Of what stories are you made?

If you're lucky you'll have a deep seam of stories running through your core. Rich and resonating. Characters that carried you off, worlds that swallowed you up, and pictures forever imprinted in your memory stores.

I only have to think of the Bad Baby, and I'm there riding on the back of the elephant, going rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta all down the road.

At the beginning of our life's journey, picture books take us by the hand and lead us into the sphere of the imagination. If ever there was a parallel universe, it is here, where anything can happen.

My visual recall is so vivid it seems to be more strongly imprinted in my mind's eye than memories themselves. Edward Lear's the Quangle Wangle Quee, Maurice Sendak's In The Night Kitchen (not to mention Where the Wild Things Are), Pat Hutchins' Rosie's walk, Angela Banner's Ant and Bee, Richard Scarry's Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm. I can 'see' them all more readily than I can remember what it was like to be that child lost inside the pictures.

I remember Dad reading to us at bedtime, watching his upside down mouth moving around the words

When we get a little older, memories become mixed with stories. Before I was eight years old I shared a bedroom with my sister. I remember Dad reading to us at bedtime, watching his upside down mouth moving around the words. I remember the wallpaper, the pink repeated cluster of houses and trees. I could even lose myself in there.

When I was eight I had my own bedroom at the top of the house. How blissful it was to climb into bed with the Swallows and Amazons, and the Famous Five (it never got too crowded in there). The magical combination of cosiness and lost-in-a-bookness. The thought of children across the world who never experience such security, of being wrapped up in warmth and magic …

How blissful it was to climb into bed with the Swallows and Amazons

Stories rapidly become our friends, our go-to places in times of need. My mum frequently recalls the Millennium when our entire family was struck down with 'flu – not because it was the stepping over into another century, but because she lay in bed comforted by Stephen Fry's reading of The Philosopher's Stone.

I can use the memory of reading to place myself, to pinpoint precisely where I was at the time. In my teenage years I am lying in bed (appears to be my optimum reading place) hungrily devouring Virago titles; the dark green edged books lined up on my shelf: Rosamund Lehman, Anita White, Maya Angelou. And a healthy sprinkling of Ian McEwan.

There have been gaps in my reading when life itself became the main story. Yet having children draws you back in, and together you share the wonder all over again. Now that I'm a middle-aged rock, my seams are made up from whatever I fancy. A good story is a good story is a good story. None of this reading to type and age nonsense.

A good story is a good story is a good story. None of this reading to type and age nonsense 

My rock strata looks something like this: Philip Pullman's Dark Materials, Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, Sebastian Faulks, Raymond Carver, Terry Pratchett, Isabelle Allende, Kate Atkinson, Mal Peet … to name but so very few. All the stories created by these brilliant authors are equally embedded and enriching.

These stories date me like minerals inside a rock. They also give me a strong foundation. I have learned through the shared life of fictional characters what it means to be human. I have laughed and cried, gasped, and felt my heart race. I have re-read climactic paragraphs, pored over illustrations searching for hidden clues, rejoiced when justice is served, and ached over not so happy endings.

Thank you creators of the story world. I couldn't have made it this far without you (and thanks to you for reading. I promise to be less wordy next time).

Don't Forget

K. M. Lockwood wrote an inspiring piece about the significance of images in the creative process, posted on Monday

Nick cast his Tuesday net deftly over the sea of wonderful blog words

Wednesday found Catriona Tippin taking us through some useful proofreading tips

Thursday announced two unmissable conference competitions, and Kate Peridot reported from the Picturebook masterclass with Pippa Goodhart

Friday - Jion Sheibani's ProCATsination shows just how easy it is to do anything but get on with it

Saturday Badge Winners – two super designs to pin on with pride at the conference

Look forward to

Monday  A new Ask a Publisher podcast - Rowena interviews Ali Dougal editorial director of fiction at Egmont Press

Tuesday  Another hot pick of the blogs from Nick

Wednesday Agent confidential with Erzsi Deàk, president & founder of Hen & Ink

Thursday  Surprise! (we're not quite sure what it'll be yet)

Friday Mike Brownlow shows us How to Draw a Robot

Saturday We celebrate SCBWIs nominated for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway prize

And of course Friday, Saturday & Sunday bring us the 7th British Isles SCBWI Conference!

From Around
the WWW

SCBWI British Isles on Facebook is always a wonderful resource for shared ideas and information. Check out a link shared by Debbie Coope, of Pixar's 22 Rules to Phenomenal Publishing

The child's eye view of death: the power of picture books to explain, can be found in the Guardian this week

Nancy Saunders is gradually stepping in as the new Editor of W&P, with a generous helping hand from Jan. You can find her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders


  1. Be as wordy as you like, Nancy - that was beautifully evocative.

  2. Cheers chaps :-) It can be all too easy to waffle on into the ether, when there's no expression of knotted eyebrows to stop you!

  3. Thanks, Nancy. My superpower of choice would be a strong visual sense. Such beautiful recallations.

    1. Many thanks, Karen. Here's to the power of vision!


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