Kids & Ethics, yes please.

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Kids & Ethics, yes please.

Ian James Corlett is the author of E is for Ethics (Simon & Schuster, 2009): an innovative, first of its kind book that offers an inventive and whimsical way to help parents instill a sense of morality and fair play in young children. Corlett, who resides in Vancouver, is a married father of two and an award-winning television writer, and voice over artist, who has worked on hit shows such as The Adventures of Paddington Bear, Rolie Polie Olie and Will & Dewitt. He is also the creator of the hit Canadian animated series Being Ian, which is based on his childhood. This is his first book. Anneliese Grosfeld interviewed the author for Open Book.

AG:

Tell us about your book E is for Ethics.

IJC:

The book is a fun, yes fun, discussion book for kids and their parents about values, morals and ethics. It’s a bit of an anomaly because it is both a kids book and a parenting book designed to spark family conversations.

AG:

What prompted you to write this book?

IJC:

That is a bit of a long story. Ever since our kids were tiny my wife and I sat them down in the living room for our "family fun time" (yes it sounds like a hokey name, but the kids loved it. And it's a lot better than, "sit down and learn values" time).

I would tell them stories and parables that would help them learn what it meant to tell the truth, demonstrate how to be polite, etc. I would pepper the stories with a lot of fun, and perform lots of silly voices along the way to keep things interesting (for me as much as them!).

So that was the foundation for the book, but the real prompt to write the book was an incident with a very close friend of mine was on a bit of a tear about the state of the world and his concern about "godless people." Always being solidly middle-of-the-road regarding such things I responded with, "Well… (long dramatic pause to choose my words wisely) …I certainly think if you don't have a structured spiritual belief system, you sure better have a great set of ethics to fill that void."

I realized how significant that statement was when, a month later, the same friend and I were having a similar discussion and I heard my own quote recited back to me! He didn't realize that I was the author of the line, but when I heard that quote coming back at me from someone as conservative as he was I knew right then and there that I should put my pen to paper and write the book.

Every parent, and more importantly every child, will benefit from it. Regardless of the family’s ideology. The book is designed to simply open the discussion then hand it over to the belief system of the family to decide how to steer the ensuing conversation.

AG:

What was it like collaborating with illustrator R.A. Holt?

IJC:

HORRIBLE. Of course I’m joking. I’m a joker. I joke… But seriously, he was fantastic. Truly one of the most naturally gifted artists I’ve ever worked with. And to think that before he drew Elliott & Lucy for me he was working a gigantic greasy printing press! Ya, Riley was a pressman. Riley is one of the few guys that can draw whatever style I throw at him. He has a long and rewarding career in front of him. In fact, he’s designing all the characters and backgrounds for the new animated series I’m developing based on the book. It’s called ELLIOT & LUCY. (Strange coincidence huh?)

AG:

How do you find writing for TV differs from writing a book?

IJC:

Wow. Night and day. To be frank, one of the reasons I wrote the book was to take a break from writing for TV. In TV, writers have to get used to twenty different opinions of what you’ve written at every stage of the “process.” The jury is out on whether that is a good thing or not. Often times it can be a case of “too many cooks.” In contrast, writing the book was very streamlined. I sat down, wrote my manuscript, then received a few very well-mannered notes from my agent. Then I received some more polite opinions from my editor and that was that. It was all tempered with, “these are just suggestions, the final words must be yours and only yours.” Light-years from the world of TV. Two different worlds. Both are very interesting and it’s all about learning, right?

AG:

What are you reading right now?

IJC:

To be honest, a number of things. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, Motormouth by my friend, neighbor and Driving Television host Zack Spencer, I Drink for a Reason by David Cross and a bunch of green/environment books aimed at kids.

AG:

As a well known voice over actor, do you ever get recognized for your voice?

IJC:

NEVER. Well, that’s not true. I get recognized at Transformers fan conventions (I was the voice of CHEETOR in BeastWars). But that’s a very special community. I’m never recognized initially. When I tell people I’m the voice of this commercial or that series, they go, “ohhhhhh” politely and act as if they recognize me, but I doubt they do even after that. It’s certainly not getting me a table at a sold-out restaurant when I say, “Hey, I’m the voice of BEST BUY!”

AG:

What do you hope is the big message parents and kids will take away from E is for Ethics?

IJC:

We need to do our best to build better humans and it starts at home with mom and dad. By spending time, real time, with our young kids we will reap great rewards later. Too much of our lives are scheduled or hurried. Even if we have the desire to teach our kids a good foundation in basic human ethics it can be really tough to find the time. Start by trying to have dinner together. That’s a good start. Then once a week right after dinner, read a chapter from E is for Ethics. There are more ideas at the site for the book, www.eisforethics.com.

AG:

Aside from morals, ethics and values, what do you think is the biggest challenge that parents of young children face today?

IJC:

I just touched on it but I believe the biggest challenge is TIME. Sure there are a few parents who truly don’t care about their kids, but I believe they are in the minority. Most parents want the best for their kids, but with so many moms and dads both working it’s a huge challenge to find the time. Find the time. Borrow it from TV watching or online activities. But find it. And use it well to have meaningful, AND FUN, conversations with your kids.

AG:

How closely are Lucy and Elliot modeled after your own children?

IJC:

Let’s put it this way; when my daughter is looking at designs, stories etc, she says things like, “Oh, is that the story where I…” or “Oh I like that illustration. The hat I’m wearing is sooo cute!”

Yes these kids are pretty closely modeled after my kids, but not entirely. Heck, they have different names!

AG:

Do you have plans to write another book/What is your next project?

IJC:

Why yes I do, thanks for asking! I have just started another book called E is for the Environment which will use the same characters and discussion format that the Ethics book used. I think it will be fabulous. My agent has just presented it to the publisher, so we’ll see. I also have plans to write a series of books for older kids, the kind of book that I can utilize my sense of humor more fully. It may feature Elliott & Lucy, but as older kids. Or maybe not. I’d like to something that has a sort of Diary of a Wimpy Kid feel, but we’ll see. My gut instinct is that writing books is such a comfortable place for me that I want to run with it for a while so hopefully you’ll see lots more from old Ian-peean.

Author Ian James Corlett. Photo by Rob Daly

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