Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Weaving a Story at the Story Museum

Last week I went with Anita Loughrey and three eleven year-olds to the Story Museum in Oxford. I had heard about it at the London Book Fair a couple of years ago. Then I saw an article in the Sunday papers. My holiday in England was half-way through, so I grabbed the chance to go.  

I could spend hours telling you about everything in there: the helpful staff, the "26 Characters" whose names we had to guess and stamps we had to collect, the laughter and the "Oh this is sooo cool!"s of our three young friends.  But I don't want to spoil it if you are going there yourself.

So here's a round-up of our tour. And I should say it's equally fun for adults as for kids. No need to feel odd if you're not accompanied by young'uns. Though having Joe, Jack and Tanaka there made it even more fun.

1 The Changing Room.  Dress up in any way you choose, create your name, and sit on a throne while a voice magically announces you.  
-  Love the fur coat. Anyone for a sausage?

2  Check out the amazing Story Loom, invented by an imaginative Victorian, or not?  

[The boys were too busy dressing up. I was entranced by this contraption, though.]

3  Wander, wonder and explore... each room houses one or more stories.
Can you guess what they are?  And what sort of door we came through? 
Fake snow was a hit! 

4  Create your own story on the Story Spinner - a character, a place and a theme - then write and draw your picture.  Or just keep spinning for the fun of it.

5  Now for a portrait. Put yourself in the frame.  And check out all the real portraits. 

6  Choose your favourite place. Needless to say, Narnia was a real hit. 
For me it's hard to decide, but I did love Just William's Shed, and The Borrowers' drawer.

7 And finally ... once we'd filled up on panini, we climbed St Mary's Tower to gaze at the city.  Goodbye, and thank you so much, Oxford Story Museum. We had a fantastic morning.  

And a quick postscript - I loved the atmosphere inside the building, and the fact that it was in the back half of the Post Office. Not hard to imagine the telephone exchange and the canteen. The whole place gave me a sense of being 'back stage' so many different stories. 

The Story Museum: Home

Monday, 4 August 2014

WWW without the dot

Little Red Jot isn't on the Little Red Dot. She's travelling in the UK. And she's conscious that she hasn't blogged for ages.... so here goes!

Who can recognize the fuzzy feeling in the brain when everything seems to be shaking around like an old fashioned ‘snow scene’ toy?

I’m not talking about jetlag. Or hangover. Or too many coffees. I’m talking about WWW without the dot.

I thought of it after remembering some advice from my writing tutor, Josh Lacey, at City Lit.  A fellow writer was explaining that she’d reached the stage with her children’s novel where she knew she had to start her story all over again. She shook her head and rolled her eyes. Some of us sighed with her. But Josh nodded and said, “Welcome to the wonderful world of writing.” More nods rolled around the room. A few writers looked bewildered. But the unspoken words hung in the air – “You’ll reach that point too, don’t worry!”

It’s all about your characters.  There they are, down on the page. You’ve reached the end of the -nth draft. And now they’re in rebellion.  They want out. They want a new voice. They aren’t happy with the tone. Oh, for goodness sake! Yes, you’re in the Wonderful World of Writing. And you’re well on the way to convincing any future reader that this book is unputdownable. If only you can calm your characters down....  Welcome to this world.