It has been a year of firsts with milestones zipping by since the publication of The Mirror of Pharos. My first launch, blog tour, interviews and school visits have kept me pumped with excitement – and produced enough adrenalin to power a rocket ship to Mars!
As a writer, you get used to spending a lot of time alone, happy in a world peopled by your own characters. Then suddenly, one day – bam! There you are, standing in front of your audience, sometimes as many as three to four hundred children. The neurons start firing along the brain-gut highway and before you know it, the butterflies arrive. Forget the hermit years. Now you’re a performer and entertainer. I take my hat off to the teachers who do it every day!
Over time it gets easier, of course. Preparing to the nth degree is my way of coping (including rehearsing out loud with Buster the cat following me around the house yowling.) We all have ways of harnessing the butterflies… It helped when I finally stopped trying to fight them off. Accept them as a gift rather than a signal to hide under the duvet, I told myself. They’ll make you more acutely aware of your audience and up your game … And abracadabra, it was true! (Well, most of the time.)
Sharing that energy with young audiences is a two-way street which nearly always leaves you buzzing. That was especially the case at Ashstock, my first summer arts festival. The brainchild of classical pianist Siu Chui Li, it took place virtually on my doorstep, just two miles down the road in the beautiful Essex village of Ashdon, near Saffron Walden. Hundreds attended, attracted by a vibrant mix of live music, dance sessions, storytelling and two shows by the fabulous children’s author James Mayhew who joined the world famous Doric String Quartet to narrate and illustrate a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
I set up my own storytelling den at ‘Wolf Corner’ beneath the horse chestnut trees. Then, firing up a tiny compressor, I got to work with my airbrush, decorating parents as well as children with tattoos of wolves and other creatures. The kids were excited, receptive and completely delightful. I read from the novel, signed books and when I told them I’d once met a real live Indian chief, their eyes grew wide …
He was the person who set me on this roller coaster journey (full story here). An expert storyteller himself, I am certain he would have approved of the creative atmosphere at Ashstock Kids Festival. People painted with animal totems, kids playing in junk orchestras, happy souls building cities out of cardboard – it was an imaginative event with a wonderful, carefree vibe. And the only butterflies I noticed were either painted on sun-kissed faces or fluttering in the surrounding fields and gardens.
For more information about Ashstock Kids Festival click here
Cardboard City takes shape
Dancers from Saffron Walden’s Pure Rhythm
Superhero Tien lays down the Ashstock beat
Main image: Pixabay