Like many authors I like to visit schools and talk to the children about my work. I also run workshops to encourage the children how to come up with ideas for stories and to get them writing. They’re always good fun and I love meeting the children, it’s one of the best parts of my job. One of the things I like to do is to build up a story around the class and see what ideas the children come up with. Here’s a picture of me with some of the children of Straits School, Dudley. We’re building up a story with a box of toys. It was a brilliant story all about a crocodile and a peacock who lived in Sunshine City. We had lots of fun thinking of the names of the characters and making up a story about them.
Sometimes I show the children a picture of an unusual house and ask them who lives there, then we make up a story about that character. The children come up with lots of weird and wonderful answers but I’ve noticed that the favourites are aliens, zombies and princesses that have been kidnapped by a wicked witch. The scarier the story the more the children love it. They have a great sense of fair play though and the baddies are always killed in the end and the princess always either outwits the witch and escapes or occasionally a prince drops by and kills the witch for her.
These workshops are a bit noisy as the children shout out ideas, then another child will carry on with it, or change it, and the story gets crazier and crazier. I like that. I like to see children bursting with ideas. And when I tell them we’re going to do some freewriting, that they’re not to worry about spellings or grammar for now but to just write their story down and go back over it later to correct it, their pencils practically whizz over the paper. Many a teacher has told me how refreshing they’ve found it to forget all about structure for a while and let the children use their imaginations with no restrictions. I think it’s good for us authors to do that too. Sometimes we just need to write what’s in our head and see what story comes out. We can always go back and tidy it up after.