Mid last year, I discovered that the school (where I work as the Librarian) would need to use the library as a classroom, for at least two terms. After a couple of days of wondering how I would cope, I decided to turn the challenge into an adventure, for me and for the children. One morning the lines for a play, written in rhyming verse began to form. That morning I wrote a short play about the "Traveling librarian" and asked the music teacher if she would like to work with a class to produce it. Standing up on the stage, acting and remembering my lines was nerve-wracking, as I am borderline introvert. But I feel like we pulled it off and had the assembly in fits of giggles. The idea was that I would 'travel' to the classrooms with a selection of books in the library trolley, since they couldn't visit me in the library. "Don't come to us, we'll come to you," was the motto.
The skit went like this ...
Children: Have you heard, is it true?
The library is a classroom; what will we do? (hands open)
Kate: Oh wonderful children, never fear,
I have a plan; I have an idea …
Children: How will it work? How will we do it?
Kate: Well my darlings, there’s nothing to it?
Children: Nothing to it?!
Kate: No my dears, I just need a hat …
Children: A HAT!?
Kate: Yes, a hat with a feather…
(pulling from travel trunk)
And a coat, to withstand any weather …
(pulling from travel trunk)
And a trolley, and crates, to carry the books …
(children bring these from the sidelines)
Children: A Traveling Librarian, have a look!
The play got silly and Seussical, when I started packing the music teacher's guitar and (almost) drums into the trolley and she told me I was getting carried away. The children exited the stage with dancing and flick flacks and I followed pushing the trolley, wearing a coat and a ridiculous hat with a feather, while our talented music teacher improvised a song on her guitar. It was quirky, and fun!
Perhaps it was stepping out and writing this wee skit that awakened my dormant desire to write again. Or, it was having time to think, as I pushed the trolley through puddles, wrapped in a raincoat (and wearing a silly hat) through the New Zealand winter.
Or it was the bright new thing... ?
In order for the "Traveling librarian" idea to work, I needed a laptop to be able to scan the books while in the classrooms, away from the regular issue desk. My wonderful, accommodating Principal organised one for me. It was silver, and brand new! I felt like Jabu in my "Trainsurfer" story, when he discovers a discarded surfboard.
"He waited until the remaining surfers had driven off and then pulled the discarded surfboard from the bin. Besides a few dings, it was the brightest thing he had ever put his hands on. The top half of the board was lime green with a sky-blue lightning bolt and the bottom half, divided by a jagged black line, was a fluorescent yellow. The pointed tip hinted at speed. The board felt like a promise. Jabu told himself he wouldn’t allow anyone to take his new possession. He wandered back over to Sipho and Vusi, beaming at his find."
This was the first time I had a computer that I could use at home for many years. I opened it up and thought, "Wow, maybe I can write my book...with my bright, new thing!"
One day, while covering books in the back library office, I listened to a School Library Journal webinar. They talked about diverse books, where the main protagonist is from a culture that has been previously disadvantaged in some way. I already had my story. I had started planning it as a screenplay, 14 years ago.
That was when I had my light-bulb moment. I could write "Trainsurfer" as a children's book instead of a screenplay.
It made total sense. As a school librarian, I had read a wonderful array of children's and teen books over the years. I was currently reading "An Elephant in the Garden" by Michael Morpurgo. I thought about how he presented a German teenager's point of view to a World War II story. I wondered if I could write "Trainsurfer" in a way that presented Apartheid from a few different perspectives, and to try to bring the characters together, even though society had tried to enforce their separation.
Their cultural isolation.
So, this is the beginning of the story about how I wrote a book that I had been thinking about for 14 years. I will share with you what helped me, and what I discarded... and hope that by sharing, it will help you with your writing.
We all have a story in us.
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