Tag Archives: World Book Day

Kids can write brilliantly too

I can’t believe it’s come around so fast, but it was World Book Day yesterday and I was in at the kid’s school volunteering to teach years one two and three.  It was so much fun.  I brainstormed a whole fairy story with each group, so that the children came up with a heroine, a baddie, a hero, a trap, a daring rescue and a happy ever after.  Then they each did an illustration of part of their story, so that by the end of the session they’d created a whole fairy tale book.

 

I was amazed and surprised by their suggestions and how quickly they could subvert the fairy story clichés into something new and whacky and how each fairy story ended up being completely different, even though I was guiding them with a formula.

 

Our need for exploring conflict and resolution seems to be ingrained at a very fundamental level.  Even by the age of five, children have a very clear sense of right and wrong, goodies and baddies and how female heroines have to use their wit and ingenuity to get out of a scrape.

 

What I found amazing – and a clear indication of real progress from when I was growing up – was the resolution of each story.  Left to their own devices these young children all wanted a romantic resolution.  But rather than a bossy knight on a white horse charging up, taking over, scooping up the heroine and taking her to a life of bliss – over which she’s had no say, they all naturally chose to have the heroine finding love with someone realistic who was right underneath her nose the whole time.

 

What was most interesting though, was that in each case and with each group, the love resolution was not the end – and this was very much prompted by the kids and not by me.  Their stories all ended when the heroine either got her own back on her oppressors in a very public and satisfying way – pop-star Polly in New York winning a talent contest and thus a recording contract, thereby totally rubbing her mean, ugly sisters’ noses in it.

 

Or when, having won back her magic shell necklace and escaped an underwater cage, mermaid Lucy returns to coral castle to find that the elderly king is so impressed with her  bravery and courage in defeating Snap the evil seahorse, that he decides to abdicate the thrown and make Lucy queen.  At which point, she throws a rocking party for the whole kingdom …obviously.

 

I came away, as I always do from teaching children, enriched and a little humbled.  It seems to me that many grown up writers could benefit by a refresher course with small children in the fundamentals of story-telling.

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These I have loved…

It’s an exciting day here in Rees Towers.  This morning, the typeset page proofs of Emlyn’s new thriller, Hunted, arrived.  It’s always a great moment for an author, when you see your work professionally set out.  When it’s no longer a file on your computer, with your silly font on the title page, but instead looks like a real life book.

It arrived by special delivery.  (A miracle in itself.  Mostly, the van man sprints to the door and shoves a ‘you weren’t in’ red card through it.  Grrrr.  It’s become a secret obsession of mine to catch one red-handed.)

Anyway, the arrival coincided with the Little One in full tantrum mode.  She wasn’t in my good books anyway, having back head-butted me – twice – in two separate wake-up calls during the night.  She’d just protest-blown chunks of dippy egg across the table, when the doorbell rang.  I dumped her on the naughty step on my way to answer the door, realizing as I went that I was only wearing a t-shirt and white running socks.  Not a good look, I thought, as I saw the postman impatiently peering through the glass panel.  I hope he hadn’t heard what I’d been shouting. He wouldn’t be nominating me for a good parenting award any time soon.

Then everything changed.  The package was handed over reverentially.  When I saw the Publisher’s insignia and felt the neat block of pages inside, I called for Emlyn, who was out of bed in a shot.

Of course he ripped open the package and put the precious manuscript straight onto the egg smeared table, before I could say anything.  Doh! But we all oo-eed an ahhed anyway.  Especially after I discovered he’d dedicated his novel to me.  Awww.  What a lovely feeling.

Talking of lovely feelings, I went into the kids’ school to teach creative writing as part of their World Book Day celebrations yesterday.  It was great fun getting all my girls dressed up before hand – as Hagrid, Wimpy Kid and the Cat in the Hat – but it was only when I was actually in with the Year 6 class that I realized that the reason The Big One had insisted on going in as Hagrid from Harry Potter was so that her face would be almost entirely covered by a huge wig and beard – meaning none of her mates would be able to see her cheeks burning as I stood up and started the session in front of her peers.

I used a poem by Rupert Brooke and an extract from ‘The Great Lover’ in which he lists all the things he has loved.  It’s a beautiful passage. The kids did their own version and they all worked on ways of describing the things that are special to them.  Here’s what they came up with.

Wind in my hair                                                                                                          Cantering through the green lushness of a field; the soft giving                           Warmth of a vanilla sponge; elegant stone statues posing;                                            Icy blue droplets viewed from the red warmth inside; boating on a               Diamond-sparkling river; talking; a red caterpillar on a green leaf; a beach with Crystal blue water lapping at your feet tempting you in to swim;                    Gymnasts flying freely around the room; an explosion of exotic colours.

Purple snuggling under my duvet; the solitude of a garden;                          Welcoming metal Fingers; sheets of fur; the soft fluffiness of pets;                  Sydney’s intriguing eyes; canine tickling: a dog’s coarse fur;                                       The exhilaration of performing and the pleasure of                                                Getting the part I wanted; competing in a sporting challenge;                                    Sun shining, the feeling of happiness,                                                                    Splashing in the warm calming sun.

Exploring the lanes with my dad on a Sunday; my carved silver leopard; the Adrenaline rush of a perfect hand-spring landing;                                              Grabbing my pillow as the movie monster appears; a shower of red football Cheers;   hip-hop dancing; lemon-soaked sugary pancakes;                               Stroking my guinea pig; watching the water                                                         Twizzling down the plug hole of my bath; the smell of                                                 New paper; the luxury of a car; the tangy aroma of                                                       Wet paving slabs; a water slide squeal; and the radiant sun                                 Melting into the cold, crisp sea.

Oh to be a ten-year-old again.  I hope that’s given you a nice warm feeling too.

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