Richy K. Chandler author of You Make Your Parents Super Happy! and When Are You Going to Get a Proper Job? talks through the challenges that come with creating diverse characters in stories, and why it is so important to do.
When I was working on You Make Your Parents Super Happy! (my recent picture book for children whose parents have separated but still both want to be part of their child’s life), I was conscious of keeping the gender and race of all characters ambiguous. While the book deals with a very specific situation, I hope that the universality of the characters’ appearance means that as many children and families as possible can see themselves as the beings found within the pages. This could be two dads, a mum and a dad, two mums and a multitude of relationships also representing the full range of cultures and ethnic back grounds that exist.Similarly, with Lucy the Octopus, my webcomic that looks at the effects of bullying and bigotry (hopefully in a humorous and super cute way), I wanted to make the lead character as universally relatable as possible. The strip touches on racism, homophobia and not fitting into gender stereotypes but it’s never made clear exactly why Lucy, the heroine, is so unliked. Lots of readers have told me that they see part of themselves in Lucy, and not always for the same reasons. I’m usually both happy that the character is relatable and saddened for the readers to have gone through similar horrible experiences.
As a writer who has no desire to create comics starring myself (hats off to those brave enough to make candid, graphic autobiographies), there are other good reasons for making characters more universal. With Lucy the Octopus, I wanted to talk about experiences of feeling picked on and ostracised in my own school years, but I’d rather avoid the spotlight being on myself. Making Lucy a girl and an octopus certainly did that job and frees me up to wildly exaggerate my own experiences within her fantastical world. For example, my own family were not terrible to me like Lucy’s are (except that year I got Scrabble for my birthday instead of the Crossbows and Catapults game I’d wished for, but I’m a survivor and made it through that bleak day). Continue reading
Victoria Honeybourne is a senior advisory teacher, trainer and writer with a particular interest in promoting wellbeing amongst young people on the autism spectrum. We caught up with Victoria upon the publication of her latest book, A Practical Guide to Happiness in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum, to ask a few questions about how it came about.
What motivated you to write A Practical Guide to Happiness in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum and who is the book for?
There has been a lot of interest recently in using findings from the positive psychology movement to improve happiness, wellbeing and resilience in children and young people. However, I realised that many of the strategies advised were not always the most appropriate for those on the autism spectrum. I wanted to write a book which looked at these issues from an autistic point of view. The book is for anybody working with children and young people on the autism spectrum – mainstream teachers, teaching assistants, mentors, speech and language therapists, and parents.
Sarah Parry is a senior lecturer in Clinical and Counselling Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her new book, ‘Effective Self-Care in Clinical Practice,’ explores how compassion can enable clinical practitioners to foster hope and resilience for themselves and their clients. We talked to Sarah about her motivations behind the book and why it’s so important for healthcare practitioners to learn how to effectively self-care.
Effective Self-Care and Resilience in Clinical Practice is a collection of essays from different practitioners, that explore the need for compassion in therapeutic work. Where did the idea for the book originate from?
Developing a personal compassionate framework for self-care has been an on-going endeavour of mine for some years. When I started working in healthcare settings that could, at times, present multiple challenges to my own well-being, I became increasingly curious as to how to overcome these emotional hurdles. I am also a great believer in the power of stories, both in terms of helping us see through the eyes of another, as well as giving us a mirror to hold up to our own experiences, helping us develop a deeper knowledge of ourselves. My motivation for this book came from my own experiences of struggling with competing demands and a realisation that working harder and harder isn’t always the answer. I wanted to understand more about how people developed effective self-care strategies based on compassionate teachings and practices, to enhance their own well-being, resilience and ability to maintain a hopeful outlook. Consequently, I started talking to colleagues who I knew managed their self-care well, as well as people I didn’t know at all at that stage but whose writings inspired me and encouraged me to think about how well I was looking after myself.
That is according to Nathalie Slosse, author of Big Tree is Sick, who tells the story of how the book came to be, as well as laying out her case for complete honesty as the best way to engage with children when helping them to understand serious illness.
In surveys on what values we consider important, honesty is always highly rated, usually even as the most important quality. However, when it comes to honestly confiding something serious to our children, we often want to spare them the grief that the harsh truth can bring. It is a dilemma I struggled with when I was treated for breast cancer, and it’s why I want to provide a resource to others in the same situation today.
Sometimes people ask me “Did breast cancer change your way of life?” I wish I could reply that this was not the case; it’s true that prior to my diagnosis I followed my heart when it came to important life choices. But if I’m honest, I must admit that without the painful episode in 2007, I would not be doing what I do now. The battle I had with breast cancer as a mum of a two year old boy helped me discover that I can help people find happiness in difficult circumstances. In 2010 I founded the association Talismanneke to further explore that path.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Research shows that for many schools it is hard to keep up with the high speed train that is a student’s online life. New apps and high risk behaviours emerge at the same time that new Ofsted inspection requirements are outlined. Only 45% of secondary pupils strongly agree that their teachers know enough about online safety, whilst Ofsted says that training for teachers is inconsistent. So how do you address the fastest evolving aspect of a young person’s education today? Continue reading
Young Royals Kate, William and Harry promoted the Heads Together charity earlier this week with a campaign encouraging people to talk about mental health and to find practical, everyday ways to help. During Foster Care Fortnight it seems fitting to think about the wellbeing of carers who risk becoming stressed, anxious or depressed. Yoga and other mind/body practices can help – and they don’t all require being super-fit or flexible. It all begins with good breathing, so try this simple exercise from our book Caring With Vitality – Yoga and Wellbeing for Foster Carers, Adopters and Their Families.
Breathing holds the key
‘If you breathe well, you will live long on the earth.’
Yoga is not just about the physical asanas (postures). In fact, it is learning and practising a different way to breathe that will revitalise you even more than doing the poses.
All too often we become used to taking quick, shallow breaths (into our chests rather than our bellies), without making full use of all our breathing muscles, or our full lung capacity. If we carry on with this ‘bad’ breathing, the result can be physical tension and a whole range of other health problems. Continue reading
Nick Luxmoore reflects upon his new book Horny and Hormonal to discuss the significance of sex and sexuality in young people’s education, and how these often awkward subjects can begin to be broached by the adults who support them.
A Year 9 girl is posting naked pictures of herself on the Internet. A Year 10 boy thinks he might be the wrong gender. Younger boys in school are asking where they can get hold of condoms. An older girl is worrying that she might be pregnant. A boy is being bullied by a group of his peers saying he’s gay. Younger students are feeling the first stirrings of sexual desire while older students are beginning their first sexual relationships. All of them are wondering if they’re normal and most are watching porn to find out. Meanwhile, at home, there are parents starting affairs, parents moving in with new partners and sons and daughters trying to make sense of this. Some parents are saying that there should be better sex education in school while others are saying there should be no sex education at all….