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Tell Your Own Story

Who Needs Hogwarts? Mario Corrigan

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Article by Mario Corrigan ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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I was disappointed that some of the reviews of children’s books for Christmas, by and large, ignored the world of self publishing. But hey, I’m biased!

Well, if you don’t sign up for the adventure you may kiss the chance to be blown to hell in the trenches goodbye!!

At this stage I have nearly given up ― three books down ― countless young would-be admirers who ask when am I making the movie, but I am about to go broke on the back of it.

I believe we created something awesome, but as I said I’m biased ― so here goes, let me lay it out for you!

This year I, and my friend David ‘The Illustrator’ Butler, self-published two children’s books ― one for Listowel Writer’s Week and one for Roscommon Siarscéal Festival. They are unique in that I wrote them after sessions in classrooms with kids from those areas, to encourage them to write, to create, to be! Then Dave gave them life.

Listowel took the book to heart, paid the printing costs and paid us a stipend for our efforts, the profits going to The National Children’s Literary Festival; Roscommon Co. Library contributed to the publication of the book there. Happy days, though we are not out of the woods yet.

The project built on a book we did in Kildare in 2011 as part of One Book, One Kildare and it was designed to help kids create, to develop their talents and believe that they might be authors or illustrators, or just about anything they wanted, while cultivating a sense of place. Who needs Hogwarts when you have wonderful landscapes and characters on your own doorstep? We are surrounded, immersed, in enchanted locations, tales and traditions; a native language which lends itself to fantasy and creativity even in translation, indeed especially so.

We were spoiled rotten, as they say in the auld tongue, for the launch saw a packed out library, participants clamouring to receive their free copy courtesy of Kildare Library & Arts Services, joyous parents ready to sign their children up to university as the potential of the occasion became obvious, for an hour or two. There was sense to this madness; we had not failed, but given this ‘thing’ life.

Mario corrigan bookNot only had we chiseled at the vocabulary of 8 year olds until our ‘David’ (not The Illustrator’) had risen from the rock, we had actually created it in its entirety; a print-ready file, cover-to cover, to rival the rivals on the racks of the nation (or at least in the local shops within Kildare).

And then, as we may have expected ― it fizzled out, though Dave created a web site (www.dofishwearpyjamas.com), and we did create an e-book and returned for some class visits etc. But it was necessary to replicate the project elsewhere. The idea was paramount; that you could arrive in a class, anywhere, with a title and a characters name, or just a single idea and, from that, create life, and animate the creative imaginations displayed before you. Emails in 2013, provoked interest from Listowel and Roscommon, who believed, where others could not.

We now have covered three of the four provinces, the books being set in Kildare, Listowel and Roscommon. They offer readers a chance to explore their native place in a series of thrilling adventures, featuring everything from space aliens, dead Vikings and Black and Tans, to the Morrigan and Cú Chulainn. It is a way to encourage children to read, but it has a developmental element to it as well: who needs Hogwarts?

From the outset we invented fantastical adventures in a modern setting based on historic Irish themes. We wanted kids to read and enjoy the stories, but to appreciate their surroundings, damn it, life itself as it contains them, in epic fictional fashion with graphic-novel-like illustrations that they can relate to.

We are not alone and we were not the first, but I think we may be somewhat unique in terms of the technique employed. If we are not, it does not matter. What matters is the girl who stopped me two years later so she could tell me she was in ‘the book’; the boy who almost collapsed when he realised that the Round Tower he saw was the one featured in the story or the lady in her seventies who phoned to say she had read it in one sitting.

Oh, there have been rejections, but then the submissions were poor; or too late; the final edits not done; it must have been a Monday ― who knows? Move on. Praise the Lord! I would have the words, ‘It is not what we are looking for,’ (‘I AM NOT WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR’ as a bold statement) tattooed across my forehead, were it not for the fact that I am not sure where my hairline may be in the next year or two and I do like balance. But, some day, I will wave that slip (which I keep in that drawer) in the face of the ……or then again, maybe not. Move on.

There is no fame; there certainly is no fortune, though there may be despair and financial ruin ahead. Last week I trudged through the lashings of rain to be told by one local store that they could not stock the books, I would have to contact Head Office; if only I had brought an umbrella for the long walk back!

And yet, I would do it again in a heartbeat, though I could not do it the same way. There are costs which can never be recovered and, dare I say it, illustrators who may never be paid their worth. But we did it, the books are out there and I would like to think we made a difference in the lives of the kids we encountered. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get more people to read them.

So write and publish, or just write and pray. It is not a bright future, but it is the one in front of us and we have yet to see what it might hold.

(c) Mario Corrigan

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Mario Corrigan hails from Kildare Town and is the Executive Librarian in charge of Kildare Collections and Research Services for Kildare Library & Arts Services. He is married to Colette and has three beautiful children, Eve, Jack and Rachel who make it all worthwhile. Mario Corrigan has written and edited many books on the history and heritage of Co. Kildare and his home town of Kildare. He was a joint winner of the Nilsson Award at Listowel Writer's Week in 2013. His first children's book, Do Fish Wear Pyjamas? was illustrated by his friend and fellow Kildareman, David Butler. The have collaborated on three books.

Do Fish Wear Pyjamas? The Quest for The Great Book of Kildare (2011; 2014)

Listowel: The Writer’s Revenge (2014)

The Battle for Coman’s Wood (2014)

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