SUNNY SOUTH EAST

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What a fabulous week!

It was with some concern and one eye on the weather forecast that we headed off to the dreaded M25 and made our way round to the South East of our island. The Sunday traffic on the A12 into deepest Essex proved a relaxing and stress-free journey and we were soon settled in our accommodation on the Basildon Festival Park – conveniently close to Billericay School…old and trusted friends of ours.

Frantically signing books at Billericay School

Mrs Clare and her library team were waiting for us on Monday morning and by ten o’ clock I was onstage in front of 300+ Year 7’s presenting Bonebreaker, Scabbajack and Ten O’ Clock Caller.  As per usual, the audience got things exactly right and made my job very easy. The enthusiastic Year 7’s joined in the laughter, interacted perfectly and during my readings you couldn’t hear a pin drop! The next day we had a queue of students thronging the library  eager to get their hands on the books and indulge is some festive scary reading!

It was interesting to meet Tallula…who signed a book for me! She explained how she had overcome illness as a baby and her

Pete and Tallula exchanging books.

father had written a book for her called ‘Tallula Gets Better’. What a brilliant idea and a wonderful keepsake for Tallula. I’m proud too, that I now have my owned signed copy of this moving book. A BIG ‘thank you’ to Tallula’s dad, Stephen. The Billericay signing got even more interesting when one of the boys got so scared flicking through the books that one of his teeth fell out. He was thinking of putting his tooth under his pillow and receiving a reward, but changed his

So sorry about the tooth!

mind when he realised he was now more at the age where the Ten O’ Clock Caller might call in on him!

We had a great workshop with around 30 top set Year 7 English students, focusing on the Ten O’ Clock Caller short story collection. By the end of it, the participants were eager to write scary stories of their own and that always makes everything feel so worthwhile for me.

It really was a wonderful couple of days at Billericay School and we are already planning our return to ‘Gavin and Stacey

Kath and Jacqui in front of the Peter J Murray display area

Country’ to launch my new football-themed book, Kruschmeister. Thank you Mrs Clare for being such a warm and wonderful host. We really hope your promotional film is a big hit and wish you well before our next visit. Take good care everyone!

…And then it was on to TTC…Tendring Techical College…our other oldest and dearest friends down near Clacton-on-Sea, situated in the quaintly sounding village of Thorpe-le-Solken. In fact I thought it was time to explain to the TTC students that ‘Thorpe’ is an indication that the Vikings probably ransacked and took over the area in the by-gone days of the Bonebreaker.

Big readers and big fans at TTC

As with Billericay School, we presented the Bonebreaker, Scabbajack and Ten O’ Clock Caller books to a huge audience  of attentive and enthusiastic Year 7’s. However, we did a second performance to an equally big audience of Year 8’s and introduced the US collection of scary stories, PS 13, especially for them. The first day was marred with some spooky goings-on…power cuts and badly-behaving computers, but persistence overcame the ‘gremlins’ and a good time was had by all. Two very different workshops took place with two very different audiences. But guess what…Kath and I derived a great deal of pleasure from meeting every one single one of the Year 7 and 8 students who took part. Again, lots of eager participants wanting to share their ideas and inspirations for stories of their own. It also never fails to fascinate me how many people have genuine spooky experiences to share! (I’ve got some good ideas for more scary stories of my own from listening to them…ha, ha!)

A HUGE ‘thank you’ to the lovely TTC librarian, Mrs Grosvenor – she sooooo… looked after us! Lots of book were signed in VERY organised signings and it was a real thrill to see so many Year 8’s lined up to get their hands on the books just before we left deepest Essex – I think that was the real icing on the cake if you will forgive the well-worn cliché!

Quick…it’s Friday and we must get back on the dreaded M25 before things get seriously scary….even more scary than my books!

PJM

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