The Dream commenced on a warm July evening; I was in my office at the school where I was Principal. I had been playing around with ideas for a book and with the school so quiet, took a walk around the silent buildings. As was often the case, I was the last to leave; a school is a wonderful place to work but at night it can feel strange to be virtually on your own in such a large building that housed two thousands students and more than two hundred staff. And so it was that I walked the corridors, looking at children’s work displays. Our best teachers always had lively interesting classrooms that created an appetite for learning; the children who entered felt the wonder and endless possibilities of learning. As I walked, every sound – a blind rattling, or notices flapping – was amplified down the echoing stairwells and corridors. It was – eerie but exciting.
Back in my office, I hesitated – about to grab my car keys to drive home. Instead, a voice in my head started to speak and I sat down at my PC and wrote what was to prove to be the crucial chapter of ‘The Dream Factory’; it was a lyrical, creepy, haunting piece but I felt the power of self-expression – it was deeply satisfying. My childhood reading about spirits and ghosts, and a fascination with trains, tunnels, roads, rivers that seemed to join the world up and make it work, all crowded into my consciousness. So, what connected people’s minds; linked their inner selves to the outer world? These were new canals and bridges and byways to explore.
I tapped away; I could see the car park outside my office window was empty. Lights were being extinguished throughout the school. Just my office light cast a bright square on the dark tarmac. The silence was electrifying, intense and my mind focussed, moving through the landscape of the story, like the headlights of a slow-moving car driving across the moors.
“You gonna be ‘ere all night, boss?” My heart jumped. Dave the cheery caretaker was standing at my door jangling his keys.
“Sorry, Dave. Just five more minutes.”
When I had finished, I wondered where all this had come from; how had these scenes and ideas come together to be expressed in this way? The act of filling an empty white page with words still seems utterly magical. To create anything is to interrogate yourself; to tap on the door of your inner world and ask questions. The wonderful Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, used to write about a ‘doorway into the dark’; to stand at this doorway is good – we need to do it more often. Heaney also wrote about the power of the pen: “Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.” He then concludes “I’ll dig with it”.
I’ve been digging ever since…. Join me!
In 2005, I set up Collingwood Learning – an educational consultancy that expanded in 2009 and added Theatre in Education, Marketing, and Training functions to its offering. It attracted important clients like Tesco and Diageo and our award-winning teams have continued to support the corporate responsibility work of major companies and councils. I had a great time, travelling to different schools, looking at good practice, inspecting and advising on creating new schools. I tinkered a little with the Dream Factory, but it was definitely a slow-burning project, pushed aside by busy life.
In January 2012, I was going through my old files and found the draft of ‘The Dream Factory ~ Ghosts’. I had published books on teaching and written articles for several years. I had spent a working life with teenagers, teaching them literature and to love words. When I found the scene written late one night in my office, I decided to write a novel for young adults that would enthuse and engage them. I formed a reading team of writers and former students who would be instrumental in shaping and developing a book that I knew would be a success. I had started doing some part-time teaching in the local comprehensive school to help them out. I loved it back in the classroom; I had the chance to test-drive some of my work.
And now, my ‘dream’ is complete. I can concentrate full time on new work for children and young people. It is a market I know like the back of my hand. We are building a team is driven by passion, experience and ideas and I know it will be successful. We need no premises, widgets, packaging – it just needs talent. With brilliant team to produce all the websites, marketing, Facebook and Twitter pages, all I need to do is produce good books. The next book, ‘A Game of Chess’, is being published right now. The third in the Dream Factory trilogy, ‘The Island’, exists right now as a series of scenes, parked like trucks in a queue while I ponder about their sequence. It was curious once again that the ending was written first. It all sits in a zip file on my desktop, waiting, waiting…
A collection of ‘Jack’ books for 4-5 year-olds is in preparation as well as play scripts for families to have fun with. All these are based upon my knowledge of young people and what happens in their heads when they read. They have all been test driven with the right age-group and they work. Now, all I have to do is write them.
"Brilliant descriptions of characters and places enrich a twisty plot that kept me guessing right to the end. John Simes is a master story teller."James Stevenson, Author