Treasures from Norfolk Museums inspire new children’s stories

Isabelle King at Norwich Castle, which is included in her latest book Once Upon a Time in Norfolk. P

Isabelle King at Norwich Castle, which is included in her latest book Once Upon a Time in Norfolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Norwich author Isabelle King launched national events for writers - and helped achieve her own dream

A scattering of silver coins, a grinning stone lion, and a doorknocker to the dreaded workhouse have unleashed crowds of characters from history.

Isabelle King wanted to be writer but was not sure how to start – so she set up a series of events linking established novelists with other people who dreamed of being authors.This month her second book is published - a collection of stories for children inspired by museums and the treasures they house.

Once Upon a Time in Norfolk includes a story of Boudicca's Britain inspired by silver coins in Lynn Museum, another where a comic-looking carved lion from Norwich Castle helps conjure the Normans, and pet dogs which help tell the story of the Elizabethan House in Yarmouth.

'I had always wanted to write about Norfolk history,' said Isabelle. 'So I went to one of my favourite museums, Gressenhall, and came across the Norfolk Collections Centre. It's like a cabinet of curiosities and I just thought I would love to write stories about some of these.'

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Isabelle grew up in Norwich, leaving for drama school in London when she 17. She worked as an actress for several years but realised she really wanted to write.

'I thought, 'How am I ever going to get the time to find out more about writing when one day I'm waitressing, the next I'm performing as a dancing house with chicken feet (that really was a role I played!)?' So I decided to put an event together in the pub where I was waitressing, to provide insight about being a writer and the publishing industry, which would be accessible to everyone with an interest - myself included! I thought there must be a lot of people like me with full-time jobs, interested in writing as a career, and in general, who couldn't afford to do a creative writing course.'

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The events became Books Talk Back and led to Isabelle interviewing internationally-renowned authors and hosting events at the British Library. And when a British Library exhibition of Quentin Blake illustrations for novels by Roald Dahl came to Norwich's Millennium Library, Isabelle was appointed official writer-in-residence.

'I'm very aware that my way into writing was not usual at all!' she said.

When she moved back to Norwich she brought Books Talk Back with her and began writing and storytelling. 'I'm very passionate about stories. When I'm storytelling I don't read from a book,' said Isabelle. 'I improvise, and the children join in. I absolutely want children to think that writing books is something they can do too'

Once Upon a Time in Norfolk, by Isabelle King, illustrated by John McKeever, will be launched at Norwich Millennium Library on Saturday, May 12.

Quentin Blake brings Roald Dahl characters to Norwich

Quentin Blake: The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits are 10 new paintings of famous Dahl characters, on show until June 3 at the Millennium Library, Norwich Forum. Sir Quentin said: 'The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits ask you to imagine that a number of Dahl's characters have been invited to come and sit for their portrait...The perceptive spectator may notice that one celebrated couple declined to appear together, and another formidable personality obviously disapproved of the whole venture. Nevertheless, I hope visitors will be happy to see this group of well-known characters treated as though they were real people – which, of course, to many of us they are.'

Every Sunday in May exhibition writer-in-residence Isabelle King will run fun family trails, where participants can piece together clues and solve a historical mystery.

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