I'm very happy to talk about the books and the whole business of being a writer - where ideas come from, how I go about writing a full length book, how I structure my day and so on. I bring photos and tell stories about my pet pig, about working at the zoo and performing with Storybox Theatre so that my author visits are fun as well as instructive. I can cope with large audiences (up to 200 pupils) as well as single class-sized groups. I usually do 3 x 1 hour sessions in a day.
I also run creative writing workshops although these require more planning and teacher input and can only be done with small groups.
I've listed some of the things I do below, but I'm always open to suggestions and ideas.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION... ZOMBIES?!
People always want to know where authors get their ideas from. In the case of ZOMBIE DAWN!!! – the first title in the SAM SWANN'S MOVIE MYSTERY series - it came from having a famous uncle (Robert Shaw) who starred in movies like From Russia With Love, The Sting and Jaws when I was growing up. I knew the movies seemed glamorous, but the work that went on behind the scenes most certainly wasn’t. The talk gives a fun backstage glimpse of life on set.
(This is the only talk when I need AV backup to show some photos from various movies.)
Resting in between takes...
MURDEROUSLY GOOD PLOTS
With a handy flipchart (to draw stick figures of victims and suspects) and eye-poppingly gruesome suggestions from the children we devise our very own murder mystery. The years 5&6 that I've done this with so far have been wildly enthusiastic.
I do something similar with secondary school pupils although the emphasis then is on them plotting their own mystery rather than audience participation.
It's great fun, but it's also a fantastic way of getting pupils to think about planning and structure.
FLOTSAM & JETSAM
The characters in these three books were based on Storybox Theatre's production of the The Fisherman and his Wife. I bring along the large carved figures we used in the show - children are always interested to know where ideas come from, and these two are a very solid example of inspiration. Using these puppets I tell them the tale of the Fisherman and then chat to the children about the seaside and what can be found on the beach. I finish by reading a story from Flotsam and Jetsam.
Teachers can follow up with a driftwood sculpture workshop if they wish. A pair of googly eyes on a stick looks fantastic topped with a wig of dried seaweed! (see the Flotsam and Jetsam Gallery page for some examples.)
* For ages 4 - 11. Yes, really. I've found that these books appeal across the entire primary age range - everyone relates to the sea and the magic of what might be carried in on the next high tide.
A Flotsam and Jetsam sculpture workshop at Bideford Library
I've recently discovered the joys of Skype as a result on the ingenuity of teacher Chris Bounds at Grappenhall Heys Primary School. For the last two years he's used the FLOTSAM & JETSAM books as the basis for a class project, and I've done a live interview with the children via my computer. Strange but great fun! This year the fabulously talented Jude Cartledge made these amazing models:
BEING AN AUTHOR
I talk about how I started writing and what I did before that. I tell stories about my ferocious Siamese cat and my eternally optimistic Labrador. Using photographs of Tilly - my pet pig (now sadly deceased) – I teach children how to tame a hog. And sometimes I read short extracts from the books.
* For ages 6-11
TALKS FOR TEENAGERS
I talk about Apache, Geronimo and The Goldsmith's Daughter - how I came to write the books, the historical background to them, the importance of research, the vital role of an editor. I also touch on Useless and Two Words. I cover where ideas come from - which usually includes a few stories about my pet pig and my time at the zoo. So although some of the subject matter is very serious, I always begin on a light, entertaining note - that way I engage the audience before hitting them between the eyes with the grim facts.
* For ages 12 plus
TALKS FOR ADULTS
Books are Dangerous – why else would every repressive regime throughout history have banned them? The talk I give to librarians, teacher, teacher trainees and anyone else who's prepared to listen to me attempts to answer the question of why books are vitally important to a healthy society. Reading is not a luxury. Books – unlike any other art form - take the reader right inside someone else’s head. They allow us to engage with others no matter what cultural differences divide us. They stimulate thought and ignite the imagination. Imagination in turn develops the capacity for empathy. Fellow feeling. How much anti-social behaviour stems from a lack of it?
Lost in a book...
I've done sessions for both primary and secondary school pupils on all sorts of themes - creating characters, devising plots, choosing a distinctive voice. I've visited castles with groups of children who then write ghost stories, and sat in classes with strange objects from the local museum spinning tales about what they might be used for.
Anything is possible - I'm always open to ideas - but do bear in mind that these sessions take more planning and require more teacher input than an simple author visit.
*For ages 7 to adult
"The whole day was such a success, and the enthusiasm and inspiration you generated were amazing. Staff and students have sought me out to say how much they enjoyed it and to pass on their thanks to you. One of our new teachers said it was the best day she has ever spent in a school!” M.Wiggins, Ryde Academy.
"I just wanted to say how hugely my 9 yr old daughter enjoyed your talk last week. For a 20 minute journey after school I re- lived all the drama, envy, humour and of course, PIG! Maeve was sparkly eyed, pacy and full of smiles as she recounted her experience. She obviously loved it. Thank you." Darragh Turley
"We are writing to thank you for your sparkling contribution to the festival last week and to say that your impact on the young people and the adults was really quite marked – not only did you charm and engage them, you inspired them.... Thank you for being involved, and for your inspiring contribution. Your impact on young writers and readers cannot be underestimated." Ray Speakman, West Midlands Gifted and Talented Partnership
"Creative writing has never been more interesting. This was a celebration of the written word - as well as being entertaining and amusing. The students created some truly unique work that all of them will remember, cherish and enjoy for a long time." Holly Sum, English Teacher, West Somerset Community College
"Tanya Landman gave an inspirational view into her brilliant world of writing. Thanks for a great day, Tanya! And a big thanks to everyone who organised the workshop, it was brilliant!" Jack, Jade & Angharad Y9
“Can I say how much we really enjoyed your visit last week? Students have given such positive feedback, including my A Level students this afternoon who were telling an absent student what she had missed.” Robert Walton, Worle Community School
"Thanks very much for all you did on Thursday. The children who
attended the workshop were very enthusiastic and plan to continue
working together as a writers group.” Pam Symons, South Molton Community College
“Thanks for coming the workshop was GREAT!” George Tyacke, Year 8, South Molton Community College
TO ARRANGE A VISIT
For UK schools I charge £525 a day (for up to three hour long sessions), £425 for a half day (two sessions), and £325 for a single talk - plus travel/accommodation (if required) but this is negotiable - for small groups and tiny schools I'm happy to do a special rate.
If you're interested in a visit, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com