The author as stand up comic

You’re up there for an hour, doing nothing but talking, and they’re all laughing, hundreds of them, sometimes.  You’re being FUNNY! You’re a comedian!

This was not what I expected.  Not even slightly.

“Are you up for doing some promotion?” they asked.  “Perhaps touring schools, signing some books, talking to the kids a bit?”

“Um…sure? Yeah.  Whatever.”

I didn’t know that what they really meant was: “Are you comfortable talking to 300 ten year-olds for an hour.  And making them laugh?”

This, it transpires, is life for a modern author – especially one who’s just written a children’s book.  As the mainstream press continues its precipitous decline, children’s books – always something of a poor relation in the review pages – are covered even less.  What hope for my offering (Time Travelling With A HamsterHarperCollins since you ask, thanks) to gain the attention of the book-buying public?

Well, a promotion by the very excellent bookshop chain, Waterstones, helped.  With it came an invitation to embark on a “book tour” around the UK and the enquiry if I could talk to groups of children about it.

IMG_8863As it happens, I’ve done a bit of children’s entertaining in my time, largely as an outlet for my love of magic and illusion.  More recently my magical alter-ego “Welly Wizard” (don’t judge) has made rather fewer appearances.  Hardly any, in fact.  But it does mean that standing up in front of children is not entirely alien to me.

But what do I do?  How do I fill an hour talking to a classroom/assembly hall full of children most of whom have not the faintest idea who I am or what my book’s about?

Well, I start by reading chapter 1.  That’s easy.

Then it’s a time-travel related magic trick.  Freed of the burden of being “the magician”, it turns out to be much more fun.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 18.17.16

Gasp in astonishment as the hamster travels in time!

Then I teach them how to memorise a list of ten random objects using mnemonic memory links, and this is when it starts to get properly funny, because the crazier, the sillier, the more outlandish the mental images created, then the easier it is to remember them.  It fits the theme of the book: the main secondary character has a super-power memory.

Another reading is next, and I tried loads of different chapters before deciding that the best reaction came when I read the chapter involving the torturing of a cat.  (Don’t worry: it sound more gruesome than it is.)

I finish with writing a story, collectively, with the children volunteering ideas for what happens next.  It takes five minutes – and the results are always different and always hilarious.

And that, more or less, is it.  They seemed to like it and there was – usually – a gratifyingly long queue of children wanting to buy the book and have it signed.

O2 Arena next.



Back to blog

The Monkey Who Fell From The Future

The hilarious, moving and adventure-packed new novel for readers of 9 and up from Ross Welford, the bestselling and Costa-shortlisted author of Time Travelling with a Hamster

More Info

Into the Sideways World

When Willa and Manny stumble upon a seemingly perfect world without pollution or conflict, they try desperately to make people in their own troubled world believe them.

More Info

When We Got Lost in Dreamland

When 11 year-old Malky and his younger brother Seb become the owners of a “Dreaminator”, they are thrust into worlds beyond their wildest imagination. But impossible dreams come with incredible risks...

More Info

The Kid Who Came From Space

A small village in the wilds of Northumberland is rocked by the disappearance of twelve-year-old Tammy. Only her twin brother, Ethan, knows she is safe – and the extraordinary truth of where she is. It is a secret he must keep, or risk never seeing her again.

More Info

The Dog Who Saved The World

My pet dog is called Mr Mash. We named him that because he's a mishmash. A total mongrel. He smells terrible. He'll eat literally anything. He can't see very well. But I love him more than anything. (Sorry dad.) And without him, the world is going to end...

More Info

The 1,000-year-old Boy

There are stories about people who want to live forever. This is a story about someone who wants to stop.

More Info

What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible

Turning invisible at will: it’s one way of curing your acne. But far more drastic than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead intended when she tried a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed.

More Info

Time Travelling With A Hamster

My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine, and again four years later when he was twelve.

More Info