(Photo by Natalija Bolfan Stosic)
In case you have seen posts about Inner Giant in the social networks, and kept wondering who or what it was, it’s time to reveal the secret. Chatting with me today is a longtime teacher and author colleague, Mr.Frank Letras. He will be talking about a wordlwide anti-bullying project called Inner Giant, which has resulted in an e-book with over 400 pages of stories, poems, songs, essays, advice, worksheets, teaching ideas, illustrations and photographs. All the contributors, myself included, have volunteered their work, regardless of their field of expertise (art, teaching, parenting, speech therapy, education, illustration, design, proofreading…) and Mr Letras is here today to tell us how and why.
1. Before we begin talking about this huge project, tell us something about yourself, so our readers have an idea about the person behind the original idea for the project.
I am a writer by vocation, a teacher by choice, and a manager by neccessity. I am married and currently live in beautiful Surrey, about thirty miles from London. I was born in Portugal, and have lived in Britain, Poland, and The USA, but not necessarily in that order. I am a member of an online teaching community which brings teachers from all over the world together, in order to solve any number of issues, primarily to create, and swap teaching materials and ideas, but every now and then, some extra curricular stuff, such as this project for example. I run an online radio station, and when I have the time, I broadcast regular music shows.
2. What is Inner Giant all about and what is its purpose?
Inner Giant is all about getting people to talk about the difficult subject of bullying. Especially victims, but also parents, teachers, and even bullies themselves. Bullying causes such long lasting and unnecessary pain and suffering, and often the victims and their parents are reluctanct to talk about it, as it appears to demonstrate a kind of weakness, or failing on their part.
The purpose of the project is to raise awareness, and to get people to talk about it more freely, and less self-consciously, thereby increasing the chances of preventing it from happening in the first place.
(Target by Gerard Bullit)
3. Bullying, domestic and work violence, are not easy or popular topics to talk about. Being a parent and teacher yourself, why do you think it is important to talk about it and what can readers and supporters of the project do to help?
I will answer the second part of the question first. They can shout about it from every roof top, they can buy the book, use in school, as reading and/or teaching material, in order to help children, and indeed adults as well , lose their ‘fear’ of talking about bullying. Most instances of bullying stem from ignorance, jealousy, and fear. If enough people discuss the issues, often enough, those negative impulses will lessen, and bullying will be less evident. Because I agree that these are not easy topics of discussion is why I decided on this project. It is always easy to refer to a difficult subject in the third person. The book is a perfect tool for that.
4. The e-book consists of so much reading and inspiring material, and there are over 40 contributors altogether. Tell us something about them and their work, where they come from and how it was working with them all. Did you all have meetings to coordinate everything?
We have teachers and educators, painters, photographers and musicians from as far afield as Russia and Australia, Brasil and Egypt, Canada and Croatia. Getting that amount of creativity together is a logistical nightmare of gigantic proportions. Luckily we have been blessed with something called the internet. That, and the incredible organizational skills of this interviewer were the sole reason why this project ever materialised. I can safely say that there wasn’t one single instance when even two of the contributors occupied the same physical space and time. The ‘meetings’ consisted of long hours in front of a computer screen, and a mass of emails back and forth. I was particularly impressed by how willing people were to submit their contributions, and in the time frame they were given, which wasn’t always an easy thing to achieve. It was a priviledge to work with so many wonderful people, and I hope to do so again in the future.
5. A few years ago, you initiated a similar project Teaching Children from the Heart, on a smaller scale, but also for charity. What was that one all about and what happened to it?
Yes. It was called Teaching Children from the Heart, and it consisted of a few short stories and poems which we published as a paperback book. There were about twenty of us involved and the proceeds of that were donated to UNICEF. There was no particular topic for the book, we just wanted to have a lasting memento of the ESL Printables cafe gang as it was then, and to do something nice for charity. Alas, the company that published the book is no longer in business, and the only copies in existance are the ones that were sold. I pasted the link to the original book’s website above.
6. What was your favourite part in creating this book? Were there times you all felt like quitting? Do you think it was difficult for some contributors to share their experiences, as some stories and poems are based on true events?
My favourite part was seeing it all come together. As more and more stories were added to the formatting file, along with the accompanying images, I marvelled at how it just kept growing and growing. I was very dissapointed when the publishers informed me that to create an interactive e-book (which was the original intention) would be far too costly, pushing the retail price of the book so high that few people would buy it. This is the same reason why a printed version hasn’t been planned. The image content is so high that the printed book would have to retail at around sixty euros, making it far too expensive.
I think it was almost impossible for some of them.
A few started out almost as ‘ a friend of mine had this problem once’. Thinly disguised fiction rooted in fact and obviously painful personal experiences, most of which are very moving indeed.
7. How long did it take to have a finished e-book published and are you happy with it? Was it difficult to sort out the layout according to contributors? Did you have help from editors, publishers, book promotion companies?
From conception to publishing on Amazon, took exactly eleven months, two weeks, three days, seven hours, and forty three minutes. Not that I was counting, or anything. There were a few ‘differences of opinion’ , more about content, than layout. The publishers only part in the project was to format the submitted file into e-pub, and to put it on the book selling websites. Layout, formatting, and marketing are all down to us, but I have been very lucky with the amount of help provided by proof readers such as Michelle de Vries, technical advisors such as Gordana Palada, and Anita Kovacevic, who has been very helpful also.
8. Who would you like to recommend the Inner Giant book to and why?
To every teacher who sees a student ‘withdrawing’ from lessons, or crying quietly in a corner, and wants to help. To every child who tortures his or herself with self-loathing and fear. To every parent who discovers that their baby is being victimised at school or on social media. To every teaching organisation who can use it to get people talking about the subject. To every person who feels that picking on someone else to make themselves feel better is the right way to live. To anyone who wants the bruises to dissapear from their soul forever.
(Illustration by Dalibor Talajic for the story Dancing UK, by F. Letras)
9. If you could give a shout-out about Inner Giant to any famous person out there (even more than one), who would it be, why and what would you say?
There are many famous people who have been victims of bullying, and I would give a shout out to all of them, Hey, buy the book, read it, use it, and recommend it to others. There isn’t one particular celebrity that comes to mind at this point.
(Painting by M.Letras)
10. What now? Is there talk of a launch party for the book, or continuing the project, or even a new project altogether?
There will be a launch party for the book. However the logistical nightmare continues. Principally how to get all the contributors in front of their computers at the same time.
The project will continue for as long as the book is on sale. A little early to start talking about a new project, but definitely not too early to think about it.
11. Would you like to add anything about the project or send a message to the readers?
BUY THE BOOK, IF YOU’VE BOUGHT IT, READ IT! IF YOU’VE READ IT, USE IT!
AND IF YOU’VE BOUGHT IT, READ IT, AND USED IT, THEN SELL IT TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN!
ABOUT THE INNER GIANT E-BOOK
Also available in all other Amazon affiliates.
Inner Giant is much more than a book, it is a journey through the lives and experiences of its creators. It contains over twenty short stories written by a variety of authors, introduced by two fictional school boys adding a touch of humour and irony to the stories.
The second part contains poetry of all shapes and sizes, conceived by different, but talented poets.
There are several other parts to the book, each crammed with illustrations, photographs, paintings, essays, lesson materials and pieces of sound advice.
All the material in the book has one message, do not stand for bullying, do not stand by bullying and do not bully others.
The profits from the book are being donated to anti-bullying organizations. Making this unique work a must read for all. It’s time you found your own Inner Giant.
Here is a short paragraph from Victoria’s legacy letter;
I teach my sons not to stand by passively and watch other children bullied . I always say” if you are a bystander,you are as guilty as the person who is doing it.
Be courageous to step up and say,”This is NOT accepted. This is NOT ok.”
And if you are being bullied,ask for help,tell somebody.”
This is the last paragraph in the book taken from Anita’s closing words.
You may read this book and do nothing about it. You may say your money contribution by buying the book is enough and you’ve done your part. You may recommend the book to someone else, read them a story, use an essay as a teaching tool, email someone a poem or two, take some of our advice or even add some of your own. You may invite and inspire people to do good, to be good, to teach good. The choice is yours. You may help a bullied person find inner strength and change from a victim to a protector. You yourself may change from a witness to a protector. You may even help a bully control and conquer their own demon and become a protector themselves.
You never know till you try. Giants do not only exist in fairytales, but in our souls as well. Find and keep your own inner giant, and show it with pride. And share it with pride.
(Frank has enclosed his personal favourite images from the book and one of the early ones that wasn’t used.)
Please rate and review this book on Amazon! You will show the world this problem matters and you will have the gratitude of 40something people who participated in this!