I attend a special concert, and am streamed live across Cambridgeshire!

Last week was another exciting one (this one is due to be VERY BORING, phew!) and the excitement kicked off on Tuesday when I attended a concert at my patron of reading school, Didcot Girls’, because the Y8 choir was performing my brand new song Happy Face, written specially for my new book Jelly. The song is about putting on a happy face even when you don’t feel happy on the inside, which is what my main character does a lot of the time. I was really touched that the head of music, Mr Dingley, chose my song for his choir! And they sang it very nicely indeed 🙂 so many thanks to all involved!

This made me smile, because the song is credited to three songwriters – and two of them are my fictional characters!

On Wednesday, I drove to Cambridge for possibly my most daunting event so far – The Big Read and Write, which took place in Lady Mitchell Hall. Over 200 Y5 children from local schools came along, and the event was also live-streamed via YouTube to any schools who’d signed up to watch!

I’m very used to doing events, from small to large, and in all kinds of venues, but I was more nervous than usual this time, not only because it was being broadcast (and recorded) but also because I was there on behalf of the wonderful EmpathyLab. Last year I did an event for EmpathyLab at the Hay Festival which was a LOT of fun, and so I’d been asked along by the Cambridge Big Read and Write people to do something similar, only focusing on A Library of Lemons instead of A Storm of Strawberries. Of course, this called for a different outfit!

I needn’t have been that nervous as it turned out because the audience was wonderful and the whole event was hugely enjoyable.

Classic Jo expression there

I did some participation activities designed to demonstrate how empathy works and why we need it, and also how to use it in your writing to create more realistic characters. At the end, the children were asked to fill in feedback forms – eek! One of the sections demanded they ‘Tell us what you learnt’ and I said it was absolutely fine if they wanted to write ‘Nothing!’ To my delight, this particular respondent felt strongly enough to write the opposite…

I was really thrilled that the day went so well, and if you’d like to see it for yourself, the event is now available publicly on YouTube. Sometimes people ask what I do in my events – here’s your opportunity to see this one for yourself! And if any teachers or fellow authors are looking for empathy-based activities, feel free to pilfer the ones I’ve used here 🙂 (Skip to 30mins in which is when it actually starts!)

Many thanks to all at The Big Read And Write, especially Suzie Young, and to all at EmpathyLab, especially Craig and Miranda, for suggesting me for this wonderful event.

Addendum: On Thursday, I spent the day at Icknield Community College working with students from Y7 and nearby Watlington Primary‘s Y6. It was challenging but rewarding, and I’ve just received this wonderful email from the school librarian: “Thank you so much for a fantastic day on Thursday. The students got so much from your talk and the creative writing workshops, I hope that you can return in the future.”

2018 Icknield Community College

That’s pretty much the nicest feedback anyone can give me. I’m so lucky to be able to do this crazy job!

And if anyone’s wondering, I spend most of Friday and all of Saturday lying on the sofa at home, completely wiped out 😉 But it was worth it!


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