There is a saying that you should never work with children or animals. I’m not sure my lazy, sleepy, hunting-too-many-mice-for-me cats are anything to compare to the felines that ‘they’ might be referring to or the fact that I was surrounded by siblings when I was growing up which was a lot of fun, so I’m not quite sure I agree.
However, in my first ever steps into the school environment as a creative, I was asked to talk about writing to some of the senior pupils from Kinghorn Primary School. What could possibly go wrong?
I wasn’t nervous, for those who know me well, I can talk for Scotland on any particular subject but in particular, writing. I was prepared, I was organised, I had plans A, B, C & D ready in case it all went horribly wrong and I didn’t get lost on the way there. It was all going really well.
The kids arrived excited and chatty and embraced my unorthodox way of creating stories by using some toys and thinking out of the box.
What makes a story? How do writers come up with their ideas? Have you ever stopped writing a story because you didn’t think it was going anywhere? All these questions and more were fired at me in quick succession and I answered them all as truthfully as I could. I talked about procrastination, about writing whilst working, finding the time and no, just because I am from Edinburgh I don’t actually know JKR.
More importantly we talked about what to do when you just can’t think of what to write next. So I use these 1990s characters that my kids loved so much to help me get there. Every single one of the 85 I own are totally different. I like to think they may represent the different characters and personalities that I’ve come across in my life.
After we’d written our flash fiction, I asked if anyone wanted to share their stories. And they did.
Readers, I give you one of the answers. When a child puts their hand up as if their life depends on it, of course you’re going to ask them first. When they start an answer with ‘Did you know…’ then perhaps in future I may hold my breath a little more than I did.
My new fact was – Did you know that a man was swimming and an eel got stuck up his penis? And it’s true. It was on the news that week.
I blinked and unknown to him he had given me the chance to perfect my dead-pan face for such occasions and I marvelled at how his classmates didn’t blink an eye. We moved on and heard other stories and I thanked them for their time and urged them to carry on with what they had started in our session.
A fantastic day out of the office, in my book anyway.