This was the module I was most looking forward to during my MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. Ann Coburn, our tutor comes with a great track record, being an accomplished writer of middle grade fiction herself, but also from Alumni like Chloe Daykin, a local girl, whose writing for children I greatly admire. Chloe recently won Gandys Children’s Travel Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2020 for her book ‘Fire Girl, Forest Boy’, set in the jungles of Peru.
We got off to a great start and in the first workshop were told to put our protagonist in our hometown at the age he or she was in the story we were going to write. My mind went straight back down south to Worthing. I had a few rocky years during my teens, and my memory went back to one night in particular, when I’d gone on a bender after rows at home. I ended up on Worthing seafront, very much worse for wear. This was to be a gritty teen fiction about difficult relationships, alcohol and sexual abuse. I started doing my research and adding layers to the story. I researched Damian Le Bas and the travelling community and had them rescue my young girl and take them under their wing. I have always had a passion for flamenco, and my girl was to discover emotional freedom through dance. I struggled writing it though, and when the coronavirus hit, separating us from our family, it became one shade of darkness too many. It had to be parked for another time.
Lectures got cancelled and coupled with the lecturer’s strike earlier in the semester, and tutor absence due to illness, I felt that the module was fast becoming a disaster. Then one moonlit night, under the full moon, I watched a hare hop out of the little stone bothy in the garden and I had an idea. What if I were to bring my story up to Northumberland, leave my hometown and its tales of pain, and write a kind of ‘town mouse, country mouse’ story for middle grade children? What if my protagonist was a townie who was forced to come and stay with her bohemian grandparents in the country during lockdown as her mother was a doctor at a Newcastle hospital? I do believe my muse had just hopped across the moonlit garden.
I’ve spent the past weeks writing three chapters of ‘Hare Moon, Flower Moon’ and have set in the time frame between the full moons of April and May. It has many layers, and I hope I have touched some of the issues that eleven-year olds will identify with. I have a tutorial with Ann Carson this week and she’ll give feedback on my first submission before I go on to finish editing my first three chapters. If all goes well, I shall continue to finish the book. I find I am loving writing for middle grade readers, and my love of the country and an alternative lifestyle are all helping me with my writing.
Here’s an extract from Hare Moon, Flower Moon. It’s a monolgue from Molly, and forms part of the prologue:
“Why me? It’s just not fair. I’m old enough to look after myself. Does she not realise that’s what I’ve been doing for the past six months? Cook the tea Molly, put the washing on, Molly, run the hoover round, Molly. I’ve got a life you know. I’ve got friends. We have plans. Where are my hair straighteners? They were here a minute ago. I hate packing! What do I even wear? What am I going to do? Endless days of walks and reading, great! That’ll be fun, NOT! “Why not do a jigsaw?” Please! Give me a break. It’s only for a few days you say. It’s the middle of nowhere! They live in a field surrounded by sheep. The house is freezing. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to bits, but small doses and all that. I know she’s got to work. I just want to stay here! You think I’m being selfish? You think I don’t know people are sick and dying?”