I’m an aspiring picture-book writer with a medium-strong distaste for children. Could this be an issue? Could this prevent Waterstones from booking an ‘afternoon with the nation’s favourite picture-book writer, Victoria Twigg’? Can I still sell books to children when I can never foresee a time I’d like to discuss my stories with any one of the irritating stinkies?
Do you think there are other children’s writers out there who share my loathing? Is it inconceivable that just because I wish to create whimsical, imaginary worlds with wise-cracking cod and philanthropic head-lice, that I might not want to share my alternate worlds with the kids?
I’d be happy enough if they enjoyed my stories, but don’t ask me to read them aloud with insincere gusto to a class of fidgety, bum-scratching, bogey-eating kids.
You’re probably thinking I sound like one of Roald Dahl’s crotchety Witches, but you’d be mistaken. I don’t hate children nor want to turn them into mice. I just don’t relish their company as much my own. They steal my sweets, push in on the demon drop slide and get in the way of my more pressing priorities, such as watching Ratatouille and making Loom Band bracelets.
You may be surprised to hear that I have two of my own children. I tolerate them well, enjoying their excitable company most days, but given the choice between, ‘can we get the paints out?’ and Come Dine With Me, the bickering cooks have it.
I once thought I wanted to be a primary school teacher. But one year in the company of the sour-smelling little people, changed by mind. Kids really do smell. The little’uns smell of stale wee and Lenor; the older ones, BO and Lynx.
I quickly realised that I didn’t care for nurturing their creativity, I was too busy developing my own. But I loved the playful environment; a milieux of colourful and textured wall displays, dress-up boxes, role-play corners, powder paints and sponge and custard puddings. It was a comforting yet inspiring environment in which creativity could bloom without the boundaries and restrictions of the boring, grown-up world outside.
For the record Marjorie, because I know you’re bound to be wondering, my childhood wasn’t lacking in mischief and merriment. I’m not some Michael Jackson character determined to recreate a lost childhood with clowns, affable monkeys and merry-go-rounds. I just love the realm of the child: a world of promise and possibility, a bit like the sweetie room in Willy Wonka’s factory, where the fat kid gets stuck up a pipe; the one with the chocolate river and strawberry and cream spotty toadstools. That’s my world, Marjorie; a world of pure imagination.
I wonder if Richard Adams wrote his books for children. Or Jonathan Swift or Lewis Carroll. Doubtful, Watership Down’s no Max and Ruby is it? I watched the horrific adapted animation when I was five and I can still picture the blood dribbling down the fangs of General Woundwort. And the little shadowy soul of Fiver zig-zagging up to heaven. Gulp.
I’m digressing. To be honest, I think I have answered my own question. Can I write a children’s book when I’d rather spend an evening painfully waxing my chin than be in a room with two or more incessantly chattering children? Probably not. But then again, maybe it’s still worth me querying Penguin with my Simon the Suicidal Snake story. What do you think?