Monthly Archives: July 2012

Using the scenario of The Stone Finder from Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow, author, Michelle Barber helps children do some creating and acting of their own.

Will Blyton - The Alternative Detective

 

The video goes into greater depth but just in case you need reminding here are the main pointers.

When I write a book or a play, I love to encourage my readers to be inspired by what I have written.  So to help you along, I will be making short films which suggest fun things for you to do.  Today’s activity uses the beginning of the book and is called “The Finding of the Stone.” 

 

Will Blyton has had his glasses ripped off and thrown onto the beach by the dreadful bullies, The Toad, Ferret and Snot.  Whilst feeling in the sand for them he hears a strange voice saying disturbing things to him.

 

Here are some of the things the voice says:

 

“Thine intestines wilt be mine!”

 

“Thou wilt regret this warty nose.”

 

“Leave me be, thou fetid old skanky breath.”

 

“Thou…

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Hamnet has written Will Blyton a secret coded message to tell Will what he has to do next to free him. Calling all kids – can you help Will discover what the secret message says?

Will Blyton - The Alternative Detective

CAN YOU FIND THE MESSAGE?

Hamnet the boy trapped in the stone cannot speak properly because the evil magician Master Corpsehound has put a spell on his tongue.  He needs to tell Will Blyton something but has to use a code.  Look up the answers to Hamnet’s clues and then work out the message.

 

CLUE 1.

Where was Ann Boleyn imprisoned?  Use the first two letters of the first word to make the first word of the message.

 

CLUE 2.

This monk belongs to Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men.  Use the first two letters of the first word of his name.

 

CLUE 3.

An apple fell off one of these onto Sir Isaac Newton’s head.  Use the last two letters of this word and join them onto the two letters from clue number two.

 

CLUE 4.

Another word for “I”.  This is the…

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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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With the long school holidays approaching, we need lots of different types of activities to keep both our children’s minds and bodies active. Here is the 1st chapter of Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow aimed at boys 9-12 to encourage them to read.

Will Blyton - The Alternative Detective

When, Hamnet, a tiny boy trapped in a stone, promises Will Blytontime travel, he thinks his problems are over. When a 14th century monk becomes his Stinking Shadow, he realises the trouble has just begun. Find out how Will stops the malicious shapeshifter, Ravensmite, from returning Hamnet to his cursed existence whilst, at the same time, plotting to send The Stinking Shadow back in time. Amidst the chaos and dark humour is the story of a boy battling with his own self worth and the start of a strange and powerful friendship.  Join Will in 1970s Groaningsea for a rip roaring time.

CHAPTER 1.

Last night I dreamed of Groaningsea.  The closed railway station had a train again – it was a shiny, black monster with a leering face hurtling down the track towards me.  A pop eyed toad, wearing a railway cap, hung out of…

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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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Loony Literary Links to Charles Dickens – Challenge!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here at Loony Literature we enjoy both Literature and Family History.  Therefore we have decided to do a monthly feature- if the readers like it – on literary links which you may or may not be surprised about.   They are all true, apart from one – you have to decide which one it is.  Please put your answers in the comment box.  The true culprit will be identified in next month’s challenge.

Emily Dickinson, a poet to be remembered.

Charles Dickens is Emily Dickinson’s 5th cousin 3 times removed.

John Steinbeck – author and Nobel prize winner.

Charles Dickens is John Steinbeck’s 5th cousin 4 times removed.

Author J.M. Barrie – best remembered for Peter Pan

Charles Dickens is J.M. Barrie’s 2nd cousin 5 times removed.

Jonathan Swift fascinated thousands with “Gulliver’s Travels”.

Charles Dickens is Jonathan Swift’s 3rd cousin 4 times removed.

Jane Austen – author and wit.

Charles Dickens is Jane Austen’s 7th cousin 1 time removed.

Robert Louis Stevenson – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde will never be forgotten.

Charles Dickens is Robert Louis Stevenson’s 7th cousin 2 times removed.

Sir Walter Scott – novelist and poet.

Charles Dickens is Sir Walter Scott’s 6th cousin 4 times removed.

Elvis Presley – what hips!

Charles Dickens is Elvis Presley’s 5th cousin 6 times removed.

George Eliot – author – used a male name to be taken seriously as a writer.

Charles Dickens is George Eliot’s 5th cousin 7 times removed.

Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock lives on.

Charles Dickens is Arthur Conan Doyle’s 6th cousin 4 times removed.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning – poet and wife of poet, Robert Browning.

Charles Dickens is Elizabeth Barratt Browning’s 7th cousin.

Aldous Huxley – a brave, new author?

Charles Dickens is Aldous Huxley’s  8th cousin 4 times removed.

Disclaimer – this is just for fun and all information is taken from Ancestry.co.uk who allow families to upload their history.  Neither Loony Literature or Ancestry.co.uk can be held responsible for any errors therefore.

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How a Dead Man’s Hand Inspired Me!

How a Dead Man’s Hand Inspired Me!.  Time and time again, my personal life experiences pop up in my writing – this is a short account of one of those times.

Hand of Glory

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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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