Mike has recently appeared at…take a deep breath….Edinburgh International Book Festival, Outwith Festival (Dunfermline), Borders Book Festival, Big DoG Children’s Book Festival (Dumfries), West Lothian Schools Festival (Linlithgow), Off the Page Festival (Stirling) and is about to appear at Bookmark Festival (Blairgowrie), Falkirk Storytelling Festival and Wigtown Book Festival. Phew!
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.
‘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 ! This session has worked most successfully with P4s to P7s.
‘Rhyming and Scots Words’: using Mike’s picture books ‘Thistle Street’, ‘Thistle Sands’ and ‘Thistle Games’, this session introduces children to rhyme and to how simply rhyming words together, can produce strong images and story ideas. The session introduces commonly used Scots words like fankle, stushie and shoogle and Mike shows how Thistle Street’s scenes emerged simply by finding rhymes for these Scots words. With a suitcase of things for 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.
‘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: Summer 2017 saw the fifth year of the Storytelling Week at The Haven Project, Circle Scotland in Muirhouse, where Mike works 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 in May 2017.