Last year I was one of many who wrote a guest blog post for Chantelle Atkins, an author, writing group teacher and mentor with a similar teaching background to mine. She was collecting articles on experiences of the first lockdown (how long ago that seems! Yet a rerun remains a distinct possibility given how poorly the Westminster government have managed the pandemic). Don’t groan, that’s not the theme today. Instead, this interview with Chantelle celebrates the creativity she, her fellow writers and mentees, child and adult, demonstrate in this anthology just published. Like me, she enjoys encouraging children’s writing and storytelling and links it with adults’ creativity too. As we emerge into a changed world, do enjoy this varied set of approaches and reactions.
Hi Chantelle. Please start by telling me how you planned the anthology.
The first three sections came about from posts I wrote for my personal blog. I then asked other writers and bloggers to join in and write under the same themes. It was in my head from early on that if I got enough content, we could put a book together under Chasing Driftwood. Lots of contributions came from the writing groups and clubs we run and via word of mouth. Many others were writers and bloggers I’d connected with previously and who wanted to participate.
Which is your favourite piece and why?
I think I have to say the poems on Hope written by the children. Not to say the adult poems aren’t amazing, because they are, but I felt like the hope theme really caught fire with the children and we had lots of wonderful entries. Each hope poem really made me smile and a few brought tears to my eyes. The children are also particularly proud and excited to be published for the first time!
Was putting “Stay Home” together an individual task or a team effort? Would you like to acknowledge any special help here?
We couldn’t have done it without the contributors so a huge thank you must go to every one of them for participating first in the blog posts and then allowing us to publish their work in the anthology. Myself and my business partner Sim did the work between us, putting it together, formatting the ebook and paperback, editing and proofreading. We were extremely lucky that a talented friend of Sim’s offered to do the front cover design for free! So we are very grateful for that.
It’s a great cover! Did it take the designer many attempts or come right straight away?
Law Baker is a friend of Sim’s and we gave him a bit of a brief, wanted something with a house and windows and different people gazing out. It was his own idea to add the nurse on the street which I think is absolutely perfect.
How will the proceeds will be used?
They will all go straight into the bank account of our Community Interest Company (CIC) and will be used to fund our next community writing projects which will benefit young writers. The company is called Chasing Driftwood. The name came when I had two old songs in my head one day when walking. Driftwood by Travis and Chasing Rainbows by Shed 7. I combined them for something unusual!
A community interest writing group? That sounds interesting…
I started as an adult writing group, adding children’s writing workshops in 2015. Because my youngest was only a baby at the time, I was limited to running workshops in school holidays but it started to take off and in 2017 I applied to become a CIC. Once my youngest started school I reached out to local schools about running writing clubs and they were very keen. The local home education community approached me two years ago for clubs to accommodate them, and Sim joined in 2019. It’s gone from strength to strength.
Describe a typical children’s and/or adults writing workshop. Are they online only?
With the clubs, four are online via Zoom and four are in person, within schools and libraries. Workshops can be online or in person. Adult workshops include sessions on developing characters, how to build an author platform, whether self-publishing is right for you and more. The children’s clubs and workshops cover many things! Poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, article writing, blogging, journaling, comic books, developing characters, how to plot, how to use literary devices and much more!
What’s the next project for you personally and/or for Chasing Driftwood?
I’m working on a four-book YA post-apocalyptic series, among other things! I’m also co-writing a YA series with Sim. As well as the many clubs and services we already offer, we’re hoping to launch a new Chasing Driftwood community writing project soon. I can’t say too much yet but it will involve putting together a climate and wildlife themed anthology written by young people, and will also involve another project that aims to connect children with nature through writing.
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to play a part in Stay Home and to hear about Chasing Driftwood and your personal writing projects. Good luck with everything as 2022 approaches!