SPECIAL FEATURE Collaboration Station


Barbara Henderson explains how an idea for collaboration was born out of lockdown. We all know of dream teams that are much more than the sum of their parts, don’t we?


The Bloomsbury Set. The Jackson Five. The Seven Dwarves. The Red Arrows.


Joking aside, there is strength in numbers, isn’t there? It is why we seek out like-minded people to urge us on in life – exercise classes, crit groups, orchestras and choirs. Together we can achieve things that individuals simply can’t.


Rewind to a few months ago. I had long admired the writer and fellow SCBWI member Ally Sherrick. Ever since I read her beautiful book Black Powder (about the Gunpowder Plot), I have loved her eye for historical detail and the masterful balance she strikes – somehow the detail and the richness of history do not seem to get in the way of the story. She kindly agreed to give me a cover quote for my own smuggling book Black Water. We kept in touch, and during an extended lockdown period this year, we decided to have a Zoom cuppa.


It was great to meet her. She in turn had recently caught up with the historical fiction writer Catherine Randall whom I had also come across on Twitter.


‘We sort of thought it would be a good idea to have a group of historical fiction writers for children. To collaborate in some way,’ Ally suggested. I didn’t need to hear much more – I had loved Catherine’s book The White Phoenix about the Great Fire of London, and I was in. It wasn’t long before Jeannie Waudby and SCBWI Susan Brownrigg joined our gang of merry maidens – a collective of historical fiction writers for children had emerged. Jeannie’s first book One of Us may have been set in an alternative reality, but she was now working on historical fiction, and Susan’s Blackpool-set Gracie Fairshaw books and pirate fantasy story Kintana and the Captain’s Curse were a perfect fit.


We had a gang. But what to call ourselves? ‘The History Girls’ was a great name of course, but that one was already taken. After an enjoyable hour of bandying more or less ludicrous options around on Zoom we settled on 'Time Tunnellers'. ‘Digging for the story in history’ became the strapline – a stroke of genius, even if we do say so ourselves. Our friend and fellow writer Eve McDonnell designed the wonderful logo for us.



The remaining question (and probably the most crucial one) was this:


What on earth were we actually going to do?


We can only part-answer that at the moment – hopefully the Time Tunnellers will evolve organically. What we do know is that we will launch our activity in time for the August bank holiday on Thursday 26th August. We will publish a weekly blog post relating to historical fiction, writing and history on https://timetunnellers.blogspot.com/ and there will also be a weekly short video for teachers and schools to use on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY7LQZiq-eVaIg4AINuLpKg , also published on a Thursday. Who knows? In future we may be able to offer joint workshops or events.


For now, why not follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel?


Love the story in history? Love children’s books? Work in a school or a library? Write for children? Work in a heritage organisation or a museum? Want your children or your pupils to love reading and writing? Connect with us! We’d love to hear from you.



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