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Author Wins Over Students with Workshops, Words and Wolves

Bringing learning to life is key at Congleton High, with teaching staff constantly looking for new ways to enthuse and inspire students. With this in mind, the English department arranged for leading children’s author and illustrator, Curtis Jobling, to visit the school and share his experiences with a group of year seven, eight and AS creative writing students to encourage and challenge these keen readers and writers.

Well known to younger children and their parents as the author and illustrator of Bob the Builder, Frankenstein’s Cat and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, older children have now become fans of his work through his Wereworld series of fantasy horror novels and his latest trilogy, Haunt.

Curtis entertained and inspired the students, all of whom had expressed an interest in creative writing, with accounts of his writing and illustrating career in a funny and fascinating talk, interwoven with mini video clips. He told how, from an early age, a great  love of reading had inspired his career choices and led him to what he considers the best job in the world, ‘being paid to daydream’! Curtis also demonstrated how to draw many of his best-loved characters, effortlessly producing sketches of Bob the Builder and his supporting cast in seconds.

Finally, the author read an extract from the first of his Wereworld novels, Rise of the Wolf. It was a gripping action packed passage, featuring a fight between the main protagonist and a terrible foe, a shock discovery, a heart-breaking death and a tragic misunderstanding, all in the space of just a few minutes of animated storytelling by the author. The students were transfixed and literally on the edge of their seats, eager to hear what would happen next.

Two workshops followed, with a masterclass on structuring a gripping story and writing tense, engaging prose. The room fell silent as thirty students all scribbled intently to complete a challenge set by the author - a short story entitled, ‘The Box’, with some excellent pieces of writing delivered in due course, showing incredible imagination and composition skills.

Between workshops and the talk, other students were able to meet and chat with Curtis and they posed an impressive range of searching questions on everything from his working life to his inspirations and his own favourite books. He also spent time signing his books with unique and personalised wolfish and ghostly doodles.                                         

Before leaving, Curtis autographed the sketches that he had produced throughout the day and left them as a legacy for the school to remind the students of the importance of originality and creativity. Probably the most striking of these images was a superb rendition of ‘WereBob’, bringing two of Curtis’ extremely familiar worlds together in one memorable character.

Curtis’ words provided a unique and valuable insight into where students’ studies could lead them and the workshops gave them a perfect opportunity to practise and develop their own creative fiction writing skills. Student feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive, with everyone feeling motivated and inspired to stretch their own imaginations and creativity.

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