Hounslow Manor School

My first ever school visit took me to Hounslow Manor in southwest London. Before last Friday, I confess the thought of facing “the youth of today” en masse made me slightly nervous, but the reality was that I’ve never been in a room with nearly fifty such polite, charming and enthusiastic pupils – certainly not when I was at school.

Before getting started I had five minutes to judge the winners of a poetry competition from a shortlist – this was impossible because the standard was incredibly high. I confess I wimped out and drew the names of the winners from out of a hat but I’d say to everyone whose poem was there, their entries were superb and I’m sure there are some future writers among the finalists.

I began trying to talk a little about story-telling. With a willing volunteer and a couple of trusty umbrellas (doubling as light sabres) I re-enacted the pivotal scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to demonstrate the beauty of a plot twist, before also talking about Harry Potter, probably the series that most influenced my writing.

We moved on through discussions of time travel (which clearly happens in Hounslow as some of the pupils had actually met Albert Einstein earlier that very day), the possible location of Atlantis and the existence of aliens. Of course those are all elements of the Johnny Mackintosh story and I hope whetted a few appetites for the book. Then I rushed through a reading of when Johnny (and Clara) are taken into space for the very first time.

The reason it was rushed was because I overran terribly, partly because of all the hands in the air while I was talking to my eager listeners. I didn’t want to ignore possible the best audience I’ll ever have, so I found myself stopping all the time to take questions (which I didn’t feel I did justice to properly). I was asked if there was a moral to my story, whether I’d seen the Transformers film, if you went back in time how could you bring the dead back to life, and zillions more, all of them fascinating and thought-provoking.

Looking back, I probably made the cardinal author’s sin of not saying enough about my own writing and book, so if there’s anyone from the school who wants to ask me a question they didn’t get to pose on the day, or one they felt I didn’t answer well enough, or they couldn’t even get to the talk so missed out on asking a burning question about Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London, me or writing and stories in general, now’s your chance. If you leave a comment on this entry I promise to give you a considered reply.

And, finally, thanks to everyone for being such a wonderful audience.
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~ by keithmansfield on October 23, 2008.

3 Responses to “Hounslow Manor School”

  1. Oh that sounds fabulous Keith! Well done! It must have been such a thrill – and re-enacting the lightsaber duel… GENIUS!

  2. Keith, It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of you first School Visit. I am over the moon to hear that our students live up to your expectations. Hopefully you can visit us again talking about a sequel to ‘Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London’. Im sure all our students will want to vote for ‘Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London’ for the ‘Big Science Read’ seeing as JM was voted ‘Book of the Month’ September! You did amazingly for your first school visit. Many Thanks once again. Mr. Ladva – LRC Deputy Manager

    • Thanks for the feedback, Mahavir. Great to hear Johnny was voted book of the month! I’ll definitely return once the second book’s out and, this time, will be a little better prepared.

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