In addition to being a liberal arts professor at Berklee and the founder of the internationally-acclaimed educator-enhancement Training Transformational Teachers Program (http://tttprogram.com, as discussed in October/November, 2015 issue), which helps educators use the latest research and all manner of information-sharing to engage and enhance outcomes for all learners, Pratt Bennet is also an avid explorer of dreams who sees them not only as a portal to our unrecognized emotions, but also as guides to better dreams and more fulfilling lives.
While the discussion of dreams can become rather heady (pardon the pun), Bennet has found a novel way to approach it by crafting a family-friendly fantasy book called Raising Sleeping Stones (www.raisingstones.com). In this story, two sisters who are having trouble fitting in and living up to the expectations of their future-obsessed town use dreams as a way of initially escaping their difficult lives, then of unlocking new talents and, eventually, entirely new realms. In the process, the sisters and the reader are taken on a fantastic journey where new elements are revealed and new puzzles presented in a way that engages and enchants.
“In addition to being a fantasy-adventure story,” Bennet observes, “it’s also a manual for how to dream better. If the reader starts trying the basic steps the characters learn, they should start remembering more of their own dreams very quickly, and having really meaningful ones soon after.”
Bennet decided to release the book in two formats- a Kindle book for anyone who wanted the usual reading experience, and a multimedia interactive e-book that would heighten readers’ enjoyment with unique features, like dream-boosting puzzles, archives, character galleries. and original music that is actually embedded into each chapter. Bennet collaborated with two Berklee composers - Joao Luis and Leo Langinger - to create the first original and complete story score for a novel. Just like a film score, they composed and recorded original music to heighten the emotions of each important moment in the book, timed to last as long as the scene. With over 120 pieces of music, the story score adds exciting new dimensions to the story. Many readers have told Bennet that they will read a scene first, then go back and read it again with the music and gain new insights into the characters.
When asked what inspired the energetic but busy Berklee prof to spend 11 years putting this complex world together, Bennet explains that it was his daughters and their childhood dreams.
“Many years ago, [my daughters] were both having a series of recurring nightmares that were scaring them and making us all lose a lot of sleep,” Bennet recalls. “I showed them how they could quickly change their nightmares to make them less frightening, and they got results so quickly that they begged me to show them what else they could do with their dreams.”
As they experimented with different techniques, Bennet’s daughters quickly shifted from simply remembering more of their dreams to discovering what they could do with them. “Soon, they were flying, breathing underwater, even lucidly changing their dreams while they were happening,” Bennet recalls with a smile, crediting his daughters with suggesting that he write stories that could help other kids to understand and control their dreams as well.
While dream control may seem new age-y, Bennet has studied lucid dreaming for decades and has come up with a series of dream workshops on dreaming that he created with the help of some of the most noted experts in the field.
“I’ve got an amazing group of dream authors and experts who contribute their favorite insights and tips,” Bennet explains, “and though it’s a really different way to share dream skills than through my books, it’s equally exciting to hold live workshops and give people things they can put into practice the same night.”
Having self-published Stones, Bennet is now simultaneously working on distributing that book to libraries and schools and also on getting the sequel, Battle for the EverSleepers, ready for publication in early 2017.
“I self-published because I had so many crazy ideas for the app that no publisher could wrap their heads around,” he says, mentioning the book’s interactive story score and a cover that reveals more illustrations as the reader progresses through the story. Bennet also expresses gratitude to Berklee and Newbury Comics for awarding him with a substantial seed grant that, along with a successful Kickstarter campaign, allowed him to hire the team of composers, app designers, and illustrators he needed to make his vision of helping kids develop their dream skills come true.
While Bennet has become a sort of expert on dreaming, he admits that there are many lessons left for him to learn when it comes to publishing. Even so, he is happy to share the insights he has come to about being a first-time author.
“Start with shorter forms and just crank out a lot of stories,” Bennet advises. “You need to log in lot of really weak pages before the strong ones emerge.”
Perhaps the largest lesson Bennet shares, however, is that, even in a world where dreams are often ignored, it is always important to dream.