Answer 1: Because we must.
Question 2: But why must we?
Answer 2: Eco-nomic necess-i-ty?
For most writers across the world it's flying in the face of economic necessity to spend time on writing.
Question 3: So why keep going in the face of hours of commitment that may end in a rejection?
I refer you back to Answer 1.
|Balaclavian public art. Was it a Sassie who swooped on|
the Northern Quarter in Manchester, England,
to paint this street furniture, then disappeared?
If we write picturebook texts and they move from the realm of our personal computer or notepad to the public realm of a printed book or eBook or app etc, our ideas and the way they're expressed have the potential to be remembered. They can get people thinking and talking and can provide the foundations for so much more.
If you are fortunate to have had one book published you'll know the thrill of either seeing it discovered by a 'new' reader or re-discovered by an 'old' reader.
PICTURE THE SCENE World Book Day 2012. A four year-old girl waits patiently for an exceedingly long snake of young children to be guided into the classroom for a Visiting Author session. I am the Visiting Author, I've brought some books with me that the school wants to buy. They're in my bag...
Four year-old Girl: What do you do?
Me: I write books, including for children.
Four year-old Girl: [Long pause, looking round at her classmates]: We're children.
Me: You are.
Four year-old Girl: Have I read any of your books?
[If she can read she is doing well for her age, and if she can't then I enjoy knowing that the grown-ups in her life are valuing her contribution]
[Visiting Author scans the classroom, and seeing two healthy-sized wooden boxes of picturebooks, walks over with a mixture of trepidation and hope. Four year-old Girl watches Visiting Author with that question hanging in the air.
In under ten seconds a book by Visiting Author is located, and it's a well-thumbed edition. Four year-old Girl, who looks intrigued]
Me: I wrote this book.
[I did, I did, and it's in my top three and I've never fallen out with it, and I really liked the editor and the illustrator - this, as all published picturebook authors will know, is not guaranteed - and it's been borrowed thousands of times from libraries across the UK]
Four year-old Girl: [Smiles]
Me: [First I listen to an introduction by the teacher, then I launch into my World Book Day session, telling the story of a classmate who incited me to rummage through the class's book box.]
PICTURE ANOTHER SCENE A close friend I met in publishing leaves to qualify as a teacher and build a school in a remote part of Ghana with an inspirational Ghanaian woman. Literally build it, cement scooped into the boot of the Head's car to avoid it being syphoned off overnight before water can be added and bricks can be stuck together to make some walls.
Whilst over in Scotland my friend volunteers at a local primary school helping children who have additional needs, often due to their family circumstances.
The Volunteer Teacher asks a Seven year-old Boy to go to the bookshelf and choose five books...
Volunteer Teacher: 'Oh, you've chosen a book written by one of my friends.' [Note: No product placement involved]
Seven year-old Boy: [Looks askance at Volunteer Teacher] I don't believe you.
Volunteer Teacher: No, really.
[They read all of the books together]
Volunteer Teacher, friend, and biased-towards-me person: Which is your favourite out of those five?
Seven year-old Boy: This one.
Of course the chosen book is the one I wrote. If it hadn't been I wouldn't have heard the story. I protest to my friend that the boy was trying to impress his new teacher, whom he likes. The response was that the boy never chooses anything just to go along with the teacher. I don't think she's completely right, but I don't think she's completely wrong either. (By the way, it's the same book as in the first example.)
All writers have stories about how their words and ideas get people thinking and talking. Whether shared or not, these experiences bring sporadic energy to the ongoing labour of writing. Many authors are strapped for cash and finding it increasingly hard to make a living out of their art, due to fewer offers, lower advances and unsettled routes to market. But this is also a time of opportunity.
Writers need to survive for new writing to happen. I write because I have to, but it isn't just about me. Many children who are keen to read our books can't even get to school. If they can get to school and the schools are good ones, our books can make a difference.
Question 4: What can we do to reach readers?
Answer 4: We can write.
Question 1: Why should we write?
My Right Honourable Friend, I refer you back to the answer I gave some moments ago - Answer 1)
There's a story or two you might like to read on this website. If you look deep enough you will find the foundations.
|On the side wall of a car park in Manchester, England,|
an enormous bird perches; cement supports the painting's base.