Making a Children’s Audio Book #4

In this post I discuss writing for children and it’s wider implications for society.

I do not approach this subject as a mother, but as a commentator of what is at stake for society. If humans wish to evolve, we should expect that our children will live in improved societies of the future. But it is today’s children who will create the future, so it follows that what is fed into their minds is going to ultimately affect the culture of future society.

Simply put, parents need to raise a happy child who has the tools to contribute to society when they are an adult. I realize that many parents don’t have time to look at the long view as they rush about in the present world. I am bashing this system, but am willing to explain why.

I believe that childhood experience/exposure affects child and adult behaviour. Violence in the media makes a good example. It is damaging and has unconscious long-term effects. I believe that parents must have a hard time protecting their children from harmless looking media that promotes violence (not to mention guns). Virtual characters in video/computer games playing out violent scenarios seems wrong to me. The human brain still computes the violence whether animated, on screen or real. Kids are sensitive, they need monitoring.

So when I find that a Lit Agent wants stories full of ‘action’ with intense writing designed to grip the child my reaction is to turn away. Kids who thrive on this genre will read a comic. In my opinion a book is for savouring.

Remember that lovely moment when you have read a paragraph that flows so beautifully, rolling with rhythm and revelation that you have to read it again. That is so delicious. Better than Lemon Meringue (or equal to it!).

Why encourage children to steam through action packed throw away material? It implies to me that the literary world wants kids to chew up material as fast as possible, the shallower the story the better, just so that the book will be finished and the parents will have to buy another one. (Consume little air head, stuff yourself full and tell yourself how clever you are to get through the story so fast).

Sorry, but that is not my way. Adult skills can be learned in childhood. One incredibly subtle, but important tool is self discipline. Children who do not learn self discipline face difficulties in adulthood. Reading is an excellent tool for learning self discipline.First of all you have to actually learn to read. Then you have to concentrate on understanding what you are reading, not to mention ordering your life to allow you the space to sit and read. Quieting the mind and making an effort as well as processing the information that you have read, all takes self discipline. Reading can be a challenge that is relished as a good writer reveals an alternative universe.

The writers who helped me escape from the reality of my childhood offered me a passage to their world, built especially to entertain me. What a privilege. Life was slower then. Even Blue Peter was broadcast in muted colours. Children’s media today seems fast and gaudy. The senses are flooded repeatedly. And the result seems to desensitize the viewer or reader. The next treat has to be bigger, then bigger again. Disappointment is ultimately inevitable, surely?

So I am unafraid to add descriptions and to bring out the poetry of a piece of writing. I will not be panicked about building up the plot, keeping the reader engaged and entertained with the flow of the story. I trust the self discipline of my reader to engage with the world I have built and follow the path through it to the end.

Part of the fun should be discovering the characters, learning new ideas and relishing the ending.

So shove your modern consumerist ideas about children’s writing. I will do it my way. My wish is to write stories that stand the test of time. I want children to enjoy my stories when the system has changed and there is time to read to your child and spend time with your child instead of sitting for hours on a train or in a traffic jam, wondering if your child’s asthma will be worse when you get home.

My writing is a protest to our present system. But instead of hand wringing and chirping along with the multitudes mantra of ‘ain’t it awful’ I want to create something for the future to benefit mankind. They are only stories, but that is my contribution. They are designed to harmlessly entertain kids after a hard day of rocket science.

Evolution has given us the capacity to think and processes and enquire. Instead of using our imaginations to plot a downfall or plan a petty victory, why not positively create? We all loved stories when we were kids and that wont change, the world can go to shit but the children still need a bedtime story. Its a form of nourishment like food. The lit agent who wants action probably feeds her kids chips with everything. I suppose its a matter of taste. I propose children’s literature should entertain and stretch a child, surely that is better for our children and ultimately the future of society?

Children’s Audio Books #3

Content Quality :
My research made me question what passes as satisfactory, adequate and appropriate material for children’s reading. I scanned comments on Amazon about the books recommended by one American website and concluded that story content must be a minefield for responsible parents. It also made me aware that recommendations cannot be taken blindly!

In-car journey entertainment or not, it is still imperative for stories to have standards. I accept that when researching American sites there will be some degree of cultural difference. But I could not help but be extremely underwhelmed at the samples I was able to hear. Not one book recommended for 4 up to 8 years seemed very good to me.

I looked at for a comparison website. The freebies annoyed me – I believe the narrators should be paid something even if the story is out of copyright. Non payment devalues their work and others like me. But after the gripe I came across stories produced by the BBC like the Railway Children – obviously using the BBC sound library which was delivered to an excellent standard and reasonably priced. A good option.

It seems to me that parents need to be shrewd when choosing material for their children and not blindly follow recommendations. The little people are totally at the mercy of the adults who choose what literature they are exposed to. We are all aware how things from childhood either enrich or haunt us for the rest of our lives – including the words and music we are exposed to.

Criticism of Authors:
Disturbingly, there are other problems with the material widely available which is deemed acceptable for children. It is just as well that some parents are not afraid to say so. Scanning Amazon feedback pages of what are supposed to be our best loved authors, I found criticism which was no less than scathing. Dahl, Rowlings and others all get a good dressing down for sloppy work.
There are so many other children’s authors out there and the classics from back in the day. Admittedly, the old classics feel dated but I am wondering whether new authors are locked out of the industry. Literary agents don’t seem to want unknown material and miss the point about audio books as far as I can see. I am certain that they reject some excellent authors.

What do people want from an children’s audio book?
Firstly quality – it is a terrible oversight not to give information about the length of the story on the cd – its the first thing I looked for.
Sound effects improves the narration – it takes more work, but I can hear the difference.
Too much, too expensive – I am referring to the ‘play, listen and read’ concept. This expensive option includes the audio story, a book to follow the words and what looks like fuzzyfelt for the ‘play’ aspect. It looks like a good quality product – but again no indication of the duration of the audio book. At over thirty quid I would want to know. However, the feedback for products such as this is positive – or that is the way it seems. I think it is another facet to the market which is interesting, but whether it is value for money is questionable.

Children’s Audio Books #2

Format and Supply

I am looking at creating my audiobooks on Compact Disc Format.
My reasons for this is that I personally like a product that I can handle. Looking back to the days of LP covers, my opinion is based on the same principle. As a kid I loved to look at the pictures on my LP covers. Also this is a platform which enables me to include information like the production credits. CD labels promote this website which connects the reader to other stories and information available.

I want to supply this product myself. I am not interested in dealing with Amazon for reasons of ethics and quality.
In my opinion Amazon have ethically failed with their working practices. I have already avoided them because of their unfair policies towards authors, (especially their exclusivity deals). Authors get a hard deal with Amazon. Their staff get a bad deal. And I think the customer is in a hit or miss situation with this company. Yes people only write feedback to complain when things go wrong – but there are too many complaints.

Firstly I picked up that customers are sometimes confused by the selling pages and can buy the wrong product because it is unclear whether they were buying a book or a CD version of a story. Amongst other things the packaging has also been described as terrible.
Unforgivable guffs are box sets with CD’s missing, or being in the wrong order.

I already have a reasonable supplier who can fulfill small orders effectively. This is perfectly adequate for my needs at the moment.

Mick Mercer’s show – Almost Anglo Saxon track – another play!

What a lovely surprise to find that Mick Mercer played another track from Almost Anglo Saxon on his show!

Mick Mercer - check out his radio show

Mick Mercer – check out his radio show

I was gobsmacked that he played The Ballad of St Margaret – although I had already clocked that Spon seemed to like this track.

Mick Mercer’s Radio Show Here
I had written this song as I discovered that Margaret was a genuine Saxon princess and her family were invited to continue the Anglo Saxon line of English royalty. Needless to say 1066 was not a good year to turn up. She fled with her mother and ended up in Scotland as her ship was blown off course.

The tale becomes a love story as the Scottish king fell in love with her and she became Queen of Scotland. As she was a very religious Christian I wrote the song as a sort of hymn. I wanted to tell this Anglo Saxon woman’s story as she was greatly loved in her own lifetime and beyond.

I feel very honored to have my work appreciated and played on Mick’s show. Almost Anglo Saxon really is a special project. I hope that the world will one day come to know and love it.

Buy Almost Anglo Saxon Here