By Casey Bottono

Our most recent Young Writers workshop found participants borrowing from well-known stories to weave fresh tales.

We began with a discussion of notable prequels, from Wide Sargasso Sea to prequels currently being shown on television and streaming services. The writers continued the conversation by talking about prequels in book series that they had read.

The first exercise invited participants to develop backstories and imagine what happened in the moments before famous paintings such as The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

We then invited them to focus on the untold stories behind Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. They were tasked with focusing on a character that is not the main character and developing a backstory for them. Following this, they turned a pivotal moment in the story on its head, reimagining it from the point of view of a minor character.

Continuing the trend of borrowing from well-known stories, we introduced them to Prospero’s monologue from Act Five of The Tempest. We invited them to choose a line from the monologue to weave into their fairy tales. Borrowing from Shakespeare seemed to ignite something in the writers, who all used the words they found to great effect.

We also introduced them to John Keats’ ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, and invited them to write a poem or short piece of prose imagining the events that preceded the poem, again borrowing lines and images from Keats.

Although we did not have the opportunity to imagine a prequel to a favourite childhood book in our final exercise due to time constraints, participants seemed to enjoy the workshop. One commented that it was challenging fitting all the elements in, but the stories that emerged from this workshop were bold and engaging. Each time a participant shared what they’d been working on, I found myself saying “Now, there’s another book I’d like to read.”

The imagination and creativity present in the Young Writers continues to delight us, and we are already looking forward to the October workshop.

Our next Young Writers Group workshop will take place on Zoom on Saturday 15th October between 10:00am and 12:00pm. Booking information can be found here