I was invited by storyteller Simon Hodges to share a story tonight at his extraordinary every-4-weeks gathering in Amsterdam. There were some wonderful tales, magical myths, and fabulous yarns. I read The Moon Candy Rebellion for the first time to an audience that wasn’t a roomful of activists, and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer crowd and setting. Simon’s created a glorious storytelling space, surrounded by art and full of odd, beautifully diverse seating from antiques to the surreal story teller’s chair to bean bags and blankets on the floor. It’s an event worth catching if your in Amsterdam for the next one on the 15th of December. Actually, it’s an event worth travelling to Amsterdam for. Have a listen to a tiny portion of Simon’s epic rendering of the Welsh tale of Lleu and Blodeuwedd.
As for me, this is the tale I told.
Every night, for many many years, I made up a bedtime story for my boys, Doon and Dylan.
I populated those stories with some very odd heroes — kind of enlightened troublemakers who would act up and be very very naughty, though often for a very good reason. And one day it occurred to me: I wonder if this has anything to do with my profession?
I worked as an activist with Greenpeace for 35 years. I went to sea to save whales, I went to jail for stopping a nuclear weapons test. I was surrounded by enlightened troublemakers. And it occurred to me that I might be making up for a lack of stories about those kind of people and the values they championed.
I was always jealous of parents who could pull a book down from the shelf about a teacher, or a firefighter, or a police officer, and point to it and say “That’s what I do. That’s what my friends do.” Because it can be really hard to tell a five year old that “when Daddy and his friends do a good job, sometimes they go to jail.”
Where were the bedtime stories that celebrated what Steve Jobs called “The Crazy Ones” — the ones crazy enough to think they could change the world? Not just the artists and inventors and entrepreneurs, but the activists? How many children’s books have you read that celebrate civil disobedience, or questioning authority, or challenging the status quo when it’s unkind, or unjust, or dangerous? When it tells little girls that they’re weak and can’t do all the things boys do?
There’s the Lorax, and the Butter Battle Book, and my great love, Pippi Longstockings. A few others, but not many choices for parents who want positive role models of boat-rockers. Of kids who meet conformity with creativity. Who conjure up beautiful disruptions to create a better world.
So I took the thrilling advice of Toni Morrison, and thought about the bedtime story I most wanted to read to my kids, and wrote it.
Now I promise this is a story not a lecture. So imagine you’re five. You’ve got your pajamas on. The pillows are plumped up behind you and you pull the duvet up to your chin. Are we sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…
Here’s a recording of the reading. But if you were there, skip down to the one below to see Iris Maerten’s awesome illustrations.
We want to release this story in a big way — creative commons, open source, skipping over the publishing industry, going people-power direct and using that magical art of asking for help.
We’ll be releasing an early reader/beta version of The Moon Candy Rebellion as an ePub shortly, and we’d love to have you in on the hijinks we’re hoping to get up to. We’ve just set up a Facebook page, a twitter feed, and a webpage where you can sign up as a Moon Candy Rebel to get a copy in exchange for your feedback, suggestions, and input into ideas for how we get our little book into as many little hands as possible through some beautiful disruption, and how we can use crowd-sourced, #newpower tools to turn it into a real book you can hold in your hands and read to your child. Or yourself. It’s all about how we make courage more contagious, and raise up a generation equipped to resist despotism and create the more beautiful world of joyful abundance we all know is possible.