Over the past few months I've travelled the length and breadth of Great Britain visiting lots of schools and libraries to share stories, poems and rhymes, talk about writing and being a writer, lead writing workshops and answer any and all questions - it's usually fun and inspiring and always utterly exhausting.
My aim is to get children enthused and excited about books and stories, reading and writing - and also to try and demystify the process of writing and being an author - and of course to promote myself and my books at the same time. To make each session personal and unique to the groups I'm working with I encourage lots of questions and interaction as the sessions progress, and barring a few exceptions, the questions posed are generally of the same type - Where do you get your ideas? How much do you earn? What's your favourite animal? I've got a cat!!! and Are you famous? (always a little deflating that one - but no... I'm not famous). With this final question, however, I like to play a little game...
I always tell the audience (children and adults alike) that there are lots of brilliant authors that write books for children but there aren't many really famous ones. People involved with children's books - be it authors, publishers, librarians etc can make a long list of authors, but sadly, it's not as easy for others.
I'm a little naughty with this game as I tell the audience that they should name an author that is still alive (and they should also try and name a different one from the person next to them) but to compensate for this I do give the group three lives...
There are some exceptions but sadly, most groups do not progress very far before losing all of their lives. Some children can't name any authors at all and look completely blank - I'm a nice guy and tell them not to worry (no need to embarrass an individual child) - so quickly move on to the next.
I've made a note of the answers that have been bounced back over the last few months and here they are (in no particular order);
J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Dav Pilky, Jeff Kinney, Julia Donaldson, You (raised eyebrow and smile here), Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams, Francesca Simon, Michael Morpurgo, Dick King Smith and a few more (but not many).
In a couple of schools other authors have been named too - Malorie Blackman, Steve Cole, Adam Blade, Daisy Meadows and William Shakespeare to name a few.
The point of the game is to show that fame isn't everything and that few writers write to become famous - there's more to life than that (keep telling yourself this and I'm sure it'll be fine) - just why writers, or me in particular, write, will be the subject of a later post...
Teachers often pop their hands up so they can join in the game, but occasionally not - and for some reason or other the devil inside can't help encouraging them to join in whether they want to or not. At a recent bout of sessions held in a library, children from a school that had been targeted as being reluctant readers were brought in. During the session the Fame Game was played and teachers were encouraged to join in. I, and the librarians were dismayed when the two teachers only managed to name one author between them and then declared that they weren't really book people !!! And they wonder why the children are reluctant readers...
Finding time to read out loud to children in a class isn't always easy - there are lots of things in a school day that can eat up the time and reading and sharing books and stories can easily get pushed to the back... but it's such an important thing to do and it's something that continues to be important even when children can read for themselves.
So no... being famous isn't important. There are far more important things than that... though the money that can go with fame would be most welcome.