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.

First rule of code club – you don’t talk about code club!
Let us begin…
X, a secret hacker and high school pupil, decides to join the after school Code Club.
The head of Code Club (FARMERS WIFE) teaches and mentors our curious pupil and he soon realises the extent of his skill that he has reached from his learning. The limits of the normal programmer are banal to him now and he secretly excels in hacking and all the sweet joy that comes from the illegal high he has now found.
But this is not enough for our intrepid data stealer. Soon the teacher’s data and information is now under his spell and he laughs his way through the personnel files of his mentors. (FARMER).
Looking out at the city beneath him as he sits on the top deck of the bus to go home, he surveys the noisy streets below and decides to go up a notch in his quest for information…City Hall is illuminated in the fading light. (PIG)
The council chambers have been informed of the hacking that their system has now been breached and they decide to do an emergency shut down to stop the data thief from infiltrating any further and obtaining private and confidential information about the Mayor and his prominent side kicks.
Meanwhile, X is feeling very proud of himself and relishes in the news feeds of the impending technical disaster as they appear on his PC screen from the basement of his humble home. Sure enough, his spoof Facebook and Twitter account followers go through the roof as he brags about his accomplishments under a fake name. On his secure server he is confronted by a message from an incoming hacker! WHAT! How did they do it? Must be a super hacker! No-one else would know how to get in. His encryption methods had won him many imaginary prizes before, he was a master in the world of cyber crime!
The flashing green message blinked at him over and over again. An offer he couldn’t refuse! (FOX – TEMPTING HIM ACROSS THE WATER)
However, the Super Hacker is an undercover cop who has successfully trapped him and recruits him to work for the FBI. (FOX KILLS G-MAN)

Night night, everyone. Sweet dreams.


  1. Brilliant Sarah, now you know why I loved my Arvon course in the summer with Melvin and Malorie as our fantastic tutors.

    1. Author

      Yes, Morag, he talked about Arvon a lot. I will make it there one day!