Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Be Your Own Audiobook - Tell A Story

The other day, I received an email from a Scottish teacher currently teaching English in an international school in China. In her message, Joanna explained that before the school broke up for New Year holidays, she had been reading my book The Superpower Project to her class. Of course, school did not return after the holidays; instead, pupils found themselves stuck indoors due to coronavirus quarantine measures. Joanna and teachers like her, have been making the best of the situation, trying to keep pupils upbeat and focussed, by teaching online as best they can. Joanna had been recording herself reading chapters of The Superpower Project and sending them to the class – a chapter every day, read aloud. She wondered if I would be able to send an email to the class, wishing them well and encouraging them to keep listening and reading.

Writers are often delicate folk and everyone writes in different ways about different things for different reasons. However, the one thing I would say most writers have in common is that they like to know people are enjoying reading their stories. And not just in the traditional “please leave an amazon review” way. You made something, someone likes it. That’s nice.

More importantly though, if I take myself out of the situation, Joanna’s email was just this brilliant reminder of how important books and reading can be in times of crisis. And how fortunate for writers and readers alike, that there’s this incredible world of people, booksellers, bloggers, librarians and teachers, who can help you find just the story you need in those moments.

It’s been four years this month since The Superpower Project was published, five years this month since I finished the first draft and entered it in the Kelpies Prize. That’s a long time in books. And though I never did quite get my proposed sequel together, it’s delightful to know that people are still reading my book, and that it’s providing some comfort. (For the record, the sequel was going to have Antarctic explorer Birdie Bowers discovering a spaceship during the Terra Nova expedition, a collection of musical superweapons designed by James Watt, plus all our heroes developed more superpowers and also there was an alien spider queen. I’ll be the first to admit it was a bit messy.)

So, I recorded myself reading a few chapters of The Superpower Project and sent them on to Joanna, and we’ve agreed that the class are going to send me some questions to answer. Sort of a long distance Live Literature session. We’ll keep in touch. These days, it feels good to make connections like that.

As we head towards World Book Day, with all the costumes and additional activities that can sometimes entail, its definitely important to remember that the thing children will respond to most – is being read books. The research proves it. And it’s not just children and young people, you can read to grown ups too. You can even just read out loud to yourself. It's not weird, it's fine. In fact. there’s lots of accessible ways to tell stories for all audiences.

This world book day, if you can, read someone a story– it might just make their day.

Here’s one I read earlier, Superhero Supermarket, which originally appeared in Storytime Magazine Issue 34.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

2020 Visions

At this particular point in my life, I'm extremely lucky, because everything I do is about stories. And in addition to my own writing, and work with digital storytelling, I also run Magic Torch Comics CIC, which works with schools, community groups and organisations, to tell stories using comics.

Magic Torch Comics are looking forward to a busy 2020, and it’s off to a flying start, as we were named one of The Big Issue’s Top 100 changemakers for 2020. It’s a great list, full of amazing people and projects, and we are delighted to be a part of it.

Magic Torch Comics have lots of projects happening and comics launching in the first half of 2020, and I thought we would share them with you now, so you know what to look out for. 

In March, we have two books launching on World Book Day (Thursday 8 March) – a collection of Gaelic Folktales created with the Callander’s Landscape project, and a story book of Syrian, Somalian, Kurdish and Scottish folktales produced with Inverclyde Community Development Trust and local ESOL learners supported by Inverclyde Community Learning and Development. And later that month, we'll be showcasing the work of the young people we've worked with on Inverclyde Libraries Making Waves project.

In April, we’ll be launching 1820 – The Paisley Radicals at Paisley Comicon. The book is illustrated by Dylan Gibson and the project was funded by Paisley CHEF fund. It will be previewed at Paisley Book Fest at our Make Comics History workshop on Sunday 23rd February.

In July, we will be at Glasgow Comicon, launching the first of our Outside The Box anthologies. Outside The Box works with marginalised young people in the Inverclyde community, to create comics which share their ideas and lived experiences. The project is supported by National Lottery Community Fund and you can see a promo video for the project below.

Back in 2018, we lost our colleague, Andy Lee, who had worked with us since we started making community comics. We had completed a comic with Andy about the life of Scottish Pirate Captain Kidd, but decided to shelve it. However, with the blessing of Andy’s family, we will be releasing the book, I Thought I Was Undone later this year as a charity publication. More details soon.

We will also have a huge range of information comics releasing – created with schools and community groups and sharing information and stories from the Scottish Parliament, Health and Social Care Partnerships and the Poverty Truth Community. We are so delighted with the diversity of projects that we are asked to get involved with. Please keep them coming!

And in the unlikely event that’s not enough comics for you, Magic Torch Comics also hope to launch our first Kickstarter this year, for a comic which explores the story of The Stone of Destiny, released in time for the 70th Anniversary of the theft of the stone this Christmas. Fingers crossed.

There’s more on the slate, but that’s what we can tell you for now. As ever, if you are interested in getting involved in our projects, would like to know more about what we do or even have a potential idea for collaboration, please get in touch.

We'll share lots more on the projects over the next few months, so keep an eye on the blog, twitter and our facebook page to stay up to date.