Friday, 21 May 2021

Is it worth writing? by Anne Booth

 I have been tidying my bookshelves and sorting out boxes of books from our garage. I have found it a very emotional business. 

I buy lots of children's books a) because I write children's books and so it is a necessary part of my job to know what else is being written b) because I write children's books and so, just as I hope people will buy my books, I like to support other writers c) because I write children's books and lots of independent bookshops have been struggling during the pandemic and it is in my own interest that they survive to sell mine in the future (!)  but really, fundamentally

I buy and read Children's books because it makes me happy. I love them. I love reading them, I love looking at them - the covers alone of modern paperbacks  are so beautiful, and I adore picture books. They fill me with Joy. They comfort and entertain and amaze me.

When I was tidying up I realised yet again, that I had so many wonderful books for children, and many children do not. Periodically I sort out books and give them to my lovely neighbour, who works as a school librarian at the great school my children went to. This last time I contacted a librarian of another local school I had been to for a school visit, where I knew many children really needed a boost , and where the librarian was also doing a wonderful job, and I passed on many new and recent books. It really was a wrench, but it was also lovely to think of children enjoying these authors and stories. I recommend it as a positive thing to do if you want to cheer yourself up and do something against the fact that we live in in a world where it is obvious too many children are being treated terribly - caught up in wars and economic systems which do not care for them.  I did feel a bit guilty giving away some books, as if I was rejecting something someone put themselves into, but another way I dealt with that was to take a picture and share the book on Twitter before I gave it away, hopefully telling more people about something lovely and maybe getting a sale for a fellow author.

But some books I just could not give away. I hadn't read them for years, but as soon as I saw them I was filled with gratitude, and I knew that, in some cases rather battered and bashed, they would not raise money in a charity shop or be acceptable in a modern school library. Really, I could not give them away because I loved them, and I remembered reading them, in bed with asthma as a child, or standing at a bus stop with my mum, waiting to catch the first of two buses on one of many long journeys to visit my brother in hospital. Some of my books have been with me at very important moments throughout my life and  I just cannot give them up.

If you feel the same, then you might be interested in three other books which I found on my shelves and are also staying on my bookshelves (one is by my bed as I am reading and loving it) - not children's books themselves but books about children's books:

This is one given to me by a dear friend,  so it is yet another reason why it is staying:

And this is my current bedside reading, as top of the books I will never give away are my Narnia books. This is such a lovely book, and as an object it is beautiful in itself - I LOVE the fact that you can see Katherine's own writing as a child in the end papers - part of her own book inspired by Narnia is reproduced.

Lastly, looking at so many wonderful children's books written by other people, and reading books about the effect that children's books have had on other authors, has put my own writing in perspective again. It is hard being a writer in this current climate. It is easy to get discouraged if your book goes out of print, or doesn't win a prize, or really cause a stir, but  sorting out my book shelves and boxes has reminded me that if just one of my books comforts or entertains a child - if one of my books in future years is taken off a book shelf and looked at and held tenderly by an adult because it brings back positive  memories, then that will be worth everything. So this makes me want to go off and write something more for children right now...I hope it has the same effect on any children's author reading this!


Anonymous said...

Your blog is worth writing, your books are definitely worth writing. They leave my teacher basket on a daily basis, giving joy to my class, sometimes finding a sneaky home in a child’s tray so that they can read the next page when they choose. I have a complete addiction to children’s fiction and picture books and justify it by sharing my books with my class of avid readers. They love, cherish and escape into books nearly as often as me. We are inspired by authors who write wonderful stories, and illustrators who bring these books to life. We need you!

Kaye Waters (class teacher of the wonderful @GABadgers)

Anne Booth said...

Thank you so much!

Penny Dolan said...

Lovely post, Anne, and account your books and those title suggestions.
Finding out who or where to donate children's books does work best through personal contact, imo, and not as simple without. Schools can be such busy places.

Anne Booth said...

I definitely agree, Penny. Both these primary schools - and another I have sent books to - really value books and know their pupils need them, so I know that they will take care of them and present them to the pupils as lovely things. I have a a lot of very good History books about Germany in the 1930s, which i used for research for my book 'Girl with a White Dog', and I sometimes wonder if they would do more good in a secondary school library, but I am not keen to give them away if they won't be appreciated or valued. There's also the question of whether I will use them again for research, so for a writer, giving away books is not straightforward!

Lynne Benton said...

Lovely blog, Anne, and it has certainly inspired me to buy two of the books you mentioned (I already have one of them). As a fellow children's writer I would love to think my books might be cherished by a child sufficiently for them to still be fond of them many years later!