Originally created for Hull Libraries’ Harry Potter Book Night 2021, Candle Magic is a wonderful online creative writing session for Key Stage 2 – highly interactive, informative and great fun!
Presentation sessions are fairly easy online, but right from the beginning of Lockdown 1, children’s authors were wondering how on earth they were going to manage writing workshops – myself included. Usually I walk around the room as the children write. I can see who is flying and who needs a bit of help or encouragement. But online… aargh!
I was determined to find something that worked and, I am delighted to say, Candle Magic really does work. With the children writing their ideas directly into Chat, there is real immediacy and a sense of pure creativity at work. But Chat is not essential; good old-fashioned pen and paper works just as well.
The workshop was inspired by the fact that I like to write by candlelight when I am writing magical or scary scenes. I wrote my book Zac and the Zombeards during July /August and clearly remember shutting the curtains in the middle of the afternoon, lighting a candle and slipping into a world of midnight graveyards and dark subterranean tunnels. It seemed a shame to banish sunshine, but it really did sharpen my focus and help me visualise better.
So this workshop is a series of writing exercises on the theme of magic and candles. I conduct it in a dark room, by candlelight, so it feels very intimate and atmospheric. I talk about my book Wild Magic, read an extract and explain where my ideas for magic come from. There’s also a Harry Potter themed game and a chance for the children to ask me questions.
I’ve recently returned (reluctantly!) to the UK from Sardinia, Italy. I was there for three months, house-sitting near Santa Teresa Gallura. As lockdown locations go, it was pretty idyllic!!
Sapphire blue skies, glorious rugged coastline, villages with houses made of granite, donkeys, Italian coffee, wild pigs, the hypnotic Mediterranean Sea (which was eternally blue, whether it was mirror-calm or smashing against the rocks.) Myrtle berries, wild strawberry trees, ancient stone towers called Nuraghes, burial tombs fit for giants, stories of elves with red caps and the Devil hurling enormous granite stones across the landscape… Sardinia (or Sardegna, as the Italians spell it) was truly captivating.
While I was there, I made a story den beneath some ancient olive trees (as you do) Here it is 😉
Introducing my first non-fiction book for children – DREAM ADVENTURES. It’s a book of true-life stories from my travels in India, Peru, Bolivia, Spain, Egypt and the UK.
It’s not all me, me me! I also introduce the extraordinary explorers, archaeologists, treasure hunters, scientists and visionaries behind the wonders I am seeing: architect Antoni Gaudi, high altitude anthropologist Johan Reinhard, plant hunter Ernest H Wilson, Egyptologist Howard Carter…
There are bold girls too: Maria Reiche, who dedicated her life to studying and preserving the mysterious Nazca lines in Peru. Kitty Loyd, who was one of the first women to study horticulture at university before launching a career as a freelance garden designer in the 1930s. Diane Leather, who broke the Five Minute Mile for women just a few weeks after Roger Bannister ran the first Four Minute Mile. But unlike Bannister, she was not given a world record because the distance was not recognised as a suitable distance for women by the International Amateur Athletic Federation.
I also talk about the power of dreaming and the joy of reading, talking about my own childhood in Liverpool.
The book has the look of a travel journal, thanks to my lovely illustrator Alicia Walker.
During lockdown I created something I have dreamed of for at least two years. Inspired by my own love of coffee shop dreaming, The Woman at theNext Table celebrates women who dream and write in coffee shops, tea rooms and cafes. It’s a safe, welcoming space where women can learn to appreciate the value of their own life stories, feel more confident and explore their creativity.
The blog is up and running, along with the weekly online coffee shop. This is proving very popular! Please contact me if you would like to attend one (via Zoom) It is FREE.
My first online workshops – Pilates for the Pen – have been announced. I have written, drawn, filmed and edited two YouTube videos. You can check them out on the YouTube channel. There’s an Instagram inspiration feed.
Once cafes re-open, I will start the podcasts, featuring interviews with real women in real coffee shops.
I have been busy, busy, BUSY with all of this! It was a huge amount of work and enormous thanks go to Arjun Jain at the John Ruskin Manufactory in New Delhi for creating such a gorgeous site. I am very excited about where this project will take me in the future.