Children's book author and Pride of Britain Award Nominee Gracie Wright’s life changed when a near-fatal car accident at age 11 left her with post-traumatic amnesia
Celebrating the achievements of truly remarkable people, the Pride of Britain Awards highlight ordinary people whose extraordinary acts make a difference to the lives of others. This year’s Young Achiever Award nominees were announced earlier this month. With the help of The Prince’s Trust, this year’s inspirational young people each faced huge challenges and now work to help others.
We caught up with finalist and children’s book author, Gracie Wright, whose life changed forever when a near-fatal car accident at age 11 left her with post-traumatic amnesia.
Hi Gracie! What inspired you to write children’s picture books?
Children! They are so up for being themselves. And what a better role to have than creating a book that shows children that they are loved just the way they are, whilst making them laugh?
They are the future, so it’s so important that we celebrate children for being unique rather than changing them. Children are such an inspiration to me, they always bring joy into any situation and make the most normal things like putting their shoes on or brushing their teeth fun.
You experienced post-traumatic amnesia following an accident when you were 11. How did this affect you growing up?
It was incredibly hard growing up. It was a lot of trauma to deal with at such a young age and perhaps made things a little more complicated. It came in waves — from being on top of the world, to having nothing to give because I had no idea who I was. I tended to be low in energy.
Because I found it hard to hold onto new memories, I often thought I was alone - that there was not much point in being alive if I couldn’t remember
When I lost my memories, it was hard to build an image of who I was before the accident. It made me question whether I was normal in my thinking and processing as a teen and wondered who I was before. Because I found it hard to hold onto new memories, I often thought I was alone — that there was not much point in being alive if I couldn’t remember
Did your own experiences help inspire your writing?
Yes to some extent with the children’s books, I feel that *Silly Eric*’s ways of getting things upside down and inside out, are similar to my thinking after the accident.
I also started writing music from a young age which was absolutely part of me outwardly processing what I was experiencing. I’m inspired now to share my journey in more detail to hopefully help others that feel they have lost their identity.
You took part in The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Scheme. How did this help you start your writing career?
The Prince’s Trust were brilliant in helping me focus on the longer term goal for *Silly Eric* and looking at the projections of where I see him growing over the next few years. They helped fund the startup costs which gave me the platform to expand *Silly Eric*’s presence. By winning the regional [Celebrate Success Awards](https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/about-the-trust/initiatives/celebrate-success/regional-celebrate-success-awards-2016/east-of-england-2016), and then being nominated for the Pride of Britain Awards, it’s definitely lifting my personal presence.
Can you tell us more about the Silly Eric series? We just love the tagline - ‘We ♥ you just the way you are’
I would love to! It’s really the heart behind *Silly Eric* and will be a theme throughout my work. I imagine as Eric grows, it will show him growing and learning as we all do but always being loved just the way he is, without having to be anything else but himself. The hope is that others will relate to him and feel that it’s okay to make mistakes because we are all amazing just the way we are.
It’s okay to make mistakes because we are all amazing just the way we are
What inspired you to create Silly Eric?
This first book was inspired by two children I was working with at the time, Harry and Tomas. They really were fun and used to have me laughing at the silly things they did. *Silly Eric* captures the essence of lots of the children I have worked with over the years, which is also why I love him so. He reminds me of many happy memories.
What kind of responses have you had from parents and children?
It’s been such a joyful uplifting response! The kids always get stuck into the details of *Silly Eric* and join in with how you brush your teeth and that you don’t stick it up your nose. Every parent I have spoken to has loved *Silly Eric* and *Tea with Bea*, saying things like, “It’s my child's favourite book before bed” and “We now have a Silly Eric toothbrush”.
Do you have more planned for Silly Eric?
Yes, yes, yes! Lots more, many more books to be written and I would love to see *Silly Eric* on Cbeebies. I’ve even had letters from children asking if the BBC can put him on telly! The rest of the *Silly Eric* action plan is top secret.
We’ve heard you do school workshops with Silly Eric, as well as a daycamp.
The workshops are always a lot of fun and have really moved my heart to see how wonderfully the kids respond to all of the books. They listen intently and ask interesting questions, which I feel is helping them shape their own ideas about story writing and dreaming creativity or being the best they can be. It’s about lifting the children up to be who they want to be but without it feeling too far out of reach and giving them steps for them to grasp their goals.
The daycamps have been such a treat! Full of wild energy that filters into a colourful teaching of working together, being wildly creative, being given the freedom to be yourself and bringing ideas to the table as well as being loved and playing fun games. I really love sharing with the children and watching their little faces light up as I read or share my story with them. It fills me up with an overflow of joy, sparkles and satisfaction.
It’s about lifting children up to be who they want to be...giving them steps for them to grasp their goals
Part of the proceeds from your books go towards helping children. What inspired you to support these charities?
I have a heart for orphan children, partly because of what I went through. Although I had a family, I felt very lost and alone at times. I feel that it is every child's right to be loved. The charities I support all love well and do their best to help children. In no way does any child deserve to be treated like a slave or not have a bed to sleep in!
What message do you most hope to pass on to children through your writing?
Never give up! Love others. It’s perfect to be who you are. I hope to inspire kids that anything is possible, that it all starts with an idea. If that idea is loved and looked after, it will become something beautiful for others to appreciate.
When you see others that have have been nominated and the tragedy that they have overcome, it blows my mind that I am alongside such incredible people. It’s a true honour
How does it feel to be nominated for a Pride of Britain Award? Were you surprised when you first heard?
I was completely shocked!! What a surprise and such an honour to be nominated. A big thank you to the Prince’s Trust for giving me this opportunity. When you see others that have been nominated and the tragedy that they have overcome, it blows my mind that I am alongside such incredible people. It’s a true honour.
Has your nomination helped spread the word about Silly Eric, and your fundraising for children’s charities?
I hope so! I think it all helps. Every little bit helps and this being one of the biggest UK awards must have some positive weight behind spreading the good news of the books. Yay!
Discover more about Gracie’s work on her website Gracie Wright, or pick up your copy of Silly Eric and discover more about upcoming projects and how Silly Eric has been helping kids.