Author Interviews

Interview With Lisa Jennings, Gaynor Sbuttoni and Melissa Carter

More than a century of experience in helping children feel happy and calm has been lovingly poured into a series of books which the authors believe can give children the skills they need to lead happy adult lives.
The Magic Happens series is the work of Lisa Jennings, Gaynor Sbuttoni and Melissa Carter, who met each other in their roles in education and child, adult and family therapy. The books, which tell fantastical stories of a group of friendly dragons, use powerful metaphors to encourage positive change and a sense of calm and happiness in all who read the works. Set in mythical places such as the Mindful Mountains and Forgiving Forest, the book’s main characters Bean, Bella, Max and Mightie introduce important concepts which will set children on a positive path for life.

Picking up the story Lisa said: “All stories are healing or teaching or guiding. And with this, we have taken that principle to the next level. Lisa was born in America and came to Britain many years ago.  She started working at a family therapy clinic in London and that was where she met Gaynor. “I’ve been a psychotherapist for nearly 60 years working with adults, couples and families. I have also had a lifetime as a Buddhist meditator working with many monks for about 60 years.  The way we came to this is that we started doing some videos for parents and children to help them deal with difficult feelings in Lockdown, then we looked at each other and thought ‘Let’s do a children’s story’ and BOOM! We were there, it just started to flow. We all have a background working psychotherapeutically. We see stories as being extremely important for healing, and feel that stories can help to heal the world.”

Gaynor trained as a psychologist working with children and parents at The Tavistock Clinic in London. She has had a very active practice for many years working with children, families and schools. She has always worked with children and parents, and throughout her 40-year career has built up a wealth of knowledge and techniques which benefit many people. She met Lisa some years later where they worked together and they still work together today.

But the trio of authors and their idea for the Magic Happens books would not be complete until the pair met Melissa some years later. “Melissa had an outstanding school of the type that you would want every child to go to,” says Gaynor. It was through the educational connections that they met. Melissa, who has a background in educational philosophies and teaching through play therapy, said: “I felt very strongly that what was missing in education was the opportunity for children to develop emotionally as well as intellectually; I developed a school which honoured their feelings and allowed them to develop on many levels.”

In speaking about writing Magic Happens, Gaynor said she thinks the collaboration works so well, “Because we feel safe to just chuck our ideas in, the safety to just create is really important and that’s been the case for us because of our friendship. We all feel that it is incredibly important to find a vehicle for our skills and experience to live on after us and to be offered to more people than we can see on a one-to-one basis. Stories are a wonderful way to offer our experience and tools that will be useful to others. So actually writing these stories, really thinking about the things we want children to keep hold of, it gives us a way to make that be heard in a larger place than just one little room with one little child.
You can never talk too much about trying to find peace and happiness inside. We have our take on it, our angle that we are hoping is going to bring it alive for children. We have read some of our stories to children and they have connected with them straight away.”

Lisa added: “It’s really about us working with children, adults and families whose lives have become joyful and they have come to enjoy being themselves in their world much more than they did before. Everything is about people finding themselves and filling their lives with joy and possibilities.  The book series with themes of change, joy and self-development comes from our total commitment to helping people enjoy their life experiences. It’s about helping people find the warmth of their goodness and helping them to be their own best friend.”

The books on their own can make a difference, not just a teaching tool, and Gaynor, Lisa and Melissa say that they are already seeing the benefits of the books in the settings they have used them in. “When we have read the books to the children, they get it, and they can feel something happening inside of them.” Said Gaynor.

Melissa added, “The children can connect with the dragons because they are a symbolic metaphor, and metaphor is something that we use all the time to help people learn things in a way that internalises and allows change with a light touch.”

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