Monday 6 November 2023

Magazines, Manchester, (a) Museum, Mammoths and Me!

After such a long gap in posting the proverbial blog bus comes with two posts in quick succession. The last few months have been busy.  Busy in the best of ways (covid aside), with lots of small things to celebrate.   The mammoth library event that I covered in last week’s post, and now this small bundle of celebration worthy things that cumulated in one magical mammoth day, in Manchester!

So being a pre-published writer/illustrator I’m always on the trail of seeing my work in print. I try to grasp all the opportunities I can. Subbing to agents, editors, pitch contests, feedback giveaways and when it came up in the summer to the submission window open to neurodiverse creatives for The Changelings Mini-Mag.

The Changeling project was founded my writer Emmy Clark and has produced the Changeling Annual, for middle grade readers full of fascinating stories, articles, activities, and vibrant illustrations, all by neurodiverse writers and illustrators from across the globe.  The Mini-Mag is the first periodical. The project has a close relationship with The Museum of Science and Industry of Manchester.

I was very honoured to have my ‘Rebuilding Mammoths’ article and accompanying illustration picked to be included in the first edition which has the theme of ‘Rebuild’, to tie in with the museum ongoing building work.

There was further excitement on receiving the virtual proof copy of the Mini-Mag, and seeing the amazing diversity and quality of the other features was humbling.

I was even more delighted to be told that over the half term, the Changeling Team alongside staff at the museum were running some workshops inspired by my article. So, when I was invited, not even wild mammoths could keep me away.

They asked if I could make a video of me reading my article, for them to play at the beginning of the workshops, of course I said yes! Then I had to quickly learn how to film and edit! I set up my room with a backdrop and balanced the iPad-and-the-pea style precariously on top of a table and boxes. To ensure I didn’t forget what to say, stuck on the wardrobes A3 sheets with my text printed on it.  Then complete with props I filmed. And filmed. And filmed. Until I eventually had an ok version. Lastly I edited in illustrations, and a video before sending on to the Changeling editor to do a final cut – who added subtitles and music.

On the day, my husband, son, and me, left at 6am and travelled up to Manchester. We arrived to rain. Lots of rain! Us being soft southerners hadn’t dressed accordingly, so by the time I got to the museum, my jean’s had a tide line up to my knees, my shoes were waterlogged and I looked like a drowned rat.

This made my nerves kick in. But I shouldn’t have worried, The Changeling Team, Emmy, Jenn and Alex were lovely and made me feel incredibly welcome.

The team were super organised and had all the activities prepared and everything set up by the time I arrived. Which gave us time for a lovely chat, before the whirlwind began.

Across the two workshops more than 45 children with their accompanying adults attended.  First came the video, it was weird and uncomfortable watching myself on screen, a very squirming kind of torture. Then the grand Mammoth Mask Making commenced.

While the creativity was happening, I circulated around the room, with a mammoth tooth I’d brought along, and talked to children and their adults about their amazing masks, but also about general mammoth and cloning facts.  

In both session I had parents initiate conversations about mammoth cloning and their proposed use to help slow (or slop the acceleration) of global warming. The discussions evolved to cover how the same technology is being used to help try save endangered species, and how inspiring the next generation to look to STEM and use their imaginations is so important for their future and that of the planet.

There were lots of smiles, and some truly momentous mammoth masks, in a rainbow of colours and styles.  The Changeling team were in their element, encouraging children to be creative, and by giving each child attending a free copy of the Mini-Mag – encouraging them to foster a love of stories too.

When the workshops were over and everything cleared away, I think we were all pretty tired. But the best was to come, as I was given a copy of the physical magazine. Seeing one of my mammoths in print alongside my article was a delight.

So, I send my heartiest of thanks to The Changeling team; Emmy, Jenn and Alex and to the lovely museum staff. Plus, a Big Mammoth Thank You to all the children and adults who came to the workshops and made some truly marvellous mammoth masks!