Thursday, 21 September 2017

Inspiration from afar by Anne Booth

My own children are now in their late teens or early twenties, and I miss daily interactions with little ones. That is one reason why school visits are so great, not only to publicise and sell books I have already written, but just to be in the company of small children and chat and talk to them. I love it when they tell me what they think about friends, or animals, or random other pieces of news which have nothing to do with my presentation but need to be urgently shared! I always come home full of ideas for new books, and a sense of the level I should pitch them at.






But at the moment, I am busy working at home editing some books and writing others to deadlines, and I won't make a school visit for a while. However, I still want to jot down ideas for new picture books, even though I won't be in the company of actual small children very much for a bit. So, in the absence of the actual company of small children, where will I get my new ideas from, and how will I know whether I am getting it right?

I think that most writers of children's books choose to do it because they don't feel that far removed from the child they were anyway, so the first things I can draw on are imagination and memory of things from my or my children's or my husband's or my parents' childhoods. I find I can easily remember the feelings I had when I was 4, or 5, or 6, so that definitely helps.

I can also take a well known (or less well known) fairy tale and play around with it, and tell that child within me, a story.

I can read books, look at magazines and newspapers for inspiration. I can read tweets linking to articles about animals having empathy, for example, and see if I can write a story to illustrate that.

But I was born in 1965, and my children from 1996-1999, so it does help to know a bit about children growing up in 2017. And for this, if I can't get to an actual school or nursery, I find watching them on television can be very helpful. Sometimes it is just reminding me of the obvious - just how small, for example, reception children are and what sort of things they do in their day. I really enjoyed a series on a year or so back about the psychological development of children, and it inspired my picture book 'I want a friend' and two subsequent books which are not yet published. That series was aimed at adults, (the Secret Life of Four Year olds) but today I found  a great series on BBC iplayer  which was made for CBeebies. It is about children starting school and is made for children to watch, but I am so enjoying watching it as a writer. Watching the children on the programme starting school has reminded me of the stages of their development and made it easier for me to imagine stories to tell them.  They are so gorgeous and it really motivates me to write the best books I can for them.

I intend to pop in to my local nursery soon and read some stories out to real children, but until then I am going to enjoy watching Cbeebies' 'Time for School' in my tea breaks - and here is the link if you write picture books or early readers and need a lovely reminder of your readership:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/shows/time-for-school






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