Friday, 5 July 2013

Launch of the First Story St Augustine's Kilburn anthology, The Gods Amongst Us

We recently launched my First Story Group's anthology, The Gods Amongst Us, at St Augustine's, Kilburn, where I've been writer in residence for a year. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner was there to cheer us on, and the afternoon was both moving and special. And involved lots of fizzy pop. Seeing all my students reading out their work to a large audience was wonderful. The launch has made it onto the Kilburn Times website - have a look here.

I've reproduced here the text of my introduction to the anthology. You can buy it, via the school website here, or even via Waterstones, here.


Did you know that the gods are amongst us? Some of them are out of sorts: nobody prays to them any more. They sit in their cloudy palaces, filing their nails and twiddling their thumbs. Some, like Bacchus and Diana, are still very much with us: they look at us from out of the frames of paintings, but watch out – they might turn you into a star, or a stag, if you cross them.

Did you know you could meet Revenge in Starbucks? Or that you can write a letter to a comb? That King Arthur is burdened by memories, that death is a device that tells the time, or that not remembering can be more effective than remembering?

Over the past year I have made the journey to St Augustine’s, on a Monday – traditionally a day associated with the blues – but for me (and, I hope, for my students) it became the most exciting day of the week. My First Story group have been keen, intelligent, challenging; they’ve delighted me, surprised me, frustrated me; they’ve made me laugh more than I can remember (I refer, specifically, to an exercise called ‘Ten Ways to Lend Your Wheelbarrow’.) We’ve eaten more sweets than my diet usually allows.

Most of all, we have looked at language and stories, and seen how they can be found everywhere: on a walk, in a picture, in an object. We’ve seen how the most striking images can come from unlikely conjunctions. We’ve marvelled at the strange ways of the ancient gods, and made something new from their tales. And each week, my group produced witty, charming and insightful pieces. This anthology is called ‘The Gods Amongst Us’ for a reason – not only have our best pieces come out of interaction with those ancient myths; but we have also discovered that the divine, the numinous, the powerful, can be found in our everyday lives.

I would like to give my special thanks to Chris Rhodes and James Casey of St Augustine’s, for their sterling support over the year; and to all at First Story for making this stellar anthology happen. Take note of the names of this group: I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing them again.

So here is a selection of some of their work. We haven’t been able to fit all of it in. Take a look, read, indulge, think (as our final poem urges you to do) – and next time you’re on the bus, be careful – you might be sitting next to a god.

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