Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The strange things children’s writers do – Lari Don

Yesterday, I helped dress a dragon in a car park.
The dragonmobile, at Pirniehall Primary in Edinburgh

But it’s not the strangest thing I’ve done as a children’s writer.

I've recce'd a castle, going in undercover as a tourist, to discover the best way to steal their most famous artefact.

I've interviewed a vet about how to heal a fairy’s dislocated wing, and a boat builder about how to fit a centaur on a rowing boat.

I've lost half a dozen journalists in a maze. (I guided them out again eventually. Most of them.)

I've told Celtic legends on an iron age hillfort, fairytales in an inner city woodland, and Viking myths in a cave.

And all of these things have been an integral part of my job as a children’s writer. Because writing is not just sitting at a keyboard and tapping out chapters.

The research (chatting to vets about fairy injuries and sneaking about castles) is often as much fun as the writing. And the promotion (dragon dressing and outdoor storytelling) is almost as important as the sitting at my desk imagining.

I suspect that as a children’s writer, you have to be just as imaginative in your research methods and your promotion ideas as you do in your cliffhangers and your characterisations.

But I can’t take credit for the dragon in the carpark. I did create a shiny friendly blue dragon, as one of the main characters in my Fabled Beast series. However, I had moved onto creating other characters in other stories, when my publishers decided to give the Fabled Beasts Chronicles new covers, and announced that they were going to promote the covers with a dragonflight tour.


Then the very talented marketing executive at Floris Books designed a dragon costume for her own car. And she’ll be spending most of the next fortnight driving me round beautiful bits of Scotland and the north of England (yesterday Edinburgh, today Perth, then Aberdeenshire and Penrith, as we get more confident and stretch our wings!) in a car which we dress up as a dragon in the carpark of various primary schools, then invite the children out to ooh and aah at our shiny blue dragon and her shimmering flames, before I go inside to chat with the pupils about cliff-hangers and quests.

So, this week, I’ve already learnt how to put a dragon’s jaws on at speed. And I’ve discovered that if the engine hasn’t cooled down yet, those flames coming down from the bonnet are actually warm!
Very brave Forthview Primary pupils sitting on dragon's flames!

So, yes, I do strange things. But I have fun! And I hope that my enjoyment comes across in my books, and in my author events.

I don’t think the adventures I create would be nearly as interesting without the odd conversations I have while I’m researching them, or the weird things I do to promote them.

So – what do you think? Should I just be sensible and stay indoors writing? Or is a little bit of weird now and then an effective way to make books, reading and writing more exciting for children?
 

Lari Don is the award-winning author of 22 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers. 

2 comments:

caroljchristie said...

I can't see you ever just staying at home and writing, Lari, no matter what anyone else said! Hope your Sapphire tour is going well.

Lari Don said...

It is going well, thanks! The children are absolutely delighted to be visited by a dragon. Though having a friendly smiley shiny dragon outside in the carpark meant I backed off at the last minute from a dragonkilling myth yesterday - that wouldn't have seemed right. (and of course, I wrote at night when I got home...)