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Just bits and pieces about the life of an author...

By Margaret Bateson-Hill, Aug 23 2017 09:44AM

Here is the text from my blog on The Awfully Big Blog Adventure



I fell into writing quite by accident. My real interest lay in performance - with my background in drama, singing and dance I wanted to be a musical theatre star. Instead, two-children-who-didn’t-like-sleeping later, I found a perfect job as an under-fives storyteller for Lambeth Libraries (when councils did things like that). I cut my teeth on interpreting other people’s picture books - not only reading the text, but using the illustrations to help unpack the subtext and of course by adding comments, rhymes, songs and questions of my own.

I love unpacking books! It takes me about twenty minutes to tell the brilliant Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell by the time I’ve been the postman, attempted to push the elephant inside my house, lost numerous fingers to the lion, and have you tried putting that jumpy frog back in the box?


I’m also very accomplished at making all sorts of munching sounds, from eating cloud fluff mash potato (I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child) to gingerbread- hungry foxes, and don’t get me started on how to eat a plate of sandwiches in one big mouthful! Owp!’ (The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr).

Of course I don’t get it right first time, I need to read and tell a story numerous times before I start to discover all that’s been packed away inside.

I also work as an oral storyteller – telling stories with no book- where no telling is ever quite the same as the one that went before.

What fascinates me with stories read/ told aloud is how they change from one telling to the next; even with a similar group of children, the group dynamic can be so different. The story ‘happens’ in the space between the storyteller and the story listener. Of course the age, number of the audience, adults in support, formality of setting, purpose of telling, inform you on what type of interaction is effective. Size of room, volume of voice, pitch, pace, movement, position in relation to audience all need considering. Some tales need small quiet spaces, whilst for another; a large hall and a good strong voice are what are required. I was using ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’ by Bill Martin Jr in a drop in under fives museum setting. As the session went on the group got larger and larger, until it had grown from 30 to 70. My gestures and voice grew in proportion to my audience until I was nearly dancing the story – and the story held its own, like all good stories do!


Audiences change the telling by their reactions, bringing out humour, or giving a new importance to an action, which previously seemed unimportant.

I love this fluidity and the reinventing of the story, keeping it fresh and alive and full of surprises.

Even though I am now a published author I still like to keep certain fluidity around my texts in my school visits – certainly around my picture books.

I ‘tell’ rather than ‘read’ my folktales, Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain and Masha and the Firebird. Although I know them well, I’m still (consciously) not word perfect. In fact as I have told them over the years I have changed details, even the order in which things happen – partly because written text and spoken text work differently and partly because simple things like my memory have changed the details over the years. Before I start I explain that to children, asking them if they can spot any differences if they already know the story, or to look out for them when they come to read the book themselves.

I have also been able to add back in details that I liked in an earlier draft and that have been cut in various edits.

Recently those two folktales have returned to their original editor and have been reissued by Alanna Books. I took the opportunity to tweak the text, and make some of those changes that have evolved through my various ‘tellings.’

Do other authors ever have an opportunity to revisit a book and change things? Do they want to? I wish I could revisit all my texts now that I’ve worked with them over the years. I would cut large chunks and rewrite so many passages. There is nothing like reading a text out loud to find its imperfections! Perhaps publishers should be building in opportunities for rewrites every five years or before a reprint?



By Margaret Bateson-Hill, Apr 10 2017 09:14AM

Moscow - just the name conjures up visions of snow, tall imposing buildings and the great novels of Tolstoy. It didn't disappoint. I had been invited by Cambridge International School to help celebrate their book week. I couldn't have been welcomed by kinder teachers, who went out of their way to look after me, and who had done a fantastic job setting up a carefully planned week of sessions . I told stories and worked with all ages from 3-16/17 from nursery to year 12. We all worked hard! Everyone read books, listened to stories and came up with ideas for stories of our own.

By Margaret Bateson-Hill, Mar 20 2017 08:27PM

A spring poem to celebrate the spring equinox! I wrote this poem last year as part of my 'Author in Residence' sessions at Christ Church Battersea. I remember seeing the first signs of green appearing and thinking it was as though someone had taken a paintbrush and flicked paint around.


Paintbox Spring


Daub bare branches with flecks of lime green,

Speckle woods in violet and mauve.

Paint carpets of flowers in pink and soft lemon,

Splash rivers and streams in pale blues.

Dot dark hills with white woolly lambs.

And stipple the fields green and brown.

Dapple the sky in silver and azure;

- Don’t forget the circle of gold.

Then streak the land with gentle grey rain

And brush in a rainbow of colour.


By Margaret Bateson-Hill 2016

By Margaret Bateson-Hill, Mar 10 2017 05:43PM

Thank you so much to the schools who invited me to be part of their World Book Day celebrations.


Luton Infants, Chatham

Leighton Park School, Reading

The Craylands School, Swanscombe

Belmont Primary, Chiswick


I had great fun telling stories and sharing papercuts and ideas for dragons. In return I received some great dragons.

Take a quick look at the gallery.And by the way if you tell everyone that your circular piece of paper looks like a pancake (It was pancake Tuesday), don't be surprised that when you fold it in half it becomes a semi-pancake! Nice one.



Excelsior's egg hatching in the Alchemist's fire from First Flight
Excelsior's egg hatching in the Alchemist's fire from First Flight
A dragon from The Craylands Primary, Swanscombe
A dragon from The Craylands Primary, Swanscombe



A Purple dragon from The Craylands Primary School
A Purple dragon from The Craylands Primary School

By Margaret Bateson-Hill, Dec 9 2016 05:17PM

I've had a great term of telling Masha and the Firebird to schools, and they in return have rewarded me with poems and drawings and masks. Today I returned to Wimbledon High Juniors to accompany 40 year 2 girls up to Wimbledon Common, so they could leave treasure boxes of their work for the firebird to find - all the time making sure Baba Yaga the witch was not spying on us, so that she could steal the boxes for herself.

It was a glorious afternoon, and the girls wore their brightly decorated firebird masks.

The boxes were carefully hidden and then camaflouaged for extra protection.


We made our way back to school wondering when the firebird would arrive to find his treasure...

Looking for a place to hide the teasure box
Looking for a place to hide the teasure box
Under the tree is a perfect hideaway
Under the tree is a perfect hideaway
Perfectly camflouaged!
Perfectly camflouaged!
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