Encourage Children

Have you ever felt that you were born into a family that was completely different from yourself? That’s because because apparently talents and genes sometimes skip generations so that an actor may be born into a family of scientists or an artist is born into a family of academics. That’s why when my son said he wanted to play baseball, my first instinct was to frown and say, “why?” I’d enrolled him into soccer because his father and grandfather played soccer. He didn’t like it much. I enrolled him into swimming because that’s a life skill and I thought he’d want to swim competitively since his grandfather and many of his granduncles were swimmers. He’s good but he doesn’t like it so much. I didn’t know why he wanted to play a game that we’d never introduced him to and one that I considered boring. I used to pass by the baseball diamonds in the summer seeing them filled with parents sitting and watching the games for hours. “I’m sure glad I’m not one of those parents sitting there wasting my time,” I’d say to myself as I drove by. But as good parents should, my husband and I bought our son a bat and ball. My next door neighbour, Cyril, an avid Yankees fan, since passed on, came over and showed him how to hold the bat. The ball went sailing over the fence. “Did you see how he clocked that ball?” Cyril shouted. “He’s got a good swing.” I didn’t think too much of it but my son kept telling me, “I want to play baseball.” Finally we signed him up.
That was two years ago. Now he’s going to be playing on the rep team for the Mississauga Majors and I’m one of those parents sitting down watching the game for hours. It’s far from boring. I love it and the coach has even taught me how to take score. Baseball has taught us valuable lessons like being more patient and everyone has bad days where you don’t hit the ball. I’ve met people I otherwise would never have met and learned that the most important job of a parent is to encourage a child, no matter what we might want for them. In my new children’s book Essie Wants an Education, Essie’s parents don’t think school is important to a squirrel but eventually they let her attend. They learn something crucial from her that they would otherwise never have known which changes the way squirrels behave forever after.

Fighting for the Underdog: Why I Wrote ‘Essie Wants an Education’

Story ideas come from everywhere. Mine are no exception. I    was listening to the CBC one afternoon and heard a program on the Romas (Gypsies) of an Eastern European country. I wish I remembered which country but I do remember that Roma children who were eager to attend school and get an education were treated unfairly. They were not allowed to take the academic classes, were assessed differently due to the prejudices of teachers and faced discrimination within the school system. One principal wanted to put a stop to that but even he came upon resistance as parents pulled their children from that school to avoid mixing with the Roma children. They were afraid their own children might get diseases. This is an all too familiar tale to anyone who followed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s where Caucasian Americans wanted to segregate their children from African Americans. Seeing the footage of that brave girl who wanted to go to the newly de-segregated school in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas, makes me cringe with embarrassment. Imagine that we humans do this to each other! I also remember hearing a story of long ago where a white teacher who taught black kids said he was surprised that they were as bright and willing to learn as white kids. It made him realize that black kids were not unintelligent and slow to learn as he’d previously thought. On a much lighter note, I then saw a squirrel staring into the classroom at my child’s elementary school in Mississauga, Ontario. Maybe it’s my vivid imagination but I’m sure I saw a wistful look in that squirrel’s eyes as it cocked its head to the side as if trying to listen to the teacher. So there’s the story. A squirrel wants an education. The parents (humans) think that a squirrel has no place in school. How can a squirrel want or need an education? Surely they are not smart enough. This book is kid friendly and funny but the message is clear. We may not look alike or be alike but everyone deserves an education.

Blogging and Social Media vs Writing a Book

Want people to know about your book? Get on Social Media

I went to a workshop on blogging today. I thought it was going to be about how to blog without embarrassing myself. Apparently not. It was about the importance of social media and blogging as a marketing too. It was about using social media to get oneself out there and advertising one’s books. I’m still old school. I wish the advertising of books was left solely to the publisher but this is not the case. One of my about-to-be-published writer friends said his publisher recommended he start a blog about his book. He was stymied, wondering how to start. Another about-to-be-published writer friend said he retired early to avoid the new technology coming into his workplace. He’s in his sixties and feels that doing what was recommended by the presenter, is a full time job and a job he wanted to avoid in the first place. He wants to write, not be on social media.

I have a hard enough time finishing my book without the extra work of social media. It still feels alien to me. I remember when cell phones first came out and people walked around with them talking loudly about work, feeling important, rich and cool. I thought even back then, “You’re a modern day slave. Your boss always knows where you are and what you are doing. He/she can always contact you. Creepy!” And now, it’s totally normal to advertise our every whereabout, private or otherwise. There’s still a part of me that rebels against this, that craves the privacy of being totally unreachable. (Until my friend, let’s call her Katrina, told me, “You have to have your phone on you and on all the time. You’re the emergency contact for my child. What use is it if you don’t charge it? Carry it? Know where to find it?)

But back to social media. It feels like I’m putting myself in the spotlight, bragging even. This comes so naturally to some and as loud as I am at work where I know my colleagues well and feel comfortable, it feels strange and awkward for me to be tweeting about books, putting images on Pinterest, blogging twice a week at least (or so I was told). The presenter, my new editor, was asked if she slept. “No,” she replied.

I, on the other hand, happen to love sleeping. And what about good old fashioned TV watching? Will there be any time to do anything else? What about the time to write my book? The presenter gave me my answer. Get used to social media because it works and it isn’t going anywhere. It’s how books and authors get recognized. So I’m going to be blogging once a week. But please don’t hold me to that. I can’t promise anything.