When my kids were little they had a picture book called Leo the Late Bloomer. It was, if I recall, about a lion cub who developed rather more slowly than others: a late bloomer.
My kids were all late bloomers.
I could blame the book for this, but I was a late bloomer too.
In fact the other day a guy I knew at school sent me an e-mail reminding me of this. He'd had a work accident and so was at home , and had been spending his days looking around Elsewhere.
He e-mailed to say how much he enjoyed it, and was impressed by my broad range of interests from music to travel and architecture -- which surprised him because “you were dummer than a cow-pat at school”.
I was a happy kid but the despair of my loving parents who were convinced my being placed in lower forms was all some kind of inexplicable mistake. They were horrified when I went into 3C at secondary school when my friends were mostly in 3A, or at worse in 3B.
Fortunately at the end of the first term there were internal exams which would rectify this terrible injustice.
I went down to 3D.
I passed School Cert (222 for those who care, English and – oddly enough – maths pulled me through), but failed UE.
I eventually went to university and was thrown out after two years for “failure to make academic progress”.
Without going into detail I became a teacher, got a degree, went into journalism, wrote a couple of successful travel books, now do some lecturing at Auckland Uni . . .
Like my parents – my mum left school at 14, my dad at 15, which explains why they felt I was “wasting an opportunity” they never had – I think I was largely self-taught. “Stuff” interested me so I would try to find out about it.
My intellectual development started to come together in my mid to late 20s.
I was – like Leo – a late bloomer.
This is perhaps why I just breathe through my nose when I hear people say how poorly their kids are doing at school.
I think it was the guys behind Beavis and Butthead who said when they went to speak to kids they made the point to them that high-school wasn't everything, it didn't define you for the rest of your life.
I – of course – have always believed that.
So if your children have come to the end of this semester failing to meet your, or the teachers', expectations – and I hope you aren't anxious if they are barely out of nappies but “behind the rest of the class” – then breathe through your nose.
There are a lot of late bloomers out there.
And some of us – my kids, now in their 30s and in London and Stockholm, included – are doing pretty interesting things.
I know I am.
With John Cranna – former chair of the Auckland Society of Authors, award-winning novelist and founder of the Centre for Modern Writing at AUT in 2007 – I am in partnership to assist aspiring writers.
John – whose successful AUT courses have provided the model for his aspect of his course – has formed The Creative Hub , a writing centre in downtown Auckland.
John's advanced fiction course (currently running) is full, but he starts a new creative writing course in September for those wishing to work on a novel or some kind of long-form fiction.
And for The Creative Hub we have a terrific, central venue down on Princes Wharf with a harbour view.
There are some of the country's finest writers involved as mentors and tutors in workshops – and me.
I am initially taking the travel writing course (because, among other things, that's what I do: travel-then-write) which is six weeks of two hour sessions on Tuesday evenings at 6pm starting in early September.
As a small inducement for those enrolling early, the first 10 people will get copies of both of my travel books. . For free.
The Creative Hub is scrupulously professional, based on successful overseas models more than Bill Manhire's creative writing course in Wellington, and we also offers a manuscript assessment service.
There will be a course in writing for children, and further fiction and non-fiction courses, added for next year.
We won't be searching students for weapons or drugs, there is no dress code or uniform. The Creative Hub is for adults.
We are serious, moving confidently but with care, and are very excited about its possibilities because there are stories out there waiting to be told.
The Creative Hub would suit aspiring writers – both creative and non-fiction with flair – who have some life experiences behind them, and stories to tell.
Late bloomers maybe?