Monday, 25 November 2013

I Love the SCBWI-BI Conference Because...

I get to play with Playmobil!

As part of Elizabeth Wein and Sheena Wilkinson's worldbuilding session, Elizabeth got us to play for ten minutes with her children's amazing Playmobil collection. It was a bit of a tussle to get the choicest figures, but that kind of added to the creativity, because you ended up with a mismatch of elements from different sets. I made this:

When I started off, I grabbed the camel and put it straight in the boat, saying "It's Life of Pi with a camel!" This probably demonstrates how conceptually my mind seems to work nowadays, but it also turned out to be part of the point of the exercise (as Elizabeth would tell us later). No fictional world is built entirely anew - it has to be assembled from pieces that we and the reader already understand, otherwise it would be incomprehensible.

I was just posing the figures with a couple of people watching and I started to riff about what was happening in the scene. The more I talked, the more bizarre it got:
Leon is a down on his luck actor who drifts into petty crime. He also volunteers at an animal sanctuary, and discovers that his associates have a plan to smuggle drugs by injecting them into the hump of Colin the Camel, and then cutting off the hump to retrieve them (everyone went "Eurgh" at this point"). So Leon escapes with Colin, but finds himself trapped at the mouth of an estuary. He loads the camel into a rowing boat, with his former associates hard on their heels. They are dressed as pirates because they are actors too, method-acting ahead of a Christmas pantomime production of Peter Pan. Meanwhile, on the seabed, another associate waits in lead diver's boots, ready to drill through the bottom of the boat.
As well as pretty inappropriate 7-9 book plot, I also discovered something important about myself - I really enjoy making up stories in front of an audience. There was something so effortless about spinning this yarn that doesn't always apply in my more formal writing.

This taps into something else I like to do, which is show off! And there seemed to be ample opportunity to do this over the weekend, so I apologise to anyone who was sick of the sight of me by Sunday afternoon. One particular bit of showing off that spiralled out of my control was the video to celebrate Natascha Biebow's amazing 15 years at the head of SCBWI British Isles. I was asked to contribute a word that summed up SCBWI and I overdid things with a small craft project:

Little was I to know that Candy Gourlay would use the Mary Poppins theme for the whole short film! But it was a fantastic video and a fantastic weekend. Here's to Conference 2014!



  1. You are a storyteller, Nick! Great opening to a fab video for the fab Natascha.

  2. This is great...and thanks for not mentioning the apocalyptic "world destroying" incident. I will, though!

  3. So glad you're posting about this. I only caught the very tail end of the session. And your segment of the film really made it. I'm going to take the risk of uploading it to YouTube ... there seem to be a lot of videos allowed to remain with the song.

  4. Inspired stuff, as always Nick. Sounds like a great session. I do love an excuse to get out the Playmobile . . .