Lisa Ballard, author



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Lisa Ballard
Author

I was told as a young teenager by my teacher that I would be on television or become a writer as I had 'the giftof the gab' and I guess that has always stuck with me! However, my writing only developed as my children asked me each night for a story about the Oaklings who live in the Oak tree, so I decided to pen them and that is how the Chronicles were born. It has been wonderfully rewarding personally to finally get the stories on paper and also very theraputic - my creative juices have gone into overdrive!

My novels are aimed at children of primary school age and they are as charming read aloud to younger children as read alone by older children. I have purposely not described the characters visually as I feel it is important for the reader to create their physical being in their own mind, thereby making them use their imagination and 'feel' the story.

The Oaklings And The Tooth Fairy

My debut novel was called, The Oaklings and the Tooth Fairy. As I made up the plot and the characters to put my youngest child at ease I began to notice a change in him – he grew more confident with the dark and things he couldn’t see or explain and he actually looked forward to going to bed and hearing the next instalment of the Shuffling Chronicles. He even liked to have his curtains open so he could see the outline of the tree in the darkness and picture the Oaklings going about their business. He used to say 'goodnight' to all the characters from the stories and his fear of the dark and the shadows disappeared. The Oaklings and the Tooth Fairy came about when he lost his tooth at school one day and then lost it again on his way home. You can imagine how devastated a 6 year old boy was to discover that he had lost his tooth twice and that he wouldn’t get any money, so I encouraged him to write a letter to the Tooth Fairy, and that letter appears in the story. Once my creative juices got going there really was no stopping me and Jamie even told his friends about the Oaklings in the Oak tree at the end of his garden, and because of this I decided to put pen to paper and actually write the story. Of course whether they believe or not, all children have heard of the Tooth Fairy.


Extract from 'The Oaklings and the Tooth Fairy'

On your journey through the story you will meet some very funny and interesting characters:

Being one of the younger members of the Oakling Colony, Buddy lives in the lower branches, near the bottom of the tree. The younger Shufflings are less experienced so the Colonel likes them to stay closer to the ground. That way, they can see what goes on in the immediate area and its not too far to fall while they are still finding their ‘tree legs’!

A Shuffling Tree

From the middle of the tree to the top is where the more senior Oaklings live. They delegate the duties and activities on the Colonel’s say-so, and provide advice and information to the rest of the Colony.

At the very top of the tree, in the highest branches offering the most panoramic views, lives the Colonel. Obviously as new Shufflings join and others leave, Colony members move around the tree as they get older and more experienced. That is, except for the Colonel, who will stay with the Colony until he finally hangs up his ‘leaf’ and retires to ‘The Pines’, a huge forest in the highlands of Scotland, where every Colonel from every Colony in the whole of the UK spends their ‘twiglet’ years!

This way of living has been tried and tested over many centuries by many generations of Shufflings, and is the way all colonies work, all around the world – it just works!

Most of the other Oaklings in the oak tree at the end of the garden, just up the bank and over the fence, have been in the Colony for quite some time, with the oldest being the Colonel. He chose the tree many years ago when it was just a sapling and he gradually built up a Colony with Oaklings from other oak trees. Some came from nearby when the great storm struck and many trees were destroyed, leaving their colonies homeless, and some came from far away. But wherever they are from, each Oakling brings different ideas and experiences essential to the many different challenges the Shufflings face every day.

Although Buddy is young, he is very enthusiastic, and always happy to help. Nothing seems to faze him and he is very well liked by the entire Colony, even the grumpy, older Oaklings who live higher up in the tree. Although they do have to be watchful of the many practical jokes he plays on them. The memory of the nettle hairs in their underwear, and the bitter buttercup juice in their tea, still makes them shudder!

Just up from Buddy’s branch and on the other side of the trunk lives Fliss, another young Oakling. She joined the colony a couple of years ago from the oak tree at the other end of the village which sadly had to be chopped down as it was in the way of the new by-pass!

Forest

Fliss is a shy and sensitive Oakling and although she always puts the feelings of others first she wishes she could be just a little bit braver. Fliss has a heart of gold and is a true friend indeed, and Buddy thinks she is absolutely gorgeous (although he has yet to tell her)!

Goodgrief joined the Colony a few months before when his tree had been struck by lighting in a storm. He had said he was the only survivor and that all the other Oaklings had perished but when the Colonel looked into it and investigated it on the wood-wide-web (their top secret form of communication), he found no evidence whatsoever of this tragedy. The Colonel was never one to doubt anyone unless they gave him good reason to, but he kept Goodgrief close by, near the top of the tree, just to keep an eye on him. No-one knows very much at all about him, he is a very private individual and doesn’t seem to mix with the other colony members. The younger ones find his manner and whole demeanour quite scary and try to avoid him wherever possible.

Tinx is a tooth-fairy-in-training. She has a very unique mode of transport – a “molar bike”. It is powered by carrot juice and she uses it for her tooth collections. The molar bike is equipped with a very sophisticated “plaque nav” system to guide her to lost teeth and the pin-point accurate “TLS” (Tooth Location System). She also has a tool belt consisting of, amongst other things, an “any lock unlocking tool”, “undisclosing powder” and “Forget-me-quick dust”. Finding Jamie’s tooth and returning to fairyland with it will seal her the fist place award for the big tooth count, thus ensuring she will receive her wings and magic wand containing all her handy tools and potions. The story begins when a young boy, Jamie, is eating his lunch at school and his lose tooth falls out. On his way home he unknowingly drops it on the ground and believes it lost forever when he makes the discovery. He gets very upset and concerned that with no tooth, the tooth fairy will not visit so his mum, who has had enough of his constant moaning and crying about losing it, tells him to write a letter to the tooth fairy explaining that he has lost his lost tooth and would she take the letter back to Fairyland to explain.

Forest

This is where the colony of Oaklings comes to assist him in his quest, but he is totally unaware of their existence and the lengths they go to to find the tooth and restore harmony to his world. Within the colony one character, Goodgrief, has an ulterior motive. He has joined the Oakling colony under the pretence of losing his home in a storm. He is not, in fact, a Shuffling at all but a tooth fairy who has been banished from Fairyland for trying to take over the castle and falsely claim for tooth collections he has not actually carried out!

Will the Oaklings win against the misguided fairy who has infiltrated the colony and whose quest it is to find the tooth before the tooth fairy and carry out his take-over plan?

Will Jamie’s faith in the tooth fairy be restored or lost forever – after all he has no tooth to give her so why should she leave him any money? In fact, why should he believe in the tooth fairy at all?

Will good win over evil and will the infiltrator be found before it’s too late? What will happen if the colony finds out about him and will they ever be able to trust him again?

Will the tooth fairy ever find the tooth once she discovers there is a traitor in the camp? Is she going to be able to stop him from carrying out his evil plan?

Buddy, Fliss and Tinx the tooth fairy set out on a mission of mystery and intrigue as they battle against the forces of evil to find the twice lost tooth, restore children’s beliefs in the legend of the tooth fairy and bring harmony to the Shufflings. Whilst Fairyland is under threat from a saboteur they seek the advice of their peers as their journey takes them on a roller coaster ride of adventure as they discover new-found friends and old adversaries.

The Oaklings and the Tooth Fairy was 4 years in the making as, being a wife and mother with a part time job, there always seems to be something, or someone, scuppering my efforts to actually get on and write, but thankfully with a very understanding husband and two incredibly helpful children, I have finally achieved it! I first started writing stories when my two children were young as they both had a fear of the dark and creatures that 'lurk' in the garden. They would wildly fling their arms in the air and run screaming around the garden at the sound of a wasp or vaguely buzzy insect for fear of being stung or hurt and it worried me that they would become diconnected with nature if they feared it so much. I have since completed my second novel entitled, The Oaklings and the Cuckoo and am now working on my third novel, The Oaklings and the Sock Monster. My ultimate goal is to become a published children's author so others can read and enjoy my unique and exciting stories.

Flower

My children have been a huge inspiration to me; it is because of them that I wrote these stories. My youngest had a fear of the dark and as his bedroom looked out onto our back garden, he would peer out of his window on winter evenings to the Oak tree just up the bank and over the fence, and see the tree shrouded in darkness and an eerie shadow cast over the lawn. He began to get quite concerned about creatures and ‘baddies’ that could be hiding in the tree, waiting to get him, and out of desperation to reassure him, the Oaklings were born. They are called Oaklings as they live in an Oak tree, and ‘Oaklings’ is their colonial name. Their species is ‘Shufflings’ and the S-H-U-F-F stands for Shrubbery, Undergrowth, Foliage and Flowers, which is where they make their home, and LINGS means really, really, really tiny creatures!

I have also penned the idea for a computer game which allows the player to control the Oaklings on their journey to find the twice-lost tooth. There are many different levels and free-play areas and at the very beginning of the game you can create your own characters (body, face, hair etc - how you would see the Oaklings yourself). Throughout the game, you pass checkpoints that you will restart at if you get caught or fail a mission. During the story, if enough acorns are collected then the colonies you create can help you out by pointing you in the direction of the park, the quickest way home etc. The game is based around the book so if you read the book then play the game you will know how to achieve your mission.

It seems that children spend a huge amount of time being exposed to game content which is too mature for them and, in my experience, have lost the ability to understand that their actions have consequences. I have worked as a primary school receptionist for 4 years now and have noticed a worrying trend of children picking fights with others in the playground and not being able to understand why their victim doesn't get up seemingly unharmed when they are punched, kicked or pushed over, and that they don't have an endless supply of 'lives' like their heroes from the console games they play. The Oaklings and the Tooth Fairy gets children thinking about relationships with friends and how our actions impact on others.

I strongly believe that children should feel passionate about the books they read and really get into the story, picturing the scenes as they evolve, gasping at the twists and turns of the plot and empathising with the characters. Children need to get interested in reading again and not be stuck on their games consoles for hours every day. The Oaklings and the Tooth Fairy encourages children to use their imagination as I have not described the physical appearance of the Shuffling characters – each child who has read the story has imagined a different look and they have been very imaginative and inventive from looking like pixies to the little ‘puffs’ of dandelion seed that float around on the breeze!

If you would like to contact me you can email me at:
Email Lisa