I’m often asked at school visits what I enjoy most about being a children’s author. Last week when I visited the delightful St Osmund’s Primary School in my local village, Barnes, the question came up again in several sessions and I thought I’d say a little bit more about it here.
St Osmund’s Primary School – Barnes village
Before I carry on, I should say that the second best thing about being a children’s author is going out and meeting young readers at school visits and other events 🙂 We writers spend a lot of time alone – or perhaps I should say “alone” given all the characters that fill our heads! Getting to meet the audience you’ve been writing for and watching as they fall silent – absorbed in the world you have created as you share your story – is truly magical. And the children never cease to amaze me with their thoughtful and intelligent observations and questions – not just about my stories and being an author, but also about the joy they get from reading for pleasure and writing their own stories.
Capturing children’s imagination with a reading from The Secret Lake followed by Q&A
So what’s the best thing about being a children’s author?
Most of all, I love the freedom I have to ‘make believe’ absolutely anything, from laugh-out-loud funny tales, to adventure, mystery or magic in this world – to discovering and visiting ‘other worlds’ (and their inhabitants) that lie hidden behind secret doors, down forgotten passages, in tumbledown buildings or deep in the forest.
As I write, I love getting lost in these make-believe worlds as they come alive with noisy, bossy, funny, crafty, happy, sad, timid, bold, kind and clever characters (humans, animals, wizards, aliens…) who breeze in and out of scenes, or plod, run, hop, skip, jump or even fly across my virtual page. A casual passer by looking through my window would have no idea just how much my head is buzzing as I sit in silence tapping at my keyboard, watching and listening as my story unfolds!
And what’s most exciting – just as in a really good book or a great movie – is that new characters often appear without warning or behave unexpectedly, stubbornly refusing to follow the plan I had for them. It’s as if they’re saying “Not that way, Karen – it’s this way we need to go! And, yes, I know that may cause problems for you, but I’m afraid we’re going there whether you like it or not!” Or “Well I’m here and I’m staying whether you like it or not, so you’ll just have to get used to it and get on with the story!”
I’m thankful that my characters don’t always co-operate, because that’s what’s usually makes a great story – all the tension and problems and sorting out that has to be done to fix the new direction they insist on taking!
During the writing of The Secret Lake, both Jack (seen in the boat below) and Lucy (who we meet later on in the story) appeared unexpectedly after Tom and Stella climbed down the time tunnel that led them to their home in past time. I hadn’t seen them coming, yet each of these characters took the story off in new directions, leading me around twists and turns that I couldn’t have made up without their help.
Stella and Tom after arriving in the grounds of their home 100 years in the past…
In Eeek! The Runaway Alien, sci-fi mad Sid Spiker who spots Eeek! through his telescope came as another surprise. He popped up in my planning stage unexpectedly and caused all sorts of trouble when he planned to kidnap Eeek! at posh Sophie Marr’s fancy dress birthday party. But he also helped drive the plot and make it a great story!
Charlie and Eeek! arriving dressed as “aliens”. Sid Spiker is hiding in the crowd behind 🙂
The joy of getting lost in a story
Back to my school visits. As I said earlier, the children often talk about their love of reading and getting lost in stories. What I always tell them is that, as a writer, you get to enjoy that very same experience – but, as well as watching what’s happening (just as a reader does) you’re also in charge, and responsible for shaping what’s happening into a tale that will engage and absorb your readers from start to finish. It is great fun, and very challenging – and it requires lots and lots of rewriting. But once you’re done the feeling is fantastic. Whether you’re the writer or the reader, there really is nothing like getting lost in a great children’s story!
Stories to share and get lost in….
For my new followers, if you don’t know my stories or would like to introduce them to your children, simply click on the fun interactive book ‘widgets’ (called ‘biblets’) below to read free samples directly on your phone, tablet or desktop. As well as early chapters they include video and (for Henry Haynes) audio. I hope you and the children will enjoy 🙂
Quick Question Survey on book biblets
I’d love to know what you or your children think of book biblets as a way to share information about children’s books. If you have 60 seconds to spare after you’ve tried one or more biblet it would be really helpful if you could come back at some stage and complete the 5-question survey below. (The data is collected anonymously.)
>> Take the 60-Second Survey Here 🙂 5 Questions. 60 Seconds. Anonymous 🙂