A WAY WITH WORDS
Local author Kate Poels talks to Elestr Lee about the books she has
published and her mission to help others to enjoy the art of story-telling.
KATE POELS always knew she wanted to work with children and young people. Having grown up in Herefordshire, she trained to be a nurse and worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
Then she retrained to be a teacher at the University of Reading, and moved to Caversham 14 years ago, teaching at Caversham Primary School. However, it was around ten years ago that she realised her real ambition – guiding children to unleash their creative writing potential.
“I really want them to run with their ideas,” she enthuses. “It’s great to be able to get away from the ‘rules’- I am there to allow them to unlock their creativity.”
Kate herself always loved writing as a child, making up little books of her own about the adventures of the two characters she invented, called Gobbledy and Gook. Nursing, and then primary school teaching took over – however, during her maternity leave following the birth of her second daughter, she wrote her first novel.
“I have completed 18 manuscripts so far – both for children and for adults. I write all sorts of stories; at the moment I am working on a dark murder mystery for adults, and my favourite is a children’s adventure, set in the second world war. I read very widely myself, and I think that’s why I like to write in such varied genres.”
So far, Kate has had three children’s books published – her first, Zachary Mackerel: Meanie In A Bottle, appeared in 2014, while Mima Malone, the Mad Bad Inventor was her first ‘lockdown’ publication. “I self-published Zachary Mackerel,” she explains. “Then I had an agent, and Mima Malone got a long way through the editorial process before the publisher pulled out. This also happened with Pie Rats, but I published them anyway, as so much work had already been done together with the editors. I wouldn’t have wanted to publish without that input.” While Kate’s first two books are available to purchase through Amazon, Pie Rats is available from Caversham’s independent bookshop Fourbears, while she also distributes her work through schools and at craft fairs. Kate is also very busy delivering online courses to children via Zoom, organised by Author In Me, as well as travelling the country to visit schools, inspiring children to develop their own creative writing.
“Due to the curriculum, teachers have been less and less able to let children use their imagination – the ‘rules’ of writing have become suffocating. Authors such as myself are invited in to do ‘author talks’; and to reassure them that it doesn’t matter if they get a spelling wrong.”
“You don’t want to see children’s ideas stifled!” Kate explains. “These visits are really popular. Sometimes the day is built around a topic the children are studying, for example the Egyptians. Or else I might do a talk to each key stage, then I go into classrooms and the children splinter off into smaller groups. We work on word building; I give them the building blocks for their own work.”
Locally, Kate offers regular creative writing classes in Caversham, at the creativ.spaces studio in Marsack Street. “I run six-week courses, for groups of no more than eight children in term time, or up to 10 in the holidays. Half of these courses are writing for fun, but I also offer 11- plus coaching courses, as creative writing is now part of the test,” she adds. Courses normally sell out, and she is pleased to see children returning even after completing their first six-week course.
Her next project is to start creative writing classes for adults, which will also take place at creativ.spaces. “We are researching to see if this would be better positioned as a daytime course, or in the evenings, and how this can fit into the calendar – the studio is in such demand. Keep an eye on my website for news on this!”
Kate foresees a very busy year ahead, as she juggles ideas for herown forthcoming novels, and prepares for her creative writing classes, as well as encouraging her own daughters, both pupils at Highdown. “The elder devours books – while the younger is more of a scientist and rugby player,” she says. And she remains delighted at the response to both her published children’s books, and to her creative writing initiatives. “It is so important – and children have such fantastic imaginations.”
Find out more: www.katepoels.co.uk