Q&A with Story Tools creators Melissa Keil & Charlotte Lance
01 Dec 2022
Launched February 2023, Story Tools helps students master the mechanics of storytelling! Featuring Australia’s most visionary book creators, Story Tools offers dynamic lessons delivered by popular and award-winning authors and illustrators, teaching students the best tools and tips for building a great story.
Our in-house creators and storytellers, author Melissa Keil, and author-illustrator Charlotte Lance, interviewed each other about what the creative process has been in developing Story Tools, and how it connects and inspires young readers and writers with their own imaginations.
What excited you about the Story Tools project?
One of the things I love about working with different writers and amazing creative people is that everyone’s process is wildly unique. There are so many different approaches to the craft of storytelling; it’s really not a one-size-fits-all endeavour.
So a project that would bring together a wealth of diverse creatives to teach a writing and storytelling course for kids sounded like an incredible proposition – to give them not only some solid, fun, and interesting writing tips and tools from experts in their fields, but also to show budding young writers that there is no one right way to tell a story.
My hope was that hearing from a bunch of different creative folk would help connect even the most reluctant readers and writers with their own inner creative sparks.
The idea of delving into the how-to’s of storytelling, twisting stories, turning them and piecing them together, felt exciting to me from the beginning. I’ve listened to my own favourite authors and illustrators talk about what they do and how they do it, and it always gives me new access to my own bigger, brighter ideas.
Even for those who dont love to read or write, a look inside storytelling can give a new connection to people, the world and ourselves. It's a bit like unlocking secret doors to the rest of the world, so that's exciting to me.
What ideas did you initially have for the series?
Knowing that we would be inviting some of Australia’s best and most prolific children’s publishing talent, I wanted to include lessons that would tackle the key techniques of storytelling and writing, while also giving kids a chance to explore creativity (and the book creation process), in all its weird and interesting glory.
After a LOT of discussion and deliberation, we ended up designing a series of 12 lessons – some focusing on writing and illustrating craft, some looking at publishing behind-the-scenes secrets, and some aimed at giving kids the chance to explore their own reading tastes and discover some new books to love.
Initially, I imagined all the wondrous, dreamy ideas we could run with in these lessons, but as tends to happen original plans morph and grow.
Story Tools is still dreamy, but it's practical too. Dreamy ideas are important ingredients, but what makes them work is using storytelling techniques. It gives your ideas somewhere to go, and something to be.
What was the process? How did the two of you collaborate to bring Story Tools to life?
Working with Charlotte has been so much fun! We hadn’t met before we started this project, but I think we share a lot of similarities with how we approach our writing and how we think about the creative process. At the same time, we also have quite different skill sets; Charlotte is an amazing illustrator (something I have failed to master!) and so she naturally had expertise to offer in the lessons that were more visual and illustration-based.
With my background in publishing and editorial, I gravitated to the lessons that focused on those things. Like any good creative collaboration, we bounced ideas back and forth between us, and picked each other’s brains when nutting out some of the trickier topics.
The process with Melissa has been great. We share a love of reading and writing, but we have other skills to bring to Story Tools too. Melissa can edit like no other, and I illustrate. Together, we cover a lot of ground. Our process was a true collaboration. Melissa mapped the broad arc of Series 1 and 2, we then came together to break down each episode one-by-one, discussing the key ideas.
We made sure that the content was true to each creator, entertaining, insightful and above all, useful and helpful. We shared ideas, threw them around together and pushed one another if stuck. As a result Story Tools is very well rounded with variation, broad topics, ideas and techniques.
Story Tools launches February 2023. Find out more at storytools.com.au.