My background is not that traditionally associated with writers.
I was born, and still live in, the Black Country, near Birmingham. My family were factory workers, I was raised on a council estate and educated at a comprehensive school. I've never been to university.
I have worked in universities, as a speaker and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. I wouldn't have qualified for entry as a student.
As a writer I've won several awards, the most noteable being the Carnegie medal for 'The Ghost Drum' and the Guardian for 'The Sterkarm Handshake.'
I've visited every kind of school in every part of the UK.
I've also worked with every age-group, from five-years-old to Upper Sixth.
Recently I led story workshops at Godolphin School in Salisbury and was, as always, impressed by the inventiveness and imagination of the children from the nursery up.
I also have fond memories of visiting a tiny Fenland Primary School and telling a 'forbidden door' story to the entire school body and staff (about ten children of all ages and two teachers.) There followed, among the children, a fierce philosophical discussion about whether or not it was wise to open forbidden doors, and whether the experience would be worth the suffering and loss that followed.
And there was the Gorbals Primary where they asked me searching questions: "See you, how old are ye?" -- "See you, how much d'youse earn?" -- "See you, what car do youse drive?" I was happy to answer these questions, which I think entirely reasonable, though the teachers were having conniptions at the back.
A non-teaching friend once asked me, in bafflement, "When you go into these schools, what do you do?"
Well, here are some of the things I've done in schools.
I've talked about my writing career (begun at 16.)
Read from my books -- usually breaking off at the most exciting bit. ('If you want any more, you must read it yourself.')
Answered questions (even those about how old I am and how much I earn.)
I love traditional stories and know scores, so I often tell them or read from my retellings.
It's great fun to tell a story to one group of children and then have them retell it to another group.
They have to listen, remember and tell the events in the right order.
I've helped children build their own story, using visual prompts and guiding them to think of story arcs and the all important ending.
Brought along books for sale.
I can also talk knowledgeably about self-publishing, as I was one of the first writers in the UK to self-publish and am a founder member of the Authors Electric Blog, where 29 self-publishing writers get together to share experiences.
"Really enjoyed meeting you, and the children loved the stories."
Primary teacher, Birmingham.
"The children have squabbled happily over the ending of 'Odin's Monster,' as they discuss the story in class."
St. Joseph's School.