1 inspiring woman – Nana Josie
1 wonderful granddaughter – the shy, arty Mira Levenson
1 family in chaos
1 writing group run by the eccentric Pat Print and her sheepdog, Moses
1 boy with a serious attitude and a hidden past – Jidé Jackson
1 skateboarder and unintentional poet – Ben Gbemi
1 big-hearted best friend who wishes you’d tell her your secrets – Millie Lockhart
1 artichoke-heart charm
Love lost and found
While visiting schools to talk about Artichoke Hearts something strange has happened . . . I think I am turning into one of the characters in my book! Her name’s Pat Print and she’s a writer who runs workshops in schools. She does it to talk about her books, but also because she gets inspired by meeting people like you!
So when, at one of my workshops, someone asked me, ‘Are you Pat Print in real life?’ I had to think for a moment before I answered. Maybe I am a bit of a Pat Print (minus the holey cardigan, sheepdog and muddy walking boots!). I think everyone draws on their own experiences when writing stories, and many of the characters in my book – the big, bold Ben Gbemi, the sensitive Mira Levenson, the mysterious, handsome Jidé Jackson, the loyal friend Millie Lockhart, the eccentric Nana Josie – all have character traits of people I’ve met who have impressed and inspired me in some way.
A writer friend of mine, who also got much of his inspiration from working in schools, used to say, ‘You can encounter the world in a classroom.’ In Artichoke Hearts it’s not until Pat Print starts to ask searching questions of her writing group that Mira realizes that even though she’s known some of her classmates since primary school, she actually understood very little about them. So, if you like adventure and following trails leading you to a world of stories, you need not look very far away from home.
My journeys always begin with the seed of something I know well – it could be a place, a person or an event. With Artichoke Hearts the trail of the story began with Rosie (who inspired the character of Nana Josie), my beautiful, bohemian, rule-breaking, protesting, eccentric artist of a mother-in-law. After she died in 2005 I started to think about love and how deep and complicated are the bonds of the human heart . . . then I dreamed up the artichoke-heart charm that Nana Josie gives to Mira on her twelfth birthday . . . and I was away . . .
So I’ve given you the ingredients that have gone into the making of Artichoke Hearts, but I haven’t told you the method of making. That’s a whole other story. There’s plotting and structuring, and you have to mix your words and phrases with a lot of care and love. You want to make pictures grow in the reader’s mind and, most importantly of all, you have draw deeply on your imagination – possibly the most powerful and ignored superpower that we humans possess. Once you engage it it’s an unstoppable force – available to every single one of us.
If you were in Pat Print’s writing class and were asked to write a story influenced by the life of someone who inspires you, what ingredients and method would go into your story?