You may or may not have noticed the link in the sidebar to The Wonderful World of Tiptoes Lightly and her gang. Well, in the Spring we discovered a new love for a collection of stories that revolve around her and her friends. The books are great fun. They are full of nature, innocence and wonder and we read them all together, and Naomi reads them again and again to herself and sometimes Leviah.
It’s difficult to find age appropriate books for both Leviah and Naomi–books that haven’t been commercialized. It is a timeless series, like those of A.A. Milne or Beatrix Potter. Author Reg Down has created something we all love. Adventure and emotion, exploration and excitement–such sweet stories. From one journey to the next–my kids are inspired to explore like Pine Cone, Pepper Pot and Jeremy Mouse–just a few of the people we’ve meet within them.
The familiarity Reg has with the journey of childhood puts me at ease, knowing the themes will fill my kids with ideas that sit right with them. Did I mention the illustrations? They are beautiful and each page full of new delightful imagery. (note the images adorning this page)
Reg Downs’ series of children’s books are fantastic, and, he keeps writing and publishing more!
Reg was kind enough to answer a few questions so that we all might learn a little more about his creative process and what we can all do to be better storytellers ourselves.
Have you other creative outlets in your life and do they help you with your writing?
Tons – and yes! Writing is only part of what I do and who I am. I am also a eurythmist and while I am not teaching full time at the moment I have been doing other things. I just got back from teaching and lecturing at a conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil where the South Americans were celebrating 100 years of eurythmy. Those guys know about having fun! And upcoming is to direct a fairy tale for a group of eurythmists … also a puppet show (I like connecting with young kids this way) and then there are hobbies such as pine needle basketry. All of these things are creative expressions and they play into each other.
What are the major influences on your style?
It seems to me that style is really just another name for personality and preference. I can’t
imagine a writer deliberately writing in a way that is unrelated to who they are – why bother? So I don’t really think about it and concentrate on shaping the language.
Are there unexpected inspirations for your stories?
Yes, of course. If what we wrote was solely derived from what we already know (i.e., the past) it would be terribly dry – like a scientific paper which only deals with what has already been established. That’s not art – that’s linguistic engineering! The best things in a story are almost always spontaneous or newly envisioned or unexpected.
The characters in your stories, like Tiptoes Lightly, have fairly distinct characters. Do these characters represent specific people or experiences in your own life?
Yes, sometimes, but not in an organized way. Farmer John reflects me as a father when my kids were small … but not necessarily through any specific incident. Tiptoes Lightly definitely corresponds to something in me but is also an objective entity.
In our homeschooling storytelling and reading plays a huge role, however at times it seems difficult to make up stories spontaneously—though my children always respond eagerly when we do. What is your best advice for becoming a natural and fluent storyteller with children?
Practice. Practice makes perfect … or at least better and better. The reason your children respond so eagerly is that the story you tell is from you (their light and love!) and it’s happening and alive in the present (where children naturally live). You can also assist yourself by asking the children for two or three name words … such as ‘king’ or ‘butterfly’ or ‘mouse’, and then your task is to weave a story which contain these elements: “Once upon a time a Butterfly King met a mouse…” and the story takes off and has a life of its own. Some will be good and some will be sad and some will be lots of fun and go on forever!
What are some authors/books you read and recommend reading as a child and as an adult?
For me, reading fairy tales from around the world are essential. These tales are born out of a rich, deep cultural wisdom. Otherwise, just follow Albert Einstein’s advice regarding the key to educating children: “Good literature.” And when asked what else, he replied: “More good literature!” The emphasis here, of course, is on the word ‘good’ because there is so much trash out there. So read the classics that have proven themselves for more than one generation. And don’t forget that reading to children means reading to (and with) them till they are at least in grade 8, if not older!
And, I’m privileged to host a little giveaway!
One lucky comment-er will win the book of their choice from the Tiptoes series! So, if you haven’t been introduced already–here’s your chance. If you have, share the joy of these great books with a friend! Just comment, and share (anywhere on the internet–multiple places even) leaving a comment for each one.
Winner chosen at random in one week, the 26th of August at 10pm. Enjoy!
In the meantime, here’s a link to where you can find Tiptoes books for purchase online and locally.