How I ended up with a Loony Literature Laboratory.
In the first instalment, I explained how I had chosen Frankenstein as a springboard to interest children in Literature and use it for their own creative writing. Frankenstein’s author, Mary Shelley, had become a fixture in my brain as a comic character after I had been thrilled by the tales of her exciting but traumatic life.
The image of Mary Shelley and Percy running away to Italy would not go away. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to write a short play for children where Mary would stumble upon Frankenstein’s laboratory as the couple were running away from their debts. I wrote a short comedy which lasted about twenty five minutes. I thought that I had written the whole play. Much later, I was proved totally wrong when I realised I had actually written the last act. This is what is fascinating about creative writing, it is not straight forward.
My idea was to demonstrate to children that we can take an aspect of a work of literature like Frankenstein and use it to inspire us. I wanted them to see that their own works of creativity can be launched through a setting, theme, character, plot or line of dialogue. I didn’t want this to be “a sit down and listen to me experience” – I wanted the children to be active. It had to be fun and also make sense to them. I needed to reach their circle of understanding.
I think the best way of demonstrating a circle of understanding is with an example. When my son was younger, we lived within fifteen minutes of a beach. We picnicked, exercised, played and read books on the beach. One day, at about the age of two, he was watching his father drive away to work in the car. He turned to me and said “Daddy going to work on the beach in the car.” He understood that his father went out most days to this mysterious place called work and his young mind had to make sense of it. He used his own two year old world, his circle of understanding, to decide that work meant going to the beach. Obviously, the children who the Loony Literature books, plays and workshops are aimed at are nine and above but the theory is still the same. Children route around in their own world to process what we throw at them. However, if we create a fictional reality they can experience and react to, they will understand our message much easier.
My idea was that we would perform the play and then use it to create something of our own with. It then hit me that if I wanted the children to really enjoy and benefit from the experience, that I would need a set – in effect – Frankenstein’s Laboratory, costumes and a monster.
I think, at this point, any sane person would have thought – “how silly” and decided to write a children’s book about a Labrador called Sally. There are two reasons why my common sense deserted me at this point. Everywhere I turned, either Frankenstein or Mary Shelley popped up. It became ridiculous, my son and I would look at each other and raise a knowing eyebrow. The second reason that I didn’t run for the hills is that when my son was younger and had birthday parties, I did very similar things for them. The look of delight on a child’s face when they are lost in the world of literature is deeply rewarding. However, when they leave the party and join a drama group because of it or develop a lifelong love of books, that’s just heavenly.
- Let’s Talk About FRANKENSTEIN 1 (loonyliterature.com)
- My Frankenstein Journey 7 – A Creative Writing Journal (loonyliterature.com)
- Let’s Talk About Frankenstein (2) – Walton’s First Three Letters. (loonyliterature.com)
- My Frankenstein Diary 5 – a Creative Writing Journal. (loonyliterature.com)
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein’s mother (independent.co.uk)