More books I am proud of

So last week I talked about a couple of books that we’d written, that I was proud of for very different reasons.  Here are another two I’m proud of. For two more different reasons.

First up,  ‘Perfect Nightmare’ from Greycourt School in Richmond.  This was very important to me because it’s the first book done completely under the White Water Writers project.  They located the school, contacted the volunteers and did all the organizational work to ensure a smooth camp. I’m looking forward to many more like that!   The book was wonderfully put together by some very good young writers and the result is this:

Perfect nightmare coverkindle…and, of course, it can be found on Amazon!

The second one is pretty special too.  Keele University worked with a group of schoolchildren from the age of 12 to 15, all of whom came from foster care. Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 14.15.53


I’m astonished at the quality of writing they produced (Amazon link) and I leave you with this comment by one of the writers.

I am 15 years old. I go to Trentham High School. I am currently captain of a street dance group. I live in a small group home with my carers. They can be a pain but I love them. I have been involved in writing this book. In the book my character is Destiny. I chose this character because I could relate her to my life at the moment. We are teenagers that have done this book so you teens that are out there ,theres nothing stopping you doing the same; just follow your dreams and you may go far. So buy this book and tell people about it because it may make a difference to other peoples lives .



Books I am proud of.

It’s been a busy few weeks for book writing using the TooManyCooks workflow. We’re still waiting for some to come back from the printers – but I thought that I might show you some of ones that have!

You remember, for example, the wonderful guest post we had from Jim Dean of Croydon College? Well that book evolved into this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 09.18.15which you can buy from amazon!

I said ‘semi-busy’, which is true, but the reason it was only semi-busy was that I was only mainly involved in Croydon book – the next book ‘camp’ was run by people I’d trained and it’s the first time there’s been a book where I’ve never even set eyes on the writers.  That would make it particularly special to me, but it’s already pretty special.

It’s called ‘The Mystery of the Locket’,  which was ran by some undergraduates from Keele University.  They went to an SEN school to run the project.  The group was eight students and includes diagnoses of epilepsy, dyslexia, Tourette’s, diabetes as well as six diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder.

…and that wrote a book.  A really good one.  When I got the phone call on Friday that everything had worked I was so very very happy.   Here’s the book:

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 09.27.10…and if you’d like to have a look at it – it’s on Amazon! My favorite thing about this book? That it’s a wonderful counterexample to all those who want to paint autism with the same ‘classic’ brush. Social? Imagination? Working together?  Yeah, all of that.

Announcing White Water Writers!

Some people rafting with great vigor.

Like this, but with books. Obviously





It’s time to announce….  White Water Writers!

So we’ve had a bit of good news recently. Many of you are aware I’ve been going on about the TooManyCooks Project since 2009. It’s been a joyous thing to be involved in and one of the things we’ve been pushing hard at is to increase the independence of the process. There are only so many days in the year and it’s heartbreaking to turn schools and groups away because you’ve run out of holiday days and because all the schools seem to want the same two weeks in June.

So last year we piloted running camps using not me, but undergraduate volunteers from our local Psychology Department. I spent much of those two weeks even more nervous than normal, but I was very proud of both our volunteers and the kids. They produced two wonderful books with only the lightest of touches from me.

This approach has brought a bit of backing. The Research and Enterprise section of Royal Holloway have been convinced, and now really believe in the Project – they have made available £20,000 in seed funding to pay for a part-time admin person for six months to run the logistical end of the project: coordinating volunteers, working with schools, keeping the accounts straight and putting training in the diary (I suspect I’ll be handling the lion’s share of the training).

We’re branding this separately – TooManyCooks will still exist as the creative sandbox where we can do experiments, side projects, and push boundaries. But White Water Writers is now the flagship. We wanted a name that gave images of working together, of excitement, and of really committing to a goal.

That six months should be enough to let White Water Writers work with enough schools to make the project a truly self sustaining social enterprise, and that’s really going to have ticked off one of my life goals. I’m going to miss running the camps in person, but I get so much from knowing we’ll reach so many more people.

Today, our job advert went live (internally to Royal Holloway people first) I’m looking forward to telling you all about the results.  And if you are a teacher reading this – please get in touch!


I’ve been invited to give a TEDx talk!

So this week I was invited to give a TEDx talk.

(I accepted. Obviously)

I’m astonishingly happy – I’ve worked hard for a long time on a whole range of projects that I think make the world better, and being asked to give a TEDx talk feels so very validating.

I’ll be speaking at this TEDx.  Please excuse the suitably-TEDish intro. I think I’d have to be a little more self confident before I use that as my main bio…

Also please excuse the terrible shortness of this post – but there is only so many words that you need 🙂



A bit more press on narrative analysis….

The piece in New Scientist the other day generated a couple of follow ups and I think it’s worth giving some notes on the process (for example my co-authors and I weren’t contacted by either of the below publications).

The Altantic Wire did a really nice job – they’d clearly read and understood the paper, they used a graphic that was in the paper, gave a high level explanation of it and recycled some quotes from another article in a reasonable way. I think it’s a nice example of science reporting – someone reads the paper and then writes about it.

Separately – I found that this Russian News site was driving a lot of traffic to my academic url – and a helpful colleague was able to tell me that it was a (reasonably) direct and fairly flattering translation of the original New Scientist piece.


Amazon petitions US Commission to exempt kindle from US accessiblity laws…


Three of the biggest e-book reader manufacturers – Amazon, Kobo and Sony – have petitioned the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ask for exemptions from US laws requiring products to be accessible to users with disabilities.


So, this appears pretty, odd, and on the face of it crazy, but let’s have a look at the actual laws in question

Having spent a few minutes browsing – I’m struggling to find much that I can imagine Amazon et al complaining about – the law is full of sensible stuff like hearing aids on telephones, and closed captioning on DVDs – my assumption is that this is actually the e-reader companies thinking ‘We don’t believe that this law applies to our kit, but given the millions of dollars in might cost us to be wrong, let’s get it signed off anyway”.

My take is this – ereaders are better if they are accessible to more people, and at this level we are really talking about speech synathesis and *maybe* switch access, but that would be at the extreme. The orginal Kindle was quite capable of this and it’s a feature I miss in my new one.  I’d like it brough back and the technology cost can’t be more than trival.

So I’m in the edition of New Scientist that came out today…


So I’m in the edition of New Scientist that came out today…(there’s an online version here)

I have to say, that having seen some awful science reporting over the years I’d somewhat braced myself for the worst, but actually the reporter who interviewed me has accurately quoted me as much as possible and where I said something ill-judged, he recognised it was ill-judged and didn’t use it in the article. I’m prepared to call it a fairly positive journalism experience.

Something I do have to address – because of the length requirements that the article was written under, it’s possible to take the impression that I’m running some sort of team and that I’m being the point person. That’s no true at all and the main reason for the post is that I want to make sure that credit is going in the right direction.

The piece was rewritten on the back of this paper, which had just been accepted 🙂  and the interviewer contacted me because I happened to have been the corresponding author on the paper.   In fact, the intellectual powerhouse behind the analysis is Fionn Murtagh, who was formerly my Head of Department at Royal Holloway, and its analysis refined from his earlier work with Adam Ganz.  In addition to Fionn providing most of the Computer Science expertise, we had Doug Cowie, a Lecturer in our English Department who provides the deep understanding of narrative that forms the whole gestalt of the work.  As it happens my contribution to the effort was little more than having a small project that could be used as a testing ground and seeing how the process worked on content that was changing rapidly.

In the Press

Some of my research (Domesday related) appeared in the online press this week – Children face postcode lottery for communication aids – In ‘Children and Young People Now’ (picture is their own).

There is a postcode lottery in accessing electronic aids for children and young people with communication impairments, new research suggests.


Electronic aids can be vital for helping disabled young people communicate. Image: Communication Matters

More than five years after the publication of the Bercow Review, which first highlighted the inconsistent nature of NHS provision of communication aids across England, analysis of data has discovered “strong evidence” that a postcode lottery still exists for children and young people.
The research by Royal Holloway academic Joseph Reddington found that there was no provision of communication aids for children, young people or adults in a range of NHS regions across the country…

You can read the rest here