The Elements of a Story

You could argue that every story you write, every act you make, makes a difference. That’s why Dylan Calder’s brief to his ten writers: to write a story about “difference,” was so brilliant, and thought provoking. Dylan wanted to celebrate ten years of his amazing nonprofit, Pop Up Projects, whose aim is to transform lives through literature. Over the years, they have connected authors and books with children and gone that extra crucial step of putting a book into the hands of every child that attended one of their Pop Up Festival events. For Pop Up, every gift of a book was a gift of making a difference.

Living with so much technology around us, and with children now obsessed with screens and devices, some people might ask whether books have a place any more, or are they a dying breed? Does storytelling need to be confined between the covers of a book? Storytelling comes in so many different guises; through theatre, painting, dance – and yes – the screen. I say – thank goodness! Because in our world of so much difference, difference can mean chasms of misunderstanding, incomprehension, division, and social differences; stories need many rivers.

Many years ago, I had published a book called The Wormholers, in which my protagonist, Sophie, was a non-verbal paraplegic. At the time, the word which dominated was “communication.” Writing this book took me into Sophie’s world; how she communicated; how she made friends; what were her feelings and ambitions; what could she hope to dream of? Indeed, long after that book was finished, I was still obsessed with Sophie, and how she was growing up, and what her future would be. She would never be able to hold a book, so her access to stories would be via the screen, or another person telling them. For Sophie, technology means that not only can she have independent access to the written or spoken word, but she can write her own stories too.

So, when Dylan asked me to write a short story about Difference, I knew it had to be a further exploration of Sophie. This time the word which predominated, was “element.” Of the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water which one would be her element?


Jamila Gavin is one of the established writers contributing to Ten Stories to Make a Difference. Her story, In Her Element, illustrated by Jacinta Read, centres on a girl named Sophie with cerebral palsy who daydreams of swimming in the ocean with whales. 

Find out more about In Her Element, and get your hands on a first edition through our Ten Stories Crowdfunder:

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