Jim Westcott — J&J Behind The Scenes


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Blog: Resolute Not Reluctant:

My ADD and ADHD:
How I Am Dealing With It and Working on this Project.

As my grown-up career as a writer inches forward, I’m constantly reminded that ultimately, one’s own work ethic and drive are the strongest factors for success. Working on this project with people that have vision and drive (Dona Rudderow Sturn and the Creative Writing Team) has helped me to remain focused. Don’t get me wrong, I have this too, drive that is. However, sometimes I don’t drive; I ride my creative roller coaster.

I have Attention Deficit Disorder [ADD]. My ADD isn’t the tracks of the roller coaster; it is the twists and turns, the plunges of riding a roller coaster. My ADD is also comparable to actually choosing to get on that roller coaster—braving the ride.  Sometimes, I get locked up when I start to work on a project because I know the ride will be difficult, with mental twists and turns. These moments require sustained mental effort. This focus and mental effort can be exhausting and frustrating. I have gotten better at riding my own creative roller coaster in my older age.

Certainly, few know better than I what it is like to avoid the creative roller coaster because without extreme concentration, the work will most definitely derail. I’m certainly going to share more  about this topic (ADD and Learning Disabilities) as it directly relates to just about everything I’ve done so far: choosing to get a Masters in Special Education, devoting 15 years to teaching kids, mostly boys, with ADD, ADHD and other learning disabilities, and currently working with other writers and on this project.

Luckily, working with Dona Rudderow Sturn, who understands and is patient with me—as with the rest of the Creative Writing Team, I’m keeping my creativity on track! I’ve also learned there is only so far the ride can fling me. This empowering insight is what I’ll share in further posts and in the Educator Forum. I do believe I can help parents help their children with issues relating to learning disabilities and achieving academic success. I’ll never stop trying to help.

I Need Writing AND Verbal Skills!

It has never been easy for me to communicate my ideas unless they are in writing. So, when I found out that I would have to use my verbal as well as my writing skills on this project, I admit, I was a bit apprehensive. Working with a group of creative people, two of whom are published authors, while I’m waiting for the release of my first book, was a bit unnerving.

Gradually, I felt more comfortable with them and with The JNP Project’s creative process. After a year of involvement, this is my longest running project since leaving teaching. Each week I look forward to learning from the JNP Creative Writing Team, and laughing with them as well.

While the JNP team is very serious about this project, they aren’t serious people. Thank goodness  they aren’t afraid to deviate from business matters occasionally. This flexibility is important to me. It’s hard for me to spend a lot of time with people who take themselves and life too seriously.  I truly enjoy working with this team. Interestingly enough, we haven’t actually met in-the-flesh yet.  Someday…

The Prequel Story Jane & Jake’s Adventures to Awesome: The Journey Begins

When we first started working together on the Prequel, the first book in the series, we were getting a sense of how we could operate, individually and as a team. Here is my sense:

Dona Rudderow Sturn: Dona struck me as a bundle of energy, a fireball with 100% passion for what she believes in, a problem-solver and positive person.  This was just the tip of the iceberg.

Kathy Szaj: I sensed much of the same with Kathy, just a bit toned down in comparison to Dona.  Kathy is an analytical person with a high verbal IQ. She truly loves words–written or spoken.

Judy Bartkowiak: She is a reserved Brit with both pragmatic and creative perspectives when solving any problem; Judy is articulate.

I realized I was working with a great team.

They seemed to fit. However, honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure how I would fit with this dynamic trio.

BOOK 1: TRUTH — Jane & Jake’s Adventures to Awesome Truth

Our brainstorming transformed a collection of loosely connected ideas into an outline, and from that outline to an cohesive story. Here are a few items we went back-and-forth on:

  • We discussed a mnemonic that works for the color spectrum, something that applies to our concept of friendship, trust, and truth.
  • We clarified the idea of The Pearls of Power and their symbolism. In addition, collectively, we agreed on a small pull-string pouch for Jane and Jake to carry home the Pearls, concepts and  gritty details all swirling as one.
  • We built a character notebook, thrown into the mix by Dona and uploaded to Google Drive: we called this the Character Bible. This idea is a great way for writers to keep track of characters throughout a story.
  • We selected names for our cast of characters. Judy asked what we should name the King Crab. Dona suggested Monte the Magnificent. It really stuck. It gave this character a sense of dazzle and an aura similar to a magician or vaudevillian.
  • We learned to accept criticism. Kathy especially impressed me. We had just begun working together, and she had taken the hodge podge of thoughts and ideas we had produced and churned it into a cohesive story. She defended her thinking, the story lines, the action, the dialogue, when she thought it was best and bent when the three of us made a good enough case for changes. Would I be as gracious under the same circumstances?

After this we began the editing and revising. It has been quite a ride!

Book One went well, considering the many unknowns that hovered over us at the time.

BOOK 2: KINDNESS — Jane & Jake’s Adventures to Awesome Kindness

Things began flowing during this book’s creation. I noticed we began by reflecting on what being kind truly means. This conceptual beginning to the writing process helped the team visualize plot details and how our characters can demonstrate kindness, especially in ways young children will understand and possibly emulate.

Our focus was on the parallel between Jane and Jake’s world and the world in Awesome. This is to say that our characters, with Oracle’s guidance, and the events in Awesome, are able to at least consider why someone would do something as mean as ruining a classmates project, or why a jellyfish would have a sting in the first place.

Are some children/people just plain mean? Maybe? However, are there other reasons for meanness? At least considering this question reveals a pathway to understanding and kindness, the type of kindness that comes from strength, not from letting people walk all over you. Complicated, perhaps, but this journey to understanding kindness was our aim for Book 2.

BOOK 3: HARMONY — Jane & Jake’s Adventures to Awesome Harmony

We nailed it! I’m speaking of the mood coral and its metaphor. I’d like to take credit for this, but I don’t think I can. I’m pretty sure it was Bartkowiak’s idea, maybe Sajz. They’re both constantly overachieving. Yeah, talking like a guy here.

Harmony has colors. Harmony has rhythm or lack thereof when harmony diminishes. We imagined what the mood coral would look like when confronted with argumentative teenagers, with conflict. Yes, I think the game is great and is a wonderful vehicle for learning what conflict resolution looks like and why/how conflict occurs between brothers/sisters or friends, but I have to say this book resonates because of our inclusion of the mood coral and its metaphor. It’s solid. Check it out!

BOOK 4: FORGIVENESS — Jane & Jake’s Adventures to Awesome Forgiveness

I think creating Book 4 has been a little bit more fun because we have a clearer picture for what we are attempting to say to our readers at this point, we know our characters better, and we are more comfortable with the structure of our plots. I think we have a deeper sense of what we are doing and why, and this has allowed us to concentrate on creating the richest storyline yet–the scenes that comprise the Labyrinth of Forgiveness.  We aren’t finished with Book 4 as I write this, and I’m excited about how this story has developed, and very interested to see how it will end…