Local author sparks creativity and critical thinking through school book tour
Author Chad Stewart is on a mission to improve the minds of young students. He’s published the first in a series of five novels titled Britfield & the Lost Crown, and now he’s making the rounds at local middle and high schools to launch the series and get students excited about reading, writing and creativity.
C.R. Stewart, which is his pen name, believes his new series will help to fill what he calls the “educational void” in the middle-grade to young-adult book market. We caught up with him in the middle of his school tour which includes schools in the Del Mar Union, Poway Unified and San Diego Unified districts, as well as several private schools.
Why target middle-school students?
Middle school is an important age and the tipping point for children. Around this time, students are still inquisitive, not afraid to ask questions, independent thinkers and willing to take risks. Capturing this age by introducing creativity is critical. Our entire educational system is predicated on a questionable hierarchy that places conformity above creativity, and the consequences are that many talented and imaginative students never discover their gifts and therefore fail to realize their true potential.
How does your book inspire creativity and critical thinking in kids?
First, what is engaging about Britfield is that it takes place in the present time and is based on reality, which children can better relate to—no fantasy, demigods or witchcraft. Well-balanced yet flawed characters, Tom and Sarah complement each other and must be creative to escape Weatherly Orphanage, outrun Detective Gowerstone and solve consistent problems. There are no spells or waving of wands. It is through their interactions and communication that they discern where to go or what to do next. Britfield & the Lost Crown fosters the Four Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration) throughout the book, a protocol gradually being reintroduced in a few schools.
You’ve been a prolific writer for 20 years in fiction, nonfiction and movie screenplays. Why did you embark on this endeavor now?
I had the idea for Britfield 10 years ago, and from that moment I knew, for whatever reason, that this was going to require the next 10 to 20 years of my life. The story just made sense—it worked. It was fun, creative, adventurous, and includes history, art, architecture, geography and culture—all the things I am passionate about.
Although I often pursued the logical route in my career (banking and investment), I have always been creative. Many of us embody this extraordinary ability, but we were pushed away from creative pursuits: “Don’t pursue art, you’re not going to be an artist; don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t waste time scribbling notes on a paper, you’re not going to be a poet or writer.” However, we yearn and need creativity, the quintessential balance to life.
What does your presentation look like for the school tour?
My main focus is on creativity and storytelling. I have a dynamic, personalized presentation (42 slides with creative examples, inspiring quotes, interesting facts and four different media clips). There is always a high level of interaction with the students and by the end, there are usually 30 to 40 hands still up – that’s how engaged the students are.
What do you hope to accomplish with this series?
Encouraging children and parents across the world, offering something different from the mainstream fantasy books, encouraging creativity, educating children about other countries, and becoming one of the classics in literature. Britfield & the Lost Crown, along with the five-book series, is designed not only to entertain and education, but to be taught in the classroom over a semester. We have just finished our 80-page Britfield Study Guide, which teachers can incorporate into their classroom, chapter by chapter.
What's the most surprising thing you discovered as you were writing Britfield?
Trust the story, trust your instincts. Spend the time needed to create something exceptional. It took me four years and 2,500 hours to write and edit Britfield & the Lost Crown. Ironically, I started Britfield as a children’s book, figuring maybe 30 pages—something fun with pictures. Yet as I wrote, the story overtook me, characters came to life, subplots developed and an entire series was created 384 pages later.
Author’s Note: Stewart has finished writing the second book in the series, Britfield & the Rise of the Lion. After his school tour in San Diego and North County, Stewart plans on visiting more than 250 schools throughout the U.S. and abroad in the next year.
For more information, visit www.britfield.com.