This Sunday I will take my 103rd workshop at Bute Park. As always I will look forward to it. But I will not be looking forward to the days ahead, because once again I will be sitting out the children’s literature festival in my home city of 30 years. Back in 2012, when a children’s literature festival was first announced, I was full of enthusiasm and contacted the organisers offering to help in any way I could. After all, I was the Cardiff-based author of over 50 titles, and the festival did claim to be promoting local writing besides bringing in big names from around the world.
Since that time four festivals have gone by, and I have not a heard a thing from those paid by Cardiff Council to run the event.
So much for supporting local writing.
I hate being put in the position of advertising my own credentials, so perhaps online encyclopaedias such as this one will do that for me. Suffice to say I am regularly commissioned by major publishers such as the OUP and my worldwide sales are now approaching half a million. And while I am mainly known as a writer of comic novels for juniors, such as Thimble Monkey Superstar, chosen for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, I am proudest of my radical novels for young adults, such as The Last Free Cat, chosen by the International Literacy Association for its Young Choices list – the best 30 YA titles published in the US.
Before I became a writer, however, I was a teacher, and have always been dedicated to inspiring others to write and perform. Countless community projects, school visits and adult classes have demonstrated a commitment to this city which stands in stark contrast to that self-seeking glory-hunter whose centenary was celebrated last year in Cardiff at an alleged cost of £2 million.
I am happy to say that no-one has ever spat on me in the street, but if they did it would not be worse than having my life’s work ignored in a city which claims to value its literary heritage.
Can You Write for Children?, starting Sunday Jan 8th, is now fully booked, but as demand has been so strong I am running a second course after the current one ends. The course will begin on March 5th for six weeks, avoiding April 9th (RBS show in Bute Park) and April 16th (Easter Sunday), thus finishing on April 23rd. As usual the workshops will take place from 1.30 – 3pm and be suitable for writers of any experience. The cost is £95, with concessions for the unwaged and those who have attended a previous course.
Early booking is always advised. I always operate a numbers limit to ensure that all students get the attention they need. I consider it essential that students get feedback on each piece of work in the week it is written.
Please feel free to email me or ring 07599 203480 if you have any questions.
By popular demand, the next course in Bute Park will be Can You Write for Children? Over six Sundays we will look at the basics of plot, character and voice in writing stories for children of all ages. The price will be £95 (£85 if you’ve previously taken a course), with concessions for the unwaged. As always the course will be suitable for adults of any experience, and if you are beset by doubts about putting pen to paper, fear not! Just give me a ring on 07599 203480 to discuss the course, or email me. Early booking is advised.
Please note – if you want to give this course as a Christmas gift, let me know and I’ll email you a gift token on payment.
Besides teaching creative writing at Bute Park I do occasionally write books (60 at the last count) and for this reason will be appearing this Saturday (8 Oct) as part of the Firefly Day at Waterstones Cardiff. I’ll be reading from my latest children’s story Thimble Monkey Superstar, answering questions and maybe making up some stories with whoever happens to be there.
The event starts at 11am and I’ll be doing my bit between 12 and 12.30. As I write for all ages I’ll be pleased to see children, teens or adults, but only of the human variety. I’ll be happy to chat about my creative writing courses afterwards (nb it is still possible to join Writing Short Stories – see above).
For more on those 60 books, see www.jonblake.co.uk.
The next course at Bute Park will be Writing Short Stories, running from Sunday 25 Sept to 30 October. Classes will be from 1.30 to 3pm each week. The course will be suitable for people of any experience and the cost will be £95 (£85 for those who’ve been on a previous course). If there is room I’ll also take people who are unwaged at a concessionary rate – just contact me about this or if you have any other enquiries.
Please note: the course is now running, but it is still possible to join it for one or more workshops, paying by the week. Email me or ring 07599 203480 for details, or simply use the pay-by-week button on the booking page.
This summer it will be thirty years since my first YA novel, Yatesy’s Rap, was published by Penguin Books. Fifty-nine books have followed, including the 200,000 selling You’re A Hero Daley B (Axel Scheffler’s first picture book), the 70,000 selling House of Fun series, the 35,000 selling One Girl School, and the widely-acclaimed YA thriller The Last Free Cat, a passionate indictment of privatisation. The books that I have written in Cardiff are sold as far afield as the USA, Japan and China; I’ve been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Award and a Writers Guild Award and have won a BBC Talent Award for radio comedy.
Just as important to me is my work as a teacher, not just at Welsh universities and the Bute Park Education Centre but on a myriad of school visits and community projects. It has been especially important to me to work in areas such as Adamsdown, where I lived for nineteen years: I don’t come from a professional background and have always been on a mission to encourage others in the same boat.
To celebrate those thirty years as an author I am offering to visit schools, libraries, community projects and events free of charge: I will bring signed copies of my latest book for juniors, Thimble Monkey Superstar, for sale, as well as other books on request. The offer will last to the end of September, so if you are interested, let me know as soon as possible by email, or call me on 07599 203480. I am a qualified teacher and hold a disclosure certificate.
For details of Bute Park courses, see below.
Are writing courses in Bute Park behind improvements in wildlife literacy? (photo:Rhiannon Hobbs)
It’s been a fantastic year so far in Bute Park: the third six-week course is nearing conclusion and last Saturday’s monologues workshop, the third one-off event of the year, was a great success. As usual there will be a summer break now, but more courses are planned for the autumn: if you’re interested in attending one or more of these, email me and I’ll make sure you hear about them. I always aim to provide whatever writers are looking for: check back through previous courses and workshops advertised here to see the range available. If you have an interest that hasn’t been covered, let me know.
Online tuition and editing are available at www.storyvet.net. My children’s books site is at www.jonblake.co.uk.
Matthew Bulgo’s Constellation Street, a series of interlocking monologues, was a huge hit when performed recently at the Other Room. Now there’s a great chance to meet Matthew in the beautiful setting of Bute Park: he’ll answer questions on his work and conduct a workshop on the writing of monologues. Writers of any or no experience are welcome.
The date is Saturday 25 June (1-3pm) and the cost just £12. As always it is recommended to book early.
For all enquiries email Jon Blake or ring 07599 203480.
The next course at Bute Park will be Creative Writing For All, a general creative writing class suitable for people of all ages and experience. As always, the emphasis will be on learning through doing; writing in a relaxed and encouraging environment and having fun doing it. The course will be tailored to the interests of those taking part; you will be able to write for whatever age-range and genre you prefer. It will run on Sundays from June 5 to July 10, 1.30 to 3pm, and the price will be £95 (£85 for those who’ve done a previous course). There is a numbers limit on courses to ensure that everybody gets sufficient attention, so it’s a good idea to book early. Check out the other pages here for details of the venue and tutor, and book here. Ring Jon Blake on 07599 203480 or email for further details.
Please note: owing to a large increase in room hire rates I’ve made a small increase to the concessionary rates. Email me for details of how to enrol if unwaged.
Sorry – workshop now full. Next course starts June 5.
On Sunday 15th May I’m running a workshop for anyone who is interested in writing for children. Can You Write A Children’s Book? will look at the basics of plot, character and voice, giving participants the chance to write a story under the guidance of Cardiff’s most successful children’s author for the past thirty years. The workshop will run from 1 to 3pm in the beautiful and spacious setting of the Bute Park Education Centre – and should you choose to take the six-week course on writing for children which will start soon after, I’ll discount the £12 from the price.
As always with my courses, experienced writers and novices are equally welcome. If you’re full of doubt, fear not! You won’t be by the end of the workshop. Any questions, give me a ring on 07599 203480 or email me.
Numbers are limited to ensure everyone gets enough attention, so book early.
Stop press: the next course will be now be a general creative writing course which will include writing for children if there is interest in this. Students can use the £12 discount on this or wait for the next Writing for Children course.