''You don't have to feel like a waste of space, you're an original, cannot be replaced...it's always been inside of you...and now it's time to let it through...'cause baby you're a firework...come on let your colors burst."
- Katy Perry, Singer-songwriter
So it's Bonfire Night soon, and already I've seen and heard some fireworks exploding in my neighbourhood. It got me thinking. If aliens came to earth this week and discovered a box of fireworks, I wonder what they would think of the tubular packages of powder laid out before them. Maybe they'd be dazzled by the different shapes and sizes, brightly coloured packaging or fancy names, but would they really get what they were for? Would they just leave them in the box, or arrange them in a decorative display? Or would they understand how a tiny flame could transform these inanimate objects into something so much more? Something spectacular.
I've been a primary school teacher for many years (up until six months ago, but more of that later) and worked with hundreds of children. Like a box of fireworks, they were all different. Some small, some tall, some quiet, some loud, some labelled achievers, some not. But one thing they all had in common, without exception, was a unique potential for creativity; to burst into colour if exposed to the right spark.
Now, I believe that a huge part of what makes us human is our immeasurable ability to create, and that's why we get such a buzz from creating something we feel proud of (and why we feel frustrated, angry, low, bored etc. when we don't have creative opportunities). And so I saw it as part of my job to find out what kind of creator my pupils were, and what was going to help them soar. Sometimes it was obvious, sometimes it took a bit of digging and sometimes I was unsuccessful (my failing, or the system's failing*, not theirs). Sometimes their creativity wasn't even what the World would consider valuable, or label as creative, but that doesn't alter the fact that it was.
Perhaps it was a mid-life crisis kicking in, or a frustration at spending so much time filling in paperwork and worrying about targets instead of helping kids discover their inner creator, or finally a realisation of my own inner creator. Either way, I made the all-or-nothing decision to leave a great career (and a nice pension!) to pursue an even greater dream that had been bubbling in me since I was a child writing stories, poems and plays in my bedroom. This dream got lost along the path of teenage and adult life, but I rediscovered it in my 30s. I tried at first to pursue it alongside work and motherhood and get published in the traditional way, but found I was getting nowhere very slowly.
That was six months ago, and the original plan of becoming a self-published author has grown into something bigger, scarier and more exciting! From a small spark of an idea, a children's publishing company has burst onto the scene and somehow I'm the founder and managing director. Totally bonkers! Totally naive! Totally not what's supposed to happen, right? I mean, who am I to think I can be a publisher of other authors, let alone a published author myself? I have no experience in the publishing industry, never designed a logo or built a website before, never commissioned illustrators or called printers for quotes. I've never thought about how to sell or market a product before, never pondered what distribution avenues to use. But now I'm faced with doing all that and more.
Everyday I'm realising how much there is about the publishing world that I still don't know, and how much money I'm going to have to beg, steal or borrow to make all this happen. And so I find myself with two choices. Choice number one; pack it all in and go back to sitting quietly in the firework box. Choice number two; decide it's time to let my colours burst! You'll (hopefully) be happy to know that I've decided to go with the latter, despite the sleepless nights, moments of panic when I've seen my bank balance and madly scrolled through eteach.com, and my (very real) realisation that life is not a movie and a happy ending is therefore not guaranteed.
So here I am, and here is Burst. We want to create some amazing products, discover some talented creators and help children realise that they don't just get to read books, they can create them too. We're just a sparkler at the moment, in awe of the big rockets and loud bangers all around us. But we are here.
*Do schools kill creativity? Ken Robinson's brilliant TED talk is worth a listen!