Saturday, 31 January 2015

Brilliant Books - 28th January 2015

I don't like snow. I also don't like gale force winds. I especially don't like snow AND gale force winds mixed together. It's why I'm looking at moving to Los Angeles.

So it was no surprise that it was the coldest, windiest day of the year when I dragged myself from my warm bed while it was still dark. I didn't want to. I wanted to stay wrapped up in my duvet burrito. For a brief moment, I debated emailing the Wiz and spinning some tale about snow and leaves on the line and trains that had disappeared into a time sucking portal (fairly normal for the British railways).

But I couldn't. My people needed me!

And by people, I mean a bunch of really cool kids who were going to teach me a thing or two about being a writer.
The bookmarks I took with me.

Back in 2014, I was asked to take part in a project called Brilliant Books. Aimed at children who don't really read, the idea is to bring in people who love reading and encourage another generation to do the same. Along the way, the children work on ideas and short stories. These are compiled into a book that anyone, including you and I, can buy.

So probably against their better judgement, the team asked me to go. I went through a list of things I could do do with the kids to get them interested in reading. All of them, including the indoor rockets, were vetoed. Something about a thing called “Elf N Safety”. After a couple of days of being grumpy, I hit on an idea. I'd read from my favourite book (“War of the Worlds” by HG Wells), talk about Victorian inventions, and then get into another of my favourite things. Music. Victorians perfected recording music and I just happened to have an original wax cylinder (with a recording by Billy Williams on it) lying around. Handy, that!

So, with the wind and snow whistling around my ankles and my trusty pink suitcase by my side, I boarded a train for Nottingham...

To say I was nervous was an understatement. I've talked in front of most age ranges. But I've never talked to school age kids before. I managed to work my way through the portion of the book I was reading (Chapter 2 for anyone who's interested) before gathering up the pile of goodies and doing what I do best: Sitting on the floor and spreading them around me. I took with me a variety of items, including the wax cylinder, an LP of Fleetwood Mac's “Rumours”, CDs of Jeff Wayne's “War of the Worlds”, and my slightly battered MP3 player.

That was it! Suddenly any barriers had crumbled and the kids and myself had a blast talking about inventions, spooky farms, and music. Nottingham has a worldwide claim to fame in that it was the first city to have a road paved with tarmac back in 1845. We talked about the possibility of life on other planets, of what aliens would look like and how they'd act. We especially enjoyed talking about Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, a place that supposedly has portals to other worlds and some shady links to the US government. The kids seemed to love that and I learned something valuable; kids love spooky stories! We didn't want to stop talking and I feel like we'd have still been there now, eating fruit and chattering away.

Needless to say, it was an inspiring and humbling day. From a reader's point of view, it was amazing to see the next generation picking up books and reading. It was wonderful to sit with them and talk about the books we had read and the ones we planned to get next. From a writer's point of view, it was heart warming to sit with them and help them work on stories and ideas. I loved listening to them read their pieces and I'm not ashamed to say that I cheered and clapped. I may have cried a little on the way home, the happiness and exhilaration of the day overwhelming.

I can't wait to go again! It would be an honour to be asked to return. And I can't wait to read the book these guys produce at the end of it! Loved them and everything they were doing and I can't wait to see what they do with their ideas! Thank you for allowing me to come and talk to you. Most of all, thank you for all the love, hugs, and high fives. I'll see you again soon!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant post Rae and I'm so pleased it went so well (apart from the weather!!) - I loved the day I did it, nerves aside, definitely a highlight of last year for me.