Sunday, October 14, 2007

Children's tales

I had a great run of a couple of months before starting this new job (teaching creative writing at Plymouth) - and delved deep into writing a new novel, my first one for teenagers.
The other week I woke early one morning, gazed out towards a sunrise, and penned a couple of hundred words. As the crimson sun rose above trees I gazed on, letting the plot structure for the rest of the book assemble in my mind. Last time I did that, I failed to note the ideas down. This time I picked up my pen again and captured them.
At some point in the next few weeks my new run of life should establish a rhythm that lets writing back into it. For now, that old adage one preaches to emerging writers, 'read read read', is taking effect. Books I re-read to teach keep teaching me. Homer's Odyssey took me back into a Hellenic world sympathetic to my own world-view, (alien to the world of my subsequent Judaeo-Christian culture,) in which the natural world plays a wild and natural part. Angela Carter's 'The Loves of Lady Purple' joined with Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad to make me think how the stories we inherit might change our lives, and that sometimes we might need to reinvent those stories in order to move our lives forward.
A comment by Philip Pullman impressed me some years ago. Writing for teenagers gives a writer freedom, for children are free to take imaginative bounds, they will cross genres with you. I'm enjoying that freedom ... and I suppose I am also reinventing the story of life, since what my adult world dismissed as fantasy is for me in fact very real. I am working to make that 'fantasy' world real within a book, so that children can inhabit it.
My favourite book as a child was a story about Pegasus the flying horse. I could hear it read to me over and over again. My mother never interrupted her reading to remind that such tales were ridiculous. She enjoyed conjuring me into a world that I found more pleasurable and exciting than my mundane one. So adults don't always decry fantasy. They tell tales about fairies and Father Christmas. Silly for adults, of course, but so fine for children.
In writing for kids, I am refashioning that talent that was imbued in me as an infant, to rejoice in what is scary, magical and remarkable.


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