Reuben meets Andy
To celebrate Volunteers Week 2021, our young writer Reuben interviewed his writing mentor Andy, to find out more about volunteering at the Ministry.
- Why do you think this volunteer role is good for you?
Because it brings together two of the things I love most, making up stories and working with children and young people.
- When did you take on this role?
I started volunteering at the Ministry of Stories in 2017 because in my job, as a designer, I sadly don’t get to have fun working with children on their wonderful stories.
- Who suggested the role?
Mr Google. I wanted to volunteer in something to do with children and writing, so I Googled that. When a place called Hoxton Street Monster Supplies came up in the results I knew immediately that was the one for me.
- Who inspired you to write your stories?
My grandparents and two teachers at school, my art teacher and my English teacher. In different ways all these people encouraged me to share with others the way I saw the world and to believe that it was as important as anyone else’s view. This was very liberating to me.
- How many books have you written?
I have written lots of stupid stories over the years, including one that is a finished book. None of these have been published in a real, exciting printed book that you can buy in the shops, but I will keep trying.
- Which do you prefer – poems, short stories or stories?
This is an interesting question. I’ve never really made much distinction between these different forms of writing. What fascinates me is the wonderfully inventive ways in which people combine words to make your imagination dance. I find it doesn’t matter much to me whether it’s in the form of a poem, a short story or a longer story. This is probably what interests me most about writing for children, because I think they are much more able to accept that writing can be all of these things at once, if you want it to be.
- Is there anything that surprises you volunteering as a Writing Mentor?
There are always things that surprise me when I’m volunteering at the Ministry of Stories, that’s why I love it. Most often the surprises are in the amazing things that children bring together in their story ideas, like bananas and zombie peaches or tiny trees growing up a bear’s nose.
- When is your favourite time of the day to write your stories?
Definitely morning. If I can start the day with some writing that makes me very happy.
- Who was the first person you mentored?
The first session I did at the Ministry of Stories was with a whole class, so I can’t remember exactly who the first person was that I worked with directly. But, early on I do remember working with a brother and sister who were very quiet. To every question I asked the little girl said “No”. Regardless of whether it made sense. So I said, “Well I’m going to write a story about the No Monster, who only ever says ‘No!’” And I began to tell them the story of a lumpy, grey monster with a blue nose, when the girl said “No! She has an orange nose. And her hair is yellow and she only eats jelly,” and on and on she went.
Then her brother says, “And I’m the Yes Monster and I only ever say ‘Yes!’ And I want to be friends with the No Monster but she doesn’t want friends,” and on and on he goes. So off I went and left them to it.
- Do you like writing picture books?
I do. Picture books are my favourite because you can say so much with a picture and that allows you to use fewer words and to be more poetic in the way you use them. The pictures and the words help each other to tell the story because they do different things and can complement each other. Some of my favourite picture books are the I want my hat back books by Jon Klassen.