A neighbouring village recently held its inaugural story-writing competition, ‘The Horningsea Tales’, and I was honoured to be asked to help judge the Under 12s’ category.
The writing theme was ‘Lines’, a powerful prompt that sparked various story ideas – from surreal, talking lines to sinister wartime borders – all brimming with originality and imagination. Well-deserved prizes went to several runners-up as well as the overall winner.
Finding ideas for stories is something I’m often asked about, so when we gathered for the prize-giving in the uplifting venue of Horningsea Church, we naturally talked about inspiration.
Illustrators speak of ‘taking a line for a walk’ when they’re looking for ideas. They make a doodle, and then find hidden pictures within their scribbles. Like most people, I did a version of it as a child.
Author-illustrator Anthony Browne used this trick for his book, ‘Play the Shape Game’. He drew one random shape and gave it to 45 celebrities to turn into a picture. It generated an amazing range of characters and objects, all potential story-sparkers.
So, we played the Shape Game at the prize-giving, with one volunteer drawing a random shape, and someone else transforming it. Here are a few of the brilliant, spontaneous results.
It was a fun afternoon, and fabulous to see so many children and adults happily bitten by the story-writing bug. I’m sure the 2019 ‘Horningsea Tales’ will be the first of many.
Separately, another thing I’m often asked is how to get stories for children published. SCBWI – the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – offers support and advice, including critiquing, to published and unpublished writers. Once you’re happy that your work is as good as it can be, consult Bloomsbury’s Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for all the information you need. Good luck!