For the first half of June I will be working in schools across Leeds, writing a nine-part story planned, written and edited by children. The project – called The History Children – has been developed by Leeds Schools Library Service.
Each day a class of children will work up ideas for a chapter based on an aspect of their local history. Then we will plan that chapter, write it and edit it in time for it to be published at 2.30 p.m. that day so that all the other schools in Leeds can read it.
Schools will be learning about their local history in advance of my visits and will range from looking at the fifty year anniversary of Leeds’s annual carnival to a long-forgotten village hidden beneath the cold waters of a local reservoir.
The stories will be linked together by a quest that three children and their dog have been set.
I have been inspired to do this project because many of my books are set in the places I have lived. The first book of my new Defenders book series – Killing Ground – is set in Halifax, near to the Shay Stadium and Skircoat Green area where I live. And, before that, my first ever series – Foul Play – was set on the street in Leeds where I was brought up, as well as featuring many sites around the city of Leeds.
I think it is really important that children understand that books can be written about where they live and not just London or completely made-up places.
I always remember the impact reading Wuthering Heights had on me. I was thrilled that there could be a story set on the hills in Yorkshire. It was the same when I read Ted Hughes and Tony Harrison’s poetry. Books can be set in West Yorkshire. I want to pass on that appreciation and inspiration to today’s West Yorkshire children.
After each school has written and published its chapter for the rest of the city’s schools to read, I will host a school assembly talking about how children from West Yorkshire can aspire to write their own books set on their own streets and towns.