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Keith Gray – March 2013

 

Author Keith Gray’s visit to school

We were very fortunate in being able to meet Keith Gray, author of award winning ‘Ostrich Boys’ and other books, in the library on Tuesday 5 March. He told us how he went from being a reluctant reader to passionate reader and now to being a dedicated writer. Keith gave us tasks to perform related to writing and we learned more about character and conflict and how to develop these elements in our own writing. He gave us great advice and we enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to him.

After a very entertaining and interesting visit by Keith Gray, Mr Clarke’s S4 class were asked what they thought:

“I thought it was perfect. Very interesting and could have been longer.” Rachel McFarlane, 4R

“I really enjoyed his visit and so the only thing that would have improved it for me was if it was for two periods not one.” – Grace Carter, 4I

 

 

 

 

“I had already read two of his books so I already liked the style but it did make me want to read other books by him.” – Darren Wimble, 4M

“I can use this in writing to make my characters more realistic and believable. Also, it would give my stories a structure so that they wouldn’t go on forever.” – Christie Morris, 4M

“His advice will help me during my writing exam to deepen my character description.” – Laura Miller, 4M

“Keith Gray encouraged me greatly to read, so much so that I am planning to read Ostrich Boys. He really sold reading to me.” – Ross Cumming, 4G

“It really helped me to structure my short stories and I learnt that they all need conflict.” – Fergus McLean, 4G

“I thought it was great as it was.” – Emma Gordon, 4G

An interview with Keith Gray is below:

Sophie Thirkell’s interview:

Reluctant reader turned author Keith Gray dropped by Elgin Academy to teach S4 pupils on creative writing techniques.

The Edinburgh based author writes teenage novels, namely ‘The Ostrich Boys’ and ‘The Runner’ amongst other works, which have gone on to win the Angus Book Award and the silver medal in the Smarties Prize. Gray gave tasks to students to perform related to writing. They learned more about character and conflict and how to develop these elements in their own writing, especially in upcoming exams.

One student, Emma Berrill, said “It helped me be able to structure my writing and showed me how to think of all aspects of my character and conflict.”

In an interview, Gray gave his advice for budding writers: “Write the kind of books you want to read. If you love science fiction, write science fiction. If you love horror, write horror.  I think a lot of young people feel as if they have to write to get good marks at school or write to please their parents and yet they secretly love reading different types of books (that are) different than the stories they read in class.”

However, Gray was once a reluctant reader himself. He became interested in reading to impress a friend, “It was a friend in the year above me at school. I wanted to be his best friend, he was very cool, he had lots of mates, he was very clever and he read books. He said you should read this book (and) he gave me a book called ‘The Machine Gunners’ by Robert Westall and I read it because I wanted to be his friend rather than actually wanting to read books at the time.”

He also claims that he still writes books encouraging his 12 year old self to read but his own inspirations to write come from other authors.

“I definitely steal- I’m definitely inspired by other people’s books” Gray continues, “my books are always sparked by a piece of experience and I can explode that experience using my imagination.”

Gray’s company was very much enjoyed by the pupils who only complained that the author should have stayed for longer.

ST: Apparently you used to be a very reluctant reader, what made you get into reading – let alone writing?

KG:  It was a friend in the year above me at school, he was called Richard. I wanted to be his best friend, he was very cool, he had lots of mates, he was very clever and he read books. He said you should read this book (and) he gave me a book called ‘The Machine Gunners’ by Robert Westall and I read it because I wanted to be his friend rather than actually wanting to read books at the time. ‘The Machine Gunners’ it just, it blew me away. I didn’t realise that books could give you so much because at school, unfortunately, when I’ve been forced to read lots of books it’d always be an exam or a test, you know, with yes or no answers. With the ‘Machine Gunners’, it was just a blast of entertainment from beginning to end and so after reading that I wanted to read more and more books by the same guy, Robert Westall, then my reading grew because I loved books. It was a sudden thing but it’s thanks to Richard. Then I wanted to write the books that I enjoyed reading so I still think I write books for me as a twelve year old boy – still trying to get me to read when I was twelve.

ST: What influences you in your writing?

KG: Other people’s books. I definitely steal- I’m definitely inspired by other people’s books. Just this morning I was reading a book and thinking ‘Wow that’s so good. I wish I could do that.’ I get excited when I read really good books and I want to write that kind of thing so I’m annoyed that I’m in a school today instead of at home writing because I’ve read a really good book this morning! But I’m inspired by people I meet, by places I go… I think a lot of writers are inspired by real life and they twist it to make it more exciting or more dramatic or more emotional. Not that real life always needs twisting but my books are always sparked by a piece of experience and I can explode that experience using my imagination.

ST: Do you have any advice for people who want to become writers themselves?

KG: Write the kind of books you want to read. If you love science fiction, write science fiction. If you love horror, write horror. Write the kind of books you want to read, I think a lot of young people, unfortunately, feel as if they have to write to get good marks at school or write to please their parents and yet they secretly love reading different types of books different than the stories they read in class. All the writers I meet, whether they write for children or adults or teenagers or whichever age group, they all say well deep down I write for me. So I’m still writing the kind of books that I think I’d enjoy reading. I’m not a huge science fiction fan so I’ve never written a science fiction book if you know what I mean. I’m still writing the books I want to read.

ST: Do you have any inspirations yourself, any poets or authors?

The authors that inspire me – I could give you a list as long as my arm! I review books for the Guardian newspaper and the Scotsman newspaper and I’m forever finding new authors and going ‘Oh wow, that’s good!’ But at the moment I’m a big fan of an American writer called John Green. I really like Patrick Ness. He’s excellent, he’s the real deal. I’m a big fan of American crime writing so from the old school people like Raymond Chandler to really the new people, (like) George Pelecanos. (He’s) an American writer, but he also wrote a TV series called ‘The Wire’ (so) because I saw ‘The Wire’ I started reading his novels. At the moment I’m quite fixated on American crime writing, whether that is going to filter down into my books, I don’t know.

ST: Why do you prefer to write books that are aimed at children rather than adults?

KG: It’s partly an accident. Partly an accident. I think I write in a very accessible way. I write for young people about accessibility and inclusion. I think sometimes big, posh adult literary novels are quite exclusive. I don’t really like that. I like to write accessibly for as many people as possible. So I think my writing suits young people in that way because it’s quite easy to read my books.

Also, I think that young people are the most interesting people to write for because as an adult, I don’t really read books I don’t want to read. I don’t know any adults that don’t read books they don’t want to read. As an adult, we read books to bolster our political views and to make us feel good about our religious choices or to make us feel good about our political choices, you know what I mean? We read to affirm what we already believe in as adults whilst young people, you’re forced on a daily basis to read books you don’t want to read at school. Not only do you have to read them, the books that may differ from your religious or political or your social views, these books. Not only are you forced to read them, you’re forced to study them and dissect them and to pass exams in them. We don’t do that as adults, we just read what we want to read whereas young people are forced to read all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff perhaps that they wouldn’t read themselves and that’s really interesting. I think people dont realise how good your readers can be and I want to be a part of that. I want to write for you people. I want to write for your open minds.

It’s like I’m spouting this argument to you at the moment (but) you’re not going to change my mind. I’m a grown-up; you’re not going to change my mind. Young people are often argue because they haven’t sorted out their mind yet so they argue to find out what they know rather than arguing to force somebody to change their mind, does that make sense? I think that I’m arguing with you now to change your mind or to make you believe what I believe and that’s how adults argue but I think young people argue to discover what they believe, they haven’t quite sussed it out yet. They’re coming out from different angles and trying to figure it out in their own heads who they are.

 Young people read to explore, adults read to feel warm inside.

Do you try to influence that in your writing yourself?

I don’t believe I have the answers to the world, the universe and everything. Not for one single minute. So what I do, I try to throw out questions in my writing that young people can think about in their own time. I wouldn’t for a minute want to feel as so I was persuading or twisting young people to think the same as me because I don’t know if I’m right. I haven’t got a clue. I’d rather they’d work it out for themselves so my books are quite open ended. People have claimed by books as quite immoral because I don’t say what’s right and what’s wrong. I just offer up everything and let the reader decide.