Lighting the Spark

A touch of seasonal inspiration from Philippa R. Francis 

I have ‘stolen’ the title from the conference – but you don’t need to be going to Winchester get something out of this theme.

I have been thinking a lot about light and dark in children’s literature of late. How do we balance these deeply powerful twin metaphors? Are ‘happy endings’ a necessity or a lie? I wrote a blog-post about it -‘Chiaroscuro’ that received some thoughtful responses. Here’s a brilliant quotation from Julie Pike:

I went to Susan Cooper’s website to read about her growing up during WW2 – where she would spend nights in the air raid shelter her father dug at the bottom of their back garden, reading by the light of a candle. How precious that small pool of light seems to me, sitting with the dark all around, listening to the sounds of unknown and unnamed terrors happening in the world outside. How vital the wish for a happy ending, when so many around were having very bad endings.

I should probably stop there with that evocative image – but back to the link to the November conference. In the British Isles, regardless of belief system, most people love the sparks and explosions of Bonfire Night surrounded by a cold and inky-black night. It’s no accident that most faiths have winter festival celebrating light: like Diwali, Hannukah, Yule and Christmas. The symbolism of a light in the dark seems to be universal.

So, turning to your own story – does it have a moment of actual or metaphorical darkness? Could there be an image of light and hope that works for you at that point? A match, a mobile phone screen, a tiny comb-jelly drifting by... Even in a humorous work, a burst of brightness will shine out all the more amidst a sea of gloom.

Who knows what that spark might set alight?


K. M. Lockwood is a writing name of Philippa R. Francis. Once a primary school teacher, she became a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College in 2011. Her story The Selkies of Scoresby Nab was short-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition and long-listed for the Times Chicken House in 2012/13. She was born in Yorkshire but now lives by the coast in Sussex. Her writing shows her deep fascination with British folklore and the sea. Her interests include reading, scuba diving and belly dancing, though not at the same time. She also blogs at

1 comment:

  1. These sparky thoughts are working for me!
    Thank you, Philippa


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