Our Spotlight series highlights some Ottawa residents who strive to build a better community but who aren’t always in the news. Today, Brigitte Pellerin speaks with Timm Holmes.
Timm Holmes is a children’s author and edu-tainer, and the creator of “Start a Story Workshop,” a group story-building adventure for children ages 5 to 12. He is also behind the popular “Piece Together StoryWalk” in Orléans, a pick-your-path, family story outdoors adventure.
Q. Tell us about yourself and why you’re in Ottawa.
I was born and raised in Ottawa. In my early 20s, I went all the way to British Columbia. And I felt like I was missing something so I found my way back here. Ottawa is a lot more exciting than the media gives it credit for. I met my wife, we found our boys, and I found my lot in life: exciting, inspiring and celebrating other people’s creativity.
Q. How did you become an author of children’s stories?
Back in 2013, my wife and I were trying to have our own family. As it turned out, we could not have our own children. We had talked about that before we got married. We already knew that we were going to go the adoption route. In February of 2013, we went to an information session. We applied in April and got a caseworker in June.
There are several classes that you need to do and different checks that they have to do. We were two classes into the 10 that we needed in the middle of October and we got a phone call from our caseworker telling us we had to meet right now and do the final meetings we needed. In November, we had the final two meetings, a process that took three or four hours. At the end she slid two photos across the table to us, with a sheet of paper containing information about each boy, two brothers. We had a weekend to decide.
We ended up having Malcolm and Cooper, our two sons, join our forever family and move in on Friday Dec. 13, 2013. For some reason the number 13 plays a very important role in our family.
My wife’s a librarian, I’m a writer. The boys love books and stories. Even before Cooper could speak full sentences, he walked around holding a book under his arm at all times asking me to read it. Every night before bedtime, we read bedtime stories, even now that the boys are 13 and 12.
I got bored reading the same stories over and over and over again. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was eight. I never thought I’d be a children’s author until my wife said, after the fourth of fifth story I created with the boys, “Some of these are pretty good, maybe you should do something with them.”
The boys are very involved with the process, including with the art. We are doing it together as a family. It just seems natural because of our bond as a family with stories. Isn’t that amazing? Stories made two of my dreams come true: they made me a daddy and they made me an author.
Q. Where did the workshops come from?
It was a kindergarten teacher who asked me to do it, saying it would be useful for primary and junior grades, to give them the confidence and tools to tell their own stories. So I put a program together that we call Start a Story Workshop.
Kids have to be so brave to share their stories because someone else might not like them. I help children understand that there are no wrong answers and that hurdles aren’t as big as they think they are. Even when you’re in kindergarten, with five simple choices you can make a story, you can be an author.
Q. You describe yourself as an “edu-tainer.” How does the fun part help the learning part?
I think this goes back maybe to the way I approach my storytelling. There are enough books out there that teach a moral or teach a lesson. If we can connect fun and learning, if we can connect fun and stories, if we can connect fun and writing together, I think we allow more children to have access to it. I think fun is something that allows us to unlock learning in the majority of children.
Q. You have the attention of everyone in Ottawa for a minute; what do you tell them?
There’s a storyteller in everyone, and all of their stories matter. My goal is to excite, inspire and celebrate their creativity. I do that by providing simple choices, a little bit of guidance and a dash of imagination. I do this with my Start a Story Workshop for kids, I do this with my Tell a Tale Workshop for adults, and Pieced Together for the whole family. I work to excite the mind, inspire the heart and celebrate the creativity of every child, no matter their age — from five to 99.
Q. When you’re trying to relax, what do you?
Oh, man, get me next to the water. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lake or an ocean, there is something that changes my whole family. It’s true with all four of us. Get us next to the water and something mentally changes and the shoulders drop. It’s just the best.
When we can’t get to water, we’re hiking. It’s a real big thing for our family — not as athletes, just to be active outdoors together. And of course, we’re doing a bunch of reading and video games because we love our video games.
(This Q and A has been lightly edited.)
Do you know an Ottawa resident doing good work under the radar who should get some recognition? You can make a suggestion for our “Spotlight” series by emailing our letters editor, at [email protected]
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