Since being a young girl, I have always wanted to be a teacher. This never faltered and throughout life my focus was clearly on being a teacher. It started with the teddies and dolls in my bedroom, who would have to sit through my endless lessons when I was a young girl. Needless to say, they grew up to be very educated teddy bears and dolls. My passion for teaching stemmed from wanting to help. Help anyone, but mainly children. I wanted to be the voice that they may not have. My teaching career took me to teaching secondary English for 10 years. I loved English, another passion of mine. I loved my job, I loved the children, and I loved the fact I got to teach something I was passionate about, but something was missing. Two of my passions bowled into one, but I still felt like there was a part of me that wasn’t meeting the part of me that wanted to help. Yes, children achieved their grades, and they went on to a variety of careers, but at the end of the day, did I make any difference to any of them?
My journey took me to working in a special educational needs school, which I loved. This was it; this was my moment to make some helpful impact on a child. It was evident when I started at the school that my help didn’t have to be academic. It could be something as simple as listening to a child, giving them a hug, or letting them experience something that we take for granted in everyday life, but something they had never experienced. It was my life in this section of education that opened my eyes to how so many children struggle with mental health. It was so evident that children couldn’t recognise their feelings as mental health, and they were unable to cope with the feelings. It was for this reason; I wrote Daniel’s Dream: Monster Mountain.
Using Lockdown for something productive, I decided to start Daniel’s Dream. My idea was that if it reached one child, then I will have achieved something. The intention of writing Daniel’s Dreams is to raise awareness for the variety of mental health issues that arise for children. The whole premise of the book is that it will become a series of books. The first book ‘Monster Mountain’ introduces the main characters and a general idea of anxiety and fear. Future books will see the characters come together but will mainly focus on one mental health issue per book.
I wanted to use the idea of mental health being compared to the idea of monsters in your head. When Daniel meets the monsters, he realises that monsters are not all mean and that some just need help with their issues. The characters are designed around the premise of their mental health issue. So, their colours, names, features and personality all represent the mental health issue they are linked to.
Once a child reads one of my books, which ever in the series that may be, I hope that it teaches them that it is ok to not be ok, that there are lots of people who have mental health issues and the more it is talked about the more awareness there is; I hope that children can identify coping strategies, that they can use the breathing techniques and grounding exercises and then apply them to everyday life. If this can bring some impact on their own mental health issues, then we are starting to win the fight against childhood mental health illnesses. I hope that children enjoy the first one enough to want to buy the next in the series, which I am currently writing.
Writing isn’t easy; finding ideas that can be sustained and enjoyable for children can be a task. You constantly question has this been done before? How will my work stand out above the rest? But I found my solace in writing. I found it an escape in times of unhappiness. I, too, have suffered with mental health issues and they can be tough to battle even with the most gusto you can muster up. My own mental health has been one of my biggest challenges over the last two years. Some days, I don’t recognise who I am now and how to become ‘me’ again. So, writing allowed my mind time to be creative and escape its own monsters. I sit, usually with a cup of tea, open my laptop and let my fingers do the work. I like to just write and write until my fingers stop and my mind is emptied completely of its ideas. It is then that I go over it and edit my ideas, add to them, or move things round a bit. I like to develop my characters and descriptions further too. It is in the weirdest of places that my ideas tend to come, develop or I can elaborate further; often in the shower or just as I am about to sleep. The number of random notes of ideas I have either on my phone or written is astronomical. But it works for me and I love it. It is when I am most creative.
As a budding writer, I also use the environment around me to encourage my creativity. I have a remarkably close family; my daughter, niece and nephews play a large part in me coming up with ideas, or descriptions or even humours moments. It is these that I take away and develop in the hope that I can bring them to life in a book for other children. My daughter is a huge inspiration for what I do now, and the most satisfying moment is her reading the entire first book and saying ‘Mummy, I am so proud of you’. Moments like that are priceless, especially from her. Everything I do, I do with her at the forefront of my mind.
Writing isn’t always easy! For me, you are putting your heart, mind, and soul on a page for all to see, judge and comment on. It is a scary process. I don’t believe it is only me that can feel this way about their work. Most authors must suffer a case of insecurity; is my work good enough, did I miss something, will everyone like it and will it achieve the intended purpose? During times of doubt, I try to remember that all I want to do is help children. If I can do this, then the rest that comes with releasing a book is just a bonus. Yes, it will be judged, but the most important audience to me are children; Let’s face it – they are brutally honest.
I hope that my book reaches you somewhere and that enjoy reading as much as I have enjoyed writing.
Daniel’s Dreams: Monster Mountain will be released early January 2021. It will be available from my website www.dreambelieveread.co.uk and on amazon. There are regular updates on my socials @dreambelieveread and I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also offer school author visits, in person or virtually, which can be booked through my website or by contacting me via email.