On Monday I attended the ‘Everybody In Books’ event that was run by Inclusive Minds as part of Imagine Children’s Festival, on the Southbank. It was a day filled with fun creative activities for children. However, I didn’t attend with Angelo and Valentina. I attended the event in my capacity as an aspiring children’s book writer. I was particularly interested in the panel discussion on representation in children’s books, as well as the Q&A with Lauren Child. My children and I enjoy her Charlie & Lola books and the animated series, which we watch on CBeebies. Earlier in the day, young attendees at the event were asked what questions they wanted to ask Lauren. I confess, I was very impressed by the quality of questions put to Lauren. Her responses were warm and thorough. I’m sure the children appreciated being taken so seriously. I certainly found it helpful to me as an aspiring writer. It was insightful to hear the creative process of a successful published writer.
Here are some notes I made from Lauren’s responses to the questions put to her:
- She had tried to find work as an illustrator but couldn’t and so decided to write a book in which she did her own illustrations
- She has written and illustrated for 40 books
- She keeps a note book to write ideas and draw pictures as a clue to what the characters would look like but goes back and forth in this process
- There isn’t a set time to complete a book. Sometimes a book can be completed in a year, others like her new book ‘The New Small Person’ was seven years in the making
- She sketches as she writes, and goes back and forth but these days she mostly writes then draws because she now has the ability see the pictures in her head as she writes.
- She believes the inspiration you need can be just a few feet away from you. She draws inspiration from funny conversations in the grocery, looking out the window, an interesting outfit. As writer you got to see and listen.
- The character Lola was inspired by a little girl of about 3 years old who she spotted on a train in Europe (she was going to Amsterdam or Copenhagen, I can’t remember which, I didn’t note it down… sorry)
- Lola’s dresses were inspired partially by the dresses her own mother made for her and her sister, as well as the little girl she spotted on the train.
- Lola hates tomatoes because from speaking to friends and family it seemed to be the one thing that people either hated or loved. Originally, she had a story of two brothers and one was a fussy eater. Then she saw the girl on the train and she decided to change it to a brother and sister story and the sister particularly didn’t like tomatoes.
- She doesn’t show the parents in the Charlie & Lola books because she remembers as a child she spent lots of time with her own siblings. She wanted to conversations and the story to be without the grown up interruption.
- The reason Lola drinks pink milk was she remembered a school friend who had a little sister that drank pink milk. The mum would put a tiny drop of food colouring into the milk.
- Clarice is her favourite character to write about. Writing Ruby Redfort books was in response to questions from readers who had read Clarice Bean, because Clarice Bean read Ruby Redfort books
- She doesn’t read teenage books but she remembers the feelings from her own experience
- Charlie is 7 years old and Lola is 3 ½ years old
- In her spear time she love going to the cinema or walking around and people watching
- She prefers boots to shoes
- She never had a brother, only two sisters
After the Q&A there was a book signing. I had to have my copy of ‘The New Small Person’ signed for Angelo and Valentina. The story brought a little to my eyes. It so reminded me of them. Naturally, I seized the chance to ask her about the characters in her the book. Although, the book was seven years in the making, she says , yes, she always envisioned them as being black. Elmore Green was inspired by the son of a friend of hers. She loves the name Elmore and always thought if she had a son, she’d call him Elmore. Although the children are black, the story is about a sibling relationship.