Ever wondered, as the water drains down the plughole, what might live down there in the pipes? Want to know what it feels like to be the brother of a superhero? Ever imagined having a small talking pygmy marmoset as a sidekick? Ponder no more. For Bath Picks brings us a trio of new writers who will answer all these questions. Pick up Sibéal Pounder’s Witch Wars, delve into David Solomons’ My Brother is a Superhero, spend an afternoon with Martyn Ford’s The Imagination Box and you will discover treasures galore.
What is an imagination box? Just what is says on the lid. It’s a small box that creates anything that you can imagine. And when Timothy Hart comes across it one day it opens up a whole world of adventure. Soon the box is no longer just a toy, but a tool for unravelling mysteries. Ford, a journalist for a regional paper, tried writing screenplays (“impossible”) but always had an idea for a book slowly burning away in the back of his mind. He wasn’t a particularly enthusiastic reader as a child, but picking up Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity in his late teens was the prompt he needed to get on with making that idea a reality.
For Solomons a desire to write about an eleven-year-old whose name “wasn’t on the scroll of destiny” was the starting point. And so we have the comic-loving Luke whose need for a pee comes at just the wrong time. How unkind that an alien should choose the exact moment while Luke is absent to visit the treehouse that he shares with his older brother Zach, endow Zach with superpowers and instruct him to save the universe.
Why write a children’s book and not publish an adult novel, Solomons is asked. “Have you seen the state of the adult fiction market?” Solomons quips. But seriously, when you write for children you have far greater freedoms of creativity.
Pounder seconds that: “Kids are better. If you can make a kid laugh it’s more of an achievement.” So, in her book we find silly spells, riddles, revolting “cheesewater”, fairies and witches, and a whole wonderful world that exists in the pipes snaking beneath the sink. “Carry a notebook wherever you go, observe what’s happening around you, make your characters have conversations with each other”, Pounder advises aspiring writers. Solomons suggests giving your main character a burning desire. Then, when it comes to writing the book, you have to decide whether you’re a planner or a “pantser”, that is, a writer who does it by the seat of their pants. Ford recommends drawing on the memories of your childhood self and taking it from there. Most of all, you need to let your imagination roam free.
Claudia Pugh-Thomas at Bath Picks: Ford, Solomons & Pounder Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival Saturday 26th September
Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival continues until Sunday 4 October. For the full programme click here