In the past Mike has appeared at…take a deep breath….Borders Book Festival, BiG Dog Book Festival (Dumfries), Islay Book Festival, Imprint Book Festival (North Ayrshire), Craigmillar Book Festival, Wee Write (Glasgow) Children’s Book Festival, Shrewsbury Book Festival, Stirling Book Festival, West Lothian Schools Festival (Linlithgow), Wigtown Book Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival… Phew! Mike has also appeared at many schools, sometimes doing sessions with all classes in the school using the formats described below. He has also done events in or linked with museums including the National Museum of Scotland and Gairloch Museum.
Mike is available for school sessions, book festivals, other events, workshops and residencies offering options of readings, running group sessions to create stories, and exploring the process of writing to suit the particular interest of the audience or the aim of the event.
Most recently Mike has been running events with children such as:
Nursery, P1-P3 – ‘Rhyming and Scots Words’: using Mike’s picture books ‘Thistle Street’, ‘Thistle Sands’ and ‘Thistle Games’, this session introduces children to commonly used Scots words like fankle, stushie and shoogle. Mike shows how Thistle Street’s scenes emerged simply by finding rhymes for these Scots words and gets the children rhyming words and creating their own story ideas. With a suitcase of things for a day at the beach, ‘Thistle Sands’ is also used to introduce even more words including the all-time children’s favourite, bahookie! This session works successfully with P1s to P3s, and can fit particularly well with schools’ Scots-themed activities. It can also be cut down to provide a short session for nursery aged children. Some schools have used ‘Thistle Games’ as part of a Games and Gatherings topic and a session can be based solely on this book if that is helpful.
Nursery, P1-P3 – ‘The Giant Who Snored‘: the town’s friendly giant is causing chaos with his snoring. Who can wake him up? In this fun session, Mike reads his picture book ‘The Giant Who Snored’, brings out the world’s only ‘Snore-ometer’ which shows how loudly different creatures snore, gets the group singing two catchy songs and having fun with rhymes and tongue-twisters, and reveals a suitcase of crazy props which might just wake up a snorer. Great imaginative fun for children in P1-P3 or a shorter session for nursery groups.
P3-P4 (and P5) – ‘Mysteries in Museums’: mysteries in museums come in all shapes and sizes…Romans, Vikings, Egyptians, dinosaurs amongst many others. Mike introduces the Museum Mystery Squad, their underground HQ and the cases they have to solve. With options including anagrams, alliteration, research experiments and story-creating from the group’s own choice of museum object it’s a fun way to find out how a whole series of books has been created from a building and some objects. But be warned…this session features some very bad jokes!
P5-7 – ‘Mysteries on Your Doorstep’: using his experience of writing the Museum Mystery Squad, ‘Catscape’ and ‘Grimm’, Mike takes children through the process of how writers write, and how a blank page can become a finished book. He looks at genres and influences, where ideas come from, and how a story can grow from the simplest idea which could be right in front of you. Mike gives the children elements of his own novels to explore their own ideas, and then reads the real thing; this shows the children how similar their thoughts are to those which have been published – a real encouragement for budding writers as well as for those who think they have no ideas and that writing is boring !
‘Write a Story in 60 Minutes’: a highly interactive session with an audience or a class of children where the group creates a story out of nothing as the clock ticks a countdown as the timer goes off! By the end of the hour there is a beginning, middle and end, a plot, characters and descriptions….and a lot of scribbles on big bits of paper. Mike then writes all of the children’s ideas into the story and they get their author-written story of their ideas 24 hours later. They can then continue in the weeks to follow with lots of related projects and the session links really well with Curriculum for Excellence Literacy Outcomes. This session has worked successfully with P4s to P7s. As one P5 teacher said, “I got four weeks work out of that session!”
Workshops and Residencies: Mike was ‘Author in Residence’ for Towerbank Primary School, Portobello, Edinburgh for the autumn term of 2019, working with children to encourage reading, writing and use of the new school library.
In spring 2019 Mike worked over six weeks with a small group of children at Trinity Primary School, to develop their confidence and skills in writing.
Summer 2018 saw the sixth year of the Storytelling Week at The Haven Project, Circle Scotland in Muirhouse, where Mike worked with local families over a week to develop a story based on a walk they do together on the first day. By the end of the week the families have produced an illustrated story and it gets a public performance. Later in the year it is turned into, and launched as a book during BookWeekScotland.
In 2017 Mike worked with four primary schools in Cumbernauld as part of Edinburgh International Book Festival’s ‘Booked’ Outreach Programme, producing four stories with P5 and 6 classes which tied into Cumbernauld’s history and development. The culmination of this work saw the stories displayed in the town centre during the ReImagination Book Festival.
These examples all show how children can write fantastic stories using their knowledge of their own locality past and present.