Paddlefoot (A story for the little ones)

Paddlefoot was feeling glum. He was tired of being the biggest dragon in the world. His enormous feet broke boulders every time he walked. When he sneezed, he blew trees right out of the soil. Worst of all, his wings were so big and heavy, he couldn’t lift them off the ground. Which meant he couldn’t fly. Whoever heard of a dragon that couldn’t fly? It was a terrible shame.

A tiny magician heard of Paddlefoot. He came to Paddlefoot’s cave, with his wand held high.

“I am Fionn the magician,” he said, “I’ve heard tales of your troubles, and I wish to help you.”

How can a tiny magician like you, help a huge dragon like me?” Paddlefoot asked, puffing steam out of his nostrils like factory chimneys.

“I will cast a spell, and swap you my size. If I was the biggest magician in the world, everyone would respect me. In return you will become as small as I am. You will enjoy the world without the fear of knocking it apart.”

“I really am tired of being so big,” Paddlefoot said, “Let’s do it.”

The magician waved his magic wand and whispered a spell beneath his breath. He didn’t want anyone to hear his words, in case they stole them. After all, words are very precious; especially magic ones.

A great flash of light made Paddlefoot close his eyes tight. He felt himself shaking and bubbling and shrinking. When the shaking stopped, he heard a loud swishing noise. He opened his eyes again, and realised the swishing was just the wind, now so much louder in his tiny ears. He coughed and coughed, until he got the hang of taking tiny breaths, now that he needed much less air.

He looked down at his body. His wings were as small as daisy petals. His tail was like a blade of grass, and his legs as thin as strands of hair. He laughed and yelped, for he was now the smallest dragon in the world. No matter how hard he walked, he would no longer cause any hurt to the world.

As he was dancing on his little legs, the ground began to shake, and he was thrown from his feet. He couldn’t see what was causing it to shake, so he spread his leaf sized wings and flew into sky. At last, he was a dragon that could fly. He twirled and whirled in the wind. He had never felt so free.

But then he heard thunder. Loud and roaring, it smashed through the air. He looked around, and saw Fionn the magician in front of him; a huge giant tumbling about. His footsteps were the cause of the ground shaking, and the thunder was his laughter. Fionn blew out a great puff of air, and a gust of wind threw Paddlefoot into a cluster of trees, that were almost ripped from their roots. Fionn knelt down to a river and slurped it all up, leaving the fish jumping on the dry land.

“Stop!” cried Paddlefoot, “You’re ruining the world!”

Fionn laughed louder, and the mountains crumbled to the ground. He inhaled deeply, and swallowed all the clouds.

I said STOP!” Paddlefoot shouted.

“I’m the most powerful being in the world,” roared Fionn, and Paddlefoot had to hold onto a branch to stop himself being blown away, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

Paddlefoot knew he had made a mistake. He loved being small more than anything. But he knew that if he stayed small and Fionn stayed big, then the world would be in terrible danger. When Paddlefoot was big, he had moved gently. He had learnt to be careful as he grew, to protect the world around him.

“Where is my wand?” Fionn asked, “I must have dropped it when I was growing.”

Paddlefoot scanned the ground until he saw the wand, gleaming from the grass. Fionn bent down and tried to pick it up, but his fingers were too big and he couldn’t grasp it.

“Who needs magic when you’re as big as me anyway?” Fionn said, walking away and knocking over a hundred trees.

Paddlefoot flew down and picked up the wand. He hid it behind his back and flew up to Fionn’s ear.

Your magic is so clever,” Paddlefoot said, “Please tell me the words of the spell so I can admire your greatness.”

Fionn smiled and puffed up his chest with pride, causing such a wind, that a passing seagull was knocked into space.

“I can’t tell you the spell,” Fionn said, “You might cast it on us and reverse everything!”

“Oh no, I want to stay this small and free forever. Besides, there can be no magic without a wand. And a little dragon shall never have a wand.”

You’re right,” said Fionn, “In that case, the words were:

Tricks Trocks Hicks Hocks,

Put me into that man’s socks.

With the words fresh in the air, Paddlefoot waved the magic wand with all his little might.

Back came the flash of light, the shaking and bubbling. This time Paddlefoot felt himself stretching and growing. Very quickly, he was back to his old enormous self. Fionn the magician had shrunk, and was shrieking and shaking his fist at Paddlefoot.

“You tricked me!” he cried, his face as red as lava.

Paddlefoot laughed, very carefully, the way he knew how to, so that he wouldn’t knock any birds out of the sky.

Power is safest with those who don’t crave it,” Paddlefoot said, throwing the wand on the ground.

He lifted his huge foot and stomped down on the wand, cracking it in two. A little earthquake cracked the ground just beneath Fionn and he ran away, moaning and sobbing. Fionn the magician was never again seen in that part of the world. And Paddlefoot never again wished to be smaller.

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Being a Parent and a Children’s Writer: Pros and Cons

Pro: You get to try your stories out on your kids, for honest feedback.
Con: The honest feedback part. VERY honest.

Pro: To write for kids, it helps to know what matters to them. Parenting teaches you what things are important to children (breakfast… second breakfast… lunch… second lunch…), and gives you a Masters degree in their needs.
Con: Kid’s needs are endless. Literally. They never end. And that means very little time in the day for writing. I average one hour an evening, on a good day, and only when they’re in bed. Unfortunately my mind works ten times slower in the evening. I do try to fit writing into the daytime, but ten stolen minutes is about as good as it gets.

Pro: Writing loo humour for children can be great fun. I remember how the word poo made me explode with laughter when I was a kid. I thought you could never over-do loo humour back then. Now I know you can, thankfully.
Con: Dealing with real children and actual loo emergencies and poo explosions is just not funny in real life. And it always happens when I’m in a train of great thought, words flying out my fingers. It is so hard to get the words back in my fingers once that train has choo-chooed out of here.

Pro: Having kids means having heaps of kids books. This means getting to know the market, and learning to see language through the child’s eyes. It also means lots trips to the library and being able to take kids books out for yourself on their cards. Kid’s library cards have less fines.
Con: Having to deal with screechy rowdy toddlers in the library, and NEVER getting to browse the adult books section. Sometimes I forget that books do actually exist for people my own age. I try not to get eye contact with our librarian, as I know he sends me mind bullets. My 2 year old is, let’s just say, loud.

Pro: Kids create extraordinary situations. Like the time my 2 year old secretly took her potty out of her buggy at the counter in Tesco. As I paid for my purchases, she proudly exclaimed “Look Mummy! I used the potty!” She wasn’t lying. There are some things you would never think could happen, until your child does it. Extraordinary situations, and being pushed out of your comfort zone inspires stories and sparks imagination.
Con: Do I need to explain the con in the above situation?

Pro: Kids teach you to be more flexible. You just can’t predict what will happen next with kids. You learn to be creative about when you can write, and just grab your opportunities and feel grateful for them. So when you do get ten stolen minutes to write with Peppa Pig on in the background, you feel like you’ve climbed Mount Everest.
Con: Looking forward to writing all day long, and then at bedtime one of them gets suddenly unwell and there goes your hour of writing. It is not always easy to be flexible, and even a contortionist parent can’t get out of dealing with sick kids and vomit. A lot.

Pro: Watching your stories switch on the sunshine in their little eyes, knowing that your words made that happen. And even if no-one else ever reads those stories, you know you moved something in your child, and they know you did it too.
Con: Sometimes I find myself let down if my daughter doesn’t immediately love my story. But then I simply think of myself as a child, and let my own little self feel the magic instead. After-all, the most important person to write for is not your kids, or your readers, but yourself.