Category Archives: For Teens

My Frankenstein Diary 10 – How Do I Promote My Book?

Frankenstein‘s Revenge cover for Kindle.

 

Okay, so you’ve written a book but that’s not the end – it is actually the beginning of a new part of the book’s journey.  How the heck do you promote your little baby?  I have just published “Frankenstein’s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel.”  It is a ghoulish comedy written to promote awareness of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.  It is also written to encourage children to write, act, make sets and film.  If I had approached literary agents or publishers to represent or publish this manuscript, I would have received a distinct “no” simply because it is a play.  In fact, I think quite a few literary agents and publishers have “no plays” written in their information.  This has not stopped me because with all my projects, I look at the long term payback.  I think over the years Frankenstein’s Revenge will have slow but steady sales.  I also feel that it is the Loony Literature product which offers brand awareness the most.  We have The Laboratory and all the costumes so with “Frankenstein’s Revenge” we can really demonstrate what Loony Literature really stands for.

So how can we promote our books?  For a long time, I worked in sales, public relations and promotions.  My experiences took me from the pubs in Toxteth, Liverpool just after the riots to the yacht racing at Cowes Week.  Sometimes I would be with Royalty or sporting heroes, other times I have been in public houses in notorious areas like Moss Side in Manchester where many feared to go.  It was a deep and intense tapestry of life.  What did it teach me?

On reflection, the main thing it taught me is that you have to care.  At this point, you might be thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?  Of course, I care about my book.”  I’m not talking about your book; I’m talking about your readers, your customers.  If we think of them simply as buyers, eventually they will, quite rightly, see right through us.  When I think back over the years at different projects I have worked on, the most successful ones have always been when my customer’s best interests have been at heart.  In pubs and nightclubs, giving the customers the best night out possible has meant the product has walked out the door.  We hardly needed to promote it, the entertaining experience we offered did that on its own.  When promoting cosmetics and skin care, simply sincerely caring that the customer gains bags of confidence from using the products, means great sales.  I could harp on forever – don’t worry, I won’t.  So now, taking my point into consideration – how do I promote my play?

Initially, I had intended to write a teaching guide to go with it.  It was going to be something which would be used by teachers, home educators and parents/guardians.  However, after receiving letters and messages from teenagers and children who have been inspired by the Loony Literature website, I have decided not to write the guide for sale.  Parts of the play will be acted out by us and put on the website with ideas for writing, acting, making sets and filming.  I am putting it directly into the hands of the young people.  Why?  It all comes back to that caring – every time a child gets the nerve to act, write or do something creative because of Loony Literature, I think my chest is going to burst, it makes me feel so happy and proud.  I cannot think of a better way of promoting Loony Literature or Frankenstein’s Revenge.

Drawing of actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein's ...

Drawing of actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein’s monster in an 1823 theatrical production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So that’s me sorted out for the time being but what about you? Who is your book aimed at?  It is essential that you distinguish who your target is and then focus directly on them.  If you have written a cookery book called “Pork Recipes For Greedy Pigs”, you have to target your audience.  There are millions of vegetarians out there and folks who won’t touch pork for religious reasons.   You have to find the people who love cooking and pork and then truly want to show them new ways to cook pork.  Everybody wants to improve their lives – that is for definite.  You simply have to want to improve the lives of your intended audience.  Once you start thinking along those lines with your book, more ideas will emerge on how to promote it.  It is all to do with setting your mind on the right track.

At Loony Literature we will be working on getting our marketing ready for view this summer.  Read about the ups and downs in My Frankenstein Diary.  Good luck with your marketing ideas – do let me know how you go on.

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Education, For Teens, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Revenge, Inspiration and Us

Giving Fanny Fear the Finger – Part One!

Conjuring up an image of Fanny Fear is important.

Gosh, that sounds downright rude but unfortunately, that is how we have to behave towards Fanny Fear.  Fanny is short for Frances or Francis, it all depends whether your shoulder blade troll is male or female.  My Fanny Fear is female, she has an extended chin which ends at a point and hunched over shoulders as she is always bent over whispering in my ear with a harsh, hissing voice.  Therefore, I will be referring to Fanny Fear as “she” throughout this post.  However, if you have a male Fanny Fear, please feel free to change the pronoun to “he”.  Fanny Fear infiltrates all aspects of our lives.  However, in this post I want to concentrate on how this shapeshifter stops us from writing, acting, filming or painting.

 

Let’s start at the beginning.  Fanny Fear will appear in all disguises to actually prevent you from being creative.  Fanny Fear will appear in your mind dressed as your spouse, your school friends, your mother or your work colleagues.  Fanny Fear is an accomplished mistress of disguise.  You’ve been to see a wonderful film or read a book which gave you shivers down your spine.  It has created a spark in your mind, you have an idea for a poem, short story, novel, film or painting.  Hey, this feels good – you feel uplifted, a shadow starts to cover the feeling.  You listen, can you hear something?  You realise it’s the most popular girl/ boy in the school grinning at you in your head.  All the followers appear and they are laughing.  A feeling of darkness blots out your happy, uplifted feeling as you realise they are all mocking your creative work.  Your shoulders hunch and you slump – better not risk it.

The Nine Muses from Greek mythology. The Sarcophagus at The Louvre.

You get to 45 and are still getting ideas for stories and other creative things – not as many as you used to do because you bat them away like pesky flies.  One day, that creative feeling comes over you again with a renewed strength, it makes you feel good, you want to write your idea down.  You’re a grown up now, you don’t need to worry about your school mates making you look stupid.  You imagine telling your wife/ husband that you’re going to write.  You see them in your head bursting out laughing and saying “what are you wasting your time for, you’ll never get a publisher.”  The dark shadow returns and you give it one last go – you imagine telling your mother.  In your mind, she smiles and says “that’s nice dear – did you get my tablets?”

Okay, that is a worst case scenario with Fanny Fear.  However, I had to do this to point out how Fanny Fear operates.  Fanny Fear is not other people; Fanny Fear is how we imagine other people are going to react concerning our creativity.

A woman searches for inspiration – William Adolphe Bouguereau.

Fanny Fear feeds on the fear of being mocked.  She sits like a piece of fungus in the back of your mind.  Each time she whispers in your ear and conjures up images in your head and you allow it, she grows and flourishes.  She is the plague of creative people.  The good news is that Fanny Fear can be controlled.

In the first instance, I want you to give Fanny Fear, who might simply be a hissing voice, a pain in your stomach or a dark shadow who looms down on you, a face and body.  It is important that you make Fanny Fear as exaggerated as possible, because that is what she is queen of, exaggeration. Okay, we have this troll fixed in your mind, can you see her?  Take her in, look her over slowly –make sure that you recognise her.  It is important that you attach the look to the dark shadowy feeling, pain in your stomach, or whatever she gives you.  Give her a new name if you like.  That is step one, recognising Fanny Fear, once you have given her a look and a name – if you think of her every time you start imagining people mocking the fact that you are being creative – the horrible feeling which is associated with this instantly lessens.

The next bit becomes easier with awareness.  Be alert because Fanny Fear sneaks up on you at all times.  If you are reading a book and stop to think of the wonderful way with language the writer has; Fanny Fear might quietly whisper “Of course, you will never be able to write like that.”  Stop!  Mentally grab the troll by the ear and face up to it.  Tell the piece of fungus, in your mind, that you are working on your writing and one day will be an accomplished writer.  It then helps to mentally give the creature a swift boot up the backside and imagine it flying through the air.  The more you do this on a regular basis, the less Fanny Fear will visit you.

Once you get Fanny Fear under control – give yourself permission to write, act, film, paint etc…  Tell yourself out loud, write it down.  You have permission to write, act, film or paint.

Okay, so what are you wasting time here for?  Get out there and give Fanny Fear some wellie and then get creating!

Have a wonderful time.

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Filed under Creative Writing, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Self Esteem and Literature

A Summer’s Night Shakespearean Dream.

Dogberry painted by Marks

Do events ever happen to you and you feel as if you’ve dreamed it?  Well, that happened to me the other night.  Will (the fourteen year old) and I are doing an exploration of Shakespeare and comedy this summer.  Firstly, we are watching three different versions of “Much Ado About Nothing” to compare and contrast them.  We have watched David Tennant and Catherine Tate at the Wyndham Theatre  ( Turning Teenagers Onto Shakespeare) and also watched Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in Kenneth Branagh’s film version. (Shakespeare – Sexy Or Strangely Funny?)  The other night we went to see an outdoor professional production – or so we thought before we went.

Beatrice

Over the years, I have been to many glorious outdoor theatre productions.  I thought I was going to something similar.  At this point I must say that I think there are times when I am a bit dense.  In the past, all the ones I have been to have been in the grounds of stately homes.  This one was in the grounds of a school but me being me; I simply thought that it was a way of getting people to watch more  theatre.

I had bought my tickets over the internet not chancing buying at the gate, in case of large crowds and a sell out.  My suspicion was aroused when I was given the shooting arrow eyeball look for buying tickets over the internet.  Four ladies, positioned like sentries, guarded the table that held the cash box.  There was a certain amount of disdain in the chief’s voice as she said “so you’ve been on the internet for your tickets.”  All their eyes were on us and I began to feel like a pervert to say the least for buying my tickets in that manner.

Benedick played by Garrick

Once we were inside and passed the bouncers, I was beginning to see what we had actually come to.  We were on a school playing field, the stage was a small platform which resembled a sheep pen but could have been set up for a hanging gallows and there were about sixty people sitting around it eating from their Tupperware boxes.  We set up our chairs and Will mentioned that this really was like going to a performance from the past.

Claudio accuses Hero of being unfaithful to him at their wedding.

I bought a programme from one of the actors and Will and I settled down to look at it.  Instantly, we were approached by a white haired, extremely well spoken lady.  She asked me if she might look at my programme.  So I handed it to her.  She then says “You don’t mind if I go off with it, do you?”  Will and I stared open mouthed as she sauntered off to her seat and started reading our programme.

Ellen Terry’s Beatrice will never be forgotten.

In front of us was an elderly man and his wife tucking into their picnic.  A hairy, round man in an Hawaiian shirt approached the elderly couple.  “George, you need to go up there and thank the town council, the Lions and the Ladies Guild.  Oh and tell them where the toilets are.”  George put his sandwich quickly into his Tupperware box and shouted “What?”  Hawaiian shirt then replied, “You’re the chairman – you have to go up and make a speech.”  George shouted “What do I have to say?”  After a lot of whating and  whoing – it was then suggested that George wrote his speech down.  At this point, I was beginning to wonder if that was part of the entertainment.  George frantically scribbled on his scrap of paper and Hawaiian shirt kept repeating town council, The Lions and toilets.

The actors announced that the play was about to start and Hawaiian shirt bustled back to his seat.  George looked flummoxed, he half stood up, hesitated and then landed heavily back into his seat.  I wondered if his moment of glory had passed.  White haired lady rushed over and handed me back my programme.

This version of the play was set in World War II with Beatrice and Hero as land girls and Dogberry and Verges as the Home Watch.  Incidentally, Beatrice and Hero doubled up as Dogberry and Verges with strong Welsh accents.  The play started and the audience had to sing “We’ll Meet Again.”  Well actually, “Much Ado About Nothing” didn’t start, it was a sub play which was about Land Girls waiting for Harold to come home from the war.  The sub play was performed intermittently in “Much Ado About Nothing” to give the actors time to change as there was a lot of doubling up going on.  It was a bit like having advertisements whilst watching the television.

Dogberry and Verges.

“Much Ado About Nothing” began and my heart sank as I watched Beatrice and Benedick in their movements.  For those who don’t know, to get a play ready for performance, the movements of the actors have to be worked out.  This is called “blocking”.  There was an obvious choreographed blocking sequence which was meant to look comical but it simply wasn’t rehearsed enough and it looked like a clumsy rehearsal.  Other times, actors were standing like spare parts waiting for their turn to speak.  Beatrice is one of my favourite Shakespearean characters but this one thought she was playing a principal boy in a pantomime.  All the way through the play, I expected her to heartily slap her thigh.

The interval arrived and the white haired lady rushed up to my seat and asked “You don’t mind if I take your programme again, do you?” and off she went with it.  This time she was standing behind the audience talking to another elderly lady and wafting my programme about proprietorially.

George rushed for the stage and very politely asked the audience not to use the trees or the grass as there were toilets in the school.  I think that was meant to be a joke.

In the past, I had always sought out very good productions for us to watch.  However, to help Will’s critical skills, I had told him that we will be going to all sorts of productions as I feel that it is as helpful to see bad productions as it is good ones.  I always feel it is helpful for children to go to live theatre if it is at all possible.  They have to study plays at school and it is a whole lot easier to write critical essays about drama if the teenager has been to quite a few performances to make it real for them.

Will’s eyes were wide during the performance.  He is very serious about both Shakespeare and acting.  His first words when we came out were “I thought we were going to a professional performance.”  It wasn’t irony; he thought that I had forgotten to tell him that we were going to an amateur performance.  He was happy to be there because he said that he had learned something very important.  He is appearing in a comedy on Saturday night and had been worrying about his comic timing.  He could see how off the actors were in their timing and that made him realise that he doesn’t need to worry about his comic timing because he obviously understands it.

Beatrice and Benedick from yesteryear.

The play did not get any better in the second half but I am glad I went.  There was a certain charm to sitting in the field watching the actors in the play and the people in the audience.  I never did discover what George was chairman of, but to be honest, none of it seemed real – it was more like a dream.  Maybe I went to see the wrong play.

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Shakespeare, Sexy Or Strangely Funny?

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

 

Shakespeare – Sexy or Strangely Funny?

 

This summer Will (the teenager) and I are exploring Shakespeare and comedy.  Initially, we are watching three different versions of “Much Ado About Nothing” to discover how widely interpreted the comedy can be by the director and actors.  Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed not read.   The audiences were  the ordinary folks of the day, mostly.  I often think that objective has been lost.  I think all too often now, Shakespeare’s plays, for many people, are thought of as something which the kids do at school. Unfortunately, if we don’t demonstrate to teenagers and children that this is not so, that they are to be performed and watched with pleasure, even if we don’t have to, this notion will be perpetual.  (For those of you who are not fans of Shakespeare, I am not only referring to his plays, I also include plays by Marlowe,  Johnson, Aphra Behn and all the other wonderful playwrights from around the world of yesteryear.  It is our heritage.)

 

The first viewing was of a filmed version of a performance at the Wyndham Theatre starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate.  This version was hilariously funny using visual action to elevate the humour in the text.  For more on that read “Turning Teenagers Onto Shakespeare – David Tennant and Catherine Tate”, under “Shakespeare Diary on this site.

 

The second version is the film starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.  This is made as a film in that the setting is an integral part of the whole performance.  Branagh’s version is mainly a love story as opposed to the one starring Tennant which is mainly a comedy.  Comedy in Branagh’s version is kept to Dogberry and Verges – the constable in charge of the watch and his deputy.  It is in keeping with much of Shakespearean comedythat the laughs come from the lower classes.  Well, that is how it is supposed to work out.Cover of "Much Ado About Nothing (1993) (...

 

I have seen Branagh’s version four times before I watched it with Will.  It is set in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany, Italy.  We see a large Tuscan home surrounded by lush gardens.  Girls in long, white, floating dresses languish around the garden and there is Tudor music playing accompanied by the sound of Hey Nonny Nonny.  The setting is a typical pastoral idyll.  It is a spectacle – there can be no other word for it.  Next, the men arrive.  We see young, handsome soldiers all in smart uniforms arriving in a perfect line on their horses.  They have got long boots on with tight trousers and buttoned jackets.  The whole scene is one of distinction between the sexes.  The ladies are at home waiting for the men to return and looking soft, gentle and dreamy.  The men ride in and look masculine and sexy.  Before I continue, I have to say that I have never been a floating, feminine, dreamy sort of girl.  My grandfather taught me to get a sneaky left hook in at the age of five and I can write feminist essays which will make the eyes run.  However, I have always thought that those men riding on their horses looked deliciously sexy and have always been transported by the whole scene.

I relished being transported to 16th century Tuscany and waited eagerly for the men to arrive on their horses.  They arrived, dismounted and marched up to the house in a line.  Will hooted with laughter.  He stood up and puts his hands on his hips imitating them.  He said “we are devilishly manly with our tight trousers and long boots.”   I wanted to shove the Crunchie I was eating up his left nostril.  I could see exactly what he meant but didn’t really want to.

 

His main criticism however, was the way Don John, the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro was depicted.  (Don John is the villain behind the plot when Hero is set up to look as though she is unfaithful to Claudio before their wedding.)  Will, rightly felt that the depiction was too much of a stereotypical villain to be believed.  We had a strike of lightening at one point before he entered a room.  Will was waiting for his villainess laugh – it came, although it wasn’t too cackling.  He felt as if the Don John in the performance at the Wyndham theatre was far superior.  He was slightly camp and not too obvious.  Villains of that nature work far better as they are far more likely to fool us.

DOHN JOHN

DOHN JOHN (Photo credit: URBAN ARTefakte)

If any readers of this have got teenagers, I would recommend that you try doing this yourself as an experiment.  It doesn’t have to be this particular play – it could be any.  Get your teenager to watch two or three different versions.  You will be amazed at how it helps their critical skills.  It is far easier to form a critical opinion of something if you have something else to compare it with.

 

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Six Great Reasons To Do Family History With Kids.

I love family history, I get to be the detective, I couldn’t be in reality.  I have been doing it with my son since he was about nine.  He is now fourteen and does it without me as he is crazy about history and has got a deep interest in particular families he has discovered we are descended from.  This isn’t a post about how to do family history – there are many great books and articles out there to help.  This is a post which explains a few of the reasons why it is good to share it with our children.

My great grandmother, Alice Escritt.

History becomes a reality.  When our children do history at school, it is always other people’s history.  It might be about monarchy, political leaders or wars.  It is nearly always about the folks who are known by many but actually connected to a few.  When anything is covered about the ordinary folks it can seem as bland as my cooking.  Growing up in Lancashire, we covered the cotton industry in history at school.  I remember wishing aliens would come and cause chaos as Mr Hall droned on about the warp and the weft.  Oh how that man knew how to kill any interest in The Industrial Revolution –  that in itself was a talent.  However, much as I would love to indulge myself in remembering Mr Hall’s secret educational weapons, I won’t.  When we look at our ancestor’s lives during these periods, we truly get a sense of reality, especially in periods which cover the censuses.  For instance, finding out that your great grandmother shared one room with ten other people and had to go into the street to get drinking water, really makes us think about the reality and hardships of their lives.  Family history brings history to life for children because it is about folks they are directly connected to, people whom they share DNA with.  It doesn’t get more personal than that.

Family History Mormons

Family History Mormons (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Research skills.  Whilst having lunch with a teacher friend of mine, we decided that one of the most important skills a child can learn is to be able to research well.  Family history is a  productive way of doing this.  Children love to discover something about their ancestors and then grandly announce it to their parents.  When my son discovered that he had a 10X great grandmother called Frances Poo, he adored breaking the news.  Of course, I thought he was joking and had to check it.  He was right, of course.  The point is that family history makes children feel like real live detectives.  The more they find, the deeper they wish to go.  It is amazing how much this aids their research skills whilst having fun.

Francis Poo

England, Marriages, 1538–1973

marriage: 24 Jan 1598 Pocklington, York, England
spouse: William Fallowfyeld

Bonding process.  In this day and age, it is all too easy for families to be in the same house and yet not really be connecting with each other.  A lot of the time, families are all doing their own thing, even watching television programmes is done in separate rooms these days.  This is where family history really helps us bond with our children.  There is something really powerful about the moment your child and yourself discover something fantastic or heart breaking about a shared relative.  It is potent and strange and something which they could not get with friends, neighbours or anyone except the family.  When I first discovered that a great grandfather of mine had spent the last twenty years of his life in a lunatic asylum –I was totally shocked.  I was new to family history and it was the first of many sad or brilliant shocks which were to come.  The only people I could share it with, initially, were my son and my mother – both of whom were from the same ancestor.

Ashton-under-Lyne old hall

Ashton-under-Lyne old hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Days Out.  Sometimes, it is hard to think of something new to do with our kids or even somewhere different to go.  We often seem to do the same activities and visit the same places.  We’ve had some great days out though visiting the places where our ancestors lived.  It can be good fun to take photos of the children in front of the church where their ancestors got married two hundred years earlier or even just discovering a market town which your ancestors lived in but you haven’t been to before.  I found a fabulous pair of Punch and Judy doorstops for £5 in an antique shop whilst visiting one of the market towns my ancestors once lived. in  Although saying that, it can sometimes backfire.  We visited some record offices in Ashton Under Lyne in Lancashire – that was fine.  We then planned to find an address where some of our ancestors had lived in the early 1800s.  It had turned into a monstrously busy road with huge trucks zooming up and down it. It made me totally stressed so I really do not know what my 4X great grandfather and grandmother would have made of it if they had travelled forward in time.

 

Meeting Wonderful New Relatives.  We all have an amazing number of ancestors, so logically that means we are related to an amazing number of people whom we have never met.  We were lucky enough to be found by a wonderful Australian lady whose great grandmother was sister to my great grandmother.  When she came to England, she brought her husband and children to meet us and we all had a rare old knees up together.  My son found lovely new cousins whom he bonded with immediately.  It makes family history become real for children when they get to meet the descendants of people who are simply names and numbers on family trees.

Lancashire

Lancashire (Photo credit: Neil T)

 

Logic and Maths. When children do family history, they have to do lots of mathematical calculations and estimates.  It isn’t the hardest maths in the world but it means lots of practise with basic maths in a productive way instead of filling in one maths worksheet after another.  In the same way, they have to work in a logical manner.  Finding out about our ancestors means working methodically backwards and making sure all the facts fit.  We cannot start in the middle, we have to be systematic and it becomes a habit.  Children who take part in family history projects become adept at careful note-taking and fact checking.  They have to do the maths to make sure that what they have discovered is both logical and correct.

Happy hunting!

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Turning Teenagers On To Shakespeare – David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

English: Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Strat...

English: Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will (the fourteen year old) and I are exploring comedy in Shakespeare this summer.  To begin with we are watching three different versions of “Much Ado About Nothing.” We viewed the one which was staged at the Wyndham Theatre last July on Digital Theatre, a few days ago.

David Tennant at Stratford upon Avon. This ima...

David Tennant at Stratford upon Avon. This image has been cropped from the original image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The title of this post is Turning Teenagers Onto Shakespeare.  The reason for the title is that I believe that this version of “Much Ado About Nothing”, will get your teenager loving Shakespeare.  It might not seem important for teenagers to enjoy Shakespeare but it is on the curriculum and studying something which you enjoy is a whole lot better than having to put up with a subject which you detest.  I highly recommend buying a download of this and watching it with your teenager.  It is excellent. I have no association with Digital Theatre whatsoever, this post is written purely from the Loony Literature point of view of encouraging others to enjoy literature.  In this post I explain why I believe teenagers will enjoy it.

Catherine Tate 2006

Catherine Tate 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would teenagers like this version of “Much Ado About Nothing”?  For a start, David Tennant plays Benedick and Catherine Tate is Beatrice.  At first glance, this can seem like a couple of very popular television actors from Doctor Who being hired to draw the crowds in.  However, I have to say that David Tennant is an accomplished Shakespearean actor. (His Hamlet is inspirational.)  He is so loved by the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) that £5,000 has been raised so that one of the seats in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon is to be named after him.   Catherine Tate has done a fair bit of theatre also and has appeared in Goldoni’s “A Servant to Two Masters”, for the RSC.

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy about love winning out in the end.  When we add that its main theme is deception then it starts to sound interesting.  This interpretation is set in 1980’s Gibraltar.  Most of the chaps are navy officers and are in a post Falklands party mood.  The plot is set around two couples. We have Hero and Claudio who are getting married but there is skulduggery afoot and Claudio is wrongly led to believe that Hero has been unfaithful to him. He makes a public spectacle of her at their wedding.   Also, we have Beatrice and Benedick who seem to be constantly sparring.  Benedick’s navy chums decide to bamboozle the pair of them into falling in love.

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing (Photo credit: psd)

Josie Rourke directed this and she deserves the heartiest slap on the back for getting it right.  By this, I mean taking the text and utilising it fully to demonstrate how approachable and contemporary Shakespeare can be.   Tennant is a master of comedy.  He gets covered in paint whilst eavesdropping which sounds rather clownish.  It isn’t.  It is done so well that we can’t help but hoot with laughter.  In Benedick’s monologues, there are moments when Tennant’s  whole persona cries out that he is having the time of his life and that is infectious – we as an audience feel that way too.

David Garrick (another David) as Benedick in 1770.

Catherine Tate plays Beatrice as a “don’t mess with me” type of gal.  I loved it.  The reason for this is that today’s girls will be able to identify with her.  It is often hard for teenagers  (I am speaking here as an ex teenager) to get to grips with the way women have been forced to be historically.  As a teenager, I would often have problems truly sympathising, let alone empathising,  with women in literature for the way in which they acted.  I wanted them to speak out and to act more.  I could turn blue at times urging some of them on to get more agency.   Sometimes I found them impossible to identify with.  It was only through years of both literary study and historical study that I could come to understand them and their motives.  So watching Tate as Beatrice truly felt like a breakthrough in getting  more teenage girls to identify with Shakespeare’s female characters.

When we are in our teens, because of raging hormones, we can often feel truly unattractive.  It seems as if everybody in the world is fancied by someone, except us.  We turn to fiction and film and often it is the handsomest, bravest hero who gets the chocolate box looking girl.  It can be soul destroying and do nothing for our confidence.  This performance of Much Ado About Nothing is the champion of the plain best friend.  Benedick dresses in drag and gets covered in paint –he certainly is no-one’s dark, silent hero.  Beatrice dresses as a man for a party and ends up flying in the air with the grace of a fairy elephant.  She is no gorgeous femme fatale or pale interesting type.  Yet she gets the boy.  The message is simply be yourself, no matter how clumsy and plain you feel , one day, someone will love you for you.  What teenager could resist that?

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (Photo credit: Newton Free Library)

 

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Filed under Education, For children, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Literary Criticism, Self Esteem and Literature, Shakespeare Diary

The Show Must Go On – Teens Are So Amazing.

London

London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be in the audience at one of the venues where The National Theatre’s Connections Festival was taking place.  The Connections Festival is the nation’s leading theatre festival for young actors.  The National Theatre commissions new plays to be written and drama groups all over the country get to do their thing in well -known theatres.  The grand prize is to perform at The National Theatre in London.

The group my son is involved with were all very excited about performing.  The principle of the school is an inspiring and charismatic young woman who truly gets the best out of them.  She was due to have her first baby but the baby wasn’t due until a couple of weeks after the performance.  All was well and truly organised, they had rehearsed until they dropped and they were ready to break a leg.  It is only on television in sitcoms that people go into labour at the crucial moment – actually that is not true.  The principle went into labour on the day of the show.  The show was a musical with a huge cast, it could have all fallen to pieces.  This comes to my point about teens – they carried on and sang and acted their hearts out.  I thought my heart would burst with pride, not only for my son but for every kid in that performance.  To say they blew me away would be an understatement.

The next play was about to begin.  The actors were on the stage – some were lying down flat on their stomachs, others were crouched up like snails.  The lights went on and we waited.  The lights went off and we thought it was for dramatic effect.  After sitting for a long time whilst the lights went on and off, I was beginning to think that it was one of those pieces which is truly out of the box.  However, the stage manager came and announced that there was something wrong with the lighting and they were working on it.  During this time, the actors, all in their teens, had to stay in those awful positions and not move.  We waited and waited and the audience started shuffling their bottoms in their seats but the teenagers stayed as still as if they were made of marble.  I really was impressed because their nerves must have been getting to them with a packed theatre all looking on.  Eventually, the lights were sorted and they just got on with performing, no fuss, nothing.  Well let’s face it folks – the show must go on!

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Filed under Education, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Self Esteem and Literature

My Frankenstein Diary (9) – Can an author inspire us?

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Percy Bysshe S...

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Stipple engraving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the aims of Loony Literature is to use Literature as a springboard for our own creativity.  We hope to encourage people to read great Literature creatively and then to go on to write, film, act, paint or make music from their own impressions of the piece.  In this post, I want to show you how not only an author’s work can inspire us but the life of the author itself.

Over a year ago, I decided to write a play which would encourage children to embrace Frankenstein.  I think it is a great text for children as it demonstrates how harmful prejudice is.  I also wanted to demonstrate that the monster of the book is actually eloquent in his speech as nearly all popular films depict him as a mindless grunter.   Before I set out to write the play, I decided to do some background research on Frankenstein’s author Mary Shelley.

Her life story is much more intriguing than a lot of fiction.  I hungrily devoured page after page of this great woman’s life as if it was a page turning novel.  By the time I had finished reading about her, she was firmly ensconced in my mind and sitting on my shoulder defying me not to put her in my play.  Her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley was no better, his voice was ringing in my ears.  I did not have to think about it, the idea for the play shouted at me, it walloped me around the head and then I gave in – okay Mary, I will write a really funny play for children which demonstrates what happens when Dr Frankenstein meets his creator, Mary Shelley.  The play Frankenstein’s Revenge will be published in the next couple of months, along with teaching ideas.

Okay, so that was what Mary Shelley did to yours truly.  I’m not sure if something a bit cosmic has been happening but at around the same time the playwright Helen Edmundson was writing the play Mary Shelley.  Obviously, I was intrigued.  I went to see it last night and I was totally transported into the lives of Mary Shelley and her family.  I am not going to give a synopsis of the play as this is a piece about creative writing and not a review.  I do however, want to point something out which particularly delighted me and is a writing point

Mrs Godwin

Mrs Godwin (Photo credit: Wanganui District Library)

.Mrs Godwin is Mary Shelley’s (Wollstonecraft Godwin before her marriage to Shelley) stepmother.   When I have read about Mrs Godwin in the past, I have not had much sympathy for her.  She is often depicted as being jealous of Mary and not up to the intellectual heights of Mary and her father, William Godwin.  Helen Edmundson intelligently depicted Mrs Godwin as a woman who was caught on all sides, a woman who lived in fear of being sent back to the debtor’s prison.  She had really and truly thought about this woman’s position in life.  Subsequently, she successfully brought to life someone who had always been depicted as a two dimensional character before.   The point I want to make is that when we are inspired by author’s lives, we must make sure that we don’t simply focus on how the events of their life affect them but we must do it with all the other characters around them.  If we do that, we are on our way to creating what I could only deem as a masterpiece by Helen Edmundson.

Page from William Godwin's journal recording M...

Page from William Godwin’s journal recording Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s (Mary Shelley’s) birth on 30 August 1797; held at the Bodleian Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking into the life of Mary Shelley and her family will inspire anyone.  For those interested there is a wide range of letters and papers from the family on-line.

www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/1500-1900/abinger/abinger.html

The journal kept by Mary and Percy Shelley when they eloped to France has been published as: The Journals of Mary Shelley,  ed by Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press; Clarendon Press, 1987) Mary went on to keep the journal up after the return from France.

William Godwin’s dairy is available on-line at http://godwindiary.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Schools with A level students studying English or History associated with the Shelley-Godwin circle can get in touch at:godwindiary@politics.ox.ac.uk

A Mary Shelley Resource pack is available to download FREE from Shared Experience website at www.sharedexperience.org.uk

A copy of the Mary Shelley script can be purchased at: www.nickhernbooks.co.uk

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Filed under Creative Writing, Education, For Teens, Frankenstein, Literary Criticism

Inspiration and Us – Literature – Your Challenge.

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a...

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a year before his death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As humans, we constantly seek connections with other humans and we have always told stories to each other, sometimes simply to make sense of the world around us.  Over the thousands of years, we see the same images emerging again and again.  It is almost as if they are branded in our collective consciousness.  Often, one particular author, artist, actor, composer or film maker does something so spectacular with one of these images that it haunts us until we are creative with it ourselves.  Look into your own creativity and see if you can spot when this has happened to you.

 

Edgar Allan Poe Museum (Richmond, Virginia)

Edgar Allan Poe Museum (Richmond, Virginia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my children’s book Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow, I have an evil shapeshifter called Ravensmite.  He changes from a huge raven into a gothic looking teenage boy at will.  I discussed the use of the raven with a wonderful person and writer, Maria Thermann who also uses ravens in Willow the Vampire and The Sacred Grove.  Maria suggested that we had probably been subconsciously inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.  She was absolutely correct.  Edgar Allan Poe had inspired me to create a character, although I had not realised it until Maria pointed it out to me.

Cover for "The Raven" by Edgar Allan...

Cover for “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe as illustrated by Gustave Dore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Raven is a narrative poem which has a gothic atmosphere.  A talking raven makes a midnight visit to a mourning lover.   Here is a marvellous video of an animated Poe reciting “The Raven.”  It is done by the very talented poetryreincarnations .

 

Here’s your challenge – watch the video and use it as a springboard to create something yourself.  Happy writing, acting, painting, composing or filming.

 

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Hurrah For ‘The Hunger Games’!

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

Most of us have seen the huge success of The Hunger Games, first the books and then the film.  We have read reviews, heard talk of the volumes of sales and realised what a huge success it has been in financial terms.  That is not what it is getting my cheers for though.  Let me explain.

Yesterday, I went to get my hair cut.  The young man who cuts my hair is twenty one and is a wonderful, young man.  He told me about two months ago that he doesn’t read books.  I have to add that the young man in question is a young man with vision.  He works part time in a salon whilst he is studying for a degree in business studies.  So the reason he doesn’t read is not because he’s lazy or not bright.  He doesn’t read books because after a few pages, his mind wanders and he puts the book down for another time.  In essence, it takes him a few months to get through a book and he’s simply got fed up and decided that reading for pleasure is not for him.  Basically, he just hadn’t found the type of books which transport him into book world.

We were discussing how Doctor Who has a cult following and the young man told me that he had also followed a cult, or sort of.  My heart sank; I wondered what was coming next.  He then went on to tell me that he had been to see the film The Hunger Games and was totally besotted with it.  So much so, that he had instantly gone out and bought Catching Fire (book two) and Mockingjay (book three)  He had then read Catching Fire in one sitting.  He said that he was not sure whether it was for kids or not but he was totally into it.  I explained the YA category to him.  I then swooped in and told him to get on the internet and type in this category to get other YA writers.  I also explained how he could order books from all over the county and have them delivered to his library.  He could actually try them out to find out which other YA writers he might like.

So The Hunger Games has reached rural England and persuaded a twenty one year old non-reader to become a reader.  This is what it is all about.  Therefore, all YA writers – this is a call to arms – GET WRITING – no excuses about lack of confidence or anything else – this is a question of duty.  When you don’t feel like writing, in fact, you would rather clean your lavatory than write, think of the boy in rural England and all the others in the world like him – I think you get the message.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Education, For Teens, Parenting