current workshops

Christmas Story Workshops

In 2008, inspired by the letters Tolkien wrote from the elves to his children every Christmas, I wrote a story.  My children, then aged 7 and 3, were the protagonists.  Our new dog, a rescued lurcher, had to feature. She was a scavenger, so the story suggested itself: the dog sneaking off with some crucial food. There had to be a Christmas theme.  A few days before we'd argued about the ugly fairy I'd put on the top of the tree.  She crept into my story. 

On Christmas Eve the family gathered to listen a so began a family tradition.  Looking back at the stories, 4 years later, I realised that I'd captured a moment in our lives.  A photograph in words.  Within these stories our younger selves were preserved. The girls' characters were recorded at that precise age, key phrases they'd used, things they'd liked to do, things that had mattered to them.  And the minor characters – family pets, my husband and I, my sister, their god parents – were there too, glimpses of the key figures in their lives at that time. 

If you are writing about children you know, their characters and motivation are obvious to you.  The story almost writes itself.  What the children delighted in was recognising familiar  scenarios and themselves as the protagonists.  You don't have to be a writer to do this.  So I ran workshops for friends, where we built the story through a series of questions they answered about their own children.  The result was a series of wonderful stories, all unique and delightful in their own way.  That Christmas, when I sat down to read my children their story, there were 17 other families in Ulverston doing the same.

I've continued to run workshops every year. I now offer a follow-up session where we print off the stories and use cardboard, embroidery thread, fabric and old Christmas cards to create a unique book for each family.  Last year, a grandmother who had written a story about her young grand-daughter was blanket stitching around the edge of the cover of her book with red wool. 

            “That's a beautiful gift you're making for your grand-daughter,” I said. 

            “It's not just for my grand-daughter,” she replied, “I'm hoping that one day she'll read this to her grand-children.”  

            What an amazing legacy. These unique Christmas books will be treasured within our families long after we are gone. I'm more proud of this than I am of any commission I've had for Radio 4.  My stories stories are created with love, for those I love, and they will outlive me.


If you would like to create a story for your family come along to a workshop on:

Tuesday 1st and Wednesday December 2nd  7–9.30pm (Attendance at both is necessary)


Monday 7th December  10am–4pm.

Additional book making session on Tuesday 8th December 7-9pm

If these dates don't suit you, contact Zosia via e-mail (  

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