Checking in with Michael Mann
Michael Mann is the latest guest in our Check In series. He’s the author of the brilliant children’s book, Ghostcloud and also a primary school teacher, currently teaching in year 5.
What does well-being mean to you?
I think it just means looking after yourself in terms of both mind and body. It’s about being compassionate to yourself and others. For me there's a big part around connecting to others so it's not just about yourself, it's about your relationships with other people too.
What’s one habit or routine that improves your life?
I need to get fresh air and a bit of sunshine every day. If I can just get outside the house and go for a walk then I’m on the right path. Then there’s also reading. I find that if I’m stressed, reading is a great way to reset.
What one thing makes you the happiest?
Swimming! Especially if it’s outdoors. I love swimming with sky up there so I would always be going to an outdoor pool if there was one near me.
How did you get into what you do now?
It started as a hobby. I always liked reading and writing stories in school, then I joined a writing course. I started off writing little stories and then moved to do some children's writing. Over time the feedback from my teachers and my peers was getting stronger and I started submitting to competitions, some of which I’d win or come runner up in. One thing led to another and I suddenly had finished a book and it was getting good feedback. Eventually I won a competition that gave me the confidence I was ready and after that I got myself an agent and publisher. I always knew I liked writing but never thought I could do it as a real job, but by sticking with it, it eventually took off.
What project are you most excited about right now?
I've finished my sequel which comes out in February and now I'm writing a new book. It’s a new world and can be anything I want, so it's very exciting. And a bit terrifying, though I do have a couple of ideas which helps!
What are you proudest of in your career?
Weirdly it would be finishing the second book. The first book just happened, almost quite by accident, whereas the second book was really hard and quite stressful in the beginning. I felt some pressure and had lots of other things going on so I'm really I'm proud of the second book and proud that I managed to do it, even when it was a slog. And I think it's a really good book. I guess it's that difficult second album thing. It lets you know the first one wasn’t just luck though and helps with imposter syndrome.
What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Celebrate early and often. I think it's really easy to not as there's always something else you need to do. Whether it's in school and you're holding off waiting for SATs or as a writer when you’ve finished a chapter but waiting until you’ve finished the book. It's easy to put off the celebrating when really I think you should celebrate all the little milestones. We all work so hard and there's not enough celebrating.
What’s your relationship with reading?
I love it. I love being transported somewhere else. Reading children's books now feels a bit like work sometimes, but with adult books and some children's books, I will just get completely sucked in. I think it’s really magical that you can be in your bed but actually riding a dragon or whatever it is. I love that escape.
What role do you see books playing in children’s mental health and well-being?
A kid in my class told me a fact that “15 minutes of reading can reduce your stress by 75%.” Now I don't know if it's true or not, but it feels roughly true. I can equate that to what I see as a teacher and for me personally. When I have my kids come in from lunch time, if they read for 10 minutes then they're a different class. Everyone's in a really calm, centred, happy place and we can then get on and do everything else. So I think it's a real centering, calming, good thing for mental health and well-being. Plus there's the link to developing empathy with the way reading helps you connect to other people's experiences, that's just super important.
Can you recommend any books we should check out?
I'm really into Jonathan Stroud books at the moment. They're brilliant. You've got “Lockwood & Co”, “Scarlett & Browne” and “Bartimaeus”. They're utterly enthralling.
And a podcast?
I really like “In Writing with Hattie Crisell”
And how about a Twitter account?
@EmpathyLabUK - they’re lovely and it was Empathy Day a few weeks ago so I’d recommend them
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The Check-In is put together by the team at Mindfuel. Mindfuel produce fun, engaging well-being programmes for KS1 & KS2, providing teachers with everything they need to confidently teach well-being skills for positive mental health.