Thursday 18 June 2015

Ten things I learned from taking part in a story making festival for school children

You may have seen my recent post about CWISL's ShoutSouth! 2015 - a festival run by me and a whole lot of other illustrators and writers for 100 children from 10 schools in London. It was my first story making festival experience and this is what I came away with (in no particular order):

1. Kids love learning about making stories and also come with some knowledge of their own - for instance many already knew about the "story mountain" plotting concept.

2. Given half a chance their teachers and their families also love to be involved in making stories. We had a great turn out for the adult writing workshop and for the drawing workshop for younger siblings.

3. I learnt a lot by listening in on workshops from other writers and illustrators. I loved hearing about their books and their work processes. What I heard has given me much to think about.

4. There's nothing like working with a bunch of other adults for a few days to make new friends and reinforce existing friendships.

5. Don't open a bottle of fizzy water during a workshop, especially if it has been shaken up in your bag on the walk to the venue - unless you want to add a bit of comedy to proceedings.

6. Rush hour commuters can get quite grumpy at illustrators carrying large cork board based visual aids on buses. Trains have more space and so you are less likely to whack anyone in the shins with it.

7. It is very easy to get lost on a university campus, especially if you hold your map the wrong way up.

8. Never use drawing pins to attach a background to your cork board based visual aid - they have an unfortunate habit of falling out.

9. Kids love being able to handle visual aids, I was delighted by the way they understood the story mountain and made it their own. I will do this kind of thing again. (Also I love making stuff and don't need much encouragement.)

10. Kids are highly motivated when it comes to making stories and are tremendously creative. It is a joy watch them working and even better to hear or see the results afterwards.

CWISL's next story making festival is ShoutWest! it will be held in Brunel University on 5th and 6th November 2015.

If your primary or secondary school is interested in taking part in future ShoutSouth! or ShoutWest! festivals contact CWISL via the website to find out more.

Saturday 13 June 2015

ShoutSouth! 2015 - a story making festival for primary and secondary school children

Illustrators involved in ShoutSouth! Festival 2015 clockwise from top left: Loretta Schauer, me, Deborah Allwright, Gillian McClure, Sally Kindberg and Bridget Marzo
I joined Children's Writers and Illustrators South London (CWISL) a few months ago so this was the first year I've been involved in their ShoutSouth! festival. One hundred children from ten primary and secondary schools took part. I was delighted by the quality of work I saw over the three days they were with us at London South Bank University

The kids were split into four groups with writers and illustrators assigned to running workshops for them and helping them create their own stories. I was with the Lions along with authors Beverley Birch, Sally Kindberg, Cate Sampson, Karen Owen, Alex Wheatle and Deborah Allwright. Other illustrators and writers worked with the Panther, Tiger and Leopard teams. You can get an idea of how many of us were involved by looking at my photo of the display on the Pea Green Boat Books table and there is information about us all on the CWISL website.

Today was the final day of the festival. As it was a Saturday, parents of the children and their siblings were invited and got involved in their own workshops. Sam Osman ran a writing workshop for adults (some teachers also took part in this) and Loretta Schauer had the younger siblings drawing with her. Meanwhile the Lions, Panthers, Tigers and Leopards finished their stories, then some of them read them out to us all – they were amazingly creative. The festival closed with a story from Margaret Bateson-Hill, cake and certificates.

It was lovely to see the kids so motivated and excited by creating stories, I look forward to the next festival. If you think your London primary or secondary school might like to be involved in a future ShoutSouth! please contact CWISL via the website for details.

A big thank you to Derwent for supplying each child with their own selection of pencils.

Thanks also to the kids, their families, their teachers and their schools for making ShoutSouth! such a wonderful experience: 

Granton Primary
English Martyrs Primary
St Mary's Primary
Lilian Baylis Technology School
Bolingbroke Academy
Sacred Heart Primary
Christ Church Primary
London Nautical School
Jessops Primary
Isleworth and Syon School

Part of the story mountain visual aid I made for Cate Sampson's Spot the Plot workshop.

Karen Owen got the Lion group off to a good start.

Sally Kindberg talked about characters with the group.

Bridget Marzo got all the kids drawing faces.

Cate Sampson explained the story mountain to the kids plus Beverley Birch, Alex Wheatle and Karen Owen.

One of the kids came up with a new story for Jack and Jill.

Beverley Birch got the kids excited about using their senses to add interest to a story.

They all worked amazingly hard on their stories throughout the three day festival.

Loretta Schauer got younger siblings of the story makers interested in drawing.

The pencils provided by Derwent were put to good use by all the kids.

A display of books by the authors taking part in the festival.

Margaret Bateson-Hill had the kids enthralled by one of her stories.

Mo O'Hara gave out certificates to all the storymakers.

A cake was sponsored by Pea Green Boat Books.

Well done Lions you did some great work during ShoutSouth! it was a privilege to be part of your group.

If you'd like to read about the experiences of other ShoutSouth! writers and illustrators go to blog posts by Patricia ElliotKaren Owen and Bridget Marzo. Artwork from the event will be posted on ShoutAbout (a CWISL website that any writer or artist under 16 can contribute to).

CWISL is now preparing for ShoutWest! – a similar festival to ShoutSouth! to be held at Brunel University in west London on 5th and 6th November 2015. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

ShoutSouth festival 2015 - a celebration of story-making for kids in south London

A big pile of art supplies from Derwent for
the kids taking part in ShoutSouth 2015.
(This was taken in Bridget Marzo's studio,
you can see her new book
Tiz and Ott's Big Draw up on the shelf.)
For the next three days I'll be one of the illustrators and writers who will be running workshops for 100 kids from 10 south London schools to help them develop their story making skills. This is the ShoutSouth Festival and it will be held at London South Bank University.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the kids come up with. We're very excited that Derwent Pencils have donated art materials so there should be some great drawings. Workshops will include The Spark (getting your initial idea), Character Passport, Spot the Plot and Mad, Murky & Moody.

As if that wasn't enough there will be cake sponsored by the festival bookseller Pea Green Boat Books! 

The illustrators and writers involved in ShoutSouth are all published and all members of CWISL. Click on the links to find out more about us.

Monday 8 June 2015

Authors for Nepal - Ebay auction

In April and May 2015 two major earthquakes struck Nepal, more than 8,700 people died and many homes were lost. Shortly after the first earthquake author Julia Williams set up the Authors for Nepal auction on Ebay to raise money for a charity already established in the region, First Steps Himalaya. 281 illustrators, writers, agents, editors and others offered items that included critiques, book dedications, artwork, character naming and much more. At the close of the auction more than £14,000 had been raised.

My contribution was to offer to create a comic for my winning bidder based on a subject chosen by them. After several days of wondering whether I'd have to draw cars (not my strong point) I was delighted to find out that I would be making a comic for author Anna Bell. She wanted a story based around her son and her dog – an adventure set in the countryside near their home. Anna also told me that her son loves blueberries and her dog loves carrots. This was a dream brief for me and I loved working on this comic. Below is the story I came up with for her:

Nepal continues to struggle in the aftermath of the earthquakes. A statement from First Steps Nepal's website:
This is a catastrophe for Nepal that will take years to recover from.  First Steps Himalaya is dedicated to helping rebuild communities, not only our schools and early childhood centres, but the lives of the precious children we support.
You can donate to the charity via their website