When author school visits turn bad

Published on: 26 January 2015 Author: Philip Ardagh

The wise, handsome and hilarious (or so he told us) author Philip Ardagh, who's work includes the Norman the Norman and The Grunts series of books, became our eleventh Writer in Residence back in 2014. In this blog Philip told spoke about school visits and gaffes and left us with a poem all about it.

Philip Ardagh

Blimey, where does the time go? Was it really almost six months since I became BookTrust's Online Writer in Residence? Apparently so, because this week is my penultimate blog. Quite early on in my tenure, a number of you asked me to reproduce my poem about 'all the terrible things that can happen to children's authors when they visit a school'.

So if I don't do it now, I never will.

Sadly, this poem - which has appeared in a number of anthologies over the years - doesn't include ALL the little things that can add up to make a school visit 'challenging' to say the least, but it does contain quite a few of them! And, judging by the response - ranging from wry chuckles to knowing sighs and groans - the poem certainly does seem to have stuck a chord with many of my fellow children's authors who've read it.

When author school visits turn bad

Fortunately, there are some school visits that couldn't be further from being like this if they tried. These are often those arranged by professional school librarians working with local bookshops to make the most of an author visit for everyone involved... but this poem is about the OTHER sort of visit. *Shudder*

Enjoy... Then weep into your hands.

St Judas Welcomes Author Philip Arder

Welcome to St Judas.
Because of a mix-up in timetabling
Miss Horace who was supposed to be looking after you today
has had to go on a factory field-trip
with gifted and talented and the two classes
of students who've actually read your book.
We've had to put you with a younger group
who, like me I must confess, have never heard of you,
but we did look you up on Wikipedia
and see that you like cats.

Perhaps you could tell a story with lots of actions
and they could pretend to be their favourite animals?

There's a note here from Miss H saying that
we are unable to buy any of your books for the library
because we've spent the budget for this school term.
The children won't be able
to purchase any of your books either,
following a change of rules recently agreed by the PTA.
We have arranged, however, for you to sign
lots of scraps of paper
of ever-diminishing

And for you to give two extra talks,
seeing as how you're here.

A photographer from the local paper
has a small window in his busy schedule
so can only come halfway through your first event.
At this stage, we will have to stop proceedings
and remove from shot those children whose parents
have not given consent for them to be photographed.
It shouldn't take long.

And I should warn you that
there are certain children
unsuitable for audience participation.
We found that out the hard way.

I'm going to have to leave you here
in the staffroom for a while
while I find an alternative venue.
Mock exams in the main hall
mean that you'll probably have to give your
little talks in the dining room.
I'll ask the kitchen staff to keep the noise
of table-laying
to a minimum.

I'm afraid I'll have to nip out part-way through
your first event
to sort out a health and safety issue
but Mrs Lomax will be there throughout,
though she does have to finish
a pile of marking.
Mr Goody, our PE teacher, will be just down the corridor
and has promised to keep an ear out for the kids
if they get restless.
At that age, they're easily bored.

I'm sorry if things seem a little disorganized
but you must be used to it.
I imagine the big names don't do school visits,
do they?
Have you ever met Philip Pullman,
by the way?
His books are amazing.

Ah, there goes the bell.

Help yourself to coffee.
The mugs are in the sink . . .

© Philip Ardagh

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Every six months, BookTrust appoints a new Writer in Residence to write blogs, run competitions and give us their own unique perspective on the world of children's books.

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