Monday, 3 August 2009

You Can’t Do That….

Welcome to Sandy Fussell, author of the Samurai Kids series. The fourth title in the series 'Monkey Fist' is newly released. She's here today to talk about what you can and can't do in writing...


Monkey Fist almost didn’t happen.

“You can’t write a story about six children with disabilities,” was the feedback from friends when I floated the concept for Samurai Kids. “Why not?” I asked. Apparently it’s not politically correct.

Rather than be discouraged, I was even more determined. Kids with disabilities have the right to have a go at anything within their realms of possibility. There’s nothing furtive about it. We all have challenges to overcome in our lives. Some are obvious like Niya’s one leg or Taji’s blindness; others are less easy to see, like the childhood experience that makes Yoshi refuse to fight.

“But, you can’t group them all together. It, well… it attracts attention,” I was told. Exactly. We should celebrate everyone for who they are. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. And why shouldn’t a boy with one leg befriend a boy with one arm?

So in my samurai world of the mid 17th century, Sensei Ki-Yaga’s hand-picked students are the children no-one else believes in. But Ki-Yaga is wiser than other teachers – he knows that from our weaknesses we can create great strength and things we cannot do alone, we can do together with friends. The Samurai Kids have action-packed adventures, they triumph over villains and they travel all over the known world. They also make mistakes, laugh at each other and occasionally get frustrated at the things they can’t do as well as others.

I first met Niya, the narrator, when I was driving to the supermarket. “My name is Niya Moto and I am the only one-legged Samurai kid in Japan” he said. The sentence burrowed into my brain. I wanted to know more about him, his friends, his teacher - and what did a samurai kid learn anyway.

I decided to look a little deeper, more first hand, into Niya’s world. I tucked up one leg, standing calm and still. ‘Aaeeyagh’ I shouted and launched into a dramatic Kung-fu kick. Then I had another sentence. “Famous for falling flat on my face.’

Kids laugh when I tell that story. But they are never laughing at Niya because their admiration is obvious. They are impressed he had a go. My characters feel the same way. They laugh at themselves too – sometimes it is funny to fall on your face no matter how many legs you have. And sometimes it is hard to dust yourself off but the help of good friends and the encouragement of a wise teacher make it a lot easier.

Niya’s next words to me were: “Did you feel how it felt? To stand there so still and perfectly balanced. Like the White Crane.” He didn’t focus on the fall but the connection he felt to the spirit of the White Crane and the balancing skills that would see him win an important wrestling match.

I admire Niya. He’s brave and gutsy, funny and witty. He can’t run fast or swim well but he can outwit the Dragon Master and he’s the best archer in the Tateyama Mountains. He’s my hero and I’m thrilled I can continue to tell his story. Monkey Fist won’t be the last adventure for the Samurai Kids. A fifth and sixth book are scheduled for the series.

Follow the tour:


Sat Aug 1 Dee White http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com

Sun Aug 2 Dale Harcombe http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale

Mon Aug 3 here! http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

Tues Aug 4 Sally Odgers http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com

Wed Aug 5 Mabel Kaplan http://belka37.blogspot.com

Thurs Aug 6 Sally Murphy http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com

Fri Aug 7 Robyn Opie http://robynopie.blogspot.com

Sat Aug 8 Rebecca Newman http://www.soupblog.wordpress.com

Sun Aug 9 Susan Stephenson http://thebookchook.blogspot.com

Mon Aug 10 Jefferey E Doherty http://wordsandpictures.blogspot.com

8 comments:

Dee White said...

Sandy,

The more I learn about your Samurai Kids, the more they inspire me. Thanks Claire and Sandy for some fabulous insights.

Dee

Mabel said...

Thank you Claire for hosting Sandy here today. The post is a real delight. Each day of this tour brings new richness to the story.
Mabel

Sally Murphy said...

Great post claire and Sandy. If I wasn't already a fan, I'd be racing out to read the whole series :)

Claire said...

I love visitors! Thanks Sandy for the post and Dee, Mabel and Sally for dropping by. C

The Book Chook said...

It fascinates me what we all think we know about what can and can't be done in writing. In many cases, I think we're trying to second guess what a publisher will view as marketable. And obviously, at least in the US, even book covers can be white-washed (Justine Larbalestier's US cover of Liar seems proof).

I think it's wonderful that Sandy wrote a series about six kids with a disability, and I think it's wonderful that Walker Books Australia published them. I love the positive message Samurai Kids sends to children everywhere.

SANDY said...

Thanks everyone. I was a little nervous waiting to see what my readers would think. But I soon found kids readily embrace the idea of everyone being able to have a go. An adult once asked me how it was possible for Mikko to use a bow and arrow with one arm. While I was trying to work out the physics of it, the kids around me were raising their hands to suggest half a dozen ways it could be done. Which just goes to prove the point. Kids are marvellous problem solvers. Yhey can get around and over all sorts of difficulties -with help, encouragement and the support of friends.

Thank you for hosting me Claire.

Claire said...

Thanks for visiting Sandy. Best of luck with the continued success of Samurai Kids.
Claire

Claire said...

Thanks for visiting Sandy. Best of luck with the continued success of Samurai Kids.
Claire