Quentin Blake is one of my favourite children’s book illustrators. In this video courtesy of The Guardian online he says he doesn’t know the relationship between his characters when he starts drawing them. Rather, his knowledge of them grows as he spends time creating them.
My experience as a writer is similar. I generally have a rough idea what part a character will play in a story universe. But, as I spend more time with them, they still have the capacity to surprise me. I like NOT knowing everything they could do as a plot develops. Planning everything out in advance could stamp out the goshness of a story as I build it, just as I prefer to read a book in full before I watch its adaptation for television or cinema.
Anyway, I’m glad a man of Mr Blake’s experience is still revelling in the newness of creativity. That’s inspirational.
A couple of nights ago, at an excellent National Year of Reading forum at Whitefriars College, a student asked me if journalism was dead. I answered that journalism will never die because humans will always want to know about the things affecting other people’s lives. However, I did concede that newspapers, where I started out in the media, are definitely in the intensive care ward.
If I’d had my wits about me I might have recalled the recent robust discussion on Gruen Planet about the future of newspapers. The ever-entertaining Gruen team pointed to an advertising campaign by Britain’s Guardian newspaper that highlights why we will always need journos, even if they’re not transmitting stories to us via newsprint on dead trees.
According to this piece in Britain’s The Guardian, authors need to be road warriors to raise awareness of their work and promote reading generally.
That means travelling to schools, libraries and anywhere else we can peddle our wares and pump our own tyres without being socially inappropriate. I must admit to feeling somewhat staunch talking to 500+ students in two days last week, at urban schools situated far beyond my usual haunts.
So I’m liking this idea a lot. In fact I reckon I should buy a leather jacket and turn up to schools Mad Max style … possibly without the shotgun over my shoulder.
Thanks to a fellow road warrior, the very intrepid John Danalis (@JohnDanalis), for finding the article. I mean this is an author who travelled interstate by air then boarded a Metro train and then unfolded his bicycle and cycled the rest of the way to an outer suburban school visit. That’s commitment.
Here’s an article in the Guardian by UK author Michael Morpurgo that gave me goosebumps. I’d recommend it to anyone working with children, particularly if you’re despairing over whether you’re making any headway. Miracles happen.
As a beginner-author, it’s also instructive to hear Mr Morpurgo tell of sitting at the feet of two established writers and being the ‘minnow’ of their group. He’s no minnow any more, having penned umpteen books and served as Britain’s Children’s Laureate from 2003-2005.
My god-daughter loves his books. I’m reasonably confident I know my son’s literary tastes, given I read to him almost every night. I’ll admit I didn’t think Mr Morpurgo’s stories would engage the Little Dragon (apart from Beowulf). I’m pleased to say I was wrong. The Little Dragon picked up a copy of Kaspar Prince of Cats and devoured it, rating it one of the best books he has read.
Mr Morpurgo visited Victoria a couple of years back and spoke at the State Library. He sat on stage in his cardigan and told stories with such humility and warmth it was impossible not to like him. I think he became a grandfather to everyone in the room that night – including a family who had travelled from Brisbane, from memory, in order to hear him a second time.
The HarperCollins staff hosting Mr Morpurgo introduced me to him and mentioned my first book, Game as Ned to him. He immediately asked them if a copy could be found for him so he could read it. I have no idea whether he was ever given my book and, if he was, whether he had time to read it.
I’ll always appreciate his gesture though. It made me feel like an equal for a moment or two, rather than a wannabe.
The world needs more people like Michael Morpurgo.