Showing posts with label Piers Torday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Piers Torday. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 January 2017

More Books Please by Savita Kalhan

Happy New Year!

Last year I did my usual reading challenge. It used to be to read 55 books, but for 2016 I decided to up it to 60 books. As usual, the mix of books I've read range from middle grade to teen to young adult to adult, and they include a vast range of genres.

I read the middle grade and teen books for the library reading group that I run in Finchley Church End library, which now also includes some pre-teens as well as 13 to 15 year olds. Here are a few of our favourite reads for 2016. These books made the kids laugh, cry, hold their breath, or cheer. They have held them captive and made them seek out the authors so they can read more by them.

Some of the older teens in the group are now interested in reading young adult books, but I remember when they first started, just under two years ago, when all they wanted to read were older middle grade and young teen books. Some of them only managed to read a book a month then. Now they're are all taking up to four books a month to read for the reading group. It has been so satisfying to see the kids' reading habits develop and their love of reading increasing month by month.

The only thing that's holding us back is the budget for teen books. I'm sure the problem is the same for all libraries. I would love for my group to have more choice available to them. 

So if there are any publishers out there who would like their teen books read and reviewed by a teen reading group and would like to donate some books in exchange, or would just like to donate teen books, then please feel free to get in touch with us!

Savita's WEBSITE

Monday, 12 May 2014

4 Classic School Visit Questions, by Piers Torday

I believe that children, especially primary school age children, are the most restlessly creative and imaginative human beings alive. Dragons who hate going to the dentist, parrots who have learned to fly underwater, and pandas who turn pineapples into hats are just a few of the recent inspiring creations from some of my creative writing workshops in schools.

Dana Fradon (New Yorker, 1953)

But they are also children, which means they are not always either aware of this huge imaginative potential, or equipped to access it on demand or under pressure. And of course, as children, they lack the emotional maturity, craft or life experience to do much with it - but that doesn't invalidate the strength of the imagination.

Left to their own devices, an arm curved round a piece of paper and a pen in their hand, endless improvised drawings and visualisations tumble forth with an unselfconscious energy that most adults - whether they are engaged in a creative industry or not - would envy. Every school visit for me proves Baudelaire right - "Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will."

Baudelaire looking at his most unchild friendly

However in school visits, this genius (quite understandably) often deserts children, when after forty minutes or so of authorial prancing round, they are asked to function like dull grown ups at a literary festival and "ask me a question".

Too often, this places the discourse no longer in the world of castle in the clouds world of make-believe and stories, but in the constant over-the-shoulder looking world of careers, worry, tested expectation and obsessive productivity that our current cultural system irrevocably steers most human beings towards. And so, they try to function accordingly, and I'm sure many of you will have heard the questions below.

I always answer them as truthfully and as honestly as I can, because it is impossible on such brief acquaintance to separate the earnest and authentic enquiry by the next J K Rowling from the unthinking auto-response nervously asked on rote. But here are some more alternative replies I dream of on the bus back.

1) How long did it take you to write your book?

I wrote this book in forty seconds while my demon wrapped a girdle around the world 


I have been labouring on this tome since the dawn of time, when beings as yet unknown to man appeared in the sacred flame, whispering the collective knowledge of the last great civilization, and bid me decode them for your permanent improvement.

2) Do you know any celebrities?

I wouldn't say I know that many celebrities, but put it this way - Harry Styles is my chauffeur.

Harry Styles
Harry Styles has recently abandoned a successful pop career to drive children's authors to school visits.

3) How much do you get paid?

Every week, the Aka Khan, the world's richest man no-one has heard of, sends me a private jet laden with jewels and treasure beyond your imagining from his vaults, such is the value he places on children's literature.

4) Are you going to write any more books?

I will write as the muse dictates. Whether it be a book a week, or a book every quarter of century, the volume is irrelevant - what counts is the power of the story and love for life, the world and all she has to offer contained within its pages.

But of course - every fifth question can be a gem. What's the most unexpected thing you've been asked on a school visit, and what did you reply?

I think my favourite is still the boy who said "Could you make your next book a bit shorter?"

Piers Torday

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Writing for love

"Yes, but do you love your characters?'

It was my mother asking the question, over breakfast . I’d returned home for a weekend, just before my first book came out.  I’m not very sharp at answering direct questions over breakfast, so I think I mumbled something into my boiled egg about “I mean I like some of them, if that’s what you mean…”

But I don’t think it was.

Now my second novel has just come out, and I’m starting a third, her question has made me reflect on a broader point about writing.   

Of course I love my characters.  It would be much harder to write if I didn’t. I love the heroes, I love the villains. I love the characters that are a pleasure to write, the characters that take more work. I even love the characters that ultimately don’t quite cut it on the published page and the total failures lying lifeless and rejected in my draft folder.

The reason I have to is that, whilst I’ve brought in elements of observation from remembered encounters with real life characters, friends and strangers, real and fictional, every character I write is – in the end – only as revealing or engaging to a reader as I can make them. They are all, ultimately, nebulous and circulating thoughts deep in my subconscious given bones and clothes made of type.

So if I don’t love them, I don’t love my work.  And whilst I’m sure this view will change and evolve the more I write, I’m find myself more and more convinced that loving your work – is the only true motivator to sitting down in front of the screen each day.  Especially when you’re under pressure. Or not feeling remotely inspired. Or hungover.

And by that, I don’t mean a narcissistic self-absorption – although of course, a degree of that is almost impossible to avoid when you sit alone in front of a computer for hours with only Twitter and your thoughts for company.  I am also trying to avoid queasy self-help territory.

What I mean is that I’m learning to authentically love my work for itself, and not because of its subjective value for others. Love it when it's easy,  love it when you think you will never ever finish writing this book.

I want my books to be published and read. I want readers to enjoy them and critics to acclaim them. I want the ideas in them to provoke debate. Staying in print, on library shelves, hopefully inspiring or entertaining lots of young readers –  of course those things matter deeply.

But I've realized that ultimately I need to love my characters - the work of creating them -  as writing is the means to an end, that goes beyond all that.

Continued  publication  in some form permits me – just -  a daily existence where I have the freedom and time to work out what I think about the world. To read and read till the shelves collapse. To go for a walk in the park when I want.  To occasionally, just very occasionally, entirely escape from this world and lose myself completely in a fictional one of my own making.

So yes, Mum – I do love my characters. Because they allow me to do all that.

Piers Torday