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Full Circle!

Abu Dhabi - Yasmina2

At the height of the world’s biggest recession in over 70 years, I quit my job. Walked out, had enough, didn’t want to be part of that rat-race anymore.

Sheik Ahmed I was living in Dubai with my family in 2009, and we came to realise that no amount of sunshine, big 4×4’s, maids, gardeners or even swimming pools can make up for that clawing lack of fulfillment. So I left. We came home to Scotland with my dream of becoming an author.

And everybody laughed. People thought I was bonkers. Friends and even close family members told me ‘how stupid’ I was to walk away from a great job, and basically, to give up the career in hotel management, and lifestyle, that I’d spent 25 years working towards.

My wife, on the other hand, was brilliant. She said “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll just need to get another job in 12 months, if it doesn’t work out. Give it a go!”

So five books published and six years later, I cannot begin to describe the absolute pleasure and feeling of total satisfaction I had stepping off that Emirates 767 flight in Dubai, ready to embark on a 12-date tour of schools in the UAE. I had come full circle.; the journey was complete. I’d left with a dream and was returning fulfilled, proving doubters wrong and truly able to say “I’m an international author!”

With Amer

And what a celebration my three week visit was. I stayed in my old hotel, I met old friends and caught up with so many of my original team.  I hired a car and rejoined that wild roller-coaster of ride called Sheikh Zayed Road. After all, this wasn’t a holiday, this was work.

The schools were fantastic, despite the steep learning curve about not mentioning the opening page of Charlotte’s Web. the dog in a Michael Morpurgo book called Stella Artois, and the risks of showing a topless picture of David Beckham during my book show. He was picking his nose, but it must’ve been his belly-button that caused offense.

In total I performed to nearly 3000 pupils, and sold almost 1500 books. I hosted 42 creative writing workshops and drove 1000 miles between Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. I hit the headlines in the local newspaper, 7Days, and it felt brilliant!

The icing on the cake was my final school, the royal Rashid School for Boys at Nad Al Sheba, where every single pupil is a prince or related to royalty. I happened to mention the opening line from David Walliam’s Billionaire Boy… “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a million pounds?” and every kid in the class practically shrugged and said “I got that for my birthday.”

The senior librarian thanked me before I left, adding, “How you kept 120 princes entertained and engaged for over an hour was mermerising. Well done!” and that feeling of fulfillment washed over me again.

Now, I was wrong about one thing. My journey’s not complete, the journey is only just beginning. 2015 was fantastic, my most successful year yet but my first international book tour has opened up a host of possibilities. I’ve dipped my toe in the worldwide waters and and I want to inspire every kid in the world to want to love books.

2016 is shaping up to be even better. My diary is jam-packed with school visits from Cornwall to Aberdeen. From Lowestoft to Liverpool, Norwich, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and my hat-trick of appearances at the Wigtown Book Festival. I have a tour of Isle of Man schools in April, and a three week tour of Northern Ireland in June. I’m hosting a few gigs in Australia in August and heading back to Dubai in October. There’s even a little dialogue about a trip to Los Angeles.

Reading Rocks over the world!

Abu Dhabi - Yasmina2

 

Good Feature in the Daily Record

Me and the girls

Just before Christmas the Daily Record ran a feature about my change in career and lifestyle. It’s probably the most accurate article that’s ever been ran about me.

Full version can be found here (complete with scary pictures) but here’s the condensed copy.

STUART REID has already authored the Gorgeous George series for kids, but more recently has been giving talks at events and festivals.

STUART Reid enjoyed a luxury lifestyle in Dubai – complete with five-bedroom house, pool, maid and flash cars.

But the dad-of-two turned his back on his place in the sun to return to Scotland and write kids’ books .

Stuart has written best-seller Gorgeous George and the Geriatric Generator and four sequels and is busy giving talks to schools and at festivals.

He is also is launching a creative writing programme for children.

And he has no regrets about his decision to quit his job as a hotel manager to follow his dream.

Me and the girls

Stuart, 47, lives near Falkirk with wife Audrey, 42, who works in airport security, and their daughters Jess, 15 and Charley, 10.

When he went to Dubai, it was to manage Premier Inn’s first hotel outside the UK – a 300-bedroom property in the Gulf state.

He said: “It was a great accolade to go across there. For the first two years it was great.

“We built a fantastic hotel, occupancy was brilliant and I was enjoying myself.”

Stuart, who was also the voice of Scottish football on a radio station in the Gulf, added: “I had a five-bedroom house, a maid, a gardener, swimming pool and two 4×4.

“But I grew disillusioned by the shallow, materialistic rat race and gave it all up to write about bums, bogies and big bottom burps. It is now my job to inspire even the most reluctant readers to want to read more books, more often. And it’s the best job in the world.”

Towards the end of 2008, the hotel industry hit a slump and Stuart realised he wasn’t happy.

“Suddenly everyone was fighting for a slice of an ever-decreasing market,” he said.

“My wife said I should do something fun and work out what I enjoyed doing.

“I wasn’t chasing a bigger house, a bigger swimming pool and more money. But I knew I used to love writing.

“I’d written a play which was performed in Dubai and I’d also written a radio advert for Premier Inn, so I thought, ‘I’m going to see if I can start writing.’

“I started writing about things that made me laugh. And suddenly the writing took over from the running of a hotel.

“So my wife and I said, ‘Let’s go back to Scotland’. I gave up the lifestyle to follow a dream. I knew I’d never have another chance to try and be an author.

“And it’s turned out even better than living in so-called paradise in the Middle East.

“I have been a full-time author for nearly three years and am probably one of the busiest in Britain today.

“I’ve performed at 700 schools, libraries and book festivals in that time, including over 60 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“My first book Gorgeous George and the Giant Geriatric Generator, was released in 2011, and chosen as Silver Seal winner at the Forward National Literature Awards in America.

“It was a Top Pick in the Daily Record’s Book Club and its re-release last month includes a testimonial from Ireland’s Children’s Laureate, Eion Colfer.

“There are now four books in the Gorgeous George series, with number five, Gorgeous George and the Jumbo Jobby Juicer, due out in March 2015.”

But it’s not all been plain sailing and after a dispute with his publishers, Stuart has turned to self-publishing with help from Indie Authors Scotland.

He said: “This will take a few more months and things have been tough recently but I’ve had tremendous help from a designer and illustrator in Grangemouth, John Pender.”

Stuart was recently presented with the Enterprise in Education Champion Award by Falkirk Council for his work with local schools.

He’s loving being able to write and inspire children. Meanwhile, Audrey has discovered a love for growing vegetables.

He said: “We’ve realised it’s little things like that that make us feel really happy. It’s one of the fundamental things I say to kids, is work out what you love doing best, become really good at it and then get paid for what you love doing.”

Stuart’s latest initiative, the Writing Rules OK programme, came about because he was so busy visiting schools.

He said: “My diary became so busy I wished I could clone myself. So by the end of this year I will be launching a creating writing website for schools and individuals to download modules, activities, exercises and lesson plans.”

His programme is aimed at pupils aged seven to 14 and each module will contain a 15-minute video and a series of activities suitable for different age groups.

Stuart said: “Once each module has been purchased by the school, they can be played over and over again to any number of pupils in that school for no extra cost.

“Hopefully I can inspire them to want to pick up their pencils.”

Stuart added: “I’ve got to pinch myself now. I don’t have a proper job. Five years ago, I wore quite sensible suits and ties. Now I wear shorts and a T-shirt every day. I just want to get kids into reading and if that means I talk about poo and pee and pumps – even better.

“I’ve regressed to my childhood and I’m eight years old again.”

 

Hmmm… tricky!

Snotasaurus

SnotasaurusOne of the toughest parts about being a children’s author is when you’re asked to choose a winner in a ‘Design a book cover competition’ – I hate to offend anyone or let kids down and I know it always comes across as ‘twee’ or just, plain sitting on the fence but honestly, I usually think each drawing is brilliant in it’s own way.

Recently I had a fantastic day up in Aberdeen, visiting the awesome Braehead primary school in Bridge of Don. It was great fun, reading and presenting my usual booky nonsense to a fantastic response from the children.

The nursery pupils joined in too, designing a cover fSnotasaurus2or one of my books aimed at 3-6 year olds; Snotasaurus Rex! It’s about a dinosaur with a cold, so there’s going to be an enormous amount of snot involved if one of these big beasties sneezed everywhere! And I think the kids had great fun coming up with their designs. I loved this one (above) which looks basically like a giant T-Rex chasing a little green ball of bogie. The bogie looks rather mischevious too, so watch out, I can imagine this wee booger hiding under the desk ;)

Rebecca’s big blue beast is a beauty too, with rivers of snot flowing from his nostrils. As another illustrator, whose drawings are nowhere near as good as this class, put it I’m just a snot-obsessed chimp so this is right up my street.

Snotasaurus3I sometimes wonder what the poor teachers must think when some loon like me comes along and suddenly starts encouraging their pupils to draw flu-choked dinosaurs. There’s must’ve been a shortage of green crayon in this school afterwards but I loved Ritrik’s very colourful banner.

But my all-time favourite is this creature, drawn by unknown little artist (below). Sadly there’s no name on it and I hope the school knows who it belongs to when they read this post.

It’s big, bold, bright and colourful. There’s plenty of mucus dripping and I totally love how the name ‘Snotasaurus’ drapes down the side of the dinosaur. An absolute cracker but of course, they were all brilliant!Snotasaurus4

Thank you for a super day, thanks for letting me see your amazing drawings and big thanks too, to a young lad called Jordon Bennett, who sent me the most incredible letter on behalf of the whole school. I’ll post more about this letter on here soon but I just wanted to let you know that I scanned it and plastered it all over Facebook and sent a copy down to the BBC, and  they think it’s incredible too.

Watch this space!