Supergran Anne Stormont and Kimi’s little helpers

From Superteach to Supergran, and at Christmastime, too – congratulations to Anne Stormont and her husband Iain on becoming grandparents to the gorgeous Eva.

And congratulations to Eva on bagging such a wonderful granny. As Superteach, the devotion bestowed upon her pupils is admirable to observe. Anne and her pupils played a huge part in the development of Kimi’s Secret. She came to me with an idea and, well, I’ll let her tell you herself… 

Kimi’s Secret rocks the classroom

A fun project – a fab book…

 I’m a Support for Learning teacher in a primary school. In early 2009 I was asked to work with a group of eleven-year-olds in order to extend their writing skills. This was a group of able and discerning readers, whom, their teachers felt, had lost enthusiasm and motivation in their writing and who seemed to be underachieving. I was charged with turning this state of affairs round. Simple!

By chance, I was, at that time, reading an early draft of the opening chapters of ‘Kimi’s Secret’. I thought it was brilliant – great story-telling, original and engaging. But I wondered what the target audience would make of it. So I read a couple of chapters to my group of somewhat reluctant writers. Their responses were amazing. They liked the characters and the story and they wanted more, but they also had suggestions and ideas of their own about the text.

And that was the start. I asked Johnny if he would like to be our ‘virtual writer-in-residence’ for a term and to engage with the children on a writing project. I would read the book to the children and they would respond chapter by chapter with critiques, suggestions and comments. In return Johnny would set Kimi related writing tasks for the children to complete and submit to him for feedback. I also asked the children if they would be up for it. Author and kids were raring to go.

Everything was done by email to and from me. Johnny sent me the chapters as they became ready. And during two, hour-long sessions per week, the children listened to the story, sketched and wrote their responses, filmed their round table discussions and debates, wrote Kimi inspired stories of their own and carried out detailed reviews of characters and plot. Film clips, writing, detailed commentaries and sketches  (one child came up with a detailed map of the land of Heart, spending a lot of time meticulously checking the facts and then planning out his own fictional landscape on which to base an extended piece of fiction writing) –  all were emailed by me to Johnny, and he emailed his (personalised to each child contributor) responses back.

The project was one of the highlights of my thirty-plus years in teaching. We had great fun. The children and I looked forward to our Kimi afternoons and the productivity achieved was astounding. I loved seeing the children drawing as I read. Most of them did this – some drawing a character – others sketching out a scene. The quality of the debate about the effectiveness of a chapter, a character, a plotline was excellent and they didn’t pull their punches if they detected any shortcomings. This, of course, fed into their own writing which they approached with a new awareness of the tricks of the trade, of techniques and of the reader’s experience.

None of this could have happened if the story hadn’t been so captivating. It pulled the children in and they loved it.

And now, two years later,’ Kimi’s Secret’ is published. Johnny sent a signed copy, complete with personal dedication, to each of the children. They were thrilled to receive them and asked when the sequel will be out. Not only that, the school now has twenty copies in the library and a new set of children are currently enjoying it.

Anne Stormont

Anne Stormont



Can you?

Of course you can. Simply do what the masters do.

Having typed THE END at the end of Kimi’s Secret, for what was probably the tenth but felt like the hundredth time, something warm and satisfying came over me; a feeling of total satisfaction, of true completeness. I’d felt similar before when typing THE END, but never this… lifted. This time it felt just right.

Not one for taking emotional states lightly, I wanted to take a closer look at why I might be feeling this way so I jotted down the growth of KS from creation to completion and it went something like this:

  • Create original otherworld: history, geography, physics, culture etc. via notes and sketches
  • Create character/creature possibilities and hierarchical structure via notes and sketches
  • Develop MC possibilities, traits, likes, dislikes, anomalies etc.
  • Note some story/scene possibilities
  • Select possible story along with best starting point and best ending point
  • Do a scene run (treatment) and develop the story from A to Z
  • Rework the scene run five or twenty times until satisfied the best plot is in place
  • Start the writing with steers from peers
  • Rework numerous times

It took six months to create the otherworld and a further six to dig up a good looking story and get a possible run of scenes jotted down, all the while developing the MC and cast member possibilities. Another year to get the first draft down, and another year reworking. Condense that into solid hours spent and we’re looking at a full years’ work at forty hours per week from creative spark to THE END

So why am I smiling?

All those notes I did for KS at the very beginning, the sketches, the various scene runs, the fresh drafts, edits upon edits, and so on; every nuance of manipulation, every tweak, hone, polish uncovered hidden gems and added layer after layer to the original skeleton.

The final draft of KS was completed in one month after almost a year’s hiatus. Such a zymology of words was a joy to revisit. Eureka moments were bountiful. Sparkly jewels jumped into my palm. The final pieces were clicking neatly into place. And I realised what it was that left me feeling so lifted. It was the many drafts, each like a layer of the master’s paint becoming more refined with every application; ghosting the mould, dressing the piece, fine-tuning the fine-tuned, tweaking the tweaks, perfecting the polish.

So, just like a master painter might begin with a sketch and build on that a body of spheres or shapes, fix a wash, then another, the groundwork is done before the layering can start. The master revisits, adding new layers, highlighting, shadowing, bringing points to the surface and hiding others until eventually the master’s piece is finished to a decent level of satisfaction and he feels lifted. I imagine Da Vinci looked at the finished Mona Lisa and smiled because the painting, its skeleton so perfectly formed and fleshed with numerous layers is certainly smiling at him.

Now, I’m not saying my novel is such an achievement as the Mona Lisa, nor am I claiming it a masterpiece, nor am I saying it wouldn’t benefit another five million edits, but I am saying that those many drafts are important, digging up the gems and layering the aesthetics in such a manner as to present the best possible work of your art to your reader as you can. I’m sure that Kimi’s Secret has holes and errors just as Lisa looks questionable with no lashes or brows and a deformed wrist, but I’m also sure that because of what lies beneath, Kimi will smile at her reader.

And so I begin book two of Kimi’s story. Only this time around I will think like a master. I will not fret continuously and stare at a single word for a week. I will not ponder a single paragraph for months, will not chop and change until the first draft, and the next, is done, knowing that such continuous layering will bring the good work to the fore.


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