Lari Don: Giving kids the write stuff

‘KIDS ask me all the time where I get my ideas from. I think they’re hoping I’ll tell them there’s some sort of secret shop down a back alley that you show your Society of Authors card to and get access to ideas.

“But the trick is to be open to ideas – they are everywhere.”

Children’s author Lari Don most certainly practices what she preaches.

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She doesn’t go anywhere without her notebook and finds inspiration up mountains, down tunnels, on family days out and even in her local park.

Her passion for finding inspiration in the great outdoors is leading her back to a spot where she penned the opening chapters to her most recent novel, Maze Running.

But this time, she will be going with a group of budding writers whom she also hopes to inspire.

The Leith-based writer is holding writing workshops for eight to 12 year-olds within the spectacular surroundings of the Jupiter Artland sculpture garden in West Lothian.

“I went to Jupiter Artland on a nice day out with my kids, not as research.

“But I never go anywhere without my notebook and it was within this amazing installation by Andy Goldsworthy of rocks in trees that I started scribbling my ideas and in the end the first couple of chapters came from what I wrote there.”

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“I contacted Jupiter Artland after my visit and said I felt so inspired and that I was absolutely sure kids would be too and that’s where we came up with the idea of doing a workshop,” explains Lari.

“I go into schools a lot to work with a class, but workshops like this, in a particular venue with a smaller number of children, is not something I do a great deal of.”

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Mother-of-two Lari believes that forcing children to sit down to write for half an hour or an hour is not an effective way of encouraging them to be creative.

Opening them up to the idea that stories can be found anywhere, Lari says, is the key to inspiring young children. “It’s about fun and enjoyment and not forcing children to write.

“Some of them might go away and write an entire novel.

“But if they just feel that they have been inspired by something they have seen or touched or squelched through then I will be happy.

“With children, it’s not so much about what they write on the day, but how they feel about their own voice as a writer.”

With 14 books already published and another five coming out this year, Lari has more than earned her place to talk to youngsters as an expert on children’s fiction.

She describes her work as “Scottish fantasy adventure” and writes for eight to 12-year-olds – the age of the children her workshops at Jupiter Artland are aimed at.

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She believes writing workshops not only help to open up their imaginations, but also help youngsters express themselves in ways they normally can’t.

“It’s really important that every child feels that what they have to say is worth listening to and worth reading,” she says.

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“It’s much harder to write about how you feel about something than to write about how someone else feels being chased by a dragon.

“Writing fiction is a good way to learn to express emotions.”

But she stresses that not every child has to take part in a workshop to learn the skills needed to become a good writer.

These can be found much closer to home – in the form of books themselves.

“I think the most important thing that parents can do is encourage reading,” she adds.

“You actually get the best handle on how stories work and how people work by reading fiction.”

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Jupiter Artland, on the Bonnington Estate north of Kirknewton, is currently taking bookings for the writing classes with Lari on March 16.

To book a place, visit or call Ailsa Boag on 01506-889900.