Doing readings and talks as Leigh Turner in Salzburg and Graz turned out to be immense fun. Next up: Oxford, London and Vienna.
Q: How do you engage a classroom full of teenagers?
A: Teach them something useful.
Academic Grammar School
I was delighted when Christian Lutsch, an English teacher from the Akademisches Gymnasium in Salzburg (Academic Grammar School – link in German) contacted me recently. Would I like to do a reading as Leigh Turner from one of my novels? Could his class of 14- and 15-year-olds interview me? Would I like to do a workshop on how to write a blog or newspaper article?
I said yes, at once, to all three.
Staying in touch with young people helps keep your brain working. I was keen to see what a team of teenagers would make of my sci-fi thriller Corona Crime. I suggested that my three blog-posts starting with “Writing the perfect article or blog: 7 tips to speed things up” might be a good basis for the workshop.
I’ve got to admit: I wasn’t sure whether the class’s English would be good enough to read “Corona Crime” or to put up with me reading Chapters 1 and 2 out loud. Might it be embarrassing if I ended up staring at blank faces?
I need not have worried. Class 5a had not only read the first 100 pages of Corona Crime. In the class, they listened attentively to my reading and asked wise questions that showed they had a good grasp of what was going on. They interviewed me about my life. Then, in the workshop, they did an excellent job of sketching out articles using the lede, nut-graf, body and cosmic kicker structure I’d suggested, and read out the results – all in English.
I found the way they discussed the tasks with each other, pooled their learning, and then knuckled down to work particularly impressive.
Ausgezeichnet, Class 5a of the Akademisches Gymnasium in Salzburg und danke sehr!
Also in October, “European Dialogue” in Graz (the site, in German, describes it as “A critical and interactive European dialogue platform for ideas with a future”) invited me to come and talk about how my diplomatic career had inspired my writing, and vice-versa.
I like Graz and know the team at European Dialogue, including the dynamic Andreas Schröck. So I was delighted to put together an all-new Powerpoint presentation for a German-language talk.
The event took place, at the cool Café Global in Graz. Over 50 people attended, and sat, apparently rapt and enthusiastic, as I gave a talk of around an hour, illustrated with numerous pictures such as this one:
Giving an all-new talk is always a bit nail-biting, so I was delighted that the people of Graz gave my efforts such a warm welcome. The following day, Andreas kindly arranged for a tour of the excellent Graz Museum on the Schlossberg with Director Prof. Otto Hochreiter. Recommended. I’ll be keen to return to Graz – beautiful city and lovely people.
I have several further readings and talks planned in Austria and elsewhere, and am open to requests. Next up are:
- Two lectures on diplomatic practice at the Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme, in Oxford on 8 and 10 November (you have to be on the Programme to attend these, I’m afraid!)
- A talk to the “Friends of Belsize Park Library” on Zoom at 1930 UK time on 18 November. The link for the talk is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88964661765 or Zoom ID: 88964661765. No password is necessary.
- A reading in English at the “Tandler Lounge” of the remarkable “48 Tandler”, a smart second-hand shop run by the Vienna City “MA48” department. Truly a cool place. Again, I’ll publish more info about this reading as soon as I have it.
- I have also been invited to address the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Austria before Christmas. More details to come.
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