Dinosaurs & My Dad

As a child, I never felt like I had much in common with my peers. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, but often they were huge fans of football, and they loved sports and other outdoor pursuits. Me—I preferred my own company most of the time. I had moments of enjoying social freedom, but that’s all they were—moments. To be fair, they were brief moments too!

Like I’ve said many times before, I preferred to get lost in stories as a child. I still do. Now, it would be obvious to point out the many books that I enjoyed, which is why I prefer to use the term ‘stories’. That is the key to me—because stories can be found everywhere, and not only in books. And great storytelling is something I adore. Let me tell you one of the reasons why…

From memory, the first thing that exploded my imagination as a child was Dinosaurs. WOW!! Nothing particularly out of the ordinary about that either. But as I got older, I seemed to become engaged in activities that many children my age didn’t. Well, they did, but not as much as I did. At primary school, I generally read a lot, or I watched television shows that revolved around imaginary worlds. He-Man comes to mind, and I thought She-Ra was incredible too. Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, Battle of The Planets and Terrahawks were all favourites. Who remembers ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’? I was crazy about imaginary people, monsters and the like. Then as I got older, I enjoyed many movies. As you can imagine, I was quite the Spielberg fanatic, and I’ve already talked about my love for Star Wars here.

All through this, I was also a huge nature lover. Animals of all sorts intrigued me. Again, they still do. Then, in my mid-teens, I started birdwatching. Not the average interest for a high school teenager, but nonetheless I loved it. Many times, I’d sit and watch them in all manner of places. In hindsight, I have come to realise that this wasn’t just about a love for nature either. Watching birds was peaceful, soothing and quiet. Activities like that allowed me to get lost even further inside my imagination too. That was my safe place, and the only person I ever allowed inside it, was my dad. He would take me to bird hides in all manner of places. Yet, it wasn’t even something that had ever appealed to him. In hindsight, my dad did that a lot. He engaged with me over my hobbies, even though none of them particularly interested him. What was important, was that he never stopped me being me.

Whilst my teenage years began to end, I started to pursue other things. Music had become a big part of my life, but that’s a story for another day. My freedom was also becoming a little more important, and I stopped going on family trips and holidays. That was, until I hit nineteen. For whatever reason, I decided to go away with my family. I really can’t remember if there was a conscious reason for it. Either way I did. There isn’t much I remember about it either—we went to Cornwall like we always did. Overall, it was no different to many of the other holidays we had enjoyed together. Yet, there is one thing that will be with me forever…

Jurassic Park!!!!

One evening whilst we were on holiday, my dad asked if I wanted to go and see it. All the people in the hotel were talking about it, and it had spiked his interest. When we went, I was blown away for so many reasons. It was a Spielberg movie for a start, and for me, he had brought dinosaurs to life. Dinosaurs!! The movie was packed full of action, but it felt so real too. The sound of a T-Rex will never get old. Although, there was something else that fed my imagination even more. An egg! That egg! And out of it—came a baby velociraptor. I can’t tell you how that moment felt for me, but I was spellbound to say the least. All this—and of course, it was a book first.

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When we came away from that movie, it was all we could talk about. Again, my dad was right there with me. Whether he was as fascinated as I was remains to be seen. What matters, is that we shared that moment together. And in that moment, I decided once and for all, that one day, I would write my own stories.

Sadly, only a couple of weeks later, my dad passed away. Even now, almost twenty-five years later, it hurts more than I can ever explain. But he left me with such special memories. Jurassic Park was the last thing we did together—just the two of us. He was there with me, in that moment, whilst my imagination was brimming over. For that, I will always be so grateful—and for that, I will always have a huge place in my heart for Jurassic Park.

Star Wars & Me

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I was a young boy with a vivid imagination. To be honest, in my head, I am still that young boy with a vivid imagination. Either way, as a youngling, I had an inbuilt need to submerge myself in stories where I could escape to new worlds. Once there, I could go on amazing adventures with various characters. So many wonderful creatures lived in these make-believe worlds too. New creatures, monsters and other such things, were everywhere.

From memory, this all started when I was a toddler. I remember my dad reading me Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’, and I still have that book now. Then, there was C.S. Lewis and Narnia; oh, how I wanted to be able to climb through my wardrobe into different worlds. Roald Dahl’s BFG was also a particular favourite, and I have to mention Lord of The Rings (how can I not).

To be concise, I love great stories, and I always have done. I love it even more when remarkable things are born out of pure imagination. Here’s my point…

Star Wars first arrived in our home through the T.V. one Christmas. From the first minute, it fired my imagination like NEVER before. Perhaps it was because I was a child, and a movie is more visual in some ways. Honestly, there could be many reasons why. What I do know, is that from that point, my ‘need’ to live in these new worlds was unstoppable. Everywhere I went, and in everything I did, my creativity took over. In the classroom, I visualised monsters lurking around outside the windows. Walking to school, I wondered if any of the cars driving passed may turn into robots (yes, I loved Transformers too). Every part of me lived inside these stories. I discovered new ‘things of wonder’ on a daily basis. They were in books and comics that I read, and T.V. shows and movies I watched. They were everywhere! Better still, I began developing my own creations; from curious new places, through to the people who lived there. Then came the mighty creatures, or even monsters, that resided alongside them. As a writer, that’s where it all began for me, and my hope is to spark people’s imaginations too. I want to create amazing adventures which we can journey through together.

Throughout all this, Star Wars has remained particularly special to me. In Star Wars, there has always been everything I wanted (or needed, I haven’t decided which). What I do know, is that I still get excited every time there’s a new movie coming out. In essence, Star Wars is a fairy tale set in another galaxy (far, far away of course). But it has always been so much more. I always find each of the tales spellbinding, and the Jedi, well…
Who wouldn’t want to be a Jedi?

For me; the characters are all loveable in their own unique ways. How amazing that even the droids have such well-developed personalities? The creatures are equally awesome, and I’ve always had a particular soft-spot for taun tauns. In fact, Hoth is one of my favourite settings too. Star Wars is timeless, and the force will be strong in us for generations to come.

Then, there is Princess Leia…

In the beginning, like all classic fairy tales, there (apparently) has to be a princess who needs rescuing in some way. Despite that, Princess Leia was always so much more. She was feisty, independent and the leader of The Rebellion. Let’s be realistic, without Princess Leia holding it all together, things may have gone much better for The Empire. I mean, she played a critical role in taking out two Death Stars.

Carrie Fisher did an amazing job of bringing Princess Leia to life. She will also carry on inspiring so many people for generations to come. Needless to say, I know how sad we will all feel, watching her once again in ‘The Last Jedi’.

Rest in Peace Carrie Fisher – I miss you so much already.

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Reading At School – Opinions Wanted

Last week, one of my sons (Ian) was enrolled into a book club at school. It’s fair to say that his ability to read (in a functional sense) is above average for his age. As such, along with others of a similar ability, he was moved into this group. The book club’s purpose, is to promote comprehension and encourage an understanding of the literature that they are reading. Well, that’s my understanding.

I was introduced to this concept when he brought home a new book. It had a note attached, telling me what page he should read up to; and by when. Needless to say, being a diligent family, we did as required. However, there was a problem…

The book that he was working on in this club, bored him. I mean, seriously bored him! It could be heard in his tone, seen in his mannerisms and let me tell you; it took an age to sit him down in the first place. By the way, the point of this article is about personal taste, so I’m not going to name the book.

At this point in my tale, it is worth mentioning that Ian reads books every day. This is his choice too, we don’t have to motivate him. Much of the material he reads at the moment is written by Dav Pilkey, but he also reads a great deal of books by many other authors too. If you read the attached article, it gives away one of the many possible reasons that Ian finds Dav Pilkey relatable. They share a similar sense of humour. Likewise, the characters in Captain Underpants have ADHD, and so does Ian. So, Ian is reading about children who have similar traits. He is also identifying with the challenges that the characters face. In fact, it appears that Mr Pilkey also had these qualities. In the article, Dav explains that he explored his strengths, with encouragement from a particular teacher and his parents. Yet otherwise, he was commonly seen in a bad light at school.

Ian also has autism, and where comprehension is concerned, care has to be taken. This applies to instructions as well as literature; in either written or verbal form. Because of this, Ian tends to operate at one extreme or the other. If he understands something and can visualise it, he submerges himself. You should see him walking down the street, whilst in his head he is living in Super Mario’s world. In contrast, if Ian doesn’t engage with something, you’ve lost him completely. With Ian, this is easy to see. Game over!

But doesn’t this exist for all of us? We all have things that we like and don’t like. Not only with literature or anything school related, but with everything. I’m talking movies, TV and games; even food. So, on that basis, why do we still insist on force-feeding children literature, that they are never going to engage with? If there is a book club in school, why couldn’t it cater for individual tastes. Everyone could pick their own material, and then share what they’ve read with the group. The questions they need to answer around the book could all be the same, but with different books will come a variety of answers. Likewise, this book club would then self-promote a love of reading. Ian would talk about Captain Underpants for example, and the child next to him may think ‘Wow! That sounds great!’. Ian may also learn of other material that interests him. It would be a perpetual loop of enjoyment for all things literature.

James Patterson sums up my point here…

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Please don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of people pushing boundaries. I believe it is healthy for us to explore things we sometimes don’t normally lean towards. Again, this goes for literature and anything else in life. However, when children start at a point of enjoyment, I believe that they would pick up an enthusiasm for other things from peers. This itself would promote their exploration. I’m thinking of Ian coming home saying ‘Dad, you’ll never guess what. This kid at school is reading (fill in your own suggestion), and it sounds fantastic!’. After all, nobody told him to read Dav Pilkey, he just found it on the shelf.

Isn’t this preferable to grown-ups imposing literature that some will never enjoy? That will never teach them to engage and understand the content will it?

As a side note, I’d also like to point out, that this seems to be a general culture in our education system. In short, every school I come across takes this approach, not just ours. This rambling isn’t in any way targeted at one institution; the approach is much more widespread than that. Otherwise, James Patterson wouldn’t have pointed it out. To my knowledge, he didn’t attend the same school Ian did lol. I’m certain that many of you see the same things. As my mum said…’That’s the way we all learned.’

But does that make it right?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to comment away!

 

Get In Touch

Whilst busy writing today, I thought it was a good time to suggest that we keep in touch…

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How else, are we going to discuss the world I’m creating?

How else, are YOU able to forward any ideas or thoughts you have on my story?

How else, are YOU going to be able to find special offers?

How else, could you get involved in giveaways?

So…

What are you waiting for? Pop your details in the form below, and let’s get chatting!!

Can’t wait to hear from you…

Make Me A Dissentian

Writing-More Personal Than I Could Have Ever Imagined

At this point in my work, I have begun considering the very real prospect of others entering the world I am creating.  It is fair to say, it’s scary!  I never envisaged how personal this was, or how vulnerable I would feel at the thought of putting my story ‘out there.’ Or maybe I have considered this, somewhere deep inside my subconscious, which would explain why I’ve never done it before.

Having now asked someone to look over my story so far, the thought of that person joining me in my world, is both exciting and frightening. Yet I have no idea why I feel this way. I assume it could be the prospect of being judged; perhaps this person won’t like my work. Or maybe it’s because they might see me differently. Whatever it is, seems to make me feel exposed.

That said, I want feedback, and I want to know if my story is coming across to others in the way I have intended. What is certain, is that I hadn’t realised how just how difficult writing a novel was going to be, and how much there was to consider. Therefore, I am wondering how well it conveys what I have imagined.

Now, all of this seems to paint the picture that I am lacking in confidence in my own ability to write my story.  Personally, I still don’t think that is true. I am certain that I can be a great storyteller, and that I can definitely craft a good book. But by doing so, I am now opening up a part of me that nobody has ever seen before…

How could that be anything other than frightening?