It seems as though my first self-published title is in fact going to be The Ginger Ninja, which has been out of print for a few years now. I’ve been working on bringing it back to life for the last few weeks.
I’d felt that it had had it’s day and put it behind me, but many children (and adults) still ask me about it. Last year I visited Headfield Junior School in Dewsbury and was quite surprised and overcome by the warmth of feeling that the children and the school had for Ginger. They weren’t even aware that it was out of print. In fact hey trawled ebay to get more copies, so I decided to republish it myself and see what happens.
The Ginger Ninja is very important to me. My fabulous editor, Fiona Kenshole, taught me how to write in one astonishing editing session on the Ginger Ninja, as she had previously taught me to illustrate in one amazing session on Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm series.
Writing the book was a cathartic experience. I plumbed the darkest depths of my childhood and came up with a scarily dark idea. Fiona made me realise that the message I wanted to expound was best put across in a lighter way, that let the reader draw their own conclusions. I remember her crossing out paragraphs that meant so much to me at the time. “Preaching!” she would say. “You’re on your soapbox again!” she wailed. That day she taught me that no one likes a preacher unless they are confirming their own ingrained prejudices. We learn through subtle suggestion and osmosis.
I suppose it’s the crux of “show, don’t tell“, that piece of advice that is given to all writers, that is so difficult to explain. If you don’t get it, it’s because you’ve got your blinkers on and you’re never going to get it until you take them off.
I also learned how to perform stories with The Ginger Ninja. The moment when Ginger understands that moral strength comes from within is a magical experience for me every time I tell the story. If everything goes well, the room becomes dead silent and I feel a wave of expectation pouring off the audience – something urges me to pause and pause, soaking up the moment. When Ginger finally understands, the release of tension from the audience is quite extraordinary – eyes sparkle and I know I have everyone with me, even the moody kid at the back who says he hates stories! The rest of the story is a romp to the finish and all the children join in with me, standing up to the bully, Tiddles. You can actually see them growing, puffing out their chests and following me, in their imaginations, as we chase the bullies out of the playground.
There have been a few times when this moment has been ruined. Sometimes it’s Dinner Ladies wanting to set up tables, other times phones ring or kids come barging in with messages for Tracy to come to her music lesson. Once, half the audience got up and left to catch the bus for their swimming lesson! When this happens I am left emotionally drained, having gone through the dark part of the story and not being allowed to reach it’s glorious conclusion properly.
So, I have proofs on their way to me. Ginger is read by much younger children than I originally had in mind, so I’ve made the type and the size of the book a fraction larger. I hope that they’ll be great. I’ll keep you informed.
I know many people have fond memories of Ginger and they always want to tell me about them, so please feel free to add yours by clicking “to make a comment” line below.You can buy signed copies here.
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