Wednesday, 21 September 2016

When did it all get so simple/complicated? by Anne Booth

I can't work out if the world is much simpler than people think, or more complicated, and I think it is part of my calling of a writer to explore this.

Re simpler: why, for example, does it seem to be so difficult for everyone to remember that all children need safety, love, food, shelter, education, fun, to flourish? Why do we seem to  have to constantly remind politicians and newspapers to act decently and talk about others with respect, why in our country, do we have to sign petitions and go on marches to stop libraries being closed down, or ask for support for young carers or refugees, for example? Surely it is obvious that children should not be disadvantaged? What's complicated about that?

So I want to write books which say look - it is simple. Basically, love is the answer. Be kind. Don't judge. Listen. Learn.

It's all very simple.

But another part of me wants to say that things are so much more complicated than you would guess from twitter or Facebook or online forums or some of our media. Why do people - even intelligent , thoughtful people -seem to want to put people into boxes all the time? Racism and elitism and snobbery are obvious examples, but I think it is much more subtle and prevalent. Why can't we accept that people don't come with a prepackaged set of beliefs and that there are lots of overlaps? I might disagree with someone about some aspect of politics, for example, and yet be able to work with them on another. I think that makes the world very interesting. I want to say to people - please, don't lump people into groups - don't think all Christians/Jews/Atheists/Hindus/Muslims/Buddhists/Agnostics/left-wingers/right-wingers/disabled/gay/rich/poor etc etc people necessarily  think the same things or are all preoccupied with the same things.  Please don't think that all people from a certain cultural or racial background are interested in the same things or agree about them all. On the other hand, don't think that they can't come together and work in unity for a common cause - like helping refugees, for example.

For writers there is the problem of how to create unique and authentic characters and also give fair  representation of groups often overlooked. Because although all homeless children, for example, are not the same, they DO have something in common - they don't have a home. And if we don't have representation in books of  children without homes, or children from different cultural or racial backgrounds - we are making things simple when they aren't.

It's all very complicated.

I want to write books which challenge stereotyping. I want to write books which say look - it ISN'T that simple. I don't want to write in clichés. But writing is both simple - telling a story - and complicated - whose story and why and how to tell it? And to whom?

And as writers for children - we have to work with agents and publishers and editors and marketing people and booksellers and librarians and teachers and parents and most of all, children, to somehow produce simple/complicated stories to hopefully enthral and inspire and delight and sell in quantities that enable us to put food on the table for our families!

It's the most demandingly complicated and yet simply the best and most fun job I have ever had!

P.S. - Since I wrote this an AMAZINGLY simple and beautiful idea has been put into action - Fiona Dunbar has started - an auction to raise money for refugees - another dimension to the whole simple/complicated issue - we cannot solve all the problems of the world by our writing or our actions - but sometimes we can simply each do something and hopefully help.  Here is the lot I am offering:


Wendy Constance said...

Brilliantly put Anne, with deliciously simple kindness and consideration to deal with complications arising from lack of both

Penny Dolan said...

A thoughtful post - and a useful link to that Action For Refugees auction website. Thanks.