I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
I guess all authors who know about it, subscribe to google alerts. You enter your name or the subject you are interested in and once a day Google will tell you if they have found anything new that has been posted about you.
Ping! I got one this lunchtime. Except it’s not about me. It’s incredibly flattering that people are putting up profiles of me, but they all come from one posting that I can’t change and as these profiles disseminate through the web, feeding off each other, they get it a little bit more wrong on each new site.
They insist on calling me the children’s author, Hugh Rayner. I haven’t been Hugh since I was three months old. My name got so confusing, I changed it by deed poll over 20 years ago. No one knows who Hugh Rayner is!
Also, the profile, which has been gleaned from various sites, is of a person I vaguely was and the work I did about ten years ago.
I guess this is going on all around the world about all sorts of people. Computers putting together profiles about people they know nothing about. Or am I being a bit self-obsessive?
Ping goes the email and I’ve a synopsis to write. That should put the big project off for a little while. Better go and make that cup of coffee.
This morning… my desk is clear! I have a huge new project about to start and I’m looking for ways to put it off for another day. It’s been in the pipeline for over two years now. I’ve reached the point when I have to get down to it. (In case you are wondering, it’s another eight book early reader series.)
But my desk isn’t clear, not in a practical sense. In fact it is a complete mess and needs tidying up in a big way – that should waste some time after I’ve finished wasting time writing this. My intray is piled high – I’m sure there is a lot to attend to there. My son will probably need picking up from school later, I can pick up some brownie points if I volunteer.
Maybe my website needs tinkering with? Shame my mother’s hospital appointment is tomorrow, that would have broken up the day, guilt free.
Many of my FaceBook friends are writers. When I visit the site, I’m always amazed at how much they post about the work they are about to do – in the next five minutes – when they have just finished doing something mundane first. If they spent half the time they spend on FaceBook on actually writing, they would achieve so much. I think this, smile smugly to myself and then go and look for something to waste a bit more of my own time on. I’m sure my website needs tinkering with.
I’ve just now remembered that A friend of mine and I talked about doing a book on displacement activity – unfortunately we found lots of other things to do instead. I just found the file we drew up of 100 things to do instead of work. So, rather than get on with some real work, I emailed her about it. Will she let me post the list on my blog? There that’s something to waste a few moments thinking about. Maybe I could waste a few moments finding a photo to make this entry a bit more interesting. that would waste a few minutes.
Perfect! I found this scrawled on a desk in the Imperial College lecture theatre. Someone wasn’t paying attention when they drew this!
Well, I really should get on with it now. Maybe I’ll go and make another cup of coffee first.
Oh dear, I’ve been hoping that this would all go away and we would come to our senses, but it seems that I’m going to have to get myself a certificate to prove I’m not a paedophile so that I can still visit schools.
Looking at the the ISA website I found the glaring loophole within thirty seconds.
Apparently, children in schools need protecting from children’s authors, who are accompanied at all times and work with groups of up to 300 at a time.
Those who actually want to harm children do not need to register – indeed it is in their interest not to. If they have a dodgy past they will become a barred person and then will break the law by entering Specific Places and carrying out Specific Activities. However, if they are not checked, they are free to enter private and domestic places and employment with impunity.
Where does 99% of all the damage to children occur? In the home of course, in domestic environments. So the overpaid, quango nonsense is powerless in the one place that real harm to children occurs. The scheme is nothing but a cash-raising enterprise – certainly in the case of visiting authors and those who would pass on their experience and expertise. It’s a tax on those who work with children. Sit back and watch as volunteers disappear. It is totally demeaning to go cap in hand to a faceless organisation and ask to be proved a nice person. Where will the youth workers, Arkelas and Brown Owls come from now?
And what message are we teaching our children? Everyone is a paedophile until proven innocent. This has turned the whole basis of our legal system upside down.
Watch the world of children and adults move further apart. Parents will soon be excluded from entering school premises. They pretty well are already, dropping their children off at the barbed wire security gates under the watchful eye of the surveillance camera. Parents only ever need to talk to schools through the gate intercom. No wonder they never turn up for parent’s evenings.
When do adults and children ever meet? How are children supposed to know what they are meant to grow up to be, if all the good people stay away from them in fear of being smeared. Children now are to be feared.
Who now would help a lost child? The irony is that most of us now would stand back and let a kidnapper take a child because we think we would be accused of something if we stepped in to help.
I was asked for a certificate a couple of years ago by a museum. I said I didn’t have one and didn’t see the point as I’d be on public show all day and all the children would be chaperoned by their parents. They hummed and hah-ed but in the end said okay. When I arrived, the two Gents toilets had been reassigned as one for Men and one for Boys! Nothing was said, but what message does that give? The organisers, of course, will come out with the usual guff about insurance and covering themselves, but what they were really saying is that all men and me in particular are a danger to boys, in particular. Notice that it was okay for women to take boys and girls into the toilets with them…
…Oh dear, didn’t we just have a case of arrests of a nursery nurse up to no good? Wasn’t she a woman? She would have been checked too. Fat lot of good that did! Anyone wanting to harm children will do so. Checks and laws won’t stop them. The laws will only create division in society. Except that children don’t count as society. They are just a nuisance that have to be put up with and hidden away until they are old enough to enter adult society.
I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and pay – I’m fixed up to do loads of visits next year.
I’m not being a good blogger! All this came about from an article in Guardian. It’s great that Philip Pullman stand sup for us like this. Most children’s authors earn below the minimum wage from their writing, so school visiting is often the major part of their income. They will meekly sign up and be done with it.
I’m so used to being treated with suspicion in schools now that it comes as a surprise to be trusted. Last year I went to a school where I was met and showed around the school, visiting all the classes one by one, by two children. The school were so friendly and relaxed, that I mentioned it to them as being unusual. “But, you’re our honoured guest!” they said in surprise. “We invited you!”
One more spread to go on my Crab story, Nip! Nip!
My very first books were only fourteen sentences long. Nip! Nip! is only 41 words long. When my first books came out, I was often told how clever I was to be able to write such short stories. I’d not thought that was supposed to be difficult. In those days I suppose I thought that you start small and learn to write longer. Many people think that you write children’s books and then grow up to write adult books. (It doesn’t work like that.)
When I was told that it was hard to write short, I found I couldn’t do it anymore. Only in the last four years have I got back into the swing through a book I did called Cat and Dog, that had no words at all. Then I did a couple of stories that fitted into a Phonics regime, so I only had a few letters of the alphabet to play with – S A T P I N M D – for example. Writing a story like that is a bit like doing a sudoku puzzle or carving a walrus tusk. The story is in there already, you have to work at it until you find it.
Now that I’m older and wiser, also know that waiting around for inspiration is a waste of time. The secret is to just get down and do the work. Working hard at a problem gives inspiration a chance to drop by. Sitting on the beach drinking beer only gives you sunburn and a hangover. There is no substitute for getting out a pencil and paper and working out a problem.
The local press is quite amazing. We had a small literary festival in town last week. The Dean Heritage Centre decided to join in and I’ve lent them some artwork for their display of local authors work.
The local paper accompanied an article about the exhibition with a picture of the Ginger Ninja cover and a photo, taken from my website, of me building my studio. It read as though I was building it now.
While shopping, Several people have given me little smiles and nods. The lady in the bank asked how the building was going. When I understood what she meant, I had to explain to her that it has been built for the last three years!
The doorbell rang this morning and the chirpy post lady had a packet for me. “Have a nice day!” she said. It was from my publishers. I couldn’t think what it might be. probably some more copies of the re-jacketed Animal Cracker books I did with Rose Impey.
But no! First copies of Monster Boy. I’ve been working on this series for the last year. The artwork has been a quite technical and has been quite exhausting. (I don’t suppose all the school visits have anything to do with that!)
Any way. I’m thrilled. They look really great. I’m just about to phone Sara, my Editor and tell her. Hardbacks due out in August.
My mother lives with us, in her own part of the house which I pretty much built myself. Her shower pump has stopped working, so yesterday I went to make a list of things to get so I could put the new one in. This time I was going to do it properly and get the cold water connected to the low pressure feed from the attic. I pushed one of the old pump’s connectors to one side to get a better look and it snapped! Hot water began spraying all over the floor.
Panic seizes the brain. I could not think where to turn the water off. Slowly it came back to me. the red handle in the airing cupboard. So, I averted that crisis. While mopping up, I realised I would have to get on with the job. I went off to get the parts and got to work.
Using a blow torch in a confined space is not a good idea. The confined space was essentially a chimney, so I couldn’t get one of the joints hot enough to melt the solder. By the time I realised I should get an old-fashioned compression joint – one you do with spanners – the shops were shut.
Also, by this stage, I realised that the pipe that I thought was the low pressure feed, was in fact the same mains pipe I’d used before. The whole afternoon had been a waste of time. I was convinced there was a low pressure pipe hiding under the floor boards, but it now seems there isn’t.
My simple job has now turned into a major bathroom refit. I have to rip off the side wall of the shower so I can bring a new pipe down from the attic. That means rebuilding the whole vanity unit redecorating.
Not what I had set out to do. It never rains but it pours!
I disturbed a hornet’s nest yesterday. I gave a talk over the weekend about creative organisation and was explaining how the left and right sides of the brain work differently. The left side deals in order and language. The right side is a bit airy-fairy and deals with the world in a wider, looser way. The right side takes everything in, decides what is important and then passes it over for the left side to organise and make sense. That is a very crude description.
One of my audience had had a couple of small strokes and wondered how that might affect their creativity. They told me there were some words that they just could not remember. This led into a discussion about left and right-handedness. Counter-intuitively, the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa. We then wondered if right-brained thinkers might be more left-handed than the norm.
Yesterday I asked my FaceBook friends how many were left-handed, as most of my FaceBook friends are writers or illustrators. There was no statistical anomally in the results – If I’d thought about it more I would have known that.
However, I was not ready for the tirade of abuse that came back about left-handed people! My friends are intelligent writers and thinkers, so I assume that they were being mostly ironical, but a base hatred of all things left-handed was very evident.
My sister is left-handed, so I grew up with it as an everyday occurrence and learned all about her difficulties with scissors and clothes’ irons and other tools that are made for right-handers. I read on one forum yesterday, how someone said they hated sitting next to left-handers because their writing arms bumped into each other. The obvious answer is to change places! I remember fondly sitting next to a left-hander, who was the object of my affections when I was about six. We both had long pencils with walking stick ends – they looked like candy canes – the hooks entwined as we wrote. I was most upset when the teacher made us swap places. I suppose I was always a romantic.
Yesterday I was reminded that the word sinister comes directly from the latin word for left and that left-handers were often considered to be witches. One of my friends, assuming I was left-handed for asking the question, wondered why it hadn’t been beaten out of me at an early age! I guess this must happen. I found a few forums with concerned mothers asking how to make their left-handed children right-handed. In the past, left-handers had their arms tied up behind their backs to force them to use their right arms. My Grandmother had a little board tied around her neck to let everyone know that she was a Welsh speaker in the times when they tried to beat the language out of children and make them speak English. It’s the same thing.
You would think by now that we understand everything about human nature and have become more accepting, but it seems we are hard-wired to go along with the norm. Anything that deviates is deviant – obvious. I won’t mention that I grew up with bright red hair – lucky for me it turned very dark as I got older.
Alright, I will mention it as I’m frequently shocked at the way “Gingers” are abused on the TV and in the press. It doesn’t seem to happen in other countries. Americans are amazed at the way we treat ginger hair. I think it’s a race memory hatred of the Vikings. Red-heads are the only people you can legally be nasty to nowadays. When the UK had it’s enormous influx of immigrants in the 60s and 70s red-heads were forgotten and had a quiet time as we told jokes about, and were generally hostile to, the Pakistanis, West Indians and the Irish. But now it’s against the law to tell those jokes or show any animosity to other races, so tough luck on Gingers – they are fair game again – and, so it would seem, are the sinister ones amongst us.
I’ve had my lovely niece and her husband and brand new baby staying over the weekend. We got talking about books and reading last night and my niece seemed a little surprised that now was the perfect time to start reading. Bookstart has obviously made a huge impression on her so far!
Of course a baby isn’t going to understand the story, but it is going to learn about that special time of closeness and the tone of voice and, as the baby grows into a toddler it will associate words and pictures with books and nice times with Mum or Dad or who ever is close to read to them.
If you do one thing towards your child’s education, read them stories every night. A TV in their bedroom or story tape sand CDs cannot do the same job. TVs stimulate children and keep them awake. There is no discussion after a TV programme – there is no one to explain difficult words or ideas, TV zips them on to the next bit of entertainment, keeping them awake. Children need their sleep. If your child wants a TV in their room the answer is simple. NO! (You are allowed to say no to children – in fact it is your job to say no and set boundaries. Children love to know what the rules are.)
A child who has never been read to turns up at school when they are five or so, not knowing which way up to hold a book or how a book works. Yes, this still goes on, year after year. Compared to the child who has been read to for five years, that child has five years of learning to catch up on. No wonder some children slip through the net and get through school without learning to read. The consequences for them and society are disastrous. The prisons are full of children that grew up unable to read. It is the most common denominator in prison.
Children love routine. A story at bedtime is the best way to calm them down ready to go to sleep. Ten minutes spent reading a story is worth it. Otherwise you will spend half an hour chasing them around shouting at them to be quiet and go to sleep.
Children copy their parents. If they see you reading, they will read too. If there are no books or magazines or written texts in the house, children don’t know what to make of the written word when they finally meet books – words are not part of their culture. School then only exists to impose this discipline upon them rather than to teach them and open up the world of the written word that the rest of us live by every day.
Remember: If you only ever do one thing for your child – read them a story every night. Your actions will pay untold dividends.