Writing as Sculpture – chiselling down

Sculpture

Life is a bit stressful at the moment – imminent house move
– to name but one pressure point.

However, through all the turmoil, I’m managing to keep
writing – thank the deities. It’s a most therapeutic activity and is keeping me
as close to sane as I can ever claim to be. I’ve kept this blog going, I’ve
written my ‘Words With Jam’ contributions. (I hope everyone’s seen the latest issue
with the JK interview – the magazine is now available in print as well as
online.)

AND I’ve made good
progress with my children’s novel.

So I thought I’d post a progress report.

The first draft is almost finished. I can’t believe how much
I’ve enjoyed writing it. I was very resistant to writing for children, despite
my profession as a primary school teacher. But while I was in the middle of
writing my second novel for adults, the idea for the children’s story appeared
unbidden. It wouldn’t go away. So I had to suspend the grown-up novel, get over
my resistance and get to work on the young folks’ book.

I’ve found it to be quite a different experience from
writing my first novel. I’ve gone from being a planner to a ‘pantster’ (as in,
flying by the seat of my pants). This time I began writing with only the seed
of an idea and no real notion of where I was heading. Whereas the first time
round I had detailed plans and a carefully worked out plot – although there
were surprises along the way – this time I just wrote. And, luckily the story flowed
and developed spontaneously.

I’m not saying that I have a crisp, coherent and captivating
read yet. It’s more like I have a lump of roughly chiselled stone and now the
really hard work of chipping away, shaping and smoothing begins. The process
for the first novel was more akin to that of a draughtsman/artist – building up
to the finished artefact from detailed plans and sketches with precision
brushwork. But this time it will be more of a paring down from a block of (I
hope) beautiful raw material.

The hammering stage will be finished this month and I will
take up the chisel later in the year. In between –  as well as moving house – I need to dust off
my brushes and get back to my older people’s novel.

Okay – I know when I’ve done a metaphor to death – so I’ll
take off my artist’s smock and go write another house move to-do list.

Captivating, enchanting, entertaining – quality writing for children

‘Peggy Larkin’s War’ by Trevor Forest


It’s often a sign of
quality in a children’s book that it has equal appeal for adults. And, in the
case of ‘Peggy Larkin’s War’, this is certainly true.

Set at the beginning
of World War Two, it tells the story of Peggy Larkin, a young girl who is
evacuated from London
to the countryside. There’s the mystery of a locked room in the house that
Peggy lodges in and of the reason behind the sadness of Mrs Henderson, the
house’s owner. There’s also the sinister presence of a stranger in the woods. The
story follows Peggy as she endures separation from her parents and makes a
brave attempt to settle into her new life. Along the way she makes a new friend
and demonstrates remarkable stoicism and resilience.

Forest’s writing is excellent and is pitched
perfectly for its intended readership of upper primary school age children. He
doesn’t patronise and he writes with an immediacy and economy that will appeal
to children. Forest never intrudes into the story, and it never feels like he’s
trying to educate or preach. This is child-friendly, accessible entertainment.
It’s all about the story. It’s vividly told and it’s easy to visualise the characters and settings. It has the feel of a BBC children’s drama at times.

The only disappointing
aspect for me was the book’s brevity. Having set up such great characters and a
setting with so many possibilities, it would have been good to have further
chapters and more adventures for Peggy.

It would also be great
to see this book in paperback. At the moment it’s only available for Kindle and
at least as far as my own pupils are concerned primary school children don’t
tend to own e-book readers. It’s got a cracking good cover for one thing. But
more importantly than that, it would be a good book to have in school libraries
and in World War Two project boxes.

But in the mean time
parents, grandparents and teachers it would be well worth purchasing Peggy’s
story for your Kindle’s and reading this aloud to the children in your lives.