Category Archives: event

Treating teachers as though they’re ten . . .

On Friday I ran a workshop at the Cabot Federation Conference attended by 1200 teachers. Luckily only 40 of them came to my session, because that made it unruly enough. It was a bit of a risk to make adults join in with the storymaking I do with Year 5 but I went at it with gusto and, with the help of a few joiner-inners, we ended up having proper belly laughs. The story was no great shakes, basically Solid Dave and Saphire (yes, teachers can’t spell) got lost in a book (physically not metaphorically) and had to battle Hamlet in a graveyard, dive down the plughole and escape certain cannibalism via fire. Everyday stuff. Judging by the kind comments afterwards, teachers quite like being treated like ten-year olds. It made a nice change to both talk to adults, and to use my dustbin full of props again. The events I do to promote my YA novels in secondary schools still have plenty of interaction and flip-chart mayhem, but pulling skulls and rubber ducks out of a bin doesn’t have a place. Shame. Maybe I’ll reintroduce it . . .

nott tweetThe day before my audience consisted of two groups of Year 8 girls from Nottingham Girls’ School, and a lovely bunch they were too. (And less unruly.) The first session was unexpectedly small as, for some unfathomable reason, a smattering had gone to Latin, forgetting I was there. The downside was that we started late. The upside was that we got to have a chat, which is always nice because teenagers can be loathe to put their hands up and join in, but once they’d realised I was quite funny (in an unhinged but not threatening way) (and I’d been complimented on my new culotte dress) we were cruising. Every single time I visit a school I learn something – this time I had a drone expert in the audience. I offered her a job as my sidekick but she didn’t seem that keen.

Wirral photo
L to R Dan, Teri, Bryony, Frank, Lu, Rob, me. Photo is Dan’s

When I got back to Bristol, good news was waiting for me from the Wirral. Back in March eight authors had travelled far and wide to attend a daylong event with teenagers from eight schools. Each shortlisted author gave a talk followed by a Q&A. The pupils then had a few months to read the books before voting, and absolutely fabulously they chose Hacked. Thrilled.

All in all, a good week. Topped off by Andy Murray.




A review of my school visit – Tracy Alexander Visits Hans Price Academy

During the literacy celebrations in the lead up to World Book Day Tracy Alexander, author of HACKED, visited Hans Price Academy and talked to the whole of year seven about literature, creative writing and being an author as well as holding a question and answer session and reading an extract from her brilliant book.

The students were gripped from start to finish and bursting with questions for Tracy about everything from writing habits and getting a book published to computer hacking and just exactly how a professional author would know about “aimbots” in computer games?

It was amazing to see an author at school and Tracy Alexander was really interesting and really funny. I already like to write but it inspired me to think about writing a book! Amelia

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 It was amazing and I liked talking to her about what inspired her to write a book. I asked who inspired her and she said that she gets inspiration from her children. After school that day I started writing my own book. Becca


I found Tracy Alexander’s visit very interesting, especially talking about military drones and hacking. I asked whether there was going to be a sequel to HACKED and there is and I’m excited about it. I suggested another book and Tracy Alexander said it sounded like a great idea and maybe I should write it myself. We learnt what makes up a good story and found out what happens in HACKED without spoiling the ending so we can read it and find out ourselves! Alistair

 I enjoyed finding out how authors get their inspiration and learnt that it is good to plan out a story, not just rush into writing it. I’d love more authors to visit the school! Ethanial

I knew from the second Tracy Alexander started talking that it was going to be really exciting! We learnt so much and Tracy Alexander was really lovely. I bought HACKED and had it signed and I can’t wait to read it and then write a review which I can send to Tracy Alexander for her website. Lottie

Are you rich?

What better way to celebrate World Book Day than to describe those moments when writer meets reader.
The first question, often, ‘Are you rich?’
I shake my head, apologetically. The disappointment is mutual.
‘Are you famous?’
‘You mean like David Beckham?’

I search for redeeming qualities. Hard-working, enthusiastic, kind – they’re not going to hit the mark. As I can’t be rich and famous, I opt for the complete opposite. I am ordinary, I tell them. I don’t have a special part of my brain that makes up stories. I get it wrong. I give up. I get bored. I have another job because I don’t earn enough to keep a rabbit. I eat Marmite.

Bizarrely, they like this. In the first five minutes I have gone from alien-being-that-by-magic-brain-dumps-entire-book-without-trying to real person. A small leap of logic and that means everyone in the audience could be a writer too. Is it wishful thinking or does the room decide to pay attention after all?

DSC_2895Yesterday, I was with 90 Year 7s at Hans Price Academy. There were little groups within the classroom that may as well have had labels – earnest, excited, looking forward to the bell, disruptive. My goal is always to get the ones that could scupper the session to instead make it better. It’s intensely satisfying if the shouter-out ends up shouting out something brilliant, or insightful, which is what happened as my hour was nearly over. We were talking about viewpoint when, a child I wasn’t sure was even listening, succinctly captured the joy of writing in the first person. *grins*

After the session I signed whatever scraps the Year 7s could find for me to write on and, as usual, had to refuse to give away my books despite the pleading faces.

I may not be rich or famous, but for five minutes after a school visit I feel I am both.

The HACKED Tour – Part 2: QEH, Cathedral, Bristol Brunel, Clifton College, Clifton High

The second half of the HACKED tour of Bristol was more fun than the first, because it took a while for me to get into the groove. Having spent five years as an author of books for 8-12 year olds I’ve had to up my game in the face of hundreds of teenagers. Reminding myself that they’re not expecting Michael McIntyre is useful – even if they are. My other trick is to be measured in my expectation. With  junior school children I would often end up with a child hanging on to my leg – clearly not an aspiration for a taller audience. The goal now is to keep their attention most of the time, get a reasonable number of kids contributing useful stuff and be more entertaining than the lesson they would have been in. So far so good.

Highlightsqeh of the first five school visits in 2015 were: the QEH boys who knew everything and more about DDoSs, Lizard Squad and botnets, including the one who had actually built his own drone and the scary moment where I had to debate the difference between cyber-crime and hacking; the terribly nice English teacher at Clifton High who suggested I carry on all afternoon as it was so interesting; the great discussion we had at Clifton College about character development, and the bit about how you make a first-person narrator die; Hassan and Brittany doing a brilliant job collecting all the suggestions on the flipchart at Bristol Brunel; and the after-school writing club at Cathedral where we shared writing tips.

The best thing about wandering into schools to run an interactive session is that it’s different every time. Next up – Hans Price Academy . . .

Redland Green, Bristol Met, Writhlington, St. Bede’s, John Cabot Academy.

The library gang from Bristol Met

Highlights of my tour of Bristol so far –

Barney from Redland Green bought the book, read it in two days, talked about it to his family, and then started reading it again.

Three children from Bristol Met wrote reviews:
‘Your book was great. It was funny and serious.’ Rahimah
‘HACKED is a modern book with a 21st century plot.’ Regina
‘A good read all round.’ Cameron

Sophie from Writhlington – first in the queue

Lots of children from Writhlington bought books.

A girl from St. Bede’s taught me about pathetic fallacy. One of the boys couldn’t believe he lived in the same road as the main character in my book.

John Cabot Academy were full of beans, despite our session being first thing in the morning. There were so many hands in the air we could have filled another hour.


HACKED launch party

IMG_4897IMG_4853Tuesday 18th November


Foyles Cabot Circus.

I wore a silver skirt that I bought in a charity shop. Robb Norton, the go-to man at Foyles, organised the space for me, introduced me and coveted my skirt.IMG_4867

Kath was the first guest.

We had wine, Maltesers and flying saucers – they were a tribute to the drones in the story. I gave a wee talk. IMG_4861IMG_4881IMG_4920IMG_4883IMG_4939

The best gags were the one about hacking a toaster and my excruciating tale about writing about teenage fumblings.

I read Chapter 4, because I like the last line.

“If I could time travel, I’d nip back and warn myself – stay away from Angel.”

The only person to heckle was my husband. He was also the cameraman. My sister was the wine waiter. Maya was in charge of sweets.

The oldest person there was my mum – 89, the youngest was Kate – 10.

The people who helped me write HACKED – James the hacker, Mike the judge, Seal the brain, Rob the logician, Felix the sceptic, Honor the meticulous, Jess the steady one and the three ugly sisters – Amanda Mitchison, Rebecca Lisle and Christine Purkis aka writing group – were all there. (James asked not to be identified.)

Oscar the plotter was missing in deepest Cornwall.

There were three school librarians – who came to check me out before letting me loose on their kids.

Granny Pat brought all four grandchildren.

We sold all but four books.

I signed copies for lots of children that  read the Tribe books but are now at secondary school and ready for teenage stuff.

I used a purple pen bought from Harold Hockey – that awesome Bristol shop.


The last people to leave were Jo and Liberty – they also bought the most books!


We trooped to Giraffe afterwards and ate Mexican burgers.

Good job, as Angel would say.


HACKED tour – starts tomorrow . . .

sweetsI’m running my first HACKED event tomorrow at Redland Green School and I have a secret weapon. Flying Saucers. It was the closest I could get to drones. There’s another link, actually. Gary McKinnon was nearly extradited to America because he hacked the US Military looking for evidence of UFOs. His experience got me thinking. What would the US government do to a boy who hacked a Predator drone carrying Hellfire missiles? The answer’s in the book.

A New Book

Hacked coverIt’s obvious what it’s about – code and hackers. Although that’s like saying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about chocolate when in fact it’s about how being decent wins through. Not that Dan – the main character in HACKED – is decent. He’s nice enough, but has a wayward idea of right and wrong. As do his friends – most are more than happy to take advantage of his phone hack that supplies free credit, even though they know it’s stealing. Apart from Ruby and Ty that is – because you have to have goodies. So is Dan the baddy? No, he’s the inbetween. But Angel . . .