Timm Holmes - Timm
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
I’m an author of children’s books but I’m also a father to two young sons that my wife and I adopted in 2013. Our bond as a forever family was formed over our mutual love of reading books and storytelling. I knew I wanted to tell stories after I won a storytelling contest in grade one telling Robert Munsch’s “Mortimer”. I memorized and told more stories and eventually began creating my own. I wrote a lot for teenagers and adults, never considering the idea of writing for children. Only after the third or fourth story I’d improvised for my sons at bedtime, did my wife suggest that perhaps I should do something with the boys’ stories. The boys agreed!
Where did you find the inspiration for the stories you used to tell your two sons?
In short, my boys are my inspiration. The Mostly Made Up Adventures of Malcolm & Cooper are just that. The first time I ever made up a story was a lot like most times I’ve made up a story for them. I asked, “What do you want to hear about?” They answered, “Dragons!” I asked what kind of ending they wanted and they chose a happy ending. Then I asked, “What would a hungry dragon eat if it landed in the middle of our neighbourhood?” A six-year-old Malcolm answered, “Dragons eat sheep. So obviously the dragon will eat sheep.” A four-year-old Cooper answered, “I think a dragon would eat ... my brother!” We all thought that was hilarious but gross, so I suggested peanut butter sandwiches because I knew both boys loved them. They agreed and I proceeded to tell them a story about a hungry dragon that ate peanut butter sandwiches and had a happy ending. I sprinkled in lots of real life sayings and details about them to make it uniquely theirs, and I layered sound effects and silly voices on top of that.
Where did you find your love of stories?
I grew up in a house of readers. My parents both read constantly, especially my mom. They both read to my three siblings and I. It was a wonderful and powerful influence. When I began to write, my parents were always very supportive and willing to read my rough drafts (when I would let them!).
Tell us about your #StartAStory workshop.
Start A Story is a group story building adventure for children from kindergarten to grade six. A group of children at a school, scout or guide troop, or at the library share their ideas, combine their ideas, and vote for their favourites. Add in a couple of art parts and at the end of ninety minutes we’ll have created a children’s story! I then story tell the children’s newly created tale to them to prove that they’ve all become authors of an amazing story! Start A Story Young Writers Workshop is my happy accident. The idea came from a kindergarten teacher who enthusiastically told me how much she enjoyed watching me interact with her class explaining how my stories came together. She told me I never needed to write another story - just create a workshop! So when I was ready, her class was the first to test it out. Their story is still one of my favourites. Start A Story has recently been produced into a 30 minute pilot for a new children’s television show!
You’re the author of two children’s books – any plans to write more?
A third book in the Malcolm & Cooper series is planned for this year. At the moment I’m working on five more unrelated children’s books and the first book in what will be a young adult chapter book series.
Do you prefer to write at home, or in coffee shops?
Writing at home with a mechanical pencil on lined paper is my regular routine. Too many distractions elsewhere. However, if I’m unhappy with a character, trying to figure out a story arc or plot point, a change of scenery often does the trick. Sometimes that means a shaded bench in a park, other times a coffee shop. Many cafe patrons or dog walkers have had elements of their personality or wardrobe find their way to characters in my stories.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Rough housing with my boys is great fun. We’re a hiking family always discovering new trails around Ottawa. Video games are also an outlet for me. Especially the newer generation of games have feature film level writing behind the gameplay, storytelling that creates fantastic characters and worlds to get lost in for a while!
Do you have a favourite author and/or book?
I grew up idolizing Stephen King. King’s “The Eyes of the Dragon” is a departure from what we’ve come to expect from him. It’s a fantasy tale and it is still a favourite of mine. Robert Munsch, Dr. Seuss, and Oliver Jeffers are some of my favourite children’s authors. The Mischevians by William Joyce is a fabulous read!
What does the future hold?
The future is writing more children’s books. Obtaining an agent and traditional publisher. Taking Start A Story to Coquille, Oregon in September where a school raised enough money through DonorsChoose.org to fly me down for a week-long stay to perform the workshop with seven classes and partake in a family storytelling night. Meetings this summer with broadcasters to get Start A Story the children’s television show greenlit so we can inspire a new generation of storytellers! Performing Start A Story as part of the Ottawa Public Library’s TD Summer Reading program. Registration is free and open to the public. I’ll be visiting multiple branches of the OPL through July & August. The schedule will be up on the OPL website and timmholmes.com June 15.
What are some of the challenges when writing a book?
The largest challenge is making the time to do the work. My trick is to do just a little every day. Even if it’s just a sentence, it’s forward movement. Just get the story on the page. Even if the details fluctuate from day to day. Just get it on the page. Editing comes later. The other challenge I have faced is trying too hard to be original. Every story is basically already told. However it hasn’t been told by me, or you for that matter. Our perspective, our vocabulary selection, the characters we choose to tell the story through all make for a unique take on potentially well-trodden ground.
What is your passion outside of writing?
Start A Story has awoken a passion in me to see others succeed in their writing. It started with seeing the young writers from kindergarten to grade six begin to find their voice, and it has grown into an urge to help promote and collaborate with authors in all genres. All writers are part of the writing community and it has been a wonderful discovery for me to see how we all lift each other up.