Help your child to be a success



Being is with little kids is a pure blast! I really mean that. I also love watching other folks have experiences with these little folks too. It is soooooooooooo entertaining because I can smell ‘little kid fear’ at a hundred yards. Like a starving wolf getting a sniff of congealed pizza, I sniff it out everywhere. It’s always the eyes of the adult that gives ‘little kid fear’ away.

Let me explain, ‘little kid fear’ is when you take a child somewhere maybe on a train or in a restaurant and you are slightly worried how your little angel is going to act. I use trains and restaurants because they are my favourite place for watching people with little kids.

This is what I see a lot of on trains. People get on with a little kid and I can tell by the things that they say to the child that they think that just being on the train is going to fascinate the said child for the whole journey. After about one minute, the child is no longer excited by this as basically it is just sitting in a chair looking out at fields. We have to see things as they see them.

It’s the same with restaurants, sitting at a chair eating is no different to a little kid from eating at home, it doesn’t matter how tasty the food is, the child doesn’t really care that much when they are waiting for it arrive or they have finished.

I know that to many people this is all common sense but I also understand that to many puzzled folks it is not and that is why I am writing about it. However, there is a simple trick that helps on trains and in restaurants and that is to be armed with some stories.

You may snort and shake your head but most kids love stories. When my son was little I never went anywhere without a book of stories and a pile of cds in the car. It may be a faff to have to sit reading a story while you are waiting for your meal to arrive but at least your child will most likely sit like a model citizen if you have got them hanging on every word.

While you are eating, you can talk about the story. Ask your child if they liked the main character and if not, why not. Ask them if they would like to do what the character did. You get the idea, have a good yak about what happened in the tale. Basically, if little kids are part of a conversation they will respond and enjoy it. This usually means good behaviour.

Meanwhile, if you are short of a place to get some great stories from, you should go to Alfie Dog Fiction where I’m the featured writer at the moment.


Filed under Children's Books, For children, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Parenting

6 Great Ways To Cheer Yourself Up This Hallowe’en.

On October 19th, my lovely friend Ross Mountney wrote a post about keeping ourselves cheery during the darker months.  She then asked if anyone had any other ideas for keeping the dark weather grumps at bay. Of course we do. However, they are our own special brand. We hope they raise a smile, if not, please complain to the government, not us, as they are to blame for a lot.

Beauty treatments are a must

It's imperative that you keep your hands looking good during the colder months.

It’s imperative that you keep your hands looking good during the colder months.

Always dress your best

People visit more during the dark nights so make sure that you are always ready to receive visitors and make an impression.

People visit more during the dark nights so make sure that you are always ready to receive visitors and make an impression.

Keep your home looking cheery and welcoming

A well thought out display can transform a room.

A well thought out display can transform a room.

Read some uplifting literature

A light read will help you to sleep.

A light read will help you to sleep.

Get out to new and interesting places


Graveyards offer stimulating finds like this tree stump bursting with toadstools.

Graveyards offer stimulating finds like this tree stump bursting with toadstools.

Have a hound of a time

Find a suitable friend to keep you happy.

Find a suitable friend to keep you happy.


Filed under Spooky fun

Why we need to develop creative intelligence in education

Originally posted on Ross Mountney's Notebook:

I had a surprise visit from friend and artist Bob and Roberta Smith the other day.

The artwork of Bob and Roberta Smith

We were connected in our childhoods but rarely get to meet these days living in different places.

It’s a shame because we have a common quest; our desire to get people to understand the importance of creativity in education.

People often respond to that idea with the question ‘What use is painting pictures in the world of employment?’ as if that were the only interpretation of creativity. It also misses the point; creativity isn’t restricted to painting and drawing, for goodness sake!

Creativity is primarily about thinkingcreative thinking. Intelligent creative thinking.

Intelligent creative thinking is what enables us to lead our lives on a day to day basis.

Intelligent creative thinking enables us to find solutions, solve problems, rise to challenges and develop as people.

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Creative Child Poverty

I read about child poverty every time I see a headline and it never fails to worry me. However, there is a different type of poverty that is rife and I feel that it is going to get worse as it seems that if something does not make a profit, it is worthless these days. I am, off course, referring to creativity.

I will be honest; if it was not for creative activities a huge part of my life would be colourless. Creativity keeps me going; it gives me hope and satisfaction and it keeps me company when I feel lonely or even isolated. It wakes me up at 5.30 a.m. every morning and makes me get out of bed whatever the weather. I honestly do not know what I would do without it.

This is not about me though; it is about our children – the children of our country – the children of our world. In other words, it is about tomorrow’s scientists, entrepreneurs, captains of industry, actors and writers. All of these professions need creativity and yet it seems to be so lowly valued.

cartoon children

I’m not an expert, and this is just my opinion, but as I read about hundreds of thousands of teenagers having to resit their English GCSE, sometimes more than once, I have to wonder what is going wrong. When I read a school librarian’s blog and she states that primary school timetables are often so tight that certain classes do not have 20 minutes to spare to visit the school library, I realise what it is. Many of these children are victims of creative poverty.

It may be that their parents before them have suffered the same and so they grow up in homes that are starved of creative thinking. When the children get to school the teachers are as heavily corseted as a Victorian lady with prescribed aims and objectives that they don’t have the freedom to promote creative thinking.

If only primary schools could be allowed to nurture a passion in children for reading and writing by encouraging creativity all the way through the timetable, instead of worrying about constantly ticking boxes.

If only teachers could be allowed to be truly creative and be permitted to engage this passion, I feel it would pay off at a later date with the children.

If only…


Filed under Education

Why we need to get kids into Shakespeare in Primary School

We at Loony Literature headed up to Hull Truck Theatre last week to see the RSC perform The Famous Victories of Henry V – this is a play, for kids, that brings together all the exciting moments of three plays – Henry IV parts I and II and Henry V.

We need more of this

Basically, we need more of this – it is that simple. We have mentioned before that some teenagers can spend more than three years getting a GSCE grade C in English Language which includes a Shakespeare play. This is because they study it for two years at school but if do not get a C or above, they have to do it again.

We have also said to anyone who will listen that kids need to be introduced in a fun manner to Shakespeare in primary school not in secondary school. By the time they study a play at secondary school they need to be relaxed about The Bard. The Famous Victories of Henry V by the RSC was everything and more than we could have wished for.

Simon Yadoo as Sir John Falstaff in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

Simon Yadoo as Sir John Falstaff in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

The cast was made up of young actors apart from the extra talented  Simon Yadoo who played Falstaff/Henry V. The energy of the players was electric as the young actors went among the audience before the play started making sure that they knew what the plot was.

The name of the game at this event was audience participation – those actors worked that audience as if they were back in Elizabethan England. There were props handed out to some of the children and they had to give them to certain characters during the play.

The audience were taught a song about Falstaff’s wine which everyone sang with vigour while waving their arms about. This was obviously a winner as a group of girls sang it loudly in the lavatory after the performance.

A young boy of about eight sat behind us and he had to stand up and shout. He was truly earnest and we were certain that that little boy would never forget that moment all his life. His eyes showed that.

We want them to laugh until their sides ache

The RSC have also taken this production into some schools and we need more of this for our country’s children. Shakespeare is meant to be performed; this is the second item that we need for kids. We need them to experience crafted actors, like Martin Bassindale who played Henry V, bringing the characters to life. We want them to laugh until their sides ache like they did at this production when Mistress Quickly, played by Daniel Abbott, shook his bosom at them.

Dale Mathurin as John, Martin Bassindale as Prince Hall, Daniel Abbott as Mistress Quickly and Nicholas Gerard-Martin as Dericke in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

Dale Mathurin as John, Martin Bassindale as Prince Hall, Daniel Abbott as Mistress Quickly and Nicholas Gerard-Martin as Dericke in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

When kids have experienced this they will begin to understand what the Bard is all about. One teacher said that before the RSC visited their school, they used to have the ‘collective groan’ when Shakespeare was mentioned but now there was excitement in the air.

Schools need to go to more theatre trips and more theatre companies need to be working with them, hand in hand. We don’t only want the kids of our country being introduced to Shakespeare in this manner, we want them to see Frankenstein making his monster and Dr Jekyll transforming into Mr Hyde.

We have a world famous literary heritage

As with everything, a major problem is budget. We are not experts on these matters but surely putting money into the problem when kids are in primary school would balance out all those English GSCEs that teenagers are resitting around the country. We are talking hundreds of thousands of resits here, not a mere few.

We have a world famous literary heritage and it is only when we make our kids proud of it will the level of GCSE resits drop.


Filed under Education, Exciting Excursions, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Inspiration and Us, Shakespeare Diary, theatre in education

Writing – Make your romance specific

Fancy writing a romance but all you keep coming up with is boy works in office and meets girl? You could try the following exercise to make your romance specific. Take a famous couple from history and write about them. The best way to do this is to research them first so that you know who they are, how they met and what happened to them.


You have to fill in the details

If at this point, you think that you would just be writing a piece of history, what you have to remember is that with most peoples’ relationships we only have the bare bones of it no matter how famous they were. This means that when important things happened between them, you have to imagine what went on and fill in the details.

Mary Shelley

For instance, you could write about Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy. Mary is the mother of science fiction because she wrote ‘Frankenstein’ and Shelley is one of our most loved poets. He was also a member of the aristocracy. When we read about their courtship and their life together, it is far more interesting than many novels. Even though we have lots of information on them and their travels we have to fill in what happened when they were alone together and that is where the fiction writer’s imagination comes to life. We have to become Mary when she met Percy and ran away with him. In other words, you can take your own personal feelings and fuse it with historical fact to reach authenticity with your writing.

Happy Writing.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us

Writing – What to do when you’re sick to death of your manuscript

One of the many things that writers have in common is that when they have been working on a manuscript for a while, they get to the stage that just looking at it sends them checking their emails, reading the daily horoscope or making yet another cup of coffee. Sounds familiar? If it doesn’t, this is not for you and what is more, I don’t like you either. (Only joking.)

Girl with typewriter

I really don’t think anything can truly relieve the weary author of manuscriptitis and what is more doctors are truly useless if you approach them with it – I know, I have tried. However, I have three tips that might take a little of the pain away.

Visiting doctor

Put a miserly timer on how long you will work on it. This truly does help. If you think that you will spend all Saturday afternoon editing away, you may find that a huge amount of that time is spent staring at it, looking on Amazon or sending very long emails to your friends. However, if you give yourself one hour a day and when your time is up, you are not allowed to do any more – you will work for an hour. It is amazing how much you can get done in one hour that does not have self-imposed interruptions.

An old clock

Work out exactly what you are going to do before your hour starts. If you are really sick of your manuscript, you can waste an hour wondering what your next step should be. Making a checklist at this stage is vital. So for instance, instead of reading your manuscript yet again and generally just looking over it, you will be looking for something specific. This means that you have one hour only to check that you have enough conflict in each scene or whatever you wish to grind away at. You won’t get through the whole manuscript in one hour but what you do get through will be purely focussed and you can continue with that task in your hourly allotment until you have completed it. Continue in this way working through your checklist.

old manuscript

Work from a printed up copy. There are two reasons why this works. One is that your mind sees it as a change from peering at the computer screen and so welcomes it. It also flings mistakes at you that, for some reason, do not seem so apparent on the screen. This are not just clumsy typos either, you will probably be able to see where you have been telling instead of showing and also how you can elaborate on the senses of your character.

Hope this helps. Happy writing.


Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us

Writing – Making sure That Your Pongs Stand Out

When we write narrative, it is important that we embrace all the senses. Smell often gets overlooked because it is easy to forget that as our characters go about their adventures that certain whiffs will travel up their snitches whether they like it or not. To get you started, I want you to think about how when we go into public lavatories, we sometimes wrinkle our noses up because someone has been in before us and left a pungent smell or has not flushed properly. Yes, even modern tales have smells in them.

Public Urinals

If you are writing a historical piece, you have won the Lottery because in the Middle Ages virtually everywhere carried an unpleasant odour. Think about it, it must have been totally pongy because most rubbish ended up in the streets. If we drop something down the sides of a bin and it is not noticed, it smells dreadfully within days, multiply that reek by about fifty and you may be near the mark.

Also, if a butcher killed an animal and sold the meat, he would not discreetly and hygienically get rid of the guts, he would fling it out in the street. Over weeks and months of that practise, the smell must have been putrid.

As for the lavatories, well we know that the town council in London passed a law to try to clean up the streets. This was to have public conveniences built over the river Fleet. This meant that people travelling under the bridge, for instance the boatman, had a constant eyeful of bare buttocks and if they were unlucky much more.


Cor Blimey! I bet there was a whiff under that lot.

Back in the 14th century folks built loos in strange places and it often landed them in court. In 1321, Thomas Wytte and William Hockele were up before the bench for building a toilet in Ebbgate Lane which was supposed to be a public right of way. Apparently, the lavatories projected from the walls of houses so that human waste fell onto the heads of the people who were innocently walking along that stretch of public highway. Mind you, the fact that they were using loos meant that they were the sophisticates of the day, not everyone bothered with them. In fact, many shared rooms with animals and behaved like them.

So get sniffing up while you write, it may produce some results that make you proud.

Happy writing.

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Filed under Creative Writing, History, Inspiration and Us

Finding Inspiration – Cox and Box – Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy

Loony Literature headed for Scarborough yesterday in an attempt to find inspiration for both actors, directors and writers alike. Did we find it? We certainly did in a performance of ‘Cox and Box, Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy’ at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. In order for you to see how this play is inspirational, we need to explain a little bit about it.

1866 Cox and Box

If we travel back in time to 1866, we find a one act comic opera called Cox and Box by Arthur Sullivan. The basic premise of the plot being that a cheeky landlord lets the same room out to two lodgers. He is able to do this because one works during the day and one works during the night. When one of them has a day off, they clash and tempers flare.

The creators of Cox and Box – Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy adapted the first act and added a sequel to it. In other words, they have used an old piece as a springboard to create something else. Cox is an apprentice hatter who works by day and Box is a printer who works by night. The landlord this time however, is a landlady who is a chap in drag. Both Cox and Box also cross dress as they are played by two females.

Cox and Box, Mrs Bouncer's Legacy

The first act is particularly interesting for anyone who acts or wants to act. It is played out very much as it would have been when it was originally performed. A piano player is on the side of the stage and the blocking works in sequence with the music. This is a must see for would be actors and hopeful directors alike. It is very different from modern theatre and is also helpful if you want to put plays on for children.

The second act is what arose after Chris Monks and Richard Atkinson were inspired by the original one act script. It is set 150 years later in the same room. A recently elected government has repatriated all migrant workers. Twin sisters, Urszula and Krystyna are secretly sharing a room – the very same one – in a run down Bed and Breakfast where their landlord is a member of the UZIP party.

The upshot of this is that if you are seeking inspiration for a play you could find something old and add a modern satirical part to it and hey presto – you could have a show.

When we see the second act, we realise how talented the performers are as they change roles so a huge cheer for Lara Stubbs, Emilia Williams and Darren Southworth.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us

Who’s Not In School?

Who’s Not in School is a new picture book written by Ross Mountney, illustrated by James Robinson and published by Bird’s Nest Books. The picture book is unusual as it is about Home Education and as far as I am aware there are not many other picture books which cover this subject, if any.

Who's Not In School

Ross is to Home Education what Mrs Beeton was to household management and has published two other books on the subject, ‘Learning Without School’ and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. The illustrator, James Robinson is a talented eighteen year old who was Home Educated and it is the first book out with new publishers, Bird’s Nest Books.

Home Education is one of those subjects which tends to cause prejudice through ignorance and it is a shame became families all over the world are successfully educating their children themselves. Luckily, Ross is flying the flag for the subject and making sure that folks know the truth about it. Her memoir, A Funny Kind of Education is a charming, page turner that is not out of place besides other life adventure books like Peter Mayle’s, A Year in Provence. Anyone reading that will soon see the merits of Home Education and be enchanted at the same time.

A Funny Kind of Education

Who’s Not At School is Ross’s latest book to help the world understand that children do not have to go to school to be educated. It’s out today, May 27th 2015 and if you are interested you should have a peek.  Just follow the link.


Filed under About Loony Literature