Hooray for St Mary’s! If anyone knows how to grab a book in both hands and spin it round the dance floor, it’s the pupils and staff at the Trim primary school. Visiting last year I felt less like an author and more a bystander watching the girls interact with Abbie, Perdita and the other characters from Dead Hairy. There were models of Perdita’s hair museum and her room on the top floor; rap songs; the diary of Chester the chest hair; letters; shopping lists, and freshly baked dandruff biscuits.
Returning to the school this week to talk about Jungle Tangle, I again felt gloriously redundant. There were indignant debates about whether villainous Hubris Klench is solely responsible for his evildoing, or if he can blame the bullying influence of Inner Mummy who died years ago but still haunts his brain. There was speculation about his future schemes (who cares if he’s in prison? He’ll wriggle out somehow) and the relationship between shrunken headed Fernando and his newly-rescued wife Carmen.
Watching as readers enter the world of your story and engage directly with the characters is both a huge thrill and a great bubble popper. It proves the theory (expressed in many different forms) that stories are everywhere, wafting about like invisible butterflies, to be netted by anyone interested, patient, bored, deluded, sad or crumbly enough to chase them.
OK, maybe there’s a little moulding, cutting and pasting required. But not half as much as writers like to think. Worry, pride, disappointment, fear, superiority, inferiority and all the million other feelings that can stifle a story – surely they have no place when writers realise their job is just to wave that net.