Friday, 10 May 2013

Guest Post: Nicola Morgan's Blame My Brain

I am absolutely delighted to have Nicola Morgan on the blog today. Nicola’s book on the teenage brain, Blame My Brain – The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed, has been popular and praised ever since first publication in 2005. It’s been translated into several languages and reprinted many times. Now there’s a revised edition, updated with new research and with a new cover. Nicola is an award-winning teenage novelist as well as a non-fiction writer for all ages, and she’s also been commissioned to write CHILL – The Teenage Guide to Stress.

I thought I’d tell you how I came to write Blame My Brain, and how it changed my life.

Many years ago, I became interested in the brain when I was training to teach people with dyslexia. One aspect of that was looking at any differences there might be in the brains of those who find reading or writing difficult. That triggered a fascination in brains in general. Personally, I don’t know how anyone can not be interested in the brain!

So, from then on, I spent a lot of time reading about the brain and keeping up with new research, not through newspaper articles (because those are often inaccurate) but through the publications of the scientists doing the research. I subscribed to Scientific American Mind and just continued to learn and understand.

Meanwhile, I fulfilled my long-term ambition of becoming a novelist. In 2003, my main publisher, Walker Books, asked if I’d be interested in doing some non-fiction. “Sure,” I said. “What would you like me to write about?”

“What are you passionate about?” asked my editor. “We like our non-fiction to be written by writers passionate about the subject.”

Well, by chance I’d just read new research about the teenage brain – the seminal research by Jay Giedd at the National Institute of Mental Health (in the US). A link to one of his first interviews is here. This was really new; no one was talking about it in the public domain. I was fascinated.

I told my editor that I’d love to write about it. She was interested and asked for a synopsis of how I’d do it, and a few pages so she could see the voice I’d use. I found the voice easy – it’s just me, talking! And it was immediately commissioned.

Writing Blame My Brain has changed my life, giving me an unusual topic to write and speak about, a topic which people really want to know about. From the start, it had lovely reviews, including from the medical profession – one of the first reviews was in the BMJ! I am lucky that it remained unusual (possibly unique) in its approach of talking directly to teenagers, reassuring, explaining, inspiring, never patronizing, just sharing understanding. Because there aren’t many people who do this, (and no children’s writers, I think) I get invited all around the UK and even further (Prague, Brunei and Malaysia this year!) to talk about it. I think people recognize that I’m fascinated by adolescence, that I have a positive and sympathetic outlook about it, and that I utterly refuse to patronize the audience.

My message is simple. Adolescence is temporary, natural, necessary and has a very positive outcome: a fully independent adult, able to make decisions. It’s just that the journey towards that can be very tough – for teenagers and for their significant adults. Blame My Brain aims to help.

I’m thrilled that Blame My Brain now has a great new cover and an ebook version. And I’d like to thank all the parents, teachers, social workers and adolescent mental health professionals who have been so hugely supportive and used this book so widely. And teenagers for letting me into their minds!

There’s a fun Blame My Brain competition running on Nicola’s blog at the moment. Opportunities for schools and individuals of any age to win books, have their questions answered and learn about the fascinating thing that is the teenage brain!

Stop by the blog later on today for a review of Blame My Brain! 

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