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As part of our 'Leaf to Leaf' celebrations marking the opening of our beautiful new Lime Kiln Garden and library, we were thrilled to open our doors to local primary schools last week with two very special talks in the library.

On Wednesday 22nd September, we welcomed children from Fynamore Primary School and Holy Trinity Academy to hear illustrator and creator of 'The Gruffalo', Axel Scheffler, read the well-known and much-loved Julia Donaldson stories of The Gruffalo, The Highway Rat and Stickman. As Axel spoke, he sketched his infamous characters, took questions from the audience and shared the process of how he created ‘The Gruffalo’- who was apparently initially too scary for younger audiences, so he needed some amending to make him less fearful! The children also loved seeing photos of where Axel creates these characters and his very messy desk!

Axel then joined pupils at St Margaret’s Prep who were celebrating the opening of their Early Years’ Courtyard - a new space at the centre of the school for their youngest to play and learn, supported by the Calne Foundation Trust. Pupils had enjoyed a celebratory day with ice cream in the Courtyard before Axel officially cut the ribbon and signed books for some very excited Reception and Year 1 pupils!

On Thursday 23rd September we were delighted to be joined by Elen Caldecott, author of the popular Marsh Road Mysteries series of books. Elen conducted two sessions for local primary schools, including St Margaret’s Prep, Heddington Primary, Holy Trinity Academy and Priestley Primary.

In the highly interactive, and very entertaining sessions, Elen suggested to the children that it is best to write about the things you love and care about as ‘your interest and passion for your subject will come through in your writing.’

Elen shared that she liked mysteries, detective fiction, contemporary stories about real people living now and stories with a group of main characters, which is what led her to write about the Marsh Road Mysteries with its cast of five friends. Interestingly, before she was a writer, Elen had some amazing jobs – she was an archaeologist, a nurse and a museum security guard – all experiences that have in some way inspired her characters and story lines.

She also shared that she often starts her writing process with her ‘Finale’ – or dramatic ending, then decides what her main character wants - and what the character really wants - and considers what obstacles stand in their way.

Then, taking suggestions from the students, Elen led the group through the process of creating a story line – resulting in some very funny story set-ups!

Elen finished her session by sharing how she was encouraged to write by her brilliant Year 5 teacher who praised her talent for writing.

If people praise you, and they are not related to you, that is a very special gift.’