2nd March

How to get cream-crackered and a lump in the throat at same time

At William Levick Primary School

Firstly, for non UK readers, cream-crackered is slang for… erm… very tired, exhausted, wrecked… that kind of thing.  School visits do that.  They are also decidedly lovely, for many reasons.  I’ve done a few now, but this week’s visit, in celebration of World Book Day, at William Levick Primary School in Dronfield, was only the second full-day one I’ve done.  They are tiring, those little ones.  They bombard you with questions and tell you all about their friend who has a dog… no, it’s not a dog, it’s a cat… actually, it’s a fish!!! I kid you not!  They tell you their mum is poorly and then cry because they miss her.  You are a recepticle for whatever happens to be going on their heads at the time.

Then there are the questions… it never fails to amaze me how many and how varied these are.  Some of the goodies this week were: Which of the books you’ve written is your favourite?  (Easy… Buttercup Magic) Who is your favourite writer? (Easy… Markus Zusak) What was your favourite children’s book? (Easy… The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.)

Questions I would rather have not been asked included: How much money do you get for a book?  (Not telling)  Are you rich? (No!)  Were you bullied (Errr….) … actually, I did answer this one as honestly as I could, although, I confess, it caught me out good and proper!  The most original question, and one I hadn’t been asked before (apart from the bullying one) was: Who is your best friend? I have two – they know who they are!

When I do these visits I have my box of tricks.  I suspect that this may change over time. At the moment, my essentials are: my books, Ruby and Grub pictures to colour in, writing frames, puppets, example illustrations – before and afters from Grub’s Pups, laminate pictures, blue tac, a pen, camera, a dummy book – this is an early one that comes from the publisher before the book goes to print and well before final proof stage, just to demonstrate the layout etc and make sure the pictures and text match.

Sometimes things go wrong… sometimes they don’t.  Expect the unexpected is my school

Grub's Puppets!

visit motto.  This time, I forgot blue tac – no big deal.  I forgot to hand out the puppets to the foundation children until a little voice piped up: “Where are our puppets?”  Actually, it was more like a big voice screeching: “WHERE ARE OUR PUPPETS?!!!!!”  I made a complete pig’s ear of the interactive whiteboard which did odd things – odd and unexpected things that made my eyes go googly.  Fortunately, Miss Teacher came to the  rescue, as did the children, who yelled at me from the floor as if I was some sort of I.T numpty… which I am!

With Yrs 2 & 3

Highlights of the day… while I was waiting with a class of year 2 children for the teacher to gather the year 3 children, a little boy called Thomas said: “Abi, shall we sing to you?”  They then proceded to chat amongst themselves, decide on a song and sang it to me.  It was a round robin of London’s burning.  I’m not exactly sure I heard very much of it… I was too busy trying not to cry!  And a little girl coloured her Ruby and Grub picture, then said she had done it for me… *sniff!*  And the other highlight is the same as it always is – the knowledge that, as a writer, you can share your stories and experiences with young minds, and watch their little faces as they listen ever so carefully and imagine just what being a ‘real’ writer is like.

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About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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15 Responses to 2nd March

  1. Sounds like you had a great time. I don’t wrtie for children that age, but I agreed to go and talk to my son’s year one class about being a writer and making up stories. I had good fun but it’s a boys only school so, as you can imagine, some of them degenerated into stories about ‘poo’ ‘wee’ and ‘bums’. I had to try to steer them away from that!

  2. That was, of course, supposed to say ‘write’ not wrtie. I definitely don’t wrtie for children. Not of any age.

    • I’m glad you did that typo because for some reason, whenever I leave a comment on your posts, a wee typo slips in! Feel much better now 😉 Yes, it is a lot of fun and I can imagine the level of boy humour – bet you had to try not to laugh!

  3. Jo Carroll says:

    I agree – children are simply wonderful. I think everyone should spend a day with them every now and then; they bring us up against the things that are really important at that very moment.

    And then raise a glass to our teachers. Who do the most important job in the world.

  4. I completely agree Jo. And yes, I have a whole new level of respect for primary teachers now. Those kiddies can be exhausting!

  5. Martin Day says:

    It must be good to get a dose of real word reality and have some contact with your readership, or at least your potential readership. I think those of us who try to create something special have the hope that it will be get to be treasured by those who digest it. But in reality, like everything that is digested, it is soon forgotten and a hungry mind is on to the next thing to consume. The good thing about children is that that they make no presence and say exactly what they think – you know where you stand with them.

    I work a lot with children with my Sumo wrestling party business. I understand, as I’m sure every teacher does, that a prerequisite to teaching is an understanding of crowd control. I learned my crowd control as front man of a rock band. In fact one of my best memories of working in schools was the day I went back into my old secondary school and played a short rock set for assembly. What a trip! The tables were turned: The kids were sitting cross legged on the floor but this time I was on the stage. It was a delight to see the panic on the teachers’ faces when I got the kids on their feet and it turned into a real gig! It was a wild time and a day I’m sure many of the kids will always remember (for all the wrong reasons).

    So despite all the work we put in to writing & creation it will probably be you that the children will remember over your books, Abi – which, when all is said and done, is how it should be…

  6. Eleanor Patrick says:

    Great post, Abi. I agree that the questions they ask are often, er, surprising. I think they judge us as much by how we answer them respectfully as what we’ve written. The one supports the other and gets them on board. I have always asked sheepishly for a flip chart instead of using the white board. They never mind and it helps me to not have my back fully turned on the kids.

    • Sorry, Abi, I see the supplied link is to a different site of mine. Should be this one to make sense! Don’t know how that happened!

    • I think you’re right – it is important that we answer honestly and fully. Flip chart is a good idea. I am currently re-assessing what I plan to do in schools, so I may try this. It might lend itself better to some of the things I do, though in this instance it was for a powerpoint presentation, so interactive whiteboard was a must! Glad you enjoyed the post Eleanor and thanks for commenting.

  7. Ah! What a lovely response Martin and lovely to hear your stories too. The ‘gig’ sounds ace! I can just imagine how that went down – bet the kids loved it. Back in my school days (way too long ago!) we didn’t have writers visit our schools, it just wasn’t done. I really hope that children do take away these experiences and that they realise that a ‘job’ can be fascinating, inspiring and creative. If just one child goes away thinking that they would like to be a writer, or enjoys reading or writing more as a result of these types of visits, then I think that’s a success story!

  8. Emma Pass says:

    Ah, sounds like you had a wonderful day! So glad it went well. I’d have been cream-crackered too!

  9. Sounds like such fun — wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall to see! The little girl coloring the picture for you is so sweet; I’d have *sniffed* too!

  10. Emma – it was a wonderful day. No idea how primary teachers do it day in, day out though.

    Julia – it was great fun. The picture and the song were the icing on the cake!

  11. That sounds rather like going back to being a teacher to me. I loved the kids but I always came away from the classroom completely drained. In the nicest possible way they take so much from you that there’s very little left by the time you’re finished. It’s so rewarding though, isn’t it.

  12. Yes Ros, you’re so right. It is wonderfully rewarding, but really, for exactly the reasons you said, completely exhausting. I think I have the best of both worlds in that I can just go in and do my bit now and again, which is lovely!

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