Spotlight on… Adrianna Jones
We’re shining the spotlight on Writing Mentor Adrianna Jones, as we talk favourite stories and more.
Name: Adrianna Jones
Volunteer role (s): Writing mentor (Schools Programme, one-to-one labs, online labs)
Hail from: I’m pretty sure I was born in either a library or a second hand bookshop. Dark-ish and dusty, with shelves of books stretching way above my head and huge, thick desks. There’s probably an equally dusty librarian or shopkeeper in the corner.
“I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories / and upon my imagination / I float.” (Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s stunningly beautiful A Child Of Books.)
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Everything is better as a game, right? Let’s play Two Truths and One Lie. One of these statements is a (partial) fib…you guess which!
- My literary heroine is Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
- I once named a cat after a character in my favourite novel. It translates literally as ‘hippopotamus’ in English.
- I made a puppet on an animation course and am re-decorating a dolls’ house to give him a home.
Favourite story and why: My desert island novel is Master and Margarita, which has everything – an amazing story and characters, political allegory, philosophy, dark humour, social satire… But, in truth, different stories and writers connect with different parts of me (and do so differently at different times!). Sometimes only Orwell understands, on other occasions Marian Keyes, or I need Coronation Street – and the young writers’ own story creations are frequently wildly imaginative! This is a beautiful thing about stories. There’s one there for every mood and for all the different parts inside that want to be heard, whatever they may be.
- Empower (in almost any form! Empowered, empowering, empowerment…)
- Squally (showers)
- Tsundoku. Apparently, it’s a Japanese word for buying books and not reading them, or letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.
How did you discover Ministry of Stories and why did you decide to volunteer with us?
I tumbled down a Google shaped rabbit hole! Words have given me so much – access to magic, and a connection to my inner voice – and I wanted to pay that forward. The Ministry was an irresistible celebration of story, imagination and all things creative, and the projects so ambitious. Experiencing the young writers’ work on the website clinched it: I HAD to be involved!
It helped that MoS seemed supportive to volunteers, which has also been my experience. Each session has a volunteer briefing and de-brief and your first session is a “shadow” observation session. This definitely calmed concerns about being “out of my depth”.
Recently due to Covid-19 we have had to find new ways of working with young people. You have mentored in our 1 to 1 ‘in-person’ labs as well as our online labs. How have you found working with our young writers in these different settings?
The young writers are awesome, in all settings! Their ideas and creativity persist throughout, as does the support and guidance of the session leaders.
I do miss the shared energy of being in the same physical space. That said, working online allows young people from different schools to meet as a larger group and bounce ideas off each other, and they do so in such a supportive way. And I love Chat when volunteering online! It’s a brilliant means of collating ideas and helping verbally quieter writers to still be heard.
The one-to-one labs were an especial pleasure. It was fantastic to understand the young people as writers and to tailor the sessions to help them meet and develop those individual goals. This generated a lot of creative energy and sometimes resulted in wildly unexpected stories.
You have begun mentoring our new older group (11-15 year olds). How does this differ from working with the 8-12 age group?
Subject matter. Young writers in both groups hold passionate beliefs but the older age group are more comfortable grappling with questions of identity and more complex social and political issues. And they are often forthright about their opinions! In the Schools Programme, both Primary and Secondary age writers were interested in environmental issues, but the older age group was more invested in how and why the world needed to change.
What has been the best experience of volunteering?
Hands down, the young writers! They’ve given me a real faith in the future that runs contrary to so many other narratives out there. Otherwise, I’ve really enjoyed participating consistently in projects. When the young people delivered their speeches for the Speak Up! programme, it was a privilege to hear them speak so persuasively on subjects that were important to them. It was even more amazing to remember how much research, debate, drafting, re-drafting and editing – not to mention rehearsal for the actual delivery – they had done in advance of that moment, and to have played even a tiny role supporting that process.
What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?
Some of the directions my own writing has taken. Using shared prompts for free writing and verbal storytelling in the one-to-one labs sparked my mind to think about stories differently, from different angles and with a totally different cast of characters and props. That’s been really liberating, creatively.
Has volunteering changed anything in your life?
My attitude to play. Somewhere along the line, I bought into the grown-up idea that Anything Worth Doing must be entirely devoid of joy. I was wrong! The young writers show by example that you can create great work (indeed: better work) and have fun at the same time. I’m playing more games!
Describe Ministry of Stories in three words: