Friday, 16 March 2012

To Boldly Go - Linda Strachan

Twenty years ago if you had told me I would be writing this today I would probably have laughed at the very idea.  I had no real aspirations to be a published writer, in fact it was not even on the horizon. I got my first publishing contract in 1996 and I have never looked back.  Today I can't imagine why I didn't start writing long before that.

I often tell my young audiences  'I have the best job in the world'

Having a job doing something you love is a delight and a privilege, even if it is almost scary (just in case someone decides that you are actually a fraud and stops letting you do it any more!).  To discover that a book I have written has encouraged someone to start reading is wonderful.  To hear that someone has enjoyed reading my books or is encouraged to start writing themselves because of something I have said or written, lights up my day.

I'm not saying there aren't times when it is hard and things are not quite so wonderful.  It seems like all doom and gloom out there, with all the problems that libraries, librarians and  school librarians are having with closures, no funding and job cuts, and the retail side of things being squashed until there are so few bookshops left; not to mention publishers and publishing contracts being even harder to come by.

But despite all that.....

But what's not to like?

I wake up in the morning and I get to be anyone or anything I like.

A  'booky' dragon or perhaps a secret agent,

 a teenager, a five year old child, a man or a woman, a boy or a girl

or a cuddly haggis!
Hamish McHaggis (illus Sally J Collins)

Sometimes even an alien...
Zoola (Illus. Julian Mosedale)

Becoming something or someone else has its drawbacks and I have to admit that sometimes my characters, particularly the teenage ones, have a bit of a hard time and often tears are involved.

But I believe in being positive and I believe in the possibilities of the future so somewhere, even in the harshest story, there is a always glimmer of hope.

Another great part of my job is research.  I find out so many fascinating things because I often find myself having to write about things I know nothing about.  I need to do research and that leads to discovering all sorts of fascinating facts about things I never knew I had any real interest in!

 Fizzkid Liz  (Illus Woody)
I was once writing a story about a girl who had a time travelling pogo stick (...well why not?) and she ended up in prehistoric times.
I had to find an expert who knew where a pterodactyl would build its nest - whether it was in a tree or on a cliff, or somewhere else.  So I made a phone call or two and it turns out pterodactyls were all different sizes and also there is no hard evidence about where they built their nests, which was good news because it meant that to a certain extent I could make it up and it would still be right.

I've discovered that people can be incredibly helpful when they find out you are a writer, researching for a book.

 I've been invited to see the emergency services in training and had a chance to find out about police dogs and horses and armed response units.

Part of my job involves a fair bit of travelling.  I travel to visit schools, nurseries, libraries, festivals, conferences, writing groups and writing retreats and I have been invited all over the UK to places as far apart as Shetland, Kent, Cardiff and Tiree.

Last year I lucky enough to go to New Zealand where I was invited to visit schools in North Island and met lots of great children and teachers there.  I was also in Sydney to speak to the Sydney Writers about writing for children and in a few weeks time I will be travelling to Cairo to speak at an International school there.

I love seeing new places,  meeting new people and hearing their stories, whether they are about a child's escaping rabbit, or their hope to become an author, or an astronaut.  And it's not just the children who have fascinating stories to tell.   I hear stories of ordinary lives that are full of heroism and daily acts of courage.  There are truly stories everywhere, if you stop to listen.

I have the best job I could imagine. There are times it is very hard work and exhausting, and when the writing is difficult and not working out right which makes me want to throw it all in the bucket.  

There are other times such as when my first teenage novel, Spider, won the Catalyst Book Award - voted by teenagers themselves - that are moments of pure gold!

There will always be disappointments but also moments of joy, and wonderfully supportive colleagues in the other writers I meet.

So for me, this is definitely the best job in the world!

Linda Strachan writes books for all ages, from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing for Children
Blog Bookwords


Stroppy Author said...

What a wonderful, uplifting post, Lynda! I agree - it is the best job in the world (and I wrote about that 'finding out fascinating things' aspect just the other day). It's great that you are travelling so much to meet readers.

catdownunder said...

I am certain people have no idea how much research goes into what looks like a perfectly straightforward book! If you do not get it right someone will soon tell you - they even do it for blog posts!

Carole said...

For another reason to go to New Zealand look at this post on Great Barrier.