Newington Festival of Literature

The great­est ple­saure of the author’s life — this author’s life, in any case — is meet­ing read­ers. Writ­ing is a soli­tary task much of the time, even if social media now allows authors to share their tri­umphs and frus­tra­tions in real time, like smoke sig­nals from one desert­ed island to anoth­er. In the case of Empire of the Waves, I toiled for a decade on the nov­el before any­one oth­er than my clos­est friends and col­leagues had the chance to read my tale. For me, then, vis­it­ing schools, libraries and stores to meet read­ers — young read­ers in par­tic­u­lar — is the ulti­mate reward after a decade of monas­tic exile. 

In May I had the hon­our of par­tic­i­pat­ing in New­ing­ton’s bien­ni­al fes­ti­val of lit­er­a­ture. A three day cel­e­bra­tion of the word, the fes­ti­val was one of the high­lights of my writ­ing life. For that, I thank Sabine Tanase, Ann Jag­ger, Sue Gough and Joanne Barnes for the invi­ta­tion to join their stu­dents for eight work­shops at three cam­pus­es over three days. Your hos­pi­tal­i­ty and kind­ness were impec­ca­ble, and it was a joy to meet so many great teach­ers, librar­i­ans, stu­dents and fel­low authors.

On the eve of my first work­shop I was struck with food poi­son­ing. For one long and shaky night I feared I would not make it to the fes­ti­val alive. Yet enter­ing a room of wide-eyed read­ers the next day — their young minds thrilled to share in my cre­at­ed world — soon freed me from the banal­i­ty of bad take­away and into that glo­ri­ous place where sto­ry is all. Over three hap­py days I had the chance to talk to stu­dents of all ages, to meet friends old and new, and to savour the great­est plea­sure of the author’s life, to meet those for whom one’s words matter.

One of the loveli­est aspects of the New­ing­ton Fes­ti­val is read­ing the cov­er­age by stu­dent jour­nal­ists. Repro­duced below are reports on two of my work­shops. A spe­cial thanks to Luke Mes­terovic and William Sun for your gen­er­ous and thought­ful words! 

Cre­at­ing Fan­tasies with Christo­pher Richardson

by William Sun

Christo­pher Richard­son, a young children’s fic­tion author and aca­d­e­m­ic, has pre­sent­ed an excel­lent sem­i­nar on the cre­ation of fan­ta­sy. Richard­son illus­trates fan­ta­sy as a more mature form of ‘make-believe’ and fan­ta­sy writ­ing fan­ta­sy is sim­ply a form of “tap­ping in” to this nat­ur­al instinct. He opens by recit­ing the open­ing chap­ter of his debut nov­el, The Voy­age of the Moon Child, the first in the series Empire of the Waves. This fan­ta­sy nov­el series depicts six float­ing islands (light­ly based upon Venice) in a flood­ed mar­itime world.

“Writ­ing is not about being a genius, but the craft of trans­fer­ring ideas on paper,” Richard­son remarks. He states four key ideas with­in build­ing a fan­ta­sy world:

  1. Give your fan­ta­sy world a basis from the real world.
  2. Ensure names are mem­o­rable and sig­nif­i­cant, yet intriguing.
  3. Maps or oth­er visu­al aid not only ben­e­fit the read­er, but also helps the author in giv­ing the sto­ry a visu­al scene.
  4. Research in human­i­ties are key for ideas.

“If God is the cre­ator of worlds, then authors are the cre­ators of sub-worlds,” said J.R.R. Tolkien. Being a major inspi­ra­tion for Richard­son, Tolkien inspired him into the genre he now calls his pro­fes­sion. Richard­son states that inspi­ra­tion can occur in any sit­u­a­tion, whether you base sto­ries around loca­tions, peo­ple or objects, they may all have great potential.

Richard­son con­clud­ed with a cre­ative activ­i­ty; pro­duce your very own pirate clan. Map out a name, a leader, a back­sto­ry and a flag. This induced con­ver­sa­tion and dis­cus­sion among the stu­dents. Richard­son utilised cre­ative activ­i­ties, to engage the stu­dents and to make them under­stand the basis of inspi­ra­tion with­in fan­ta­sy envi­ron­ments. All in all, Richardson’s lec­ture was pow­er­ful and enlight­ened Year 8 on the inspi­ra­tion behind cre­at­ing fantasies.

Christo­pher Richardson

by Luke Mesterovic

Wyvern Class 4V was priv­i­leged on Wednes­day to have renowned children’s author Christo­pher Richard­son come in and give an insight­ful talk about writ­ing fan­ta­sy sto­ries. He start­ed the ses­sion by read­ing an excerpt from his award-win­ning book [ed: I wish!], Empire of the Waves. Richardson’s voice is smooth and flu­id, and instant­ly draws the atten­tion of every stu­dent in the room. He dis­cussed how use­ful maps are in fan­ta­sy – whether it be a way for you to track the character’s jour­ney across Mid­dle Earth or Wes­t­eros, or a chance to see where land­marks are in rela­tion to the rest of the world. As a fan of pirates, Richard­son delved into nau­ti­cal maps, and intro­duced the class to sev­er­al famous pirates.

At the end, 4V got a chance to cre­ate their very own pirate clan – com­plete with fear­less cap­tains and Jol­ly Rogers that would strike fear into the heart of any man.

Christo­pher Richard­son is a pro­lif­ic author who is an inspi­ra­tion to chil­dren and adults alike. He is cur­rent­ly work­ing on the sec­ond instal­ment of the Empire of the Waves series, Empire of the Waves: Sea of Fire.