On the river and In The Trees: five questions with Pauline Fisk

At Oxford Spires Academy on World Book Day, we did an event with Rachel Ward (which we'll be writing up separately) and Pauline Fisk - author of books including Sabrina Fludde, Midnight Blue and In The Trees, a book she wrote after time spent amongst the rainforests of Belize.

Pauline spoke to pupils about her books and writing life - before signing books in the school library:

This was appropriate really given that Pauline practically lived in the library as a child, something which she talks about on her blog:

"I grew up in the suburbs of south London, a shy girl who loved books and created a world inside her head.  The way I saw it, my parents’ garden was full of hidden fairy folk, the alley behind it was their kingdom and if home life was boring at least the local library was close by - my gateway to all things fabulous and exciting."

We were able to interview Pauline between signings in the library, and find out more about her writing life and inspirations...

Five Questions with...Pauline Fisk's Writing Life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just begun a new book – but I’d rather not talk about it too much as it’s at an early stage. However, I’ve really got into blogging recently, involved in a project entitled My Tonight from Shrewsbury. It’s a one year blog, and I’m interviewing everyone I can in the town (from the Big Issue seller up to the prison governor . We’re trying to get to the heart of an English town – it’s a big commitment, but I’m loving it.

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

(Thinks hard about the question) - I’m a bit torn about this, can I have two? OK, the first is ‘please yourself’. I was told this by Gerry Anderson, I was working with him on Lavender Castle (a children’s stop-motion television series). He said “if you are enjoying it, the reader will enjoy it”. The second tip is ‘trust your own voice’. When I was very young, I tried to make myself 'read' like other authors, but you have to trust your own voice, your own way of writing.

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

Best: the stories themselves, I love writing from young people’s point of view, discovering things for the first time, opening up, getting out there and having new experiences. There’s optimism there, and hope. But basically, children are really interesting! The worst thing – and this isn’t just for children’s writing – it’s a terrible time for authors at the moment, publishing is in disarray, no-one knows where it’s going to end up.

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing of snack essential before you can start work?
Well, I don’t need much to start writing, certainly not a survival kit – in fact, it’s harder to get me to stop writing than start. But to get my best writing, I like to get to the computer as soon as possible after getting up. No coffee, family, conversations – as quickly as I can. There is something very special about the in-between world before full ‘awakeness’. Issues you have, in fact the problems of the world, seem to solve themselves at this time.

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?
Well, creatively, as mentioned above, was finding my own voice. But the real publishing breakthrough came with winning the Smarties Prize (in 1991). I was up against Roald Dahl and other fantastic authors. That was a fabulous year, shortlisted for Carnegie, no-one had ever heard of me before then!

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