Special Guest Post by Martha Begley Schade, Author of Galway Fairytales: The Merlin Woods Series
Can't life be simply wonderful!
I guess now, looking back, it was a natural development. The seventh child in a family of ten in rural Ireland, we occupied each other. We were a gang. Conversations at the dinner table could be loud and intimidating for any visitors. If you ever got “airtime”, your story had to be quick, concise and very entertaining or mob-attention quickly moved onto another.
As the saying goes: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. My father was always noted for entertaining others with his stories. His visitors would spend hours with him in our garden and they loved it. Or after Sunday mass… while we patiently waited to go home, all squashed together into our old Ford Anglia Estate.
How did it all start?
Well, … with a bet. My younger son, then 16, wants to be a writer. He felt that he needed a new laptop to write. When I asked him whatever happened to a pen and paper, he simply said I had no idea what it entailed to be a writer. Like a red rag to a bull, I took on the challenge and we made a bet that I wouldn’t have a book written in two weeks.
Once again, I leaned back on my formative years, took out any storytelling skills I had, polished them up, sat down and wrote “Flappy. The Pigeon Who Overcame Bullying”.
Where does an author get their material?
Years ago, this story had been the result of a bad day I was having with the children. It had been raining for quite some time, and being Ireland, that timeline referred to weeks. The boys couldn’t go out and had cabin fever. It was difficult keeping them occupied. So I promised to tell a story but needed their help. I started with one line and then asked them what happened next. The results were amazing.
Children by their very nature are limitless in their creativity. I suddenly had a pigeon who had really long wings that flapped too loudly. My son, who was being bullied in school at the time, took over. He described how the pigeon felt and how awful it was. In this way, my son was verbalising his own experiences. We listened. We empathised. He felt understood. Imagine my surprise when he then came up with the idea how the pigeon got out of the situation.
I guess that is why the story never left me. Always at the back of my mind, this was the book I was going to write. If it could help my son to develop coping skills or a new perspective, then it may well help others. There is something very fulfilling in thinking your work has a purpose. A mission.
What did I enjoy most about becoming an author?
It was enlightening. When I started to advertise the book, I began to have the most amazing experiences. Young, old, it didn’t matter. All could recall bullying. All had their story to tell.
But something bothered me. With all these stories people told me about being bullied when younger, I had to ask myself, who were the bullies? The only conclusion I could come to was that often WE are the bullies and don’t realise the impact we are having on others.
As humans we do categorize and try fit others into our perceptions of life. If they don’t fit, we reject them. The pecking order I think it is called. Many of us want to be top-dog, the kingpin, the dominant one. If the other doesn’t fit our picture of acceptable, it is so easy for us to fall into bullying ways.
Understanding the mission of my stories
I suddenly realised the importance of the book! Educational. Educational about the impact that bullying has and how it can be any of us. Giving children the story of Flappy has been an eye-opener. Now, I’ve been an engineer, I’ve been a senior manager in the headquarters of a huge multinational company, I’ve trained people all over the world, I’ve developed policies to be adhered to in all corners of the world - but nothing, simply nothing I have ever done before has meant so much to me as this book.
I have travelled to schools, nervous as anything, and enjoyed storytelling sessions with the book, Flappy. There too, the results amazed me. The children got it! They related with the poor bird and understood how they too could be exhibiting bullying behaviour. It isn’t always the other people who carry out bullying, the others who are racist… the children understood that they have the propensity to be these people too.
The world is a small place and we are all human.
However grateful I have been to see how my book has gone to distant places such as Kuwait, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and more, it was the opportunity to donate books for fundraising towards a group of medical professionals who travel to countries and provide life-changing operations to people who cannot afford them.
None of these developments took place overnight or were foreseeable. They just happened at random and always caught me by surprise. One of my favourites was at the book launch of Flappy. In the story I include a Princess and her father, the King of the Claddagh.
The Claddagh is an area of Galway City that is unique and is probably best known because of the Claddagh ring. Galway is known since medieval times as the City of the Tribes and in the Claddagh they still have a tradition of voting one local person to the lifelong position of being their King.
When I held the book launch, my first ever, people came from all corners. But can you imagine the absolute thrill of seeing the real King of the Claddagh come through the entrance, accompanied by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Galway? Believe me, I was speechless for a change. Really chuffed I can now claim to have a Lord Mayor and a King attending my book launch. I’m not sure how many authors can claim that honour.
How did it continue?
After Flappy, there followed the stories of Billa and Buster, The Golden Key of Wisdom, The Listening Tree and then finally, Emily and Tristan. They deal with issues such as depression, teamwork, kindness, guidance, friendships and more. Each book has a list of discussion points and fun facts about the relatable animal characters in the story.
At a minimum, these books are good readers for children aged 6 – 12 years, but my wish is that the books are used by adults with children as a platform where these topics can be discussed, golden memories created and coping skills developed.
How would I describe my writing journey?
I would describe it like a disco ball. You know the one with the thousand little mirrors all reflecting light? Each mirror was an experience that filled me with joy along the journey. Whether it was the fact that I could be a role model to my son who wants to be a writer, breaking down barriers in his mind to the possibilities or whether it was the people I met. All these combined joys helped catapult me out the hard years I had recently put behind me – and that I did through the books, put bad times firmly behind me.
So, when Tony offered me to guest blog on his website, I had to write my story. While the mission of my books is to educate children on social issues they have nowadays, the mission of this article is to encourage absolutely everyone to write.