Visit by Author Inspires Students

Gary Toward, author of the historical crime novel set in WW1, The Magpie, visited Ivanhoe College on Monday 25th June. His presentation took pupils on a journey through time, incorporating the history of the period his book is set in and then inspired pupils to stretch themselves with their own writing.

Gary said,“Writing and reading are key skills in life and I want to inspire youngsters to become the best writers they can be.  While I wrote this book for adults, I deliberately made it fit the key stage three curriculum for English and History as I both wanted youngsters to not forget the struggles of the period, but also to enjoy reading a fiction.”

The Magpie is set accurately in the period of WW1 and Gary explained to the pupils how he developed his main character based on his own experiences as a child in a mining family, and how they can use their own knowledge and experiences to make their writing be more realistic.  The Magpie begins in the north east and ends in the hell of the trenches, so Gary was able to illustrate with pictures and artefacts how research helps to increase your knowledge and allow your writing help the reader to see, hear, feel, taste and understand the story.  Katy Clemons, English subject leader said,

“It was great that our students got to meet an author and to take inspiration from him that writing and reading are super important tools for life and that History is an exciting subject.

We were so privileged to have an author give up his time to help promote and enthuse a love of reading and provide helpful tips on writing fiction. The students particularly loved hearing about the author's background and how he got into writing and, learning about WW1.

We are delighted to hear that Gary is happy to return each year to provide further presentations and workshops to meet the needs of the school and students. Not everyone will become a writer or historian, but these are skills that everyone needs, no matter what jobs they do in the future.”


Gary, a retired secondary head teacher, is offering these visits free to schools and visited schools across the UK. He said,

“Sometimes it really helps to have a visitor say the same things as the teachers.  My presentation is a little different and as I can show the kids that I came from a poor background and through hard work was able to achieve some dreams. That can only help.”




Some of the Year 8 pupils taking part in the presentation were clearly inspired and said,

  • ‘I learnt so much from Gary’s talk, it was so interesting hear more about WWI. I’ve already read the first page of the book and can’t wait to carry on reading.’’ - Angel
  • ‘I bought a copy of the book from Gary, at break time in the library, we learnt so much about the author that it made it more special to get it signed.’ – Natalie
  • ‘I loved the artefacts and that we got to hold them and examine them. My favourite was the grenade, I’ve always wanted to see one in real life.’ -Kaitlyn

Gary’s book is published by Austin Macauley and is available as a paperback or e-book online and from good book shops.

05 Jul 2018

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