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“Believe In The Power Of Magic”- Author Dean Martins

“Believe In The Power Of Magic”- Author Dean Martins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’d like to believe that both children from earlier generations and today’s children have this in common – they still believe in magic” writes author Dean J Martins of his first published book – Chebet and Rafiki, a collection of short stories that imparts little yet oh-so important life lessons to children between the age of five to 12. In this interview, Dean allows us to discover some of his secrets of the book writing process, some of the challenges he faced, how some of his own experiences shaped the book, and other works he hopes to bring to the fore in the near future. The 40-year-old, third-generation Kenyan has dabbled in many fields such as banking, media, writing, content-creation, marketing and administration, and now I works as a manager with a hotel in Kisumu. Read on for more.

BY RAVNEET SEHMI

Dean, congratulations on your book of short stories, Chebet and Rafiki and other stories. Is this your first published book?

Thanks, Ravneet. This is my first published book, though I have written articles and short stories for a number of publications too. My short story ‘Father of Serengeti’ was first runner up world-wide in a competition called Africa Teller which publishes an annual anthology of writing from Africa.

Congratulations for that. What is Chebet and Rafiki all about?

Chebet and Rafiki is the lead story in the book which carries six short stories. It is about a little girl who rescues a donkey’s colt, which in time repays her act of kindness.

Where did the idea come from?

I grew up in Eldoret, which at the time was a fairly small town surrounded by both small and large-scale farms, which drew the inspiration for the story.

What challenges did you face from screen to shelf?

For starters, there are not many forums available locally for writers to share their work, and those that are there can be painfully slow. After careful thought, I chose the self-publishing route and I am pretty happy with the results.

The book also has other stories: Kuta the Hunter, Why the Earth goes round the Sun, The Two Swans, The Princess’ Escape, Ahmed and the Bandits’ Lair which have little lessons for the children between the ages of 5 to 12, to learn from. What will children take away from this book?

Each story carries a little seed of wisdom for the children. Kuta the Hunter for example teaches against pride and wasting one’s talents, whereas Ahmed and the Bandits’ Lair encourages bravery. The lead story Chebet and Rafiki teaches kindness, and that life often rewards us for our acts of kindness.

How long did it take you to put together the book? And who was the inspiration behind it? I wrote the stories that appear in this book in about a year. I was inspired mostly by my daughter Kylie, watching her grow and interact with the world around her. It reminded me of what it was like to see the world through the eyes of a child. It was also inspired by my late mum, who taught nursery school for most of her adult life.

Do you plan to do a series, sequel or are you toying with the idea of an entirely new subject?

I am currently working on another children’s book. Not a series of short stories this time but a full-length tale about a young Kenyan girl who goes on an epic journey in search of a golden shield that will protect her family from harm. It will feature a number of cultural references that are Kenyan, as well as being set in the Kenyan landscape, right from our beautiful coast to the arid north. It is a fable, filled with magic and adventure.

Does writing for the ages of 5 to 12 come easy to you?

The initial ideas, the creative bits, do come fairly easily. I’m often daydreaming about new characters and storylines. The actual writing does take a bit of discipline in getting the ideas on to the page. All-in-all, I find it an enjoyable and very fulfilling process.

With the generation gaps glaringly obvious with the children from the 80s and 90s to today’s confident, bold children with an entirely different world of opportunities. How did you tap into their minds to know what it is that will connect with them?

I’d like to believe that both children from earlier generations and today’s children have this in common – they still believe in magic. Today’s generation is ‘growing up faster’ as they say, though I suppose every generation says this about the generation that follows them! Today’s children are certainly more exposed, especially with the advent of technology, and it would be prudent to both monitor and encourage this exposure.

Well said! Aside from the author, who is Dean J Martins?

I am 40, and a third-generation Kenyan. My grandparents on my father’s side settled in Kenya in the 1930’s from Goa. I have worn many hats over the years; I have worked in banking, as an editor, as a writer, content-creator, in marketing and administration, and now work as a manager with a hotel in Kisumu.

Dean, do you feel with the upsurge in technology – screen time (TV), easier access to mobiles and video games – that the reading culture is and has suffered?

To an extent, yes. Research has shown that children (and adults!) now have shorter attention spans and are less likely to sit and read given the distractions that our mobiles and other gadgets afford us.  However, it has also allowed for the rapid dissemination of knowledge, creative works included, via forums such as Kindle as well as afforded artists in many genres the opportunity to share their work to a world-wide audience. So, there are both pros and cons.

During the pandemic, numerous challenges have surfaced, and one such has been the reading challenge.  While these are applaudable ways of getting kids to read, opening their impressionable minds to new worlds, it has come at the expense of it being a trend and that’s why kids take to it. What are your thoughts?

The reading challenge is certainly commendable. Some reading challenges have been around a while before the pandemic, and hopefully will continue after. Though it would be ideal to make reading a regular habit, rather than as a fad or a trend.

What other ways can you suggest that can entice children to pick up a book and learn from it?

Children learn by imitation, so the best way to ensure a child learns to enjoy reading is by having their parents or other caregivers read to them, and encouraging them to read for themselves when they get older.

Any parting words to The Asian Weekly readers?

Do read to your children over this period, and beyond. Apart from stimulating their creativity it will create excellent quality-time for you and your children, and hopefully help them develop the reading habit.

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