Monthly Archives: December 2013

Just a little Christmas post to wish everyone who stops by a happy, warm Christmas/holiday season. I wish you friends, family, comfort and peace.

Given the subject matter of my site, I should also plant one thought: there is still room in this world for new original Christmas stories and, if they’re good, they can become a defining part of the season for kids of any age. If you have a Christmas story in you and it’s not yet another version of A Christmas Carol, consider developing it and taking it further. Let that thought simmer as we come in to the new year.

Fluffy Gardens Christmas

And on a related note, I’d like to remind Irish readers that my very own Fluffy Gardens Christmas will be on RTE2 at 7.40am on Christmas morning. 8 years in a row, a Christmas tradition! It will also be on RTEjr at 11.40am and 1.05pm as far as I can tell (it’s just listed as Fluffy Gardens but I’m guessing on the time slot…). It is the most Christmassy of fun Christmas stories and I hope your little ones will love it if they haven’t already seen it.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! See you back here in 2014.

Publishers often like children’s books to be short. So do parents, who invariably end up reading them before bedtime. When my girls were younger, I often improvised abridged versions of long stories, aiming to shorten them without my girls noticing.

So shorter is better, right?

Well, I don’t know. You see, I also ended up reading 2-3 stories, depending on length. And if a book is fun to read, I find I have no desire to create my own abridged version. It turns out that the reason I try to shorten books is not because I don’t want to spend the time reading. It’s because I don’t want to spend the time reading that particular book.

It’s rarely a length issue. It’s quality.

I can’t tell you that you’ll win any arguments with publishers. But I can tell you as a parent that, if your book is fun to read, length isn’t all that much of a concern.

As a last little note on this, I should point out that the books I will most often skip are those books where I find myself stumbling over words. Those are a sure sign the writer wasn’t writing out loud

There are two bus routes I can take from my house. One is a short, direct trip. The other drives around half of Dublin before getting to the city centre. The ticket for the long route is significantly more expensive than that for the shorter route. Why? Well the bus covers more distance, uses more petrol and takes up more of a driver’s time, I guess.

And yet this is an ass-backwards way to charge for a service.

This is like charging more for a package to reach its destination in six weeks than you charge for it to get there tomorrow. The shorter bus route provides a more efficient service. As a commuter, this is much more desirable and worth paying a premium for. If Dublin Bus actually put some thought into what they do as a service provider rather than people just carrying out an unwanted chore day after day, the long route would be cheaper than the short route.

Provide a service with more value attached, you can charge more for that service.

This is always worth keeping in mind when you are providing a service yourself or indeed hiring someone who is offering a service to you. Consider these questions – How will this service benefit the end product? Will it make creation/production easier? Quicker? Better? Is there relevant, applicable know-how here that few others can bring? Are valuable strengths being applied in the right areas? Is there trust here that carries value in itself? Where can real value be added? And how much is that worth?

It is not just about charging or paying for time. It is what that time brings to any project that counts.

Memento was a great movie, wasn’t it? And who didn’t love Godfather Part 2? But we don’t jump around chronologically like that in preschool. There is a very good reason most of the top preschool shows take place in real time, hardly ever even moving on to tomorrow, never mind shifting backwards to yesterday. If 24 had been a preschool show, nobody would have noticed what was different about it.

Generally in preschool, it’s good to stay in the present. Right now. In real time.

Young children don’t always have a clear sense of time. And the younger they are, the harder it is for them to understand. Children live in the moment. They live now. Yes, some actually have surprisingly great memories (like my eldest daughter) but it can be hard to process any true sense of when something really happened. A child might say “yesterday” and that could mean yesterday, last week, last year or five minutes ago. And without truly understanding how the past works, it’s incredibly difficult to really grasp the idea of time in the future.

Back in the early Fluffy Gardens episodes, I made the mistake of writing in too many ‘next day’ transitions. Rookie mistake. Much later with Planet Cosmo, it all takes in real time except for a single story which revolves around bedtime and so required one night-to-morning switch. Making it work took a lot of thought and, even then, I suspect I only managed to get across what was key to the story (bedtime) rather than fully getting across that passage of time, at least with the younger children.

It is okay to do that. You can tell stories like that as long as you know why it is you’re doing it, understand what elements are important to your story and make it absolutely clear, with the understanding that young children are not going to have that same sense of time passing that you do. But unless you really have to, I would always advise staying in the present. Stick to real time. It’s much easier for a preschool audience to grasp and they will be with your characters every moment of your episode.