Author visits in schools

JANIS-KIDSAs a children’s author, and a storyteller, a wonderful part of my job is visiting children, and inspiring children to be imaginative and creative with their own writing. Since my first book came out in 2009 I have had the pleasure of visiting book festivals and over one hundred primary schools and introducing children from Shetland to Sussex to Magnus Fin, the sea, the beaches – and guiding them in making stories of their own. Since being short-listed for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards I have been extra busy, visiting schools and libraries and sharing the art and craft of writing books, and often encouraging children to start writing a book of their own.

I most often work with pupils from age nine to eleven. I talk about my inspiration; for the Magnus Fin books(set in north of Scotland) and for Wild Song (set in Finland) I talk about the time I lived by the sea, about cleaning the beach and finding weird and wonderful things washed up on the shore. I talk about fish and sea birds, sharks and sunken ships, and guide the pupils very inter-actively, into the mind of a writer (being interested in things. Knowing the names of things. Asking yourself – what if?). These author sessions I have structured with the curriculum for excellence in mind and include team work, imaginative thinking, problem solving, and responsible citizenship through encouraging environmental awareness. For The Accidental Time Traveller I talk about history and my inspiration coming from Marjory Fleming who lived in Scotland 200 years ago – and wrote a diary! The sessions usually last just over an hour, and many pupils have gone on to write fantastic stories of their own. To co-incide with the publication of my latest novel ‘The Unlikely Time Traveller’ I am offering an ‘imagine the future’ session for schools. email me to book.
I usually work with around fifty pupils per session. The sessions complement aspirations set out in the Keep Scotland Beautiful, green flag eco-schools guidelines. Within the imaginative world of story, pupils are encouraged to think about litter (especially on beaches), sustaining our world, health and well-being and their own role as responsible citizens. With The Accidental Time Traveller the learning curve is more towards history, and imagining what life was like 200 years ago, and imagining the kinds of things we might not have 200 years from now. In the second book in the trilogy – the Reluctant Time Traveller, the main characters, Saul and Agnes, travel back to 1914, so with this we go back 100 years and touch into WW1.
Many of the sessions have resulted in an increased level of writing ability from the children.

Schools can contact me directly to ask about an author session in their school, or they can also contact www.thescottishbooktrust.com to ask about help towards funding a visit. The Live Literature scheme helps with funding so that schools can bring authors in to work with pupils.
Here is what some teachers have said about my school visits;

  •  ‘Janis’ workshops have had the children mesmerised! She’s succeeded in engaging them fully in her books, albeit it briefly, by her interactive and imaginative approaches. Almost every child in my class is now reading a Magnus Fin book. I would highly recommend her as both an encaptivating author and as a motivating leader of children’s workshops.’ Penny Browning, Primary 5 teacher, Abbeyhill Primary School, Edinburgh.
  • The children got so much out of Janis’ visit. It is so good for children to actually meet and interact with the author of a book. It makes writing a real thing for them and certainly encourages them to give vent to their ideas and imaginations.’ Jackie Phares, deputy head, Miller Academy, Thurso.
  • Janis Mackay’s workshop engrossed and enthralled our ten year olds. Their imaginations were set on fire as they worked collaboratively using large A1 sheets of paper and crayons. A huge success.’ Richard Harvey, Head master, Ardvreck School, Crieff.
  • ‘Janis Mackay’s workshop was excellent and very enjoyable. Her stories are extremely unique and inspiring for the children and led to excellent creative writing. An event not to be missed.’ Kelly McGowan, Primary six teacher, Bonaly Primary School, Edinburgh.
  • ‘On the Magnus Fin series: her writing is rich and lyrical with vivid characters that appeal to both boys and girls. Her storylines also convey an important environmental message. On her sessions: Janis Mackay’s skills as a professional storyteller come to the fore – children are drawn in by her enthralling storytelling with even the most challenging groups being engaged. Her abilities as a creative writing tutor make for an inspiring session that clearly stimulate children’s storymaking and writing skills.’ Teresa Lowe, Children’s Book Programmer, Glasgow’s West End Festival & co-director of the Village storytelling centre, Glasgow.
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