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Writers rip up school script

Children's author shares her alternative creative writing tips, and teachers and inspectors turn the classroom on its head on stage. Adi Bloom reports

Best-selling children's author Jacqueline Wilson dreads discussing creative writing with English teachers.

"Teachers say, 'Please tell the children how you plan your work,'" the award-winning writer said. "But planning spoils all the fun. I just let rip. It's very sad that 10-year-olds should have to think about rewriting and putting in paragraphs. Professional writers get bored enough with that."

Ms Wilson, who has sold more than 15 million books, will discuss her career and her lack of writing technique during a talk at the Edinburgh book festival in August. She will also discuss her forthcoming novel, The Diamond Girls, to be published in October. She will also field the often unexpected questions that come from children in the audience.

"They ask if I've met anyone famous. When I say yes, they ask if I can get them a date with (boy band) Busted. But they're most impressed by JK Rowling.

"We met at Buckingham Palace, and children never say, 'Gosh, you've met the Queen.' They say, 'Gosh, you've met the author of Harry Potter.'"

Ms Wilson's talk is not the only event in Edinburgh to examine classroom technique from the stage. A theatre company plans to highlight the lives of long-suffering teachers - in song. Primary Scream is an all-singing, all-dancing testimony to the thrill of working with five to 11-year-olds.

The musical, written by Linda Kirby, a primary teacher in a south London school, depicts the trials of a school facing closure. While the chair of governors plots to sell off school playing fields, the caretaker laments that "this place would be all right if it wasn't for the children".

"It's quite wacky, but all sorts of awful things happen in school," said Ms Kirby. "For example, we show a kid sneezing into the mouth of a yawning teacher. That happened to someone I know."

A more sedate classroom is depicted in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, an adaptation of the famous classroom novel by Muriel Spark. The play tells the story of a radical, romantic teacher, equally dedicated to her "creme de la cr me" pupils and to Italian dictator Mussolini.

Fascism groupies also appear in Bang, Bang, You're Dead. Inspired by the 1999 murder of 16 pupils by their classmates at Columbine high, in Colorado, the play focuses on the devastating effects of bullying and alienation.

Life experiences are also the basis for Skool Rulz. Performed by actress Natalie Hedges, this one-woman comedy act takes in a series of familiar classroom figures: the seemingly demure female teacher, the history teacher who crowbars football references into every lesson, and the home-counties homeboy, who talks in rap phrases but harbours a secret fondness for Eurovision.

"I'm bringing out the funny sides of people I was at school with," said Ms Hedges. "It's how I see them, but it's not exactly complimentary. I hope they don't recognise themselves."

Jacqueline Wilson will be speaking on August 28. Festival Fringe runs from August 8-30.

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