– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘The Magic Carpet’ blogtour, organised by Random Things Tour.
To promote this book I have a guest post written by its author, but b
About the Author :
Jessica Norrie was born in London and studied French Literature and Education at Sussex and Sheffield. She taught English, French and Spanish abroad and in the UK in settings ranging from nursery to university. She has two adult children and divides her time between London and Malvern, Worcestershire.
She has also worked as a freelance translator, published occasional journalism and a French textbook, and blogs at https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com
Jessica sings soprano with any choir that will have her, and has been trying to master the piano since childhood but it’s not her forte.
She left teaching in 2016. The Infinity Pool was her first novel, drawing on encounters while travelling. Her second novel The Magic Carpet is inspired by working with families and their children. The third is bubbling away nicely and should emerge from her cauldron next year.
Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?
Guest Post :
Challenging my characters
I challenge the characters in The Magic Carpet to use their imaginations. For adults, imagination often needs freeing from rust. I think imagination is important because it’s linked to empathy and affectionate curiosity between human beings. That in turn leads to tolerant, supportive communities, which make for secure, mutually supportive nations, which keep the world a safer place. Piece of cake, put like that!
Of course it isn’t, so we humans have a duty to use our incredible powers of language and imagination, complex skills only our species have, to try and build happy, stable individuals and societies.
I started with children in a school because imagination is strongest in childhood (assuming the child receives enough nourishment, safety and love, and often even when they don’t). Educators whose names have gone down in history – Froebel, Montessori, Steiner – tended to emphasize creative, child centered learning, while recent UK governments have grounded teaching in testable facts and skills. (Of course children need those skills, but sadly if we start teaching them too young, the child’s peak imaginative years pass as they struggle with phonics, spellings and sums.)
Later, as adults, many of us feel we haven’t had enough chances to express ourselves, and try to compensate with writing, art and craft classes, gardening, music or cookery, counselling or therapy sessions. The language used by the leaders there is similar, because now we’re adults they have permission to facilitate rather than test. “Give your imagination free rein,” they say. “Allow your thoughts to wander.” “Just doodle,” said my drawing teacher, “scribble, shade, take a line for a walk.” In the process our thoughts may “fly away with us” just as the fingers of a virtuoso pianist “fly across the keyboard”. Finally we’re allowed to jot down whatever comes into our heads; free associate, delete, start again, and judge for ourselves when our work is finished. We can ask or refuse to have our work marked and insist all comments must be constructive.
In those circumstances most children would have the confidence to take the baton and run with it. But many adults still stumble, after a lifetime of being told what’s right and wrong, too much red pen on their exercise books, too many levels achieved only to be told to start preparing immediately for the next one. Yet, if you have taught an adult who’s finally explored and grasped something and gone on to produce something else, the pleasure they express is one of those moments that can make teaching a vocation. (Think of Gareth Malone’s choir members.) Then for a while at least, they take that newfound confidence home with them, beam at their families and colleagues, sail into the next thing that needs doing with willingness and self-belief.
I wanted the school in my story to encourage interaction between children and adults within the very different families it serves. Instead of the teachers giving the adults data and the adults worrying about results, I wanted school and families to truly share an experience, to enjoy education instead of worrying about it. I wanted to use all the skills and experiences that different generations and cultures could bring and see what sort of storytellers one group of children, from one ordinary London cul-de-sac, could become when everyone cared and contributed.
That’s what I wanted both as a teacher and an author. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. There’s no equal starting point when a school sets a task, be it baking cakes for a fun day or preparing children for an exam. However well-meaning and educational the school’s request, families still have their own money worries; fears around racism, health, isolation. They must put food on the table and breathe polluted air. They have other people to care for as well as the pupil the school knows; they have jobs (or they don’t); social lives, political or religious and charity commitments; gym membership to get good value from; holidays to organize, pets to look after and endless, tedious life admin. The adults, like the children, may not be functioning at their best if they don’t have enough love and support themselves.
So I offered them all a magic carpet, on which to fly away together wherever they pleased, think and do as they liked, and hoped they’d return full of stories both to make the world a better place and to entertain you.
©Jessica Norrie 2019
The Magic of Wor(l)ds