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Top writing tips & Tropical fruits with Mile Oak!

In week 3 of Adopt an Author we’re treated to a little insight into what 6L thought of Ross’ deleted scene! Ross revealed something pretty exciting too….

“…you are not ‘one of the few children to have read this draft’. You are the ONLY children to have read this draft! In fact – apart from me and my editor – you’re the only people on Earth to have read it. How weird is that?”



Here are few of examples of what they felt about the unpublished scene…

“I like the version we are reading because it’s not as depressing and it shows how she really feels. It’s sweet how Frank comforts her. The first draft – this is too depressing. No offense but I don’t like this version because it’s not as exciting and is too sad to start off a story. It wasn’t my taste and on your new version it is sad but happy as well because Frank comforts her, but in this draft all it’s trying to prove is she has no friends and no one cares about her.” (Freya S)

“In the final version I like the descriptions you’ve used – smacked, stamped, slapped, lip biting, smirking. I think maybe you should have included the draft as it is not as sad as I thought. In a way it was funny that she stacked tons of food on her plate.” (Oscar)

“It’s a bit too long. I think I prefer the actual one that’s been published because we feel more sympathy for Caitlin because she’s sobbing and Frank doesn’t know what to do. The first draft was really sad.” (Bradley)

“I liked what you did in both but personally I liked the one with Frank because Frank had no idea what to do and you have to imagine what’s happened at school.” (Lauren)

“I liked the first few sentences of the first draft but I’m glad you left the rest out. I think it was too sad and Frank being awkward was funny. I like the descriptions in the final version and how she threw the pineapple. Also when you said ‘clouds of jellyfish lapping against the side of the boat like bubble bath.” (Amelia)

6L came across a picture they were certain Ross would appreciate! Unsure of the pineapple reference?! You’ll just have to pick up Perijee and Me!


be-a-pineapple-stand-tall-wear-a-crown-and-be-17812901 2.png

Dear 6L,
I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed reading my deleted scene!
Thank you so much for your feedback on it. It’s reassuring to see that while some of you liked the scene, most people found it unnecessary and a bit sad, which is exactly why my editor told me to get rid of it! There’s an important lesson there: when you write, you need to SHOW something and not TELL it. That means rather than say “Jim was sad”, you show the reader that Jim is sad by things he says, how he acts etc. So for me, when I wanted to make it clear that Caitlin is lonely and isolated, I didn’t need to TELL the reader by giving them a whole scene that shows what she’s like around other children – instead, I can SHOW them all that in one little scene with Frank. I let the reader see what Caitlin’s like just by the way she talks and the way she describes things. It’s a tricky skill to get used to, but it makes your writing much better!
Thank you so much for your picture of a pineapple! I think it sums up Caitlin’s approach to life perfectly – who wouldn’t want to be a pineapple?
(Fascinating pineapple fact 1: pineapples don’t grow on trees – they grow as a plant that can only have one pineapple at a time! In fact they look a bit like thistles. Check it out:
Image result for pineapple tree
Fascinating pineapple fact 2: people in the 1600s and 1700s used to get their portraits painted holding pineapples to show how wealthy they were as pineapples cost so much to grow and ship over. Here’s King Charles II with one:
Image result for charles II pineapple

I think currently, pineapple facts might be our favourite kind of facts!

6L posed some more brilliant questions to Ross – he’s got some very interesting and useful answers below:

10) Where do you get some imaginative ideas for your book? (Mothakin)
To be honest, ideas tend to spring at me out of nowhere – I’ve asked other authors the same thing and they all agree! It’s very rare that I get the most important ideas first, e.g. the plot, the characters – it’ll be one little moment in the book that grabs my interest. I’ll think, “That’s odd – I wonder what happens in the book to make that scene happen?” and I’ll end up building a book around it.
A good tip: I’ve spent the last few years carrying a little notebook around with me wherever I go. The second I get an idea – usually it’s on a train or a bus – I scribble it down so I don’t forget it. SPACE TORTOISE started this way – so did my next novel, MAX & THE MILLIONS, which is out next March, and so did my next book – a book of short horror stories set at Christmas called CHRISTMAS DINNER OF SOULS!

11) Have you experienced a storm like in the books? (Caitlin)

I am absolutely, utterly petrified of the sea, so thankfully I’ve never been on the ocean when a storm has hit! In fact I’ve only been on a boat a few times – it’s OK if it’s a big boat like a ferry as you tend to not feel the waves as much, but when you’re on a small boat even small waves are utterly terrifying! 

12) What inspired you to write a sci-fi type book? (Kayleigh and Charlie J)

I’m not sure – I always say that I’m not a big fan of sci-fi, but one of my friends (who is a BIG sci-fi fan) says that I am and I just don’t realise it!
I got the idea for PERIJEE & ME when I was walking through a park near where I teach, feeling worried because my publisher wanted me to come up with some new ideas. I saw a man lying on the ground: he was a typical London businessman, just like all the others in the park – pinstripe suit, black shoes, briefcase – but he was lying straight as a plank and flat on his face! It looked like he’d been dropped from a great height and was trying to copy everything around him in this very strange way – which got me onto thinking about him as an alien who wanted to be like a human, but didn’t know how to do it. I immediately started thinking about a girl discovering a shape-shifting alien and began making my idea – after I’d checked the businessman was OK, of course! 
I think when I came up with the idea, I didn’t want to do a sci-fi book – I just found the idea interesting. Of course, when you finish reading PERIJEE & ME, you may find there are a few unexpected surprises…
13) What is your favourite book genre? (Evelyn)

I tend to read lots of different genres – for me, it’s not so much the style of the book as the person writing it! As long as the writer catches my attention, then I don’t care if it’s a book about the history of trumpets or a novel about love. For example, I’ve never really liked Fantasy books, but I’ve always LOVED Terry Pratchett – you may know him as the writer of TRUCKERS, DIGGERS and WINGS, but he also wrote over 40 books about a place called the Discworld which were my favourite books when I was younger. They’re hilarious and beautiful and unbelievably clever!

14) What is your favourite book ever? (Alfie)

Oooooh, this is such a hard question! I don’t know if I could choose a single one – there are a handful of books that I absolutely love and recommend to everyone. For you guys, I would definitely recommend a book called HOLES by Louis Sachar. I don’t know another children’s book like it – if I could write anything as good as this I’d be a very happy man! Read the blurb and see what you think:

15) Do you know anyone with Dyslexia? William

Lots! When I was at secondary school about fifteen years ago, people were beginning to realise that dyslexia was a lot more common that everyone had thought – lots of my friends were being diagnosed and up until then they’d had no idea why they had always struggled to read and write at the same speed as everyone else. There was a big change in how people talked about it – my friends finally realised they weren’t “stupid” or “slow”, they just needed a few tricks and tools to help them get their work done.
As a teacher, I work with a lot of children who have dyslexia too – one of the nicest things I’ve seen change since I was a child is that it’s no longer seen as a child having a “problem”, which is what it used to be like. Now the children I teach are aware that they need a little more help and take charge of it themselves – asking if they can sit closer to the board, sounding out words and using spellcheck on the computer to help them out etc. The only problem is when children like Caitlin are undiagnosed and have no help in place to let them do the best they can, which seems hugely unfair. There are many famous and highly successful people who are dyslexic, including Albert Einstein – here’s a small list of just a few!
Until next time Mile Oak, when we’ll see 6L’s super storyboards that they’ve all been working so hard on!
Team AAA x

Creepy Critters at Goldstone

Inspired by the Creature that appears in Guy Bass’ Stitch Head, the Goldstone crew have been busy creating their very own critters this week…. Oliver from Year 3 took some time to share some thoughts with their adopted author…

Hi, I’m Oliver.

I think your story is awesome. I particularly liked it when the Creature hugged Stitch Head so hard that he couldn’t breathe. My class think The Creature is really funny when he gets so over-excited.

We have enjoyed your creature challenge and are sending you a sample of our creativity.

Look forward to your next reply.



We’re pretty freaked out by some of their creations below!

The creature stopped as seventeen monsters crept out of the shadows and stared at the creature. One of the monsters had razor sharp thorns around its head, two spikey chain saws coming from its hips, a dragon spiked tail, and it sounded like a lion’s growl.


The creature was startled as a strange, rounded shaped slobbery creature emerged from the gloomy shadows and slowly stepped towards the corner of the moonlit corridor. As the creature’s slimy, damp wings lit up in the dark, its grey antennae on its head shot out electric waves. She shivered as she shuffled towards the other creatures and Stitch Head.


The creature paused wearily, its ears twitched. Then there was an ear splitting screech. Suddenly, a blockish shape appeared from the pitch black shadows. First huge tentacles with about a million suckers, then an enormous fiery red eye emerged from the shadows into the moonlit hall, which was riddled with ugly monsters. The fiery eye bulged like it was about to pop out with an explosion. The tentacles made a hissing noise as the creature shed black goo as it went.

“Run!” screamed the Creature. “Monster!”


Stitch Head froze as he heard an enormous rare echoing through the castle. Suddenly he saw a disgusting looking creature lashing out towards him. It was a reindeer headed monkey with repulsive, hairy spider legs. It spat out a ball of slimy hair and took its eyes out so tentacles came out and wrapped them around Stitch Head. He screamed as the creature opened its enormous mouth and did a mighty roar. “Please don’t eat me,” muttered Stitch Head.


Stitch Head froze as he heard a huge thump coming from the corridor. Suddenly Stitch Head saw a weird shaped creature racing towards him. Stitch Head fell as it slithered over to him with its spider legs.

It was a weird, slimy and thin creature, with repulsive hairy spider legs with a soggy brain. It gurgled and spat as it made its way through the corridors.


Stitch Head became petrified when he saw a spectacular beast approach him. It had a twirled mouse-like tail, the size of a personalised 12 inch rope and millions of mites that looked like they would explode and an MS tattoo on his hip which had a crack through and finally a bull-shaped head. It gurgled and splattered some boogies from its abomination of a nose. Stitch Head ran to the door and looked up and screamed so loud that the chandelier broke and smashed as it hit the floor. The bull-mite-mouse-thing slapped him on the cheek. Stitch Head reached desperately for the door as the creature started to strangle him…

Rory P

From the ceiling of the hallway, an unfamiliar lion like creature emerged from the shadows. It had two huge glaring eyes on each leg, arm and body parts. As it slobbered its poisonous blood, it grew like nothing they had seen before.


From the corner of the attic, a huge wolf like shadow slowly crept out. It had triangular pointed ears, pointed teeth that were so sharp they would take a finger off in one bite, and its legs were as thin as pipe cleaners. It growled like a tiger and dripped green, slimy acid from its mouth.


From behind an old box, out came an invention that the professor Erasmus had made a year ago. It had one bunny ear and one mouse ear that looked rather odd. It was a short, little stubby rabbit, carrying a carrot and its eyes shone in the moonlight like two glass balls. It was short like a mouse and as white as the moon.


Well done Year 3 – thanks for the brilliant work! – although this blog post should probably have come with a warning – I hope we don’t suffer from any NIGHTMARES – I think the Bull-Mite-Mouse-Thing might haunt me in my sleep!


Hello 2017 Adopt an Author!

DRUM ROLL PLEEEEEEEASE!! We are thrilled to announce 2017’s amazing authors and the curious classes who will be adopting them for 8 weeks in our wonderful Adopt An Author project!

We are delighted to invite back the marvellous Ross Montgomery and Rob Lloyd Jones with their fantastic tales Perijee and Me and Wild Boy and are so excited to introduce the terrific Ali Sparks and Guy Bass with their fabulous books, Dark Summer and Stitch Head to the fold.

Primary classes from Carden, St Luke’s, Mile Oak and Goldstone will be corresponding with their paired writers, sharing thoughts on the book and making intriguing discoveries about the creative process. Pupils will be posing questions to the authors such as – ‘what encouraged you to be a writer?’ and ‘if you were stranded on a desert island and only had two historical people for company who would you choose and why?*’ – I bet that one’s got you thinking!

Adopt an Author is a really special programme promoting literacy and encouraging creative writing and illustrating. Running for 15 years by us as a Brighton Festival project, the feedback we’ve received from students, schools and parents has been incredible and inspiring.

Please check back for updates on what is going to be a very exciting Adopt An Author 2017!

*for the record – Joan of Arc and William Shakespeare (Marina)

Searching, Searching…


Adopt an Author will be back for 2017 and we are looking for classes to get involved.

Check out our video below for more information about the project and what we try to do…

In past years, we have had some amazing authors take part – A F Harrold, Ross Montgomery, Sarah Lean, Marcia Williams and Rob Lloyd Jones to name a few. With just eight weeks of correspondence with their respective classes, sending out writing or drawing tasks, answering questions and setting simples tasks to trigger the boundary-less imaginations of young people. Each author has put their own stamp on the project with wonderful results, our evaluations of each class reported that 85% children improved their own writing skills after talking to a real author and that a huge 75% of children felt inspired by the project to write their own stories!

This success has spurred us on to continue this project with great passion and determination to engage more classes and more young people with great published authors and illustrators who can inspire them to be creative in so many ways.

If you are a teacher, or a parent who can pass this on to a school to take part, please do! All you need to do is drop us a line at and we can organise the rest!

The AAA team x

Adopt an Author Parties 2016

This year was a fantastic project and we had a great end to a fabulous ten weeks. Each class was so good and seemed to be thrilled to meet each of their authors. We had a Rock n  Roll welcome to Gary Northfield, some clever quizzing team work with Marcia Williams, an *excellent* role play with Sarah Lean and a fascinating talk of the Mariana Trench with Ross Montgomery.

We’d like to thank all our wonderful schools, teachers and assistants who signed up to the project and each person in every class that took part at school and to those that were able to come and meet their author! We hope you had as much of a great time as we had seeing you all get stuck in!

The AAA team x


Hello 2016!


Adopt an Author will be back for 2016 and this year is better than ever! Stay tuned for more news…

6L’s final email to Marcia!

So sad! 6L at Mile Oak have just sent off their last email to Marcia!

Hi Marcia,

How sad this is our last week e-mailing you 😦 We haven’t quite finished all of the second book but we will have by the time we meet you.

We also LOVE the website and the children wanted me to send you on some of their comments about this.

We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday and showing you our scrapbooks!

from 6L

Till next week folks and the ADOPT AN AUTHOR PARTY!

Imagining animals and what they get up to

This post is going back a little, back to when the gang at Carden Primary were talking to AF Harrold about animals in the circus. They have sent their author some wonderful bits of writing, imagining ‘If they woke up as an animal…’ and its some truly fantastic stuff!

carden 1 carden 2 carden 3 carden 4 carden 5 carden 8 carden 9carden 10

Well done Carden, they were so good!

Mile Oak’s gone viral!!!

WOW guys and gals! Your author, Marcia Williams has done an amazing thing and posted some of your fantastic photos and work on her very own website!

Have a look HERE


My personal favourite picture is the one above!

Well done all of you! You’ve clearly impressed Marcia so much!

‘That Carden gang are odd aren’t they?’

AF Harrold is back and he’s pretty impressed to find little nuggets of ‘oddness’ in the Carden clan…

Dear people of Brighton.

Gosh, some of you are odd, aren’t you?

We had a very wide range of intriguing, interesting and bonkers unreal and non-existent books in last week’s homework.

Among my favourite titles were: How to Put On Pants (For Nudists); The Boy Who Let Two Old People Try to Get A Library [Card?] for Him But Then They Kidnapped Him, by Fizzlebert Stump (I liked the idea that Fizz might have written his own account of his adventure, in which you’d really find out what happened, without having to trust me to tell you the truth); The Blue Dinner Plate (although some of the other titles might seem weirder, I think this is probably actually the weirdest title I got sent, I love it).

The Blue Dinner Plate really intrigues me – I think the idea that the middle bit of the book’s the best because that’s when the blue dinner plate finds a friend makes me want to read the book. I never even realised that a plate might want to find some friends, but of course now I think about it plates usually come in families – you usually have four or six or more plates with the same design in the cupboard (and a posh set that only ever come out on special occasions). Maybe the blue dinner plate is the last one of a set, all on its own… You see just the title and that one bit of information in the review has got me thinking and that’s a good thing. Also, the idea that ‘at the end of the book everything goes wrong’ is an interesting one. Usually at the end of a book everything has come right, the baddies are punished and the goodies are safe or free or happy again, but it sounds like this book is just the beginning of the blue dinner plate’s adventures – it ends all wrong here, so maybe in the next book the plate gets to put things right… I wonder…?

Some of the books were a bit disturbing, like the tale of Zig Zog the Alien, who is warned by his parents to never leave the crater or he’ll be caught by the horrible spaceman, but of course (like any child in a story told not to do something) he does, and he gets caught by the spaceman and put in a cage and killed. I’m sure there’s more to it than that when you read the actual book, you probably find out why the spaceman’s doing what he does and how Zig Zog tries to escape before meeting his grisly fate… but that’s the thing about reviews, they can’t tell you the whole story, but just enough to make you want to pick up the book. I’m very pleased that the Nillab was so involved with the story that when Zig Zog got caught it made her cry – that’s the sign of a good book, isn’t it?

Another book that sounds like a good book, was The Lonely Girl, which, although it’s not the funniest or most exciting title, sounds like a book with a lot of heart in it and real story that would pull you in. It’s about a girl, Katie, who runs away from home because she thinks no one likes her – and I’m sure we’ve all felt like that sometimes. I know when I was your age I certainly did, and sometimes pretended to run away (although I never actually did). When Katie runs away she has an adventure, and although we’re not told what happens it’s making me worry for her. I Hope it turns out okay for her. Apparently the ending is a bit disappointing, but we’re not told why.

This was quite common in these reviews – a lot of people found the endings disappointing, but very few people told me just why that was… was it because they didn’t make sense, or they were sad when they should have been happy, or did it feel like the author cheated somehow, or was the last page missing when you borrowed the book from the library? It would have been nice to know!


One of the other things I liked about these reviews was the range of people you recommended the books to – not just kids aged 10-12 or 7 up, but to comedians and fire fighters and plumbers and people with vivid imaginations…


There was a lot in these reviews that made me laugh. Thank you for that.

Well done guys! It’s made us want to read all the reviews too! But there is no rest for our budding writers, the next task has been set!


This week I’d like you to imagine you’ve been kidnapped by some old people and made to clean their house.

I want you to write a little thing sort of like a poem that begins, ‘In the rotten cupboard I found…’

I’d like you to surprise me with a list of the odd and unusual things you found there.

I’d like you to think about how a poem-type-thing might look on the page. It doesn’t just go to the end of the line and start on the next, does it? Each object in the cupboard might have a line of its own, perhaps?

And do you want to say, ‘In the rotten cupboard I found…’ before each object? Or do you just want to say it once at the beginning? Or do you want to say it a few times, maybe every three or four items? (That would be a refrain, in poetry terms.)

And when you say you found some sausages I don’t want you to say ‘I found some sausages,’ I want some more details – ‘some stinky sausages’ or ‘some sausages made from squirrels and stoats’ or ‘some sausages shaped like mouldy bananas’.

Maybe try thinking about using your senses – so ‘some sausages that smelt like the juice from a bin’ or more metaphorically, ‘some sausages that smelt like sadness’ or ‘sausages that sounded like a disappointed clown’.

If you’d rather find nice things, wonderful things instead of nasty, mouldy things, you might write a ‘In the magical cupboard I found…’ poem-thing instead…

Or you might want to use a different word instead of ‘rotten’ or ‘magical’ – you might pick your own word – if you’re repeating the line you might want a different word each time (a set of rotten words or a set of magical words).

How many things are you going to find as you rummage in the horrible cupboard? Six, ten, fifteen? I don’t know. See how you get on.

And think about the poems you’ve seen and the poems you’ve read when you write it down – look at how they look on the page and try to make your writing look poem-ish.

There’s a fun little challenge for you.
Good luck and enjoy describing your horrible surprises.




Until next time….