Louie Stowell: Once upon a workshop...
Author of Write Your Own Story Book Louie Stowell joins us with a guest blog about her experience of leading a Booktrust and Usborne Publishing creative writing workshop for some enthusiastic young writers.
Earlier this month I wandered down the road from Usborne Towers to the Free Word Centre to run a story writing workshop for Booktrust based on Write Your Own Story Book.
Illustrator Katie Lovell (who drew all the pictures for that book) was there to create on-the-spot illustrations.
Here we are, all ready to begin. All we needed was an audience of keen young writers to help us create a story.
On the left, Katie Lovell, armed with marker pens. On the right (modelling copy of the Write Your Own Story Book), Louie Stowell.
Luckily, we were joined by a very talented and enthusiastic Year 6 class from Christopher Hatton Primary School. I hardly had to do anything - I just asked the class questions about what should happen in the story, and the ideas came thick and fast.
We kicked off the story by creating some characters together, and Katie drew them on a flip chart. At the start of the workshop I'd asked the kids not to suggest any horse characters, because they're a pain to draw, so obviously the first suggestion for what the main character should be was 'horse'.
But I haggled, and eventually they came up with two brilliant, non-horse characters:
MAIN CHARACTER: Mr T. Jaws, a shark who works as a secret agent for MI7 (the animal branch of the British secret services). His greatest fear is the colour purple.
VILLAIN: Mr Jaws's enemy, Bob - a Nazi spy with green hair.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any story can be made more exciting by the inclusion of Nazis. But apparently the class's interest in Nazis came from having covered WWII that term.
Here's Bob, coming to life under Katie's pens.
Look out! Nazis!
Then, we discussed where the story should be set. After a heated debate, we decided on two locations.
The story began in the Mediterranean with Bob attacking Mr Jaws from the sky in some kind of high tech plane-slash-tank.
Deciding on a setting - we went for a Mediterranean beach resort for our starting point. Our shark hero went there 'for better hummus'
After a skirmish underwater, the action moved to Britain - via the channel and the Thames - where our hero and villain met David Walliams, who was out for a swim.
The story came to an exciting crisis point with a shark vs Nazi showdown at the top of Big Ben. The Nazi was disguised as David Cameron for some of this time. (It totally made sense, you just had to be there.)
I'm ashamed to say I can't remember whether or not Bob the Nazi was eaten at the end, but I do know that Mr T Jaws and David Walliams became best friends, so at least some people ended up happy.
The creative brilliance continued well after the workshop ended. Some young writers tried to strike a deal with Carolyn Koussa, the Usborne PR whiz who organised the event - she was selling copies of the Write Your Own Story Book, and they asked for the bags of change that she had lined up on the desk.
Carolyn said she was sorry but her boss would be angry if she didn't bring back the right sums of money. The inventive reply: 'No she won't. Your boss was fired by Alan Sugar yesterday.'
But most people were more interested in the book than the money.
Watch these ones - bestselling authors circa 2030?
Katie and I wrote (hopefully) inspirational messages in the books and chatted to the kids about the types of stories they wanted to write and read. I think I may even have persuaded one monster-loving young writer to read Beowulf for inspiration. Hope he doesn't have horrible nightmares if he does.
I know Katie and I had a brilliant time, we hope the kids did too. They certainly made our day.
Young Christopher Hatton authors. I'm dying to read what they write in those books…
To find out more about the Usborne Write Your Own Story Book, visit www.usborne.com