Category Archives: Children’s stories

Studio Ghibli – things for which I am grateful #50/365


Well, for my 50th post, it has to be something special. And, what better than the inimitable, Studio Ghibli.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, they are a Japanese animation house who produce some of the most original and sumptuously animated movies you will ever see.

Of course, I only really got into them because I have children, (both of whom love their films). But I would argue that any adult could watch their movies and enjoy them – they are that unique.

What I don’t want to do is get into a critique of all their films that I like. So, suffice it to say, just trust me, and try and watch as many of their films as possible – even if you don’t have kids.

How I think they differ from western animation houses is that they draw upon Japanese folklore, which is new to us and makes for very unusual storylines. Not only that, but the colours seem so much richer and vivid than what we are used to.

Another thing I love about them is that their leading protagonists tend to be girls. Which is good for my children.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away

A young girl has to enter a spirit world in order to save her parents from being permanently turned into pigs.

Spirited Away.

Spirited Away.

My neighbour, Totoro.

My neighbour, Totoro.

Totoro is a giant forest spirit who comes to the aid of two young girls who have moved to the countryside with their father while their sick mother recuperates in hospital.

My neighbour, Totoro.

My neighbour, Totoro.

Howl's Moving Castle.

Howl’s Moving Castle.

Sophie starts out as an 18-year-old hat maker, but then a witch’s curse transforms her into a 90-year-old grey-haired woman. Sophie is horrified by the change at first. Nevertheless, she learns to embrace it as a liberation from anxiety, fear and self-consciousness. She begins cleaning for the powerful wizard, Howl. And soon finds she is more and more attracted to him. But can she break the curse, not just on her, but Howl too?

Howl's Moving Castle.

Howl’s Moving Castle.

Ponyo.

Ponyo.

Ponyo is a fish who befriends a boy and desperately wants to become human.

Laputa - Castle in the Sky.

Laputa – Castle in the Sky.

Sheeta is wanted by a ruthless government agent who wants her magic amulet which will help him control the once mighty kingdom of Laputa. Aided by her faithful friend, Pazu and a gang of flying pirates, they have to thwart the dastardly, Muska.

Laputa - Castle in the Sky.

Laputa – Castle in the Sky.

Kiki's Delivery Service.

Kiki’s Delivery Service.

A young witch goes out into the world to make it for herself and sets up a delivery service.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Absolutely heartbreaking story of two brothers trying to survive the aftermath of the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Some other titles that are worth mentioning: The Cat Returns, Whisper of the Heart, Princess Mononoke, Arrietty and Tales from Earth Sea.

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Top 10 bestest kids’ films of all time – ever!


So, just to recap: We’ve had love films, sci-fi and war movies.

Next up – kids’ films. This could be the hardest one of all as there are so many brilliant movies out there aimed at Tranquilityslayers. Particularly from the studios of Pixar, Dreamworks, Aardman and Ghibli.

It’s a toughy as I could pick ten Studio Ghibli movies in a heartbeat. But where would that leave that dastardly Gru of Despicable Me fame?

If you’re a grown up and you don’t have Walletsuckers then you might not have seen most/any of these flicks. But, I can assure you, there’s nothing childish about them. If you love a good movie, then you’ll love these.

I’m not sure my kids will agree with me. But what do they know.

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A classic tale originally penned by Rudyard Kipling. Mowgli – a man-cub, is brought up by wolves and then ordered to return to the man-village for his own protection because Shere Khan, aka “Stripes”, is the tiger who wants a piece of him. Or, more accurately, several pieces. But Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle much to his escort’s dismay – Bagheera the panther. Cue – Baloo the sloth-bear, who has got to be the coolest bear that there ever was. Some banging tunes that I can still sing all the words to today. Much to my kids’ embarrassment.

shrek_01You could pick any one of the five Shrek movies in the franchise, as they are all cracking yarns. I think my favourite would have to be the second when Latin Lothario, Puss in Boots, makes an appearance, voiced by Antonnio Banderas. Eddie Murphy is brilliant as Shrek’s unwanted sidekick. While Cameron Diaz plays the ass-kicking Princess Fiona. Great characters and great to see that ugly is the new beauty.

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Another character voiced by Mike Meyers. I love the Dr Seuss books. Fantastically surreal tales with exquisite rhymes. Myers does justice to the mischievous feline with just enough adult humour thrown in for good measure. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are on hand to add mayhem and contradiction into the mix. Which is precisely why I now refer to my two children by those monikers.

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What happens to superheroes when their services are no longer required by the govt.? They’re put on the scrapheap like the rest of us. But the govt. didn’t manage to put the villains on the scrapheap. Cue – Mr Incredible making an unsuccessful middle-aged comeback. Cue2: Mom and the kids have to save the day. And the world.

Monsters-vs-Aliens-movie-poster

What happens to dysfunctional experiments that have gone wrong? They’re locked away by the govt., of course. (Again.) Until the earth is about to be destroyed by an evil alien overlord who wants his quantonium back that has turned the would-be-bride, Susan into Ginormica. Then, said ‘mutants’ are released to do battle with the alien invaders. Reluctant heroine, Susan, has to galavanise the hapless crew together to defeat the despotic Gallaxhar.

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Again, you could pick any one of the wonderful Aardman-created Wallace and Gromit movies. I’m going to plum for “A close shave”.  W&G have to foil a dastardly plot by the evil robodog to turn sheep normally bred for wool, into dog meat. Dum, dum – duuuurrrrhh.

Monsters-Inc-Poster

At the heart of most of these movies is a great idea. And here’s another – a parallel world inhabited by monsters who access our world via kids’ bedroom closets in order to steal their screams. Which they need in order to convert into energy to power their world. Monstropolis is turned to chaos when a human-child gets into their world thanks to the evil ‘Randal’ who wants to kidnap kids to extract more energy from them. Fortunately, Sully and Mike, (John Goodman and Billy Chrystal), are on hand to bring normality back to Monstropolis. And who could forget the company motto: We scare because we care.

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Wall-E could conceivably make it into 3 out of the 4 categories: kids, romance and sci-fi. I love this movie. Probably because I can empathise with the low-tech, no-hope, love-struck, fool of a robot who will do anything for the love of his life – the high-tec probe sent to earth – Eve.

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I could fill all ten slots with the movies from Studio Ghibli. But alas, I shall have to pick one for representative purposes. Spirited Away is a surreal tale about a girl who gets transported into a spirit world and must battle said spirits in order to escape and save her parents from being permanently turned into pigs. Exquisite animation. It was this or Ponyo.

despicable_me_final_posterYou guessed it, my number one – Despicable Me. Supervillain – Gru will do anything to steal the moon. Including adopting three orphaned girls. But his heart is melted when he actually begins to care for them. Lovely co-performance from Dr Nefario voiced by Russell Brand. Not forgetting high praise too for Gru’s adorably mischievous Minions.

There we are now, not a nauseatingly disproportionate princess in sight. Well, Princess Fiona is a little bit disproportionate – but in a good way.

Notable worthy exceptions: Toy Story; Up; Chitty, Chitty, Bang-Bang; Willy Wonka; Nanny McPhee; Brave; Tangled; Megamind; Ponyo… I could go on.

What’ve I missed? Let me know your favourites.

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Perfection


To achieve perfection takes trial and error.

If others are involved in your task, they may see your experimentation as indecision.

Ignore that gnawing urge to placate them for an easier life, and press on with your goal.

Only then, will you hope to attain something that you can be 85 – 90% satisfied with.

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The Boating Party – with Denis Goodbody


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are the most important aspect of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many people view artists as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

This week, I’m delighted to welcome radio broadcaster, children’s author, lyricist and all-round communications expert, Denis Goodbody.

Denis Goodbody

What’s your greatest personal or career achievement?

My greatest achievements have all been to do with communicating ideas. We take communication for granted in our society – we assume that all the verbal conversations, physical gestures and expressions we send out every day are understood. When they are not understood, as often as not, we blame the other party.

I help people communicate their messages for a living and I think that has helped me realize the fragility of a ‘message’. When we communicate we are transmitting ideas, the most precious of all commodities on earth. Once upon a time the ‘wheel’ was an idea. “Will you marry me” is an idea. In my day-to-day life I see beautiful, wonderful, precious ideas go up in flames or sink without trace because the people gifted with those ideas failed to communicate it successfully.

On a personal level my proudest achievement is, somehow, communicating to my wife that I’d be a suitable husband. On a professional level my proudest achievement is to have sustained myself and my family doing something I love – having ideas and communicating them.

What’s been your greatest sacrifice?

God I’m fortunate. I could be pompous and say it’s an aspect of my philosophy on life, to say that I don’t look back or I avoid regret but that would be tosh. I’m one very lucky guy. Like everyone, I have reached the sign post and had to choose between busy thoroughfares and roads less traveled and I have usually taken the latter. I have never known what lay through the traffic jams on the busy thoroughfares because I’ve been too busy with the twists and turns on the less traveled ones. Did I sacrifice going out to expensive restaurants and drinking too much in favor of having kids? No sacrifice. Did I sacrifice my dream of the Parisian garret and the great novel? No sacrifice, my attention deficit and wayward ways would have left me starving in the garret with no important unpublished masterpiece left beside by gaunt corpse. The only thing I can think of that I could classify as a sacrifice was selling my extraordinarily beautiful first house but that wasn’t really a sacrifice. It was a groovy bachelor pad and it worked – the honey-trap helped win me a honey. Anything else I miss or regret would be loss, rather than sacrifice, and among those I would count the loss of my father’s life and my mother’s memory but what they have given me far outweighs their loss.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

Well I’ve just mentioned my parents so let’s take that as read. I have also mentioned my good fortune. It was my parents who chose the strange and archaic private education I received and it was my good fortune to have had the most incredible teachers. Nowadays half of them probably wouldn’t be allowed to teach because of insufficient qualifications, inability to speak Irish or whatever. I find it hard to think of one it wasn’t a privilege to learn from and that’s not just a rose tinted rear-view mirror. Oh, they were strict and sometimes sarcastic. One could hit your ear lob with a piece of chalk from thirty feet but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use the skills, techniques and disciplines he taught me. One was a baronet and a racing driver. Another had his face badly burned rescuing a comrade from a tank at El Alamein. Yet another had mysteriously distorted finger nails which, we were led to believe, were the result of being tortured. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of those teachers, among whom I include my parents. As I observe the development of education I worry increasingly that it is becoming merely an ‘information-downloading exercise’ instead of the eye-opening, horizon lifting experience it should and can be.

Who and what inspire you?

Music, visual art, literature and children inspire me because they provide me with ideas and they stimulate the creation of more. Children inspire me because they embody possibility and hope. Seeing children observe things for the first time, trying to see those things as they see them, is a way for the rest of us to rediscover the world for ourselves. The notion that children should be seen and not heard is criminal. Music can speak truth without words, as can visual art. They speak truths in ways that leave everyone to witness their own version of that truth, free of argument or dissent. While I can’t say that of literature, as words are more self-evident, I will say this: fiction often contains more truth than fact. History has to be written from one standpoint from which it tries to recreate events. Fiction, on the other hand, makes no bones about its standpoint and is free to make its point subjectively and clearly without trying to be all things to all people.

What was the last thing that inspired you?

My wife’s singing inspires me, and has done for a good while now, so the last thing? I think The Illustrated Beatles exhibition in Dublin. 42 illustrators digging under the surface of 42 Beatles’ songs and presenting their findings in 42 incredible pictures. As a body of work it combines all of the things that inspire me: Music, visual art and literate lyrics, plus the fact that I heard the songs when I was a child and they helped form my worldview.

What makes you unhappy?

Hatred, war and cruelty and, for the most part, all of those things are borne out of bad communication. If the money that was spent by governments on the development of weapons was spent on finding away to avoid wars, we would have had a solution long ago. The problem is that there is profit in dissent which is why the really evil people in the world are those who foment discord, dividing and conquering for financial gain.

What makes you happy?

As well as music, art, literature and children? Family. When, as adolescents, we distance ourselves from our parents – an evolutionary necessity – we don’t realize how important it is to comeback. I married and bred late compared to many and no day passes without me going dewy eyed at the fact someone as incredible as my wife agreed to marry me, have a child with me and allow me to call the kids she already had ‘family’.

What’s your favourite smell?

Well it’s not napalm in the morning. In fact, the opposite. I love the smell of fresh air in the countryside. It can be a fragrant summer woodland or a winter storm on a beach. If it’s mingled with my wife’s perfume as we stroll together, that pretty much completes the olfactory picture.

What are you reading?

I’m just finishing a book about The Beatles’ visit to Dublin in 1963, a nice context to The Illustrated Beatles Exhibition. My literary weakness? Thomas Hardy. His books conjour the smells I’ve just describe and I think he could have been the world’s greatest cinematographer.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

As well as Carmen Browne? I’m listening to a lot more jazz than I used to but my listening-week is usually ruled by whatever topic I choose for my weekly radio show ‘Roots Musings’. You caught me on a bad week, it was a novelty show about Halloween.

What’s your favourite sound?

Silence. Silence is a canvas and when you have it, you can choose how to fill it. I’m funny that way.

What’s your favourite film?

God that’s hard. Chinatown, probably.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The beginning.

What frightens you?

Like any parent the thing that frightens me most is the prospect of any harm coming to one of the children and, by extension, to any children or animals. Intentional harm or cruelty to animals and children is the basest and most perverse human behavior.

What’s your favourite sense of touch?

I don’t want to be to graphic about it but having the skin of someone you love touch yours can’t be beaten in my book. And I don’t mean exclusively carnal contact either. I go to the nursing home to see my mother each week and I hold her hand. With her diminished memory there’s very little room for meaningful conversation but that touch says everything we need to say.

What do you do to relax?

Music, literature, visual art and breathing in that fresh country air, with birdsong spattering the silent canvas.

What do you do when you’re angry?

A lot of internalizing goes on which is unhealthy but it does mean I process stuff rather than let go on reflex. I do shout a bit which isn’t pretty as I have a very loud voice to begin with.

What can’t you live without?

We’ve already got music, literature, art, family and fresh air. To that you could add chilli and red wine, preferably consumed Langkawi restaurant on Baggot Street in Dublin. How are you fixed? [You’re on. Next time I’m over!]

What’s your motto?

“Live and let love”.

What’s your Utopia?

I always have to remind people that in Thomas Moore’s original Utopia, they had slaves. This tarnishes the whole concept for me though it does teach me one important lesson. Living your life fairly and without exploiting others, means an element of hard work. To answer the question free of pontification, I would say my Utopia is somewhere in the west of Ireland with all of the things mentioned under the question “What can’t you live without?”

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

I would conquer my attention deficit and finish the novel I didn’t finish in question Two.

What sends your taste buds into overdrive?

Chilli – especially prawns. And I meant that about Langkawi! Mine’s a ‘Sambal Udang’.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

If I were the rocket-suppository-inserting type – and I don’t believe I am – it would have to be Mitt Romney or some other American Tea Party Type. They have no concept or care of the world around them. They are phenomenally selfish. They are racist and intolerant. They embody just about everything the American Constitution – as I understand it – set out to avoid. I know it’s not my country but it is my world they are setting out to destroy. They are no better than the fundamentalists and terrorists they claim to oppose.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Would it be too obvious to say my wife? I have no desire to meet any of my heroes as I wouldn’t want that status diminished by reality. I guess I’d settle for Barrack Obama or Ang San Suu Kyi, both of whom I believe are incredible people.

What are you working on at the moment?

I should be working on a book I’m writing and a couple of advertising projects already overdue.

What is your ambition?

Right now, my ambition is to complete the answers to question 25. Beyond that, my ambition is threefold: finish the novel I started (not the one mentioned above), promote and expand my radio shows listenership, to write more songs with Carmen Browne. Before all of that, however, I’d have to say my ambition is to be the best Dad in the known universe beside which the other ambitions are a piece of cake.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Thomas Hardy, Guy Clarke, Joni Mitchell, Carmen Browne, Barack and Michelle Obama.

What would be on the menu?

Sambal Udang, Sushi and lamb tagine and metzes. We’ll have a couple of bottles of the Chateau Kefraya – failing that, anything else from the Beka Valley.

What question would you liked me to have asked?

Other than what date we’re having that meal in Langkawi? I think I’d like to have been asked to define my concept of God. I am inundated with scientists, atheists, agnostics, fundamentalists and dogmatists telling me that God either does or doesn’t exist. None of them, as far as I can see, have taken the time to describe the God believe does or doesn’t exist. There’s almost 7 billion different concepts of God on this planet alone and I’m not arrogant enough to say that all of them are wrong. In the Judeo-Christian bible there is, I believe, a misprint. Where it says “God Created man in his own image”. The reality is the other way round – we create God in our image.

Thank you, Denis.

My two rascals enjoying Denis' "How the Elk got to the Games".

My two rascals seal of approval of Denis’ “How the Elk got to the Games”.

Denis Goodbody – Biography:

Denis is a writer and broadcaster living in Dublin. The bulk of his career has been spent conceiving, writing and producing advertising. In recent years he has expanded his love of having ideas producing and presenting 2 weekly radio shows, co-writing jazz songs and writing books.

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I have a dream too, you know.


True, it may not be as ambitious and world-changing as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. But it’s a dream nonetheless.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to post about it until I felt I was in more of a position to realise this dream. But short of winning the Euro Millions Lottery, it aint going to happen without some serious philanthropic backer.

So, what is my dream?

Well, it’s to build a School of Arts for under-privileged kids.

Kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds in large inner-city estates. Kids who might not ordinarily get the opportunity to explore the more creative aspects of their nature.

What good would that do society? We’re in a depression, don’t you know!

Problems in every field of human endeavour are virtually always solved by creative thinking. Even the great Albert Einstein said so himself. Creativity allows us to look at problems from different angles and apply new thinking to solve problems.

Moreover, I don’t see it as a school that produces an unprecedented amount of artists. But an unprecedented amount of creative thinkers – whichever vocation they choose to pursue later in life. Whether it be mathematics, science, business, computers, product design, or economics.

And yes, a few more more artists too. And what’s wrong with that? Art is seen as a dirty word in this country. If I tell people I write poetry, they shift uneasily in their seats. If I said I write poetry in Ireland the response would be a polite smile and a nod toward the back of the queue.

Do you think the first rocket flight to the moon was dreamed up by a scientist?

Sure, scientists and engineers made it a reality. But it is creative people who come up with the ideas and the original solutions of how they can be achieved.

What will the kids do?

The school will develop and encourage creative thinking and self-expression.

It will foster, nurture and encourage exploration of the arts in all its many and varied forms including: painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, poetry, literature, screenplays, theatre, drama, dance, music, design, digital arts, film, photography, humanities, languages, and the classics.

Where is this school?

I quite fancy the idea of transforming a derelict Victorian mill. There’s something quite ironic about that. Though it certainly wouldn’t be a prerequisite. (Salts Mill in Bradford is a good example.)

Initially, an inner-city campus close to urban populations that have a high level of low socioeconomic families. Basically, anywhere across the Manchester – Huddersfield – Halifax – Leeds belt. It’s also sufficiently ‘central’ enough to accommodate children from further afield.

It would also be good to have a rural retreat – somewhere like the Lake District, Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales, where children can attend week-long courses/classes which double up as a holiday.

I would also like to open an international sister school in India or Sri Lanka where people from distinctly different cultures can share ideas. These schools could also participate in exchange programmes. (Then subsequently, even further afield: China, South America, South Asia.)

What about science subjects?

This school wouldn’t be a replacement for existing schools and their curricula – more of an extension to them.

Would it exclude people from non low socioeconomic backgrounds?

Not at all. But opportunities for middle-class families in other schools are much more accessible, regardless of ability.

Intake for low income kids would be based as much on desire and enthusiasm to participate rather than ability. There would be a limited number of places for more affluent children. Sort of like Eton – in reverse.

What kind of courses will it run?

Day-long workshops for visiting schools.

After-school classes.

Week-long courses. (Which would include accommodation for traveling students.)

Weekend classes.

Full-time sixth form courses. (A-levels.)

Masters and PhD courses.

What ages are we talking about?

Key Stage 2, up to, and including, sixth form.

Undergraduate, Masters and PhD courses.

What else does the school have?

Apart from studios and classrooms?

There’d be accommodation for students who are visiting from further afield.

Cafe / restaurant.

Gallery to promote and sell students’ work.

Gallery featuring independent contemporary and traditional art.

Masterclasses from guest lecturers.

State of the art library. (Both on and off-line.)

Book shop.

Art-house cinema.

Who will pay for it?

Well, that’s the biggest question of all.

A like-minded philanthropist would be nice.

Arts Council grant.

Lottery funding.

A percentage of Masters and PhD students’ tuition fees could go towards funding.

Sales from restaurant and galleries.

Fundraising / donations.

An Ideal World School of Arts.

Salts Mill, Bradford.

David Hockney at Salts Mill.

Salts Mill interior.

Studio space?

Any constructive criticism and advice about how to get something like this funded and off the ground would be greatly appreciated.

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The Boating Party – with Emma Silver


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are the most important aspect of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

I hope a brief glimpse into their lives is as inspiring to you as it is to me.

This next installment is by a writer who serves as an inspiration to anyone trying to get published. Wise words from – Emma Silver

Emma Silver, The Boating Party, David Milligan-Croft

Emma Silver

What’s your greatest personal or career achievement?

Definitely getting Blackbrooke published. I wrote another book before it that was women’s fiction rather than teen horror and it was rejected again and again by agents and publishers. I always knew it wouldn’t get accepted because it wasn’t good enough and I was constantly tinkering with it. In the end, I got fed up and needed a break and that’s when I wrote Blackbrooke. It only took me four weeks (editing was longer I hasten to add!) and I just knew there was something special about it. It was snapped up by Crooked Cat Publishing straight away.

What’s been your greatest sacrifice?

I wanted to be a writer so I gave up a life that had taken me years to build. I had a decent job with a good salary and prospects, my own city centre place, a dream car etc. But I was miserable. I left my job and sold all of my worldly possessions so that I could live the simple life back in my childhood home for a while. I’d love to say it’s been difficult, but I honestly haven’t looked back.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

My English teacher in high school, Mrs Hynes. She was amazing and really cared about getting the best out of her pupils. However, she didn’t suffer fools gladly and if they couldn’t be bothered, she didn’t waste her energy, instead focusing on the people who wanted to be there. She pushed me to constantly strive for better. Whenever I’m feeling low or having a crisis of confidence, I remember her belief in me and all is well in the world again. I think people underestimate the power of belief for young people, who remember and hold onto it for a long time.

Who and what inspire you?

My parents. They never settled for the ‘norm’ EVER! My mum in particular worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known and did everything she could to give me the best start in life. She’s now living the American dream and having a ball and I couldn’t be happier for her. She certainly inspired me to make a lot of major changes in my life.

I’m also hugely driven by music when I write. I don’t have a preferred genre and always say I’m a fan of songs, rather than bands/artists. However, there are some classic bands that remain on the playlist such as Pink Floyd, The Who and Black Sabbath. It’s all pretty dark and moody for Blackbrooke, although some Stevie Nicks has managed to creep in as well as some 1980s pop classics. Eclectic to say the least!

What was the last thing that inspired you?

It’s probably quite silly, but I’ve not been away for a while, just living in my little bubble in Manchester, and I recently took a work trip to London. The weather was glorious and the capital looked stunning. It was just after the Olympics and the place had a great feel. It inspired me to get my arse into gear and keep working on my second book so I can keep riding the wave of my dream.

What makes you unhappy?

Money. Simple as that. I’m the most relaxed I’ve ever been in my life at the moment and it’s because I finally have some savings from selling my entire life coupled with the fact I’m no longer chasing money. It makes me sad that I was unhappy for such a large part of my twenties – during the years when I should have been partying and living the life. Instead, I was living hand to mouth because I was trying to keep up with a certain lifestyle I couldn’t actually afford. I didn’t see it at the time but now that I do, it feel a little bit sad.

What makes you happy?

There’s a recurring theme featured in Blackbrooke, which is freedom. Whenever I say that word, it sounds more dramatic than I intend. Freedom for me is having some kind of choice, however small. We have more freedom than we think but I still listen to people on a daily basis start sentences with ‘I’d love to do that BUT…’ or ‘I always wanted to be XYZ BUT…’. It frustrates me. I understand there are constraints in life but most of time, we can be whoever we want to be, but choose not to. People should be man enough to say ‘won’t’ instead of ‘can’t’. After all, it’s only themselves they’re lying to. God, an answer about what makes me happy has made me angry!

What are you reading?

How Black is Your Sabbath – a Black Sabbath biography from ex-members of their road crew. I needed a break from fiction and I love a good rock biog. Motley’s Crue’s The Dirt was the last one I read and it blew me away. They were deliciously naughty boys!

Who, or what, are you listening to?

As I said earlier, it’s a mix. I’ve started listening to classical music for the first time in my life with Ludovico Einaudi’s Islands album getting played to death. I’m sure listening to it would be a great conversation starter at a dinner party to make me appear more intelligent than I am. Just one problem – I can’t pronounce his name so I’ll continue to keep quiet about that one…

What’s your favourite film?

Wow. I’m a huge movie buff which I think shows in the Blackbrooke Trilogy because there are a lot of references to movies in there. I have so many movies that I love that’s it almost impossible to choose one but I’m a massive fan of Kubrick’s The Shining. It’s very different from the novel (which I also love) but it’s fantastic. Almost Famous is another favourite. I can’t explain why but I feel as though my life changed after watching it.

 If you could go back in time, where would you go?

Are you kidding? It would be to the 1970s so I could see all of the bands that I absolutely love when they were just starting out and playing little venues. I’d have said the 1960s because of Hendrix but I’d hate to get trampled by Beatlemania…

What frightens you?

Failing. In every respect. My book failing, my health failing, my relationships failing, it’s endless. I’m my own worst critic and every failure rests squarely on my shoulders – no one else’s. It’s a miserable way to live as some form of failure is inevitable and I just don’t ever want to become completely derailed by it one day.

What can’t you live without?

Sadly, it’s my laptop. My whole world is on there. My books, my photographs and access to all of those lovely social media sites I use to promote my book. I even watch shows and films through it rather than switch on the television. I’m glued to the thing. I wouldn’t say I’m technology obsessed but I’m now thinking of branching out to the wonderful world of iPad. It’s like having my laptop in my handbag, all of the time! Seriously, I need to get a life…

What’s your motto?

It’s a stolen quote – Every passing minute is another chance to change everything around. So true.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

See the world, without a doubt. I’ve never been outside of Europe and there are so many dream locations that I have to visit. New York would be my first stop and then on to see my mum in South Carolina for a bit. I’d love to get a classic car and tour the States. Having a Jack Daniels in the Whiskey-A-Go-Go would be a must!

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

I fear the person whose arse I’d shove a rocket up might actually be reading this. I’d love to say they know who they are but they’re fabulously oblivious. With that in mind I’d just like to say to that person – you’re the human equivalent of plankton.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Derren Brown. Aside from the crush I have on him (which is a waste of energy given he’s gay) I’d pick his brain about the whole ‘mind control’ thing and see if there was anything he could teach me. Seeing as he’s homosexual I’d be confident he wouldn’t hypnotise me to have his wicked way but I fear he’d put me in a trance just to get me to shut up…

What are you working on at the moment?

Part II of the Blackbrooke Trilogy which has been a real labour of love. It’s been so much harder to write compared with the first book and the pressure to try and make it better has got to me on occasions. Blackbrooke has been fantastically received by teenagers and adults from all over the world and I don’t want to let them down with the second one.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Derren Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Nikki Sixx, Dave Grohl, Sharon Osbourne and Bill Bailey. It’s only Jimi who’s passed on so perhaps Derren could host a séance?

What question would you liked me to have asked?

Can I order 1,000 copies of your critically acclaimed debut teen horror novel Blackbrooke?

Thank you, Emma. I’m afraid I can’t order a thousand copies, but being on The Boating Party might help a little.

Biography:

Emma was born and raised in Manchester.
Blackbrooke is her debut young adult horror novel after spending many years honing her skills drafting short stories and devouring horror through the ages from R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps collection through to Stephen King.

Emma is also the author of a semi-biographical account of her dad’s years in a rock band in the 1970s, Driving Exile.

Outside of her day job in public relations, Emma has worked for a Manchester entertainment magazine, reviewing theatre shows gigs and movies.

She gets most of her ideas and is inspired by music and also the fighting spirit of young people who aren’t afraid to challenge the norm and stand up for what they believe in. This fleeting ‘moment’ in life is what she tries to capture in her writing.
You can read Emma’s blog here: Emma Silver Author

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Filed under Art, Books, Children, Children's books, Children's stories, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Inspiration, Literature, The Boating Party, Writing

The Boating Party – with Patrick Chapman


Renoir, luncheon of the boating party, 1881

Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a brand new feature on my blog. It’s a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers and the like.

In times of economic hardship the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are the most important aspect of our civilisation. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society.

Artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

I hope a brief glimpse into their lives is as inspiring to you as it is to me.

First up, Irish writer, Patrick Chapman. Poet, screenwriter, short story writer and all round raconteur. Not only is Patrick a great friend, he’s been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration, for my own writing.

Patrick Chapman

Patrick Chapman

What’s your greatest personal or career achievement?

I hesitate to nominate a ‘greatest personal achievement’. As a person, I’m not entirely sure I’ve achieved anything apart from not dying. As a writer, I could nominate working with the Daleks on a Doctor Who audio play – but that’d be just the most fun. It’d have to be my New & Selected Poems, A Promiscuity of Spines, which spans 25 years of work. The book has an elegant cover art-directed by Vaughan Oliver, one of my design heroes. It was a pleasure to be able to commission him and find out that he’s a lovely bloke to work with.

What’s been your greatest sacrifice?

That’s difficult to say, as I live in the so-called First world. Someone takes away my iPad and I cite the Geneva Convention. You could say I’ve sacrificed having a regular life in order to be a writer – which to me isn’t a sacrifice.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

Too many people to list them all. There was Macdara Woods, a venerable Irish poet who, 25 years ago, gave me vital encouragement starting off. Before that, my teacher of English, Paddy Nangle, let me write short stories instead of essays.

Who and what inspire you?

People who don’t think they can write but who really can. I taught budding writers a couple of years ago and was struck by the quiet ones in the class – they hesitated and even resisted reading in front of the others but when they did, their work shone. Quiet geniuses inspire me. As for what rather than who? Everything and anything. I tend to get obsessed by a thought or an idea that won’t let go until I’ve wrestled it into a poem. Happiness, therefore, is a blank screen filled.

What was the last thing that inspired you?

It was Steven Shainberg’s film, Fur, which is an imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus. Not at all biographical in the conventional sense. Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr are both superb in it. The poster for Fur showed Downey without all the hair – for most of that film he looks like a Wookiee but the marketing department, presumably, didn’t want it to come across as a sequel to Beauty and the Beast.

What makes you unhappy?

Right now it’s the thought that we’re quite possibly heading into a world of six degrees of global warming. That’s not Earth, it’s Venus. Nobody in power wants to think about it and it’s almost too terrible to contemplate, so people carry on regardless.

What makes you smile?

Woody Allen when he’s on form. His early, funny ones still crack me up, especially Take the Money and Run, and Love & Death. Annie Hall and Manhattan are my two favourites. I also have a fondness for his darker films, such as Husbands and Wives and Deconstructing Harry. Cassandra’s Dream was terrible, however.

What are you reading?

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. I loved his earlier book, The Fabric of Reality, and this one is as good. I recently finished Wetlands by Charlotte Roche, which was a hoot, especially as I was about to undergo a colonoscopy shortly after reading it.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

Dark Wood, the new e.p. by my current favourite band Abagail Grey, plus the Go-Betweens compilation, Quiet Heart, the Pet Shop Boys album, Elysium, and the David Byrne and St. Vincent record, Love This Giant.

What’s your favourite film?

Blade Runner. For thirty years I’ve loved its melancholy and its pessimism and its art direction, and Sean Young with that hair and those shoulder pads. It’s such a poetic portrait of lost souls in hell, and it’s got a great soundtrack by Vangelis. It’s also Harrison Ford’s finest two hours on film.

What frightens you?

The future. I have no idea how to manipulate it so that I don’t end up dead within the next hundred years.

What can’t you live without?

Apart from the obvious – air, water, coffee, etc – it’s the ability to write. This is what keeps me going. Without writing, I don’t really exist.

What’s your motto?

“The world is not enough.” If it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for me.

If you could be anyone other than yourself, who would it be?

J.G. Ballard, for his vision but not necessarily for his demons, though the two are inextricable. He gave a very good answer to the Paris Review when asked about his writing schedule: “Two hours in the late morning, two in the early afternoon, followed by a walk along the river to think over the next day. Then at six, Scotch and soda, and oblivion.”

If you only had one year to live what would you do?
Ignore all the warnings.

Up whose arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

The Catholic Church. But that’s a lot of rockets and a lot of arses. It would be only part payback, and poetic justice, for their former practice of torturing infidels to death by shoving hot pokers up their bottoms. That said, let’s not even get started on the Catholic Church and bottoms.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Steven Moffat. He’s a writing hero, not just for Doctor Who and Sherlock. I loved Coupling and Jekyll as well. I assume from all of this, plus his former Twitter feed, that he’d be interesting company at close quarters. I’d just let him do all the talking, and would write everything down.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just put the New & Selected Poems to bed and am now turning to a collection of short stories, due out next year. Also, my physique. One of these projects is going better than the other.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

You know when you’ve just come down with a sudden, life-threatening illness in public and someone asks ‘Who’s your doctor?’ and you say ‘Tom Baker’? That’s how you know you’re a nerd. I’d ask Tom Baker first, not just because he was ‘my’ Doctor growing up but because I really enjoyed the tales of Soho in his autobiography – getting drunk with Francis Bacon – and his disturbing and brilliant book for children, The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. Jessica Hynes would be on the list too because I’ve admired her work since Spaced. Kate Bush, simply because she’s Kate Bush. Richard Dawkins, because he’s fascinating as a scientist, and I’m in his camp when it comes to religion. Alan Turing, just so I could tell him he’s been vindicated. And Douglas Adams, because he was very, very tall.

What question would you have liked me to ask?

Would you rather be happy than right?

I’d rather not be happy than wrong.

Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick Chapman

A Promiscuity of Spines by Patrick Chapman

Patrick Chapman was born in 1968 and lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is the author of six poetry collections, the latest of which, A Promiscuity of Spines: New & Selected Poems, is published on October 10th by Salmon Poetry. His other collections are Jazztown (1991), The New Pornography (1996), Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights (2007), A Shopping Mall on Mars (2008), and The Darwin Vampires (2010). He has also written a book of stories, The Wow Signal (2007); an award-winning film, Burning the Bed; episodes of the Cbeebies series Garth & Bev; and a Doctor Who audio play, Fear of the Daleks. In 2010 his work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Weblink.
http://www.salmonpoetry.com/

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Filed under Art, Books, Children, Children's stories, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Inspiration, Literature, Poetry, Screenplays, Short stories, The Boating Party, Writing