Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Small, Sharp Objects

As well as being nice to look at, The Girl and The Boy give me constant small reminders of the golden rule of writing for children: remember that children are at least one step further ahead than you think they are, (or sometimes one step ahead of you). They show me this in a range of ways - some of which make me swell with slightly stunned pride (like yesterday when The Girl told me why we should buy Fair Trade bananas), and others which make me growl a bit with the inconvenience and then sniff a little at how fast they grow up (like this morning when I realised that I could no longer put my coffee on the coffee table because The Boy has learnt how to pull himself up - amazing how he learns these things overnight . . . especially when he wakes up so damn often).

At a dinner party a few years ago, a woman asked me what I did and when I said "Write books for children" she kind of snarled "Oh that's such easy money," then nudged her husband and said "We should do that." "You really should," I urged, as the grudge frothed up inside me, turned solid and vowed never to leave me. I tried to think of a nasty comeback about one of their jobs but . . . I couldn't remember what either of them did.

Not only is it not easy money, it's not easy - or not very often, anyway. And getting the balance right between not talking down to the reader and not going over their heads is the trickiest part. I'm just glad I get these small reminders, even if it means I can no longer reach my coffee.

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Nik's Blog said...

Blimey! What a good post! It's not easy, is it, this writing? And I don't even have children.

Nik. ;)

Ross said...

Well said! What we need to do to protect children's authors is to ban celebrities who write kids' books. Madonna's done it (twice), Olivia Newton-John's done it, Jay Leno, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan; even Sting, the most humourless man in England has written a book for children! I could imagine a child reading Sting's book, getting to the end and asking with all seriousness, "Mummy, why is Sting such a twat?"
To quote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "book critics and librarians generally disdain celebrity books as preachy and poorly written." Oh this is worth a post itself methinks...


Nik's Blog said...

Ross, that is brilliant.