Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Imagination is not enough

On Friday I will be sitting down with six children and three of their parents at Albrighton Primary School in Shropshire.

I want them to tell me what I am doing wrong.

The books I am writing for the next nine months are about a school rugby team. Most of the children at my fictional school will have parents in the RAF. 

Albrighton Primary is right next to RAF Cosford. Many of the families with the school work on that base.

I could easily make up a school, a handful of kids and a few RAF parents. I could do it in an afternoon. In fact, I have. I am going to take that work-in-progress to the families at Albrighton to see what they think of it.

I expect to be told most of what I have done is unworkable. I expect to be laughed at. I also expect to learn what is the right thing to do.

For me it is important to get the worlds I write about right.

That is why I went to Ghana in 2010 to interview young footballers about trafficking; and to a school for children whose parents are fair trade farmers there. For my football thriller, Off Side. As a result my book about trafficking and fair trade was a little more realistic than it would have been if I'd done it using my stock of off-the-mark clichés and YouTube.

The families at Albrighton are going to start by helping me to devise characters, settings and plotlines.

Later, they will read my drafts and help me make the stories represent their lives more accurately. What is it like being in a forces family? What do their parents do? How do they feel if their parents are away during a conflict?

I can only imagine what it feels like. That's what writers are meant to do: imagine.

But, in this case, it is not enough.

I'll blog about each stage of my work with Albrighton Primary.

The three rugby books, as yet untitled, will be published by Barrington Stoke in 2014 and 2015, in time for the Rugby Union World Cup in 2015.

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