Wednesday, 27 August 2014



Below is the second part of the acknowledgement section from my book Jack Strong and the Red Giant . The reason that I have decided to include this on my blog is because it relates to creativity, inspiration, and the intellectual bonds that can sometimes exist between teachers and students.  Sometimes the students can be the teachers ...


 Special mention must also go to one of my old students in Beijing, George Jia Hang. His generous praise of the first few chapters notwithstanding, it was whilst teaching him that I realised something about myself as a writer. When I first encountered George I would often find him writing story after story about plane loads of terrorists descending, machine-guns a-blazing, on Paris or New York until they were rather hastily and brutally dispatched by Seal Team Six or some other super-awesome American special forces unit. It went like this sometimes for a dozen pages or more with explosions and battles raging throughout the narrative; now whereas other teachers or adults may have seen only violence and mayhem, I saw IMAGINATION and CREATIVITY – the product of a video-game obsessed generation to be sure, but a vital, informative product nonetheless. And what was I writing better at the time besides poetry? Nothing. I hadn't written a serious short story since that day in English class when I was eleven years old. We had been set a task to write about the colour 'Red'; and so given my action-movie obsessed life at the time I wrote about the Falklands war. If I remember correctly the whole class was stunned into silence as soon as I began mimicking the sound of a heavy machine-gun rapping off a few hundred rounds. Since everyone else rather predictably wrote about love and flowers and such, I looked like a bit of an idiot: in fact my mum to this day says that the teachers pretty much thought I was mad. But what does all this have to do with George? Well, after the ridicule that followed my war story I stopped writing, or at least I stopped writing anything that was remotely out-of-the-box or contained machine guns and tanks and generous amounts of action. That was of course until I became George's teacher. His stories, whilst being a product of his generation, took me back to when I was at school in the early 1990's and got me thinking about our respective writing processes. To me there was nothing inherently wrong with his stories and so instead of diverting him back to what he was supposed to be writing on (I think I actually gave them the same topic 'The Colour Red' as my English teacher did all those years ago) I encouraged him to explore and invest in his creativity, his imagination, his passion, because ultimately – and I'm talking to all teachers now – this is what writing is about: finding what moves us and excites us, and what as readers makes us want to open the book and keep on turning. So with this in my mind I began to write … and write and write (there was a LOT of writing), not about tanks and bombs because I'd left that behind years ago, but about this young boy called Jack Strong, who I couldn't get out of my head (and still can't), and all his incredible, life-changing adventures as he throttles around the galaxy.

You can buy Jack Strong and the Red Giant, a book about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures in space here:

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