"The school was thrilled to receive an author visit!"
Published on: 20 March 2020 Author: E. L. Norry
Author E. L. Norry shadowed Sharna Jackson at an author visit in Bristol. She writes about her experience, what it's like for an author visiting a school, and the importance of children seeing themselves represented in books.
The charity BookTrust first came to my attention a few Christmases ago with their Christmas appeal about donating just £10 to help children in care receive books. Since I was a child who grew up in care, this campaign had a big effect on me so I signed up to regularly donate.
As I followed Booktrust’s Twitter account, I understood how many different initiatives they were involved in.
BookTrust Represents is a three-year project specifically with the aim of promoting children’s authors and illustrators of colour. This has recently become an important discussion in the publishing world - children have the right to see themselves represented in the stories they read.
The initiative came onto my radar when I heard about a fantastic (and free!) event in London with Chitra Soundar talking about How to Ace an Author Visit. I attended and found it interesting, although school visits still felt theoretical - I just couldn’t imagine how what Chitra had spoken about looked in a practical sense. That’s where the Shadow an Author opportunity was a perfect accompaniment.
I arrived in Bristol on Monday evening and the terrific BookTrust trio (Indigo, Sheba and Sinead) took myself, the other shadow-er, and Sharna out for a tasty Caribbean meal. After a bonding nightcap at the Premier Inn, we said our goodnights, ready for an early morning start.
At Henleaze Junior School, it was so lovely to walk across the playground and to hear children call out to Sharna, clearly recognising her. The school was welcoming and genuinely thrilled to receive an author visit – Sharna revealed that if you get offered a cup of tea and told where the toilets are then that’s a good sign!
We watched Sharna set up her presentation and check her equipment before the Year Sixes were brought into the hall. All the children had been given a copy of High-Rise Mystery by Booktrust, which I thought was amazingly generous and because they had their own copies, they were even more enthusiastic and engaged. Sharna kept the children entertained and interested as she talked about herself, the book and her inspiration. They became involved when she asked them questions about which main character they were most like.
After a lunchbreak, I was delighted to discover that we had another school to visit. I was curious to see how the schools and children and Sharna’s presentation might differ.
Whitehall Junior School was a very different environment to the previous school. It was funny and interesting to watch the different children respond to Sharna.
Having had the privilege of seeing Sharna present to two different schools made me much less anxious about the possibility of doing my own author talks in future. The atmosphere was more relaxed and fun than I had imagined and seeing the children’s excitement made my day and was rewarding.
About E. L. Norry
E. L. Norry was born in Cardiff and grew up in care. She has a Jewish and Caribbean heritage.
She was commissioned by Scholastic for their Voices series which aims to let children understand that BAME people have always lived on our shores, even if their stories might not get told in history classes. She chose to write about the Victorian era and Son of the Circus was published in September 2019 - a children's novel based on the son of Pablo Fanque, the first black circus proprietor in Victorian Britain.
Coming up in 2020 are two short stories as part of Scholastic’s Homecoming anthology in celebration of VE day, as well as a book in Penguin's Extraordinary Lives series, chronicling the life of Nelson Mandela. She's currently writing a series of four titles about a teenage spy – Amber Undercover, with the first book publishing in July 2020.
She lives and works in Bournemouth, working in admin at the university by day and writing by night and weekends, inspired by her two young children.