every visit, Zella aims to inspire pupils to write stories or poems independently. Schools who book the inspiration workshop and then give pupils the time to write soon afterwards achieve excellent results.

More than happy to work with primary, senior and college level students, Zella adapts her introductory talk and workshops to be age appropriate. She is not fazed by speaking to large assemblies; however, she asks that senior school workshops are constrained to class size.

A typical day begins with Zella’s own story which she is happy to deliver to assemblies or smaller groups, this is then followed by workshops.

Introduction (40 – 60 mins)
Zella talks about her own writing journey, showing visuals of her first creative pieces through primary and secondary school. She talks about working for magazines and other media and then her creative writing process. Zella explores working with an illustrator and the process behind character creation. She reads an age appropriate section from her book and likes to have a projector to hand so that she can show the graphic elements as she reads.

A typical day would then lead to delivering workshops to smaller groups (these last approximately 60 mins):

Finding inspiration: Using music, art and props as well as other devices, Zella takes students on an interactive journey to unlock stories from their minds. This workshop has worked well with both senior school students and primary and can be delivered across year groups (max 60), or classes. Primary students in particular enjoy ‘The Story Generator’ which involves teacher participation.

Workshop requirements: paper, pens, clipboards (or similar to lean on), projector, laptop, cd player and three bags/bins.

Flash fiction: A brilliant activity for small mixed-ability groups, Zella’s flash fiction workshops involve creating group stories by throwing – yes, throwing – balls of paper at one another. Props are used for inspiration and silent team working is also involved. The flash fiction workshop has a MAXIMUM of 16 students and suits year five upwards.

Workshop requirements: paper, pens, clipboards (or similar to lean on), space for group circle plus post it notes galore.

Poetry: Yikes, how do you get those reluctant year nine boys to write a poem? One of the first things that Zella does is show them what poetry can be . . . by putting performance at its heart (she does a mean Henry VIII watching the Mary Rose sink). Pulling works from all over the literary spectrum, Zella then uses music, line starters and/or a questionnaire framework to create a group piece before individuals devise a work based on their own interests. The poetry workshop is suitable for any year group, with students working to their own levels, but is restricted to a maximum of 30.

Workshop requirements: paper, pens and white board or large paper (with pens).

For smaller groups (max 15), the workshop can be extended by an hour to allow Zella time to help students develop the pieces for performance.

Characterisation: Using a questionnaire format, Zella helps students to develop their characters, which in turn develops their stories in wholly unexpected ways. This workshop is suited to students from year five up and particularly suits writing groups, or students who are keen on developing their writing skills.
Workshop requirements: paper and pens.

Editing: This workshop is intended for year 10 + students and takes them through the importance of editing, editing some more and editing a final time. It features an in-depth look at the process that Zella went through editing her book The Ten Rules of Skimming, before delving into her work with newspapers and magazines and culminating in interactive activities. This workshop is not for the feint hearted.

Workshop requirements: paper, pens plus preferably some previous work which could do with some TLC.

Non-fiction writing: Zella has previously helped schools develop their own newspapers, working with students to produce news, features, reviews and interview pages. She is willing to develop workshops around school requirements, whether it is writing articles, writing for the web, persuasive writing etc. Please get in touch to discuss.

Zella’s Books


The Ten Rules of Skimming

Ever get the shivery feeling that someone’s walking over your grave? They’re not. It’s someone skimming your soul.
Adam finds that skimming brings an amazing rush, but joy riding across minds comes with risks. When he meets Jenny-Ray, he learns about The Board, with their lists of approved hosts to visit. The consequences of disobedience are terrifying, and it’s not long until he is hunted down by the shadowy figures of The Board. Adam has to break all the rules in a battle of wits as he struggles to find out who has taken his missing sister.
Half graphic novel, half book, the story is told with words by Zella Compton and stunning sequential artwork by newcomer Jess Swainson.

Reviews and Recommendations

‘This a just an email to say what a wonderful experience we had with Zella Compton on Nov 28th.  We were writing epic poems and the quality of work that the children produced was in deed EPIC! She has a lovely way with the children and was able through her advice and choice of activities and tasks to really get the children writing imaginatively and creatively! And most of all, getting the children to enjoy the writing they were creating! Thanks for the opportunity to meet her!’ Mrs Debbie Short Assistant Head Mansel Park Primary School

‘Zella has visited our children twice now. The children always have a fantastic time working with her, and come out of her sessions full of excitement and ready to share some quality written work. She is able to provide children with a special and unique experience which really gives them a chance to shine- we look forward to having her back again.’ David Harris, Waterside

“Zella Compton visiting Portchester Community School has been one of the best enrichment activities I’ve personally organised. Zella was very engaging with our students and pitched her presentation appropriately for the age groups. It was a pleasure to see so many students, especially dis-engaged Year 9 boys, asking her questions and even buying copies of Zella’s book. Even months after her visit, students are asking me when she is coming back. I will be definitely asking her back to Portchester again based on the impact she has on our students.” Mr Wood, English Teacher, Portchester Community School (senior)

“Thank you so much for your visit to Crofton yesterday, the Creative Writing group was in awe of you and valued your tuition tremendously. They were particularly thrilled by the section where you focussed on ‘Character Inspiration’; it gave many of them ideas to take forward for their own writing. Overall I think what you achieved with the cross-section of students from different year groups was fabulous. I have informed my Head Teacher of the success and he too was delighted.” Mrs Winkles, English Teacher, Crofton (senior)

“The children (and staff) were thoroughly captivated! Zella was humorous, engaging and presented an extremely educational workshop for our children. They were inspired! They were also motivated as many went back and started writing stories in class that very day!” Mr Dampier, Literacy Manager, Droxford (junior)

“Zella’s passion and talent for writing was a huge asset during our writing sessions to create a school newspaper. She both motivated and inspired the children as well as providing me with some very good ideas for planning. She clearly modelled every stage of the writing process which enabled the children to publish a successful newspaper.” Michaela Beetlestone English Manager Alverstoke Junior School

“Zella’s talk was aimed at A level students approaching their creative writing narrative coursework. The students found the talk entertaining, engaging and inspiring and it helped them plan and craft their final pieces. Many of the students reported afterwards that they hadn’t realised writing was so much fun, and Zella’s tips and ideas had made the process of producing their own work much more interesting.” Mrs Wallace, English Teacher, Portsmouth College

“Thank you so very much for coming to the school on Friday. The girls were totally inspired and had an absolutely wonderful afternoon with you. I, too, loved meeting you and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.” Mrs Webb, Portsmouth (senior)

“Firstly, this incredible author told us about her childhood and it was really interesting to find out what she did when she was younger. Listening closely, everyone was amazed by the secrets behind her new book. It was very motivating.” Freddie Besley (pupil junior)
“It was an inspirational talk and I have more ideas for creative writing now.” Evie Chandler pupil (senior)

“Zella Compton is inspiring and has made me think about a future in writing.” Sara Ahmed pupil (senior)

“She inspired me to carry on in English and to aim for her standards.” Jack Harris (senior)

“I used to only read comics but this book made me want to read proper fiction and start my own book.” Josh Boh (senior)

Book reviews

“The Ten Rules of Skimming is an exciting, action-packed adventure that mixes science fiction, horror, mystery and intrigue that introduces readers to a world where mind jumping is real if not common- it reads like Inception for YA readers!” Teen librarian

“Zella captures the reader’s emotions and even when the book ends doesn’t let them go. This 9/10 read will make you think hard about the minds of psychos, as well as what makes us us. As for me, I’m heading off to watch a cute anime to level out my head.” Nayu’s reading corner

“A gripping and exciting debut novel, perfectly suited to the graphic novel format. It’s a book which draws you in and grips you with its power and imagination and the illustrations convey a dark and sinister feel.” Parents in touch

“The Ten Rules of Skimming is a unique adventure which will grab even the most reluctant young reader. Zella Compton’s debut novel is an animating adventure told through words and a set of impressive illustrations which make the story an irresistible read. Adam Barnes could be any bored teenager until his life takes an exciting twist which takes him places most people can only dream of. Living any schoolboy’s fantasy, he skips through people’s minds from one cliff-hanging chapter to the next, bringing drama, suspense and defiance along the way.” Sam Bannister, the Portsmouth News

“Zella Compton’s first published novel is a dark and imaginative story with an intriguing central premise. What if you could slip into other people’s consciousness, leap from one mind to another? The format is also unusual –like Henry Tumour by Anthony McGowan & Andy Horan, or Slog’s Dad by David Almond & Dave McKean, there are black and white illustrations throughout. These break up the text and give breathing space for some pretty extraordinary ideas. This book would particularly suit older 10+ readers looking for big ideas presented through a mix of text and graphics: it’s not as visual as a graphic novel but far less intimidating than long blocks of text in a more traditional format. Distinctive, interesting and likely to appeal to gamers.” Serendipity Reviews

Reviews of performance poetry

“Zella’s poem about the Mary Rose is a powerful and lyrical imagining of the sinking of the famous flagship, brought to life in vivid and beautifully performed verse. It was also a real pleasure to see a woman performing material that is traditionally more likely to be explored by male writers.” Sarah Cheverton, New Writing South

“I was spell bound by her new poem written for the night.”  Blogger.

“Fabulous performance.” Blogger.

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Zella Compton, 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 trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk

Further information on Zella Compton is available from her website: http://www.zellacompton.co.uk