Thursday, January 17, 2013

Of Best Friends and Favourite Cheese: Susie Day and the 'Life of Pea'

Author's get asked the best questions when they visit primary schools. Once you push past the common questions of 'Where do you get your ideas' and 'Who was your favourite author' you tend to get less obvious questions.

Questions such as 'what would you have done if you hadn't been a children's writer?' or even 'what's your favourite cheese?'



Susie Day - author of 'Peas Book of Best Friends' - handled these and other questions brilliantly talking to pupils from Dunmore Primary School and Carswell Community School.


Susie took the children on her journey to becoming a writer, starting with her desire to be a children's character (Lucy from Narnia, a Moomin, etc.) through to her hopelessly romantic idea of what a writer was (quill pen, castle, etc.) before explaining the reality of writing (scribbled notes in between changing nappies, sorting post and being a tour guide).



For those budding writers in the audience (and there were plenty more I suspect once Susie had finished) she took them through the basics of character, setting and plot - before getting children to guess what was in the box as a way of getting ideas to start telling a story.

There was audience participation too: volunteers were asked out the front to tell the story of Pea, her Mum and two sisters. She confessed that the idea for Peas Book of Best Friends was sown by thinking about JK Rowling, and in particular what it must have been like for her eldest daughter suddenly finding herself with a very famous writer Mum...



The children at both schools had prepared brilliantly, and were a hugely attentive and engaged audience.

(What was particularly thrilling to discover was that Dunmore has a Friday afternoon writing activity called "Write Here, Write Now" in which children are encouraged to do free writing for 30 minutes. It's a great initiative - and we could definitely spot a few budding authors in the queue to meet Susie after the event.)


A huge thank you to both schools for being such wonderful hosts, to the children for giving Susie such a warm and enthusiastic welcome - and of course to Susie for revealing so much about her writing journey and giving such an inspirational and entertaining talk.

As always - we made sure Susie gave a little more insight into the writing process, and we asked her five little questions...

Five questions with...Susie Day's Writing Life

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently writing Peas Book of Birthdays. It's due on July, so I have until the end of January to finish it!

2. What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

"Writing is re-writing" - lots of people have said this, not sure who said it originally though! But it's great advice.

3. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

The best is getting to work in your PJs (not sure you should write that) - and of course going to schools, meeting your readers - which is a joy. The worst is when the writing is going really badly, you have no ideas in your head, and you think 'I can't do this'. This happens a lot during the writing process incidentally!

4. Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing of snack essential before you can start work?

Tea! And lots of it! In my big special mug. And Ceylon tea if possible (you get the idea!)

5. What was your biggest breakthrough?

It was when I won a competition, the BBC Talent Children's Writer's Prize 2004. This was the first time I had shown my writing to anyone, and also the first time I had told people in my family I was writer. Everything flowed from there.

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