Our June artist of the month is poet and illustrator Chris White – a hugely experienced and hilarious performer – every primary school should have the pleasure of a visit at least once!
Please note for transparencies sake we must point out that the above photo may have received some tweaking via Photoshop…
What a Visit From Chris Entails
Chris can work with all primary aged pupils – nursery up to Year 6, and even with some Year 7’s if required.
Chris’ workshops are an explosion of creativity and imagination. Even the most reluctant writer will find themselves being drawn along (literally) as Chris shows how, when it comes to being a writer and illustrator, that there are no roghts or wrings.
The workshop kicks off by finding something to write about. A character is created using the ideas of all participants. The stranger the idea the better! Step-by-step the drawing is created and, before you know it…TADAAA! You have a brand-new character in front of you using the power of pencil, paper and playing around.
The next step is to write about it. Is it an animal? A person? An alien? Well, whatever it is then it needs a poem writing about it!
Chris and class will then begin to write a poem, bit by bit and line by line, until the imagination is really flowing and off you go…finish it off yourself…write…write…write!
By the end of the workshop, all participants will have an illustrated poem to show for it, hopefully igniting the spark to write and draw their own creations.
It’s fun, it’s lively. It’s interactive and it’s creative. There’s drawing, there’s writing, there’s discussion. It’s a feast of imaginative ideas wrapped up in a workshop.
You may need to lie down afterwards…
What Schools Have Said About Chris
‘I wasn’t looking forward to it…but it was brilliant!’
Ryan, Junction Farm Primary, Stockton.
‘Good motivation to get children interested in books and poetry’
Miss Nicol, Birmingham.
‘Funniest poet I have ever seen, and I learnt things!’
Mikey, Junction Farm Primary, Stockton.
‘I didn’t know poetry could be that good!’
Olivia, Junction Farm Primary, Stockton.
‘Magnificent, brilliant and joyful!’
Class 4KW, Birmingham.
‘You’re visit is already remembered as legend!’
Irene Epp, Head Teacher, The American School of Kinshasa.
‘Chris was a hit with the kids and the teachers. It was a pleasure to have him at our school. His energy and presentation style wowed over even the most jaded student. Everyone participated in his workshops, including the teachers. Now poetry and drawing are at the forefront of the students’ minds. Chris is a miracle man.’
Schutz School – Egypt
Interview with Chris White
Chris White is a writer. Illustrator and performance poet.
He has had many poetry and story books published since his first, ‘Bitey the Veggie Vampire’ in 2000. As well as scribbling pictures to accompany his own work, Chris illustrates for other authors too, including Brian Moses, as well as providing pictures for apps and websites.
Chris has featured at many festivals across the globe, including The Edinburgh Fringe, The Edinburgh Book Festival, The Sharjah Children’s Festival, The Doha Book Festival and The Cheltenham Book Festival.
His poetry performances and writing workshops have taken him all over the world to places such as China, Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Dubai, Jordan and even The Congo where he taught a class how to write a poem in a cave!
Chris has had his poems and pictures broadcast on BBC TV and radio and worked for the British government and the British Council on various projects.
Please visit http://www.veggievampire.com for more details…
How did you come to join Authors Abroad?
It was so long ago I can hardly remember, but I’ll try…
Authors Abroad was a brand-new outfit operating out of a cardboard box somewhere in Yorkshire. I think the only other author on their books was a lady called ‘Martha’ who would read her poetry whilst juggling plums. I have no idea what happened to Martha. If you are out there somewhere Martha, please get in touch. Anyway, Authors Abroad sent their carrier pigeon (Simon) to deliver an invitation to me to join them in their quest for global domination. I was a young, desperate author waiting patiently for my shot at the big time. It was a marriage made in heaven. It was a bit like Nick Fury recruiting Avengers…but with a pigeon. That’s how I remember it anyway, but my memory may be a bit hazy.
What do you enjoy most about visiting schools?
When there is a free dinner.
No, sorry, I mean it’s awesome to meet so many fantastic people on my school visits. The teachers are lovely (most of them) and to get to meet the most creative, open, excited and sparky young minds around is an absolute joy. It never ceases to amaze me that, with a little gentle shove, children’s minds can be so brilliantly creative. Lots of people moan that the art of being creative and imaginative is being lost in the kids of today, but they just need the right encouragement…and I’m your man!
Experiencing children that complain ‘I caaaan’t draw…I caaaan’t write a poem!!’ coming up to you after a workshop or performance with a huge smile and proudly thrusting their work into your face is a moment that never gets old.
What’s the best trip overseas Authors Abroad have sent you on?
Wow! There’s been so many. I’ve been very, very lucky to have experienced many different countries, cultures and situations on my visits across the globe. It’s been a wild ride from Dubai to Brunei, from Budapest to Bucharest, from Beijing to Ho Chi Minh! Each trip has had its moments, from falling down a hole in Penang to trying to work out train timetables in Shanghai. Visiting mosques in the Middle East and Buddhist temples in the Far East. Getting lost in a rain forest, having a barbeque in minus 30 degrees on Sakhalin Island, meeting a Qatari princess…the list is endless. So many miles, so many memories and I’m thankful for them all. Who would have thought that writing a few books would take you zig-zagging around the world eh?
But, I think, to answer the question and stop babbling, the best trip was probably the time Authors Abroad sent me to The Congo! I don’t know if it was the ‘best’ trip, but it was certainly the most memorable. Incredible stuff. I still can’t believe I went there. An incredible experience with moments of sheer terror, unbridled joy and I still can’t quite work out how I manage to get on the plane home (without a passport!) It’s a long and twisted story which we haven’t got time for here, involving the American Embassy, an iguana and a driver called Pepe. I’m going to have to write a book about all my travels one day. I’ve already got the title, ‘Poetry in Motion’.
Do you prefer writing poems or drawing?
It depends which one I’m doing. I love them both. Sometimes a drawing comes first and then I write a poem or story about it, and sometimes the other way around. I just like being creative, either with words or with scribbles.
What makes you laugh?
The road layout of Leeds City Centre.
What’s the most random thing you have been asked to draw by a teacher or pupil?
Picture the scene. I’m in Brunei. The school I’m visiting warns me that the Sultan of Brunei’s grandson wishes to purchase one of my books. He has granted me an audience with him, after school, on his own, in one of the classrooms. I’m nervous. What do I do? What do I say? What is the correct etiquette for meeting such a person? I’m just a humble writer from Derby! Where’s Simon? All these questions race through my mind. I calm myself and walk, with the aid of a teacher, into the room, where his Royal Grandsoness is waiting…
But, wait. WHAT?! He is about 5 years old! I’m relieved! I sign his book and ask him if he would like a picture drawn in there too. I was ready for anything. A palace? A peacock? One of his many speedboats?
His Royal Face turns to mine and in broken English blurts…” Hamster.”
I lie on the hotel bed later in the evening thinking, “Well, today was a good day. I drew a hamster for the Sultan of Brunei’s Grandson and not many people can say they’ve done that.”
Where do you find your inspiration?
Sorry for being a dull answer, but, everywhere. In films, in music, just by walking down the street, dreams, too much cheese before bed. Everywhere and anywhere, inspiration is all around you. You just have to let it in.
I like to think of ideas being like fish, swimming around in a big lake. Most will swim right by, sometimes a little one will swim into your head. On a good day, WHOA! You catch a BIG ONE!
What impact do you hope your school visits will have on students?
I just hope that I can switch a few lightbulbs on over people’s heads. I want them to think, well if he can do it then I can too and show people that being creative is within them. Either drawing, writing, dancing, singing, whatever floats your boat. I’d just like to unlock that inner artist that lurks deep down in most people. It’s the best when I get letters from students or teachers saying how they’ve never written a poem or drawn a comic strip before, but now they can’t stop. Job done! When I was at school I was never really shown that a job in the arts could be available to a regular person like me. “Go work in an office or factory” was all I was encouraged to do. It would be great if I could show people that being an author and illustrator isn’t just for well-known people from high-up places, but anybody (with some commitment and desire) can make a living out of the arts. There is another way!
What would you say to a child who said they didn’t like poetry to win them over?
I’d say, you do, you just don’t know it yet. I’m convinced that EVERYBODY likes poetry. Do you like songs? Well that’s just poetry set to music. That advert jingle you can’t get out of your head? That’s poetry that is. That speech from your favourite film that you always quote? Poetry. Poetry is just words put in an order that makes your soul sing. Sometimes it rhymes, so times it doesn’t, but if it makes you stop and smile or think or feel sad or feel anything, then that’s poetry.
Then I’d tell them to go read a Spike Milligan poetry book. If they don’t like poetry after finishing that, then there’s no hope for them…
What’s your favourite career moment so far?
There’s been so many! You can’t beat having your first book published and seeing your name on the front. That’s special. Doing my first Edinburgh Fringe was a highlight too. I like how you’ve put ‘so far’ on the end of the question as I like to think my favourite moments are to come. The best moments though are any time somebody says, “I enjoyed that!” Whether it’s one of my poems or a performance I’ve just done. Just to put a smile on someone’s face for a little while is a beautiful thing.
Are any of the characters you have created a favourite?
In no particular order…
Bitey the Veggie Vampire (as it was the title of my first book)
Wang Foo the Kung Fu Shrew (because he nearly got me a TV series)
The Big, Big Guinea Pig (because he got me noticed by the BBC and they used the poem a few programmes)
Stumpy the Pigeon (as he is a scruffy plucky underdog who tries to fly like the big sleek pigeons but ends up doing his own thing. I think I projected a lot of me into that pigeon!)
Do you ever have to heap praise on someone’s work whilst secretly desperately trying to figure out what it is?
Haha! That’s awful! What a terrible thing to ask! Everybody’s creative endeavours are special and unique and brilliant…
Or, to be honest. Yes. All the time.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Did your plans change or are you living the dream?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. Still don’t.
I knew I enjoyed writing and drawing but you couldn’t make a living out of that…could you? It’s what other people did. So, I went to work in shops and factories and anywhere that would have me, to pay the rent. Biding my time until the universe aligned, and I could make the dream a reality. Now, I am living the dream! 15 years of writing, drawing, school-visiting, festival-performing and earning a living from making things up! I mean, who else (apart from politicians) gets to do that every day?!
Any career aspirations left to tick off your bucket list?
Lots and lots. I feel like I’m just getting warmed up!
But, here’s a story. If you’d have asked me this a couple of weeks ago then I would have said that I’d like to win an award for something. (I’ve not won anything since the Matlock Scouts summer fayre raffle in 1984.) I’d have said that some kind of recognition would be nice. Maybe one of these book awards that people seem to be voting on all the time…BUT…a week or two ago I was visiting schools in Romania and a few teachers took me out to watch a football match. At half-time, the chap I was sitting next to turned to me and asked the same question, “Any career aspirations left?”
I mentioned I’d like to win a book award of some sort, to be acknowledged in some way for having got away with this for so long. For just somebody in the publishing industry to notice me. The teacher, Paul, then said to me that he had been teaching for nearly 30 years and had seen thousands of children pass through his class over his time at the school. Some couldn’t read when they arrived, some couldn’t write. Many had problems of one sort or another, but he had managed to get all of them through school, to pass their exams and to go on and do great things in their lives.
He then told me how many of those children, or their parents had said a simple ‘Thank you.” None of them. Not one. Thousands of children that he had helped, taught, entertained and made into better people. Not one thanks yet he continues to do it every day.
After he told me that I immediately changed my ego-fuelled answer. You do these things because you love doing them and that is its own reward. Thank you for teaching ME, Paul.
So, having scribbled that off the list…
I’d like to have a lovely, full-colour picture book published (I think that’s going to happen soon though, so watch this space!)
I’d, one day, like to write a serious book. Y’know, about serious stuff. I’ve tried a few times but by page 2 I’ve got bored and stuck a chicken in there or a skateboarding monkey or something. One day, one day…
Just keeping on keeping on is my main goal though. When I had my first book published in 2000 I can remember saying to myself, ‘Enjoy this as it will probably last about 6 months and then you’ll be back to the day job…’ Funny how things turn out innit?
What do you like to read?
I love to read anything I can get my hands on. I veer from just having finished the Complete Works of Proust, to the autobiography of Ace Frehley. I like Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, books about religion and spiritual things, science fiction, Spike
Milligan comic books, Lemony Snickett, Charles Bukowski, Roald Dahl, travel writing, all sorts of wild and wonderful things. I don’t like sticking to the same genre as life is too short, so I try and read things that I’ve never read before just to see what they are like. I just love reading. My writing hero is Hunter S. Thompson though. He lived it and wrote about it afterwards and showed a wide-eyed teenager (me) that you could make a life out of words.
Book or Kindle?
Book. You can’t bend the corners over on a kindle.
Would you rather own a talking giraffe or a flying horse?
Flying horse because I wouldn’t be able to hear what the giraffe was saying up there.
Do you prefer your birthday or Christmas?
My birthday because I don’t have to write cards to everybody else.
Would you rather be able to travel back in time or forward in time?
Ooh, tricky one. Probably forwards so I can see how things turn out. It would be interesting to see if they ever finish the roadworks on the M1.
Besides, I’ve been to the past already.
Beach holiday or action holiday?
ACTION! (but with naps in between.)
If you were Prime Minister for a day what new law would you introduce?
I would pass a law that if you were incredibly rich then you had to give money to vulnerable people, the homeless, schools, hospitals, fluffy animals, poorly people and help them out. (I’m unsure of how I’d exactly do this at the moment, but I’ll work that out when I get elected)
I would pass a law that you have to smile at least once a day (more if you can)
Also, you MUST perform a random act of kindness every day.
More love. More thankfulness. More poetry. More music. More joy. More monkeys. More cake.
Then I would pass a law to banish all Prime Ministers then have a big party. You’re all invited. Especially Martha, wherever she is…
Arrange for Chris to visit your school
To make an enquiry about Chris White, 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
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 email@example.com
This month’s chosen artist is author and illustrator Karin Littlewood.
Author and illustrator Karin has enthralled children globally with her picture book creative workshops. Her beautiful books have secured her over 20 nominations and recognition’s, including 3 Kate Greenaway nominations.
What a Visit from Karin entails
Karin’s workshops are usually based on a specific book and are very hands on and interactive. A typical school visit can begin with either an introductory session with the class/classes she is working with or an assembly if you wish the whole school to be involved. They are informative and fun and really get everyone in the mood for being an illustrator.
Beginning by reading the story, she can also show the original artwork if time allows, including all the first initial scribbles and rough ideas so the children can all get to see how the book began. It breaks the ice and demystifies the process… with all this background knowledge you can guarantee that the next time a picture book is picked up it will be a totally different experience! There’s plenty of time for questions and answers too. These session lasts between 40-60 minutes.
Following this, it’s time to work with the individual class or classes. Each session is usually a minimum of 90-120 minutes, less for nursery and reception but can also be half and full days for a more in depth approach. Karin is very flexible and the visits are discussed beforehand to suit each individual school and the workshops are adapted to suit each year group.
Karin will then show some quick, easy and effective ways of drawing…. very interactive and inspirational. Her workshops are illustration led and are very visual. Her own stories always begin with a picture and her writing is inspired by her drawings, so this the creative force and inspiration behind all her workshops. Drawing is a universal language, and the art of telling a story through the pictures you draw is powerful especially if English is not the first language.
Now the children have the chance to become illustrators too, telling a story through the pictures they draw. The room feels just like an studio now, again a very interactive session.
What Schools Have Said About Karin
“Karin has been the best author/illustrator we have had from Authors Abroad. She is extremely nice, approachable and enthusiastic and the feedback from the students and staff alike was all extremely positive. She worked with students from nursery to Year 12 and brought something to everything, engaging with the students at the different levels. She really inspired the students, some of who came to tell me personally how they had inspired her. She also inspired the staff who have taken away her ideas to use in the classroom and for homework. It was a busy, but fantastic week for all.”
Dukhan School – Qatar
‘Karin is able to get amazing results from children of all ages; because she inspires them to look beyond the pen and ink and consider the thought processes that informed the final product; because she delivers consistently no matter what the task, objective, age range or venue; because the children learn without realising that they are learning, in a cross-curricular way. But most of all, because I know that children love working with Karin and it is evident to all who observe her that Karin clearly loves working with them Karin’s book, Immi, was given to Y2, who produced some outstanding writing and artwork based on the book. Needless to say, the feedback from both the teacher and the children was extremely positive.’ –Clare Willis, Primary School Teacher
‘Karin Littlewood’s workshops are a wonderful learning experience.The children were excited to meet a real live illustrator.They were spellbound as she took them through the process of illustrating ‘The Colour of Home’ and they enthusiastically created their own illustrations. Karin has a way of interacting with children that encourages them to shine. All the schools she visited spoke highly of her workshops.’ – The Learning Trust, Hackney
Interview with Karin
Please can you write a few line introduction about yourself?
I’m an illustrator and I also write my own books as well as illustrating other authors stories. My drawings and words tell stories and take you into another world. I live in London and each day I cycle to my studio which I share with other illustrators, painters, designers and animators- it’s a wonderful, creative place to be. I’ve always drawn ever since I could hold a pencil so for me being an illustrator is the best job in the world!
How did you end up joining Authors Abroad?
Visiting schools is an important and inspiring part of my work. I had an author friend who was with Authors Abroad and one day I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in joining … and of course I said yes!
Authors Abroad have sent you all over the world to visit schools – do any of them stand out as particularly memorable?
I have visited so many interesting countries and it really is impossible to choose especially as every child I meet makes a visit memorable. But there was a very friendly camel at one school in Malawi that still makes me smile whenever I think about him … he wasn’t a pupil by the way but he thought he was!
Do any of the books you have illustrated hold a special place for you?
It’s so difficult to choose as they are are special, but if I had to pick one I would say its my book ‘Immi’… it’s a story of friendship across the world and how the simplest of gifts give the greatest joy. I think that is why so many schools love it too as it becomes true as we connect across the world . One of the simplest, but greatest gifts is a drawing so the story of Immi becomes so real …
How do you feel when you draw, is it still a joy or now that it’s your job is it more like work?
It feels exactly the same as it did when I was little … it feels like I am in another world and drawing is what makes me me! But I am just like everyone else and do have days when it definitely doesn’t go to plan! But then that just means you have to find another way! It is work, but so good to be doing something I have always wanted to do ever since I was a little girl!
You’ve lived in both Yorkshire and London – does either setting prove more inspirational?
I was born and grew up in Yorkshire and I can’t think of a better place! I moved to London after Art College and they are both so very different but both inspiring in totally different ways. I spend lots of time in Yorkshire with family and friends and especially when I’m out walking on the moors and in the Dales, whatever the weather, it just feels so ‘right’. London is amazing, creative, fascinating and always full surprises. The whole world is on your doorstep- people, food, different cultures . But its not all as hectic as people think … I live in a villagey part of London with independent so it’s nice quiet but I can cycle to the centre in 20 mins
What was your favourite picture book as a child?
I had so many! One of my favourites was “The Useful Dragon of Sam Ling Toy” .. set in Chinatown, Sam Ling Toy’s laundry shop is full of lost animals and when he finds a tiny lost ‘lizard ‘.. well you can imagine what that grew up to be! I loved the colours in the book and all the Dragon’s escapades.
What affect do you hope your school visits will have on students?
Illustration is a universal language … telling a story through the pictures is as important as telling a story with words so that is an important aspect of my workshops. I want to give children of all ages the chance to find out what goes on behind the scenes when making a picture book and give them the chance to experience what it’s like to be an illustrator too, using drawings to inspire them to tell and write their own stories. A school visit is inspirational, giving the children a chance to meet an author and to see that I am a real person! To ask any questions they want and to be as curious as they like and to realise that I was a little girl who loved drawing pictures, reading and writing stories just like them. If you love something and work hard then they too can follow their dreams. I can show quick and easy illustration techniques and show there isn’t a right or wrong way.
How do you engage reluctant readers/illustrators?
It’s easy to be scared of a blank sheet of paper and I can feel like that too! But by simplifying things, taking things step by step , showing quick and easy ways of how you can come up with solutions and actually tackling important subject matters by demystifying them … Talking, showing, drawing, explaining and making friends … there is always a special way with each individual child.
Some of your picture books contain quiet important messages, do you set out with a message in mind and create a story around it? Or does the story come first?
I think in pictures so that is the first thing that comes into my mind. The messages that can be found are really what I feel and they find their way into the illustrations and story in their own way
What is your favourite memory from a school visit?
I never have just one … but the joy of seeing the children express themselves creatively in ways many of them never thought they could is always the best thing to take away with you! And also seeing a child that reminds you of yourself at that age .. I always wonder what they may end up doing when they get older
You mainly work with picture books, what books do you read for leisure?
I still read picture books for pleasure and leisure! But I’m very interested in history so I do like travelling back in time.
What is your next career goal?
To keep on doing what I have always done! Illustrating, writing and of course meeting even more children across the world. Each book feels like a new beginning so to continue on this journey is a never ending adventure!
What would you say to a school that was asking about the benefits of an author/illustrator visit?
A visit makes such a lasting difference … and it can change lives. It can open up a whole new world and give the children a chance to explore, be inspired, to create, to discover new ways and find things inside themselves they may not have known was there. Illustration can be a way of exploring so many different topics in a way that is not always possible within the school curriculum. It gives the children the opportunity to meet the person behind the name on a book cover and to find out so much more … it’s a day of connecting and sharing, for teachers as well as pupils
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS.
Paperback or Kindle? Paperback
Cats or dogs? Cats – I do love dogs too though
Prefer to see a pantomime or a play? Play
Would you rather explore the ocean or space? Ocean
Favourite flavour of cake? All of them! But not all mixed up together
Pamper weekend or camping? Camping
Would you rather be able to freeze time or speed time up? Both- depends on what I’m doing!
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what law would you introduce? Stop everything and draw for a few minutes a day!
Arrange for Karin to visit your school
To make an enquiry about Karin Littlewood, 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
This month’s chosen artist is William Gallagher.
William Gallagher writes Doctor Who radio dramas, is the author of 18 books and is Deputy Chair of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
Photo courtesy of Lee Allen.
What William offers during his school visits in his own words
What I do in schools is talk about myself for, oh, about six seconds and then get everyone writing. We write everything. Scripts, short stories, poems, every single thing I can pack into the day and I try to make sure nobody ever gets quite enough time to finish anything. They regularly beat me on that and come up with complete stories but along the way they get the energy and the pressure and the thrill of what it’s like to be a professional writer with deadlines that never stay still.
William works with children from year 4 up through the whole of secondary school plus sixth form and both further education colleges and universities. He also runs CPD workshops for staff ranging from primary school teachers through to university professors. He does one-to-one mentoring with older children and teenagers plus he’s spoken to 300 at a time in assemblies. Most often he works with groups of between 15 and 25 pupils either in a single whole-day session or split into many sessions with different groups each hour.
Details of what activities William can offer for each age group are listed in detail on his author page of our website.
What Schools Have Said About William
“He was fab! We loved having him at our school – a lovely man.”
Teacher at Landywood Primary School 2018.
“Thanks so much for your wonderfully inspiring and enjoyable session” – Judith Kneen, Newman University.
“All of the parents of the children whose scripts I sent to you described it as the highlight of the year!” – Anne Cochrane, Putteridge Primary School, Bedfordshire
“We all had an absolutely splendid time. William was delightful and very much appreciated by all. We have even had feed back from the primaries saying some parents have been in to say thank you because their children haven’t stopped talking about writing since.” – Jane Peeler, Bridgenorth Endowed School
Interview with William
How long have you been with Authors Abroad?
You do a lot of Able Writers’ as well as author visits, what’s the best thing about each?
May I confess something? When a school asks for an author visit they of course want pupils to know what it’s like doing what I do, they want to know how I got into it. But I’d rather talk about them. I mean, I know all about me. So I will talk to assemblies, I will answer questions but the very first moment I can, I get everybody writing. We’ll work together and that’s how they’ll learn what it’s like being an author. I adore this and so even on a straight author visit I’ll draw on some of the things I do with the more intense Able Writers’ Days.
What do you enjoy most about visiting schools?
I used to go into schools for revenge. My own school laughed at me for wanting to be a writer – I’m not kidding or exaggerating, the careers teacher laughed aloud. I know that if someone like me, just an ordinary author, had visited my school back then, it would’ve shown me that it was possible. My career would’ve started a good ten years sooner than it did.
That’s still on my mind every time and it’s why I’m conscious of how much better schools are today. You imagine things are worse because of all the constraints, all the paperwork, but truly schools today are gigantically better than mine ever was.
There’s one more thing, too. Most of my writing takes at least weeks, usually months and on a couple of projects it has been years. But then you come into a school and the writing is immediate. The sheer bursting energy of a whole group of writers creating something right now is brilliant.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Have you always wanted to be a writer or did you have a different dream job when you were younger?
Writing was always something other people did, not someone like me. For all that I read everything and even though I wrote for every school magazine, it was so obvious that I couldn’t be an author that I didn’t give it any thought. I didn’t have any dream job at all and it was scary having to think about future careers.
At that time, though, there was a US TV drama called Lou Grant which showed journalists at work and was also so exceptionally written that I became conscious of drama and scriptwriting as a job.
It wasn’t much but it was enough that when I was asked in my one-and-only careers lesson what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said it. For the first time in public and I think the first time even to myself, I said I wanted to be a writer. That’s when the teacher laughed and got the whole class to laugh too.
That was a very damaging one minute in one class. On the school’s advice, I went into computers instead and had a perfectly dull few years until I managed to get writing in computer magazines and contribute to a BBC series about computing.
You were recently made Deputy Chair of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain. How did this come about? What does it involve and what do you hope to achieve from it?
I was tapped on the shoulder in a Writers’ Guild meeting and asked to step outside for a moment. I’m standing there in this London office and all I can think of is what my bookish 10-year-old self from Birmingham would make of me being asked to do this job.
I’ve joined as the Guild is making big plans for the next few years and what I want to do is bring along other organisations with it, including Authors Abroad. Writing is a solitary job yet when we work together, we can do such a lot of good.
What writing achievement are you most proud of?
You ask this and a flood of memories come. Writing for the Los Angeles Times. Hearing my first radio drama broadcast. Seeing my first stage work. Going into my first school with Authors Abroad. I love it all and I especially love that there is so much to choose from. But I’m going to pick my first book.
It was a non-fiction book about a drama called The Beiderbecke Affair and it was published by the British Film Institute. What I can never forget is how it felt the day the first copy arrived. I can see me now, sitting in my living room, opening this parcel and there it was. Good or bad, successful or not, there it was. I remember consciously realising that there is nothing anyone can ever do now to take this away from me: I’ve written a book.
You’ve worked with some huge TV shows, which was the most fun to be involved with?
Doctor Who. It has to be, hasn’t it? I’ve written many radio Doctor Who dramas plus I’ve produced and directed a couple of short videos about Doctor Who and Torchwood for Radio Times magazine. There is something about that show that touches so many people, including me. To have even a little to do with it when it was a show I loved as a child is constantly and forever startlingly great.
What advice would you give to a parent wanting to encourage their child to read for pleasure?
Read yourself. I’m not a parent – I’m a civilian – so I can’t really imagine how ferociously busy and exhausting it is to be raising children. But if you can possibly read books for yourself, for your own pleasure, your children will see that and it will have a far greater impact than any of us telling them they ought to read.
Plus you’ll have a good time reading and while we’re at it, why aren’t you writing too?
Why, in your opinion, is it so important for young people to read?
We all tend to spend our days with the same few people: maybe you see a lot at school or work but really not that many and all doing much the same thing. Reading opens you up to different people in different places doing and thinking and believing different things.
If you read, you get that shared experience but you also become open and receptive to new things. You know that there is a world you’ve not met yet and you’ll race to find out everything you can. If you don’t read, I’m afraid your world is finite and limited and a bit boring so you become the same.
What book have you ever read that made a lasting impact on you?
There are countless books that have done this to me. But you ask this and my mind goes immediately to Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce. It’s on my shelf in front of me and I re-read it every few years. It’s a very simple, pared-down children’s story that I read in school and yet I can vividly see its influence on a book I’m writing right now, I can see how it unconsciously shaped part of a stage play I just had performed.
Do you think it is easier to write a novel, a play or a TV script?
I won’t lie, they’re all hard. Let me clear, there are harder jobs than writing but there are also a lot of easier ones and you will dream of those as you’re struggling to finish a novel, play or script.
I suppose scripts are written to be performed and they tend to be done quickly so maybe they’re easier than the very, very long haul of a novel.
Just to be clear though, there may be these easier and harder jobs but there are none better than being an author. None.
What is the most memorable encounter you have had with students whilst running a workshop?
Oh, come on, how long have you got? I’ve had pupils make me gawp with how clever and imaginative and just plain funny their writing is. I had one shy child who at the end of the day was on her feet and debating loudly which bit of a project she wanted to write. One girl threw in sign language into an exercise. One boy wrote a piece that included every person he’d worked with that day, even though he’d only met most of them that morning.
But, okay, there is one moment that meant the world to me. I’d finished in a school and was in my car, checking emails on my phone because things were happening with a writing project. A mother and her young daughter passed by in front of me, completely unaware I was there, and the girl was bouncing. Literally bouncing along and talking with such energy that it was contagious. I don’t know what she was saying but I caught my name in it all and I doubt I have ever been happier.
I phoned Authors Abroad right then and babbled at you about how much I love doing this. Some time you must ask me about the teachers and teaching assistants I’ve met: I’ll have a whole other list for you of memorable encounters.
What do you do to relax?
I don’t understand the question. Everything I do to relax has become part of my work so it’s often hard to tell when I’m working and when I’m not. There tends to be more tea when I’m working and chocolate when I’m not, that’s it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Read and write. Have fun and take it seriously. Treat it as a pleasure and as a job. Start lots of things and finish them all.
Do you think there is enough recognition of the amount of careers with the creative and media industries? (Extra point if you can name a genuine and obscure job!)
The arts industry in the UK brings twice as much money to the country as is then spent on our national defence budget. It is a huge industry, it’s something we as a whole are very, very good at – and yet it always struggles to be recognised, it always struggles to get good people into it. I think there’s an element of what I felt, that it was something other people did, not someone like me.
Yet if you want an obscure creative and media job, try this: accountant. People forget that this is an industry and there is no job I can think of that isn’t needed in this world.
Paperback vs kindle
Paperback but it’s close and I read a huge amount of both
TV vs Radio
TV but it’s even close as radio drama is wonderful
The Weeping Angels (Doctor Who)
Would you rather be able to teleport or read minds?
Teleport – I’m always rushing everywhere.
What would be more useful, extra eyes or extra legs?
Eyes. I could read more at the same time.
Lie ins or early riser?
Regretfully, an early riser. Got to be to get the work done.
What’s scarier; a shark the size of a guinea pig, or a hamster the size of an elephant?
Hamster. Because the shark will be underwater where I don’t have to look at it and the hamster would smash its cage dramatically.
If you were Prime Minister for the day what law would you pass?
I’d get us back into the EU. If that’s too serious, try this: I’d make it illegal for companies to put tiny chocolate bars in big packaging.
Arranging for William to visit your school
To make an enquiry about William Gallagher, 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
Our very first artist of the month is…. Karl Nova!
Karl is a fantastic asset to the Authors Abroad team who gets brilliant feedback whether he is visiting primary or secondary schools. A huge motivator and inspiration to students and a pleasure for staff. If we are having a bad day at Authors Abroad we usually look for a reason to ring Karl – talking to him just cheers you up. If you are having a down day you need a bit of Karl in your life!
Karl Nova is one of the UK’s leading poets and hip hop artists delivering his work in his own unique, witty and energetic style
Born and raised in London as well as Lagos, Karl always found it difficult to fit in, it reflects in his music because he speaks as one who knows what it is like to be on the margins, in a world where conformity seems to be the key in gaining acceptance, he has always been one to defy expectations and go against the grain.
Whether it is in rap format or spoken word poetry he seeks to give voice to the search for meaning and deep need for faith and hope. His music and poetry is like a diary of his journey, his highs and his lows, his discoveries, observations and personal breakthroughs.
Apart from being a wordsmith and energetic live performer, Karl Nova is an avid beatmaker and he released a compilation of electronic music that he totally created on his phone called “Made ‘Em On My Phone”
Karl Nova has remained on the forefront of the scene he is a part of as a social commentator, creative writing workshop facilitator, broadcaster and cultural critic that creates platforms for other artists as he seeks to uplift, inform and inspire through this artistic expression.
What Karl offers during his visits, in his own words:
Karl’s debut book ‘Rhythm And Poetry’ was released in 2017 and is illustrated by our very own Joseph Witchall.
“In Rhythm And Poetry by Hip Hop artist and poet Karl Nova the beauty of rap and lyricism and Hip Hop influenced poetry is displayed with wit, humour and positivity. His approach is to meet young people where they are and engage with the style and attitude they are familiar with. This collection reflects on his journey of growth from childhood to adulthood through the lens of hip hop culture. A lot of the verse have already impacted many lives as he travels and delivers them with his unique and energetic style.”
‘Rhythm and Poetry’ has been submitted by the Caboodle team for consideration for the CLPE Children’s Poetry Award 2018, although we will not find out if he has made the shortlist until May.
What schools have said about Karl
“What a fantastic day, what a lovely person!
Thank you so much for recommending Karl to us. He went down a storm, the students and staff loved him.
So much so that the Head of English has already asked me to ensure we book Karl for next year during poetry week.
I just wanted you to know that he was brilliant. I shall be putting an article on our school website and recommending him (and yourselves) to the other school librarian in Plymouth.”
“He was absolutely superb and our students have been talking non-stop about his visit!”
Ormiston Bolingbroke Academy
“Karl was great. He related well to the children and I had good feedback from the teachers about the all sessions he did in the classrooms.”
Our lady’s RC Primary School Hereford
“We had a very positive experience with Karl Nova. I have never seen the children so engaged and enthusiastic in an author’s workshop. Karl was absolutely brilliant with the children. Children and staff have requested that we invite him back in with his new book once it is published. It was fantastic to see the children write great poetry after Karl’s visit and really enthusiastic to share them. I also received very positive feedback from other members of staff in our other partnership schools.” Teacher
Interview with Karl
Hi Karl, congratulations on being our first Artist of the Month. How would you like to introduce yourself?
My name is Karl Nova, I’m a hip hop artist, performance poet and now an author too!
How long have you been with Authors Abroad?
I’ve been with Authors Abroad since October, 2015.
Someone was needed to fill in at the last minute to visit a school and I agreed to do it. Someone referred me to them. It went so well that it began a beautiful relationship with Authors Abroad.
You have had your first book out recently – how excited are you about that? How did you find the writing process?
At first it was daunting. It’s something I had at the back of my mind to do but felt I would do it later on in life. Once I got to put it all together it was exciting. The editing process was tough though.
What moment stands out as you realising you had ‘made it’.
When I held the first copy of my book finished in my hand I felt like I was a Pulitzer Prize winner, but reality hit me and I realised I have a lot of work to do. I never feel I’ve “arrived” I always feel I’m on my way.
What do you enjoy most about school visits?
I’m a performer so I treat a school visit like a concert! I love it when poetry comes alive in the schools through the style I present. You can visibly see their minds opening up. Sometimes I get them to write and the poetry, short stories and lyrics they produce is astounding.
Most memorable moment from a school visit?
I remember going to Whitgift in Croydon for their junior literary festival last year and after I finished performing a piece, the students gave me a standing ovation and refused to stop cheering quite loudly. It was quite crazy and heartwarming at the same time!
Nicest compliment or feedback you’ve received?
I think nicest compliment or feedback I’ve gotten is from a student who said that normally he’s not into poetry at all but after my visit he wanted to write a book and actually started!
What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
As cliche as it might sound I will say write all the time. Write when the inspiration hits you. Write until your unique artistic voice begins to emerge. Study the greats and then do your own thing. My book was written mostly on my phone on long train and plane rides.
If you could impart one message to students what would it be?
I always tell students that they must understand power of words, the power of their imagination and the power of their dreams. I also tell them it’s ok to be themselves and they are unique.
When you were younger what did you want to be originally when you grew up?
I originally wanted to be a broadcaster because I watched too much MTV as a teenager and developed a crush on presenter Lisa I’Anson. This is a true story. Haha!
Current ambition and future plans?
I want to write more books and travel more. Authors Abroad got me to go to Germany and Cyprus to visit schools and those trips opened my mind up in ways I can’t even explain.
Last LOL moment?
I was in a school and a student asked me to get Rihanna’s autograph. She was convinced we are close pals even though I told her I’ve never met her
Cats or Dogs?
Wow this is actually tough! I like both. I think I will say Cats today. Ask me tomorrow it could be dogs.
Tea or Coffee
Tea! The end!
Skiing or Beach holiday?
Beach! (Preferably in a place like Cyprus lol)
Paperback book or kindle?
Paperback (even though I buy lots of books on my kindle app these days)
Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
Hmmmmmm! I think I would to fly!
If you were Prime Minister for the day what law would you introduce?
I would make a law that every school must have funding so that authors like myself can visit all year round as a staple in the curriculum.
Arranging for Karl to visit your school
To make an enquiry about Karl Nova, 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