Thanks To Your Inspirational Young Minds

Thanks To Your Inspirational Young Minds

Thanks To Your Inspirational Young Minds

To the Children of Oak Hill and Oriel Academies in West London,
Thanks to your inspirational young minds I was impressed and inspired last week. You asked such a range of questions, and your enthusiasm for the creative workshops we did for World Book Day, was fantastic.

World Book Day 2017

This year we created new characters, moved around like Mowgli, Shere Khan, King Louis and Baloo. We talked about the different types of snow in Narnia and Canada, including the different words that can be used to describe it. Dry powdery snow will always be my favourite.

Thanks To Your Inspirational Young MindsThere was also a chance for you to ask questions about The Adventures of Benjamin Frank and what it’s like to be an author. I am always amazed by the questions that I haven’t been asked before.

There are many budding young writers amongst you, which is fantastic. Keep practicing and you’ll go far. Remember to be brave and take risks with the words you use and try not to filter your imagination.

For those of you at Oak Hill that might have forgotten, it was Lewis Carroll’s poem, The Jabberwocky that I suggested as a nonsense poem to read for made up words.

But it wasn’t all about me teaching you of course. You always teach me things. I learnt about Harry Potter at Oriel Academy. I had no idea of his problems and the bullying he’d experienced. It was interesting to reflect on it and talk about how it’s important for all of you to listen to each other when you’re reading aloud, as a show of support. At school you’re part of a team, be that your class, your year or the school itself. Remember what I said about how you’ve already helped me by listening in assembly. I don’t feel half as nervous because of your support. It works just the same for all of you.

So until the next time, which shouldn’t be too far away; thank you and best wishes in all that you do.

You’re all very special and it shows in your smiles. Share your smile as often as you can. It makes the world much brighter for the rest of us.

Happy reading,

A Trip to Narnia

Chronicles of Narnia

A Trip to Narnia

What winter is complete without a trip to Narnia?
I was very excited at the prospect of this on Thursday, courtesy of The Literary Hour. Nobody in my circle batted an eyelid when I said I was heading to a fictional location. But nothing surprises them about me anymore.

Reaching Narnia

I found Narnia in an industrial building in Tottenham Hale, London. The building had been transformed into a magical world through a wardrobe filled with coats. Greeted in an indoor woodland, we received a winter warmer next to a lamp post marking the boundary to Narnia.

A trip to NarniaAfter tasting moorish hors d’oeuvres in a room filled with artefacts from the The Chronicles of Narnia we stepped through a curtain and entered a forest clearing. Framed with ivy and fairy lights, it was a magical scene.

Long wooden tables were decorated with silver pine cones, moss and tea lights. It enticed us in with its glowing presence to take a seat.

A Trip to NarniaThe Feast

A reading introduced and inspired each delicious course, and there were a few extra goodies, including the finale turkish delight experience. We had to work out the five different flavours in front of us. I guessed the first herbaceous taste of rosemary, but I was stumped after that. My neighbour made a loud announcement that the fourth flavour was Tabasco. I nibbled slowly to avoid a nasty experience. But it was actually pleasant. I enjoyed the contrast with the other flavours. Especially after a rich dessert of marmalade bread pudding with lashings of cosy custard.

To indulge in tasty food under a beautiful canopy and combine readings with deliciousness was a welcome winter experience. With hot water bottles to keep us warm, it was just what I needed.

You never know what wonderlands are hidden away. This one was particularly special. Thank you to The Literary Hour for using such passion and skill. They translated the imagination of C. S. Lewis into a fantastic Grub Club experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

A World without books

A World Without Books

A world without books

I spent this morning at my former primary school, Oriel Academy, talking about a world without books.

I began by asking the students to close their eyes and imagine what a world without books might look and feel like. One student described it as, ‘miserable’.

We then considered whether stage shows, plays, and films would exist or be the same without books. You see, most of these formats begin with some kind of script or research from written information. It’s where the inspiration, content, themes, structure, characters or dialogue might come from.

Looking at the similarities and differences in reader experience when reading the same book was the next thing we looked at. As readers interpret a story through his or her own imagination, there will always be differences.

I read aloud one of my poems from The Adventures of Benjamin Frank to demonstrate this. The poem included facts that are unchangeable and missing elements that give space for the reader’s imagination to decide.

It is this that makes reading a very personal experience.

We then considered how a book has the power to transport readers into a whole different world. Whether reading with someone’s help, reading aloud or in silence, books have the power to soar you to different places. You might travel to a another country, delve into older periods in time or explore other worlds in our galaxy. You might even find yourself amongst magic and make believe or understand your world through the eyes of another.

What’s so exciting about that idea is that we also share this world with so many others, and it’s interesting to view how other people experience this planet. We learn to understand others and accept difference rather than fear it. We can also find gratitude for the things we have when others may be less fortunate.

With all these thoughts to consider, I asked the children to close their eyes again, and imagine a different place that they’ve read about to the one we are in. Then, when they opened their eyes again, I asked them to tell me what they imagined. It was fascinating to hear what they had to say.

A World Without BooksWhen the underwater world of our planet came up, Josie in Year 1 told me that she can read under water. Well I was fascinated and had to try it out for myself. I had fun this afternoon doing just that.

Check out the video below!

A Roald Dahl Map

A Roald Dahl Map

A Roald Dahl Map?

As you know, I’m all about a life of adventure. My latest trip took me to Portugal for some fun surfing. Croatia is my next destination. But a Roald Dahl map, where could that take me?

A reader recently contacted  me in relation to an earlier post I’d written about Roald Dahl. They asked me if I’d be interested in featuring The Ultimate Map of over 100 Roald Dahl – icious Locations to Visit Across the World. What a wonderful prospect. I clicked straight on the link, eager to discover where a Roald Dahl journey might take me.

When I saw there were places all over the world, I teetered on my tiptoes with excitement. I was sad to discover that I’d been too busy on my own adventures to see the fabulous Dream Jars that had been placed all over London. But I made a note on my to-do list to make one of my own instead. Then I continued the search for something else to excite me.

Stage shows about Matilda and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory were on the map, but my feet wanted to keep on wandering, so I switched route. There were Roald Dahl chocolate classes, but they were over now that you’re all back to school. All sorts of things had come to a close. I began to wonder if I was too old for this, until an interesting idea appeared in front of my very own eyes, but I don’t know if you’re going to like it…

The one thing I saw on the Roald Dahl Map that seemed to be available was to have Dinner at the Twits!!!!!

Dinner at the Twits?

As scary as it sounded, I was quite excited about the idea, but by the time I look at tickets they’d all sold out!

However, seeing as next week marks the 100th year since Roald Dahl was born, and as a nation we celebrate Roald Dahl Day on the 13th September, I will read some of his Revolting Rhymes online.

So, mark your calendars on the 13th September to celebrate the tremendously tall writer who brought buckets of fun to us through his books.

Until we meet again, have a Roald Dahl time!!

Best wishes,

10 Tips To Inspire Writing

10 Tips To Inspire Writing

Tree pathTrees feature heavily in The Adventures of Benjamin Frank because of the landscape where the story is told, so here are photos of trees to provide 10 tips to inspire writing.

Ropey Tree Bark

10 tips to inspire writing:

Describe the bark on the tree trunk: What colours do you see? What does it feel like? What patterns do you notice? Is there a simile you could use to describe what the bark looks like? For example, the bark on the tree to the left reminds me of rope.

Describe what you see when you stand at the base of a tree and look up: How does the tree branch out? What directions can you follow? How does it change shape? What does it feel like standing under it?

Sunset TreeDescribe what you notice at different times of the day: What shadows can you see? How does the sun affect the colour of the tree in the middle of the day compared to when the sun is going down? What reflections does the tree cast on water at different times?

Tree Shadows

Describe what you see around the trees: What surrounds the tree? In the picture to the right there are other trees, and a grassy area with light and shadows cast by the other trees and the setting sun.

ShadowDescribe how you feature in relation to the trees and landscape: In this picture you can see my shadow because the sun is behind me, and the trees are in the distance. If you can look at how you feature in relation to the other things around you, this will help you to consider how you can describe your characters amongst their surroundings.

Describe what you can see through the trees: What can you see through the branches? Are there any peepholes that you could describe to give your character hiding spots to view things they’re not supposed to see or find something exciting that has been hidden, like treasure or a secret garden?

Peephole TreeDescribe what you see on the tree: Is there a knot on the bark that could be used to help your character climb the tree? Can you see strange things growing out of the trunk? Are there bird nests or insects? Observe then let your imagination run wild!

Tree Knot


Describe what is missing: Are you looking at a complete tree or has half of it fallen away? Have parts of it crumbled to the ground? Can you see evidence of animals chewing the bark? The things that are missing give you the chance to tell the reader how it happened.

Crumbled Tree

Describe what you see at the base of a tree: Can you see flowers, long grass or moss? Can you see the tree roots? Is the tree on a hill, in a flowerbed or next to a stream? If it’s near water, do the roots grow into it or are they just on the land?

Describe what you love about the tree: You will like different things to someone else. If you share your favourite things, your writing will be unique as we all have different perspectives. We want to know what you love when you’re writing a story. Tell us through the words of your characters.

Don’t be afraid to share as much detail as possible. I have shared photos of different trees, but it’s just as good to sit with one and try all the tips to describe it. You’ll be amazed by what more you see when you sit down with these detailed ways of looking at an object.

And don’t stop at trees!

You can do this with any object you want to include in your story: a sandwich, a bicycle, a park, a character from one of your computer games or TV shows, someone you know, the sky, a box of toys… the possibilities are endless.

For more top tips head to the Young Writers page.


Cornish Adventure

Cornish Adventure

You don’t have to go to the other side of the world to find adventure. I recently found myself on a fun Cornish adventure in St Ives. I drove all the way from London to South West England during the Easter Holidays.  Despite the wind and rain, I wrapped up in warm clothes and still went to the beach.

Cornish Adventure

St Ives is a fantastic place filled with art galleries (including Tate St Ives), tasty places to eat and old cobbled streets. You can play on the sandy beaches, surf in the sea, clamber around the headlands and run away from noisy seagulls.

St Ives

From St Ives I drove the windy country roads to the Minack Theatre. It was built in the cliffside by the very talented Rowena Cade and sits high above beautiful Porthcurno Beach. You can visit the theatre without having to watch a performance and just sit back to enjoy the view.

Porthcurno Beach

After the Minack Theatre I drove to St Michael’s Mount. I was hoping to walk across to it, but as the tide was in and the sun was out, I decided to sit back and watch the boats transport all the visitors back and forth. I made a short timelapse video to show you what I saw on the day. This is the view I had:

I took photos and filmed all the things I saw during my trip to Cornwall, and now I’m writing this travel blog for you. If you pop along to my Young Writers page you’ll find tips to help you write your travel tales. The next time you go on an adventure, take a moment to sit back, observe what you see and write about your travels. It’s great to share your wonderful experiences wth others. Who knows where you might end up!

St Michael's Mount

Rhyme rules

rhyme rules

Rhyme rules

I love poetry and I love a rhyme but for rhyme to to be effective it needs some sense of structure. So, what simple rhyme rules do we need to follow to get started?

  • The words actually need to sound the same. E.g. hat and cat, wed and fed, dirt and skirt, shiver and quiver. There are lots of choices and it’s really helpful to write down lots of rhyming words to use as a guide. You can refer back to it in the future when you come to write a rhyme. It’ll help you when you get stuck and you’ll notice that your words become more complex the more you try.

A fabulous young writer named Callum wrote the following poem and asked his Mum to share it with me. His Mum is my cousin and we had great fun growing up drawing, rhyming, singing and performing.
Callum’s poem shows off his great talent for rhyming words:

I need you like a virus needs a germ
Like a fire needs to burnrhyme rules
Like children need to learn
Like a car needs to turn.

Like a photo needs a frame
Like the plants need the rain
Like the rails need a train
Like a lion needs its mane.

Like tools need a shed
Like pets need to be fed
Like flowers need a bed
Like this pencil needs a lead.

What a great showcase of rhyming words from Callum!

  • Don’t feel you have to rhyme every line though. Every other or the first and last line works just as well.
  • The rhyming words can have more than one syllable or have different spellings e.g. jungle and bungle and as Callum has used above, train and mane sound the same, but they each have different spellings of that sound.

There are lots of rhyme rules to help you structure a rhyme, but with the few listed here you’ll be on your way in no time. Practice as much as you can and take risks as your confidence grows. If you really enjoy rhyming, do some research on the internet or ask your teacher for tips on how to progress.

Have fun!


The Visit

The Visit

World Book Day seems a long time ago with all the busy activities I’m involved with at the moment, but there is a follow-up story I’d like to share with you from my fabulous day at Oriel Academy. That story is called ‘The Visit’ by Ellie.

As soon as I arrived at Oriel Academy on World Book Day, I was greeted by the fantastic staff and a student named Ellie. I was told that instead of her dressing up as a book character she decided to dress up as an author, and that author was me! I was flattered and very impressed with Ellie’s attention to detail. Her outfit was a cross between what I had worn on an earlier visit to the academy and a checked scarf I’m often seen wearing in my photographs. But that wasn’t all.

When I spoke to Ellie, she presented me with a story she’d written called ‘The Visit‘. I could tell from her story that she listened hard to the things I’d said in assembly, had read The Adventures of Benjamin Frank and really understood who I was. It was a remarkable piece of writing for someone so young. Ellie had also hand drawn the book cover and included a blurb to give a snippet of the story for potential readers. Here’s a peek at the cover for you:

The Visit

What a fantastic effort by Ellie and what a lovely surprise. Inspiring young writers is one of the missions I have when sharing my own stories with others. I hope to inspire as many young people as I can to write their own stories or follow the creative path they desire for themselves. Head to my Young Writers page for tips on how to get going with your story writing.

Best wishes for now,


Roald Dahl Reminds

Roald Dahl Reminds

Roald Dahl reminds us that ‘somewhere in all of us is the power to change the world,’ and I wholeheartedly agree. Mr Dahl changed the way children’s books were written because it was important to him. We all have that opportunity. How we do that can be in the small ways we choose to behave each day or in the things we create.

Every day you wake up and have to do something. It could be brushing your teeth, going to the loo or eating and drinking water to ensure your survival. But what about the things you choose to do? If you could do anything you choose right now, what would you do?

Roald Dahl chose to list animals that he’d not read about in children’s books. It was those more unusual animals that he included in his stories. He chose to be brave with the words he used to describe his characters. He chose to take a risk with some of the gross, obscure or creepy scenes he described. His choices made him stand out from the crowd and made him memorable. His choices also left his readers with a positive thought about how life could be if we treated each other better.

If you were to be brave and take a chance to just go for it with your stories, drawings or the way you choose to live your life, what would you change? If the thought of changing things scares you, what are the scary consequences? Are the consequences really that bad? Think about it carefully.

I urge you to draw a character in the way you would like to see it rather than how you think it should look. I encourage you to write a story that’s a bit out there and different. I encourage you to behave in a way that improves the quality of your life and those around you. Go on, give it a go. If Roald hadn’t taken these chances, our lives would be less rich. His books stand the test of time because he went out on a limb for us. He had courage and he was brave.

Roald Dahl RemindsRoald Dahl reminds me to inspire through his books even after his passing. Today, I visited the Roald Dahl World exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London where I was treated to treasures from this fantastic writer’s life. I was reminded of all the risks he took to make my young reading years so fulfilling. He was a hero of mine, and through my experience of his work he will remain a hero of mine. If you’re not sure where to start, perhaps you can find a hero to inspire your life’s work. We all need a little help, especially if we’re determined to do something courageous.

Take a chance!

Best Wishes,



There is a Scholastic Book Fair at Oriel Academy next week!
I’ve been invited to sell signed copies of the Adventures of Benjamin Frank at a reduced rate of £5! Come and see me Monday to Friday (14th – 18th March) from 3:20 – 4pm for your copy!