Celebrating East African Writing!

Published Children at the Storymoja Hay Festival!

“I am a girl tall and a black beauty. I am twelve years old and my favorite thing to do is skipping rope with my friend in school. I attend Karen C. Primary School. We are 1256 students in the school.”



This is what young Christine from Karen C. Primary School Nairobi wrote on the About The Author portion on the back page of her book titled Pumpkin Head Gets His Revenge. Christine and her school mates attended the Storymoja Hay Festival and what they found at the Storyhippo tent will most certainly stay in their young creative minds for a very long time.


The “Publish your own book in two hours” session was facilitated by Ryan Lewis of 826 National U.S.A.




Saying that theirs is a brilliant idea is an understatement. It is an excellent, engaging and challenging idea that brings out the creative writer in the dullest of children.


Ryan introduced himself to the kids. He also made a point introducing the very experienced typologist with five PhDs in Typology and ‘Makmendology’. Yes, Makmendology!




See, the kids were going to write a story based on a super hero character, Makmende. The twist that makes this Makmende different from the grown up Makmende, is that this Makmende is a he or a she. Meaning that Makmende could be a girl or a boy, depending on the author’s preference. He or she is chosen -in a top secret meeting at a railway station-before he  turns fifteen.


To make it easier, the Storyhippo people had already crafted the characters. Max is the male Makmende. He is  twelve years old -like Christine-, tall, skinny with an unusually long little (pinkie)finger. Maggie on the other hand, is the female Makmende. She is tiny, agile, with braids and one of her ears is bigger than normal.


Now that the characters of the story were identified, Ryan engaged the children in setting down the elements of a good story. I didn’t think the kids would know jerk about the essentials of a good story but I thought too soon. They proved me wrong. Hands went up and the right answers came out.”Title!”,”Introduction!”, “Body!”, “conclusion!”, “setting!” “Characters and characters can be people animals or even trees!”, “communication! (dialogue)”.




All this while the artists present were sketching the children who were divided into groups sitting around a table. Each table had an artist and a writer to guide the children. The artists were using pencil and charcoal pieces for their illustrations.


I watched in awe(I lie not; true awe!) as the children developed the characters and the story and the typologist typed their ideas into words. Whatever she wrote appeared on a projector screen and the children would volunteer to read out the content to the rest, just to confirm that everything was as it ought to be.


Their story had a main character, Makmende, a villain -Pumpkin Head- whose main intention was to dominate the world and his first course of action was to tie up all the super heroes in the world. Only mistake he made was to forget that Makmende existed.


The story was set in a cave in New York City.


The artists having finished with the authors’ profile illustrations, went ahead to sketch the cover pages. They did it so well in such a short time!!


Once the body of the  story was written collectively, the children now had to write individual endings to the story depending on the gender of their Makmende. After that the stories were taken for compilation and binding. The books were to follow this form; Cover, Cliffhanger, Illustration, Character, Illustration, Individual ending, Back Page, Author’s picture.




To prevent the kids from idling while the binding was going on, they were required to write a rough draft of their Author’s blurb that included their age, favorite thing to do, school they attend and anything else they fancied about themselves. That’s how I got to learn that Christine is a black beauty who loves to skip rope.


They also drew images of Mr. Storyhippo or at least how they each thought he looked. The books came back and were sent to Mr. Storyhippo for publishing. Yes, he chose to remain incognito; hid behind a screen.


After the publishing the books were handed out to their respective authors who were sent out to get Early Reviews on their work.


This entry was posted on October 3, 2010 by in Writing.
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