“Why I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories”

Posted by Bhavani Esapathi on 22nd January 2018

We’re very thrilled to announce Nadia Shireen as our newest ambassador. Nadia is an author and illustrator, winner of the UKLA and shortlisted for Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Waterstones Children’s Book Award amongst others. You might know her from her book The Bumblebear which was distributed to every primary school starter in England in 2017 as part of Booktrust’s Time To Read campaign.

And here’s what she has to say about becoming part of the Ministry…

Let me tell you a story. Back in 2010 I was walking down the street minding my own business, when I was clonked on the head and shoved inside a large wheelie bin by a gang of small green children.

I could hear them cackling as I was wheeled to a mysterious location. The lid opened, and I was tipped onto the floor of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. The small green children were actually malevolent goblins. They told me that they worked for the Ministry Of Stories, and were looking for illustrators to take part in storytelling workshops. They said that if I didn’t volunteer my services to the Ministry there and then, they would tickle, tease and generally torment me until I did.

What choice did I have? I was a naive, young, bright-eyed illustrator, pounding the streets of London searching for adventure and opportunity. So I agreed to serve the Ministry, which was (and still is) sneakily concealed behind Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. Every storytime session I would meet a new group of lively, excited local children who would weave amazing and outlandish tales, aided by a group of tireless writing mentors from the Ministry. I would do my best to illustrate their stories on a whiteboard – imaginative yarns about vampires who were scared of jam sandwiches, demonic electric worms, babies with spoons for hands… it was quite an experience. I learned that the imagination of children, when untapped, is both formidable and terrifying.

Every now and then I would ask the Ministry when I would be released. I missed my old life; my family, my friends. “Soon,” would come the reply. “Soon.” Then they would give me a box of doughnuts and I would temporarily forget about my incarceration.

One day, however, one of the children left the door to the Ministry wide open. Emboldened by doughnuts, I deliberately tipped over a shelf of Zombie Fresh Mints as a distraction, gave the goblins the slip and made my escape. Finally, I was a free woman.

I was forced to live the life of a fugitive. I assumed the identity of a devastatingly attractive children’s book author/illustrator called ‘Nadia Shireen’. Of course, I could never really escape. Sometimes, on a dark night, I swear I could hear the cackles of those malevolent Ministry goblins. “It’s only the wind,” I would tell myself. “You’ll never have to go back. It’s only the wind.”

But now – for reasons I’m not at liberty to divulge, but have something to do with goblins and threats of great torture – the game is up. After almost eight years, I’m back at the Ministry, this time in the capacity of Ambassador. This means I get to tell everyone about the brilliant work that goes on behind their mysterious walls. I must say, they’re treating me well. Not so many doughnuts, but lots and lots of trays of Ferrero Rocher.

They’ll let me out one day, they say. If enough people visit the website, learn about the Ministry and support its endeavours. Maybe even come by and visit me sometime? Please?

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