"Candy was one of the best authors that we've ever seen. She never stopped talking." Plus: How not to take photos of children

By Candy Gourlay

 One of the best compliments I've ever received after a school visit!

Also loved this one saying that my Powerpoint was "well finished".
These were written by young people from St Mary's Primary School after I visited St Mary's and Middle Barton Primary School  as part of the Chiplitfest Schools Programme.

A few of the children's authors and ChipLitFest organisers: (Front) Jo Cotterill, Tamsyn Murray, Cas Lester, teacher Millie Weaver. (Back row)  Bali Rai, Adam Guillain, Charlotte Guillain, Candy Gourlay, John Dougherty, Chiplitfest blogger Phoebe and SF Said.
Hello, my dear, neglected blog readers!

I've been meeting plenty of my lovely young readers these past few months (as in: doing a lot of school visits). Boy, I had no idea that school visits are such a huge part of the job.

National Union of Teachers'
Reading 4 Pleasure pamphlet
Sure, it's an undisputed fact that meeting real live authors is a fantastic way to engage children with reading (Check out this great National Union of Teachers booklet on Reading for Pleasure).

But let's be clear: the benefits are not just for the child reader but for the author as well. Because ...

I get ENORMOUS pleasure out of meeting young readers. 

You see, one of the reasons I'm a writer for children is because ... I like them. A lot.

My favourite school visits are the ones in which I get some time to just hang out with young people - over lunch or just chatting in the library.

Now I really, really wish I could share some of the fabulous photos I've got of children I've had the privilege to meet but usually I cannot put photos of children on my blog because schools here in the UK have strict rules about photo permissions.

As a result, I have to resort to these work-arounds:

1. Posing with the teachers and librarians instead of the children ...

With my fabulous librarian hosts (left to right) Annette, Priti and Lauren of East Barnet School (author pals, if you want a great author visit experience, you need look no further than East Barnet School)

2. Taking photos of the backs of the children's heads

My very appreciative audience at East Barnet School

3. Literally covering the children's faces!

The children of Wheeler's Lane Primary School in Birmingham show off their work while keeping their identities secret. Thanks to their teacher Simon Haskew for suggesting a photo session and then taking the shot!

4. Posting artwork the children have created about my books

Children from a Canvey Island school re-imagined the cover of Tall Story as part of the Pop Up Schools Programme 

5. Posing with the bookseller or any other adults available

Posing with Jaffe and Neal bookseller Ed and Chiplitfest volunteer Jenny, who accompanied me everywhere

6. Taking photos of interesting things in the school

I LOVE this beautiful display made by librarian Amparo at the library of Ashmole Academy in North London

At Ashmole, Amparo encouraged the children to write stories. She then printed them out in booklets that she catalogued and lent out!

Another cool Amparo idea was to create a leaflet about me that she distributed to the children so that I wasn't a stranger when I came to visit

And this was the lunch tray waiting for me in the faculty lounge. Thank you, Amparo!

7. Taking photos of authors misbehaving

Author Kathryn Evans (More of Me) masquerading as Jeff Norton (Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie) at the Chichester Lit Quiz

... then challenging Jamie Thomson (Dark Lord) to a sword fight in the car park

Jamie trying to scoop out the eye of a librarian (I'm sure he was kidding. Maybe.)

8. Taking photos of my socks

(The photos above make it look like I change my socks more than I change outfits!)

9. Posing with stuffed animals

With the Library Cats of Linton Village College at the Linton Children's Book Festival in Cambridge. Photo by librarian Ruth Keys

10. Asking people to tag me when they take pics of me with their children

Of course, I absolutely understand the need to be careful about publishing children's photos and I do my best to talk to the schools about photo permissions and carefully follow the rules about what can and cannot be published on my blog.

The rules are not the same in other countries of course. So once in a while, when I'm speaking in schools abroad, the rules do permit me to post photos of my young audiences.


Going wild with Grade 4s and 5s of GEMS New Millennium International School in Dubai earlier this May.

Thank you to all you schools, festivals, teachers, librarians and teachers I've visited so far this year. You are the reason why I love my job.

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