By Karen Ball – Book Bound host
With only two months to go until our Book Bound retreat in May, some of you may be wondering what a Book Bound event looks like. Easy! See all the happy, smiling faces above? That was a session I recently hosted at my local pop-up bookshop. I had no idea how many people would attend, especially when a tube strike hit the same day, but several lovely writers came along.
The format for the session was a Build A Book Brainstorm. We were going to have a fun hour, around an idea for a middle grade novel. What’s middle grade? It covers a wide reading range, but anything from 8 to 12 years. Approximately. As a rough guide. One of the beautiful challenges of writing for children is that it’s very difficult to pigeon hole your audience. What were you reading, age 10?
This session was also my crash course in encouraging people who had never met before to share creatively. I knew I needed my attendees to be open-minded, willing and relaxed. In order to help us find our creative places, I asked everyone to bring along a memory of a favourite childhood read. I’d jot notes as people enthused about the books that had filled their young imaginations. Themes began to emerge – adventure, naughtiness, other worlds – definitely enough themes to fuel a brainstorm.
Then, I pulled out five key elements that I thought a good children’s story needed and asked people to pick at random a detail that would help that element of our story. When I say random, I totally mean random! I’d scribbled short starting points – a trip into space, a house on a hill – on folded up scraps of paper and invited people to pluck a scrap of paper out of my hand. Already, there were shouts of laughter or whoops of joy filling the room. Now, all we needed was a main character – girl or boy? – and a name. We were off!
It was my role to act as moderator. Half an hour in, these guys really didn’t need any moderating. They were off and running. The most satisfying part of a tutor’s role is when the students forget you’re there. They don’t need hand holding any more. My children’s book enthusiasts had definitely reached that stage. They were having an adventure, being a little bit naughty and they were definitely in another world. I’ve never been so glad to be invisible.
The session drew to a natural close. Most of us stayed on and chatted. Eventually, it was time to step out into the dark, wintry night where a happy heart guided me home.
If you want to know what a Book Bound event looks like, imagine me grinning from ear to ear. Creating children’s fiction is the best fun in the world, and soon I’ll be doing more creating with a bunch of friends I haven’t yet met in a large, rambling house in Kent. I can’t wait.