Scottish writer and illustrator Debi Gilori visited Expecting Something in Lochgelly last week. The group in Lochgelly are working towards creating their own story for babies and their adults, all about the experience of being a new parent, welcoming in a new person. Together – through all the chaos and energy of young children – they explored children’s books and stories for wee ones. Afterwards, Debi wrote about her session and the ways in which the challenges we think we can never overcome, may be opportunities in disguise.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what form this brief drop-in visit to a young parent’s group would take. After all, it’s quite difficult to hold a conversation, let alone talk about where you find inspiration and how the writing process comes from when there’s one bouncy toddler running round the room. Faced with a room full of energetic tiny people doing laps round the walls pursued by their mummies, I wondered if what I had to say was of any interest or relevance at all. However, we had a projector, we had a screen and I hoped that something of what I was talking about might strike a chord with the young women.
I wanted to get across the fact that yes, it’s very hard to be a single parent, very hard indeed, but to let that get in the way of becoming everything you can be, is a waste of a life. If I hadn’t had my mum continually on my case to go and make something of myself, I wouldn’t have gone to art college and worked my way into being an illustrator of books for children – something that not only allowed me to be a stay-at-home parent, but also put a roof over our heads, bread on the table and fund several of my (now) five children through university.
With small children running round the room, grabbing the bottom of the drop down screen and falling over their own feet with shrieks of dismay, it was a little chaotic, but hopefully most of the mums heard what I was saying. One mum did point out at the end (!) that she hadn’t been able to hear anything. Chasing the Flipchart round the room was a bit surreal, but we managed to persuade its tiny driver that it might be a good idea to allow me to lock the wheels and thus, stop it from rolling out of reach!
We broke for questions, some of which were more statements of fact (that book was too long / I’d never read anything that long to my wee one) and others which were more along the lines of how long does it take to write and draw a book? (anything from half an hour to fourteen years) Then it was lunchtime and over a bowl of lentil soup and piles of fresh fruit, we had a chance to simply chat, not about books but about everyday stuff. I was struck by how young the majority of the mums were, and also by how good it was for them to be able to join in a group of their peers.
In the last session after lunch, we went through the story the group had written and I tried to give a little editorial advice regarding rhythm, rhyme and making sure that the story hasn’t become the slave of the rhyme. We spoke about how the group is a safe place for the mums to come – a place where they don’t feel judged or looked down upon. I can well remember those feelings when I was a single parent back in the late 70s. If there had been a group like this, I would have loved to be part of it rather than isolated, parenting on my own. And finally, to wrap up the session, I read a story. One with a very, very short story, in rhyme, which took fourteen years to write. The babies snuggled into their mum’s arms. One of the mums said it was putting her to sleep. Another said she felt inspired to write her own children’s book.
Job done! All in all, a successful day.
You can see more pics from last week’s session below