5th October 21
Once students leave The King Alfred School, they go on to careers in every field imaginable. Recently our Old Alfredians office have been welcoming alumnae back to Manor Wood to talk to students about their experiences after leaving and what’s stayed with them from their time at KAS.
OA Michael Mann is celebrating the publication of his first book this month – you can pick up copies of his novel Ghostcloud which is aimed at readers aged around 8-12 years old, from all good bookshops!
While this is his first work to be published, it’s by no means his first book. Michael had a root around in his garage and dug out some of the wonderful stories he created when he attended KAS between the ages of 4 and 8. We spoke to him about how KAS had influenced his career choices and how his time here still resonated with him 30 years later.
“I have a wonderful memories of learning to read with Audrey in reception. I remember all of the other children were asleep on the little mats, and I couldn’t sleep. She beckoned me up and sat with me and that was my first book, I remember it really vividly. Despite only being at the school for four years, many things about that time have stayed with me. I remember Dolly the goat, the chickens, adventures in the climbing frames and lots of my friends.
I remember that I was given lots of chances to do the things that I enjoyed alongside the more traditional learning. For me that was reading, I loved going to the library, choosing books from my classroom and just the freedom of being able to choose to read what I loved.
I loved Roald Dahl and I remember I’d read every Roald Dahl book in Jane’s class, so when I was 5, 6 and 7. I think The Witches is probably my favourite, it’s just great. I also loved TinTin and I went through all of those.
I loved all subjects but I think that memory of Audrey teaching me to read and King Alfred being such a positive, joyous environment has stayed with me and I feel very privileged. Looking at these stories I wrote while I was at KAS I can see the connection to my book, Ghostcloud. There’s a magic lamp and a time travelling machine, they’re all like quite fantastical stories where a kid is transported some other world in some way. Ghostcloud is relatively bonkers, there’s lots of imagination and new worlds being discovered so it’s nice to see that that was fostered in my writing when I was here.
After school I went on to study anthropology at university and I’ve ended up being a teacher myself. While I always loved writing, I never thought of it as a real job. I’ve always written stories but about five years ago I took a writing course and started creating stories because I enjoyed it, not with an eye on getting them published. The fact this book is coming out still feels quite unreal.
I still teach alongside my writing and I try to share my love of reading with my students. I’ll bring in a book I really love and read the first chapter and then lend them my book, and they love that stuff. I really enjoy teaching English and writing stories with them collaboratively. Once thing I’ve definitely taken into my teaching from King Alfred is that sense that it’s not about whether it’s a good piece or bad, it’s their voice, it’s about telling them that I love what they’ve done and thinking about what part of them is in that story. At King Alfred I was always encouraged to express myself and to be an individual and I try to bring that to my classroom, to make every student feel special.
To any King Alfred students who aspire to be a write I’d say, write what you love, write for you and just keep at it. The thing which stopped me writing for a long time was caring what other people thought about it. The fact is, there are wonderful books out there which lots of people hate and other people love, so don’t be worried if the person next to you doesn’t like it. And read lots, that’s very important.”
We’re grateful to Michael for taking the time to come in and spend time talking to students in Year 6 in our newly created 6-8 space. We’re sure they’ll all enjoy reading his book, Ghostcloud which is a magical adventure about a boy called Luke who shovels coal in a power station deep underground. He dreams of going home to his family and then he meets a mysterious ghost girl who tells him there’s a way out of the plant, and she draws him into a whirlwind adventure.