EVENTS Putting Food on the Page

There’s a kind of magic in the air when a group of writers get together to write, says Jayne Fallows. So I was thrilled when Catherine Whitmore and Marion Brown, our Northwest organisers, asked me to run a freewriting session at our February meeting in Manchester.

One of my favourite books as a child was Tales of Toyland by Enid Blyton. In this story, the toys have a party and drink creamy milk. It sounded so wonderful and magical and so unlike the UHT milk we had at home that I desperately wanted to try it.

I think this is why I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to food in children’s books and I’m always pushing my critique group to tell me what their characters are eating. It’s not enough for them to say their character went for a picnic in the park – I want to know what they had to eat – but more importantly, I want to know how it made them feel.

Picnic bags contained food to assault the senses.

For this workshop, I made up picnic bags containing pictures of food, old recipes from a 1957 cookbook, and some pages from a book on foraging. I also put some real food in the bags – food that would assault the senses and get people talking. I had great fun sourcing it and included popping candy, plain, milk and white chocolate, bacon-flavoured Frazzles, prawn crackers, sweet and salty popcorn, marshmallows and sherbet flying saucers.

Jayne had fun sourcing food, including sweet and salty popcorn.

To mix people up and get them out of their usual critiquing groups, I gave everyone a raffle ticket, (attached to a fortune cookie, as it was Chinese New Year). They then had to sit at the table where the picnic bag with the corresponding number was. This gave everyone a chance to meet people from other groups. We spent ten minutes discussing and eating (mainly eating!) the contents of the bags and thinking about how we might include food in our writing.

Jayne encourages the group to consider how to include food in their writing.

We thought about not just flavour, but how it made us feel. Some of the food stirred up childhood memories – smoky bacon Frazzles were reminiscent of vending machine snacks at the swimming baths – and the popping candy caused quite a stir.

Would they be joyful at the sight of a crisp salad or would they be happier with burger and chips?

Then I asked the group to write a scene involving the main character in their work-in-progress and food. How would their character eat? Would they be joyful at the sight of a crisp salad or would they be happier with burger and chips? I challenged the group to make the reader react to the food on the page – in a good or a bad way – and to think about textures and sounds as well as flavour.

After writing for ten minutes, the groups shared what they’d written with each other and I got some fantastic feedback. Many of the group now realise how important food is to the plot and are now inspired to look at the role food plays in their WIP with fresh eyes.

*All photos except popcorn: Susan Brownrigg

Jayne Fallows gave up her career as a Criminal Law Clerk to pursue her love of writing Middle Grade Fiction. She had her first competition success when she accidentally wrote a poem. When she’s not in her native town of Stockport, you can find her watching dolphins from a cliff top in Anglesey. Find her on Twitter: @JayneFallows

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.