AUTHOR IN LOCKDOWN!

This post was written by peterjmurray on April 29th, 2020 9:44 am Comments Off on AUTHOR IN LOCKDOWN!

If there’s one good thing about this lockdown period, it’s that it’s a good time for authors to write and a good time for readers to read! Hence, I’m enjoying writing this blog entry and I hope when I’ve finished, some of you will enjoy reading it.

         Keeping fit during lockdown.

Like most people out there, my wife, Kath, and I are ‘holed-up’ in our house, but we do escape twice a week to do our shopping and I’ve been going ‘crazy’ with keeping fit and making sure that every day I take some form of exercise – running, cycling and lots of stretching for example. Just prior to the lockdown we moved into a new house and so we’ve also been able to keep busy getting things sorted out and finishing off the unpacking etc.

It won’t surprise you know that I’ve been doing lots of writing. I’ve written two short stories for grown-ups and NOT scary stories for a change!  And I’ve also written a fishing story and sent it off to the Angler’s Mail – a magazine I’ve been reading for years.  As many of my fans know, fishing is one of my favourite pastimes. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to fish at the moment, but as soon as things get back to normal I’ll be heading off to the bankside and raring to go.

…And I’ll hopefully be heading off to your schools as soon as possible to get back amongst our many fans. Kath and I have really missed you and can’t wait to entertain you again with our spooky stories. I hope lots of you have managed to take advantage of my free Kruschmeister download on my website homepage. It’s the least I can do to help keep you busy. It was also pleasing to be asked to launch a ‘Lockdown Challenge’ in the Delta Academy Trust Schools and I can’t wait to hear how pupils are getting on with it. Isn’t it great that so many people are willing to put themselves out to help in any way they can during the present crisis! They say that GOOD THINGS always show themselves when BAD THINGS happen around us and it’s so very true.

Here’s a good thing that just happened to me a few days ago and it really cheered me up! It was a totally unexpected e-mail from a student in the US. Here’s what they had to say:

I don’t know if you will read this yourself Mr. Murray, but I just wanted to say thank you. I am a 2nd year college student and your books have always been a favorite of mine. You visited my school when I was in elementary school and it was P.S. 154 in Harlem, New York and I had no idea how your books would affect me. Once I left elementary school, I no longer had access to your books which were in the library so I was upset. One thing I never did was forget how much impact you and your books had on me. I remember coming home with Mokee Joe 1, 2, & 3 and reading them and engulfing into the adventure of those books. I also read Moonwailer, Scabbajack, Dawn Demons, and Bonebreaker. I am rambling at this point, but your books made me love reading and I just wanted to thank you, I knew you came out with more books, but I never had the chance to purchase them. I am now a lot older and able to purchase them and will be doing so real soon. Thank you once again and can’t wait to read everything new.

Well how about that for an e-mail! Memories came flooding back of our times in New York. Great times and great students!

That’s all for now. I’ll be updating my blog again very soon so keep an eye on things. In the meantime, stay safe and stay busy. It won’t be long now before we’re all back together.

PJM

HIGH ELBOWS IN BRADFORD!

This post was written by peterjmurray on March 25th, 2020 6:21 pm Comments Off on HIGH ELBOWS IN BRADFORD!

Apologies for the delay in writing this blog, but as everyone knows things have been a little strange and surreal over the last week or so! I’m still not sure how we managed to finish our week visiting four wonderful Delta Academy Trust schools in and around Bradford.

Perfect base at Hewenden Mill

We chose to stay at the scenic Hewenden Mill, located at Cullingworth just five minutes from historic Howarth, once home to the Bronte family. We had the entire place to ourselves and it turned out to be a fabulous retreat at the end of a busy day.

Monday started more than well with our old friends at Whetley Academy. Years 3 and 4 enjoyed our Mokee Joe presentation in the first part of the morning, and upper KS2 took in our Poppy Warrior presentation during the hour before lunch. Both audiences were a pleasure to present to and many pupils were keen to learn about all of our books, especially in Years 5 and 6, many already familiar with a good selection of them.

After a great book signing the next day we were on our way to Southmere Academy, the threat of school closure due to the virus closing in on us. No matter! We ploughed on with our Poppy Warrior presentation to around half of the expected size audience (many parents chose to keep their children at home) and all passed extremely well. Somehow the week managed to keep on going and similar successful presentations were carried out at Lower Fields Primary Academy and Greengates Academy.

In actual fact, it was such a long time since we’d visited Greengates (about 15 years ago and at the start of my author

       Lots of great books to read at Greengates Academy

career) that we decided to present a Mokee Joe performance. The next day the school closed! PHEW! Just made it! It was interesting to see so many copies of our Mokee Joe books on the ‘buying shelf’ in the Greengates Foyer. The books had been previously purchased by the school to sell on to pupils at a huge discount. I’m guessing (and hoping) that the books quickly disappeared after my presentation in time for the enforced school holiday! (See pic).

During our ‘Bradford Week’ we met up with some good friends of ours from the Delta Schools – Ms Stansfield and Mrs Truelove

Lots of Poppy Warrior fans at Lower Fields

from Whetley, Ms Binns from Southmere, Ms Gavin  from Lower Fields and Mr Gaunt from Greengates.  A ‘HUGE’ thank you to each of them for ‘putting up’ with an author visit amid such strange goings on re the virus and it’s effects on the daily routine. Still…it was great to see so much positivity in the school community and I lost count of the ‘high elbows’ with so many of our fans in the wake of not being able to shake hands or ‘fist punch’ anymore!

Kath and I are at home now in self-isolation. I’ve got a new book to get on with…lots to do around our new house…and I’m working on making one of my books available for home tutoring (KRUSCHMEISTER) along with an activity pack to enjoy. So lots to do! Whatever happens, we will be thinking of you all and feel confident that you will rally round to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. See you all again soon…and that’s a promise!

PJM

FOUR ‘LUVLY’ SCHOOLS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on March 16th, 2020 6:42 pm Comments Off on FOUR ‘LUVLY’ SCHOOLS!

A great week spent in four ‘luvly’ schools all quite close to our South Yorkshire home – Bawtry Mayflower Primary, Holme Hall Primary, Hopton Primary and Abbeywood School (only half a mile from our home!).

Our son and author, Simon Murray, had already visited Bawtry Mayflower Primary and could not say enough good things about it. So we took his advice and got in touch and arranged a visit. Simon was right! Such a lovely school and Kath and I had a fab time there working with all of KS2 on our Mokee Joe books.

It was on to Chesterfield next, for a first time visit to Holme Hall Primary School. The school is only small with around 90 pupils in KS2. However, quality beat quantity as they say, and the pupils revelled in the antics of Mokee Joe and proved a great audience. The next day was Sports Relief day and we signed loads of books in between all the exciting events that were going on…Brilliant! We heard that one boy got a PB during a running race by imagining that he was being chased by the seven-foot Mokee Joe monster. Great tactic!

Our next school was a little bit further afield, but we knew it would be well worth the journey. This was our second visit to Hopton Primary out Huddersfield way. The pupils were still excited about our previous ‘Mokee Joe’ visit, but this time we launched in with our new Poppy Warrior book. It was interesting to note the beautiful WW1 tribute displayed in the school entrance…very appropriate for our visit. The morning presentation went down really well and after a fab lunch in a nearby cosy West Yorkshire café, we returned to carry out an afternoon workshop with Years 5 and 6. We focussed the workshop on the new book and soon had everyone avidly writing about their very own WW1 experience. The pupils were brilliant and in the very short time available produced some stunning writing. Well done to all of them and a big ‘thank you’ to Mrs Johnson and all of the staff for making our visit as enjoyable as the first. We will be back!!

Last visit of the week to a school new to us (and nearest to us) – Abbeywood School. We had the best time ever here, enthusing and entertaining around 30 pupils of different ages along with their very supportive members of staff. A good time was had by all as they say and Kath and I couldn’t stop talking afterwards about the great response of the pupils. Thank you, Bethany, for thinking of us and organising this lovely event. We will be back very soon to meet up with the staff and pupils again, and to sign books for them.

And so ends a ‘luvly’ week in four ‘luvly’ schools. Next week will be very different, but hopefully just as ‘luvly’ as we head up into Bradford to visit four more Delta Academy Trust schools…watch for the next blog!

PJM

WORLD BOOK WEEK

This post was written by peterjmurray on March 2nd, 2020 4:59 pm Comments Off on WORLD BOOK WEEK

It’s that special time of the year! As usual we were very busy with school bookings and our chosen location for 2020 World Book Week was the Leighton Buzzard / Bedford area.

       Molly’s new hairstyle (Space Buns)

Day 1 started at the Gilbert Inglefield Middle School in Leighton Buzzard. Kath and I were up bright and early in our rented farm cottage and soon on our way for our first visit to this school. Unfortunately, the gremlins beat us to it, and on our arrival we were told that building alterations had put the school projector out of action. However, whilst we sipped a welcome cup of tea to steady our nerves, a ‘rescue party’ of school maintenance staff and senior teachers remedied the situation and we were soon ‘good to go’!

My planned time with 205 year 5’s and 6’s was cut from 90 minutes to one hour, but I launched into my full blown Mokee Joe presentation and somehow got through the six-book series in the allocated time. I sensed the audience were pleasantly stunned by the end of the hour and were appropriately ‘fired up’ to pick up a book (one of mine of course) and READ!!  Job done!  We found out how well the job had been done when we returned the next day for our book signing. Watch this space!

Day 2. Well…the book signing was amazing! The Year 5’s and 6’s were queued out of the library door waiting to

Memorial in Leighton  Buzzard

get their hands on the Mokee Joe books. And so many of our new fans purchased the entire series of six books! Prior to the signing we presented our new book Poppy Warrior to the Year 7’s and 8’s. They too proved a great audience. It’s always a challenge to engage this older age group, but the Gilbert Inglefield ‘oldies’ were great. Lots of them acquired signed copies of the book during their own signing and the feedback from everyone was more than encouraging!

A BIG thank you to Mrs Lewin and everyone at the school for looking after us so well. We really hope we managed to make World Book Week a bit special for you.

Day 3. A reunion with a teacher friend of ours, Mrs Jones, at her new school (new to her!), the St Thomas Moore Catholic High School in Bedford. We decided to go all out with the scary stuff and present her Year 7’s with Scabbajack and Dawn Demons. It was a great setting with the screen and projector in their theatre/drama studio and very soon the audience were squirming in their seats, but loving every minute of it.

             Bedford Boys Prep

Day 4. World Book Day. A visit to Bedford Boy’s Prep School brought back memories of my own teaching days at Cheam Prep School in Berkshire. We were only there for the morning and worked hard with two audiences (all boys of course!)…around 200 KS2 boys for the first hour, and a similar number of boys in KS3 for the second hour. Most of them were dressed up as their favourite book characters, hence a very surreal atmosphere in the stunning theatre setting! I presented my new book, Poppy Warrior, to both sets of boys and drew them tantalisingly into the story. It’s great to report that both younger and older audiences were VERY easy to present to. They joined in eagerly and when the occasion demanded it, they sat so quietly you couldn’t hear a pin drop (forgive the cliché!).  A big thank you to the boys and staff for looking after us so well. It was a real pleasure and made World Book Day very special for us…I hope for the boys too!

Day 5.  Today was a catch up day and two book signings for us!  Firstly, back to Bedford Boys Prep, and after a lovely brunch provided by our new friend and librarian, Mrs Lumley-Wood, we signed lots and lots of Poppy Warriors for VERY eager boys, desperate to get into the story and no doubt erase the ‘cliff hanger’s I’d left them on the day before! Brilliant!

Onto St Thomas Moore High School next and we couldn’t believe how many Year 7’s arrived in the library during their lunchtime to take advantage of our two book deal, complete with a free Dawn Demons poster. Many pupils gave up most of their lunchtime to get their hands on the books…very flattering from our point of view! Thank you Mrs Jones for looking after us so well. Kath and I felt sad when the time came to depart. That’s one part of my job I don’t like; you spend such a short time with new friends and old friends before it’s off and away and on to the next school!

Well…that’s it. Another World Book Week comes to a close. Believe it or not I’ve just been booked for the next one in 2021! I hope I survive that long! Kath and I thank you all for such a great week and we hope you enjoyed this special literary time of the year as much as we did. See you all again soon.

PJM

POPPY WARRIOR STORMS ONWARDS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on February 9th, 2020 12:09 pm Comments Off on POPPY WARRIOR STORMS ONWARDS!

Two more Delta schools enjoyed our Poppy Warrior presentation – Hatfield Woodhouse and Crookesbroom

Matilda’s GGGF photo.

Primaries. Both schools were re-visits and proved just as enjoyable as the first time. The audiences were relatively small, but this only added to the intimacy of the story-telling and the sessions passed only too quickly. We sold and signed lots of books and posters for the children and one girl from Crookesbroom (Matilda) brought us some lovely pictures of her great-great grandfather in his world war 1 uniform, supplied by her grandmother. Brilliant!

It was onto Gosforth next, in the North East. We stayed in our favourite flat in Audley Road, so convenient for the nearby school visits. Highfield Middle School in Prudhoe, Gosforth East Middle School (GEMS), St Teresa’s Catholic School in Heaton and finally onto Richard Coates Primary School in Ponteland, all made for one of the best weeks we’ve ever had in this area.

Some of the highlights (there were many!) during our recent school visits:

  1. Lovely WW1 dedications like the beautiful bench we spotted in Prudhoe. After having such a great time at Highfield MS, we dropped into a coffee shop and spotted a lovely bench and a silhouette of a soldier cut out of wrought iron and painted in black. They looked stunning.

          WW1 Bench in Prudhoe

  2. Matilda’s Gran supplying her with memories of her Great-great Grandfather who fought in WW1
  3. The lovely display of my work as Patron of Reading at Crookesbroom Primary School.
  4. A painting of ‘Poppy Warrior’ by a keen fan at Conyers High School
  5. To finish off our NE trip we stayed in the chic Malmaison Hotel on the Newcastle Quayside…fabulous!

         Crookesbroom Display

The lovely display of my work (and Simon’s Icky Doo Dah books) at Crookesbroom made me feel very proud to be Patron of Reading for the Delta Academy Schools. I’ve just sent out my fourth Delta Newsletter and outlined some exciting projects for the future. I’m very keen to start up some art-based projects and hopefully my great cover artist – Paul Bryn Davies – as well as our son, Simon, will get involved.

GEMS Legacy is a project to commemorate the fallen soldiers of WW1 and how appropriate is that to hear about it on my visit to Gosforth East Middle school to promote Poppy Warrior!

Tasha, Georgia, Hannah and Isla in Year 8 are doing a wonderful job in promoting the project and I was only too keen

       The ‘GEMS Legacy Girls’

to help them. We donated a copy of Poppy Warrior and a poster to the girls and in return they presented me with a GEMS legacy pack containing various items connected to WW1.  You can  check them out on Facebook, but the girls are keen for you to ask your parents permission first.

Pete on the fashionable Newcastle Quayside at the end of a busy week!

To finish off this blog, here are two more pics. One of yours truly relaxing on the Quayside on the famous swing bridge just in front of our Malmaison Hotel. We took the time to visit the famous art gallery at the Baltic Flour Mill, but were disappointed by the content of the work. So here is a much more upbeat

Great Art Work from Jordan at Conyers!

colourful pic painted by one of our fans (Jordan) at Conyers High School. We visited this lovely high school just before Christmas and it already seems such a long time ago!

That’s about all for now. Hope you’re surviving the winter storm that is gusting around my office as I write. I’ll be glad when the winter is over and I can get out at the weekend to indulge in my favourite hobby – fishing!

PJM

FAB START TO NEW YEAR!

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 26th, 2020 1:44 pm Comments Off on FAB START TO NEW YEAR!

Kath and I have had one of the best starts to the New Year ever!

              Paul Bryn Davies

We kicked off the new term in Kent, working at three schools, Aylesford Primary (well-known to us), followed by visits to Brookfield and Ditton Juniors (new schools to us). All three visits proved a huge success. We chose to present the Mokee Joe series of books to them and the three big KS2 audiences couldn’t get enough of it. The staff and pupils were brilliant and gave us a fab time. The book signings were phenomenal! The problem with a six-book series is that you have to bring so many books and my car was just about overloaded for the long journey down from South Yorkshire. And we still managed to sell out of books!  A HUGE thank you to all.

    Paul’s famous book cover!

During our stay in Maidstone, we managed to link up with our brilliant cover artist, Paul Bryn Davies. Paul invited us to lunch and afterwards took us into his studio to show us some of his original paintings for books like ‘Poppy Warrior’, ‘Scabbajack’ and…‘IT’. Yes…Paul did the original book cover for Stephen King. Am I lucky having an artist like Paul working with me or what!!

From Kent it was back to our South Yorkshire base to visit Mary Swanwick Primary…a school that had played a big part in the inspiration for my latest book, ‘Poppy Warrior’. During a visit to the school some time ago, I had  been

intrigued by the old air-raid shelters in the school grounds. The Head at that time had told me that the school had been an administrative centre for officers and soldiers during World War 2 and that spooky smells of  pipe tobacco still lingered in the school corridors! She also told me that sounds of soldiers’ footsteps had sounded down the corridor outside her

Pete next to old air-raid shelters at    Mary Swanwick  Primary School

office when no one had been around!  All great material for a spooky story! You can imagine how excited Kath and I were to visit the school again with our new book! They loved the Poppy Warrior presentation and the pupils couldn’t get over the fact that their very own school had helped inspire the book. They were also keen to tell us that the school is still plagued by ‘ghostly goings on’. Brilliant!  Thank you Mr Faraday and all of the other staff and pupils for making our visit so special. We hope we made it special for you too!

Two more school visits quickly followed…Thurcroft Juniors in Rotherham and Brimington Juniors in Chesterfield. Both schools were enthused and entertained with my new Poppy Warrior book and to say that the two large KS2 audiences were captivated by the gripping World War 1 story would be an understatement. We just love seeing the willing actors and actresses playing the parts of Josh and Jess (the amazing identical twins in Year 6 featured in the gripping story). We had a real ‘Josh’ at Brimington Juniors…and he didn’t disappoint.  A BIG thank you to Ms Stone and Mr Newbury for having us visit. It’s great that our good relationship continues to build at your lovely schools!

PJM

HOME-GROWN MAGIC!

This post was written by peterjmurray on December 1st, 2019 11:41 am Comments Off on HOME-GROWN MAGIC!

As the end of term approaches and Christmas draws ever nearer, it was so good to be on home ground to visit my old primary school, Redscope Juniors, and the nearby Greasbrough Primary just a few days later.

I love being back at Redscope! All by boyhood memories come flooding back – I even remember the school window I broke whilst playing cricket in the school playground. I didn’t get into trouble – one of the teachers was bowling at the time!

The Poppy Warrior presentation went down a storm and so many children queued a few days later to get their desperate hands on signed copies of the books. During the signing it was brilliant to talk with the pupils about where they lived (many on the road where I used to live), where they played football (St Paul’s Field and Barker’s Park) and to share so many of my other memories of the Kimberworth Park Estate with them. I was really touched when one little girl had the book signed to her and her brother. When I asked how old her brother was she informed me he hadn’t been born yet! That was a first for me…to sign a book for a baby still inside Mummy’s tummy!

A HUGE ‘thank you’ to Ms Walpole and her lovely, lovely staff for giving us such a wonderful time at my old school. They even provided us with fish and chips (it was Friday) with yummy pudding to follow. As Ms Walpole informed us as we left…we are now part of the ‘Redscope Family’!

Nearby Greasbrough Primary provided more boyhood memories (Greasbrough provided schoolboys with numerous places to visit away from the housing estate in the form of woods, fields, water and other interesting places). The school was great and the only downside was that many of the KS2 children were absent with flu and sickness viruses…something currently a worry with the extreme weather going on a the moment. The children were VERY enthusiastic about ALL of my books – not just the new one. It turned out that they had read Scabbajack as a class reader and had become obsessed with it (teacher included). They made me promise to bring copies of the book to the signing next Monday. Oh…and some Mokee Joe books too!  Should be an interesting signing…watch this space!

PJM

 

BACK DOWN BEDFORD WAY

This post was written by peterjmurray on December 1st, 2019 11:15 am Comments Off on BACK DOWN BEDFORD WAY

The next week found us hurtling down the M1 again to spend three days at Linslade Middle School just outside Leighton Buzzard. It’s a fabulous school and provides plenty of willing fans for our books – almost 700 Year 5 to 8’s in total!

Presentations all round!  Mokee Joe with Year 5 and Poppy Warrior with Years 6 to 8. Following the performances, I carried out workshops with KS2 and KS3 groups and enjoyed every one. It was so rewarding to work with smaller groups and hear their thoughts and ideas on books in general and ‘horror’ in particular!

Not-so-far-away Putteridge High School  proved to be another very successful visit, the Year 7’s providing a great audience for the Poppy Warrior presentation and talented Year 8 writers contributing excellently in subsequent workshops . The challenge was to write a detailed descriptive account of what Josh Palmer saw when his Great Great Grandfather took him back in time to experience the real-life horror of the battlefield in the bloodiest battle of all time – The WW1 Battle of the Somme. The Year 8’s really got their teeth into the challenge and produced some excellent writing…deliberately shocking to say the least! Such was the standard that we decided to turn the challenge into a competition and awarded prizes for the best entries. Brilliant!

Most of the schools we visit around Bedford and Luton belong to the Chiltern Learning Trust and we have been so impressed by these schools that we’ve decided to spend World Book Week 2020 in the area. Can’t wait!

PJM

STILL UP NORTH!

This post was written by peterjmurray on December 1st, 2019 10:57 am Comments Off on STILL UP NORTH!

Three more schools close to home – Simpson’s Lane at Knottingley, Brinsworth Howarth Primary, very close to our South Yorkshire base, and finally to Dronfield Stonelow Juniors (old friends of ours!)

The new book ‘Poppy Warrior’ was well-received at all three schools. Brinsworth Howarth Primary was the smallest of the schools, and it proved to be a ‘hidden gem’. Kath and I had lived close by when we’d first got married, but never knew the school was there! Most of the children were real ‘book worms’ and we were so impressed by the enthusiasm of all concerned! Such was the success of our visit that the school have booked me for World Book Day in 2021! (I’m hope I’m still going by then!)

Dronfield Stonelow Juniors rose to the occasion (as always), and gave us a VERY warm welcome. We signed lots of books the next day following the presentation and it was a real pleasure to meet up with all our Dronfield Stonelow friends again.

Thanks to everyone and hope to see you again before too long.

PM

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 10th, 2019 12:21 pm Comments Off on VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!

Three very different schools with one thing in common – they were all a pleasure to visit.

First stop was a Delta Academy School –  Kingston Park Academy. This was our first visit so we presented our Mokee Joe series to around 120 KS2 pupils.  It was great fun chasing a ‘victim’ around the school hall again. All of the children seemed thrilled to hear about the Mokee Joe story and the following day we signed lots of books for our new fans.

Next stop was a high school in Chesterfield – Whittington Green.  Totally different to the previous school audience; around 100 Year 7 pupils, so we decided to present two of our most scary books, Scabbajack and Dawn Demons. At first, the audience seemed quiet and reserved, but within a very short time they were all totally hooked!  I thoroughly enjoyed entertaining and enthusing them and by the end of the presentation I felt I could have gone on with them forever! The next day we signed loads of books for a very enthusiastic new set of fans. Brilliant!

Final school of the week – Wakefield Girls High School Juniors. Wow! What an experience.  It’s almost 8 years since we visited this lovely school, but none of the staff who we’d met all those years ago had forgotten us.  Around 180 KS2 girls made up our VERY enthusiastic audience. To say they were brilliant would be an understatement. As Craig would have said in Strictly Come Dancing – A-Maze-Ing!  They couldn’t get enough of the Mokee Joe story and by the end of the morning they were desperate to get their hands on the books. Despite the extreme weather and flood chaos all around us, we somehow managed to have a smooth journey back to the school the following day for our book-signing. We knew it would be a big one, but nothing prepared us for how many of our new fans were keen to get the full set of books. My hand was dropping off after almost four hours of continuous signing…but no one is complaining. We are all about inspiring reading and a success like this makes it all worthwhile.  Thank you to all the lovely girls and to the wonderfully welcoming staff who looked after us. We can’t wait to be back…and it won’t be 8 years this time!

Have a lovely weekend everyone and keep in touch.

PJM

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