It’s not every day I get to meet a famous author. A person who has shined out from the back cover of my collection of books for many years. I dream of having their success, knowledge and unfathomable writing skills. One day I will. It will all fall into place and someone, somewhere will like it. Well, where would you be if you didn’t have a dream to pursue, a carrot dangling in the distance or a faint light at the end of a dark tunnel?
I was very fortunate to have the chance to create stories and tap into the long forgotten fairy tales in my mind…with none other than the Junk man himself, Melvin Burgess. A whole day of reaching into my childhood memories and plucking out the scary but wonderful tales that used to make me want to leave a light on while I slept. In case, you know, Rumpelstiltskin actually came in to see me or Hansel & Gretel rang the bell and wanted me to play near the horrific house. I shudder even now.
Fairy tales as we knew back then are actually alive and kicking in the world we now occupy. They may not be as noticeable but if you delve into the dark, dark wood, you will be in for a huge surprise.
Bringing Jack & The Beanstalk into a modern setting was the most bizarre yet intriguing event I attended at Winchester along with fellow members of SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, at their British Isles conference. Melvin (can I call you Melvin? Thanks) planted the proverbial seed and we set about our task of dissecting the characters and plot and relating the well-known story to the here and now. An amazing feat and yet once you consider the intricate details of fairy tales, they really are around us if you just take a moment to look close enough.
For example, take some huge movies of our century and imagine them as a small hard back book from your childhood with seven little men and a lady or a girl with long hair and an overprotective mother…what do you get?
Terminator aka The Three Little Pigs – he’s looking for Sarah O’Connor and goes to houses looking for her and finds her before she kills him in spectacular style – well, until the next film but that’s another story.
Catch Me If You Can…aka The Gingerbread Man – think about it. It took many, many women, policeman, bottles of champagne and fake passports to get Frank W Abagnale, Jr to pay for his whimsical ways . But he was caught in the end. Just like The Gingerbread Man.
To share the work load (Melvin talked, we listened) and get us all creating stories of our own, we were given a task to split into groups and select a fairy tale from our childhood and come up with the same story but in a modern setting. Definitely not as easy as it sounds.
Using the tools we had learned from the morning session, we all clumped together in our little packs and chattered, conversed and conjured up meaningful words. How many books can you remember? But can you remember the full story, characters and plot? Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella… an endless list of nightmare inducing tales.
I was very lucky to be in the same camp as Stephanie MacGregor and Julienne Durber. We became a fine trio of wit, charm and selective memory loss, as our tired brains took a while to remember those unforgettable stories from our childhood. We settled on The Gingerbread Man or G-man as he was affectionately known from that moment on.
Here is our modern version of the classic G-Man tale, with added clues for those who, like me, haven’t quite caught up with their sleep from the conference’s mind-blowing unlimited river of information.
Night night, everyone. Sweet dreams.