Sometimes I get so warpped up in the fantasy of my life that I forget about the rest of the world. Sure, I know bad things are happening everywhere, but they are in the background to me, things that don't directly affect me so therefore can be put aside while I write another chapter or read a few more pages or drop it all and go watch a movie with my housemates. Especially lately, with the crap week I just had, I admit that I've spent a lot of time thinking of myself. I wish it wasn't true, but it honestly took going to the Save The Children conference to snap me out of it, to remember that there is a world outside of the comfort of my life, one that needs constant help. Spending five seconds in the presence of such passionate and selfless people made me want to drop everything I am doing and go help their cause, and you all know how much I love what I'm doing.
For those of you unaware, Save The Children is a charitable organization that gives aids all over the world. They focus on child poverty, children's rights, education, health, hunger and protection as well as give aid to children in areas devastated by all sorts of emergencies. Basically, they are givers. They give their time, energy, money, love and support to children who need it, enabling the next generation of the world to live and fulfill their full potential. These are very, very good people.
The day kicked off with a few talks from the leader of the Save The Children global campaign, Adrian Lovett and the Director of Emergencies, Gareth Owen. Lovett set the the scene with an awesome quote from a lady with an awesome name (which I will be using), the founder of Save The Children, Eglantyne Jebb:
"We need to make known the facts in such a way that captures the imagination of the world."
I don't really think I need to say that I love this quote, but I will anyway. I love this quote. This might just be my new motto, new mission statement for life, or just new favorite quote. I'll decide later. Right now I'll just love it.
Gareth Owen talked a lot about the things Save The Children does when emergency strikes, like natural disasters. He talked about the power of blogging and social networking, how one person sitting in their living room on a laptop has the power to reach millions of people with their words and their message, if written in a passionate way. I am going to use the word passion a lot in this blog, bear with me. Yes, I have heard of a thesaurus, but none of it's synonyms do the job in the right way ('zealous' just sounds scary, not loving).
I love passionate people. I collect them, in my head. They inspire me. I love hearing people talk about things they love. I believe that Gareth Owen may be one of the most passionate people I've ever had the pleasure to see speak. He talked about how he is severely inpatient when it comes to saving childrens lives. He said that he gets incredibly frustrated when things cannot be done immediately, when children affected by disasters have to wait one single second for help. You could see it in his face how much he loved his job, and he told us so as well. He said that he has the greatest job in the world, that he wakes up every day excited that he gets to spend his day saving lives. He spoke of the power of hope, how hope goes a long way when all else seems lost. When people only have the clothes on their backs and each other, just smiling and showing that you care can lift them up like magic. The world needs more people like Gareth Owen.
Next we had workshops. I chose the one about how to become an activist through blogging, and that's exactly what it was about. They showed us examples of successful campaigns such as the It Gets Better Project started to support LGBT kids and assure them that it's ok to be themselves. The workshop was basically about PR, about ways to get your message out to the world in creative ways. I grabbed another good quote from the workshop about being a follower:
"The first follower is what transforms a loan nut into a leader."
You never think about it, but this is so true. The first follower gives the leader all their power. Without that first follower, a leader is just a person trying to do something that no one cares about. Showing that someone else cares makes other people care. All of this just made me more and more interested in PR.
After this was the masterclass with Melvin Burgess. There were about sixty people at the conference and only eight won spots in the masterclass (not that all of them entered for it, but whatever, I'm just telling myself that most of them did). I had to write a blog about what I was born to do and submit it. All blogs were judged by Melvin himself, and I am extremely grateful he chose mine. Part of our prize was the chance for Mr. Burgess to read a few pages of whatever we were working on and get his advice and comments (how cool is that?). We sat in the room and he talked about writing for teens, about his books and about writing in a voice that is not your own. He answered questions and we talked about having the confidence to write. When asked how to get that confidence, he replied that you have to just write. Just do it, there is no other way (Jackson Pearce agrees too. Click HERE for her fantastic 'tough love on writing' vlog). He also talked about writing about tough issues in books for teens like sex and drugs and abuse (things he has written about a lot and gotten crap for) and said this:
"There is no such thing as a 'too difficult' idea, only poorly expressed ones."
He stressed the importance of keeping things simple, because the simplest forms of expression make the biggest impact. He referenced George Orwell. You can't argue that Animal Farm is genius.
Such a small group, best (and only) prize I've ever won for writing.
And ps, that's a painting of Eglantyne Jebb on the wall in the middle.
And ps, that's a painting of Eglantyne Jebb on the wall in the middle.
After the masterclass, Melvin talked to the whole conference in his keynote speech. "It's all about the kids," he kept saying while talking about his trip to the Congo with Save The Children. He told local kids Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs in exchange for their own folk stories and formed a sort of collection. The kids liked The Three Pigs the best because he got so animated when the Big Bad Wolf huffs and puffs and blows the house down. Burgess said we are all creatures of stories. I like that. I like being a story creature. That's what he meant by that right? No? Oh well, he's right however you spin it.
Burgess also brought up some interesting facts about writing for teens. He said that if you were to make a movie about teens today that was realistic, about the sort of things that teens actually go through in the world, that teens would not be allowed to watch it. But they can read about it, interestingly enough. His book Junk is described as Trainspotting for teens, and as such got a lot of negative press. However the newspapers were the only ones who seemed to care, he never received one hate letter in the mail. Not a single one.
And that was the end. I had a lovely dinner with Jen at a pub down the street and headed home, back to Oxford and my fantasy life. I sat down to work on my final project for a little while last night, but felt a twinge guilty. I felt guilty that I was sitting there, comfortable and well fed, writing about magic and crazy things when there are kids out there with no food, no homes, and absolutely no magic in their lives. Thoughts like this will make you crazy.
BUT, then I remembered this fantastic video a friend of mine posted on facebook last week. It's a presentation by John Stevenson, Director of Kung Fu Panda, all about being creative and loving what you do. I've never done it before, but I'm going to try and actually attach the video to the bottom of this blog. Anyone with high speed internet out there (sorry parents) should really watch this, it may be long, but it's well worth it if you have ever embarked on anything creative, or if you have ever had to choose between doing something you love and something that makes you money. I loved this video so much I literally took notes from it, wrote down quotes and hung them on my walls. Whatever works.
I swear this relates to what I was just talking about, wait for it. In the beginning of his presentation, John Stevenson talks about when he was young and how he saw all the awful things happening in the world and wanted to do something about it. He said he would actually get depressed because there were so many causes to support, so many bad things he wanted to help fix, but he felt powerless and ended up not doing anything. However, he decided one day that the way he could make the world a better place was by doing everything he decided to do in life 100%, and thus make the world a better place by putting all of himself into his projects and putting creations into the world that were as good as they could be. Just watch it, it's fantastic.
So while all I can do right now is blog about the importance of Save The Children from my bedroom in Oxford, I can do it to the best of my abilities and maybe someone else might read it and be inspired to help. I can spread awareness, and make the world a better place by writing my book as well as I can in the hopes that one day a young person (or adult, or old person, or martian) reads it and it makes them smile.
Now go out there readers, go do a good deed, go watch this video, go donate money to any cause you feel believe in, go act, go write, go blog, go tweet if that's what your into, go create. Go make the world a better place, as Save The Children says, by doing what you were born to do and doing it as well as you can. Go be passionate.