By Laura James.
When I visit schools, I often tell the audience it is my firm belief that once you have a roof over your head and food in your tummy the next most important thing in life is a good story. It’s true! Stories are to me, a human need; there to entertain, of course, but also to help us better understand the world. This is what makes them such a valuable tool for children.
I’m the type of person who has the tendency to get completely carried away when engrossed in a good book or watching a great film. I’ve always been this way. In fact, when I was at school one of my teachers used to call me Miss Book. I rarely read anything improving or intellectual, but I read voraciously and used to waft about the school corridors imagining myself in other worlds entirely. Reality was, in my opinion, over-rated.
I also love listening to a story being told. There’s something very caveman / camp-fire about it. We have some excellent raconteurs in our family who lead lives prone to hilarious mishaps ripe for the perfect anecdote. Sometimes I wonder if they encourage calamity just so they can spin a good yarn at the supper table.
Personally, I tend to stumble under the pressure of all-eyes-upon-me, which is probably one of the myriad reasons I turned to writing. At least with writing you’re given the opportunity to work away at getting your point across, in order to create the desired reaction. It’s not always easy, mind you, and one doesn’t always hit the mark! I have an infuriating habit of boxing myself into a corner. Just the other day I’d written about my flamingo Fabio and his giraffe side-kick, Gilbert flying in a biplane being pursued by a lioness (who’s a mechanic and ex famous rally driver). The giraffe finds a note from an armadillo called Albert in his sandwich tin… now come on brain, what happens next?!
I know some people who wouldn’t have any difficulties in thinking up what happens next – a room full of primary school children would ace this. In workshops I often get the kids to create a story together. I encourage them to come up with interesting characters with unusual problems. Blissfully unfettered by grown-up inhibitions their stories are invariably the stuff of genius and I generally leave feeling that I’ll soon be out of a job.
My big hope is that I can pass on them a love of stories. Maybe they’ll get carried away into the worlds I’ve created and make friends with a greedy and hapless pug and his spirited owner or imagine taking on a new case with the world’s greatest flamingo detective. Or maybe I’ll have managed to inspire them to write their own adventures. Either way, I view it as a privilege. Being a storyteller has to be the best job in the world.
Laura is a children’s author who lives in a tiny cottage in Wiltshire with her two wire-haired dachshunds, Brian and Florence. She has two chapter book series, published by Bloomsbury. The first book in The Adventures of Pug series, Captain Pug, was short-listed for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017. Her second series is called Fabio: The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective.
You can find out more about Laura on her website or by following her on Twitter @PugandLadyM.
Laura loves doing festivals and school and library visits. Please get in contact for more details. She is represented by Gill McLay at The Bath Literary Agency.