It’s not just about cake …

Believe it or not, there is more to writing than simply sampling lots of delicious cake when visiting schools and talking about what you do. However, that can be quite a major part of it sometimes, and I have no problem with that.

A couple of weeks ago I revisited St Mary’s School in Colchester, to open their new junior school library, and this is what was on offer afterwards:

Reader, I had three. I needed the energy while I was signing. They were accompanied by two delicious cups of tea. St Mary’s rocks.

Not only was there cake, there were paparazzi (well, there were 2 photographers from the local press, anyway), and so here are a couple of pictures of the library opening itself. (I mean me opening it. Obviously it did not open itself.) Yes, there really was a ribbon, and yes, I really did cut it. And yes, it was really good fun. The girls were all brilliant and there was lots of enthusiastic cheering. Kate Middleton’s going to have a ball for the rest of her life.

(We moved the ribbon for the sake of the pictures. Believe nothing you see in the press. Well, almost nothing – the library looks warm and welcoming in the pictures, as indeed it was in real life.)

Before the ribbon, and the cake, I gave four talks. Four is quite a lot to do in one day without repeating yourself, so I cheated early on and got the Year 8 girls to do a write a story/draw a picture workshop, where they had the choice of starting a story with a title I gave them, or drawing what the front cover of the book would be like.

And we had FUN. Serious fun. Those book cover designs were amazing. They were scary and intriguing, beautifully drawn and just as interesting as the stories themselves. Which is why I’m going to pinch the idea for the competition I’m going to run shortly on the Threads website. (Don’t worry – when it’s ready I’ll announce it here.)

Each year group is a different experience, and I love them all. Year 6s ask the most unpredictable questions, Year 7s are often the keenest readers, and Year 9s are the coolest. They way out-cool me. By the end I was the lady in the corner, signing books and stuffing myself with cake and just happy to be there.

Lots of girls were regularly writing their own fiction. For them, I recommend the Young Writers Program of the now famous ‘NaNoWriMo’ organisation : here. NaNoWriMo stands for National (but now international) Novel Writing Month, but as it happens in November, I always assumed that the No stood for November, and a part of me still thinks so. The idea is simple: write a novel in a month. Just set yourself a wordcount, use the website to help if you like, and get going. You can do it! You really can. It may not be perfect, but it’ll be a story you’ve written from start to finish, and maybe the foundation of the work of art that will make you famous.

If you’re entering, good luck. And don’t forget what awaits you if it all works out …

Cake. And lots of it. What are you waiting for?

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