Accidental Parenting

As a parent, there are some things that you pick up in a parenting book; others from the experience of others but I think there are a lot of things about parenting that we stumble upon and repeat in the hope that it will work again and again and again.

I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that successful people are readers. And I encourage, OK force, my children to read. To be fair, both of them love reading and have done so ever since they were little but as they grow up and discover other delights such as T.V, football, Nintendo and iPad; reading has taken a back-seat, particularly for my son and I don’t like that.

My daughter is seven and she’s coming into her own as a reader, quite a voracious one too. However, my son used to read a lot more than her, naturally, as he is two years older but now he limits it to what he reads at school. We have had to force him to read by cutting out play time.  Part of it is probably to do with varying the books to subjects he is interested in, which at the moment is football, football and did I mention football?  The other part appears to be simply laziness – I don’t know what else it could be. I have tried unsuccessfully to get him to willingly love reading again- you know pick up a book voluntarily and get lost in the pages sort of reading.

So three weeks ago, I came up with an idea. I set a target. I said, “you must both read at least 10 books a month but I know you can do 20, considering you don’t have jobs or adult responsibilities”. Well not in those exacts words but the sentiment was glaringly present. They seemed to take it on board after the initial shock. I saw a change but nothing too special. Yes! I’m a tiger-mum. Sue me! After a few days, it was obvious the plan had failed miserably.

Then last week, I thought of introducing a little sweetener. Pit brother against sister and introduce a COMPETITION! Muahahahahahahaha. It was ingenious!  I simply said, “at the end of the month, the person who has read the most books will win a prize”.

I always knew my son was competitive. I mean at the age of three he would race you to the door and cry if you got there first. My daughter has been a revelation. She has read eight books in ten days whilst he has read nine books. Although there is some strategic planning there cos some of the books are pretty thing. But the point is they are reading, albeit for a prize. And they seem to be enjoying the process too.

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Funny, they have been bugging me to get a reward chart for months but my aversion to them made me ignore the suggestion. In hindsight, I see now that they are motivated by rewards. God help me.

Now I’ve got to decide what the prize will be. Eek!

 

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day and my children, like thousands of other children, are dressing up as a character from a book.

I had a very interesting experience this year with my children. My son was very clear about who he wanted to go as. He is going as Alexander from Einstein’s Underpants.

einstien

Yes! My son will be sporting underpants on his head today for the world to see. So we’ve been painting pants over the past two days.

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My seven year old daughter on the other hand thinks fancy dress is embarrassing. And has chosen to show up as the very sophisticated member of the Butterfly Club. I wasn’t even allowed to get a yellow wig. She will go with a butterfly Alice band and butterfly print tee-shirt.

butterfly

She is going as a – wait for it ……. girl. Two years ago she went as a rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. However, last year she selected Charlie and Lola so she could go as a girl. And this year she’s done the same. Hmmmmm. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

I’m always intrigued by how two individuals who are brought up by the same parents can be so different. Despite my son’s friends telling him he must be out of his mind to wear pants on his head, he relishes the thought of making a fool of himself. And my daughter would clearly, never be caught dead wearing underpants on her head. It’s funny.

Jokes aside, It’s heart warming to see how children get excited over books. Their school has been running a book cafe every morning of this week. And as I stood by a table of books, I witnessed the chatter of seven year-olds discussing their favourite books and regaling one another with their best bits. I also got the supreme pleasure of being let in on a secret. A young boy who shall remain nameless told me his mother has said he was only allowed to select two books, but he had selected FIVE!!!!!  Hehehehehe. When she sees her bill, she’s going to get a shock!!!!!

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Books open up the mind and takes the imagination of children to boundless places. There are no rules only words.

Do Something New

My children are avid readers. Sports seems to be getting in the way for my son but generally they immerse themselves in books which I love – it keeps them quiet. LOL

Two Christmases ago, I watched the movie Esio Trot which is an adaptation of the book written by Roald Dahl and also Tortoise written backwards my children informed me. And I realised that I’d never read a Roald Dahl book in my life. Can you believe that? It’s like what planet have I been on?

I wonder why I never came across him as I child? I was an Enid Blyton fan, up to my teens actually. I’m not ashamed to admit it but for some reason I don’t recall being introduced to Roald Dahl. Then again, I had very little interest in reading so maybe I just ignored it. Can’t remember but I digress.

My children inherited a collection of Roald Dahl books which my kids love from my nephew so I’ve constantly coming into contact with them. My son really loves his books, particularly The  BFG  which he has read like ten times and still counting and which for some reason I keep calling The Notorious BIG but that’s totally lost on him.

So this Christmas just gone by, Esio Trot was on TV again and I thought, “why live in constant regret about this when you can do something about it. Get one of them and start reading”. And so I did. One of my favourite quotes is

No one can go back and change a bad beginning, but anyone can start now and create a successful ending.

-Maria Robinson

Truth be told, sometimes, it’s too late to do some things, but reading, learning a new skill, re training, going back to school – that we can do. Who cares that a 40 year old is reading a book for children? It’s a classic.

I started with Matilda and unashamedly, I took it everywhere; on the bus, train and car. It gripped me from the opening page and held my gaze till the very end. Loved it. (Could I say love any more times ????)

Now I’m on Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory which I am loving too.

I’m looking forward to reading the whole lot – at least the collection we have. What a wonderfully amazing writer and such a great legacy to leave to the world.

What new thing are you going to do this year?

 

-RWW

Redefining Wonder Woman Series 10 – A Business Approach To Writing a Book

This month’s RWW Series features Katherine Mann, co-developer of a children’s books series based on the adventures of two Cambridge cats, Fitz and Will.

Katherine

RWW: Tell us a bit about yourself,  Laura Robson Brown and Jia Han. 
KM: Laura writes the stories, I oversee the business and marketing aspect and Jia is the illustrator. Fitz and Will, was co-developed by us in 2014. Laura’s writing and Jia’s beautiful illustrations, magically brings these adorable characters to life in  our three books, The May Ball, The Graduation and the Christmas Adventure.

 

RWW: How did you three of you meet?

Laura

KM: It’s funny. Laura and I met years ago in Fulham, London and then we found out that both our husbands attended the same university. By coincidence we moved to Cambridge in same month and have now lived on the same road for about six or seven years.

Jia

Jia was a post-graduate student at Anglia Ruskin University studying a MA in Book Illustration. Once we had the idea for a book, we approached the University and amongst a selection of samples submitted  by some very talented artists, Jia’s work stood out for us.

 

RWW: What led to the idea of writing a book for children?
KM: Laura used to work for a children’s books publisher in London and was keen to get back to work but couldn’t do it full time at the time because she had young children. One day, we found ourselves discussing the prospect of writing a book and it simply took off from there. 

RWW: You have taken a different approach to publishing your books.
KM: Having  a business idea and then weaving the creative around the concept was something we thought would work. We decided to set it in Cambridge and selected three Cambridge University Colleges to focus on – Trinity, St. John’s and King’s College. Our target market is Cambridge residents, alumni and tourists. 

Fitz & Will at Fitzwilliam Museum

RWW: Sounds like you had made up your mind to self publish from the start.
KM: Since it had a local hook, we were convinced it would work. We took the plunge and risked the funds to self publish. We set up Little Cam Books as a partnership and took it from there. Interestingly enough, we have had lots of people contacting us for illustration work as well as writers who would like us to publish their books. 

RWW: Would you say this approach has worked?
KM: Our first print run was a 1,500 copies and we set ourselves a realistic target of a couple of years to sell. We printed in May 2014 and had sold them all by August of the same year. We did another print run of 2,000 and have sold 1,500 so far. The second book, The Graduation Adventure was launched in April 2015 and we sold 500 in the first two weeks. So I would say it’s working for us. 

Fitz & Will (Illustration by Jia Han)

RWW: What’s the next for Little Cam Books?
KM: Our next phase is to sell nationally. The third book, A Christmas Adventure, was launched in October this year and will be featured at King’s College Carol service this year. 

RWW: Why cats and not dogs? 🙂 
KM: The initial story was actually based on mice that lived at the Round Church. However, when we started to look into illustrating the story, mice were quite small to draw and from an illustration point of view didn’t project quite as well. Also there was no affinity with mice so we then considered cats or dogs and went with the former. Maybe the fact that we both have cats contributed to that.

RWW: My daughter can narrate the whole story without looking at the book. You seem to have created memorable characters. Are Fitz & Will based on any of you? 
KM: No! They are based on our cats. (she laughs out loud)

Prince William reading The Graduation Adventure at St John’s College

RWW: How did you go from idea to print?
KM: Took a while. We had the idea a year before the first book was written. Then we procrastinated a bit but talked about it to a few people who we thought would be the target audience. Once we made up our mind, it took six months from choosing an illustrator to writing right through to print. 

RWW: What would be your advice to anyone thinking of writing a children’s book?
KM: Hmmm …..

  • Firstly, consider whether you are trying to fill a gap in the market or if your aim is to create the best children’s book
  • Read other children’s books
  • Dredge up old contacts who might be able to help
  • Do your research
  • Make sure your book is the right length for a bedtime read
  • Have enough quirky details for a younger audience but not too basic for a broader age range
  • Get the main protagonist lovable and create an affinity. Very important
  • Be determined but give yourself the right amount of time and set realistic targets
  • Be kind to yourself

RWW: How would you sum up your experience so far?
KM: Quite a good laugh. It has strengthened our friendship and we’ve learnt to appreciate our respective skills in ways we couldn’t have done before we started writing together. I love the idea of creating a legacy – something to treasure forever. It is super that people read the books and say they have it and love it. Receiving the appreciation is quite heart warming. And it’s a nice feeling to know that this Christmas, some children will be unwrapping our books as gifts. That’s special!

RWW: What has been your highlight to date?
KM: Opening the box of our first print. 

RWW: What comes The May Ball Adventure?
KM: So we launched the Graduation Adventure at the Cambridge Literary Festival this summer and will formally launch the Christmas Adventure at the King’s College Christmas Carol Service as the book is set at King’s. The bookshop is keen to stock copies for the service as well so hopefully we will have some other merchandising ready for Christmas as well.

RWW: I presume you all have full time jobs. How have you been able to juggle family life, work and the book?
KM: I don’t know!  My husband does think I might have taken on too much but I do enjoy a challenge.

RWW: My daughter had a question. Why were the lions grey and then at the end in colour?
KM: The come to life. 🙂

Love the funky boots & fashion sense by the way. Thanks Katherine.

The books are available in Cambridge at Waterstones, Jeffers, The Fitz William Museum and several independent shops in Cambridge. For a full list of stockist, visit http://www.litlecambooks.com

You can also get copies online at Little Cam Books