When I was a child I used to wonder why it was that grown-ups seemed to have forgotten what it was like to be a child themselves. They really didn’t have a clue.
So I promised myself that when I grew older I would remember. All those things that matter to children at each age. How everything is so new, how things adults don’t notice are so matters of life and death. Why couldn’t they understand? Attention shifts from this to that, because this is so utterly fascinating and that is now completely boring.
And, of course, I want to have fun.
That’s partly why I write children’s books and partly why I enjoy it so much, connecting back to those teenage excitements and emotions. I hope it’s why kids enjoy my books.
Last night I was chatting with Elen Caldecott after a reading/workshop we both gave with Val Tyler in Rhayader, and she told me how her younger self used to write messages to her older self and roll them up and leave them in the spines of cloth covered books for her older self to find. Because she knew she would forget. And she was right.
‘Letter to Myself‘ is the title of a short play written by Arnold Wesker for a friend, Isabel Rabey (part of the poster is here), to perform as a solo half-hour piece when she was 13, in which younger versions of herself told the older version exactly what the world was about. Of course, the older version couldn’t believe it. But Arnold knew, because he had known Izzy all his life.
Or had he? After all, he was a grown-up.
As for Elen, she didn’t pay any attention to her younger self’s letters either. She couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. In fact, she confessed that she has probably turned into the kind of person her younger self totally disapproved of.
And she writes for children.
So what does that add up to? Do you need to feel like a child to write for children?