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.


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