I've been asked this question a number of times now from both strangers and people I know well. In case you're wondering about the meaning behind the question is, it is - 'When are you going to write a book for adults?' When am I indeed? Never say never, but I love writing for children and have no desire to do anything else. But the question can't help but hurt a little and undermine the thirty something books I have written.
Do people ask me this question because they think that writing children's books is (pardon the pun) child's play? Do they think it's time I grew up? Do they think this has all been some kind of rehearsal and now I need to get on with the real performance? Or perhaps the meaning was that children are not real people? Ha! I have two and let me tell you their personalities are fully formed from a very young age.
Another comment I get that can irk a little is, 'Oh, you write children's books, that must be fun for you.' I find this comment perplexing and a little patronising. I would never dream of saying to a surgeon, 'Oh you cut open people's bodies, that must be fun for you.' Yet there is an assumption that what I do is all about rainbows and fairies and not so much about years of study learning my craft and sheer hard work.
There's an element of fun in the writing at those rare times when all is going well, but much of my time at the desk is spent grappling with writers block, eking out a few words that are so bad they will never see the light of day, and living with the knowledge that deep down I know I will never solve this particular story problem (even though I managed to solve all of the other story problems, but that was a fluke so I might as well give up now)! Writing can be lonely and it can also be hard. But that's no reason not to do it.
So why is writing for children still seen as easier or second best when compared to writing for adults? I don't have the answer. But I do know that I see the benefits of what I do every time I spend time with children.
I took part in a survey undertaken by Macquarie University of Australian Authors in 2015 and the results were that the average income derived from an author's writing in Australia is $12,900. Us writers, we don't do it for the money.
So why DO I do it? Why is it important that we have writers who write for children?
- There is no better feeling than speaking to large audience of children who are wrapped in your every word. When I visit schools kids look up to me with large eyes and dropped mouths. They are transported away by the words and stories that I have created. It's a thrill that never goes away.
- Another truly wonderful feeling is solving a story problem and having the world of the story come together in a way that surprises me. This is a golden moment.
- I devoured books as a child. I was shy and introverted and I loved to have adventures with imaginary characters from books. I still do. I still love reading books and I also love inventing new characters. Books help open up new worlds to children, they can try new experiences and test new ideas.
- Reading stories can help children read better, gain a better vocabulary, write better, improve logical thinking skills and visualise better.
- Exploring stories can help children learn the difference between real and make believe.
- Characters within stories can act as role models or help solve complex social situations or problems. Reading helps kids to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective.
- Reading can give children a life long pleasure. Whether they like silly stories, sport stories, scary stories, mystery stories, historical stories, non fiction or even friendship stories; there is a never-ending supply of entertainment to be had on tap.
- Reading fantasy allows readers to experiment with different ways of seeing the world. It takes a hypothetical situation and invites readers to make connections between this fictive scenario and their own social reality.
- Reading a story can help a child acclimatise to a new experience. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition.
- The kids who read stories will grow up and turn into adults (as much as they may wish not to) and it will be me who introduced them to a world of stories and helped spark their imagination.
This is my first blog post and It's most definitely been a bit of a rant. Cheaper than therapy and I do feel better for having got it off my chest.
I also hope I have imparted a little of why what I do is valid and why I cannot imagine a world that didn't contain a humungous variety of richly told, creative stories that kids will love. And writers who continue to create them.