Norwich Castle Museum pretty well has everything. It's a monument dating back to the Norman Conquest, with a keep, dungeons and ramparts. The large museum has a sections on various eras from ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages, plus a Victorian Natural History gallery. The museum art gallery has a permanent display of the Norwich school of painters and many other important works, plus spaces for important contemporary exhibition.
Currently the castle is hosting a brilliant touring exhibition A Viking's Guide to Deadly Dragons from Seven Stories showcasing Cressida Cowell and her How to Train Your Dragon series, an added bonus for the eager group of SCBWI members and supporters that turned up on 27th February.
Paeony was especially inspired by the scruffy nature of Cressida Cowell's early drafts and sketches. Now she knows she's not alone with being a messy, scruffy scribbler!
|Some unlikely looking Vikings seeking inspiration in the Deadly Dragons exhibition|
I did a lot of research on Chinese dragons last year for my second Secrets of the Tombs book, The Dragon Path, so it was fun to find so many dragon references closer to home in Norwich Castle - not only the excellent Cressida Cowell exhibition, but also the local Snap Dragon costume - constructed of wood or papier mache and painted with smart fair-ground-coloured scales, it had the head of wily coyote attached to the body of a friendly pufferfish and the tail of a hornet.
I also enjoyed coming face to face with a rather fed-up stuffed anteater (anteaters also being a pet subject of mine; there's an orphaned anteater pup in my latest book, The Serpent King).
The rest of the time I spent in the basement reading the moving crime and punishment stories from the castle’s years as the city’s prison - always a fertile story-hunting ground for a mystery writer!
I've been illustrating a lot of historical non-fiction recently (my next picture-book Will's Words, on Shakespeare's London is released later this month), so it's probably no surprise I first headed to the Decorative Arts Gallery to draw some of the Regency era costumes.
Then to the Natural History Gallery, thinking maybe I could find a stuffed creature that might inspire a character....
|serious birds, or arctic foxes vs polar bear? Hmm, story in there somewhere?|
|Some of the staff were in suitable period costume...|
|...while in the Castle Keep children dressed up as Kings and Queens.|
Izzy came down from Kings Lynn and wowed us with some beautiful sketches. Unfortunately she had to leave early....
|Here are some of the sketches that I drew in the castle! I was drawing them with characters for picture book stories in mind.|
Initially I felt a bit panic-stricken about trying to think up a story on the spot so I decided to not worry and just scribble and colour like a 5 year old and see what happened. This led to the start of a story anyway as is always the way - The Clothes Horse - A story about a horse who makes clothes for all the other horses to brighten up the fields and give them a sense of self.
We also saw a strong turn-out by friends of SCBWI who contributed a lot to the day, a few samples:
|A 3rd Century Roman ceremonial helmet (Pen Avey).|
|Inspiration for a book cover (Maureen Nisbet)|
|A fantasy story of an elephant (Rachel Wood)|
It was an inspiring and entertaining day. Many thanks to all those who participated, especially those who travelled a long way!