EVENT Scribble, Scrawl, Crawl at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Fabulous children’s author Justin Davies was joined by the wonderful illustrator Jill Calder to lead a Scribble, Scrawl, Crawl in the heart of Edinburgh’s International Book Festival on Sunday 13th of August. Lynwen Pirie reports. 

Day two of the Edinburgh International Book Festival kicked off the first weekend with a bang! We had not one, but two incredibly talented SCWBI Scotland members lead our first of three SCWBI Scotland events in August. 

There was something creative for all ages to sink their teeth into. Both award-winning professionals in their own fields of expertise, Justin and Jill were fantastic to watch. They led us all around the grounds outside and within Edinburgh’s College of Art, the venue which holds the Edinburgh International Book Festival. This event was hosted in partnership with EIBF by Scotland’s Network Organisers, Caroline Deacan and Lynwen Pirie, with an opportunity for Book Signing afterwards.

Justin Davies and Jill Calder

Warm Up

Justin and Jill were bursting with enthusiasm and creativity that was catching. From the beginning we all knew this event for the Edinburgh International Book Festival was going to be enchanting. Drawing with emojis and writing with adjectives, Justin and Jill led our group through an interesting and modern warm-up to get the creative juices flowing. Once we had a few moments to draw and write, the scrawl crawl truly got moving, so into the grounds we went.

Justin Davies and Jill Calder selfie

Bring on the heat!

Once we were creatively ‘warmed up’ we entered the grounds of Edinburgh College of Art to ‘bring on the heat!’ Justin was fantastic to watch as he engaged all participants, from as young as seven years old, to compose a very scary piece of writing - poetry! However, we soon learned that poetry with Justin is not scary at all. After learning how to compose a haiku, we were inspired by our surroundings to write our own short poems by the tall building beside us. Justin shared with us that this building was a fire station and so we had our first prompt; fire.

hot, burning, flames dance,

Crackle, pop, bring on the heat,

Warm my cold toes up!

Once we had enjoyed sharing our haikus, we moved on to creating our very own hot mystical creatures. We were to draw a ‘Festival Phoenix’ with instructions from Jill. Jill gave us a variety of body parts to add to our handed-out ‘peanut’ shapes. How funny it was to see a group of creatives, with the same instructions, produce such different pieces of art! From fluffy feathered-tailed birds to frightening multi-headed monsters, we all enjoyed putting our own spin on Jill’s expert directions.

Edinburgh College of Art 

Castle Room

With perfect timing, we entered the building after we found ourselves in a passing shower. We entered the ‘Castle Room’ of Edinburgh College of Art - and Castle Room it was! Floor-to-ceiling windows with an unusual angle to admire Edinburgh’s Famous Castle. The inspiration, however, from Justin for our next writing task was from the beautiful murals which lined the tops of the walls inside. With a whole host of characters to choose from, we were given time to create a dialogue between the figures with two writing prompts to get our creative juices flowing. And there were some very funny young writers sharing their imaginative conversations with the group!

After we all had a giggle, our drawing task inside the Castle Room involved a technique taught by Jill called the ‘free-looking tool’ which was implemented by creating a circle with our index finger and thumb. We had a couple of goes drawing with our ‘free looking tool’, even closing our eyes to draw what we had memorised. This was such a fun challenge. Funnily enough, I discovered I am better at drawing with my eyes closed than open!

Castle Room, Edinburgh College of Ar

The Ground is Full of Words

Before I had a chance to admire my drawing skills, it was time to move on. Thankfully that passing shower had passed and we found ourselves walking on words. Justin and Jill shared an app with the group which unveils hidden words in the ground. We were given three words to inspire a comic strip which were, ‘many’, ‘robots’ and ‘spitting’. Lots of interesting interpretations again with the cleverly guided prompts here under the trees within the grounds of Edinburgh College of Art.

In this spot, we also enjoyed creating our own ‘Top Trumps’ card for the 'Festival Phoenix’ we drew with Jill. So fun to invent what our characters would look like, live, eat (children’s authors!) and be afraid of (bananas!)

With that shower threatening our sunshine, it was time to move on to our final spot and Justin and Jill led the way.

Justin Davis and Jill Calder 

Story-Telling Yurt

Our fifth and final location found us indoors again in the Story-Telling Yurt. Here, we got to design our own shields with plenty of guidelines from Jill. Our shields were to include a book (or books), an animal, a flower, and some type of weather. Interesting and quite difficult to carry out, I found my own shield, incorporating my ‘spirit animal’, a bear, to be a bit tricky. But I did enjoy inventing a Pirie Family Shield with my favourite things - books and flowers and sunshine.

Finally, to end our scrawl crawl with a bang, Justin led us in a writing 'Word Bomb!' Beginning with the same starter, ‘There was a hand in the dark and it held a book…’ Every thirty seconds for five minutes, Justin threw words at us as we free-wrote our way through various word bombs - a fun creative writing exercise to finish!

Justin Davies’ third book, Haarville was released earlier this year. Haarville is a darkly comic mystery adventure for readers aged 9-12 and frankly, a fantastic read. Some of Jill Calder’s most recent picture books include The Sea, with Miranda Krestovinkoff, and Robert the Bruce, with James Robertson. Her illustrations are gorgeous. My three young children happily gaze over her work again and again.

Justin and Jill’s enthusiasm made it impossible not to be inspired by their creative talents. They facilitated a nurturing, fun, creative space for writers and illustrators of all ages, from seven to seventy. It was a blast! I am so grateful to them for sharing their talents with us.

*Header image: in-house collaboration by Ell Rose & Tita Berredo

*Feature images: courtesy of Lynwen Pirie


Lynwen Pirie volunteers as Scotland's Network Organiser for SCBWI. She's currently studying the Work On Your Novel course with the Golden Egg Academy. Lynwen lives in the Northeast of Scotland and writes Middle Grade.


Stephanie Cotela is the Network News & Events Editor at Words & Pictures magazine.


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Find their work at www.shannonillustrates.com
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. She has a Master's degree in Children's Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths UOL and a background in marketing and publicity.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or www.titaberredo.com
Contact her atilluscoordinator@britishscbwi.org.

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