Friday, 25 November 2016

ShoutWest! Festival 2016

I was very excited to participate in the ShoutWest! creative writing festival for children, which took place at Brunel University in West London on the 14th and 15th of November. It was organized by CWISL, a very inspiring and supportive group of children's writers and illustrators from South London. Ninety children from six different schools and seventeen writers/illustrators have been invited for two days of story writing, character drawing, interactive acting, enchanting storytelling and an exciting award ceremony.

Captivating storytelling with the one and only Margaret Bateson-Hill
A splendid drama plenary by the passionate author and performer Mo O'Hara
Fantastic author-illustrator Bridget Marzo sketched from life in Illustration plenary
Playful faces made out of circles and letters in Bridget's engaging drawing session

The children were mixed up and split into teams, named by four big cats. My friendly team was called Panthers and I met all the members for the first time at the festival. We started off with a lively idea generation session run by a successful fiction author Sara Grant. We witnessed how interesting ideas can spark from a peculiar looking object or an unexpected combination of character, setting, object and genre from the marvellous idea creation grid (pictured below), which was quickly filled in on the spot with the help of children.

Idea creation grid in Sara's workshop sparked many exciting stories

The story writing continued in 'Spot the Plot' workshop with Jamie Buxton talking us through the story structure and different types of characters such as the hero, sidekick/hero's friend and enemy. 'Mad, Moody and Murky' workshop with Cate Sampson encouraged the kids to add liveliness and richness to their text. It was fantastic to hear some thrilling beginnings and even full short stories at the end.

Illustration can be a very useful tool in story-making, especially when it comes to creating believable and rich characters, as was demonstrated by four Big Little Tales members in character passport workshops. I am very grateful to the wonderful Anne-Marie Perks, who invited me to run this activity alongside her, Loretta Schauer and Patrick Miller, who inspired children to draw portraits from observation without looking at the paper and helped in the creation of some truly unique characters.

I shared a few dummy books with my own stories, a sketchbook for 'Alice', print-outs of various character sketches and some finished illustrations for fiction to hopefully inspire and shed some light on the creative process of a writer and illustrator. A group of around thirty people saw me draw the Queen of Hearts and Cheshire Cat using simple shapes. I heard some invaluable feedback on my art directly from kids and their teachers. I really enjoyed being part of this intense story-making with children and being surrounded by their fascinating imagination. There were many lessons to take away from this exciting experience and loads of inspiration and positive feelings. You can see some of the beautiful artwork created by the little Panthers and Leopards below.

Some Panthers started drawing right away while others watched closely what I had to show 
Me dressed as a Panther with a rather neutral expression (compared to the flipchart faces)
Character sketching while playing with different designs (love that cat!)
These pretty girls look like sisters but have very different personalities
Two cool-looking men and a light bulb that can time travel
The evil robots by twin boys are ready to jump off the page and attack!

Super impressive character passports by the little Leopards in Loretta's workshop

Just look at those vibrant marks, colours and pattern!
I've seen many striped cats but this one is truly special
Some lovely children's books by the talented CWISL authors

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