WONDERFUL WHITLEY BAY

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 28th, 2018 10:37 am Comments Off on WONDERFUL WHITLEY BAY

A very busy week ahead of us, we headed up to the NE to seek out the newly refurbished Spanish City area in non other than Whitley Bay – a haunt of some of our most favourite schools!

Seaton Sluice, Valley Gardens and Whytrig…all brilliant middle schools, and a smaller primary school mid-week, St Teresa’s RC Primary, made for a hectic but fantastic week in this lovely part of the world.

The ‘Mokee Joe Finale Presentation’ was performed at each of these schools and to say the audiences were enthusiastic and receptive is an understatement! We had a fab time at each school and returned to our hotel feeling a great sense of fulfilment.  One evening  I was in such a good mood I put on my running gear and headed off down the promenade to St Mary’s lighthouse! It was a stunning run on the way there, but on the way back black clouds suddenly moved in off the sea and I got drenched! C’est la Vie!

            Great coffee and cake!

Some great moments during the week both in and out school! Of course visits to our favourite coffee shops…Coastline up near Seaton Sluice and Crusoes…always a stop-off after Valley Gardens. And Marshalls in Tynemouth for the best-ever fish and chips!

…And will we ever forget Molly at St Teresa’s being chased by yours truly dressed as Mokee Joe!  When cornered, she stopped dead, turned round and ordered me to ‘WAIT!’ as she calmly returned to her place. Exactly what Molly would have done in the Mokee Joe adventures!  (We didn’t even know the girl was called Molly when we picked her to come on stage…spooky!)

Will we ever forget the MASSIVE audience of Years 5 and 6 at Valley Gardens…along with the staff

Love the seaside views from Crusoes!

they joined in and made the presentation truly memorable for all the right reasons. Can we ever thank Pauline enough for helping us in so many ways. She seemed to ‘wear so many hats’, one of them being librarian and organising a huge book-signing with perfect precision.  She also ran the first aid department and was later seen wearing her high-viz clothing to go out on duty! Of course, it was also great to join forces again with our good friend Jon Roys from Rotherham, who helped organise the presentation with his usual cool and totally efficient approach! Good on yer Jon!!

Seaton Sluice and Seaton Delaval (Whytrig)…full of keen fans and avid readers and so easy to get along with. Both book-signings were an absolute pleasure. And on our last day it was ‘Children in Need’ day and Whytrig threw themselves into it totally!  We were so impressed by the school’s effort to make this day the special one it deserves to be!

Many thanks to all our friends and fans in the NE…we will be back soon with the new book and we just know you’re gonna luv it!!

PJM

 

LUVLY JUBLY!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 19th, 2018 5:01 pm Comments Off on LUVLY JUBLY!

Three ‘cracking’ schools…three fab experiences…hopefully for our audiences as much as for us! We had the best time ever with Herringthorpe Juniors, Sir Edmund Hillary Primary and Pheasant Bank Academy. Luvly Jubly!

Let’s start with Herringthorpe Juniors – VERY local to the setting of the Mokee Joe books. In fact the hero of the books, Hudson Brown, lives very close to the school on Tennyson Road. His best friend and co-hero, Molly Stevens, lives on nearby Browning Road. Our KS2 audience could hardly believe it!  We entertained the juniors with two separate performances, lower KS2 followed after break by upper KS2. Due to this arrangement, the presentations were extremely fast and both audiences and myself hardly had time to take a breath! Things must have gone down well, because the book-signing the next day seemed endless; so many eager fans desperate to read the books! I was even accosted (in a nice way!) by a very eager parent in the office area, so excited to get her hands on the latest and final Mokee Joe book. It turned out she had been a Year 4 during one of my first school visits at the beginning of my author career and had the rest of the books! It was both very flattering and, at the same time, it made me realise how old I’m getting! Time stops for no-one…not even the author of Mokee Joe!

Sir Edmund Hillary Primary next, in Worksop. We visit this school every two years to see Years 5 and 6. We are always guaranteed a great time, so many lovely pupils and staff giving us a great reception. No Mokee Joe this time! We presented Scabbajack, Ten O’ Clock Caller and my recently resurrected collection of spooky stories, PS13. The presentation went down a storm, as did a workshop in the afternoon with Year 5 on ‘How to write a seriously, scary short story’ (good alliteration!).  Again, a fab book-signing the next day with so many avid readers waiting to digest the books. Thanks to everyone…see you all again in two years time!

A-maze-ing library!
A-maze-ing library helpers!

As if the week hadn’t gone well enough already, our last visit of the week was more than special! Pheasant Bank Academy in Rossington, near Doncaster, is responsible for inspiring my very next book!  Will we ever forget the display of blood-red blooms lining the car park during our first visit to this great school some time ago! The blood-red blooms in question were poppies and the mystery of how they got there sent my brain and imagination into overdrive to come up with a gripping, action-packed story themed on World War One. Of course the story has to be spooky to fit in with my genre, and believe me it really is! Miss Robinson was more than keen to allow me to use the name of her school in the book and to even to use her own name as the fictitious head of the school. I thought this was very brave of her as she hasn’t read the narrative yet and has no idea what she gets up to!  On this occasion, though, our visit was to officially open the new school library and in addition to throw in a ‘little’ presentation to all 350 + of her amazing KS2 juniors.  Once again we loved it and everyone seemed to have a great time. The library was opened just prior to the book-signing the next day and I was more than pleased to cut the ribbon alongside her VERY willing band of library helpers. The school and library have to be seen to be believed…wonderfully painted walls everywhere depicting different time eras…all down to the talents of a wonderful artist who we’ve had the pleasure of meeting on previous occasions at Whetley Academy in Bradford, a school in the same trust as Pheasant Bank (Delta Trust).

I shall be keeping in touch with Pheasant Bank Academy over the coming months in preparation for the publication of my new book (title still a secret!) and looking very much forward to launching the book there around September next year.   I have a meeting planned with Paul Davies, our brilliant cover artist, in a few weeks time and I just know he is going to come up with my best book cover yet! All very exciting!

Watch this space!

PJM

THANK YOU RICHARD COATES PRIMARY

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 10th, 2018 6:20 pm Comments Off on THANK YOU RICHARD COATES PRIMARY

I was so pleased to be handed a wad of lovely letters from fans at Richard Coates Primary School a few weeks ago. Having just got round to reading them – I’m even more pleased! A HUGE ‘thank you’ to:

…Grace, Zac, Ivy, William. L, Evie, Ava, Mya, Max, Ewan, Charlie, Gabriel…and to someone who forgot to sign their name!

Every letter was well-written, full of complements (great!) and so many questions! Far too many questions to answer, but the most popular question seemed to be ‘What is your favourite book?’ so I’ll answer that one and say I have loved writing every one of them, but the very first book is always special to an author…so I will say ‘Mokee Joe is Coming!’ has to be my favourite.

I read the letters in my office, right beneath my Mokee Joe framed poster. (See

One of my lovely letters from Richard Coates fans.

pic). I’ve also taken a picture of one of the letters to see if the writer can identify it?

Well…thank you again at Richard Coates for taking the trouble to get in touch and I hope to see you very soon with my brand new book; it should be out by next September. Watch this space, as they say!

Bye…

PJM

 

VIP TREATMENT IN LUTON

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 1st, 2018 7:16 pm Comments Off on VIP TREATMENT IN LUTON

Next stop, Denbigh High School – old friends of ours! Hence the VIP treatment and a parking space reserved for us on our arrival! VERY much appreciated!

    VIP treatment at Denbigh High

Over 250 Year 7’s sat for most of the morning listening to me rave on and on about our super-scary stories, and just in time for Halloween. Excellent! As usual, the Denbigh audience sat in nerve-shredding silence, frustration growing as I left them on a string of ‘cliff-hanger’ endings. After a well-received lunch, we were back in our favourite place – the school library. Two workshops passed at lightning speed and I have to say that I particularly enjoyed chatting to seven Year 8 boys about my books and reading in general. They, like everyone else, were a delight to be with. Denbigh High School is always a pleasure to visit and our thanks go to the pupils and staff for giving us the usual high level of hospitality during our stay. A special vote of thanks to Mr Amjad for looking after us so well and ensuring everything passed smoothly. See you all the book-signing on Friday.

Final visit of the week was to Putteridge High School…a school new to us. Around 180 Year 7’s this time…a good few less than the previous two Luton schools; but what they lacked in number they more than made up for in enthusiasm and attentiveness! The atmosphere during the presentation was ‘electric’ to say the least. Lots of  great interaction and stacks of correct answers to our questions resulted in a good number of free bookmarks being awarded to an ever-growing number of fans!

…So another BIG thank you to all at Putteridge High School for providing a fab end to our Luton Week and to Ms Jablonska for being the perfect hostess. We can’t wait to see you all again. We sincerely hope this is the beginning of a long and lasting author-school relationship…but only if you are brave enough!

PJM

BACK TO LUTON

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 31st, 2018 7:24 pm Comments Off on BACK TO LUTON

You may be wondering why Kath and I spend so much time in Luton. The answer is simple: the schools there are fab and we love working in them.

PS 13. Thank goodness Chiltern Academy doesn’t look like this!

We work with ten Luton/Bedford schools in total now, all members of the growing (and exciting) Chiltern Trust. Our first visit was to a brand new school, Chiltern Academy, only launched back in September of this year. The 200+ year 7’s have the school to themselves at the moment, but not for long. The school will relocate to a new site within a brand new building, ready for its expansion to accommodate somewhere around 1200 pupils. Brilliant! And we are looking forward to being a part of its development.

Back to the present time, on Monday we were more than happy to enthuse and entertain the Year 7’s with three books absolutely ideal for ‘Halloween Week’: Scabbajack, Ten O’ Clock Caller and PS 13. Presenting the books over the best part of 2hours was an absolute delight and everyone had a great and spooky time. Two workshops in the afternoon were just as enjoyable…lots of avid readers (and writers!) hanging on every creepy word.

Ms Lane looked after our every need (as per usual) and ensured the day passed VERY smoothly. Thanks to all at Chiltern Academy for giving us such a great Halloween start. See you all at the book-signing on Friday. If you think Halloween will be over by then, you are very much mistaken. For me and my fans, Halloween is an all-year-around event!!

PJM

GEMS and JEWELS in GOSFORTH!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 24th, 2018 3:38 pm Comments Off on GEMS and JEWELS in GOSFORTH!

Days 3 and 4 of our NE visit were spent in Gosforth Central and Gosforth East middle schools respectively. These are two of our favourite schools and with good reason – there are so many pupils and they are all fans of our books!

Gosforth Central gave us around 250 Year 5’s and 6’s to make up our KS2 audience. Gosforth East (GEMS) gave us around the same. Both audiences were an absolute delight to work with. We got through all of our six Mokee Joe books with ease, climaxing on the final narrative set in Dubai. It turned out that many of our audience had already visited Dubai and were well-familiar with the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalif), the world’s biggest aquarium and the amazing dancing fountains, to name but just a few of the action-packed settings used in the narrative. Brilliant!  A BIG thank you to the staff of both schools and to Sarah, the librarian at Gosforth Central, for looking after us so well. And, of course, to all of the pupils who are now ‘devouring’ the books in the Mokee Joe series. I know that at present you are still at school whilst we are on half-term down here in the south, but have a lovely half-term next week…and then you can smile and think of us being back at work!

Great writing, Isla!

A final mention of a lovely moment when Isla presented me with the start of her new story, ‘The Mysteries of the Mongol’ complete with a stunning illustration on the cover. What was very touching was that Isla informed me that my visit and presentation had inspired her to pick up her pen and write. Well, Isla…I’ve now read it and enjoyed the first few chapters very much. Your imagination is  as strong as mine (well, almost anyway!). I look forward to reading the rest of your novel during my next visit.  In the meantime…keep on writing…

PJM

*Apologies to anyone who has contacted my website recently and not received a reply. It turns out that there is a malfunction on the site and this is being rectified as I type this message (Wed 24th October). So please get in touch again if you wish and I’ll get right back to you.

PJM

NORTH EASTERLY MAGIC!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 16th, 2018 5:33 pm Comments Off on NORTH EASTERLY MAGIC!

Our week up in the North East has got off with a ‘BANG’ to say the least! There’s no shortage of avid readers up in this area and it’s pleasing to report that most of them are reading (or have read) our books!

Mokee Joe fans from Belsay School

First stop on Monday morning was Ponteland. Our host, Mr Harvey (Belsay School), had organised a get-together of Year 6’s from six primary schools local to the area to assemble at Richard Coates Primary to see my presentation. The schools were all fabulous to work with and I feel I must mention them by name – Ponteland, Whalton C of E, Belsay, Heddon, Stamfordham and ,of course, Richard Coates. The presentation was fast and furious, but at least it seemed to engage the 300+ audience as I covered the entire series of Mokee Joe books produced over the last 14 years. A HUGE ‘thank you’ to Mr Harvey and all of the staff from each of the schools for taking the trouble to bring our audience to us…we hope you got as much out of it as we did. We really hope to visit you again in the not-too-distant future.

DAY 2 – Highfield Middle School.  We have visited this school a good

            The Amazing Highfield Librarians

number of times throughout my author career…and not without reason. The teachers have always pulled together to create a fantastic reading culture in this BIG school community. Once again Kath and I were received like ‘old friends’ and shown the utmost friendliness by the youngest Year 5 to the eldest of the Year 8s. We love working at this school! Mr Bell and his team of keen librarians set about arranging the hall in readiness to accommodate all 400+ pupils. They did a sterling job and I began my presentation in front of a brilliant audience where everyone could see and hear exactly what was going on and join in at every opportunity. One and half hours passed VERY quickly to say the least! The staff and pupils were so appreciative I felt I could have gone on forever!

Tomorrow, we return to officially open the school library and sign books for our willing fans…it could be a very interesting experience and I just wonder if the record for the number of Mokee Joe books signed in one afternoon might well be broken??

   Phoebe with her fab ‘Molly’ hairstyle

Well…I think the record WAS just about broken! I think my signing hand was broken too by the end of it! The signing went on forever and everyone was just ‘buzzing’ about books and artwork and all things to with literacy. Brilliant! We even signed a book for Phoebe who had overnight adjusted her hair to Molly’s new hairstyle (Molly is the girl hero in the Mokee Joe books) and it seems that ‘space-buns’ are fast becoming really trendy.

A ‘HUGE’ thank you to Mr Bell for all his hard work, and to the staff and pupils for ensuring our visit was such a memorable one.  We will be back…and the sooner the better!

PJM

‘R’ FOR CHALLNEY

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 6th, 2018 1:27 pm Comments Off on ‘R’ FOR CHALLNEY

Wow! What an amazing couple of days in Luton! OK…so Luton may not be the most attractive location in the UK, but the schools are nothing short of brilliant to work in. Challney High School for Girls proved no exception.

Great logo!

We were immediately impressed by the school and its campus – very attractive – and drawn to the logo decorating the wall outside the school reception (see pic). After working in this school all day Thursday and spending much of Friday signing books, Kath and I decided the ‘C’ in the logo should be replaced with an ‘R’. Never have we been treated with such ‘RESPECT’ as shown by the Challney Girls. We worked with just over 200 Year 7’s, but the elder pupils were just as keen to meet and chat with us, remembering us from our visits to their primary schools in the not-too-distant past.

A very big presentation on Thursday morning followed by two workshops may well have proved exhausting, but incredibly worthwhile as our keen followers hung on every word and joined in at every opportunity.

To finish off our great visit, on returning home we discovered a ‘little note’ had been slipped into one of  our bags. I reproduce the message below:

‘Hi Pete

I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring me. The first time I read your book (Bonebreaker) I wanted to be an author. I attempted to write a book where all your evil characters and the good characters in your book go into a haunted maze. Other people go into the maze and think it’s just a Halloween stunt…but it’s not…and the good characters have to save everyone! Anyway, thanks for inspiring me again.

Best wishes from your biggest fan!

I suspect my ‘biggest fan’ is a bit on the shy side as she didn’t sign off to say who she was. But if you’re reading this, then an even bigger ‘THANK YOU’ from me. It’s little messages like this that keep authors like me inspired to carry on writing!

…So thank you, Ms Anonymous, thank you Challney girls and thank you Challney staff…you did us proud. We will be back!

PJM

 

BRILLIANT AT BAILY!

This post was written by peterjmurray on September 28th, 2018 9:35 am Comments Off on BRILLIANT AT BAILY!

Kath and I have visited this school a good few times during my author career, but nothing could have prepared us for the fantastic response we got during our recent visit. Our lovely librarian friend, Ms Mumford, accepted our offer to introduce the final instalment in the Mokee Joe series – Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates – set in the glamorous location of Dubai.

Come the day of the visit, I felt a little bit nervous of only having just over an hour for my presentation, which normally lasts for just under two hours! The big audience of Years 4,5 and 6 sat before me in stiff silence as I launched into a ‘potted’ coverage of  how I became an author followed by speedy snippets of the first five books. By the time I reached the intro of the final book, the audience were totally relaxed, rocking with laughter at my non-stop jokes and funny anecdotes, but at the same time gripped with descriptions of the ensuing battles between the hero, Hudson Brown, and his terrifying enemy, Mokee Joe.

It was a fabulous hour of fun and it passed only too quickly! Once again, the Francis Baily audience did themselves proud…totally engaged, interactive when required, and to use the old cliché – ‘you couldn’t hear a pin drop’ during my readings.

The calm before the storm in the school library!

All very well, but how would the book signing go the next day? Ms Mumford kindly allowed us to use her  fabulously cosy library, and she and Kath set up the signing area with lots of Mokee Joe books for the pupils to browse over.

…What followed had to be seen to be believed! So many boys and girls eager to get their hands on the books and ‘devour’ them at the earliest opportunity! The excitement as they looked over the books, ran their hands over the richly-embossed covers, and enjoyed the smell of the newly printed pages… Who says that children are not excited by books anymore!

The signing went on for the whole of the afternoon and we still hadn’t finished by the close of school. In fact we returned the next day to finish off with a Year 5 class who unselfishly volunteered to curtail their excitement for a further 24 hours.

All in all a wonderful experience and the reason I am so keen to keep on writing and working with such an enthusiastic and enjoyable age group. The children at Francis Bailey proved great friends, polite and helpful without exception. Thank you to them (and the staff) for everything.

We will be back!!

BACK WITH A BANG!

This post was written by peterjmurray on September 23rd, 2018 11:09 am Comments Off on BACK WITH A BANG!

I can’t remember starting a new academic year with such an amazing week as last week. Three ‘cracking’ schools in my native South Yorkshire – Dronfield Stonelow Juniors, Thurcroft Junior Academy and Kiveton Park Meadows Juniors provided the perfect start-back after the long hot summer holidays.

Pete with Mitchell – a life-long fan, at Kiveton Park Meadows.

I have visited each of these schools a good few times during my author career and have many fans spread over several generations within these lovely school communities. As one of the young teachers said to me at Kiveton Park Meadows, ‘I’ve grown up with your Mokee Joe books and can’t believe you’re here today to present the final book in the series.’ (Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates). Needless to say I signed a book for ‘young Mitchell’ the very next day!

I want to congratulate the head teachers and staff on the warm ambient nature of each of their schools as well as managing to create a fabulous reading culture throughout every year group. Will we ever forget the length of those queues of children desperate to get their hands on our books and ‘devour’ them at their earliest opportunity!

As one of the teachers said to us. ‘I can’t believe how many children are already sitting in the playground, shivering in the cold, but totally absorbed in their reading.’  I quickly pointed out to her that they may well have been shivering with fright rather than cold!

Thanks again to everyone for making us so welcome…enjoy your books and have a great run-up to Christmas…but don’t forget that Halloween is just around the corner!

PJM

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