Category Archives: Getting to know the author

Have You Ever Wondered? #1

Have You Ever Wondered…

I have often. So, I just did the things I wondered about. It wasn’t always easy because sometimes there were those in established positions who, well, just didn’t want to see change.

Here are a few things I wondered about over the years.

Why did we have a Cub Pack of 42 boys (8-10 year-olds) but a Scout Troop of only 6 lads? That thought led to me volunteering to become the first female Scout Leader in the Greenford District.

I was 23 at the time, and our cubs just didn’t stay in scouts. I became the Assistant Scout Leader (ASL) and within 6 months was the SL as he stepped into the GSL post. So, there I was, in over my head, but determined to succeed. And I think that was a turning point in my life. I had always been fairly average at pretty well everything I turned my hand to up until then, suddenly, I was thrust into a position of responsibility and well, off I went.

When I was much younger, one of my proudest moments when my boys received their Chief Scout Awards from the Chief Scout himself

I had amazing support from ‘Uncle Tom’, “Come to a meeting,” he said, “and meet the other leaders.” I did just that and as I walked through the swing doors the hall fell silent and I heard, “It’s a Bl**dy woman.” That was ‘Uncle Ted’ as we called him. He became one of my greatest supporters, friends and colleagues in scouting in the Greenford District.

I visited ‘Uncle Tom’s’ Scout hut and he proudly showed me a trail of 6-inch shields which went along one wall, across the bottom and halfway back along the other wall. “They’ll be to the end in a year.” Announced ‘Uncle Tom’ proudly. I politely asked him what they were and he said they represented every trophy his troop won (there were 13 a year). “No, you won’t.” I replied. I can still remember the look on his face, “Because my troop is going to beat you.” Now Uncle Tom had arguably the best troop in the District. He laughed at me. By the way, this is not a sensible thing to do in front of me.

We won the next event 2 weeks later – The Underground Widegame, came 6th in the swimming gala out of 20 (with barely any kids who could swim, but I can tell you the rest of the troop shouted so loudly, they never stopped trying, and even if they came last we still got a point, whereas other troops wouldn’t put anyone in.

Then we started winning. By my second year, we won every competition except the Swimming Gala (our troop was the furthest from a public pool – eventually I persuaded a dad to drive our old minibus there every Thursday and I plus a friend taught our kids how to swim.) We only ever managed 3rd place as our best, but it was enough. We continued to do this for the next 8 years my lads and I.

We won: The Night Hike, Tent Pitching (holding the up and down records for 10 years until equalled and eventually beaten by mere seconds), Underground Widegame, Gate-building, Pioneering, Chess, Shooting, Fire-lighting (my kids were pyromaniacs on the quiet), and of course the jewels in the crown the Campcraft and Scoutcraft Competitions as well as the Tony Whyte Trophy and Country Trophy.

How?

Easy. I told my boys what the all-male leaders had said that first night. “You only have a female leader. And they laughed at me and said you would never beat them.” They had something to prove, and prove it they did.

I remember walking into a Night Hike Competition where we had entered 3 teams and hearing another leader saying, “The 7th’s here, so guess we’re all playing for 2nd.” We came 1st, 2nd and 4th. The boys would get to our scout hut an hour before a competition and spit and polish their boots as we as the 10-year-olds boots, iron their uniforms and comb hairs, check hands and behind ears.

I am proud to say some of these lads are fine young gentlemen that I am forever proud of: Lee Walker, Marc Thorpe, Paul Walker, Stuart Songhurst, Mark and Alex Lindsay. You were all made of true grit. There were others but I only remember first names and some faces now as that was all 30+ years ago.

I didn’t do it on my own, I built an army: Uncle Ted, Mike Parker, Jimmy Dinglebell, Robyn,  Josie and Barry Cole,  Stuart Parsons, and others whose names escape me but who I hope will forgive me, but were essential in their support over the years.

 

 

 

Vision View Sports Radio Interview

I have always loved photography, but when you are behind the camera the world is a different place, especially when they place a mike in front of you too.

Here are some pics from my recent interview with Thabang at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

It was one of the best interviews I have done, as they had really done their homework and were really interested in my books. Thabang even bought a complete set for his children after the show. I sure hope they are enjoying them.

Radford House Primary

When I was invited to talk about being an author at Radford House, little did I think that I would be talking to pupils for 2 hours? Not only that, but they had the chance to escape and came back!

I received a call inviting me to give a talk about being an author – well, where to start, ha,ha,ha.  Being an author you see for me is a process, I sort of started and now I  can’t stop, it becomes a way of life and you crave to write each day. In fact, I get very moody on days I don’t write,  I have so many ideas flashing around in my mind it gets frustrating that I can’t put them down on paper, so I love it when I am tapping away on my computer.

I guided them through the nuts and bolts of what an author is, our tools of the trade, and why I choose to be an Indie (Independent) Author. Then I chatted about how I actually write a book – where I start and how my thought processes work when I write. This is always the section I enjoy the most, as it becomes very interactive. I show them how to create a Spider Diagram, which forms the backbone of a book. And also, how they can adapt it for an essay – which is pretty well a miniature story.

They were engaged and excited as we created weird and wonderful characters and started to spin our web. (I just love how kids minds work. ) We talked about Genres,  Beta and ARC readers, as well as the importance of book reviews to an author.  We seriously covered a lot of ground and I was left with the sense that there was more than one budding author in the audience – let’s wait and see shall we, as I have been asked to return next term – maybe there will be a book waiting for me, written by one of them, who knows.

But, what I do know is, I can’t wait to go back for another visit.

Radford House is a small private school for gifted children. It differs from traditional schools, in that,  it tailors the educational environment to suit the pupils, through a very holistic approach to their learning schedule.

 

Vision View Sports Radio Interview

Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, interview with Vision View Sports Radio

VVSR_FB_LogoThank you Thabang from, I just loved doing the interview with you guys. You made me feel at ease from the minute I met you all.

Sitting out on the verandah 19th Hills with the sun setting was such a wonderful venue. You entertained Polly and I just loved you line of questioning – one of the best researched interviews I have had, it really made me feel relaxed.

dav

 

 

Interview with Vision View Sports Radio

So, tomorrow (31st May 2019), I will be interviewed on Vision View Sports Radio 16.00-17.00 (+1GMT) by Koni Mudau.

We will be chatting about my Polly’s Piralympics Series and in particular the Piralympic Games Books – Polly’s Piralympics, Polly’s Inuit Piralympics and Polly’s Rainy Day Piralympics.

Pirates and Paralympics!

Tune in https://visionviewsportsradio.co.za/  and press the circle on the top left

 

 

What I Love Most About My Job

There are always questions we are asked as authors. “What do you love most, what do you hate most and do you make lots of money?”

What do I love most about my job?                                                                            Easy – meeting the kids and doing workshops with them, whether talking about ‘Not littering’ and how we can save our planet or how to protect themselves from bullying to looking at those with disabilities. It’s the energy they give off, it is positively infectious.        Second to that is when they receive a book and start reading it straight away or colouring in the pages – I just love it.

Recently I have been out to several schools and here are some pics I can show.

What do I hate?                                                                                                                      Oh my goodness, the writer’s edit. I absolutely hate it with a passion.

Do we make lots of money?                                                                                            If your name is JK Rowling then yes, if it’s Jann Weeratunga then definitely no ha,ha,ha. But maybe one day.

 

 

 “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

That famous saying is attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola of the Jesuit Order and also to Aristotle, but I know it from a series of documentaries started in the 60’s (then called 7 UP) that follows a group of British children, from a cross-section of backgrounds, from the age of 7 – 56 years old, looking at their lives every 7 years.

For those who may wish to watch the series.

I watched up to 42, though it now continues as a series, however, it’s true meaning only really became apparent to me yesterday. Sort of “Hit me with a wet kipper,” reality, rather than the ‘Yes, it was part of my Sociology Course at Uni,” reality where everything is a theory, but not, if you follow?

In a nutshell, it showed that the environment, surroundings, experiences and education that a child receives in their formative/primary years, shape who they will become in later life – where they are likely to live, who they are likely to marry and the type of job they are likely to get.

And before you all jump and say, but so and so married a prince etc, etc.. I acknowledge there is always the exception to the rule.

Generally, though, it is true to say that where we live and the people we socialise with, are the greatest influences in our lives. If all we see are the streets of Colombo and our parent begging and possibly sleeping on those same streets at night, that too becomes our life and the realm of our experiences.

Why am I talking about this?

As a young Scout Leader in West London, I chose to start a Scout Troop on a municipal/council dump. We were known as the ‘Dump Kids.’ Initially, some kids from very middle-class homes followed me to this area and THAT CHANGED THE LIVES OF ALL THE NEW KIDS WHO JOINED! Why?

Well, their home and school experiences were different from those of the children living on the council estate that fed the area for my future troop as well as the local schools. I remember visiting the home of one parent, she was married, 21 years-old and with 5 kids, yes 5! The floor when I entered was ‘literally’ moving, there were unwashed dishes in the sink and kids with grubby faces. What there wasn’t was a single book, comic or magazine anywhere. I was shocked, the home I had grown up in had books everywhere, as did the homes of the kids who came with me. As I left the tenement (a double storied house on top of a house block) a TV came hurtling down from the upstairs home and smashed onto the pavement near to where I had parked my vehicle. (Needless to say, I parked away from the building and appointed a ‘lookout’ for my vehicle as a work colleague had parked in the same spot, gone off to measure up some roads for repairs and returned to find his car jacked up on bricks and the wheels all removed.)

The kids from better housing had access to books, better schools, field trips to museums, theatres, sporting holidays and trips overseas because their parents could afford them, these keys opened the doors to a much wider variety of experiences to learn and draw from than their ‘Council Estate’ ‘cousins.’

Now I think you may see where I am coming from.

Here, in South Africa, we have classes in government schools with 40-50 learners, few libraries and often no toilets, especially in rural schools. If we do not provide the very basics necessary for a decent education, how can children break away from the social bondage that traps them into a continued world of poverty? How can we aid in the improvement for learners to reach their full capacity, rather than clipping their wings from the start?

We expect our school learners to like and understand Shakespeare, but he speaks a different language to English as a first language speakers, let alone those for whom English is not their first language. Yet, we expect them to be able to write exams with perfect spelling, grammar and punctuation, be able to create fantastic stories. conjure up amazing characters.

I have realised, that if all you have in life is a poor home and school and maybe gang life in that environment and school, then that is all you have to reflect on. This will come out in your language, writing (if you are lucky enough to go to school) and attitude towards those surroundings as well as the rest of the world, your world.

How can we break free of this cycle? Can a child at 7 who becomes an astronaut, scientist, owns his own plumbing company etc. at 42?

We need schools, not with tablets and computers which are being stolen every day (129 Government Schools were broken into across Christmas 2018 in Johannesburg and computers and equipment stolen.) No, we need schools with small classes and brilliant teachers who can excite the minds of their charges, spark their imaginations, help create their dreams and set them on new and varied pathways for life.

We need libraries, where, not only books can be borrowed (btw every day, hundreds of books are stolen from libraries in South Africa.) but where there is also someone who can teach those who cannot read, or just listen to a those who can show interest and encouragement.

We need social programs that provide experiences other than TV programmes, where learners get to hear, touch, smell and see environments outside their own. (For years I have been advocating for student exchange programmes where at least those in 2nd year Uni can exchange for a year and live in another country.) Scouting does this on a small scale with their ‘Home hospitality’ programmes, where scout gets to stay with a scout from another country, go to school with them, live with them. But it comes with a cost. So too does crime. So do we lock the door after the horse has bolted or lead them to water? Can we afford not to widen the experiences of all children?

As an author, I try to create books that spark children’s imaginations, characters from different parts of the world with their own unique characteristics, tropical lands, lands of snow and ice, friendships, disabilities, bullying. I base my stories around pirates and birds, the latter, I have as puppets and take with me on school trips.

I try to visit a wide range of schools, where I chat with the learners about how we (Authors) write, what goes into producing a book from pen to the market place, BUT most importantly that an author is a REAL person. Books don’t just materialise, someone writes them, and that they too can write a story. However, I am, ever conscious that their world restrains them, so the responsibility to write even more exciting stories to spark their imaginations rests with my Author colleagues and myself. We must become their world, create an imaginary world for them to escape to, use our words wisely to increase their virtual world, even if we cannot improve their physical one.

Education, reading, enthusiastic teachers, libraries, school visits, exchange programmes are all keys to better prospects, plus our stories, how we spark their imaginations and the values we portray through our characters.

Give me a child until he is seven, help me change his world and I will show you the man who can become anything he wishes.

#Jann Weeratunga