On Friday, I travelled to Poole in Dorset to meet five readers and five commissioners. Taking on both roles were Ben, Olivia, Andrew, Sapphire and Evan whose wild imaginations had us cartwheeling through a writer’s brief involving cryptozoology, cyborgs, guinea pigs, breakfast schedules and a post-human world in which an industrialized society of talking cheetahs takes on the rusty remnants of a machine uprising in a war of CLAW v. ROBOLASERS (see above for Evan’s summary). Pew pew pew.
The five people in question are all members of Book Stormers, a reading group for homeschooled young people who meet at Hamworthy Library in Poole. I sat in on their monthly meeting as part of an unusual writing commission from Lit Up! Writing, a literature development programme for Bournemouth and Poole, which I first mentioned in a post last month: all puffed up.
Having met the readers and heard them talk about their favourite books (everything), their daily routines (detailed) and their nightly dreams (vast), my job is to go away and write a short story tailored to their interests (everything), their instructions (detailed) and their reading appetite (vast). I have quite a task ahead of me.
Five hotly-opinionated, coolly-assured young people, aged 11 and upwards, pelted me with ideas. Nervously, I told them they’d have me out of a job.
But merciless and fed on a riotous diet of everything and anything that passes under the library’s scanner, these guys would not compromise on content. They want everything in the story. And they are stern and steely clients. I have returned with a long wishlist. Longer, even, than this:
- Siberian tigers
- World War 2
- robotic cheetahs
- a sphinx
- robotic cheetahs that can talk
- a basilisk
- an uprising of armed robotic talking cheetahs
- a cyborg-hating World War 2 captain
- Ancient Rome
- a submarine in Hamworthy
- people disguised as aliens
- aliens disguised as people
- dogs and/or cats (that may or may not talk)
- time travel and/or space travel
- a healthy level of copyright infringement on elements of Portal 2
- fold-out letters and pockets in the story
- an angry, amorphous blob
- Celtic Britain
- a mechanical moon
- a tiger snake robot thing (see below)
Many thanks to Laura and Tricia, the Library Literacy Officers, for MCing the often-chaotic and sometimes-passionate exchange of ideas between the group.
Ta to Hamworthy Library’s volunteers for the biscuits and ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ juices. Not just delicious but directly responsible for adding at least another twenty bullet points to the wishlist.
And also big thanks to Book Stormers – you haven’t half made things difficult for me but I wish I could trip as lightly and quickly between thoughts as you all do. Keep those minds fizzing.
On the 25th of May, I’ll be returning to Hamworthy Library to read the resulting work alongside the other writers that are part of the Tailored Tales event. Until then I have this mad, wonderful mess to deal with with and only these parting words from Andrew, the oldest member of Book Stormers, to guide me: