I have done author visits in schools all over England and West Africa, from Dagenham to Dakar and from pre-kindergarten to A-level. I love talking with young people about the writer’s craft and helping them to develop their ideas into workable stories. I am based in London but willing to travel.
Here are some examples of the talks and workshops I do in schools. All of these sessions can be adapted to the particular needs and goals of any class.
- How to write an exciting adventure story – This talk deals with characterization, story arc and suspense, and contains many practical tips for students’ own adventure stories, such as this age-old advice: ‘Chase your character up a tree and then throw stones at him!’ I have also given this talk in the form of a workshop, with students working on the bones of a story during the session. Here is a blog post about my Year 7 writing workshop on How to Write a Thriller
- Where to find ideas and how to develop them into stories. ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a question all authors get asked. ‘From the Ideas Shop on the High Street’ is the short jokey reply. This session is the long (and sometimes serious) reply. Very interactive.
- Creating believable characters. Teachers and students alike enjoy this one. We start off by talking about Severus Snape and why he is such a well-conceived character. Then we look at projected pictures of children from around the world and stop at the one the class chooses. Right there, using collaborative storytelling techniques, we make up a story on the fly. This session is high impact, high adrenalin, and invaluable in proving to students that plot flows from character (and not the other way around).
- Research. When we need a piece of information or a splash of background colour for our stories, we have to go and GRAB IT. This fun talk looks at different ways of doing research (Google, Reference Books, Ask an Expert, Blogs, Imagine, Travel/Try it), illustrated by anecdotes from my own writing process. Read what Emily and Richa, two Year 9 students, had to say about my Research workshops at St Helen’s School in Northwood.
- Travel writing (talk or workshop). In 2003 I was named ‘Travel Writer of the Year’ by the magazine Africa Geographic, and in the intervening ten years I have continued to publish travel features in many magazines and newspapers. Travel writing was my first love, and I enjoy talking with students about how to squeeze the juice out of a place or memory. A fun and interactive session.
- Using your experiences in Africa as a basis for writing fiction (talk or workshop) – I have taught this class in several International Schools in Africa, but the content can easily be tweaked for British students. ‘Using your experiences as a basis for writing fiction’ gets students thinking about people they know, places they love and experiences that have moved them – and about how to fictionalize their experiences for maximum effect.
- What makes a great picture book and how to write one. This works with young people of all ages. This is not a reading, it is a ‘how to’ lesson, looking at the nuts and bolts of picture book creation.
I am currently developing a new session based on Christopher Booker’s wonderful book The Seven Basic Plots. The class looks at why humans tell each other stories and identifies common strands that draw our stories together. What does Jaws have in common with Beowulf? What does the Epic of Gilgamesh have in common with Star Wars? We then break into seven groups. Each group is allocated one of the seven basic plots, and works on constructing a story around that plot. Fantastic practice for analyzing and building stories.
I charge standard Society of Authors rates: £350 for a full day (four sessions, up to an hour each), £250 for a half day (two sessions) and £150 for a single session.
I have been getting feedback from the students, and they really enjoyed the morning. One of them told me (unbidden) that he had learnt about the importance of creating a good character and thought it would greatly increase his fiction writing skills!
Margaret Taylor, Librarian, Henry Cort Community College, Fareham (26 November 2012)
Stephen came to talk to Year 4 about his life in Burkina Faso, which is the source of inspiration for his books. Year 4 were enthralled, learning (amongst other things) how to wind a turban and how to meet and greet in the local language. An inspirational speaker, Stephen held all sixty children in the palm of his hand – not to mention the staff as well.
Cluny Paget, Librarian, Highfield School, Hampshire (June 25, 2010)
Hi Steve. Thanks for all your hard work on Monday – We were all hugely impressed by your ability to engage the students. I have had nothing but really positive feedback. The students have talked about it ever since.
Sue Moody, Librarian, Mountbatten School, Romsey (28 May 2012)
Your enthusiasm and encouragement for the students was amazing. They are all busy creating adventure stories and are inspired to read more because of you.
Billie-Jean Clark, English teacher, Buttershaw College, Bradford (12 September 2012)
Stephen Davies came to our class to talk to us and we were blown away. This was the first time we actually thought of writing as a fun thing to do. He gave us some background info on some of his books. Imagine hearing how a character in a book you read was made! He made writing seem natural and “cool”. I think many of us are thinking about writing as a hobby now. I certainly am.
Mahima Kumar, Year 10 student, International School of Dakar (February 17, 2012)
We had the wonderful privilege of having a visit from Stephen Davies last month. Mr Davies knows what he’s writing about as he lives in our same setting. I would thoroughly recommend his books and if anyone would have the chance to have him visit their school, he made a huge impact in just a short time! Thank you Steve!
Cathy Bliss, librarian at Sahel Academy, an International Christian School in Niamey, Niger.
Contact me to ask questions or to book a visit to your school.