Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Bristol Grammar School

I had a good morning at Bristol Grammar School yesterday. 130 kids.

We had a great event with 70 of them getting full marks in the football quiz I do, so I had to face 70 penalties - then 10 more - in ten minutes.

The best bit was having lunch in the Great Hall with eight girls. I was asking them about books I could read to my daughter. Very useful. Stuff on horses and ballet. They were great company and I was sorry to have to leave...

... but I had to go to the launch of the new Puffin Post in London. The magazine that lots of adults remember is back. It's really good. Lots of interviews (including one with me) and a story by Michael Morpurgo. Have a look at the Puffin Post website.

I met Chris Bradford (Young Samurai) and Maurice Gleitzman (Then). But the best bit was talking to two of the people who work in the the rights department. They try to sell Puffin books published in English to other countries. They go to big fairs in places like Germany, Italy and Russia to do it.

At the end of the party I got a goody bag - with a soft-toy Puffin in for my daughter. And a gold Puffin badge! Then I went round to my agent's house to watch a Leeds United DVD.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ghyllgrove Junior School, Basildon

Next week I'm going back to Ghyllgrove Junior School in Basildon to work with a group of children who adopted me earlier this year.

I did this thing called Adopt an Author. I worked with a group of lads, talking about reading and writing about football. Most of them were West Ham fans. But they said they liked Leeds too. We read some magazines, wrote some stories and took some penalties.

I think it's still the highlight of 2008. The day all the lads stood up in front of assembly and read their stories. They were brilliant. All of them. I'd never have been able to do that when I was their age. And their stories were great too.

So I'm going back. They're going to help me start book 5 of the Football Academy series that's out next July. Then, next month, we're off for a tour of West Ham with their parents. It should be a good laugh.

They have this brilliant teacher called Diane. She sets all these events up. And more.

Aysgarth School

Aysgarth School is in the depths of North Yorkshire. I was there yesterday, doing the Football Reading Game with about 120 lads. A lot of them were Newcastle United fans. But I was gentle with them. I don't like to see the Geordies suffer too much: especially as I am not a big fan of Dennis Wise either. (But I'd better say no more: I'm doing an event at St James Park on Saturday and I'd not like to bump into him in a lonely corridor.)

The school was down a winding country lane. A big house with a turret on top. Very nice.

After the event I drove along the valley and went to Penn Hill. I hadn't been up it for 16 years. My mum and dad's ashes are scattered up there. (Sorry to go all morbid.) It was a funny feeling. But really nice. When they died I wasn't doing so well. They'd never believe I could write books for a living. So I took them a copy and left it 1000 feet up with the sheep and the grouse and the driving rain.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Kevin Brooks and other authors

I met Kevin Brooks, author of Black Rabbit Summer, this weekend. We were sat next to each other at a library conference dinner. We talked about football and books... among other things. I liked him. Very much.

I'm also reading Black Rabbit Summer, which wasn't really a coincidence. It's an amazing book. It's hammers along, making you miss several hours of sleep in the week or so you're reading it. It also did what not many books do: made me think and behave differently to normal. My wife spotted it. She said I was being weird. But I wasn't: I was just under the influence of a great writer.

It reminded me of David Peace, my favourite author. I'm going to read a lot more Kevin Brooks books.

The conference we were at was in Lancaster. 200 librarians talking about children's books. Great. I learned a lot and met some excellent authors. Including Sophie McKenzie who writes breakneck thrillers, in both senses of the phrase. And Morris Gleitzman, a favourite of mine.

This week I will be in North Yorkshire and Newcastle. I'm looking forward to seeing my friend, the genius children's librarian, Craig Peddie, in Newcastle: to hear what he thinks about what's going on at the Newcastle United. And also to hear about the amazing work he does in the north east.

Next read: H.I.V.E. II, which I was given at the conferecne.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Croatia away

Croatia v England on Wednesday is a massive game. If we lose... our chances of getting to the World Cup finals will be much reduced. Sadly, barely any of us will be able to see it on TV.

Croatia are a bit of a nightmare team for me. I set Foul Play in the month just before the last European Championships. When I wrote the book it looked like we'd be going to Austria and Switzerland. And it looked good until Croatia scored that winner late on.

Then they scored. And while the nation was grieving our not qualifying, I had to go up to my desk and change a hundred things in Foul Play. My deadline was the next day. So I worked through the night to change the novel's setting from June 2008 to an undetermined time.

I wish I was there on Wednesday night. I've been to Zagreb and seen how fanatical they are about their football. Frankly, they make us look like a load of moaning whingers. They know how to get behind their team.

A lovely country, Croatia. My favourite place is Dubrovnik. I wrote a story about going there to remember my dad, who went there just before he died. (It's in a collection called Four Fathers, published by Yorkshire's magnificent small press, Route - www.route-online.com.)

Instead of being in Zagreb I will be in Harrogate, doing an event at a library to help launch the town's Sporting Words festival - www.sportingwords.co.uk. Worth a look on Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 October.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Leeds 5 Crewe 2

Today was going to be the first day I took my four year old to Elland Road to watch Leeds. But plans changed.

She's actually been to see Leeds once before. Burnley away, 2004. She was one. But, that day, she was far more interested in the Burnley mascot than Super Leeds. So we left at half time. (I was worried she'd become a Burnley fan.)

This morning she told me she didn't want to go because she knows we're a bit short of money. So we went to a scarecrow festival in Calderdale instead. And it was good.

When I heard we were 5-0 up I was happy. But sad. How good a start to her Elland Road life would that have been?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Booked Up books

I've been reading the other Booked Up books. Just to see what they're like.

They're good. Here's my top five so far (I've not read the other 6 yet and I can't really put mine in the list, can I?):

1st: H.I.V.E. - I've not even finished it yet and I love it, great characters, great action, great suspense

2nd: The Garbage King - very different to H.I.V.E., but really well written. Very moving. You get into the heads of two boys from a very different culture to ours. Superb.

3rd: Kiss of Death - good story, creepy and intriguing

4th: Arctic Hero - very interesting, about a man I knew nothing about

5th: Skullduggery Pleasant - great start to the novel, but not my cup of tea as I'm not into the more fantasy style stories (I am sure the author won't mind me saying so: Richard and Judy and millions of others love it)

I'll do a definitive top 11 wen I've finished them all.

Overall I've been loving reading them - all available at your local library!

Monday, 1 September 2008


Today is the first day after four months of doing events. From Newcastle to Cornwall. 117 events. Over 3000 people.

The last few days I've been in Surrey and Sussex and Southampton. (And Liverpool.) As I got to the end I was feeling more and more in need of a break.

The highlight of the tour came on the penultimate day. In Bognor Regis. A six year-old girl was grilling me on being an author. Why do I write books? Why do I only write about football? That sort of thing. Then she asked:

Do you ever get time to play?

And it made me think.

I was supposed to be spending the next ten event-free days writing the first draft of a book Puffin want to publish in October 2009. I was going to blitz it. But, when that girl asked what she asked, I decided I'd do something else. I called my editor at Puffin. I asked if I could submit the book a month later. She said Yes, of course.

So now I have time to play. Ten days. Here's what I'm going to do:

Monday: take my daughter swimming
Tuesday: take my wife swimming, then go for lunch
Wednesday: see a few mates in London
Thursday: go to see a film with my wife
Friday: go for a walk in the Lake District with the poet Craig Bradley (www.craigbradley.com if you're interested)
Saturday: take my daughter to her first home Leeds United game
Sunday: meet a friend and his daughter in the Lake District
Monday: ?
Tuesday: ?
Wednesday: ?