About me. Well this is awkward, normally I write stories to educate children, or a little bit of political satire (that’s politics with a small p), if I have to write about myself it’s usually to poke fun at whatever ridiculous thing has happened next, because if I am going to have one of those lives where daft things keep happening to me, then quite frankly we all might as well be entertained by it.
As the point of this is to grab the spotlight and tell you how wonderful I am, you will have to imagine me typing this as red faced as if I were standing on a stage swinging a feather boa shouting “woo-hoo dahlings! Look at me”. Now some of you might be fine with that, but for me that’s about as comfortable as wearing really tight jeans after a five course meal, sitting watching a particularly eye watering episode of Game of Thrones with your straight laced parents.
I am a wife, a mother, a recycling officer, and a writer; a finder of lost things, the CEO of domestic crisis management, I can make a meal despite there being “absolutely nothing” (allegedly) in the fridge and recently I have developed selective hearing. I’m very happy about this last skill. I am the Queen of Catastrophe and my best attribute is also possibly my worst; my ability to make things up as I go along.
Despite being dyslexic, I have written to amuse myself for a long time, I don’t have a copy, but the first instance was written when I was bored to distraction aged 14 in an English Literature class. We were studying a very famous poem by an even more famous poet, and it just wasn’t my bag at all. I objected to the subject nature of the poem, (fruit going off) it offended my teenage sensibilities: wasting food and preventing wildlife from eating it, to me this was bad enough never mind glorifying it by writing a flowery poem about it, so I wrote my own, and subsequently failed English Literature. There is a lesson in this, but I still have no appreciation of that poet (I’m in a minority) and I still don’t like food waste. Hence my day job.
I have worked in the Northern Ireland environmental sector for… a long time and it involves a lot of going out and talking to people about lifestyle, what changes are possible and how they might benefit, this can be anything from breathing cleaner air to having more money in their pocket.
Environmental Education has been my main focus, in fact that’s how I started out. I was called to interview for the post of Education Officer with an Environmental Charity. I really didn’t expect to get the job so despite obviously being the last person to be interviewed, I wasn’t nervous – I was there for the experience. So when the panel asked me “Do you like children” I honestly replied, “Not particularly” at which point they woke up, roared laughing and commented that it was possibly the first honest answer to the question they had heard all day.
It was a stupid question, kids are people, I like some, and others drive me up the walls. Skipping the ‘stupid question’ thought, I said the rest and got the gig. There is a lesson there too, ‘always be yourself’ which I bear in mind as I write, up to a point. Inside my head I swear a lot, if I’m honest I edit a lot of that out, I was brought up nice, even if my internal voice is like a fisher-wife.
My writing took off fairly recently, as a result of a bad accident. In a split second I broke both legs at my kitchen doorstep and was unexpectedly off my feet for six months. I have blogged about this, just in case anyone has ever wondered what it might be like, it’ll save you the effort of experiencing it yourself. Mostly after the excitement dies down it’s very, very, dull.
I had to find something I could do while my feet were up besides watching daytime TV. If it was something that gave me a bit of interaction with my two boys so much the better, so I wrote them a story. “Write about what you know” they say, “so, climate change & recycling then?” says I.
“It’s a bit of a dry topic for a kid’s story, it’ll have to be good, since my boy’s aren’t particularly green minded. No, in fact, my kids are mercenary, I can appeal to that and take it from there”. So I wrote about Santa, who is in a bit of a fix as the North Pole is melting, and to make matters worse his Elves can’t get the materials they need to make toys for Christmas.
Whoa! That got their attention, and then some! Despite Santa recycling all his leftover materials he still hasn’t enough and needs help from everyone on his list (even the grown-ups) to solve the problem.
Initially I didn’t tell my boys that I wrote this, I just told them the story, and they sat there quietly and listened, for the full twenty minutes that it took to tell. My kids, sat quietly for twenty minutes. This is a big deal, and it gave me the confidence to go a little further and try it with some other children, it had the same result.
At just the right time an opportunity arose which allowed me to publish it with a brand new publisher what’s more “The Letter from Santa” is endorsed by the Green Party in Northern Ireland and was launched at Stormont. I now use it at work reading it to school children across Belfast in the run up to Christmas as it covers many of the environmental issues on the Curriculum. This was how I came to be broken down at the side of the road, needing the AA dressed as an Elf during December – I told you ridiculous things keep happening to me!
Sonia Boal blogs at Losing the Plot on WordPress.
The Letter from Santa is published through Excalibur Press (Belfast) and is available on Amazon