Thursday, 5 November 2009
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat - the eccentricity of the children's writer
In the most recent edition of The Author, Terence Blacker says in his Endpaper column, "There is something not quite right about those who write for children."
It gets worse: he continues, "Most of them, surely we can agree, have a small but significant psychological flaw which draws them back to childhood ...You have to be slightly odd."
Terence writes for children himself of course, among others, and much of his column concerned the continuing series about Ms Wiz, which has just reached number eighteen. I found it interesting because I am returning to Grace, a character I created twenty years ago for Amazing Grace,in order to write a fourth picture book about her.
But will it help me if I am "a little odd"? I'm not denying that I may be - though surely no-one ever regards themselves as odd? It's the other folk who are all a bit strange, isn't it? Especially if they don't invent dialogue in their heads, have conversations with imaginary people and suddenly glaze over in the middle of talking to other, real, people.
It got me thinking about the children's writers I know and they are many. Are they odd? They seem the height of sanity to me but one has a pet lobster, several use cats as mufflers and many write in garden sheds which range in sophistication from buildings named "Tuscany" to "The Story Shack" and some are clearly shoe-fetishists. One has a rich fantasy life on Facebook involving his beard, which too many of us friends encourage.
But is any of this MORE eccentric than the habits of writers for adults? And does it help? I think Terence is mistaking "rich inner life" for "eccentricity" which is easily done.I think the number of writers, for whatever age group, who are REAL eccentrics, as opposed to being posers with green carnations or whatever (I love you Oscar but don't think you were odd at all) must be very few. Answers in the comments please.
Maybe John Clare (though he ended up in an asylum, poor man) or W H Auden, who could never get warm enough and piled carpets on the beds of other people's houses where he was staying (once even a wardrobe apparently!). For that and his appalling personal hygiene I shouldn't like to have had Auden as a house guest.
But I DID invite him to my wedding party and I didn't know him - was that just a trifle odd?