Ten Questions Children Ask Authors
Martin Amis once famously declared that he would have to have “a serious brain injury” to write for children and that “he could never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write“. Oscar Wilde and Salmon Rushdie might well have a thing or two to say about that.
But perhaps Amis was doing all children’s authors a favour by inadvertently acknowledging that it requires more powers of creativity to write within an accessible framework – not fewer – for children are the most discerning of readers and will dump a book after the first few pages if it doesn’t grab.
Creativity was recently described as “a dynamic process involving new connections, crossing disciplines, using metaphors and analogies” and it’s one thing thinking and writing, it’s quite another being put on the spot with an inquisition straight out of the book of Seuss which is what can happen at Children’s Question Time.
The brilliant Harrogate Children’s Festival complete with tepee is about to get underway with “three fun filled days of interactive family events designed to get kids involved in music, history, crafts science and more” and children’s authors, length and breadth, are gearing up to face their enthusiastic audiences.
But like the great leveller that is the battered airport luggage carousel – Joan Collins once had to stand with the rest of us to retrieve her suitcase – children too can pepper questions which can knock the writer’s ego to its inky core.
So, having appeared at festivals from South Africa to Yorkshire here is a sample of questions which, over the years, I have faced with dignity. Questions which have required me to draw on that “dynamic process involving new connections, crossing disciplines, using metaphors and analogies” eg creativity
- Do you hope to write as good as Roald Dahl one day?
- How old do you have to be to write books for grown ups?
- If you get an idea when you’re in the shower how do you write it down?
- Did Beatrix Potter think up Peter Rabbit in the bath?
- Did J K Rowling’s birthday cake have a wand on it?
- When Walt Disney wrote Winnie the Pooh ….
- What would have happened if Jack’s beanstalk had not grown to the sky?
- Are you famous? Clearly not if they’re asking
- Do you always wish you’d married a prince
- And finally, if ever the ‘book signing’ was regarded as the ultimate sponge of ‘bring it on praise’ – do bear this in mind … that children, well schooled in the art of the nursery, may well remind you that “it’s naughty to write in books”.