How The Pirates Helped Me Write A Book In Two Days

Hana Jay's workshop at Hackney Pirates.
Conversation changes everything and all we do, say, or create is only our own reflection. These are the two most important things I’ve learnt from the workshop with kids at Hackney Pirates.

The intention of the workshop was to help the kids create their own heroes they can relate to, and embrace their own greatness. Just imagine – how great would it be if kids could see themselves as someone big and great? I believe the world could have a whole new generation of confident, kind, and supportive young people. After all, isn’t that how we wish to raise our kids?

But first things first. Let me explain to you how I actually got to Hackney Pirates. In fact, I learn about it just by chance when I was talking about my project The Little Big Heroes with one of the hosts in Impact HUB Westminster and he told me about this place. Pure luck!

Hackney Pirates is an enterprising charity with various after-school activities. One of these activities include the Jolly Rogers sessions where guests are invited to talk about their profession with kids – in this case, I sent an enquiry to be the guest talking about writing and my project The Little Big Heroes, and to my delight the Hackney Pirates responded to my request positively.

As you know, the intention of my project was to create workshops with kids to get inspiration for my book, The Girl Who Wanted to Catch a Cloud in a Marmalade Jar. But as I talked to Anthony (the Learning Facilitator and Volunteer Coordinator) about the workshop and the activities, we came to conclusion that the kids couldn’t help me generate any ideas for my book, because either they or their parents could sue me for using copyrighted materials in my book…

Oops! Now this wasn’t anything I expected. The date of the workshop was getting closer and closer and asking for permission of the parents became a rather wishful request and a bit of hassle, as I was advised by Anthony. And I couldn’t agree less with him, although I was a little sad the kids couldn’t be a part of my book.

We started looking into the real session plan and what would be the activities for the kids. Apart from the expected – introducing myself as an author and my project, talking about my book, and a drawing activity, here it was, black on white: reading of the book. I don’t even know where that came from. Reading of which book?, I though and gulped when I heard that. Apart from the idea, which was one single line I had – The Girl Who Wanted to Catch a Cloud in a Marmalade Jar – I had nothing. May I repeat it? Nothing.

But of course I nodded. Yes. Book reading. Sure. I’d love to!

As soon as I agreed to this, I felt embarrassed of myself. What the hell did I just do? I rather nodded than admitted that I had literally zilch written (remember? the kids were supposed to help with the story) and I had three options:

  1. to admit I had nothing,
  2. to give up, or
  3. to write the book.

And because I hated to admit I had nothing, because I was afraid they would kick me out, I chose the latter.

Two days before the workshop, I was sitting on my bed, brainstorming the plot for a book for which I had and idea of for 8 years, and for 8 years, I didn’t know what to do with it. A day later after giving my word to reading a book I’d never written, somehow, magically, I wrote the whole plot of the story. Another day later, I wrote the beginning of the story and was ready to read it to the kids. Basically, the Pirates made me write a book in only 2 days. Well done, Hana. (If they’re reading this now, which they most probably are, they must think I’m a complete a$$#*&^. And I don’t blame them. Duh.)

Well. Back to facts now. I’m writing the book, the plot is very clear, and it’s really fun. I think I’ve shared the title with everyone I know and the people seem to love it. And those who know the storyline liked it. So far, so good.

Now, back to the workshop. I must start with acknowledging the kids for being so great. It was inspiring to be in their presence and I realized that I completely forgot what it’s like to be a kid. Nardos, Mihaela, Shaunagh, and Thomas were each different and special in their own way. What struck me most, though, was the result of the drawing activity. When the kids were supposed to create their own hero, they would only draw something they could relate to. It may sound straightforward, but I thought they would create something completely opposite of who they were. Oh boy, how wrong I was.

Shaunagh, for example, is the typical “good and clever girl” and the hero she created was a girl who looked similar to her, worked in charity, baked cookies and sold them to raise money to poor people, and was also a sort of hippie fighting for greener world. The picture was her reflection and the reflection of the world she saw around her – with the influence of Hackney Pirates developing ideas of charity.

Thomas created a hero who was a little older than him, but was also good at sports and also wore glasses. But the hero’s glasses had magical powers to summon anything he could think of – such as money or food for homeless people. Sounds familiar?

I found the session so inspiring and the kids and their ideas so touching that I could barely hold my tears on the way back home from Hackney. The kids totally got the intention of the workshop, even though the activity changed – they could see themselves as someone bigger and greater than before thanks to their own drawings.

The only question is, what happens next with the project? As I mentioned, the communication turned the whole project in a new direction. I have the whole plot of my book finished, now I only need to finish writing it, which is a question of two weeks, because it’s not too long. Writing is actually the easiest part.

What’s still left is to continue inspiring the kids to discover their own heroes through book characters. How do I do that? A book reading. A big one. Just a month away.

I don’t know where and I don’t know how. But the picture of 50 kids who see how great they are as they discover their inner hero is something I’m committed to create with the story of The Girl Who Wanted to Catch a Cloud in a Marmalade Jar. Let’s see how it goes. Thanks for all your support.

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