The UK's national centre for children's books, from the perspective of a newcomer
As a first time visitor to a Society event the first thing that struck me about Seven Stories was not its clever pun on the height of the building, nor its staggeringly beautiful architecture, but its warm and welcoming atmosphere that engulfed me on entry to this treasure trove of fantasy.
It didn’t take long for any initial worries or nerves to be dispelled by this fantastic community of writers as people chatted and laughed like long-time friends despite only being acquainted minutes before. After some light refreshments the group was given a fascinating peek into the life of author Michael Morpurgo via a cleverly designed exhibit.
As a new writer in 2016 it can be easy to forget almost entirely about handwriting...
Whilst detailing key parts of Michael’s life, this area mainly showcased manuscripts that Morpurgo had generously donated to Seven Stories. Where most hung from the walls, framed and protected, others were printed directly onto flat pieces of wood shaped into trees, a fitting representation of his early life in rural England.
Seeing handwritten notes of some of Michael’s work was nothing short of inspirational (although admittedly a little hard to decipher at times due to doctor-worthy handwriting). As a new writer in 2016 it can be easy to forget almost entirely about handwriting, being shaped by a world that has become so taken with digital work, and this was a fantastic reminder that it can be just as important to read your work on physical paper as well as on a screen.
Once back in the starting room, we had the opportunity to look at yet more manuscripts by Michael and other authors such as Philip Pullman. White gloves were mandatory for this to protect against grimy, cakey hands, giving people the appearance of a certain other famous Michael and it admittedly was a little difficult not to moonwalk back to the seats afterward.
...these Society events are wonderful for writers of any experience level...
After some tea and sandwiches there was a detailed chat between author Niel Bushnell and his agent Juliet Mushens; as well as illustrator Chris Chatterton and his agent Arabella Stein. This was by far the most useful section from the perspective of a newcomer to writing. It provided excellent and informative advice on what to do (and what not to do) when trying to break into writing. The chat was led by questions from Niel that let the other participants share their vast knowledge on novels and picture books with lighthearted and entertaining ease.
As an aspiring writer for young adults and teenagers, I found Juliet and Niel’s segment to be an excellent resource for the novel I am currently working on (about the world resetting back to primal days, and how present day teenagers would react and survive). Niel’s suggestion to read Juliet’s book Get Started in Writing Young Adult Fiction was absolutely invaluable and I strongly recommend it to anyone considering a traditional publishing route for their Young Adult novels.
There may be Seven Stories in this place of celebratory learning, but the moral of this story is that these Society events are wonderful for writers of any experience level. If there are any aspiring writers out there nervous about coming to these events they are strongly encouraged to attend, to have a good time and to take away some advice that will surely help jumpstart their own writing careers.
Fresh freelance writer based in rugged North East England. Videogame journalism and story writing are my passion. Since graduating Teesside University with a BA in Game Design, I hope to marry these loves together in my career.