At the start, the first ideas were all very much linked to the children’s environment – Tesco’s kept cropping up; their leisure pursuits – horror movies, video games and a lot of knives and murder; and how they were feeling – hungry – chicken and burgers featured large. And then the fire alarm went off; we’d all been told no practice alarms were scheduled for the day so if the fire alarm went off it was for real. Everyone up ended up in the street and although we weren’t meant to take anything with us, all the packed lunches came too. One boy told me he was so afraid when he heard the alarm, his heart started beating hard and fast – later he got that sensation into the climax of his story. Perhaps every creative writing class needs a fire alarm to go off.
When we all reconvened after lunch and it was my turn to nudge ideas along through a bit of drawing, I was relieved to see we were moving beyond Tesco’s,
to other settings,
and horror was pinned down creatively in images and, later, words.
At the end of the three days, the children said that what they liked best about the South Shout Festival was the way the authors and illustrators, who had all volunteered their time, listened to their stories individually.