Saturday, 22 February 2020

Meet Danny

There is a new man in my life. His name is Danny and we met last week while I was away on a writing retreat. I wasn't expecting this to happen - no one ever does - but there he was, waiting for me to find him.

He is 26 and he needs my help. Given that I created the predicament in which he finds himself, it is only fair that I take responsibility for putting things right. Indeed, I have no choice but to grapple with the how-abouts and what-ifs.

This is the role of the writer. Danny is a fictional character I created during my week away at Foxes' Retreat.

Oh, wait: you didn't think...?

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Encouraging youngsters to fall in love with reading

Photo: Rachel Campling
I have a guest post today from writer and advocate for the joy of reading Rachel Campling. She says:

I am a specialist primary school teacher who works with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds at Harpole Primary School in Northamptonshire. Unfortunately, some of these pupils did not have a single book at home, other than their school reading book. With the closure of so many libraries, having easy access to free books wasn’t a viable option for them. As an avid reader and writer of children’s fiction, this really upset me. How were they to enjoy escaping into other worlds without access to great books? So, my colleague and I hatched an exciting plan.

We appealed to all the parents of pupils at the school for books that they’d finished with to be donated to us, and happily they came flooding in. This enabled us to set up the Book Swap Shop.

At the beginning of the year every child in the school is given a book. This can be swapped for a different book once they have read it or kept forever if they love it so much. The shop is open every Wednesday lunchtime and the children flock to the bookstand and rifle through the boxes to find their next treasure. They can choose any book they fancy. There is always a buzz of excited chatter as the children recommend books to each other or search for another book by the same author to devour.

The shop itself is run by the pupils I work with, the Book Swap Shop Reading Champions. They organise the books, tick off pupils’ names as they swap books, stamp new stock with a star to show that it’s from our shop, and help other pupils to choose books. This has really helped to raise their self-esteem.

This venture has not only helped our pupils to get their hands on a whole variety of wonderful adventures and factual texts, but it has also generated a love of reading for pleasure throughout the whole school. 

I think this is a fantastic idea. How about you? Are you inspired by Rachel to  try something similar - or are you already? Let us know.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Shine a little light

I'm looking for a floor lamp that I can direct downwards on to my book when I'm reclining on the sofa. I had one, but after years of shining a light on dark stories, it blew its last bulb and has gone to its final resting place. The trouble is I don't want a cheap one, but can't afford an expensive one. I did find one I really liked, but it was £185, which is a bit out of my league. OK, completely out of my league.

Today, I decided I'd had enough of squinting in the gloom and persuaded Mr T to accompany me to B&Q to see what was on offer there. They had one that we decided would do, at a pinch. The next challenge was finding the right light bulb. Why can't they just give you one with the lamp?

We made a note of the spec of the bulb from the label attached to the lamp and went to the next aisle to locate an E14 screw fitting max 28W thingy. Inevitably there were hundreds of bulbs to choose from, but none fitting our criteria. We were forced to seek out a member of staff for guidance; let's call her Doris.

However, before surrendering to her tender mercies, we did what seemed perfectly sensible to us: we removed the bulb from the display lamp and took it with us for ease of comparison. When Doris discovered what we'd done, she fair near fainted away on the spot. Oh the horror! Did we have no respect for Health And Safety? One step away from reaching for the sal volatile, we calmed her down and she was able to find us what we sought. We bought the lamp and went home.

Forty minutes later we were back in the shop, returning the damn thing. The three screws needed to hold together the segments of the upright were missing. We could have resolved this; Mr T has an array of boxes and tins filled with fixings for just such occasions. However, the actual light fitting - the cone containing the bulb - just kept flopping down, such that if I wanted to be illuminated by it I would have to sit on the floor.

As the shadows draw in this evening, you will find me in a easy chair curled up with Lionel Shriver. I shall be wearing a head torch.