Tag Archives: Able Writers

Cornwall Tour

In Cornwall I will be working with six schools. One of the days is for Able Writers, when I am teaching Persuasive Writing through poetry. The others are working with the University of Famouth, doing a really fascinating project with the art department inspired by The Lightfoot Letters collaboration with Maria Walker. on 12 March, I will visit the university and work with a year 9 group. After a presentation and reading, I will work with half the group to write some poems based on memories while the other half collage, swapping over and repeating the writing workshop with the other half of the group. It has been really interesting planning this work as I am also making some links to the set poems they will be studying for GCSE next year. I am also doing four outreach workshops for them with different ages, all on a theme of the environment, and again leading to collage.

I haven’t been to Cornwall for a very long time, and I am hoping the weather will be a lot more spring-like down there. I will be doing a reading at an Arts Centre in St Ives on Thursday 14 March, and going to Penelope Shuttle’s book launch in Falmouth on 16th March. After all this excitement I will need the week’s holiday we have booked! I am very excited to see Rupert Loydell again as we have not met since 1997!

Hopefully some sightseeing will happen and some poems will get themselves written too. If anyone has any recommendations of what to do in and around Falmouth, do let me know.



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Season School, another group poem by children

A Group Poem written by Able Writers from years 3 &4 on 27th March 2012 at the host school, Pudsey Lowtown, in Leeds.

Season School

In spring we make cards for Mothers’ Day, plant

lots of different flower seeds and hatch cute baby chicks.

Painting eggs in bright colours and making scenes

are fun art competitions to celebrate Easter.

In summer, the playground is our dining room.

We drink lots of water and wear sunhats and sun cream.

Playing on the field is a hot weather treat. On Sports Day

We run races amongst daisies and dandelions.

In autumn, we jump into crunchy leaves, make pictures

with their red, green, gold and brown shapes.

We make Hallowe’en cards and dance in fancy-dress discos,

watched over by bare skeleton trees.

In winter, we wear wellies, hats, scarves and gloves

to stop fingers freezing. Our breath is frosty. We enjoy

hot dinners and carol concerts, snowball fights and icy slides.

Evenings and mornings are dark but there are coloured lights.

Bare trees have diamonds on their branches.

Christmas comes and goes, spring is nearly here.

That is the wonder of our school year.

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Able Writers #5

Our Bad Tempered Tail Slapper

We once found a mermaid
in the cupboard under the stairs.
A tail slapper, she was.
A bad tempered mischief maker, she was.
She used to shout and grumble,
bang the old tumble drier door shut.
Once she broke the tumble drier.
I will never forget that.
She slapped her tail on the wall.
She shouted she wanted a fight.
She banged and crashed.
She drove my dad mad.
She kept us up all night.
I really want to show you her
but I’m afriad she’s gone.
Mum left her in Australia
bribed with lemon bon bons.
I don’t miss that mermaid
because now we have some peace
but she was a fun adventure
for my family.

My Bird

she is a

master of the sky

a smooth-glider

calm worm-hunter

zooming through the clouds

a silky blur

searching for dinner

gliding back

to my hand.

A chirpy feather ball

a caring mother

looking out.

My bird

master of the sky.


by Abigail Kerry
primary school

Painting by Waterhouse


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Filed under Children's Poetry, Education, poetry

Able Writers #4

I, A Tree (prose poem)


I, a tree, the lord of nature can help you live, I reward you with oxygen. All of those scientists think we give it to you without knowing, but no, we know our stuff. In fact, we are chock full of heavy knowledge. We sparkll as we rock like a baby in a cradle, gently flowing from side to side.

I, a tree, in the winter I’m nothing but a pale colour and I’m locked to the ground, just like a house, al ways there. They can’t fly

I a tree, just like you, we grow as we please from spring to summe.In the summer I play and show off my friends, my leaves!

However in the Autumn I lose my friends and I’m all lonely, I have no one to play with.

In the winter I hibernate because there is nothing to do as I wait, and wait, and wait…

By Jacob Hall year 5


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Poems from Able Writers #2


I’m a mouse murderer
a prey puncher
an awesome sky soarer.
My prey is poorer
a good shrew swallower
living in trees that are hollower.

I’m a talon tackler
a bone crackler
the best pellet producer
(but rats’ are looser)
and a skua stealer
a rat peeler.

The Sad Leprechaun

It was so good when the Celts were here
but now all’s left is one old pier.

So I moved into this hutch
but now people have ipod touch.

So now I’m all lost and sad
like Queen Maeve when she was bad.

It was 5000 years ago
so now my hopes are running low.

Poems by Joel, Primary School.


Filed under Children's Poetry, Education

Poems by Able Writers #1

Over the next few days I will be sharing some of the excellent poems written by children who came to the Able Writers Workshop I ran at a school on 8th March. The poems all appear by permission of their authors.

The Able Writers Scheme is run by the National Education Trust. Six primary schools work together to run three author days with the same (usually) group of children. The able writers then share what they have done with their own schools. This means many more children benefit. The trust has some excellent children’s authors on its list including Brian Moses, Fred Sedgwick, Jan Dean, and me. I have now completed four placements for them: each one has been different and each has been a joy.

The Fire Dragon in the Airing Cupboard

In the airing cupboard
there’s a purple fire dragon
that refuses to come out.
That’s why I store my washing
in the bath.

In the airing cupboard
there’s a purple fire dragon
that refuses to come out
and when I do my hovering
I can hear the footsteps
of the dragon.

In the airing cupboard
there’s a purple fire dragon
that refuses to come out.
And the other day
he set all my washing on fire
so I am clothesless.


My Dog

My dog is a chat chaser
a tail wagger and a bumsniffer
a quick mover, a poo-eater and a kennel hater.
He comes in and settles down to sleep
cause he is a sleep-lover.

At tea, he hears the cutlery
and pounces at me
cause he is a child lover.
I love my dog.
Bark monster wakes me,
he runs downstairs,
grabs his slipper
cause he is a slipper chewer.
My dog is a cute machine.

By Megan
Primary School.

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A Poet’s Adventures:National Poetry Day


Cover of my children's poetry book


I set off on Monday morning for the roadtrip down to Tunbridge Wells, where I would be working for the National Education Trust the following day, with Able Writers: this is teaching year 5 and 6 able children from six different schools how to write poetry, sharing tips and stimulating them, making it fun, fast and thrilling. I had spent a long time tweaking my lesson plan for the day and it went down really well.

I arrived at the host school at 9 am the next day and was immediately made to feel welcome. The teacher in charge of the pupils at the host school was a Yorkshireman and a poet, so it was like greeting an old friend – we talked the same language at any rate. I am from Cheshire, as you know (and originally Lancashire before they moved my home town across the border), but I have lots of Yorkshire friends, love Yorkshire and my oldest lass lives in Leeds.

As the kids started to arrive, I started making friends with them and soon the room was full of excited kids, their helpers and one very buzzed-up poet. I was overwhelmed by the kids’ enthusiasm and the quality of their writing as they learned about Kennings, structure, drafting, imagery and its different types, and tried things out for themselves. They were all up for sharing as well. I had started the day with a 10 minute performance of my children’s poems from The New Generation and was delighted that the children were keen to purchase signed copies and were immediately reading them over lunch. I will be doing a lot more work with Able Writers, as I am now formally on their books. Thanks to Jan Dean for suggesting I contact them, and Brian Moses for accepting me on the strength of the few poems he has seen of mine and been kind enough to anthologise.

Next booking with them is Eastbourne. Lovely way to see England, wearing poetry shoes.

Wednesday saw me driving over to Denton Library. I was two hours early and we needed every second to set up for my Titanic drama. I was delighted to have a range of people, many of them elders, to share this experience, and few of them were writers, so I like to think this workshop reached people who would not have come to a more conventional workshop.

In this drama, everyone takes on at least one role. I play Captain Smith so I can lead the drama from within. I use a few simple props and role cards which have a few details of the real life person, so the participants can build their characters. People really got into it and the two hours went by in a flash. Chris Smith emailed me some of the comments from the evaluation sheets:

An emotional experience, beautiful

Amazing, historical, fun

Thanks for organising such events – they make life more interesting

It was nice to do something together (mother and daughter)

This was an event for Pages Ago, and I am hoping some of the people who came will use their notes and responses to write a story for the Flashback Fiction competition.

I finished tidying up with the library staff by 8.30, then drove straight down to Lichfield ready for the next day. I was stopping at my nephew’s Steve Lightfoot, so it was wonderful to hang out with him and his beautiful wife and walk the kids to school the next day before setting off to Lichfield Literature  Festival offices. Soon we were whizzing over to Brownhills West Primary, where I was given a glass of water and led into a hall. 100 kids were  filing in, all smart in their school uniforms and ready to spend an hour listening to and joining in with poetry. This is the first long reading I have done with this book, as it only came out in August and September is a quiet month for schools bookings. I loved it, they loved it and the teachers enjoyed it as well. AND some books were sold. The lovely Litfest people had ordered them from my publisher so I didn’t have to do a thing except enjoy it.

Back to the George Hotel for a cuppa and a welcome pastry (I had forgotten to have any breakfast), then into a talk with Precious Williams, whose memoir has just come out, about her strange childhood in which her Nigerian mother farmed her out to a white woman whose own children had grown up. I am putting this book on my Christmas list! She is a wonderful speaker.

Lunch was followed by another school reading, in a school a little bit further out. Again the children were adorable and well behaved, enraptured by the poems and all very keen to put their hands up when I asked questions. I had a long queue of children to sign books for, and the school asked me to sign one they were buying for a school in China – what an honour for me.

Switching on my blackberry after the stint was over, I found emails from Andy Jackson about the Socttish Patchwork poem on the theme of Home, using lines from lots of poems. He had used mine as the title, and he copied an email reply to me:

Hi Andy ! On my way to Glasgow now so am sending from my magical whizzy new
> phone! Some technology I really do like. Meant to say I also love the poem
> title. It is Walt Whitman isn’t it?

It sounds like it could be, but it was the title of Angela Topping’s submission, which was too good not to use, even though she had already used it on a poem of her own (which is, in its own original guise, a thing of great beauty).

I was bowled over! What a lovely thing to say.

I also got an email from Saul Townsend to tell me ‘I Sing of Bricks’ had been selected to be on their website,   ‘The Poetry of Construction’ initiative which celebrates National Poetry Day.      (www.construction-manager.co.uk)

This thrilling day was rounded off by having tea with my favourite little family in Lichfield before driving home to my cosy house and lovely family, who by now were wondering who the hell I was!

Friday was the first night of my WEA writing course. If it is going to run we need more people, so spread the word. It is at Hartford Village Hall from 7-9 on the second Friday of the month and the next one is 12th November. We need to double our numbers by then. It is only £36, you’d pay more than that for a couple of hours on other courses, and this is 12 hours in all culminating in a book and a reading.

National Poetry Day gave me a wonderful week, and it really did feel like the whole country was reading poetry, or listening to it.

Now, this week is Wirral Bookfest – so soon I will be on the road again.

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Filed under Children's Poetry, Education, poetry, Poetry Collections, Salt, The New Generation, Writing challenges