Monthly Archives: April 2014

Top writing tips from Nicola Davies!

Hi Nicola,

We have learnt quite a lot about Manatees now and we have finished Manatee Baby, your book! We can’t wait to read another one of your books,and to learn loads about an animal from your books. Lots of people have voted for The Lion who Stole my Arm for the next book that you have written. Manatee baby was an awesome book to read and really pulled me in to read more because of our suspense and all the detail you put in your book! We had a few questions to ask you…

1. How can we improve our writing?

OK here are some top tips!
* Keep a writers notebook, small enough to slip in a bag or a pocket and keep it with you ALLLLLL the time. That way if you get any god ideas you ahve a place to keep them and won’t forget them. Write in it interesting things you see, bits of conversation…you can even draw in it if you want. Also, when you read something you really like, re read it…work out why you like it and what makes it good and make a note of that in your notebook too.
*Read your words aloud and think about the effect they have. Words work by making pictures in people’s heads and by evoking emotions. Make sure that your words are making pictures and emotions that are right for what you are trying to say and the tory you are telling. For example there are lots of ways to describe the colour red – red as anger, red as a sunset, red as blood, red as a rose….if you were describing a cute toddlers first pair of dinky red shoes which red would you use?
* Keep it simple. Always better to tell you readers one thing they’ll remember than ten things they’ll forget.
*Look, listen and think. Pay really close attention to the world around you…what can you see, and hear and smell and touch? Why do things look and sound and smell the way they do?  Practice describing those sensations in different ways, then you’ll have a whole lot of building blocks ready to use. AND then try to imagine you would describe the same things if you were a totally different person!
*be brave and bold…experiment and try things out. Remember nobody ever got to really good without going via really rubbish! You won’t find new ways of saying things without experiments that didn’t work out!
2. How many Manatees do you know in captivity?

Well there are lots in captivity for all the reasons you know about now having read manatee baby. But I havent met them in person!

3.How many adventures have you been on?

Not enough! But I’ll tell you about some of my favourites when we meet on May 8th.

4. Have you found the Caucasion Leopard yet?

Not yet…off to look on May 16th…though its very unlikely that I’ll see one but take a look at this!

From Leo and Aaron
(and the rest of Year 4)


Lovely to hear from you
Best wishes


Creating comics at Bevendean Primary

Good morning Team!
I’m currently sunning myself from the top of Mount Everest, after having high tea with Saar. Tea is rather peculiar out here, and not only includes tea leaves, but also Yak butter and salt. An acquired taste…
Now then, back to more important matters!
This week’s challenge is to take all that you’ve created and turn it into a short comic, much like the ones you’ll have seen in The Magma Conspiracy. I’ve attached sample comic sheets to give you a head start on layouts, so using the story ideas you worked up last week, think of something really visually exciting to draw and turn into a comic strip! Make it as long as you like, but it may be best to focus on a small element of your story – much like I’ve done at the start of each chapter in the books. For example, you might just what to draw the initial attack on an enemy’s secret hideout. Or you may want to draw the moment one of your characters eats a worm burger – you get the idea! Doing a long comic can get quickly overwhelming, as you have to think of words, pictures, and how you’re going to fit it all into the panels. So always think simple: “What’s the easiest way I can draw this scene?”
Try and add in jokes, if you can. Most importantly, though, have fun!
I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Over and Out!
Captain Ponkerton
(Also known as Alex Milway)
Setting1 Setting2 Setting3

Techniques and Symbolism – Mick Jackson and BHASVIC

BHASVIC creative writing students have been setting Mick some really interesting questions throughout their Adopt an Author experience. This week they’re discussing his use of techniques and symbolism.

Q. Do you think of techniques or symbolism in advance of writing?

According to the hippie/organic creative process, as outlined above, clearly anything so self-conscious wouldn’t work, but I suppose there must be plenty of instances when I made overtly technical decisions quite early on.  I’m fond of saying that when I did a Creative Writing course myself I knew how to come up with ideas and get a first draft down, but was baffled when some of the other students started talking about editorial work and revising the text.  This had never really occurred to me.  So I now talk about writing ‘creatively’, then going back and looking at it ‘critically’.  I can also see that often when I’m writing I’m bound to be making those critical (ie technical) decisions even when I’m writing the first draft … eg: I can’t use that word because I used it to start the last sentence … that word’s too fancy / too plain.  So the truth is that at any point in the whole process, from having the idea to doing the hundredth rewrite, as a writer you’re always hopping back and forth and wondering about every element in the book as it is formed and some of those thoughts will be to do with technique.  But it feels like most of those ideas occur to me as I’m doing the writing.
I once did a talk to a grammar school in Nottingham.  There must have been a couple of hundred boys all sitting in this lecture theatre along with what felt like half the school’s members of staff.  I read from the book and talked a little about how I came to write it, then had a short Q+A.  Towards the end one student raised his hand and asked if I could talk a little about the animal imagery in the novel and what it stood for.  I was feeling pretty relaxed by this point and said rather flippantly that, as far as I knew, there wasn’t any animal imagery in the book at all.  As I was talking I noticed one of the teachers dropping his head into his hands.  I later heard how the whole year had been set an essay question on animal imagery in my novel.  Who knows, perhaps I did mean for different animals to represent all kinds of different things throughout the novel, but I don’t remember doing it.