Picture This! with Dan Simpson and Beach Creative

photo 3Picture This! is a year-long programme of creative writing workshops for Herne Bay teenagers, made possible by a grant from the Clore Duffield Foundation. I was involved in part of it – a series of inspiring workshops by poet Dan Simpson at Herne Bay High that resulted in a Categorical Books publication of the poems. One series in particular, inspired by a poem by Sven Stears, had the pupils invent imaginary jobs, to surreal effect.

The anthology was launched at an event at Beach Creative in Herne Bay where Dan performed poems from his new book Applied Mathematics.

The book’s cover photograph and design are by Nancy Wilson.

Poets of the Future with Joseph Coehlo

joe's book coverThis is a book of poetry produced from poems and stories that poet Joseph Coelho had helped a group of Year 5s produce in a school in Ramsgate. The project was organised by Future Creative.

One of the pupils told him: ‘I’ve never written as much as this before. So well done, Joe!’

Categorical Books put the book together from the writing and illustrations the children produced. An excellent use of pupil premium!

Songs and poems with Nine Below Zero

ghostThis was a wonderful project organised by Future Creative in Minterne Community Junior School in Sittingbourne.

Musician Dennis Greaves of blues band Nine Below Zero and I worked in all twelve classes – I went in first and encouraged the children to write poems on the themes of memory and identity and then Dennis followed and helped them transform the poems into lyrics and set them to music.

At the end we produced a book of poems and illustrations and a CD of the songs, called There’s a Ghost Under My Bed.

VickyDennis2013 023It was really interesting for both Dennis and I to observe each other’s creative process and to think about the difference between what makes a good poem and what makes a good song. The most successful poems for me were with a Year 4 class where we did cut up poetry – I gave the children an A4 page of words to do with the sea and they rearranged them as they wished.

Here is an example:

Calm clouds disappear
Shimmering waves whisper
Rippling pools roll
We walk on the golden sand
Violent cliffs towering up
We plunge into the deep
I shout to the dark
Rocks, sharp and solid
Alone under the pebbles crabs scuttle
Shimmering moon sings
Droplets surf among the tide
Sunrise, sunset over rain

Dennis and I were reunited for the retirement of headmaster Bill McGrory when Nine Below Zero performed and I read a poem I had written sourced from comments and memories by of pupils and staff. Here it is:

million dollar bill

Tales of Mystery & Magic for The Ursuline Preparatory School

P1070334The Ursuline Preparatory School in Brentwood has just published a new book!

Called Tales of Mystery & Magic, it contains a story from each of the school’s nine classes (ranging from pre-Reception to Year 6) about an adventure that travels through space or time. Whether the subject is training for the Olympics in Ancient Greece, acting as skivvies for the school’s Victorian owners, playing an X-box game that gets out of hand or taking a magic bicycle ride with a talking owl, the stories tell of the children’s imaginations and skill as well as their exciting adventures.

The project began when English Coordinator Sarah Macdonald tracked me down through internet searches after seeing the book I helped produce for Sunnymede School. You can read a bit about that project here or see the book by clicking here.

For Ursuline, I delivered a half-day workshop to each class to inspire pupils and staff and provide tips on how to coordinate the writing process for a whole-class story. This included writing by adding to a blog, voting on a subject and then all contributing to it, writing individual sections of the story in groups and using drama and role-play to create a tale. As well as their writing, I also suggested that pupils each contribute at least one illustration.

You can imagine my excitement when six weeks later a box containing the stories and artwork arrived on my doorstep! The book was edited and designed by Categorical Books following rough layouts supplied by each class and copies were printed in time for Book Week at the beginning of March. We even scored a whole page in the local newspaper – you can see pictures here.

The project was so successful that I am hoping to offer the process as an opportunity to other schools – watch this space or get in touch for details.

Vicky made the whole process from the writing workshop to the book launch not only exciting but stress free too. The children thoroughly enjoyed working collaboratively as well as seeing their work in print. A very worthwhile project which I would definitely recommend. Sarah Macdonald, English Co-ordinator, Ursuline Preparatory School

We thought the book was absolutely fantastic! What an amazing keepsake for the girls to treasure. Thank you so much. Parent, Ursuline Preparatory School


Lost the Plot with New Writing South

lost_the_plot_cover_front_onlyThis is a small book full of wonderful writing.

It’s part of a project called Writer Squads run by New Writing South, which places writers with groups of young people aged 13 to 17 to inspire and help develop their writing.

The book documents the results of Dean Atta‘s project with the Margate Writer Squad and features poetry and stories by Maddie Raven, Samuel Williams, Anna Harvey and Sofie Llugiqi.

The writing is fresh and original and it is obvious that the young people, inspired by Dean, have polished their work so there’s not a word out of place.

Categorical Books is very proud to have played a small part in the project’s development. The book is not for sale as the print run was minute, but hopefully the contents might help the young people and the project to find a wider audience.

Wise Words with Canterbury Festival

wise words categorical books sarah salwayWise Words: The Canterbury Laureate Anthology 2011–2012 is the latest publication from Categorical Books.

The anthology charts the journey of the 2011-2012 Laureate Programme, part of which was a pilot collaboration between creative writing MA students at the University of Kent, teacher trainees from Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury Laureate Sarah Salway and the Canterbury Festival.

Teacher trainees and MA students worked in pairs with schools and community groups to deliver workshops aimed at producing creative writing and photography on the theme of Wise Words. The project had a strong intergenerational slant, pairing older members of photography, arts and dance groups with young people from a refugee centre and a special school. Along the way, wise words were collected from the public at events and though a website forum.

The book contains the inspirational writing and photographs produced in the course of the project by students and participants, as well as by Sarah Salway herself, alongside writing exercises and workshop guidelines.

Do come along to the launch on Saturday 13 October at the Canterbury Heritage Museum, Stour Street, CT1 2NR, 5.30–7.30pm. Or check out the book at Amazon.

frog in love with Frances Knight

frog in love frances knight categorical booksWe are really pleased to announce that Categorical Books has designed its first CD package.

frog in love, by pianist Frances Knight, features double bassist Alex Keen, drummer Vince Clarke, Tony Coe on sax and clarinet, and Aidan Shepherd on accordian. It’s a mix of Frances’ own compositions, plus tracks by Coe and others and new interpretations of pop classics such as the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’.

Mischa Pearlman describes it as ‘an evocative and enchanting album… that’s touching, tender and thoughtful.’ We particularly like the title track, which has the same playful wit and charm as the character in Max Velthuijs’ children’s book series, which provided inspiration.

You can buy the album at www.francesknight.info or by clicking here. Highly recommended!

Park Hill Sheffield in black and white

park hill sheffield keith collie jeremy till categorical booksCategorical Books is proud to announce our first 2012 architecture title: Park Hill Sheffield in black and white with photographs by Keith Collie.

Park Hill is a modernist social-housing scheme on a heroic scale completed in 1961 when Sheffield had near full employment. Since then Britain’s housing scene has been transformed, a change embodied in Park Hill, which is in the process of being stripped back to its frame and recast for largely private ownership.

Keith Collie’s dramatic and haunting photographs capture the formal beauty of this massive structure in ruins and the epic scale of the renovation. David Levitt provides the background to the current renovation project by developer Urban Splash, and Jeremy Till puts the story into the wider context of architecture and the welfare state.

You can buy the book from Amazon. Enjoy!

We come from… with Dean Atta

We come from edited Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson World Arts PlatformI was thrilled to receive the first copy of We come from... this morning. The book is a collection of poetry written by students from three Hertfordshire secondary schools in response to a series of workshops delivered by the wonderful performance poet Dean Atta. All the students have English as an additional language.

Dean and I organised the project together, chose which of the students’ poems we wanted to include, then I edited them and Categorical Books did the book’s design and production. The book looks great, and the poems within it are moving, funny, original and well worth reading.

The poems tackle three key themes – ‘We come from…’, ‘We care for…’ and ‘We stand for…’ – and are published alongside some of Dean’s inspirational writing on the same topics. In ‘We come from…’ the students evoke the key experiences that have shaped them (‘crime classics and Russian literature’, ‘beautiful Ząbkowice Śląskie and dull, noisy Hatfield’); in ‘We care for…’ they investigate their feelings for members of their families; in ‘We stand for…’ they describe the kind of society they wish to be part of.

The student comments we got from the evaluation forms testify to the project’s success: ‘Even with difficulties you can achieve whatever you want…’; ‘I can be confident in front of everyone…’; ‘I’m better at writing poems and more encouraged to read…’; ‘No matter where we come from, we can work together.’

I’m really looking forward to the launch at Beaumont School in St Albans on 9 July. And, of course, you can buy the book on Amazon or from bookshops: We come from… Write from the Heart 3, edited by Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson.

The project was supported by Hertfordshire BME Achievement Team, Hertfordshire Music Service and World Arts Platform. Many thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.

Touch Wood for The Conservation Volunteers

touch wood edited by Vicky WilsonCopies of Touch Wood: children’s poetry from the Kent Heritage Trees Project have arrived!

The project began with a series of workshops to support The Conservations Volunteers’ project to map and preserve Kent’s old, large or interesting trees at Reculver CE Primary School, Whitstable Junior School and Great Chart Primary school. The idea was to stimulate the children to write poems that explored the myths associated with trees and woodland and raise awareness of their importance. This was combined with an open call for submissions that went out to Kent primary schools and visitors to The Conservation Volunteers’ Singleton Environment Centre. It was then a question of selecting which poems to include in the book.

The poems and illustrations produced by the children showed a high level of craft, imagination and observation, as well as a commitment to preserving our woodlands. No matter what kind of exercises or source material I use with children I find myself constantly surprised by the sophistication and invention of the work they produce.

You can buy Touch Wood from Amazon.