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What was I doing in a basement in a Leicester hotel last night? Why, signing at least 400 copies of The New Neighbours, so today each kid at my event could go home with his or her own book! You can see me all set to go, with my shot glass of mints:




(Just a side note on The Belmont Hotel's carpet: isn't it fab?)



And now I've come home to lovely messages like this!



Every day this week at the Leicester Tigers rugby stadium, three authors will be speaking to hundreds of children, over 5,000 kids during the five days! I was lucky enough to share my day with lovely authors Bali Rai (a Leicester local) and Sam Hay:



Here's the picture book Sam featured, illustrated by Daron Parton. If you or your kids like my Dinosaur Police and upcoming Dinosaur Firefighters, Sam and Daron's Dinosaurs United might be just the book for you!



I had a peek over on Bali's website, and he's recently launched this book, Tales from India, which looks intriguing.

Bali Rai

So what did we get up to? For the first half of the events, I stood on stage and read out The New Neighbours to them (in a boisterous, interactive way) and talked a little bit about how I go about finding inspiration for books and how I make them. For the second part, the kids sat around tables in more of a workshop format; I drew on a visualiser and led them through creating their own tower block, to inspire new stories in a similar way to how I came up with The New Neighbours.



I started by teaching them how to draw the bunnies from my story, in the window on the top floor. Then they thought about what bunnies might have in their flat, and furnished it. Then we turned the bottom floor into a soil-filled flat full of earthworms (how would earthworms live?), a first floor aquarium flat, then they came up with the new neigbours for the second floor. (This child appears to have chosen unicorn inhabitants!)

If you'd like to try this yourself, you can download the sheet off my website, and if you're using it in a class, you could line up the flats side by side on a display board, to make a long row of terraced housing that the children have created. I hope some of the kids go back and colour them; there were some great ideas.



The concept behind Leicester Author Week is a great one: Leicester was having a problem with its kids not reading, and many of them not having books at home that they could read. In setting up Leicester 'Whatver It Takes', they ensured thousands of kids would go home with their own books, inspired by the people who had created them. It's great for the kids, some of whom might not be able to afford books. And it's great support for us authors because we go, not having to wonder if we'll only sell two books (because teachers have forgotten to tell parents or children haven't brought money). Nope, every kids gets a book!



One of the highlights of my day was watching this guy in action, Daniel Routledge. He hosted my events, entertaining the children as they came in from and went out to their buses, with jokes, and songs, and general jolliness that made the whole day more fun. He must be absolutely exhausted now, but wow - if any festival organisers are looking for a children's book event compere or moderator, this guy's the one you want to hire.



Huge thanks to the schools who came along, and to Nicole Dishington and the whole Leicester WiT team who made the day run so smoothly: you were fabulous! (Click on this link if you want to see blog posts from Leicester Authors in years past.) And you can follow this week's events on the #AuthorWeek Twitter hash tag and at @LeicesterWiT.

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Sarah McIntyre

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