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07 January 2020
10-year-old Adam Rafael Holmes has written and published his own book and will be donating a percentage of the sales to I CAN. Having struggled with his own communication needs, Adam wants to inspire other children like himself to find their voices through writing.
His book, ‘The Tunnel of Adventure’ is an exciting adventure novel based on an Enid Blyton series.
Adam joined us with mum Tracey (who describes herself as the ‘secretarial help’ for ‘The Tunnel of Adventure’) to discuss the book and why he thinks writing can be an important creative outlet for children with communication difficulties.
Tell us about ‘The Tunnel of Adventure’ and why you decided to write it:
There was an adventure series that Enid Blyton wrote, and I was a bit sad when I finished it because I’d really enjoyed the series. I decided to write a follow-on book and use that to help the charity.
It has the same characters and I tried to include some similar themes, like there’s a castle in Enid Blyton’s books so I included a castle too.
Other than being an Enid Blyton fan, was there anything else that inspired you to write a book?
All I’d ever written before were short stories and poems and entered them into competitions. Sometimes I even won. But those had limits of under 1000 words.
But after I’d read the Enid Blyton adventure series, I thought, why can’t I write a whole book? I joined in with the US-based NaNoRiMo programme in November 2019 (The ‘National Novel Writing Month’) and gave myself the task of writing 2000 words in one month. Eventually, after ten months of hard writing and editing, I got there! The final version has 14,500 words.
It also gave me something to focus on to forget the difficulties at school. I liked marking it on my calendar. I have different stars to put on my calendar: red for maths, silver for piano practice etc., so I chose a green star for writing. I tried to follow the advice of another author and “not break the chain”. This means that every day I had to write something, even if just a sentence.
You sound very busy, how did you manage to find the time to write the book?
I do have some spare time, some evenings would just involve a bit of homework and a bit of writing. I also wrote during wet play time at school.
And did the star system keep you motivated?
I have to admit that sometimes, I did ‘break the chain’, like when I had a chess tournament. There was only one whole month when I managed green stars every day. I was very proud of that.
I gave myself a deadline – I wanted to write all of it while I was still 9. So the deadline was my birthday, on 23rd August 2019.
Did you do all the writing yourself? Was your mum involved?
I wrote all the words, she just typed it up and helped to get in touch with the publishers.
Though sometimes she corrected things and didn’t tell me! I would be looking at my manuscript thinking, when did Lucy-Ann say that? So I had to edit her edits!
Even the best writers need editors though, right?
Even if they don’t want them, yes!
There were two more reasons I wrote this book: the first was that it was fun. I definitely enjoyed it, but probably more once I’d finished! And the last reason was that every book I’ve ever read in my life has been written by an adult, so I’m showing that children can write books too.
The worse thing I’ve ever heard anyone say was at the Chiswick Book Festival. I was the only child at a ‘Thriller writing’ workshop and was shocked when one of the panellists said that children’s writing was “flabby and self-indulgent”.
That’s very brave of you to go into a world full of adults and show that children can do this too! Have you got any plans to write more books?
Definitely, I’ve actually started writing the first few paragraphs of my next book. It’s going to follow on from this one, but I haven’t thought of the title yet.
Usually you think of the title at the end, but I actually came up with the title at the start of my first book. I knew it would be called ‘The something of adventure’! Then when I came up with the tunnel idea I knew what to call it. You can see the tunnel in the picture on the front, it looks like a scorpion’s tail…
It looks like something scary might happen in the book…but let’s not give anything away!
So why did you select I CAN as your charity of choice?
When I was young, I had speech, language and communication difficulties – I probably still do actually. Sometimes people cannot understand what I am saying. Probably because for the first two years of my life I was deaf. I’m a little bit dyspraxic too.
That’s one of the reasons I started writing. If you can’t speak, or if you find it hard to sound like other people, you can have your characters saying what you want to say when you can’t find the words.
Some people think that you have to be a certain way to be able to write a book. And unfortunately, some people think that those who can’t write a book most are people with communication needs. So I’m saying, yes I can! And other people could do it too.
Why do you think supporting other children with speech, language and communication needs is important?
If you can’t speak and communicate easily then life can be quite difficult. It’s not fair if someone thinks they can’t do things because they’ve got these difficulties. I want to prove that everyone can achieve things.
I’m at a new school and some of the children are not very nice to me. The day I brought my published book in to show my teacher, one boy came and asked me about it because he was so surprised. He had never talked to me before.
Do you hope that you could inspire other children to write their own books?
Yes. I moved recently to the south coast where I do not know many people and I could not find any literary clubs, so I started a writing group called ‘Felpham Young Writers’.*
Besides me, we have three other members so far. Compared to London, Felpham is not very big, so, I was expecting maybe one person to come. My mum is supportive but sometimes she can be a bit of pessimist so she wasn’t really expecting anyone to come! Each of the other members is a brilliant writer and I am really happy we set the group up.
I wrote a poem a few years ago about worrying about things. These are two lines from it that my mum loves:
“When we are young we learn billions of special things
To write in our books and give ourselves wings…”
What do you talk about in your writers group?
The first session was just getting to know people, and what their hobbies are. For example, my hobbies are reading and drawing, music, chess and sailing. And of course, writing!
We are planning to talk about William Blake, because Felpham was his second home. And we’ll talk about character development, adding drama to your story, poetry and self-publishing.
So where can we buy the book?
You can get it from Amazon or other online bookstores now. A local bookshop called Heygates in Bognor Regis is also featuring it in their window and you can buy the colour version from them at £5.99, which is a special launch price while stocks last.
Other than a small royalty for Adam, all proceeds from sales of ‘The Tunnel of Adventure’ will go towards I CAN, helping children with speech, language and communication needs find their voice.
(Fortunately, Adam’s mum took down the name of the writer from the Chiswick Book Festival and plans to invite him for a coffee so he can flick through the book and change his mind!)
*Anybody interested in Felpham Young Writers can get in touch at email@example.com.
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