Category Archives: Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein’s “12 Days Of Christmas” – Inspired by Mary Shelley and Shakespeare.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Warning!  Invite family and friends to stay for the twelve days of Christmas at your peril.  After the “Frankenstein’s  Revenge” play, Dr. Frankenstein promised to be much nicer and invited The Monster to stay with him over Christmas.   The video recording below is a shrunk version of events.   All insults hurled will be available for your use below the film clip.  So please join in and give this song an airing over Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the second day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the third day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea, 

On the fourth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me;

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the fifth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the sixth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the seventh day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the eighth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea

On the ninth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the tenth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Dung coloured turnip brain,

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the eleventh day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Thou shrivelled toe nail,

Dung coloured turnip brain,

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

 On the twelfth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Gassy old merchant,

Thou shrivelled toe nail,

Dung coloured turnip brain,

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

All insults from this song are taken from Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.

Many thanks go to William Shakespeare for inspiring me to write them.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christmas, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Revenge, Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow

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

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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My Frankenstein Diary 8 – A Creative Writing Journal

        How writing sometimes makes me tell lies.

In recent diary entries, I have told of creating The Laboratory to work in and building monsters.  All this has been done to encourage people to embrace more creative reading and writing.  In earlier entries, I have spoken of promoting our writing and the problems we can come up against.  In this entry, I want to explore another problem of creativity – as writers, actors, artists and film makers we don’t always appear “normal”.  I know being “normal” is truly subjective but in this instance, I am talking about fitting in with a more traditional world.  Should we tell white lies to fit in with a traditional society?

When I was building The Laboratory, I needed lots of black, satin material to drape onto walls and over screens.  Being a mistress of the diminishing budget, I duly set off to a market in the city centre to see what was on offer.  A very nice material stall was sitting waiting for me in one corner of the market.  Problem solved – or so I thought.  When I asked the very nice lady for the black, satin material, she had, goodness knows, many different types to choose from.  I pondered and rubbed my chin and was totally thwarted.  It was at this point that the very nice lady asked the question.  “What do you want it for?”  Without thinking, I told her all the about The Laboratory and the monsters.  Her eyebrows danced and her top lip twitched frantically as she tried not to burst out laughing.  I could not let the poor woman suffer so I told her that it was okay to have a smirk and a guffaw.  So she did.  This example makes me want to be honest with people.

In one of my earlier diary entries, I mentioned having dreadfully bad pain in my left arm, shoulders and neck, because of this I see a physiotherapist.  The problem with doing something slightly unusual is that when people have no idea what we do, when we are talking to them, we forget that they know nothing of our slightly unusual lives and the slice of what we give them can often sound rather unsavoury.  The lady who I go to see asked me if I was having any trouble with my hands.  I told her that my hand was uncomfortable when I had to change the trousers of my monster and it was difficult tucking his shirt in.  The silence which followed was loud enough to stop me babbling out an incoherent explanation.  At that point, I started to discuss possible rain in the afternoon.  This example makes me cringe as I remember the ear splitting silence I suffered.

Sometimes, however, we simply cannot hide our creativity.  Last week, all my electricity went off.  I telephoned the electric company and it seemed that it was internal.  I would need an electrician.  Late afternoon, two electricians turned up in their van.  One was the expert, the boss, and trailing behind him was the teenage assistant who had a marvellous grin.  We did a tour of the house looking for the problem.  I knew, that at some point, these two chaps were going to have to step into The Laboratory.  I opened the door and followed them in.  The main man turned into a statue.  The teenager burst out laughing and turned to look at his boss who was simply frozen on the spot because he was trying not to show any emotion.  He quickly muttered something about someone having some sort of mask.  It was so charming because he was trying to act as though he encountered The Laboratory in every house he visited so as not to embarrass me.  I get the feeling though that I was probably the topic of conversation over the evening meal and at the pub that night.

On Tuesday, I will be at the hairdressers.  My hairdresser asks every client at some point – I think when the conversation is faltering –  “And what will you be doing with the rest of your day?”  Time and time again, I hear –“Oh nothing exciting, just housework.”  When he asks me what l will be doing with the rest of my day, I shall reply “putting some washing in and a bit of vacuuming.”  In reality, I will be dressing up as Dracula to make a Loony Literature video.  I am now wondering, if everybody else in the hairdressers keeps their true intentions under wraps and are up to all sorts of things.  It is definitely something I shall be thinking about.  However, as for whether we should always be honest about our creativity, I am not sure whether the world is always ready for us.  What do you think?  I would love to hear of other peoples’ funny experiences because of their writing, acting, painting or film making.

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Let’s Talk About Frankenstein (2) – Walton’s First Three Letters.

In the introductory post, I offered the hypothesis that “Frankenstein” (1) was a letter written by the teenage Mary Shelley to her dead mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.  I suggested that Shelley had written herself as Frankenstein with her mother Wollstonecraft as the monster.  It occurred to me that Shelley wanted her dead mother to understand how it felt to be an abandoned child.  It could be suggested that this hypothesis is flawed because we start the text with the explorer, Walton and his sister, Margaret Saville.  However, if we reason that Shelley is the mother of sci fi; I think we can safely expect her to have fluidity in her writing.  Even though she was writing in the early 1800s, Shelley was not bound by convention.  As her main character Frankenstein was a scientist, an experimenter, so Shelley embraced investigation in her writing.   I think that Shelley explores her communications with her dead mother throughout the text in a theatrical way.   The characters change their costumes and become someone else.   Hence, in the beginning, we are introduced to Walton the explorer and his sister Margaret Saville who are simply Shelley and Wollstonecraft, respectively.

In this post, I will explore how my hypothesis fits with the beginning of the book when we read Walton the explorer’s first three  letters to his sister, Mrs Saville.   Mrs Saville has been left at home whilst her brother has exciting adventures.  It is a typical 18th century scenario.  The male has inherited the family fortune and is off proving his masculinity whilst his sister sits at home waiting for his correspondence.  As the daughter of the first feminist writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, it is easy to see how the text could be perceived as a bit tongue in cheek.  However, as I am reading the letters  as  letters  from Mary Shelley to Mary Wollstonecraft, they can be viewed another way.

As I suggested earlier, Mary Shelley has depicted herself as Walton whilst her dead mother is the sister Mrs Saville.  Mary was a teenager when she penned Frankenstein, Walton is an explorer.  The teenage years are when young people try many things for the first time.  In other words, teenagers are explorers.

It is obvious that Shelley both loved and mourned her mother – she would read on her grave.  In Frankenstein, she has placed Mrs Saville in the home.  The sense of Mrs Saville being tied to her domestic quarters is obvious, so distinct in fact, that it suggests the home we never leave – the coffin.  The sub text is sly; it is similar to having a rag of ether placed over your face whilst you are unaware of it.  In other words, it creeps up on you insidiously but once you are conscious of it, it is obviously there.  The message is loud and clear to the dead mother – “Look at me, this is living.  Look at what you are missing by abandoning me.”  Fundamentally, the first letter is all about bravado –”I am an explorer of life and you are tied to the domesticity of the grave.”

When we read the second letter there is a huge change of mood.  The teenager who has bragged, strutted and portrayed herself as a complete adult returns to the isolation of a toddler missing her parents.  Shelley as Walton laments her loneliness.  Even though there are many men aboard the ship, Walton suffers from a sense of alienation.

“I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no-one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection.” (2)

Letter three is a short missive.  Walton does not speak of personal matters.  He merely discusses the weather.  However, in the last paragraph he tells Margaret that he will “not rashly encounter danger.  I will be cool, persevering and prudent.” (3)   I would strongly suggest that this is Shelley writing to the dead Wollstonecraft.   She is telling her that although she is embarking on a voyage of motherhood, she can and will look after herself.   The message is ambivalent.  It partly consoles the mother that she doesn’t need to worry about her daughter.  Contrastingly, it also says that she has had to learn to steer her own vessel onto safe waters because the captain jumped ship.

Shelley is a mistress of signposts.  We have to be vigilant when we read her.  She throws small clues into the text which the eye might skim over.  A good example of this is the way Walton has signed the first three letters to his sister.  They are signed – Your affectionate brother, R. Walton; Your affectionate brother Robert Walton and Most affectionately yours, R.W.  (4)  By signing each letter differently, Shelley is depicting changes in Walton’s moods.   Fundamentally, the changes in Walton’s moods are a teenage girl’s conflicting emotions towards the dead mother she is desperate to communicate with.

Notes.

  1. Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein 1818 text.

(Oxford World’s Classics.)

  1. ‘ibid; p.8
  2. ‘ibid’,p.11
  3. ‘ibid’ p.8,p11.

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My Frankenstein Journey 7 – A Creative Writing Journal

In previous entries I have written about creating The Laboratory, two monsters and writing a play.  All of this has been inspired by Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.  I have also talked about promoting my children’s book Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.  To promote the book I had written some of Will Blyton’s diary entries from before the book starts – a type of prequel.  It seemed to me that if I was going to get the children interested in The Stinking Shadow, perhaps I had to film some of the diaries and put it on Youtube.  It was going to be so easy.  A little dramatic irony there –In this post, I look at some of the problems we encountered whilst filming.

Problem 1.

The first problem was the constraints of continuity.  The book was inspired by my son.  The same son also acts; therefore it was going to be even easier.  It is only when we have convinced ourselves that certain undertakings are going to be like a perfect day that we remember that it doesn’t exist.  For instance, boys grow into teenagers.  The most obvious continuity problem was that my son’s voice has become too deep for a twelve year old’s voice.  However, as well as giving my son work experience, I wanted him to be involved specifically because of his age.  In other words, I have no doubt that kids learn from other kids.  I have watched children work together and learn together – kids often pay more attention to what older children are saying than they do to adults.  So even though my son’s voice is too deep for the character of Will Blyton, I still approve it because the main aim of these videos is to inspire children to read and write more.  I think that boys (9-12) watching a teenager involved in something like Loony Literature will be inspired themselves.  I hope that it will help them see that reading, writing, filming, in fact, any sort of creativity is both fun and fulfilling.

Problem 2

Another problem was lack of experience in certain endeavours.  As I said, my son acts.  He has passed acting exams with Distinction and performed live in front of audiences many times.  However, he hasn’t got experience in front of a camera.  It would seem, I expect, to most of us, that if you act, you act – it should not matter whether there is a camera there or not. For the strangest reason, initially we were both incredibly self-conscious.  Years ago, I was filmed for exams performing both Chekhov and Brecht – I don’t remember feeling self-conscious simply because it was being filmed. Therefore, I can only put the current self consciousness  down to lack of  experience and recent practise.

During the first three diary entries, my son seemed quiet and lethargic.  As I have watched him perform and listened to monologues for exams many times, I thought it was because he had outgrown Will Blyton.  Today as we have been filming the fourth diary entry, his sparkle has resurfaced.  When I told him this, he said it was because he wasn’t used to being filmed. The more he does it, the more comfortable he is becoming in front of the camera.

These insights seem obvious as I write them but when we are living experiences, it is always easy to be wise in hindsight.  I  would say, therefore, to anyone in the arts, if we try something in our field which is slightly different, we must not be put off if we don’t appear to be successful at first.  Keep writing, keep acting and film making – hard work will always improve whatever it is we are trying to achieve.

Problem 3

A major constraint when not filming in a studio is lack of equipment.  In this case, it was not having an autocue.  Normally, when my son is acting he learns his lines. However, as we are moving through scripts quickly and he has lots of other things to do, I don’t feel as if I can expect him to learn everything off by heart.  The problem, therefore, was how could I film someone reading narrative without their head being stuck in a book?

The first solution was to have the text on a laptop in front of him.  The problem with that however, is that The Stinking Shadow is set in 1974 and we could not film without the laptop being seen.  I decided to enlarge the text and print it up.  It then occurred to me to stick it on a board.  As I looked around the room, I noticed the box which one of my painted screens had been packed in.  It is about one foot wide and five feet tall.  If I put it lengthways, I could stick the text all along it.  It probably looks an effort but it works.

Problem 4

If all else fails to put us off filming our fiction the thought that the world wants to sabotage our efforts will surely mean that the camera lens stays closed for good.  The tiniest thing can sabotage filming our work.  Mildred, The Laboratory cat, becomes unbelievably mischievous when we are filming. The first day we were filming Will Blyton’s diaries, my son was in his seat reading from the board and I had the camera.  The next moment, I heard one almighty screech and my son had catapulted from his chair.  Mildred had been hidden underneath the table and had dived at his nether regions. Today, she grabbed me around the back of my leg whilst in the middle of filming. For a moment, I thought I was being attacked.   I think she has designs on being in the videos herself.

Swat the obstacles

The main reason I write this journal is to, hopefully, give other people inspiration and ideas.  So even though all this probably sounds like an awful time – it isn’t.  It is truly wonderful.  To prove it, I am now off to dress up once more as Mr Hyde (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) to film another Will Blyton – The Alternative Detective Diary.

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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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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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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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