Published on Sunday 5th February 2012 by DJ Kirkby

On Monday 30th January I went to visit the children at Charles Dickens Junior school. I spoke about what my school years were like, and how that and my library card helped me grow up to be an author. The children made me feel very welcome, were polite and well behaved, listed quietly to everything I said and asked lots of questions afterwards.  I then gave out copies of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens to the year 5/6 students who were more pleased to receive these gifts than I had dared hope.  My visit with these lovely children was filmed by the BBC and will be aired on BBS South Today as part of the Charles Dickens week sometime between Monday 6th Feb – Thursday 9th February .

I want these blog posts to be a completely honest account of my time in residence which means I need to admit that I have been putting in a lot of writer in residence related work on the weekends and in the dark hours when I would normally be working on my own writing. This isn’t ideal but the one day per week that I am being paid to work on this isn’t enough time for all the planning and prep work that needs doing before my outreach work begins in March.  I want to be sure that the residents benefit as much as possible from my time and this means putting in a lot of unpaid time.  I am not sure if other writers in residence have experienced the same or if it is just because I am having to work around my various disabilities (autism, dyslexia and dysraxia) to get the job done.

One of the things that has been troubling me is how to get around to all the schools I plan to visit before the summer holidays begin.  The reason I need to do this is so that each school can have an equal opportunity to earn team points for the WeLL writing challenge on October 27th.  To do this they all need to know that they earn team points by going to their local library, withdrawing books and asking the librarian to stamp their WeLL book card.  Each WeLL stamp earns their school team a point.  Fellow writer Gray (@FrodosDentist) suggested I film myself explaining all of this and then ask the school Heads to share it with their students and to post it on their websites. I think this is a really clever solution! This gives me more time to spend at each school doing WeLL story creating and sharing sessions with the students throughout my time in residence.

Last but not least there is an article about my residency on page 18 of the February issue of Flagship.

18 comments so far

  • Denyse,

    I was delighted to have been able to help, even in such a small way, especially with a project working on issues close to my own heart. If I can be of any additional assistance please ask. The Portsmouth Libraries Residency is clearly an appointment which means a great deal to yourself.

    Such roles as yours inevitably require more input and planning than is actually calculated in the original schedule. I, for one, appreciate all the extra effort and work you are doing within your own time to make this year a fantastic success.

    Denyse, the young children of Portsmouth have in you an inspirational author and torch bearer for the development and causes relating to the promotion of childhood literacy. I wish you every success.

    Kind regards



  • All I can say is I am in super duper AWE at your dedication and Porstmouth children are very very very lucky to have you as their writer in residence! Good luck with the WeLL project – sounds like such fun! Take care

    • Thank you. I have had a couple of people say they will be attending the adult WeLL sessions now which is a relief as I would hate to be sitting in the library on my own!

  • Sounds like it’s going amazingly. That’s a brilliant idea for you to video the explanation. From experience I know that teachers have to do whole school assemblies on a rota and would be only too pleased to get a ready prepared one from someone like yourself.

    I guess the extra hours you’re having to put in were inevitable. It’s a symptom of being a committed worker. Enjoy.

    • Thank you so much for this info Rosalind. Now I just need to get this little film clip done without sounding confused or making gurning type facial expressions!

  • You are doing amazing things here Denyse and though you may be taking more of your own time than you first imagined, I think you are probably feeling quite a sense of achievement with what you are doing.

    I read the article. It’s a great photo. Just remember you amongst all your writing and work commitments!

  • Juggling time is always trouble, but what great things you’re doing, and how much you must be learning too along the way! Congratulations Denyse, sounds like you’re doing an excellent job x

  • Sounds like you are doing amazing things hon and inspiring a new generation of kids to love books and writing…that is an awesome thing to do!

    Time pressures can be tough but you want to be able to look back at this year and know that you gave it your all! You are, and will continue, to be brilliant. *hugs*

    Re your video…what about putting it on U-tube?

    C x

    • You are echoing my thoughts about how I want to feel at the end of the year 🙂 As for putting the video on YouTube…um, maybe! Need to actually film it first!

  • What a great idea to film yourself so that it can be shown to the schools.

    It sounds like you are taking this position very seriously, that is something to be admired. I hope you still have time for your own writing though, and also for resting!

    • It is such an honour and a privilege to be in this position and I am doing everything I can to ensure the residents of Portsmouth are able to benefit from it. I am a typical writer in that way – I don’t want to let anyone down! At the moment I have no time for my own writing but luckily I am in the lull that comes between submitting a novel to my publisher and waiting for the next round of edits to begin so I have the freedom to work on writer in residence related prep.

  • What a brilliant solution – saves on travel costs and time too. I’ve been investigating ichat lately [because I have a mac] but maybe you could Skype to follow up with the schools after they’ve watched the video which would be so exciting in real time if you were a pupil [ I may need to edit that as I suspect it would be exciting for me looking back on my boring school days, but not so much so for the modern child.]

    • Thanks for letting me know. if you could give me some more detail about in what way it looks unusual then I will pass this on to my webmistress.

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