Events and Appearances

The final chapter of THE FAIL will go live next Friday, December 18th. Right now my mind is mostly taken up by this:

2Notting Hill Orchestra FilmLondon

Tonight is my debut performance playing theremin with the Notting Hill Orchestra for Film Music. Our first concert is at St John’s Church in Watford. Tomorrow night we play St George’s Church, Notting Hill.

I’m nervous and excited – not a combination that helps keep one’s hands as steady as a thereminist needs them to be, but a fun one just the same. 😀

A belated but heartfelt THANK YOU to Grace Igbekele and the fabulous Children’s Creative Writing Group she runs at C.L.R. James Library in Dalston, Hackney, where I came and gave a talk last Wednesday. Whether it was the warmth of the welcome I received or the fact that it was the hottest day of the year and I was waving my arms around as usual, I must admit that I, ahem, ‘glowed‘ a bit — so much so, shamingly, that one young person there pointed to the black stains on my black shirt and told me loudly and directly that she hoped I was wearing deodorant. I was, and told her so. She looked visibly reassured. 😀

It’s a great group, containing – as I saw from the work displayed on the library wall – some serious writing talent. I hope they found helpful things in what I had to say, moistness notwithstanding. ;p

Fine write-ups of last week’s brilliant launch of Big Green Education and the Haringey Chapter of Patron of Reading here and here. I was a bit nervous about speaking after Michael Rosen but I think I got away with it. 😀

More fabulous events these last few weeks: my thanks and best wishes to everyone I met at Northumberland Park Resource Centre in Tottenham, William Farr School in Lincoln and The Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year Awards. 😀

I’m still fizzing from my visit yesterday to Alexandra Park School – my second as their Patron of Reading.

The first visit back in December as a Book Doctor was deliberately low-key, to help me find my way into the role. This…


…was much bigger.

In two sessions I spoke to the whole of the school’s Years 7 and 8 – introducing myself, taking questions, talking about how I became a reader, and putting forward my next idea: a Free Readers Manifesto.

What I would like to develop is a way of encouraging students to read by thinking about the differences between reading you have to do for school and reading you do for yourself – which is what I mean by Free Reading.

APS students can – and did! – give me comments, questions and suggestions about how this manifesto could end up – because it’s not finished. When it’s done I would like it to be theirs as much as mine – something we’ve come up with together. For now, however, the draft version I gave them to consider and work on with me looks like this…

The Free Readers Manifesto – First Draft

1. We are free to read whatever we want.

2. We are free to skip bits we find badly written or boring.

3. We are free to give up on reading that does not give us what we want, and find other reading that does.

4. As Free Readers we will not be measured, tested or questioned on our reading – unless we want to be.

How can this manifesto be developed and improved? I can hardly wait to find out. Meanwhile, my thanks and best wishes to Alexandra Park School’s staff and students for what was another thrilling and inspiring visit.

Being a Patron of Reading is brilliant. 😀

Book Week 2015 is over. I feel like I’ve been hammered out flat, but I am happy. This feedback I received this morning might show you why:

In answer to the question “What was the best part of the performance?” our students told us how much they enjoyed the readings from the books, saying things like “When he was reading, as it was interesting and the books were intense and fun” and “When he read to us from his books as he read with lots of expression.” However, they also enjoyed the Q&A part: “The fascinating answers he gave to the questions” and “I found the detail of his answers and his imagination was really good”.  And one student said “I think the best part of the performance was everything!!”

When asked “How will this help with your school work in the future?” they focussed on the writing skills aspect: “He gave ideas of how to write a good and imaginative story”, “It will help me with my creative writing”, “During Sam reading to us I noticed some writing techniques which could help me in English”, “I know how to plan and make my stories more exciting.”

In response to the question “What did you learn today?” there were two main themes. The students focussed on the messages that they need to seize the day and that they need to read.

In the “Any other comments” section they said some lovely things: “Thank you for visiting and good luck in the future”, “Thank you for coming!” and the best one, “He is a lovely person, hope he does fantastically well, I can’t explain how I am feeling right now, loved it!!!”

I love school visits. Thanks and best wishes to everyone I met this week. 😀


An ecstatically cackling THANK YOU to staff and students at The Ravensbourne School in Bromley for the warm welcome they gave me yesterday.

In two sessions I spoke to the whole of Years 8 and 9 – about five hundred students in all, full of excellent questions about books, writing and life.


Giving readings in Ravensbourne’s gorgeous school hall was a particular thrill. The opening scene of Crawlers – and the scream of the Queen’s first victim – produced an intensely satisfying echo. I hope it inspired some students to read on as Crawlers continues on Wattpad. It certainly made some of them flinch. 😀

Yesterday’s Book Doctor sessions for my first engagement as Patron of Reading for Alexandra Park School were a blast. I saw fifteen students, spending fifteen minutes with each talking about what kinds of stories they liked before making a reading recommendation that I hoped that person would enjoy.


These above are the books I chose. See that piece of paper on the right? That form was created by APS’ awesome librarian Ms Constantinou so that I, as Book Doctor, could prescribe my recommendations! Each student could then choose to get their prescription filled either by borrowing their recommended book from the school’s excellent library or buying it from superb local indie booksellers The Big Green Bookshop, who offered my ‘patients‘ a generous 15% discount.

Here’s the full list of what I recommended:

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

I Am Jackie Chan – My Life in Action by Jackie Chan

Persuader by Lee Child

Blade by Tim Bowler (though it’s Bloodchild in the pic; that’s terrific too!)

Wolf by Tommy Donbavand

Sawbones by Catherine Johnson

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Terror Kid by Benjamin Zephaniah

Replica by Jack Heath

Web of Darkness by Bali Rai

Going Solo by Roald Dahl

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Parasyte by Hitoshi Awaki

Claymore by Norihiro Yagi

Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu


Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

Every student I spoke to had strong opinions about what would appeal to them and what wouldn’t, and expressed them with clarity and passion. It was inspiring.

Then, in the evening, I took myself off to The Big Green Bookshop to catch SF grandmaster Brian Aldiss launching a new collection of his short stories and looking back at his amazing writing life.

Now, that was a good day. 😀

The time has come to say goodbye to Trapped By Monsters. For the four years the blog was active my part in writing it was, for me, an absolute hoot. One of the things I loved about TBM was that it gave me the chance to do what I miss most from the ten years I worked in a bookshop: recommending books.

From now on I’m going to do that a little differently. 😀

Book Doctor

On Tues Dec 2nd I make my first official visit to Alexandra Park School as its Patron of Reading. In place of what I normally do at my school events I’m going to be working as a Book Doctor. Over the course of the day I’ll be taking appointments with individual students from the school’s Year 8. We’ll discuss what each student likes and dislikes. I’ll then ‘prescribe‘ a book recommendation specifically for that young person.

I believe that the right book at the right moment can make someone a reader for life. The Patron of Reading scheme is, for me, another chance to put that belief into action. Over the coming months I’ll also be recommending more books here on my own blog as another part of my role. Meanwhile, though TBM will soon be gone, you can find all the recommendations I made there on the reviews page of my LibraryThing profile.

Goodbye, Trapped By Monsters. I’d like to take this chance to thank all the awesome authors and artists with whom I shared the caves and everyone who came to visit us.

Best wishes and power to your reading tentacles,


Yesterday I was delighted to pay my third author visit to The City of London Academy to speak to three groups of excellent young people from Year 8 as part of their literacy week. As before in my sessions at this school, the students’ attention was impeccable and their questions were inspiring.

Here’s a pic taken during a previous visit:

Literacy Day 15th Nov 2013 Sideshow Sean left and Sam Enthoven right

A neighing, wickering thank you to the school’s librarian, the dynamic Sean Delaney (above, left), for inviting me back. 😀

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