Monthly Archives: February 2012

Will Blyton – The Alternative Detective video – part 3

Find out what happens when Will Blyton, The Alternative Detective, and his friend, Bongo  try to take a photograph of the ghoul at Boris Death’s old house.

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My Frankenstein Diary 6 – A Creative Writing Journal.

          One of the jobs taking place in The Laboratory at the moment is the promotion of the children’s book Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.  In this post, I want to look at how we can promote our writing in a creative manner. 

          As the book has a main character called Will Blyton, it seemed obvious that he needed introducing.  I know from my own experiences how attached I become to fictional characters.  It is embarrassing to say but I miss characters from long running sitcoms and books when they end.  When I know them really well, I feel as if I am meeting up with a friend or a member of the family; that is how important character is to us.  I believe this happens even more with older children.  As they follow a character’s adventures, they not only have the excitement of the story but they have a friend who never makes them feel bad about themselves.  Great characters are addictive to the human spirit.  So how could I promote my twelve year old character, Will Blyton before his first adventure is for sale?

          The first thing I did was create a diary written by Will which was set a few weeks prior to his adventure.  It introduces him, his friends and the place where he lives.  It does, I hope, make him interesting to other older children.  I also wrote some silly newspaper articles for The Groaningsea Gazette which is the local newspaper.  A letter from the villain Master Corpsehound is also written as a post.  I then placed them on this blog.   It occurred to me however, that blogs seem to be read by adults. 

          A great truth hit me as I watched a book review show.  The reviewers were three female celebrities.  They were talking about Michael Morpurgo’s “War Horse”.  One of the celebrities, Caroline Quentin, said that she had never read any of Michael Morpurgo’s books and started talking about the film or the play.  The other two celebrities – I don’t know their names –  gave me the impression that they hadn’t read the book either.  They also spoke of the film or play.  It was dull and painful.  However, when the next book was mentioned, a thriller with a main character as a woman – they had all read it and talked animatedly about it.  Apart from the fact that I question celebrities going on book review shows when they haven’t read the book, it seems like grown ups like reading their own stuff.  I don’t blame them, I am simply making the point that to promote an older children’s book, you have to appeal to the kids themselves and not the parents – I think.

          From the age of nine to twelve, my son loved Youtube.  He still uses it but not as much.  It would seem then that a good way to promote Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow would be to film the diaries and put them on Youtube.  How easy can that be?  I have decided that I fool myself about these things or I simply would give up and become a stand up comedian.  In my next diary, I tell of my creative calamities.

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Loony Literature interviews Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow for Radio.

Loony Literature interviews Will Blyton | Spreaker Online Radio   Loony Literature is desperate to get The Queen to The Laboratory. For some strange reason she believes that Will Blyton knows The Queen.  The Stinking Shadow causes a whiff and Loony Literature is not very happy.  Listen to what takes place.

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Will Blyton’s Diary 2

Find out what Will Blyton and Bongo see when they sneak up to Boris Death’s old house in the dark.

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Let’s Talk About FRANKENSTEIN 1

Loony Literature is about being creative with literature.   It is about creative reading as well as creative writing.  As both a lover and graduate of this subject, I positively enjoy deconstructing texts from different points of view – that is what studying literature is about.  It is not about knowing every quotation from Shakespeare as non literary people often assume.  It is about taking a text and analysing and evaluating it whilst backing it all up with textual evidence.  We can add to our arguments by reading the text from a certain perspective e.g. a feminist or a Marxist point of view.  If we enjoy psychoanalytical theory we can use Lacan or even go down a Freudian route.  The possibilities are endless and as long as we can back our argument up with textual evidence, we are free to do this.  There is no right or wrong answer in literature – it is creativity heaven.

Much has been written about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; in fact, far too much to mention in this introduction.  I have been using the text as a springboard to write a play and workshops.  However, as all great pieces of fiction tend to do, it has demanded that I read it yet again from a totally different angle.

I love the fact that Frankenstein was written by a teenager.  The other detail about Mary Shelley which sits heavily in my consciousness is that her mother died through complications following her birth.  I am both daughter and mother.  The two relationships are entwined in my being like thread in tapestry.  I feel so much sympathy for Mary Shelley as a young girl growing up with only other people’s stories of her mother.

These two facts have made me read Frankenstein again.  I am going to read it as a subconscious cathartic writing exercise for Mary Shelley.  In other words, Shelley wrote herself as Frankenstein.  The monster is her dead mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.  As a teenager, Mary would read on her mother’s grave in St Pancras Churchyard.  The mother was beloved but unobtainable.  It is bad enough as a teenager when your parents do not seem to understand your emotional turmoil.  Mary did not simply have intentionally deaf ears to contend with but dead ears.  Mary needed to find a way to communicate her isolation. I believe that Frankenstein can be read as a letter from Mary Shelley to Mary Wollstonecraft.  How else can an abandoned daughter let her dead mother know what she went through whilst growing up without her?  Fundamentally, as the dead mother was a literary forerunner of her day, there was only one way to get such a mother’s attention and that was to create her own literary masterpiece.  Ironically, Mary Shelley conjured up her own dead mother in the position of abandoned child.

If the monster is supposed to portray her dead mother, why did she make him male?  We all know that women used to constantly die of childbirth in those days; by re-inventing her mother as male, she prevents this taking place.  She needs to keep her mother alive as she lives out the story of isolation Mary felt as a motherless child.

I am at the beginning of this reading of Frankenstein and hope that you will join me on the journey.  I will be making regular posts as I travel on my own new reading journey of Frankenstein.  My model for Frankenstein might not work out.  Ultimately, by offering a hypothesis and then writing a notebook on my reading, I hope that readers of the posts will come up with their own valuable insights.  If this works, I will tackle other delicious texts in the same way.  So let’s talk about Frankenstein.

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6 Great Reasons to Work with Teenagers.

Teenagers have always got bad press.  It is because they are fresh, innovative and rebellious.  Almost nothing can beat their optimism and joy when they are doing well at something they love.  I see this when I watch drama students performing.  Less than 100 yards away, I  also see a group of teenagers spraying water bottles for no reason except that they are redundant.  I use the word redundant because it means surplus to requirement; when I see dead eyes I am sure that this is how many teenagers feel – surplus to requirement.  These teens might still be at school or they might be unemployed.  Whatever the case, they are still redundant in the sense I am using because they are not being directed into finding what makes them want to get up in the morning.  It could mean that they will never feel  fully part of society.  I know they are told that they have to pass exams and get a job.  However, this is telling them what they have to do – they need to find out what they WANT to do.  When young people have no direction, they do not know their place in society – they are out in the margins looking in.  On the other hand, when a teenager has a self directed goal, they don’t need to be pushed to pass exams or get a job.  They WANT to do both.  Work experience is a step for teenagers finding what they really want to do with the rest of their lives.  I believe that even if it is just an hour a week, we can ALL benefit from having a teenager working with us.  My teenage son works with me.  Here are just some of the reasons it’s great to work with a teenager.

Technology know how.  I use a computer daily but do tend to be set in my ways in what I use.  I can find out how to do new things but it all takes time.  Time is not in abundance in my life so I will not use new ideas or pieces of technology because I haven’t got the time to learn how to use them.  This is where working with my teenage son helps.  He sits at the laptop and works miracles for me.  He saves me hours a week.

Laughter and joy.  I have always enjoyed humour.  When something really tickles me I can laugh until I feel like I am wearing a Victorian corset.  A couple of years ago, I  realised that I no longer laughed like I used to do.  It occurred to me that the responsibility of family finances, a career, motherhood, a home and health issues had made me a bit of a serious person.  If I am totally honest, I was horrified.  I remembered a younger me and wanted the fun part of her back and quickly.  Working with a teenager can do that for you.  When we are in parent mode, if there is a problem the parent  sorts it out.  However, when we work with our teenagers – the problem is shared.  Teenagers are more likely to laugh when things go pear shaped.  I don’t mean serious issues but jobs which can be straightened out.  Teenagers giggle and it is infectious.  Some of our catastrophes have had us bent over double with laughter.

It encourages other young people to look at your business. When a teenager is involved in your business, it gives it a young appeal.  For instance, at Loony Literature, we are trying to inspire young people to read and write more.  We put videos and podcasts out to get young readers and writers interested.  My son appears in both videos and podcasts which demonstrates that we are not a group of adults trying to lecture kids.  Also, by having a teen in videos and podcasts, it encourages other young people to do something similar themselves.

It helps us see our business through a young person’s perspective.  The children and teenagers in the world at the moment are tomorrow’s customers.  As grown ups, sometimes we are so busy, we don’t realise that people and their needs are rapidly changing.  When we have a teenager working with us, if we allow them enough voice – which we should – we are allowed into the world as they see it.  For instance, I have been amazed at the way children and teenagers play together on the internet.  When I was a child, I would meet my friends and we would play in the nearby woods.  We lived in a world of our own make believe.  My favourite game was being on a deserted island – I know – in reality it would be a nightmare but that is children for you.  Adults constantly say that children don’t play any more, that they are always on computers.  What many adults don’t realise is that children play the same sort of games that they used to play but on the internet.  My son played a game about a time travelling café with other kids on the internet for months.  It was a whole complete world which they had made up.  They have also been secret agents uncovering a mole in a top toy manufacturer.  The use of shared creativity and playfulness is endless.  If I had not been lucky enough to be shown the world through a teen’s perspective, I would not know about of any that.  Working with a teen has given me an insight which can be used to promote Loony Literature.  I think this might be the case for many businesses.

Work experience. – At school, teenagers are nearly always with other people who are the same age as them.  It is often the same in college.  Suddenly, they are in the workplace and everybody else is at least twice their age.  It’s no wonder they can appear sullen.  Their past experiences of grown ups often falls into two categories –a) family and friends who they know or b) figures of authority like teachers.  Teenagers are often self conscious.  When they are thrown head first into a dual world of work and middle aged strangers, they often retreat into themselves.  This is why they need work experience before they leave education.

Confidence –  The last two go hand in hand.  Work experience, if handled properly, can give teenagers the confidence to pursue the career they really want.  As all ex teenagers will remember, it is a time of extreme highs followed by sky diving lows.  These are emotions which come and go like cats constantly coming in and going out again.  Confidence, however, is something which sits inside us and probably influences every decision we take.  Teenagers who are given work experience in a field which they believe is “not for people like them”, might actually acquire the confidence to gain the examination results and pursue a career, they could only dream about.  Surely that would make a better world for all of us.

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Watch a Will Blyton Diary Entry.

Meet Will Blyton on video before he embarks on his adventure with The Stinking Shadow.  Find out what happens when  he comes face to face with the town bullies The Toad, Ferret and Snot

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New Radio Show!

Check out our new radio show! Exclusive to spreaker. Edit show “The Loony Literature Show” | Spreaker Online Radio 

You can listen to our new radio show for free, you don’t even have to sign up to spreaker.

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My Frankenstein Diary 5 – a Creative Writing Journal.

In the previous journal entries, I have discussed wanting to show young people how we can use our literary heritage as a springboard for our own creativity.  Mary Shelley and Frankenstein inspired me to write a play “Frankenstein’s Revenge”, make two monsters and build The Laboratory.  The idea was that I would take the set and the monsters into village halls and perform the play.  A creative writing workshop would follow and we would all get writing.  The problems came thick and fast when it became obvious that constantly moving The Laboratory was not practical.  As if that was not enough, I couldn’t move my dominant arm for pain.  It seemed as if Loony Literature was at its own funeral.

Manuscript page from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Manuscript page from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, I am a great believer that there is a way around most problems.  If we are writing a piece of fiction, when we hit a problem, we don’t opt for the first solution which comes to mind.  We ferret around in our brains hoping to pull out the morsel that might be hidden in a dark corner.  However, if we don’t find it, life tends to whack us around the face until we notice the obvious.

It was a normal family setting.  I was sitting on the sofa with my teenage son and I had slipped into a character.  The pain killers had numbed the pain in my arm so I was feeling happy.  Unknown to me, I was too busy sprouting off with nostrils flaring and arms gesticulating, my son was filming me on his laptop.  He burned his footage onto a disc and played it on the television.  As the rest of the family hadn’t seen my earlier performance, it was met with a bit too much hilarity.  As I rolled my eyes upwards and pursed my lips, I realised that I did not have to cart The Laboratory around for Loony Literature to work.  I could turn my study into The Laboratory and film the play and the creative writing workshops.

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece ...

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece to the revised edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831. The novel was first published in 1818. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a solution to The Laboratory presented itself, so did relief from the relentless pain.  After doing some research, it seemed that certain tablets from the health shop would help the joints.  By this time I was desperate.  Although I had been clowning around, I couldn’t carry on with normal life.  I took the tablets and expected to wait a month for them to work.  I will never know whether the pain went naturally or my body was seriously short of Glucosamine.  Within three days, I was so much more comfortable.  After a month of pain and not being able to live my life, I suddenly felt as if I had won the Lottery.

The Laboratory now sits in all its grotesque splendour always ready for writing, photography and acting.  All right, so it does look pretty spooky having two monsters always sitting there and a table full of skulls and (fake) body parts.  However, when we add the werewolf sound effects and are dressed in Victorian costumes, it is utter fun and inspirational.  It works.  If we can pass that on to others then everything we are doing is worthwhile.

In the meantime, as Loony Literature is also hoping to get more boys reading, we have Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow to publish and promote.

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My Frankenstein Journey 4 – a Creative Writing Journal

Problems are like buses…

In the previous journals, I have described how I wanted to encourage children and teenagers to read and write more by using texts from our literary heritage as a springboard.  The text I started with was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In order to inspire the children to write, I wrote a twenty minute play and built a set which consisted of Frankenstein’s Laboratory and two monsters.

Al

Reginald Easton painted this miniature portrai...

Reginald Easton painted this miniature portrait of Mary Shelley, on a flax coloured background. It incorporates a circlet backed by blue, the same seen in the Rothwell painting and a shawl. (Seymour, Mary Shelley, p 543) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

l I needed to do next was turn the ideas I had for workshops into structured lesson plans.   I would then be ready to put Loony Literature into village halls.  It seemed a good idea to take some photographs of The Laboratory for promotional purposes.  The problem was that the whole of it was packed away in trunks.  Every time, I wanted to take photographs or practise the play, I had to set it all up in the garden as there was nowhere else to put it.  It was time consuming, heavy work and I had to wait until it wasn’t raining or windy.  Reality was starting to hit home.  If I wanted to take Loony Literature to village halls and schools, I would have to transport all the equipment and costumes, set it up and take it down again.  All this will seem obvious to the reader but I had been caught up in a creative idea and practicality had not raised its ugly head up until that point.  It was then that I hit the first low ebb in the Loony Literature process.  Although, looking back now, that was nothing when compared with what was to come.

At this point, I started to re-write the play because it was too short.  On closer scrutiny, I realised that what I already had could be the final act of the play.  I simply had to unravel why Frankenstein wanted to meet his creator, Mary Shelley.

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece ...

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece to the revised edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831. The novel was first published in 1818. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing the play did not have problems, initially.  Prior to Loony Literature, I have always opted to write fiction as opposed to drama.  Although I have studied literary criticism of drama and studied creative writing for drama; I have only ever written plays to get qualifications and have not had to produce or direct my own work.  The more we rehearsed the play, however, the more the constraints kicked in.  In other words, when we write a play to be performed by a class of children – we can be quite blasé about how many characters we put in the play and have on the stage at the same time.  In fact, up to a certain point, the more the better.  It was the opposite with our play.  As there are only two of us, I had to have only two characters on the stage at one given time.  At a glance, that does not seem problematic.  However, when one character goes off and has to do a costume change before he can come back on as another character, there has to be a lot of imaginative manoeuvring.  I was spending as much time creating easy costume changes as I was writing.

When I look back at the difficulties we encountered, I realise that to someone reading this, they might all seem obvious.  However, when we get pulled by a passion whilst wearing rose coloured glasses, we only see the end result.  For me, it was Loony Literature inspiring children with our literary heritage.  It was encouraging reluctant readers to read and getting the children to write because they want to.

One Sunday morning in late November, I woke up in terrible pain in my left arm and shoulder.  I am left handed and could not even comb my hair.  After a month of intense pain, x-rays revealed that I had wear and tear on my neck.  I was told by my G.P. that as they couldn’t give me a new neck, it was something which I would have to learn to manage.  At that time, I couldn’t even use a keyboard or hold a pen.  I thought of Loony Literature, envisaged transporting and putting up the set, tried to imagine myself acting in front of the children and wondered if all my hard work was for nothing.

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