I am a husband and a father. I have three children: Molly, Hadrian (called "Hal"), and Camilla. I have two dogs: Sunny and Lursa.
I am not a published author. But, as Dorothy Parker put it, "I enjoy having written." And I enjoy reading stories. Especially good children's stories. And by "good children's stories," I mean stories that are enjoyable to read aloud and assume that the most powerful force in the world is a child's imagination.
I was born outside of Boston. I have lived in LA, New York, and Hong Kong. I now live in Chicago.
The 'Holiday' Stories
In 1990, the year my daughter Molly was born, I wrote "The Laziest King." A few people asked me for copies of it for their children and their children's friends. So I printed out a dozen or so copies and mailed them to these parents as holiday gifts, as well as to a few other people I knew who had children of an age I thought might enjoy the story. Apparently they did, because they asked if I had written any more stories.
So I sent out another one the following year. And another one after that. And...
More than ten years later, my collection of 'holiday' stories has grown.
When I miss someone on my 'holiday story' mailing list -- or take it upon myself to decide that their child is too old or young for a certain story -- I hear about it.
"Where's my Stuart story this year?" they ask. I hear that a lot. Which is why I called this site "StuartStories."
And since there are new children on my mailing list, I find myself fulfilling orders for stories distributed during previous years.
So for all the people I have missed or want back copies of my stories, here they are. All in one place.
But there are two other reasons I created this site:
Link to My SiteFeel free to place the following code on your website to link to StuartStories.com. If you prefer, you can download the image (at left) instead of linking to it.
These are actual questions I have been asked. A number of them many times.
Q. Why don't you (try to) publish these stories?
A. I was approached by a publisher for "The Laziest King" in 1991 ... but I never pursued it. Previously, I had had a bad experience with a novel I wrote (the editor wanted so many substantial changes) that I decided I'd rather write stories on my own terms.
Don't forget that I make my living writing advertising copy, which is subject to many rounds of revisions based solely (and correctly so) on "marketability."
But, now, the better answer is: I just did.
Q. Why do you think the Harry Potter Series is so unbelievably popular?
A. I think it's not so much because they are great stories (not to say they aren't very, very good), but rather because there are so few new children's stories being published that are any good right now. Most are insipid rehashes of what's already out there -- though some are incredibly well illustrated.
When a good children's story does appear, it's big news and generates incredible interest. Sadly, however, this only whets people's appetites for more good children’s stories and increases the resulting disappointment.
Q. Why are there so few great children stories being published now?
A. It'd be easy to simply blame agents and publishers for only wanting to go with things that are already proven to be successful ... so I will.
Q. What makes a good children's story?
A. You're reading a story to your children and you notice that their eyes are closed. And you can tell that they're following along in their imagination. That's a good children's story.
Too many children's stories talk down to children, preach to them, or over explain things. A good children's story weaves a tale as if it were happening at that moment and doesn't "dumb it down" so the kids will understand.
Q. You say some stories are "classic children's story" style and others are "story-teller" style. What do you mean?
A. A good example of what I call "classic children's story" style is the ‘Billy Goats Gruff,’ where a number of creatures, in order, walk the same path with similar results until the last one does -- at which point something new happens.
The best example of "story teller" style are Kipling's ‘Just So Stories,’ where the listener is spoken to as opposed to read to.
Q. What's the difference between a story that's meant to be read to yourself and one that's meant to be read aloud?
A. Again, look at the ‘Just So Stories.’ They're easy to read. They assume a listener. And at no point do you wonder who or what is saying something, or how it is being said.
Even when you pre-read, it's hard to remember every speaker or their tone of voice on any particular line.
Q. Why do some of your stories have offensive things in them? (Such as the bottle of rum in "Yo Ho Ho".)
A. Offensive is in the eye of the beholder. I find political correctness and preachy morals offensive.
If you don't like something in my stories, don't read them to your children. And I'll applaud you for it.
Q. Have you written any ‘adult’ stories?
A. Yes. Three novels, some poems, a few plays, and countless short stories. Only one of them has been published so far. But since this question has come up so many times recently, I have put some of the shorter works online. You can find them at http://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/nomonster. Many of them are NOT suitable for children.
I like stories.com’s guidance ratings (G, PG, PG-13, R, Etc.), but the pop-up ads quickly become distracting (a necessary evil and who am I to criticize?).
Q. Of your own stories, what are the/your favorites?
A. Based on page views, pdf downloads and links, the current favorite is ‘Firefly’ by a small amount. ‘The Princess, the Dragon and the Very Bad Knight,’ which used to not-so popular, has risen to be very popular, which is good since it’s one of my favorites. ‘Ona’ and 'Pirates' are also towards the top in popularity. And Hal’s joke story ‘Frog Prince’ is one of the more popular links on the site - and a very popular entry point. Thanks Hal!
In the ‘Activities’ section, the ‘Finish Me Stories’ are easily the most popular – especially with teachers. ‘Chocolate Brother’ and 'Blue Bottle' are the most viewed and receive the most submissions. ‘Imaginary Sister,' which does not get that many viewers, actually generates a good number of submissions.
As for my favorites, it’s difficult because I know why I wrote them. ‘The Princess, the Dragon and the Very Bad Knight’ is the one that reads most closely to what I imagined – and one of the few I still enjoy reading aloud. I like the subtlety of ‘Boy and His Shadow’ and the ‘Same Old Story Book.’ But what do I know? These two are some of the least popular stories on the site.