Thursday, 23 June 2011


The Independent's 5-minute Interview 

In 2008, Michael Rosen, the Children's Laureate, wrote advice about writing for children for The Guardian’s series entitled How To Write. In his extensive career, Michael Rosen has written 140 books of poetry and fiction for children.

This version is abridged ;)

We've all been children, we all know a parent or parent-figure. This makes us all potential writers of children's books.
I think of children's books as not so much for children, but as the filling that goes between the child world and the adult world. One way or another, all children's books have to negotiate that space, whether it's thinking about how the text of a picture book will sound when read aloud, or how the child views him or herself in a world run by adults.
And of course, more than likely, you're an adult reading this, so the moment you think about writing something for children, you'll be handling something or other from your own childhood. This may be something you read, experiences of being read to, pleasurable or painful experiences from when you were young.
There is also an interesting line between the child you once were and the children you know now. If you want to write a book for children, you will find yourself travelling to and fro along this line, wondering one moment about what kind of child you were, why you had those particular tastes and interests, what depressed or excited you, what you were afraid of, what you yearned for; the next, looking, listening and thinking about the children you know or meet.
Are there big differences, or is there some core child-ness that is unchanged?
Is the culture and background you came from, similar or different to the kinds of children you know and meet now? If so, how does your writing reach them?
The writer Morris Gleitzman told me that he sets himself one golden rule when he writes for children: "Start any scene as 'late' into the action or dialogue as you can."
We also have to spend time in bookshops, libraries, nurseries, schools and with reading children, seeing how the books work with the audiences.
You are of course the first audience for what you write, but you want to make yourself the kind of reader who can pretend to be the reading child. You also need to get that child who is now the age of your target audience into your head too.
A very important part of writing for children is appearing at book festivals, and in libraries and schools. An important part of becoming a writer for children is seeing what published writers do and say when they appear.
Writing children's books may be as lonely as any other kind of writing, but there is a big social element in how the books are taken to the readers. There are thousands of people out there doing this - parents, librarians and teachers mostly - so part of being a writer for children is being among these people at the events they organise. If you get the balance right, this will be part of what motivates you to go back into the cell and write some more!
Michael Rosen 
September 2008

After 20 years of teaching, I have more trouble keeping the target audience out of my head. I learned what interested avid readers but try to write in a way that will engage those who were less keen.

I find the question Michael Rosen asked very interesting:
Are there big differences, or is there some core child-ness that is unchanged?
Developmentally or socially?
If you are not eight, how do you write for eight year-olds?


  1. I don't know how to comment on this post because I don't think this much about writing. When I'm working, I shut everything and everyone out, sit at my Internet-free desk for my session, and let the characters play.

  2. Hi Ivy
    What fun. Let everyone out and play and enjoy. :)

  3. I find that way works best. My favorite is when one of the characters does something and it makes me laugh. Or they say something and I crack up.

    That's the good stuff.