Thank God it's Friday

Caroline Lawrence

Monday I've recently abandoned teaching for the "quiet life" of a writer and find myself travelling to libraries, bookshops, schools and even theatres to speak to more children than I ever taught. It's called "promotion". I am at the literary festival in Cheltenham. Tomorrow, I'm supposed to be speaking to 350 schoolchildren at the Everyman Theatre but, today, I want to check out the venue and see how an expert does it. Morris Gleitzman's event is as delightful as the opening sentence of his book Bumface: "Angus Solomon," sighed Ms Lowry. "Is that a penis you've drawn in your exercise book?" Tuesday I try to top Morris Gleitzman. First, I throw a roll of toilet paper into a theatre full of 10-year-olds. Next, I demonstrate the Roman equivalent of loo paper: a sponge-on-a-stick. Finally, I produce a "real" Roman soldierI whose mobile phone trills at the end (text message from Hadrian: he's needed up at the wall).

Wednesday I am elated. A teacher from a school in Cheltenham emails to tell me how much they enjoyed my event. They have based their history, drama and literacy lessons on my book, The Thieves of Ostia.

Thursday A quiet writing day. I type my name in www.google.com to do a vanity search on the internet. I discover a kids' website has given my book a mediocre review: only three stars. Yesterday's elation becomes today's dejection.

Friday A children's bookshop in London has invited a class to hear me talk. Not one pupil has read the book. None is studying Latin. I read the revolting Roman food passage and ask them to tell me about the most disgusting food they have ever eaten. One or two participate. Inspiration strikes. "Jonathan, the Jewish boy," I say, "speaks Greek and Latin. But what's his native language?" Hands shoot up. The answers range from Arabic to "New Zealandish". None guesses the right answer - Hebrew or Aramaic - but at least I've aroused their curiosity.

Caroline Lawrence used to teach Latin and art. The Thieves of Ostia and The Secrets of Vesuvius (both published by Orion) are the first two books in her new series of children's historical novels set in ancient Rome

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Caroline Lawrence

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