Friday, 11 March 2016

Somerset Celebration of Literature 2016: Gabrielle Tozer

The Somerset Celebration of Literature is a festival hosted by Somerset College dedicated to the celebration of all things reading and writing. 

On Thursday 10 March I was fortunate to accompany a Year 10 cohort on an excursion I didn't have to organise. This will be understood as something of a blessing by those readers who happen to be teachers who have at one point or another attempted to extricate students from the confines of the classroom to provide them with an experience that cannot be had any other way.

This is the first of three posts reflecting on the authors I saw on the day. Each is carving out their place in the world with a mix of passion, purpose and persistence.

Gabrielle Tozer - Awkward moments are hilarious

The first author of the day was Gabrielle Tozer, an author, journalist, editor and copywriter whose passion for the written word was on display for all to see. With two Young Adult novels already under her belt, a third on the way in 2016, a picture book in development and a 2015 recipient of an Inky Award, Tozer lamented the fact that she was regularly asked about her beginnings as a writer.

That was until a journalist asked about her 'Origin Story.'

Just like Superman, Tozer was now the subject of an epic tale and donned the requisite cape. Beginning with a recount of her DIY approach to magazine publishing, she passed through her degree in communications, creative writing and journalism and the various writing and editing jobs she has completed as a freelance writer before arriving at the process of writing books.

Flying by the seat of your pants seems like a tough way to write a book given the amount of words required, yet that is exactly how Tozer completed her first novel. The second time around she decided to use a more organised approach, plotting out the entire story on index cards (as shown below).

It is these passing insights into process that, in my opinion, are the most valuable takeaways for the students in attendance. It is all well and good for a teacher in the classroom to say that attempting to 'just write' a story will probably be a hard slog. Most teachers at some point will probably suggest a more structured approach to planning the key elements of the story. And there are without doubt many students who will actually heed the advice. But hearing the same information out of the mouth of someone whose livelihood depends on their ability to get it right certainly can't hurt.
Have taken to wearing my Superman cape in front of an audience of 150 teenagers at Somerset Celebration of Literature....
Posted by Gabrielle Tozer on Thursday, March 10, 2016

While the cape was probably a last-minute addition following her visit to Movie World earlier in the week, Tozer's selection of props for her presentation really brought her origin story to life. From the first editions of her self-made magazines to the German edition of her first novel, The Intern, it was wonderful for the audience to see tangible evidence of her journey.

To close the presentation, Tozer recounted a personal tale that would mortify most teenagers. I won't spoil any future talks by providing the details here, but the takeaway for the students was, in the fullness of time, an appreciation for the quirky experiences that make up our lives can open up a myriad of storytelling possibilities.

I feel like these photos deserve some kind of story?

Go on then.

I've got nothing.

Well this is awkward...

And hilari...