Ahead of this Saturday’s UKLA National Conference at Horfield CofE Primary in Bristol, we caught up with award winning Author Fleur Hitchcock, to talk about her inspiration, working with schools and her future plans.
1. Tell us a little bit about who you are and your career as a children’s author
I’ve been writing for children since 2010 when I completed an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa. Before that I ran shops and galleries, worked in the theatre, as a dinner lady, as a gardener, and helped my husband, a toymaker. In 2012, my first book for children, SHRUNK, was published, and within six months, Dear Scarlett was published. Both were successful, with Dear Scarlett making the Bookbuzz selection for 2013, which really helped me get established. Since then I have had another ten books published.
2. Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
Everywhere. Everything I see, all the people I meet, everything I read. I spend a disproportionate amount of time asking people about their lives, but it’s made me a story magpie – I don’t write things down, or cut them out, I let them go into the soup of ideas and if they’re good, they’ll come out as something I can work with. Staring out of a few train windows usually makes the ideas bind together into something coherent, but some ideas have to wait a really long time before they find the right home.
3. We’re thrilled that you’re joining us at our conference to talk about the impact of your work as a visiting author. For those people who can’t make it, can you give us a flavour of what you’re speaking about – what is a visiting author and what impact do you have?
I’ll share my experiences of being a visiting author – I’ve visited every type of school, in every part of the country, so it’s pretty various, and I’ll share some of the anecdotal evidence I’ve picked up as a result. I’ll talk about the triumphs and the mistakes from an author’s point of view and the feedback I’ve had from teachers, librarians and children. And for a different slant, I’ll also share some of my experience as a bookseller of children’s books.
4. You interact a lot with teachers and literacy professionals. What’s your thinking re what’s going on in schools re literacy and education?
I am massively saddened by the loss of so many school library services and school librarians. Cut backs mean that they’re an easy target. I’ve visited schools that are struggling with this, and it’s depressing. I’m also worried that public libraries are closing and that in many cases the books that children see are the few celebrity titles in their local supermarkets. It’s all horribly misguided because reading for pleasure, and reading a variety can make so much difference. But I do see things that work where perhaps there aren’t librarians. In the schools where teachers read children’s books themselves, and where they read books to children, of all ages, there is a corresponding maturity in the books the children choose for themselves. Also in the way those children talk about books. How they get those books I don’t know, and I think it’s easier for schools in cities to access services. Some small rural schools really suffer from teachers who themselves aren’t exposed to new and exciting children’s books. But it’s possible with energy from just one member of staff and with the encouragement of a head teacher to really transform the reading culture of any school.
5. What’s coming up on your own calendar over the next few months? Can we expect any more books?
It’s pretty full – I’ve a book to edit and another to write in the Clifftopper’s series, the first of which will come out in April. The Arrowhead Moor Adventure is about four cousins who come from different parts of the country to say with their wonderfully liberal grandparents in a farm near the sea. It’s old fashioned unconstrained adventure in a modern setting, aimed at 7ish, year olds. After that – perhaps another histofantasy along the lines of the Boy Who Flew.
Fleur will be giving a keynote speech and signing her wonderful books on Saturday 16 March at the UKLA National Conference. Tickets are available until 12pm on Friday 15 March. You can book here: https://ukla.org/event/