From this January 2nd, a 12 month long blog series starts here on orandoyle.com Here’s a sneak preview of what’s coming.
‘The Story Thief Challenges’ is a 12 episode blog series. It mixes a fictional middle grade storyline with writing and creativity tips from top Irish children’s fiction writers each month. It can be read by anyone who loves children’s fiction, but is also designed to be used in an Irish educational or classroom setting for children aged 8-12. The soon to be updated website will host the series as well as information for educators on how to engage kids with it plus profiles and contact details for all the writers participating.
What’s it all about? Well, here’s what Liam, the 11 year old protagonist, thinks started it all off…
Everything started only two weeks ago, but so much happened it feels like years ago now. That night, Me and Aoife, my seven year old sister, were snuggling next to dad on his bed waiting for him to tell us our nightly bedtime story.
Dad makes up a new story for us every night, because he’s a writer. He’s a great writer, but his books keep getting rejected. This makes him upset and makes Mam say that he needs to get a proper job, but I tell him to keep writing because I know he’s going to be a famous writer some day.
That night, Dad closed his eyes. Me and Aoife watched his face waiting for the magic to happen.
Dad said, ‘Once upon -‘
His brow furrowed so I knew he was thinking hard.
‘- a time -‘
His eyes popped open, lit up with that magic spark that meant he’d come up with a story. He opened his mouth to tell it then –
The spark vanished from his eyes. It vanished so quickly it was as if it had been stolen from him. His mouth stayed open, but no words came out. And his eyes looked terrified.
I said, ‘Dad?’
He shoved past me off the bed. ‘Go to bed.’
Aoife went into full berzerker mode, jumping on the bed, shaking her fists in the air ‘STORY!’
I called out, ‘Dad, you always tell us a -‘
We both shut up when he turned to us, his face black with anger, and shouted, ‘I don’t have any stories!’
Once he was gone downstairs, Aoife started crying. Real crying, not just to get something. I didn’t cry, because I’m eleven years old, but my eyes stayed wet after I rubbed them with my pyjamas sleeve.
I tried to comfort Aoife and said, ‘He’s just grumpy, maybe his book isn’t going well.’
Aoife sniffled, ‘But I want a story.’
So did I. I couldn’t imagine life without my dad’s stories. It would be like Harry Potter books without magic.
And then, like magic, I got my great idea. I bet there was a spark in my eyes when it happened.
Aoife chased after me as I ran into my room, her voice teary, ‘What are you doing?!’
Of course, she didn’t go away. She watched as I grabbed a pile of books from my shelves. She didn’t look impressed. ‘He can’t just copy other people’s stories -‘
I told her, ‘You don’t understand,’ and ran into the spare bedroom which dad calls his office. His computer was still on. I carefully typed one of the author’s names into the search engine and found an email address.
‘What are you doing?!’
‘I’ll tell him you used his computer!’
‘Okay, okay, I’ll explain,’ and for change Aoife shushed. I held up the books, ‘ Look, we’ll email Irish writers for writing advice. Great writers like Nigel Quinlan, Sinead O’Hart, ER Murray, Caroline Busher, Kieran Crowley and lots more. We’ll get all their story tips for Dad and it he can use them to find new stories and -.’
Aoife got it, ‘ -we’ll get a story for bedtime tomorrow! Yay!’
I shushed her again and got typing.
Dear writer, Please give me tips and advice on how to write and tell stories. It’s urgent! Thank you, Liam and Aoife.
Thinking back now, it’s almost funny. Me and Aoife were so happy as I sent those emails. We thought everything would be okay. We thought that once Dad got the writing tips back from the writers he would remember how to make up a story and things would go back to how they used to be.
We didn’t know what we were up against.
Have you ever had a great idea for a story and then forgotten it? An amazing dream and and seconds later you can’t remember it? Well, you didn’t forget your stories. Your stories were stolen from you by a mysterious figure who travels through books to steal stories. Some people say he’s got a library hidden somewhere filled with millions of amazing, stolen stories. For hundreds of years, struggling writers have dreamt of getting hold of those stories and finding surefire success.
We didn’t know that our father had tried to get hold one of those stolen stories, but ended up losing all his own stories in the process.
We didn’t know that our father losing his stories meant more than just not telling us a bedtime story. Gradually he started losing all his memories, his life lessons, his personality, everything that made him our father. If we didn’t get his stories back, we were going to lose him forever.
We didn’t know that we’d need the writing advice from Irish writers to help us save our father and save ourselves in a battle against something more mysterious, more powerful and more dangerous than we could have ever imagined.
We didn’t know that we were going up against the Story Thief.
The first episode of ‘The Story Thief Challenges’ will arrive, like a late Christmas present, on Tuesday 2nd of January. There’ll be a different Irish children’s writer involved each month and I’m thrilled to announce that Nigel Quinlan will be providing writing tips to Liam and Aoife in that first episode.
Nigel Quinlan is the author of ‘The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox’. His newest novel ‘The Cloak of Feathers‘ will be released on January 11th 2018 by Hachette Children’s book group.
If you’d like to ensure you don’t miss Nigel’s or other writers providing writing advice or even a single episode of this series, you can subscribe to this blog via email or WordPress. If you’re a tweeter-er like me, drop me a tweet at @orandoyler and I’ll add you to the list of readers to be tweeted the link each month when a new episode drops.
Okay, See you all on the 2nd January!
PS: It’s weird. I’m sure I had something else to tell you, but I just forgot it….hmm… or did the Story Thief steal it?