It’s wonderful to be in schools with my author hat on, after over twenty years being an English teacher. I get to do what I like, how I like, and talk about my own book instead of other people’s.

Since my book The Island was launched on World Book Day, I’ve been experimenting with different ideas for creative writing workshops, assemblies and author talks.

Ideas range from inkwasters about being a castaway, imagining how different random objects could be used in a survival situation, and how to write like a movie-maker: exploring structural editing devices such as cutaways and match cuts to transition between scenes.

At one school, I was asked to do an exam prep workshop to ninety year eleven students, who were preparing for their IGCSE and needed a booster class on descriptive and narrative writing. After pitching my castaway book, and explaining research and how I method wrote the castaway scenes, I played them the sound of the sea, and showed them a slide of a desert island shoreline. ‘You have been adrift on an inflatable liferaft for two days now,’ I informed them. ‘How do you feel? Are you sunblistered? Is your throat parched? This is the first time you seen land.’ I watch them busy scribbling as they try to build ‘voice’…

Students at Christopher Whitehead Language College scribble away
Students at Christopher Whitehead Language College scribble away


I also give talks in assemblies. Before I was published, I was terrified of the thought of public speaking, so deliberately followed the principle of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ by volunteering to give assemblies at school for World Book Day and Write For Real, my writers’ group. The first one I did, I was so scared, I had to get the school librarian and a bunch of sixth formers to stand up there with me!

Olivia speaking at Christopher Whitehead Language College
Olivia speaking at Christopher Whitehead Language College


But gradually, speaking to a large group of people began to feel ‘normal’, and I realised that it’s actually no different from talking to a class of thirty, which I’ve been doing forever. Now I’m an old pro. The only hairy moment is two minutes before the students start streaming in, and you realise that the projector/Powerpoint/pendrive isn’t working properly and there’s the ICT bloke scratching his head and doing unfathomable things to the laptop…

I love doing author visits. As a teacher, this is all of the best bits: not a learning objective or an exam target grade in sight. Instead, you get to share your passion for creative writing and hopefully inspire writers of the future.

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Olivia signs books at South Bromsgrove High School
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