Tag Archives: children

Stuff that holds you up.

Now I’m not doing Nanowrimo – which for those who have never heard of it is a group of people who all try to write a novel in a month.  It leads to massive word counts and finished novels and is probably a thoroughly good thing, but personally, not for me.

I am though, trying to write a novel in a month. Or at least, finish one that I started a while back – I’m motoring through, huge word counts, massive chunks of plot down on virtual paper and the end is in sight.

But then I get stuck.

And its the silliest thing.

Two girls get into a boat and look for some food.

Olivia reached out for Grandpa’s lunch package.  Oh no. Innuendo.

Olivia rummaged around under the seat and found Grandpa’s sandwiches. Now I can’t stop the innuendo.

Chloe handed Olivia Grandpa’s packed lunch.  Even worse.

Reaching into a bag Chloe took out the lunch that Grandpa had given them.  Too  long.

“Time for lunch” said Chloe, digging out Grandpa’s package.  Arghghgh!

At which point, I go and have lunch and spend all afternoon looking for an old photograph.


As you were….


Thank you letters

It’s that time of year:

Dear Grandma,
Thank you for the colour by numbers set. That is really kind.
Thank you,
Fleur aged 18

Dear Uncle Ian,
Thank you for the pen nife,
I will try to us it carfully.
Ed aged 3.

Now people have different views on thank you letters – see here in the Guardian.  And in part, I kind of agree, but…


I’ve just written one to a school of children in Stoke on Trent who sent me a stack of letters. They’ve been studying SHRUNK! this term and they’ve been to visit to model village. They had a load of excellent questions like ‘Why did Tom shrink Jacob?’ and ‘Why is it called SHRUNK!’ but best of all, they sent some fantastic drawings:



They’re definitely worth a thank you letter.

Out of the frying pan into the fire.

So I’ve finished writing the Story Adventure again. This time it’s been a skimpy 11 weeks but there’s much more work to come because that’s only half the story.  I’ve set myself the ludicrous task of putting another bigger character led story around the outside.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Over the 11 weeks we attracted another 150 children, who have given some utterly brilliant ideas. We’ve had more incredible maps and drawings, and more chatter and discussion, and the children continue to unfurl in the space that the Story Adventure gives them.

Whether I ever get to do it again, I don’t know, but it will remain something I’m proud to have been a part of.

So thank you Sara, and Booty, and the Teenweenies.

It’s been a ball.

SHRUNK1 GHOSTS ON BOARD  will be published in January 2015 although Story Adventurers can Pre-Order and get it in November. 





What happens next?

Yesterday – we asked the Story Adventurers “What happens next?”

The three main characters had broken through into the interior of a giant magical meteorite and were poised to go down a dark glittering tunnel.   The following comments are only a tiny sample of the answers they gave:

“Half way thought he tunnel they come to a huge wall. Tom tries to shrink it but his powers don’t work and the wall ends up growing and the sides of the tunnel crumble and they are trapped. Suddenly the meteorite beneath them blows up and they manage to escape from the remaining ruins of the tunnel. Unfortunately they have no idea where they are…they are lost.”

* A little trap door leading to a little cellar filled with meteorites to do with the elements – Earth, Fire, Wind and Water meteorites. This is why Jacob and Eric have been gifted with fire and water powers. Lilly, the mysterious girl might have a wind or earth power. The wind power would allow her to create a little whirlwind that shoots from her finger. The Earth power could allow people to make the ground shake or even force the plates under the ground to rise – a bit like an earthquake.

“There is a pile of rocks, orange ones for fire power, blue ones for water power, grey ones for shrinking power and a new undiscovered green one for the unknown power of plants were you are plants friends,you can make the plants do whatever you want and you can make them(the plants) grow as fast as you want.”

“They could also find an alien world”.

“Or a leprechaun that demands them to pass over their powers to him otherwise he won’t let them pass and if they give the powers he’ll use them to rule the world and make everybody his slave.”

“A big door leading to an alien spaceship with aliens inside with 7 and a half fingers on each side. To get into the spaceship you must put 7 and a half fingers with the correct fingerprint otherwise it won’t open. The aliens have one foot, with one big toe, they’re really fat and their stomach is their eyeball. The head is a square with triangle eyes that stick out and have legs that stretch. HIDEOUS!!!”

Comments close tomorrow morning – I anticipate an explosive, action packed, possibly gruesome episode of the Story Adventure next week.

Story Adventure day – Chapter 6

It’s Thursday morning – Story Adventure morning.  In an hour or so, Chapter 6 should have left my computer….


Here’s my already empty, second cup of coffee


Here are my pyjama legs ready for writing.


This is my screen, clicking over with even more suggestions from the story adventurers


And these are the printed off suggestions so far this week – suggestions about how to get into a castle (camouflage, ghosts, setting fire to the guards, dressing up as pensioners, shrinking each other), what Grandma might cook for dinner (cockroaches, fish flotation bladders, snot sprinkled coconut sundae) plus several play scripts – and then there are the other 74 pages of print outs and the spread sheet that so enormous, you’d need a football pitch to look at it properly.


And here was my idea of what might happen this week – no surprise – I haven’t actually looked at it since I started writing the chapter – because it bears no relationship to the suggestions – Ho hum and onwards….

Scary – and it’s started.

Today – The Story Adventure goes live.  So far, since December, we have achieved over 180 sign ups, many of which are whole classes.

The response has been FANTASTIC.

I was anxious that all children could join in.  Not just the super keen super literate ones, but also the quiet children – the ones who prefer to draw than write.


So we’ve encouraged the use of pictures, and they seem to have embraced this.  They’ve created sets, drawn, painted; designed, using pens and paper, and sent pictures in using PAINT.  We’ve had logos for “Fieldcraft”, camping scenes made of Plasticine;  cut out figures exquisitely decorated, shooting stars, moons and meteorites.


And this morning – they’re writing; limericks, suggestions, answers to questions. They’re talking to each other, comparing ideas, self moderating, working in groups.  So because they’re children and enjoy social networking, they’re networking their creativity in a really positive way.

It makes my job both easier and scarier –

But it’s all very exciting.

The Story Adventure ventures forth…

So today – The Story Adventure is slipping out into the world –

Somewhere further back through my blogs, you should find one about “Cement and the end user“.  Unlikely as it seems that was the birth of the project now kicking off at Hot Key Towers.

In it, I pondered about the input that children had in the books they read.  Very little, I decided – and yet they have such totally wonderful ideas.

Before I built that wall, and used the cement mixer – I used to help with something called The Write Team, which was an initiative from Bath Festivals Trust, all about bringing “invisible” children out into the discussion space, and getting them to express themselves through creative writing.   We used ideas from poets and writers, including Helen Cross, Mandy Coe and Cliff  Yates.  Cliff suggested a very simple activity. On a long strip of paper a child writes an object on the left, and its function on the right.  Then you tear the paper in half and mix up all the objects and all the functions:

We ended up with some classics –

A hamster is something you cook things in.
Katie Perry is something you spread with jam
A fridge is a time travelling machine.

(I stole the last idea)  – It came from a boy who wasn’t interested in Katie Perry and ovens. A boy who liked to draw pictures as much as write, so when asked for an object and a function,  he drew a picture of a box and then wrote next to it  “- is a time travelling machine.”

It made the exercise take off – it made all the kids think of wilder and more wonderful things, and as a result they came up with the best stories ever.

This is what we hope the Story Adventure can do – give vent to those imaginations, let children come up with random ideas that they DON’T have to spell properly, give children some ownership, and give them something to read that they REALLY want.

It’s open to children everywhere, and they don’t have to pay to join in.  The site is safe, and open.

Check it out now:

The Story Adventure