THE LAUNCHPAD ISSUE 2: FATHERâ€™S DAY 2016 SPECIAL EDITION
A Timely Departure, Father and Daughter. Illustration by Debs Uprichard, June 2016
From the Editor…… During the course of my work in the Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, it has often been pointed out to me that men’s mental health and the role of fathers can be something of a marginalised story in the arts. It gives me great pleasure to put together this humble response to that by celebrating contemporary fathers. In the past few years I have watched many of my friends become fathers and have had the fun of sharing war stories about night feeds, nappy rash and childcare costs with them as they give themselves whole heartedly to the task. In this issue I am celebrating the hands on fathering of our generation. I am also celebrating the creativity of fathers who write for their children. Experience has shown me that by being able to communicate with our children, boys and girls, we can teach them about talking to each other. It is this above all things that best protects our mental health as we go through adult life. I can’t let the chance pass to pay tribute to my own Dad’s memory. His stories have left a legacy that show up in all the work I do. Some of this issue’s contributions are inspired by fathers like mine. I also have to point out that while I have been putting this little issue together, my husband has been holding the fort at home – and he is much better at it than I am. Darren Matthews, you are an everyday miracle; wiper of grubby faces, reader of David Walliams, packed lunch maker, music man, story teller, washer of dishes. Ironer of school shirts, light for the next generation – a Dad. Please read the issue with a sense of celebration of many Dads like that and the inspiration they provide. Thanks once again to all our contributors and to Debs Uprichard for the illustrations. We will be putting out a more general call for submissions in early 2017 for our next issue. Spread the word! Paula Matthews, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org www.thelauchpadjournal.wordpress.com
Contributions: After the Deluge by Anthony McCann Hello – Illustration by Debs Uprichard Hello – Poem by John Young A Timely Departure by Jason O’Rourke My Granda Got The ‘lectric Chair by John Young Sky Seed – Poem by Adam Trodd Sky Seed – Illustration by Debs Uprichard What does a big Coo do? – Poem by Morna Sullivan Coo – Illustration by Debs Uprichard Forty by Victor Henriques The Man about our House (1981) by Morna Sullivan Julie Robinson Interviews Victor Henriques and Adam Trodd
After the Deluge
My father's smile it spoke of morning's glory, Just when it looked like the deluge would never end, And my mother's smile it spoke with all the relish of an untold story Coming round the bend. And my motherâ€™s eyes they spoke with warmth and longing, Just when it looked like the waiting would never go, And my father's eyes they spoke of all the burdens that had lifted from their shoulders And tumbled far below. And heaven only knows when tides will turn and call the ships to sea And timeless are the eyes that set the loving hearts free. Will you meet me at the crossroads of my life? The voyage is long but the winds still blow when then day has turned to night And will you stay with me till dark has turned to light And hold me in the silence of your sight. And my father's life it speaks of love and giving, Of sacrifice for family and for faith, And my mother's life it speaks of lessons learnt and strength to battle through the living, Of these true love is made.
Hello Illustration by Debs Uprichard.
Hello Hello, to the front door, a very welcome sight. Hello, to the letterbox, polished brassy bright. Hello, to the telephone, on the table in the hall. Hello, to the chiming clock hanging on the wall. Hello, to the coathook, where Granda hangs his hat. Hello, to the scruffy chair, where Granda has his nap. Hello, to the kitchen, with dinner almost done. Hello, to the big deep bath, I splashed and had such fun. Hello, to the oil lamp, I’m not allowed to touch. Hello, to my Granny’s house. I’ve missed this place so much…. John Young
A Timely Departure It was five years after the Queen’s death when the witch arrived. She appeared at the King’s annual birthday ball, smiling and behaving as if she had always been at the court. Although, in fact, nobody knew her, all of the guests and courtiers assumed she was someone else’s friend and treated her kindly. And so she worked her way through the crowd, smiling and chatting, until she reached the top table where the King and his seven-year-old daughter were sitting. With the clear intuition that young children have, the Princess saw her for a witch immediately – the tiny tuft of black hairs on her chin was a dead giveaway. To less perceptive observers – the adults – the witch was completely un-witch-like. In fact, apart from those few hairs she was really rather unremarkable. She was young, with smooth skin, an ordinary nose, and there was not a wart in sight. She did, however, have an enchanting smile that lit up her face most attractively, and she used this on the King immediately. He was clearly quite taken with her and invited her to sit with him and the Princess so that they could talk together. Realising that the King wasn’t aware of the danger he might be in, the Princess asked loudly, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” As the witch turned to face her, for the briefest of moments, her mouth turned down at the sides into a hideous grimace. Then she laughed. It was the sort of laugh that witches have in cartoons, a loud shrieking cackle. Then, in a dramatic, croaking, cartoon-witch voice she said, “I’m a BAD witch, and I’m going to turn you into a frog!” And she waved her hands in the air, saying, “Kaaaaaaaa-ZAM!” The Princess did not change into a frog. The King laughed, and continued to chat with the witch. He looked happier than the Princess had seen him since her mother died, but although the Princess wanted her father to be happy more than anything else in the world, she was worried about these new developments. As the weeks passed the witch visited the palace more and more often, and it became obvious to the Princess that the King had fallen under her spell. He was besotted with her, and presented her with gifts. She joined them at the top table for all her meals, and after a while started to request luxurious and exotic dishes that the head cook sometimes struggled to get the ingredients for. It wasn’t long before the King ordered a room to be prepared for the witch so that she could come and live at the palace full time. She was to be the new governess. The Princess was fond of her old tutor, Mrs Farthing, and she burst into tears as she hugged her for the last time in the entrance hall. As the big oak door closed, a blast of icy wind caught the Princess’s cheek. Wiping her tears away on her sleeve (even princesses do this) and turning away, she almost bumped into the witch, who was glaring at her with her mouth turned down in that ugly grimace. “That is no way for a princess to behave!” she said sternly, “Have you no handkerchief?” then, quickly softening her face into a smile, she added,
“We must keep up appearances at all times, mustn’t we? If we are to rule correctly. We can’t behave like the common folk. Now let’s find you a hankie and get you cleaned up.” And so the witch became the new governess. She was strict about everything and no fun at all. When the Princess’s mind wandered, the witch waved her heavy wooden ruler around threateningly and repeated the same old story about how she’d got her knuckles rapped when she was a child for not paying attention in class. After a few months had passed, the King sent for his daughter. Being an intelligent and intuitive little girl, she had a good idea of what he was going to say before he said it. She had seen the way her father looked at the witch, and heard the witch encourage him with flattery: “I think, my Lord, that you are the most handsome, kind, and clever King in all Europe. The princesses must be queuing up to dance with you.” Then, when his eyes lit up with hope, she would rebuff him, demurely saying things like, “If only I were worthy of your affection, my Lord. But I am young, and still desire to wander and discover the marvellous places of the world. I fear it can never be.” Entering the King’s study, the Princess noticed that her father was becoming thinner, and his cheeks were pale and sunken. He gave her his brightest smile, but the sparkle was gone from his eyes, which were redrimmed and set in dark hollows. “Father. Are you well?” “Sweet child,” he said affectionately, “come and sit upon my knee. We have much to discuss.” He lifted her up and hugged her tightly. “Is it about my governess?” asked the Princess nervously. He laughed dryly. “You are perceptive, just like your mother, God rest her. Nothing got past her either.” “I miss her so much.” said the Princess, hoping to steer the conversation away from what she knew was coming. The King sighed. “So do I, my love. So do I. But she is gone, and nothing can bring her back.” He paused, as if trying to find the right words, “... She would want me to be happy, don’t you think?” “I’m sure she would father, but ...” The Princess hesitated. “But what?” asked the King, frowning. The Princess blurted it out: “You don’t seem happy father, really you don’t.” “I’m tired child. It’s not an easy job running the kingdom; the spring is very late, and the folk see bad omens everywhere. There is discontent.” It was true. It was already the end of May, and the usual sunny weather was long overdue. A blanket of grey cloud and drizzle was suffocating the countryside, turning the fields into muddy swamps, and the roads into streams. The day before, The Princess had paid a visit to one of her favourite places, the great greenhouse. It usually provided a glorious display of colour and fragrance at this time of the year, but this time when she entered Squires, the head gardener, had taken her aside, his face grim.
“There’s nothing, your Highness, nothing at all. It’s as if the flowers are refusing to bloom. I’ve never seen anything like it.” The Princess had been very disappointed. She looked up at her father, and said, “Squires says the flowers are refusing to bloom this year. Is that a bad omen?” The King nodded his head. “Yes, I’ve seen. It is perplexing, but nature can be harsh sometimes. I’m sure everything will be back to normal soon.” He coughed. “But that’s not why I asked you here, child. I wanted to tell you that I’m thinking of getting married again.” The fact that she was expecting the news didn’t make it easier to bear. She stifled a sob; she would have to be grown up about this. “Father, I wish for nothing more than your happiness,” she said firmly, “but I feel it is my duty to tell you that the governess is a witch. A bad witch. I ...” The King erupted into a fit of laughter. “My dear daughter,” he eventually wheezed, “you mustn’t fear such things. There are no witches in real life. They only exist in fairy stories.” The Princess was upset. “Don’t laugh at me!” she stormed, jumping down from his lap and marching towards the door, “It’s true!” Two days later the witch took a holiday. She left a note saying that she had gone to explore the Norwegian fjords and would be back in a month or so. It was all very unexpected. The King sent a message, asking kindly if she would come back to look after the Princess’s education. Of course, he also wanted her to return because he was pining for her, although he didn’t put that in the letter. Her reply was not what he expected: The Princess will do fine without me for a few weeks. It is nigh summer, let her have a holiday! I am having a wonderful time. The days are sunny and much longer here; it does the heart good to escape from all that rain. Last night I danced into the early hours with the most handsome and gallant Norwegian men. They know how to enjoy themselves in the fjords! The King’s health started to decline. He grew a beard and stayed in his bedchamber, sometimes until late in the afternoon, curtly dismissing servants and councillors alike. Even the Grand Vizier was only allowed a brief audience to discuss the most important matters of state. It seemed as if the King had given up. He stopped eating properly and his face grew haggard from lack of sleep. He either delegated his responsibilities, or ignored them altogether. The rains did not stop. The flowers did not bloom in the great greenhouse. His pocket watch, given to him many years before by the King of Portugal as a wedding present, stopped working. The Princess knew that the witch had laid a curse on her father, but she was powerless against the strong magic, and the best she could do about it was to try and cheer him up. She seemed to be the only source of joy in his life, and she spent many hours with him reading stories, singing to him, and stroking his ever-lengthening beard. Then, after five weeks, the witch returned. The King’s mood brightened considerably, although he didn’t return to his normal, pre-witch, jovial self; he still looked haunted. One morning, on her way into the King’s bedchamber to visit, the Princess observed something peculiar. The witch
was standing face-to-face with the King. Putting her hands on his shoulders the witch said, “I like it when you’re in your socks and I’m in my heels.” The King looked bemused. “Why?” he said. “Because I can look down on you.” she answered, a smile playing across her lips. The King turned away. He looked deflated, like a proud old lion that had been wounded by a huntsman’s arrow. The Princess coughed loudly, and the witch looked up, her mouth curled down grotesquely in anger. ‘It’s at times like these that she reveals her true nature,’ the Princess thought, picking up the book from the chest of drawers. “Shall I read to you father?” She said. The witch went on another holiday, back to Norway to see the midnight sun. Apparently it was important to her. Again, the King sent a message. This time the reply struck him like a bolt of lightning: I warned you before not to fall in love with me. My answer remains the same. We have no future together. You should be wary of me; there is no end to the ways I can mess things up, confuse and break you even more. I’m doing it now! The King was angry and upset. He considered banishing the witch from the kingdom. But the spell was too strong, and he could not break free from the cold chains it had wrapped around his heart. Again he took to his bed, staying in the gloom with the curtains drawn, until even later than before. The rains continued, crops failed, courtiers left his service, and unrest bubbled higher and higher amongst the folk. There was talk of a curse on the land. A month passed and the witch came back. The king confronted her about the letter, telling her that she was unkind, and should not treat anyone like that. He deserved better in return for his many kindnesses. He also told her that he had considered banishment. Faced with this news, the witch was contrite. She didn’t mean it, didn’t know what had seized her – some midsummer madness she supposed. She was ready to settle down now. Again, the King’s mood improved, but over the next few months it was clear that the sickness plaguing the realm was not abating. The King’s face was gaunt, etched with lines of worry, and he had to get new clothes made to fit his shrunken frame. There were only a handful of loyal guests at the annual birthday ball that year; there had been riots over bread shortages in the towns, and illness had spread amongst the folk. The great greenhouse remained flowerless. The witch started to go on holidays again, sending contradictory messages back to the palace: in one she was ready to get married soon, and in the next she saw no future for them. The King gave her the gifts she desired, brought her to the theatre, took her away to the sunny beaches of Spain and Italy. But it was all to no avail. One day she left, and this time it was for good: she didn’t love him anymore. So that was that. A tsunami of relief washed over the King. He had been dreading this moment for nearly two years, and now that it had arrived he was finally released from the relentless punishing worry (often the fear of something
happening is worse than when it actually happens). He asked for his daughter. “Come here sweet child. I owe you an apology.” She climbed onto his lap and wrapped her arms around him. “I should never have laughed at you, for you were right and I was wrong. She was a bad witch. She laid a shroud of evil over our land, and I was too blind to see it.” The Princess looked up into her father’s eyes. “You were under her spell, father. There was nothing you could do.” Two fat tears rolled down the King’s thin face. “It’s over now, my love. She’s gone.” The Princess dabbed at his wet cheeks with her sleeve, as princesses do. “Tell me this father; I don’t understand. Why did the witch leave, if she was evil? She had us in her power.” The King stroked her hair. “She had taken all she could get from us. She didn’t need us any more. She has moved on to other realms now.” The Princess slowly nodded her head. “I see that. But leaving us and lifting the curse; this was an act of good, wasn’t it?” She paused. “... I mean, how could she be evil and yet still do a good thing?” The King laughed. “That, my child, is what the philosophers call a paradox. Things are rarely simple and easy, black and white. Maybe there was a scrap of goodness in the bad witch. Maybe she has a conscience of sorts.” “Maybe, father. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure.” The King kissed the Princess on the forehead. “One thing you can be sure of: I’ll listen to my daughter more in future. It’s a wise ruler who listens to good advice given honestly, from the heart.” The Princess took her father by the hand. “Come on! Let’s go and look!” Outside, the clouds had parted and the sun was shining brightly on all four corners of the realm. In the towns and villages the folk turned their pale faces to the sky and sang songs of joy and thanks. Running, the Princess pulled her father along the gravel path towards the great greenhouse. As she flung open the door, they were greeted by an explosion of colour, just like a natural firework display. It was the best show of flowers they had ever seen: orchids of every hue graced the walls, clusters of fragrant jasmine hung down from the great glass roof, tall spikes of red ginger flowers and orange bird-of-paradise soared up from the beds, and the heady scent of lilies filled the warm air. The Princess looked up at her father. He was beaming from ear to ear. It was easy to see that the witch had left a lasting mark, but now that terrible haunted look was softened by laughter wrinkles. “To the kitchen!” He suddenly exclaimed. “I’m so hungry I could eat the beard of the Grand Vizier!” Jason O’Rourke
(See cover illustration by Debs Uprichard).
My Granda Got The ‘lectric Chair Teacher asked the classroom, tell me stories about your folks. Does Granny knit you mittens, does Uncle tell you jokes? So, I told her a story, that made her stop and stare, how my dear old Granda got the ‘lectric chair. He wasn’t being criminal, a robber or a cheat, Granda’s ‘lectric chair was just to help him from his seat. He pressed a little button, the chair raised him to his feet. Everyone should have one, cos they are really neat. One time Granda took a nap and as he began to snore, leaned upon the switch and woke up, walking ‘cross the floor. Some Granda’s become famous with a statue in the Square. My Granda wasn’t famous but, He got the ‘lectric chair. John A Young
Sky Seed Last spring my dad found a seed, In the corner of his shed, He picked it up between finger and thumb, “That’s a strange looking seed.” he said. It was rainbow striped, And had fur of a type, You’d normally see on a bear. And it wasn’t round or oval, Like other seeds usually are. In an effort to see what plant it might be, He buried it in a pot, And in the space of twenty four hours, You should’ve have seen how large it got. With flowers like neon pink trumpets, And shoots as thick as trees, It grew into the sky and out of sight, With a flurry of rustling leaves. Next morning we both decided, To climb the thickest shoot, So we got kitted out with ropes, And sturdy climbing boots. I wish I could tell you what we found, But the truth is we haven’t stopped, We’ve been climbing now for one whole week, And we still haven’t reached the top. Adam Trodd
Sky Seed Illustration by Debs Uprichard.
What does a big coo do? “Daddy, I want to be like you,” Haggis told Daddy McCoo. “I want to be a big coo too,” Haggis told Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too, Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “I was a small coo too But then I grew and grew and grew.” “What does a big coo do?” Haggis asked Daddy McCoo. “You know, a big coo, just like you, What does a big coo do?” “A big coo says moo, moo, moo Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too And say moo, moo, moo, moo, MOOOOO!” “But what does a big coo do?” Haggis asked Daddy McCoo. “You know, a big coo, just like you Dad, what does a big coo do?” “A big coo needs a friend or two Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too. Be friends with the horse and the ewe.” “What else does a big coo do?” Haggis asked Daddy McCoo. “You know, a big coo, just like you What does a big coo do?” “A big coo needs a coo hairdo Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too You’ll not need scissors or shampoo.” “What else does a big coo do?” Haggis asked Daddy McCoo. “You know, a big coo, just like you Dad, what does a big coo do?”
“A big coo goes crunch, munch, chew Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too And you’ll go crunch, munch, chew.” “What else does a big coo do?” Haggis asked Daddy McCoo. “You know, a big coo just like you What else does a big coo do?” “A big coo has to use the loo Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too And you’ll do a big coo poo!” “Daddy, I want to be like you,” Haggis told Daddy McCoo. “I want to be a big coo too,” Haggis told Daddy McCoo. “One day you’ll be a big coo too, Haggis,” said Daddy McCoo. “Once I was a small coo too But then I grew and grew and grew.” “I want to be a big coo too.” Haggis told Daddy McCoo. But for now I’m a wee, wee coo And I’ll stay here right beside you.” Morna Sullivan
Coo Illustration by Debs Uprichard.
At forty winks I think maybe I can see a little girl. She will never be my little princess. I will instead make sure to put on big pink fluffy dresses and dangerously-heeled shoes for her to poke fun at until my feet hurt. I will most certainly demand that she funks up the long nails buried in the fingers of my right hand with blobs of fake tan. If it is a girl that we are expecting she and I will organise ourselves. We will be mobilised; we will crash every girlie night in town and obliterate every girlie girl with our secret weapon: the Fake Nail Scratcher. I will always carry a blackboard tablet tucked under my right arm and a full manicure set for this purpose. My daughter and I will vow not to learn anything about each other except for maybe our first names and out favourite shade of black; this is how we shall survive interrogation when she or I are finally captured. If this unborn artist grows into a girl I will refuse to pick up the paint brush for her I will not expect her to retouch any of my unfinished pictures, to be like me or like the one I just did not have enough time to become. Unless of course my daughter stubbornly insists on resting her hazy hopes and insomniac dreams up against my ageing fatherly frame.
It would be different then It might be difficult It may at times feel unfair: the brush may be dropped and picked up again the whole thing may turn up looking like crumpled up exam revision notes. But so what. When you deal in the currency of dreams there are few problems that cannot be fixed with forty winks. I was 40 years old and a would-be father of a 40-week old fetus whose sex was unknown. The whole parenting thing was in fact one huge unknown. It still is. Victor Henriques
The Man about our House (1981) He’s round and he’s fat and he’s happy and jolly, And one thing for sure he can’t stand ice-lollies; He loves gardening and woodwork and Do-It-Yourself, But he certainly didn’t when he mended the shelf. He likes animals but what else do you expect, When you find that his job is a full time vet; Well, he potters about painting, mending and car-fixing, He enjoys building walls including the cement mixing. He’s a Dad in a million. Morna Sullivan
For the features edition we had the privilege of hearing from two of our contributing authors: Victor Henriquez is the author of the poem ‘Forty’: Tell me about your creative practice, how long have you been writing? I think I started writing more consistently after a friend gave me a diary as a farewell gift as I went away on a gap year travelling around Latin America when I was 19. Ever since I have used writing as a way to reach the inner landscapes of the mind. I see writing more as a tool to express and understand myself, rather than to communicate a particular idea or message to anybody else. I write regularly on sketch pads that I buy for this purpose. Most of it is prose; I reserve verse for special occasions, and sometimes I sketch also. I always need to write in black ink, and find it impossible to write on ruled paper of any kind. I usually keep all my writing private; this is in fact the first time I submit anything for publication (for The Launchpad). It just felt right to submit a poem which speaks of a time that felt like a game change to me, and it seemed to fit the theme. I also enjoy working on translation, especially song lyrics. To date my proudest translation achievement a Spanish version of Teenage Kicks, which I regularly perform with my band Los Dramaticos in a bossa nova style. Does being a father influence what you write? Yes. In a very immediate way, I find myself using writing as a tool to freeze special moments in time, so that I can examine them more closely. I spend a lot of time with my toddler daughter during the day, so writing about everyday events involving her helps me scratch the surface for meaning. I am also constantly making up stories which feature characters that have developed from real people or experiences she has had in the past. The local butcher, volunteers at a playgroup and the entire staff from a cafe we go to together have all become regular characters in these stories. Most of these stories do not make it onto a notebook page, but I feel that in a sense they are being written in the relationship she and I have. I suppose most parents do similar things with their children and I wonder whether my daughter and I ever feature on anybody else’s stories. Also my daughter and I play with language a lot. She’s not 3 yet, but she is quite articulate in English and understands Spanish quite well, so in recent weeks we have started making bilingual puns. I find this very
stimulating, as I mostly write in English, but sometimes I write about her in Spanish, which is the language I always speak to her in.
What advice would you have for any other fathers who want to get into writing for children? I don’t really have experience of writing for children other than my own. But I can say that at a personal level I have found writing a great tool for slowing down the mad pace that life takes when a child comes along. It helps reflect back on really important life events which can otherwise easily be overlooked, such as milestones in the child’s development or simply those moments of genius insight into the way they see the world with their fresh, new eyes. So I would recommend taking a journalistic approach first to get into the habit of using the medium and then see where that takes you. Earlier this year I started working on an illustrated book for my daughter. I have the story and sketches for the characters, but it is going very slowly. I never before thought of trying to write a children’s book and illustrate it. I blame of that reflective, journalistic writing I have been doing.
Adam Trodd submitted the poem ‘Sky Seed: Tell me about your creative practice, how long have you been writing? While I was at college in the late 90’s I wrote a lot in my spare time and it felt like training, as if I had stabilisers on and with enough practice I could remove them. Once I was away from that environment I got out of the habit but took it up again in earnest a couple of years later. I followed the advice that most successful authors give. I applied myself daily for a set time whether I felt like it or not. I did a lot of writing in those years. It was a very important period in terms of learning how to focus and it provided a lot of raw material. I’m definitely not as time-rich now that I’m a parent so immersing myself in a large project that demands continuity might not happen again for a while. These days I try to snatch pieces of time when I can get them and I find that poetry and flash fiction lend themselves to that style of writing. You can conceive of a plot or a theme, get it to paper quickly and then go back to it again and again during those stolen half-hours to polish it until you are reasonably satisfied with it. I will go back to past writings now
more often than I used to because they are the foundations that I have already put down and I can build on them. Does being a father influence what you write? It’s starting to. I have a bit of a scatter gun approach and always have so I write for kids and adults and read accordingly. When I’m writing for the adult audience, I’m thinking what my daughter will make of it when she’s older, specifically if it’s a dark subject. When I’m writing for kids, I’m wondering whether it would hold her interest or if she’d think it was funny. Having a child puts a different spin on what your writing legacy might look like. Currently, lift-the-flap books are her favourite (she’s 17 months old) and I’ll be interested to see what comes next. I find myself looking at picture books lately, something I’ve never attempted, and thinking “Hmm, I wonder if…” What advice would you have for any other fathers who want to get into writing for children? Having a baby will definitely interrupt your writing routine, it’s unavoidable. I found I just had to accept it and let it go. There will come a time when it becomes possible to find a bit of structure again…though quite when that might be is different for everybody. So, when you do have a bit of time again: Research. Look at bestseller lists. Read the books on those lists. Get a feel for it all; characterisation, language, what are the typical word counts for different age groups, are they illustrated? Build a picture up in your mind of how you could do it. It’s important not to be derivative. You’ll see the trends but what you need to think is “How can I slip in there but do it better, put a unique slant on it?” I heard a great quote at the International Literary Festival recently, I’m paraphrasing but the gist was, “Writing can be lonely but being a writer doesn’t have to be.” It’s great advice. Get out there. Go to conferences, join Children’s Books Ireland, join a good workshop for a couple of days. It will jumpstart your enthusiasm and your creative urge. There are some friendly established authors on the Irish scene too who are approachable and willing to give advice, which is a great boon to anyone starting out. Oh, and prepare for rejection. It will happen. A lot. It’s important not to take it personally. It’s an increasingly crowded market. Rejections can
happen for a myriad of reasons. There might not be a gap at that time for the sort of work you are doing. You might not just be the right fit for an agent or publisher. You may have sent out a first draft too soon. It’s crucial to edit, edit, edit until you are as sure as you can be that it is good enough to submit. If there is a niggle in your mind that your work isn’t ready, listen to it. I’ve heard other writers say that when they are going back to something and just changing punctuation marks, they know it’s more or less finished. You’ll find your own internal signals too. You’ll need to take a breather every so often but always come back to it. Fresh eyes can spot things in seconds that you have been missing for months. And don’t limit yourself. If you’re working on a big project, keep the little ones going too. They’ll provide a useful distraction. Lastly, believe in what you do. Take yourself seriously.
Contributors: Morna Sullivan, from Co. Antrim, has received commendations in a number of national creative writing competitions and is a former prize-winner in a Belfast Telegraph poetry competition and the national Divine Chocolate poetry competition. She is a member of the Coney Island Writers Group and regularly attends writing workshops there. Her children’s story, ‘Hungry Haggis’ featured in the first issue of ‘The Launchpad’ and she took part in a dramatised reading of this story using puppets at the launch of ‘The Launchpad’ in Belfast. One of her short stories for adults, ‘The Favourite Vienna Blend’ features in a recent issue (January/ February 2016) of Celtic Life International magazine. When not writing, Morna spends her spare time growing her own vegetables, making jam, baking delicious banana and chocolate muffins, project managing home improvements. She is an avid reader and member of two local reading groups. https://www.facebook.com/mornawriter/ http://mornawriter.blogspot.co.uk/ https://twitter.com/mornawriter
Adam Trodd lives and works in Dublin. His writing has appeared in The Flash Flood Journal, The Irish Times, 100 Words 100 Books, KYSO Flash, The Queens Head, Brain of Forgetting, Crannóg Magazine and The Caterpillar. He was shortlisted for the 2015 Cúirt New Writing Prize and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. @A_Trodd
John Young has always enjoyed writing poetry, painting and woodwork. In the past decade he has been on a number of voluntary trips; from building HIV shelters in Mozambique, to kids camps in Eastern Europe. He is N.I. Teamhope Coordinator, visiting schools and churches, promoting The Christmas Shoebox Appeal and in this role visited Transnistria on a distribution team. His greatest love is his 5 grandsons, and each of the poems were written after a visit from Alex, then aged 4 and Nathan, 18 months. He is also, football mad... and is looking forward to his trip to France, to see Northern Ireland in the European games.
Victor Henriques is a well-known musician from the group Los Dramaticos. He came to Northern Ireland from Chile some sixteen years ago and decided to stick around. Victor has a long history of creative practice, and can often be seen playing his plethora of musical instruments. Victor finds that fatherhood has inspired him to write and to share his stories and music with the next generation. Jason O’Rourke is a writer and musician based in Belfast. His short stories and poetry have been published online and in print, as well as on his blog, ‘Vernacularisms’. Jason has been nominated for the ‘Best of the Net’ award and won the Fiddler’s Elbow (Rome) short story competition. He has recently released a new album, The Northern Concertina, which was funded by an Arts Council Northern Ireland Artist Career Enhancement Scheme award. Web: http://Jasonorourke.info Belfast Notes: http://vernacularisms.com Twitter: @jasonoruairc Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VernacularismsJasonORourke
Anthony McCann is a social philosopher, poet, songwriter, keynote speaker, educator, and coach with a broad interdisciplinary background. Anthony is a specialist in ethics, culture change, and leadership. Anthony has 18 years’ experience as a researcher and lecturer at UC Santa Barbara, the University of Sheffield, the Smithsonian Institution, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Ulster, and Loughborough University. Anthony is a resident of Boom Studios (a creative social enterprise in Bangor, Co. Down), a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Culture Change and Leadership with Canterbury Christ Church University, and a Fellow of the RSA. Twitter: @anthonymccann Debs Uprichard is a seasoned illustrator who has recently moved back to Northern Ireland after a long sojourn. The Launchpad would like to thank Debs for her marvellous contribution to this issue and to welcome her to the issue’s team. Thanks also to Julie Robinson, Features Ed, for providing the interviews for this issue. Thanks to Glen Wilson for The Launchpad frog.
Proudly Edited in Northern Ireland
Father's Day Special Edition of this litmag showcasing new writing for children with a Northern Irish/Irish connection.