Christopher William Hill and ‘Osbert the Avenger’ Review

Whilst combining the smells of apple pie and vomit may not sound an appealing element of a literary event for adults, at Ilkley Literature Children’s Festival, it all seemed highly appropriate. Smells – some pleasant and some downright disgusting – were a key feature of Christopher William Hill’s Osbert the Avenger event.

As a story-building activity, a group of very willing volunteers tried to guess the mystery smells and - with Christopher’s guidance - use them to develop story ideas.  When thinking of characterisation, the smell of apple pie developed into the character of a child (the son of a baker), who chooses to cook his mum in a giant pie … obviously. When Christopher encouraged the children to consider the importance of setting to a good story, for some reason, the gut-wrenchingly awful smell of vomit led the youngsters to imagine a school in which all the children were deliberately poisoned by school dinners.

Christopher very quickly built up a great rapport with the children and soon had the audience shouting over each other to share their ideas with him. As one of a number of adults at the event, there was much chuckling along as Christopher gently teased the young attendees. His genuine affection for children was apparent and they all enjoyed reading (and criticising) a piece of Christopher’s own writing, written by his eight year old self. It’s not often that children have the chance to advise a published author that he should use more adverbs and adjectives.

Having explained how it’s the more grisly side of human nature which he explores in his Osbert the Avenger series, Christopher used the final smell of the event - allegedly a burnt human heart – to demonstrate the importance of a ‘hook’ to capture a reader’s attention at the start of a book. “Whose heart was it?” “What had happened to its owner?” The children were clamouring to find out more and Christopher left them with that nugget of an idea to ponder.

Whilst on paper these may not sound like the usual ‘ingredients’ for a literary event; for me, this turned out to be one of the most entertaining and informative events of this year’s festival. Plus, it’s not everyday you see an author demonstrating a shuffle, hopstep and ball change dance move, but that’s another story!

You may also like to follow Christopher on Twitter (@cwhillauthor) .
For all the behind-the-scenes info about Ilkley Literature Festival, visit The Pickled Egg, the official blogger of Ilkley Literature Festival.
Christopher is represented by Sophie Gorell-Barnes at MBA Literary and Script Agents.

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