Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Storytelling - Part 3

Remember the storytelling course I did? Blogged about it  here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Today, I put it into practise.

I wasn't going to, in spite of the fact I'd prepared a story. In fact, if Tahlita hadn't mailed me on Sunday evening, I never would have done it at all. Y'see, I was chickening out. Doing a story - of my own - without a book to hide behind was just too flippin' scary. But it was only a ten minute slot after all and I didn't want to let Tahlita down, so I said yes.

The daft thing is, I still had to write the story 'properly' on paper first - remember that whole 'embedding' issue? I used notes to remind me of the storyline during the actual telling - which, I hasten to add, got simpler and simpler as I went on because I simply couldn't remember everything!

The lovely thing about the session itself was that, of the five storytellers, only one had not been on the storytelling course with me; I was among familiar faces. It was a privilege to see how everyone else worked, using props and actions and involving the children. I was concentrating so hard on the story, I forgot all that! The kids just got me...and a story about The Story Bird.

I didn't even resort to the comfort of a storytelling chair - and at the moment, there's a TALKING LADYBIRD CHAIR in the Charnwood Museum as part of the Ladybird Books Centenary celebrations! Think I might have had to fight the kids for the privilege of sitting in it, now I think about it...

I came away feeling more confident, but with things to improve on, like involving the children more with actions and rhymes. Perhaps 'finishing' the story better to leave the listener to guess at what happens next rather than tying it off nicely? (Jury's still out on that one - part of me can see a place to cut it and leave the listener guessing, but part of me wants a happy ending.) And props - can I use them at all without them overpowering the story? (I also came away with what I assume is a lovely legend of how the man got into the moon...might be able to do something with that.)

I also realised that you don't have to make up the story you're telling each time - you can use traditional fairytales or legends. You just have to put your own spin on them and tell them the way you can, rather than in the way you can't.

So, a bit of a high spot in a horribly windy, yet beautifully sunny and dreadfully hailly day.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Getting arty...

When I want a break from writing, I often turn to a bit of knitting...or sewing...or drawing...or whatever other arty fancy that's caught my attention and is flavour of the month in the Squidge house.

Currently, it's colouring in.

Yep - you did read that right.

Colouring in.

I saw Johanna Basford's Secret Garden in Waterstones and fell in love with the gorgeous illustrations. Want is a strong word, but I wanted that book...so I dropped heavy hints about it just before Mothering Sunday. Surprise, surprise; I got a copy! It's described as 'An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book', and it is the most fun you can have with a fineliner and some coloured pencils or  felt pens.

Now for those who've never heard of Johanna, she's a pen-and-ink artist. Her website is full of the most amazing artwork (she used to hand draw wallpapers! Literally hung lining paper on the wall and drew onto it while standing on a ladder...) and her first book, Secret Garden, has sold over a million copies. The second book, Enchanted Forest, has recently been published; that might have to feature on my birthday wish list...

I thought I'd share with you my first few pages. I'm hopping around the book, doing what I fancy, but trying to work on just one colour page and one black and white at a time. Because it's not just colouring in that you get to do; some of the pages have outlines for you to add 'inky details' to. My own preference is to keep these pages monochrome so that the detail is not lost - and black and white has its own special beauty.

Pre-printed page on the left, my inky details on the right...

Other pages have flowering vines or branches for you to add birds, butterflies, bees or snails to. There are mazes to follow, hidden frogs, bugs and other creatures to find (I found the squirrel already!). And then there's tons of colouring in...

I've already had to buy some more green watercolour pencils, because my range of greens was a little limited for so many lovely leafy pictures. And I am being challenged to blend the colours to give the pictures depth, making the details really stand out on the page.

Ol' Blue Eyes...

Water of Life...

The pictures take - literally - hours to complete. I have to keep the pencils really sharp as there are lots of very fine details, and I've learned that coloured fineliners can show through the page if you're not careful - but pressing on hard with the pencils marks blank spaces on the page underneath, so I have to work with a spare piece of paper underneath the page I'm colouring.

I think I'm going to be challenged by the pages where there are blank spaces for you to add something of your own - such as the page with a hole that needs to be filled with whatever the padlock is keeping safe...not sure I'm that much of an artist to do the page justice. We shall see.

In the meantime, I'm having loads of fun and probably not doing lots of things I ought to be doing because of it...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Granny Rainbow's Workshop

Ever wondered what Granny Rainbow's workshop looks like?

'Her workroom was just inside the front door. It was a small room, brightly lit and lined with hundreds of narrow shelves. The shelves were filled with bottles... and the bottles were crammed with coloured powders. Old Tom stared in amazement and tried to name them all in his head... turquoise, cerise, vermillion, citrine, ochre, sapphire, ruby, lime, primrose, russet... In the end, he ran out of words to describe them all - he couldn't believe so many colours existed!'

I was playing on google images today, searching for shelves of coloured powders, and came across a photo on the Old Holland Classic Colours website - they have been manufacturing artists' pigments for something like three centuries.

It's exactly how I pictured Granny's workshop...

What do you think? And funnily enough, in More Granny Rainbow, Granny has a case for carrying small bottles of powders, just like the one in the bottom right hand corner... 

For the third book, I think Granny's going travelling...

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Monty Python Moment: Spam!

So, just in case anyone wants to leave comments on the Scribbles in future, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to do something for me; I have finally turned on word verification. 
I realise this is a pain in the proverbial - and some of you will automatically not leave a comment because of it. But I've been fairly heavily spammed recently - mainly about shoes, though goodness knows why - and it's getting to be a bit problematic for both my inbox and the blog, in spite of the usual filters.
Maybe I'll be able to turn it off again soon, when the spammers get tired...because, in the words of Monty Python...
Interior: cheap café. All the customers are Vikings. Mr and Mrs Bun enter—downwards (on wires).
Mr. Bun:
Mr. Bun:
What have you got, then?
Well there's egg and bacon; egg, sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg, bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam; spam, spam, spam, egg and spam; spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam; or lobster thermidor aux crevettes, with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle paté, brandy and a fried egg on top and spam.
Mrs. Bun:
Have you got anything without spam in it?
Well, there's spam, egg, sausage and spam. That's not got MUCH spam in it.
Mrs. Bun:
I don't want ANY spam.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Storytelling Discoveries - Part Two.

My last post explained some of the things I'd discovered about myself and my storytelling, after the first of a two-day storytelling training with Katrice Horsely.

Today was day two.

Most of the day focused on building our courage and abilities as storytellers, and gave us the opportunity to make resources to aid storytelling. We took the structure of a story we'd created on day one and used symbols on paper or physical materials to 'tell' the story.

Now I had a massive light bulb moment at this point.

I realised that when I 'tell' stories, they are always book or paper based. So I'm not actually telling - I'm reading or writing. Which made me then realise it's because I like the security of a physical object - book or pen and paper, With them close to hand, there's no chance of getting the story wrong, either because I continue working on it myself, or the words are already there courtesy of someone else.

When later in the session we were encouraged to first mumble, then speak our made-up stories, following that with hand movements and projection of voice (though our group didn't get to the projection stage because some of us were already out of our comfort zones), my mind went blank. I just couldn't 'see' the story. And if I can't 'see' it, I can't remember it - or tell it to an audience.

Which led onto lightbulb moment number two: I have to embed a story into my brain before I am comfortable performing it. Paper and pen is - for me - part and parcel of that embedding process. So is using props (like Handa's Surprise, which I told with a basket of fruit on my head...) So I have developed techniques to keep changing things until the story feels 'right'. Because of course if I just say something off the cuff, it might all go horribly wrong...

So today, I used symbols to 'write' my story. Here's what it looked like at the first pass:


This was pretty overwhelming - I still couldn't 'see' my story because there were no manageable chunks. A bit like when you try to remember phone numbers; listing the numbers in groups works better than just saying the whole thing without a break. So I constructed a 12-page book and split the story down further. Now I had 'scenes' on a page, and I could 'see' and remember them much more easily.

A twelve page book for a twelve step story...

Then the writer in me started to edit. I scribbled out various symbols, added new ones, reordered some...until the story made more sense and had a more consistent pattern to aid memorising it.

The fish moves and the gift given changes into a net...

We were given an opportunity to share our finished stories and/or resources with the rest of the group, but I didn't for two reasons. The first was that, having embedded the story firmly into my brain, I knew I would be able to perform it. And secondly, there were others present who had taken HUGE leaps forward in confidence on the storytelling front; I did not want them to lose their moment because I was simply indulging myself in a bit of theatre, which for me is the easy(er) bit of the entire process. Instead, I shared the steps I'd gone through to embed my story into my brain...

The final lightbulb was a very emotional moment, during the evaluation time. We were asked to pick a picture from a set of Dixit cards which appealed to us (Dixit is a storytelling game and the cards are full of beautiful, beautiful images.). When we had chosen a picture, we had to relate it to something we'd learnt from the training. This was the card I picked:


I tried to share what it meant to me with the group - couldn't explain it fully as I got tearful - so I will try to explain more fully here. (With the benefit that you can't see me cry if it makes me well up again!)

I had begun the training with the rather arrogant assumption that I was a wizard with words; I knew I could tell stories. They are in print, for heavens sake! But I have discovered that the act of storytelling is very different from that of writing stories. For a while, I'd felt as though things were a bit 'gloomy, gloomy, dark', and I'd never be able tell a story Katrice-style. However, after a lot of soul searching and personal challenge over the two days, I now feel like I have enough tools under my belt to be a different kind of storyteller to the one who walked into the training room; the teensiest spark has been lit and must now be nurtured in order to light me up as a real storyteller.

(Phew - all done, and not a tear in sight. Because I'm writing the words, not showing you the real me and the emotions I can't hide when I'm talking to you face-to-face.)

As Katrice said at the end of the session, this training was the start of a journey and only we can do the work to get ourselves where we want to be as storytellers. We have the skills inside us to be able to do it; we just have to grab our courage with both hands, believe it and be it.

So here's to Squidge trying something new and moving out of her comfort zone the next time she says she's going to tell a story...

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A day of storytelling discovery

Today, I've been fortunate enough to have attended the first day of two days of storytelling training at my local library, led by the wonderful Katrice Horsely, storytelling laureate.

(Katrice is both a fabulous storyteller - you can see her telling the story of the Three Little Pigs in her own quirky style here - and a wonderful motivating speaker.)

Now I consider myself to be a storyteller - I am quite comfortable with that title. I am an author after all and authors tell stories, so of course I'd say I'm a storyteller.

See? I'm telling a story...I'm a storyteller.

Um. No.

I have made several discoveries today which make me question not only what I thought I knew about my approach to and use of storytelling, but about me as a person.

Let me explain;

1. I discovered that I had never considered the power of storytelling and the impact it can have on people - because of their own life experiences - when they hear the stories I choose to tell.

2. I discovered that I am probably a mix of several different learning types; I'm a fiddler (not the four-string variety) which means I'm probably tactical and I am also audio (rely on hearing things). To be honest, I recognised bits that work for me from all the learning types, but those two jumped out at me as being the main ones. This means that my natural storytelling veers towards these learning styles - and misses the others out! Which subsequently prevents a good proportion of my listeners from engaging.

3.  I discovered how much of an impact talking to young children has on their future development and language abilities - by which, I don't just mean the spoken word. We're also talking sign language (which is good, because my daughter was a late speaker and we used baby sign language with her for a while) and body language too. The art of conversation may not yet be dead, but it is severely stunted - and it's having an effect on our children and our society.

4.  I discovered how much I feel sympathy for people who are feeling uncomfortable and out of their comfort zone - and how much the consequences of me trying to protect them or stand up for them affects me.

5.  I discovered how uncomfortable I am telling stories without a pen in my hand. I was SO out of my comfort zone trying to make up a story with nothing but props. "But Katherine, you do use props!" I can hear some of you shouting! "You're always using props and pictures as prompts!" Correct - they are prompts, not integral to the physical storytelling. I don't use a piece of fabric and turn it into a mole...or a piece of net and a feather to make a fish...or make a grumpy octopus out of a scourer pad and pipecleaners...  Maybe this is a good thing to discover, because I will need to get over this unease in order to encourage and enthuse those who prefer not to physically write their stories...

6.  I discovered that everyone has their own letter 'A' and will therefore take different things away from the same story. So I have to find a way of helping others to see their version of the letter in what I present, not just my version. Which sort of links in to number two I suppose.

7.  I discovered that PLL (Post Lunch Lethargy) can be overcome with a story that involves everyone.

8.  And I discovered that every skill I need to be the person I am destined to become lies within me - I just need to see it and believe it.

And that's just from day one... Of course I've learnt other stuff as well, (the patented 12 Step Story for example, which you'd have to see Katrice model to appreciate fully) but these are the real light-bulb moments that have settled deep within 'Katherine the storyteller'.

From here on in, it's about trying to overcome my predisposition for certain teaching styles because of my own learning preferences, and trying to feel more comfortable without a pen in my hand...

Roll on Friday and Day Two.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

So much to tell you...

The last week or so has passed by in a bit of a blur. There's been so much happening!

Wednesday 4th March: Author visit to Holywell School.

I had a fantastic time with two Year 3 classes at Holywell, looking at the essential ingredients of a Granny Rainbow story and then helping the children to come up with their own ideas for a Granny story. We focused on the idea of something being lost; working out what it was, who'd lost it, why was it such a problem that it was lost, and most importantly, what was Granny going to do to help find it?

Getting to grips with the digital whiteboard...and the essentials
of a Granny Rainbow story

I don't know what had just been suggested, but I look pretty shocked at the thought!
And for some reason I can't seem to write straight...

My personal favourite was the lost tiara...which just happened to be stuck to the Lady Larabelle Loolilace's wig, so when she lost her wig - and the tiara - she couldn't go to the posh party she'd been invited to because actually, she was as bald as a coot in real life! Second favourite was the lost penguins - or was it the treasure chest? SO many ideas! In fact it was hard to stop the children from coming up with more and more ideas and actually settle down to writing the outline of the story they'd be penning...

It was a really special visit, because Holywell was my primary school...and here I was, forty odd years later, returning to spend time with a fresh generation of students.

Thursday 5th March: World Book Day.

A planned author visit had to unfortunately be cancelled, so instead I bagged up a copy of Granny Rainbow as a World Book Day gift and left it in a playground in Queen's Park. I've done something similar with the Lonely Bouquet - left a bunch of flowers for someone to find and take home, so I was hoping the same principle would work with a book.

I don't know whether anyone picked it up - when I passed back that way later in the morning, the book was still there and being studiously ignored by the parents present, in spite of the invitation inside the bag to 'Take me Home!' Hope someone's enjoying it...

Friday 6th March: Lords and Ladies at the Manor.

A group of Cloudies had booked a Manor House in Oxfordshire for the weekend, with the intention of writing, hearing other's work and getting to know some of the folk who are recognised only by an electric persona on the Word Cloud

We had a blast! Quite a few more Cloudies arrived on Saturday to spend the day with us (I ran a short writing exercise in the afternoon, there was a table tennis compeition, a bring-and-share lunch) and a few of the day visitors stopped overnight. We drank wine (and champagne for those who took part in The Great Fizz competition of reading work to an audience), ate very well, sang songs until the wee small hours, wore tiaras and top hats (as befits a Lord or Lady of the Manor) and made lots of new friends.

Lady Squidge of the Manor...complete with tiara.

The weirdest thing was reading a Granny Rainbow story to an audience of adults instead of to children...

I came home exhausted but happy on the Monday and started to thrash out some words and ideas on Ani's story.

Tuesday 10th March: Proof Pick-up!

I picked up the proof of More Granny Rainbow. There are some glitches with the cover, as I realised there is a fundamental design flaw (of my own making) which needs to be addressed. So I shan't be launching just yet... The inside pages are looking pretty flippin' good though - I didn't see any typos at all. I'll leave finding them up to the eagle-eyed reader...

Wednesday 11th March: Painting Text

I'm involved at the moment in a passionart project - eight town centre churches are creating a piece of artwork depicting a part of the Easter story, which will be displayed outside the churches from Palm Sunday through to Easter Monday. The one I'm involved with is the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross, on a 4 by 3 metre banner. I spent most of Weds (and Thursday and part of Friday) painting the text onto the speech bubbles...

Then we had a NIBS meeting - the Nanpantan Improving Body of Scribblers writing group. Four of us wrote off-the-cuff about what we wanted to see more of or less of in the world; combined three trinkets (chosen from a selection) into a piece of prose; and then considered what we would include in a time capsule to represent ourselves and our lives. There were some rather poignant pieces written, which brought a tear to my eye...

Thursday 12th March.  RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

I cried.

Sir Terry's Discworld books are my absolute favourite thing to read. I have a shelf filled almost entirely with Discworld...there are a few titles missing still, but in time I am determined to have the full set.

To know that I will never read about Vimes or Carrot again, hear the witches own particular brand of wisdom, or find out what C.M.O.T Dibbler's latest money-making scheme is, makes me unbearably sad.

And only Sir Terry could have written the end of his own story as he did, with Death coming to take him for a walk.

I hope Sir Terry finds what he was expecting in the black desert...

Illustration by the very talented Mat Sadler

Friday 13th March: Comic Relief

I was auctioning off a copy of Granny Rainbow for Red Nose Day; I'd drawn red noses on all the illustrations and the front cover. I am delighted to say that the top bid was £30 - £30! - and I decided to double that. Hence a whopping £60 will be winging its way to Comic Relief HQ and Red Nose Granny to Birmingham, to a very special librarian.

And I think that's us all caught up! Normal blogging service will be resumed...assuming I have something interesting to tell you!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Granny's gone to the printers - again!

I did it.

With trembling fingers and doubt in every bone, I pressed 'send'; the cover and text files for More Granny Rainbow are with the printer...

And you know what? It wasn't any easier second time round. I think the pressure has come because the first book was almost born out of a position of ignorance - this time, I know what I have to do to make it look even better.

I paid for an edit  because last time, I thought I'd done a good job of self-editing - and failed miserably! This time, I contacted Steph Roundsmith - she's really good - for a professional once-over. She picked up a few things I'd missed, but I was really pleased that she thought the copy I sent her was pretty clean to begin with.

Once the text had been sorted, it was on to layout...

I had laid the text out slightly different this time, because when I took Granny Rainbow to The Reading Shop, the lovely Lynne who owns the shop (a dedicated children's book shop - bliss!) advised me to centrally justify the text next time as it looked more professional. I also chose to make a bit more of the story titles; dropped them down a couple of lines and gave them a bit more space again before the story proper began.

However - the justification was an absolute PIG to get right. The template I use has the last line on the page very close to the page number, which I didn't like. So I would do a hard return and 'push' that last line of text onto the next page. For some reason, this made the new last line on that page unjustify itself, so I had a gap on the right hand side. Still not quite sure why it does that - or how I fixed it, to be honest - but I think there is one place left where I just could not get that last line to justify properly...

And of course, some of this was only noticed AFTER I'd saved the file as a pdf, so I had to go back a step to make the alterations and re-pdf-save it. (You can tell I'm really good with computers, can't you?).

I also found (thank goodness!) that I'd used an older version of one of the pictures Laura had drawn; Happy Harry didn't have his badge on!

So it was with fear and doubt I pressed the button. Now I have an anxious wait for the proof, to see if I can spot anything else I missed...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Granny Rainbow does Red Nose Day 2015

'Do something funny for money.' That's the motto of Comic Relief, the charity behind Red Nose Day, and this year, Granny Rainbow's getting in on the action...

I have customised one copy of Granny Rainbow so that she, and all her friends, are sporting red noses. This unique copy is going to be auctioned off, here on the Scribbles, to raise money for Comic Relief. 

Customised cover

Title page - I have signed the book,
just not in the usual place...

Just one of Granny's friends who're joining in...

All YOU need to do is send an email to microscribbler@gmail.com with your bid. There is a page on the Scribbles which I'll try to keep updated with the highest bid to date: bidding closes at midnight on Friday 13th March 2015, and I'll post the copy to the lucky bidder. (Copies usually sell at £5 each, so that's where I'm expecting you to start...)

Please feel free to share as widely as possible. Let's see how much Granny can raise for this good cause.

Added later: some folk have seen the link I posted on Facebook and are posting bids there, too. I will do my best to keep track of both and add them to the bidding page. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

More Granny Rainbow - The Cover Reveal!

As I'm away on a writing weekend with some fabulous Cloudie friends from Friday and unlikely to be blogging until I get back, (when I'll tell you all about what we got up to while staying at The Manor; I'm going to be a Lady for the weekend!) I thought I'd share with you the cover of More Granny Rainbow:

I feel Publication Day approaching... *squeee!*

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Early writing

My Mum dropped in today, with something she thought I'd like to have; it proves that I had storytelling blood in me, even at an early age.

The first thing she showed me was more of a letter than a book - a mini-school report I wrote for myself. I'm not sure what the real report looked like for me at this age (Mum reckons I was 6, going on 7 when it was produced), but apparently when I started school aged 5, my teacher collared my mum and accused her of teaching me to read because I was always in the book corner, reading to myself (or my classmates) and sounding words out. I was probably reading something like this:

Or maybe even this:

Anyway, I don't know what happened to the 'number' side of things I mention - I can do enough maths to get by, but would never say I'm good at it! I do know I still like to tell my stories from a story chair though...

The second thing she showed me was a book I'd written about 'The Boy and Jesus; An Easter Story.' Judging by the handwriting (joined up!) I must've been a junior by this point. I obviously had a lot to learn about selecting titles, because 'The Boy' never even appears in the story. And there are some theological puzzles too; Easter Day is apparently 'the day before Jesus rose after his crucifixion', and there was some bloke called David hanging around with the 'desiples'.

My vicar would have a fit... Good job I know the story a bit better now!

Ah, well, we all had to start somewhere on this writing lark...

Tell me, what's the oldest piece of YOUR writing you've kept?