This is an unusual blog post, but a story I want to share because of how powerfully it has affected me.
The fifth book I’m writing is called LION. People often ask where the ideas for my stories come from. With LION, the protagonist himself appeared, fully formed inside my head. Lion talked incessantly to me all about his theories on life, his family and his dog, Patch. This has never happened to me before and is quite a difficult thing to explain. At the time I was still working on Darna’s Sky and had to tell Lion to be quiet and wait his turn! When I was ready to listen, Lion came back and I began to realise he had ‘chosen me’ to talk to and that he was unable to talk to anyone else outside his family.
This made me remember a documentary I had watched, many years ago, about children who were mute. I started reading up on something called Selective Mutism (SM) and realised that this is what Lion had. It is best described as a 'phobia of talking.'
Lion, by the way, is his nickname, given to him by his sister, Brianne who describes his hair like a dandelion clock. His real name is Leroy. This, I now know, is a French name, Le Roi - meaning The King.
The book formed and I redrafted, but having no personal experience of SM, I set about seeking some sensitivity readers by contacting SMiRA. Through this Donna Redrup got in touch, telling me all about her son, James, who was a huge animal fan, but particularly fond of lions.
James had struggled with SM all through his childhood and sadly died very unexpectedly from Sudden Onset Leukaemia just before his 25th birthday. James had bought tickets for his whole family to see The Lion King for his birthday, which was on the day after he died. James had started to write a children’s book about SM. Writing a book to increase understanding and awareness of SM was something he talked about wanting to do for many years.
I’m not religious, but my mind is not closed. There are many things in this wondrous world that I cannot explain but I still feel. Donna believes that James is helping me make LION into something that will help bring the understanding of SM to a wider audience. After reading the current draft of the book she saw many comparisons between her son and Lion. I’m humbled that Donna and her family have gained comfort and support knowing that this book is being created, particularly as they approach the anniversary of James’ death.
I don’t know what I believe, all I can do is write the story to the best of my ability, dedicate it to James and hope that it helps others.
James Redrup 4 November 1989 - 3 November 2014
I'm very pleased to be doing a school visit to Foxdell Junior School in Luton on Tuesday. This is especially exciting as the book I'm drafting at the moment, called Lion, is set in Luton during a heatwave. Can't wait to tell the kids at the school that.
The following week I have a workshop with the Harpenden Writers Group. It's much more unusual for me to run something with adults, but it's always a very fulfilling thing to do. I'm looking forward to sharing my story and getting all my fellow creatives to have some fun with words.
On the 13th October I'm one of the guest authors at Fabula Festival in London. Lots of different book related events are happening across the borough between 2-13 October. My creative writing workshop is taking place at 12.30 on Sunday 13 October at Redbridge Library. If you want to find out more about this and perhaps book a FREE ticket please click on the link: Fabula Festival
The Fabula Festival is a pretty big deal and I'm thrilled to be taking part. I'll be appearing alongside names such as Sufiya Ahmed, Nadia Shireen and David Litchfield.
I've a Chatterbooks visit at Welwyn Garden City Library in November and I'm waiting to hear back from a few other schools regarding author visits.
The other huge event that I'm up to my eyes in helping to organise is the SCBWI Annual Conference. There are still some tickets left if you want to book. If you're a budding children's author or illustrator or have any interest in thinking about this as a career I can't recommend the conference enough. You don't have to be a member to come along. It's not cheap, but it will be money well spent, I guarantee it. This year the conference is on 2-3 November and as usual is held at the University Campus in Winchester. If you want to find out more click here: SCBWI BI Conference
As if all of that isn't enough I'm also now organising the Industry Insider events for SCBWI BI and am hoping to pull off a slush pile challenge webinar. Luckily I have fellow SCBWI member and picture book author Rashmi Sirdeshpande to share the load (and the fun).
Who doesn't like a bit of name dropping? Here I am with my brand new best friend, Jo Cotterill, author of fantastic books such as A Library of Lemons, Jelly, Looking for the Stars and let's not forget our comic book hero - Electrigirl!
One of the massive bonuses of being a Children's Author is having the opportunity to meet other Children's Authors. We are all in a special club and we do get to hang out with each other. Sometimes we meet really famous ones like Jo and get super-excited about it! The club, just in case you never ever read my blogs is called The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - British Isles. We call it Scooby for short.
Jo was running a masterclass on the emotional arc of characters, which was brilliant. She was really humble and admits to still be learning in her own skill as a writer. I found everything she said a huge reassurance for my own writing and it was wonderful to meet her.
It's on days like Saturday when I remember what a privilege it is to be a Children's Author and a member/volunteer of such a unique and fantastic organisation that is SCBWI. Totally exhausting and yet magnificent!
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