30th June 2019
One of the more rewarding things I’ve done this year is to volunteer with the Super Power Agency. This is an Edinburgh organisation patterned after San Francisco’s 826 Valencia. It goes into schools and runs workshop programmes to encourage creative writing from kids who otherwise might lack the confidence to try.
The latest project was called Seven Spaceships. Each of our Primary 7 participants created a character on a colony ship, which is reaching the end of its seven-year journey to a new world, Alba Prime. On one level, this is a great platform for imaginative science fiction adventures. On another, it’s an opportunity for P7s to explore their feelings about the transition to high school. In classrooms you can see the difference between Primary 7 and Secondary 2; the uncomplicated enthusiasm melts away and is replaced by something more sceptical and self-conscious.
Seven schools are represented in the resulting (358 page!) book, 156 stories in total. A surprising number of the authors regard fast food outlets as an essential resource on any spaceship. From my crew, Lorne Primary, you can read about:
- a vampire who just wants to build a videogame station
- a giant eyeball that enjoys checking temperatures
- a reconditioned boat business
- a grandfather who tried to ruin coffee and died as a result
- conjoined twins who rescue a prisoner from Pluto
- a character named Aclzy21cnox76tskn38na768c0b8n982 whose clone eats the moon
It was quite something to see the seven crews assembled in Leith Academy to get their hands on the book and collectively become published authors. The new planet was a tough environment for those who read out loud: a massive, acoustically dead space and alien rain battering on the roof. But the Edinburgh International Book Festival has the same problems; and it didn’t seem to matter to the colonists at all.
If you think you could use 156 uplifting stories in one volume, the book should be available on the SPA website. But if you can spare some time during the week, you could volunteer and help to create the next project. I guarantee it will be an exhausting and highly satisfying experience.