As part of the day job, yesterday morning we had the brilliant Celia Rees in to talk to the trainee teachers about author visits. She explained a lot about her process and how she’d got where she was (tenacity and hard work, to sum up!). She recommended looking at local ghost stories and legends for inspiration – every school she’s ever been in has been haunted, according to the students! Scary stories are of course a genre that have a rich oral tradition among teenagers.
But the really interesting thing was the beautiful scrap books she showed us. Hardback A4 books, clothbound and with pages bowing outwards with the things glued into them.
Celia starts from real people, places and things when she writes. The scrapbooks, one for each novel, contain notes, tickets, photos, maps, postcards – anything and everything related to the book she’s writing. She does a lot of visits to historic houses for the historical novels she writes, and these visits provide rich material. The latest novel has newspaper clippings on returned soldiers.This material keeps her descriptions accurate, and realistic, and can lead to interesting plot developments.
As well as being a fabulous idea for an activity for school students studying a novel (and what a lovely thing for them to keep, unlike most school work today!), this is part of her process as a writer. I am not a visual person – and I don’t tend to spend a lot of time in the pre-writing process, partly because I don’t like planning, as once I’ve planned something the spark has somehow gone. But this is a pre- and mid-writing activity I could get behind.
Celia’s latest novel This is not forgiveness is a contemporary YA thriller and was picked as a top teen book of 2012 by the Daily Telegraph. You can find it on Amazon here.