"I am frequently asked by personal message to provide some detail or aspect relating to my life and background, particular experiences, some of the people I know, attitudes I have, writings of mine, or information about relaxation or anger management etc. Many people also like a number of my thoughts about my family, especially tales about my dear mother, along with some of her many sayings I still remember.
Between 1990 and 2005, because of a number of things I involved myself in that attracted the support of hundreds of famous people, I was a regular interviewee on local radio and television. I also had something written about me in the regional newspapers half a dozen times weekly and before too long, I became a big fish in a small pond; my predominant work being largely confined to West and South Yorkshire. Over a 15 year period, I personally visited and held storytelling assemblies in almost two thousand schools in Yorkshire. I would often visit daily, and sometimes twice daily after I retired from the Probation Service. I would usually be accompanied by some famous face who had volunteered to read from one of my published children's books, and because my special visitor who accompanied me was either a national or international celebrity who was seen regularly on television or stared in productions in film and stage, such visits naturally attracted a surfeit of tv, radio and media coverage.
It was no coincidence that my decision early on in my writing career to allow all book sale profit from my publications to be given in their entirety and perpetuity to charitable causes, encouraged/persuaded such people in the public eye to support my work. We were fortunate to have raised over £200,000 for charitable causes during these fifteen years; raised largely from the profits from my book sales. The people who bought my books were predominantly, Yorkshire Schools, and undoubtedly did so, not because I was the best children's writer they'd come across and wanted to introduce to the minds of their young pupils, but because of the themes, my stories addressed. Teachers recognised the relevance of such themes in today's world.
I wrote about feelings like love, fear, jealousy, bullying, homelessness, racism, sexism, separation, loss. bereavement, anger and the importance of giving and receiving second chances. I wrote about these things because I knew them to be major stressors in the lives of many of my young readers, and I also knew them to be emotions that adults find extremely difficult to appropriately express, let alone little children who only started their journey of life a matter of a few years earlier.
I never actually considered myself an being an accomplished writer at the time; I saw myself more as being 'a social crusader masquerading as an author'. The fact that my writing achieved some prominence was mostly due to two personal telephone calls from two of the world's then most famous people.The first was the late, Princess Diana who heard about my writing and contacted me to request that I send her two of my books that she could read to the then young Princes, William and Harry at their bedtime. These two books, 'Douglas the Dragon' and 'Sleezy the Fox' went on to sell over 100,000 copies in Yorkshire schools over a 12 year period and raised an enormous amount for various charitable causes. The second of the most famous people to phone me at my home was the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. He had read two of my African storybooks and phoned to congratulate me and describe them as being 'lovely stories.' That contact of the South African President found itself being reported briefly on News 24 television, which in turn brought me to the attention of Chris Woodhead, the then Head of Ofsted in Great Britain, who described my work to the press as 'high-quality reading.' It also brought me to the attention of the Minister for Education and Youth Culture in Jamaica, with whom I went on to work with, in a special trans-Atlantic pen-pal project between 32 Yorkshire and 32 Jamaican schools, designed to raise awareness of different cultures and hopefully reduce racism between black and white pupils. I also wrote the Jamaican schools in Falmouth, four books with which to raise vital school funds for educational equipment.
After such famous endorsements of my work, it would have been virtually impossible for the press to have ignored my writings. I had essentially grabbed onto the coat tails of famous people to bring my work to the attention of thousands of children it would not otherwise have ever reached. I had never been a person who was shy at coming forward and knew how to take the best advantage of any stage fate placed me on. This regional fame provided me with so many opportunities and contacts that would never otherwise have come my way.
After fifteen years of lending myself to charitable causes, I incurred two heart attacks in the space of one week and had to review my overall workload. After much thought, I arrived at the uncomfortable conclusion that though my work raised the profile on so many important issues of the day in the lives of children, as well as having raised a good deal of money for charity, it had also elevated my profile greatly in the process. I had placed myself in danger of 'becoming the story' in the eyes of the press and media instead of 'writing the stories.'
I decided that I needed to actively work against the danger of my own ego taking over, so I stopped using celebratory visitors to schools and decided to read the books to the children myself. I also put the brake on press and media publicity and with a few exceptions between 2005 and 2017, I have only done a few press and radio interviews.
In arriving at this decision, I was guided by a quote by the writer T.S.Eliot from his dramatic play, 'Murder in the Cathedral' that portrays the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Not only was Becket murdered for his belief, but some thought that he was guilty of seeking martyrdom. As Eliot quoted: 'The last act is the greatest treason. To do the right deed for the wrong reason.' My work for literature, charity and raising awareness of important causes was unquestionably 'the right deed', but how could I be sure that it was all for the right reason? It was very much like placing a £50 note on the church collection plate in full view of the assembled congregation, in the knowledge that your generous act would not go unnoticed!
By the time I met my wife in 2010, I had put away my pen some nine years earlier. It was she who persuaded me to start writing again, which I did. This time, my writing would be for adults, and although I would allow all book sale profit to be given to charitable causes, such an act would be incidental, as I would be writing for 'me', not to change the world! The themes covered in my stories would be adult and romantic themes, with a lot of sauciness thrown into the cooking pot to make the finished story served up, spicy, but palatable and playful!
After three hard years of my wife's endeavours taking thousands of hours, Sheila produced an extensive website for me: www.fordefables.co.uk from which some worth may still be derived from my presence on this earth.
The website is essentially a biography of myself and will tell any reader all they need to know about me. It doesn't have to be read chronologically and can be dipped into at random. Included in the website are my 'Thoughts for today' dating back over six years, along with free access to all twelve of my romantic story books that I've written over the past years by searching the 'Tales from Portlaw' section of the website. There are also some radio interviews I have given, my free relaxation tape to help improve good sleeping practice, along with a number of children stories read by famous people that can be freely accessed from the audio section of the website.
I suppose that in some ways I can honestly say that circumstances conspired in 2012 to place me back on the stage acting the part of 'Social Crusader' after I discovered I had an incurable blood cancer. Today, the writing I consider being my most important work is my 'Thought for today' that I write for my Facebook page. This daily post deliberately discloses so many of my past and present flaws and failings as a human being, that it actively works against me ever again becoming too big for my own boots. My memories invariably remind me and my readers of my own fallibilities. Also, being a man of ageing years, my recount of daily thoughts about my past, and growing up with my parents and seven siblings, enable me to keep the child alive in me while I gradually die. And at the risk of making me sound too arrogant, I hope that my attitude towards my own life and illness helps people to live and die better.
God bless you all and a very Merry Christmas from Sheila and me. The tree has been put up and I now formally declare Christmas to have commenced. Love and peace, Bill x " William Forde: December 12th, 2017.