You’ve been called a ‘master storyteller’. To what do you attribute your success?
Practice, really. And working out, bit by bit, what makes an effective storytelling experience. It’s about trying new approaches and not giving up, even when an idea or an approach doesn’t work.
Where do your best ideas come from?
Sometimes a good idea comes from just working away at it; writing when you don’t feel like it. But there have been those occasions when – boom! – the idea was just there, fully formed. In those cases, you just have to say thank you.
How do you envisage your latest book, Off the Wall Bible Tales, being used?
Off the Wall is a simple, fun set of retellings aimed at key stage one children. The stories are short and punchy enough that they could be used in school assemblies, Sunday school and Messy Church. And they are just the right length for parents to read to their children before bedtime.
I was once told by a children’s worker that when she babysat, she could read a ‘fun’ story to the children as long as she read them a Bible story first. I’d like to think that the Bible story can also be the fun story. I’m keen to write books that resource Christian parents in that way.
You write in the introduction that the Bible can be ‘mined for humour’. Can you give us an example?
In Off the Wall, I retell the story of the children waiting to see Jesus; the ones who are turned away by the disciples. So I put myself into that queue, with those kids, to imagine what they might have been up to. I ended up with some rock-throwing, stick-jabbing, sibling-punching, sand-eating and toad-catching. I mean, that’s what would have happened, isn’t it?
What’s your top tip for Christians who want to share Bible stories with children?
Love the story you’re telling. Resist the temptation to tell it like you’ve heard it 100 times before. Look for something in the story that makes it fresh for you again.
What inspires you to keep telling and writing stories?
Psalm 78. It’s pretty simple, really. God reveals himself to us through his story, and he tells us to pass it on.
Other than the Bible, what’s your favourite book?
I’ll go with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, because it has meant so much to my own family through the years. Apparently, it’s the next project of the director who did Frozen. Here’s hoping she doesn’t mess it up!
Off the Wall Bible Tales (Lion Children’s) is available now