A large part of my studies was on the job learning. Throughout your life sometimes you meet people who act as mentors, pushing you out of your comfort zones; my previous manager was one of these people, and I am very thankful that he pushed me to complete the course. As you would expect the diploma covered all aspects of shopping centre management: marketing, managing people and retail. I gained a lot of new skills, especially when managing people.
One of the best learnings I took away from the diploma was how important it is to step back and take a look at how you come across to people when leading individuals and teams. My greatest learning from the course was how important it is to step outside of your comfort zone, challenging yourself to be a better person.
Whilst studying for my diploma, I started to write stories for my three year old son, Otis. I have always enjoyed writing, but never thought to take it on as a career. After sharing the stories in blog form with friends and family, I quickly realised that I had found a passion and after great feedback when reading to school assemblies of 400 children, I decided that I wanted to write children’s stories full time.
I wanted to create stories which the family could all enjoy when the children were older, creating that magic that I experienced as a child when watching films like Mary Poppins and reading books by Roald Dahl. My favourite times with my children are at bedtime when we are reading stories together and the thought of parents reading my stories to their own children is so lovely. So I took that scary leap of faith. It was one of the biggest career decisions I have ever had to make, but it felt right. I had my wife’s backing and support, which was the most important thing.
Fast-forward a few months and I have committed to writing full time. I launched our own publishing company, Lemon Drop Books, and now a year on we have published our fourth book: Thea Lemon and her Super Sporty Fairy Godmother.
In July 2016, our debut children’s book, Otis Lemon & The Spectacular Submarine, was awarded the Platinum Junior Design Award 2016 as the Children’s book of the year (with words and within last 12 months category). The awards, organised by Junior Magazine, recognise the finest modern toys and books. The Platinum Award is the highest accolade possible and is reserved for those products that go above and beyond the high judging standards and showcase immaculate design. Winning the Junior Design Award gave me reassurance that my decision to leave my previous job to become an author was the right choice to make.
I am extremely passionate about inspiring our children to read. As a parent myself, I completely understand that it can be tricky to engage with your child when trying to read with them. If your child is studying particular subjects at school, discuss with them what specific parts of the subject they most enjoyed. Once you have pinpointed what engaged them most, start to look for books and reading material together; this way your child should start to read for enjoyment, instead of it feeling like an after school chore. Another way of engaging with children is to simply get them to story build their very own adventure. What characters would they have? Where would the story be based? What would they like the message to be in the story? Make it fun, use colours, pens and pencils. These are just some of my own personal ideas, but you might have some of your own, as you know your child best. I personally enjoy reading biographies about interesting characters who have influenced many people; inspirational figures who inspire others.
When reading the above a lot has happened over the previous few years, but I have learned a lot of new skills: setting up a new business, completing a diploma in shopping Centre management and learning not to give up on your dreams. I truly take my hat off to anyone who takes that giant leap of faith to learn new skills and take on new challenges.