The Stay-at-Home! Festival was an online festival that ran in Spring 2020. It was developed by bestselling author and poet CJ Cooke, with Paper Nations as a partner. The festival celebrated the power of writing and reading in preventing loneliness and championed connectivity and community amidst social distancing.
As part of the festival, Paper Nations also supported the development of several writers-in-residence. We are delighted to feature a short sample from one of those writers, Rob Keeley, below.
Rob is an award-winning author of children’s novels, short stories and picture books, including the Spirits series. Other credits include the award-listed stage play Mr. Everyone, and Chain Gang and Newsjack for BBC Radio. He holds author workshops in schools and libraries, and teaches Creative Writing to children and adults. His website is www.robkeeley.co.uk and you can find him on Twitter @RobKeeleyAuthor.
“Liam!” Justin stood outside the cupboard under the stairs, calling through the half-open door. “Will you come out of there? Oh come on, mate, I only coughed once!”
Slowly, very cautiously, Liam opened the door. He was standing as far as he possibly could from his best friend, and had Justin’s nan’s old headscarf tied around his face.
“You’ve been staying here nearly three weeks,” Justin pointed out. “Even before the lockdown. We’re sharing a room…”
Liam edged away from him. His voice sounded muffled. “I’m not taking any chances. It’s bad enough Ben was sneezing all over me, last day in school…”
“That was just a cold, Liam!”
“…and stop fingering my phone!” Liam grabbed the smartphone from Justin.
“You’ve got a message!”
Liam fiddled with the phone.
“It’s Mum and Dad. And Astrid. They still can’t get a flight out. Trust them to be in the sun. It was freezing here, this morning.”
“Where is Santa Amelia, anyway?”
“No idea.” Liam scrolled down the message. “They say… they’re OK, no one’s ill. They can stay in the hotel, or go in the gardens. The only food they can get is takeaways…” He frowned, above his scarf. “If there’s a problem here, I’m not hearing it.”
Justin risked edging a little nearer to Liam. “Are you missing them?”
Liam was silent for a moment. Then he nodded. Justin gave him a look of sympathy.
“They’ll be all right, mate. We all will. We’re gonna have the biggest party ever, when all this is over. The Archbishop of Canterbury said so.” He moved his arm and gave Liam an elbow bump. They had seen footballers doing it.
The front door opened, and what appeared to be a creature from outer space entered. It was wearing a long leather coat that looked like armour, and gloves to match, and had a gigantic plastic space helmet on its head. Only the two recyclable shopping bags spoiled the effect.
To read the rest of the story, please visit The Stay at Home Festival
Rob Keeley is an award-winning author of children’s novels, short stories and picture books, including the Spirits series. Other credits include the award-listed stage play Mr. Everyone, and Chain Gang and Newsjack for BBC Radio. He holds author workshops in schools and libraries, and teaches Creative Writing to children and adults.