One school like that is St John's Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre in County Durham. I did a school visit there a few years ago as part of the Northern Children's Book Festival and the response from the pupils was really special. They had incredible ideas and dynamism and the questions were fantastic. Actually, one boy asked my favourite question ever:
"How does someone as nice as you write such nasty books?" Love it!
Anyway, as I went back home on the train, I got thinking about how I could respond to their enthusiasm. To cut a long story short, I handed over the promotion of my next book, The Highwayman's Footsteps, to them. They did the most amazing job, involving the English, art and history departments for the whole of Years 7 and 8, and it culminated in a launch in front of 700 pupils, with press and photographers and all sorts of coverage. The project was led by two remarkable pupils, Brogan and George, and Brogan even mentioned it in her personal statement when applying to Oxford University - she got a place, she told me recently!
What has this got to do with Wasted? Well, the connection continued and about a year ago I had a vibrant and excited email from another pupil there, Amy, who had remembered being in Year 7 and in the audience when HF was launched. We got chatting. (You can't not get chatting with Amy...) And I thought, hmmm, it would be wrong to ignore such enthusiasm - what could we do? I asked Amy if she'd like to be my teenage marketing person (along with another vibrant teenager from the other side of the country, Iffath at lovereadingx). Amy is known for her enthusiasm and her reply kind of went off the scale of excitement.
Amy and her friends have been reading and planning and talking and thinking and getting their school involved. I'm going to report on that later - but for now, suffice it to say that I am in awe of them and St John's.
But there are some interesting chance happenings to do with this, and since Wasted is about Chance, I thought you should know them.
The St John's librarian, who has been hugely important in all this, is called Miss Heads. Considering this is about a game with a coin, don't you think that's quite a coincidence?
It gets more spooky.
The pupils and Miss Heads were trying to think of a game involving a coin that they could get the whole school to play, as a way of sparking interest in the book. At this stage, most of them hadn't read it so they were a bit in the dark, but they kept thinking. The night before the copies of the book were due to arrive, Miss Heads's husband went to a fund-raising event of some sort and there they played a game called ... Heads or Tails.
Result! And that is the game they played in assembly for the whole school on Publication Day for Wasted.
Here's the game. You need a room full of people, and one coin.
- Everyone stands up.
- On the count of three everyone puts their hands either on their heads or on their hips / buttocks / whatever.
- Everyone keeps their hands where they've chosen until the leader tosses the coin and calls out the result.
- If the coin landed heads up, all those with hands on head remain standing. Everyone else sits down.
- This is repeated until only one person is left standing. That person wins a copy of the book!
Pass it on!
Meanwhile, if you'd like me to come to talk to your school about Wasted and my other books, the page about my events is here. I love doing events so I'd love to hear from you. I have some vacancies in the autumn and lots of space next year but I do tend to be booked far in advance so don't delay!
WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? Over at the remarkable Jesse Owens's blog - Books4Teens - where, by chance, you'll see a picture of me after a school event.