Wednesday, 20 June 2012

In Praise of...The Most Important People in this Business - by Liz Kessler

Unless you have been living in a cellar and been so engrossed in your work that you haven’t looked up for the last five years, you will know that times are tough in our business. Publishers are making redundancies; contracts are being cancelled; bookshops are closing down; agents are far more wary of taking on new authors. And of course, writers are finding it harder than ever to make a living – or to get published in the first place.

Amongst all this doom and gloom, I decided that this month I wanted to focus on something that makes us smile. The side of our job which, as children’s authors, I consider to be a privilege and a delight. Our readers. So I am handing over my space this month to them. I want to share with you a few emails and pictures which have really made me smile over the last few months. Their words and their creativity have warmed my heart. I hope they will warm yours, too.

The things written here to me apply to all of us who write for children. Anyone who has had a child pick up their book and enjoy it has done something like this for someone out there. We just don’t always get to hear about it. So look at these pictures and read these words, and remember that if you’ve written a children’s book, someone, somewhere feels this way about you, too. And if you’re not published yet but would like to be, then forget the advances and the royalties and the dreams of film deals. These are the things to look forward to. And to the children (and parents) who wrote and drew these - THANK YOU! You are the best thing about our jobs.

(PS I’ve reproduced them exactly as they were sent to me, so please read these for the heart of their message, not for the grammar.)

'Flower Arrangement Inspired by Literature' for village show, from Katherine
Dear Liz Kessler,
      Hey. My name is Lucy. I dont know if you remember, but I wrote to you about 4 years ago, telling you how much I liked your Emily Windsnap books. I will never forget how you took the time to write me back, you have no idea how much that ment to me. Now, I have ovisly stopped reading your books because they are a low reading leval for me, but somethimes I stil do enjoy reading some of my all time favorite books, the Emily Windsnap series. When I was in second grade, I spent hours making a mermaid doll for a book report, and for my sixth grade application to my private middle school, wich has been one of the best things that has ever happend to me, I wrote my essay question on what character from a book would I want as my best friend. I wrote about Emily. I just wanted to tell you today, how much you have shapped my life. It might not have ment anything to you because I know you write back to all your emails, but you writing that letter to me showed me how much a little thing like a letter, can mean so much to someone. I acually still have your letter in one of my keep-sake boxes. I just wanted you to know today, how thankful I am that you and Emily were a big part of my childhood. And everyone knows your childhood shapes you into who you are, so I cant help but believe that you helped shape me into the person I am today. I also just wanted you to know how much you mean to me, and how I give you, your kindhearted soul, your writing, and your letters the greatest respect. I will never forget you, even if you forget me. Know that you mean so much to someone, that you might remember . Thanks always!

                                                                            - Lucy

Emily Windsnap comic strip as part of an Author Study, by Jasmine

Dear Ms. Kessler,

I am the mother of four wonderful daughters, my youngest daughter, Traci, is eight years old. My eleven year old daughter, Paige, recommended that Traci read your first Philippa Fisher book, The Fairy Godsister.

First. let me go back and give you some history. Traci was diagnosed with dyslexia last year. She was in first grade and couldn't make out any letters, sounds etc. Every time she was asked to read or be read to, an argument was eminent. Reading, for Traci, was the enemy. This year, Traci is now in second grade and is working with specialists both in and out of her school. She has begun to read. She is suppose to read to me every night and then I read to her. We have done this religiously, but, without any enthusiasm. Well, that all changed when Philippa Fisher came into her world. We are on the third and sadly, final book, The Fairy's Promise. Your books have CHANGED Traci's mindset about reading. She wakes up and wants me to read to her, as soon as I pick her up from school she BEGS me to read more chapters.

Thanks to you, she now has a complete passion for reading and has found the joy of a great book. We can't thank you enough for your wonderful imagination and gift that you gave us through your writing. 

One of a series of character drawings from my books, by Ariana 

Dear Mrs. Kessler,

I have a story to tell, that involves you. Hang on, you'll get it in a moment. When I was a younger kid, my mom would give my sister and I a list of priorities to get done before we went to bed. This included doing things like homework, taking a shower, and reading for a half an hour. I hated rerading. Absolutly abhored even the concept of it. I'd sit on my bed in my room for a half an hour before bed and just stare at the book, I hated reading so much. At my school, they always had around two book fairs a year, where my mom would tell me to buy two or three books to read before bed. When I was in third grade, I went to one of those book fairs and found your book, "The Tail of Emily Windsnap". I chose the first two books in the series, (the others hadn't come out yet) and bought them. Although I have to say that honestly I bought it more for the shell necklace that came in the package.
Those books sat on my nightstand for about two years, getting stared at when I was supposed to be reading. One day, however, I decided to actually read one of them. I picked up the first book in the series and immidiatly from the first page I was hooked. I thought it was amazing. I got lost in Emily's story and her adventures. Each time another book came out, I'd drag my mom to the store to buy it. I am now in 9th grade, and because of your books I am never found without a book in hand. My friends call me Book Worm, which I now suppose is completely true. I felt that I had to thank you because you opened up a whole new world of reading and writing to me. I now have the goal of becoming an author one day.

Thank you so much!


Part of a bundle of drawings (and a homemade bracelet!) from Dara

Thank you once again to all of you lovely, thoughtful, kind and creative people. People like you are the inspiration for people like me.

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Renee Taprell (Books for Little Hands) said...

This would have to be the post of the year for me!

You're right that there's so much doom and gloom in all businesses around the world that it's often hard to see the good things and remain positive and hopeful.I'm an aspiring children's author and it's easy to give up rejection after rejection but I am reminded every now and again of why I write in the first place and that is to one day touch a child's life like you obviously have. What an incredible testament to you as an author to receive such wonderful letters. Congratulations. Thank you so much for sharing.

Liz Kessler said...

Wow - thank you for such a lovely comment!! I hope that you manage to battle on and that you get to be published one day. It only takes one of them to say yes and you're there! Good luck xx

Pippa Goodhart said...

Those messages are absolutely wonderful, Liz! And you can tell that they are absolutely 'real'. Children's books can, and do, transform lives. They ARE important. Thank you.

Penny Dolan said...

Big cheers for Lucy, Paige and Stephanie (and their steadfastly encouraging adults!) What a cheering and positive post

So right. Readers are the really important people in the equation - the purpose, almost, beyond the "writing for yourself".

It must be so satisfying to know that your lovely books have put such pleasure into their lives. Liz, and opened up reading for them.

Nick Green said...

Actually sitting here with tears in my eyes. Renee is right, post of the year.

Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely, Liz!

Candy Gourlay said...

Oh these made my day! Thanks Liz!

Emma Barnes said...

Wonderful. As you say, it's what it's all about.

Sheena said...

Tears in my eyes too!

Liz Kessler said...

Thanks for the lovely comments. I really enjoyed sharing these and glad that they gave others some pleasure too :)

Dara said...

Hi Liz! Thanks for featuring me in your post, I loved it! :)