Play with Words with Rachel Bright

Rachel Bright is one of our all-time favourite authors. 

She contributed this lovely story jar activity to a campaign we ran a little while back, promoting kids' mental health and wellness, and we still return to it time & time again.

by Rachel Bright

Hello! My name is Rachel Bright and I’m a Wordsmith, Illustrator and Professional Optimist! I get to make up stories and draw pictures for them. I’ve written and illustrated lots of picture books (23 so far to be exact!) for children and I also think up happy thoughts for my wildly optimistic card & gift collection ‘the brightside.

Creative writing is a great way to make you feel happy in just a few minutes because it sets you free from real life and lets you take a ride in the wilds of your imagination… this fires up parts of our brain which make us feel wonderful and help us build new connections we can use in the future. It’s free, always available and all you need is a pencil and paper to change your world… and perhaps, if you get really good at it… thousands and millions of other people’s worlds… when they read your amazing stories!

15 Minute Happy – Play With Words - Story Jar Challenge

Make a story Jar and play with the words to make a story!

You can play this little 15 minute game all by yourself… or even better with a friend or family members!

1. Get a big empty Jar or vase. Spend 5 minutes scribbling down random words and phrases on strips of paper and then folding them up and dropping them into the jar. A great place to start is with things you love…’kittens’…’jam on toast’…’football’…’Sunday’…there’s no right or wrong and you should just get as many words as you can in the jar in 5 minutes...this is really fun with two or more people because you can see who can get the most words into the jar! Made up words are great too ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’…’the snordwangler’….’whistlebubbling’…don’t limit yourself to the dictionary!

2. When your 5 minutes is up (set a timer if you like) and the jar has lots of words in it…mix them up a bit. Now reach in and pick 5 at random (however many people are playing – everyone should take 5 at the same time). Unfold them and spread them out at random…chances are you have a crazy combination and a starting place for a funny and interesting short story or poem! Let’s say your words or phrases were ‘crocodile’, ‘bubble-gum’, ‘four ‘o clock’, ‘New York’ and ‘peanut butter’…now you have to come up with a story using at least three of these words…linking them together (Like a story about a famous crocodile called bubble-gum on the four ‘o clock flight to New York….)

3. Use the rest of your time to write a little story or poem (rhyming is super fun!) with this idea…the funnier the better. This is really good with two or more people as you can compare your stories at the end and decide who wrote the best, funniest or zaniest story. Don’t worry too much about spelling or grammar…this is all about getting in the flow and having fun and it’s impossible to make a mistake as really it’s all about generating big ideas from just a few little words.

4. At the end of your 15 minutes…keep writing if you’re inspired! Perhaps you’ve started a bestselling series - you could try illustrating it too! Or if you’ve had enough for now, pop the jar somewhere everyone knows where it will be and reach it down for an impromptu game whenever you can find the time!

(c) Rachel with her family, Hay Festival 2018

Rachel Bright is a wordsmith, printmaker & professional optimist.  Trained in Graphics at Kingston University, followed by a Masters Degree in Printmaking at UWE, Rachel’s striking illustrations and typographic style, coupled with her witty storytelling have resulted in an a celebrated collection of acclaimed picture books, published by Hachette (Orchard), Harper Collins, Puffin, & Walker Books. Her titles have been translated into over 38 languages. Her most famous creations to date include international bestseller The Lion Inside (illustrated by Jim Field – 2016 – currently at 32 co-editions) and the Love Monster series (a US No.1 Best seller), which is also currently optioned for a major animated series. Her newest books are ‘The Koala who Could’ (illustration Jim Field) which won the Evening Standard and Sainsbury’s picture book awards, ‘The Squirrels who Squabbled’ (illustration Jim Field) and ‘All I want for Christmas’ (self-illustrated).

An accidental entrepreneur, she is also the founder and creator of an award-winning stationery and gift phenomenon, the brightside – a collection of optimistic thinkings celebrating the art of the silver lining, which has sold over 11.5 million cards and 5 million gifts across the globe to date.

Living on a smallholding near the sea with her fiancé Robbie, their daughters, River and Sky as well as the nicest dog in the world (Elvis), she also travels both at home and abroad as a visiting author, illustrator & artist. She has turned her philosophies on life into a professional speaking career and all manner of upliftment at, where she helps
mastermind restorative retreats for the slightly frazzled.

She hopes you might like to take 5 to : and

Interesting mini Facts about Rachel:
- She has had quite a few former lives, including a stint as an air hostess for Virgin Atlantic (during which time she found herself unexpectedly visiting Necker Island).
- She was also once taken hostage by Daleks when working as a TV extra on Dr. Who.
- Her first ever proper boss was Samantha Cameron when Rachel worked at Smythson of Bond Street as a Junior Designer.
- She once won a date with ‘Man of the Millenium’ with Marie Claire magazine, which involved a week-long adventure to Tahiti and some ill-timed sunburn.
- She has run close to 50 long distance races including ultra-marathons all over the world, the most bonkers of which was the midnight sun marathon in Norway (when it rained the whole way round and she was heckled by night-club revelers at the finish line).
- She collects alphabets and hats and openly loves power ballads.