Welcome to Child-Led Chaos and the fifth day of the Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour! I have a sneaky feeling you might find a closely related post at Babbleabout, as well as the list of the whole tour in my earlier post.
I’m delighted to be hosting Caryl Hart for her nomination in the Younger Children category for Welcome to Alien School. I ‘met’ Caryl on Twitter. Before that, the Chaos household hadn’t read any of her books (although I didn’t realise Rhino, What Rhino? that we’d heard and loved was one of hers.) I’d won copies of Supermarket Zoo and How to Grow a Dinosaur which she signed for MG & DG. Shortly after this Welcome to Alien School, the third in the series, was published and I bought it straight away (not to mention several others!)
Later today I have the honour of meeting Caryl in person so it’s even more special to me that she’s guest posting here for her Children’s Book Award nomination. I am so pleased that Welcome to Alien School has been shortlisted, and thrilled to welcome Caryl to Child-Led Chaos:
A Life in the Day of a Children’s Author
Before I became a full time writer, I found mornings unbearably stressful. I hated nagging the kids to get ready for school and would often end up shouting. Not a good way to start the day. Now, six years after leaving work, the mornings are almost pleasant. The kids get themselves ready, my husband does the school run and I set my own agenda. Amazingly, I earn more now than I did working three days a week, and I’m much, MUCH happier.
If I’m doing a school visit or library workshop, I usually head off early, having coerced various friends into walking the dog and collecting the kids from school. Luckily, my valiant husband is an expert at getting the kids up and out in the morning.
If I’m having a writing day, I take the dog for a good stomp along the river. It’s a national nature reserve and very, very beautiful. Even if I start the morning feeling glum, walking the dog always puts me in a good mood and I have written many a rhyme in my head whilst pounding along the footpath.
Then it’s down to work. On a good day, I can write three or four picture book spreads. That’s about 200 words. It doesn’t sound like much, but for me this is REALLY good going! Most days, I don’t write anything comprehensible, just lots and lots of notes. More like verbal sketches than text. And then suddenly part of the story will come together and I’ll write it down properly. I spend a lot of time thinking out the details of a story, and then editing and re-editing to make the text as tight as possible.
I absolutely love the discipline of writing picture books. With only around 800 words to play with, it’s a real challenge to make my stories exciting, meaningful, funny, believable, sell-able and to my editors’ liking. Trying to do all this in rhyming verse can leave me ready to hurl the computer out of the window! But when it works, it’s SO satisfying that I instantly forget the hours of frustration I’ve been through. Rather like giving birth, actually.
At precisely 3.00 pm the Air Raid Siren goes off. This is my phone telling me to wrench myself away, often mid-flow, and collect the kids from school. Then I’m on Mum duty, though I do sometimes sneak back to the computer for a bit of extra work if I’m buzzing with ideas.
Evening meals around the table are usually dominated by the children telling funny stories about their day. And even if we don’t manage to eat together, we always end up in a pile on the sofa for a bit of telly and a snuggle before bed.
It’s a good life. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
Welcome to Alien School has been shortlisted in the Younger Children category of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.