As a child makes their way through their educational journey, one universal truth cannot be escaped. That is, one must learn how to write, and write well, in order to succeed. Essays, reports, emails, and tweets are at the mercy of their author. With such an explosion of digital media and the social media revolution, the written word is more important than ever before. The main ingredient for great writing, like all forms of expression, is a great idea.
Across the Atlantic in merry old England resides the Ministry of Stories (Hoxton St., London). The Ministry is a creative writing playground with colourful tables and inspiring art on the walls. Founded by best-selling artist Nick Hornby, along with Ben Payne and Lucy Macnab, the Ministry runs workshops, writing clubs, and one-on-one mentoring, supporting young imaginations and encouraging children to express their inner authors and dreamers. Funding this venture, in part, is the wonderfully imaginative Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.
The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies provides a unique shopping experience, mixing Victorian science with a kind of vintage Bram Stoker aesthetic. Every item is out of a children’s story, it seems, for there is no lack in imaginative naming: Organ Marmalade, Thick Human Snot, and Fang Floss are some of the offerings.
The profits of store sales fund the programs that the Ministry organizes. It is an interesting model, a for-profit retail store that is creatively joined with a positive non-profit charity. Still, the organization is dependent on donations. With a massive volunteer network and a couple of dedicated satellite ventures, the Ministry is looking to explode the creative writing soda can all over the United Kingdom. Inspired by 826 Valencia in San Francisco and their pirate theme, it is seeking to shape a new generation of writers, with inevitable future forays into many aspects of media culture.
Thankfully here in Canada we have our own version – Story Planet (Toronto). It too is founded on the San Francisco model and is an exciting hub of artists, writers, and creators looking to instil a passion for storytelling to those who have powerful stories to tell but not necessarily the opportunity or guidance to tell them. It creates a friendly environment for expression and welcomes students who are new to English and have linguistic grounding and experiences in other languages such as Mandarin and Tamil.
I think more grassroots initiatives could work well in Canada, which always needs excited young creators to help redefine the Canadian cultural tradition. In an age when many jobs are expected to become obsolete (to robots, of course), creative writing always has a solid grounding in humanity – as the linguistic expression of human experience is often imaginative, occasionally immortal. Canada’s dispersed literary giants could contribute greatly to Story Planet and other grassroots creative writing organizations. Creative thinking and honing a confident, powerful, inner voice to express are extraordinary skills to cultivate over a lifetime. The benefit to media, society, and Canadian culture is considerable. As Maya Angelou says: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Media offers a world of entertainment and learning possibilities for children and youth. The kidsmediacentre explores kids' media futures and is committed to supporting cross-platform content producers in Canada to ensure the kids' media industry is vibrant, indigenous and committed to the healthy growth of children.