Children still enjoy many of the same books, but publishing goes through fashions and stories have become faster-paced. As a writer you have to keep up!

Award winning children’s book author and Five Quills writer Jane Clarke shares her inspirations, her approach to writing picture books and engaging young readers.

Image: Jane with grandpuppy Dutch, her sons and their families © Kristen Jimenez

1. When did you start writing and what inspires you to write?

I started writing at the age of 40 when I was working in a school library. The first story I wrote was for a 6 year old who wanted a book about a princess, a rabbit and shopping and was upset that the library didn’t have one. These days, my family and pets past and present are most often the inspiration for what I write.

2. What’s a typical day in your writing life and is there somewhere you like to write?

My best time for writing is 9 am to around 2pm. After that I go for walk, along the canal or to a park, or into town. I jot down ideas in my notebook that accompanies me everywhere, but I like to sit at my desk to write.

3. You have been a library assistant and a teacher, has this helped you as a writer?

Being a library assistant made me think about being a writer, my dream was to have a book with my name on it in the school library. As part of my job, I read a lot of picture books aloud, which helped me develop a sense of what worked and what didn’t.

I taught history at high school and archaeology at university level which wasn’t a lot of help with the under 10s 🙂

4. Does your approach to writing change depending on the type of book you are writing?

Yes. I write picture books and phonic reading schemes by hand, using pencil and lots of scrap paper – most of which gets crumpled up and thrown in the bin. I only go onto the computer at the very end of the writing process. For longer chapter books, I make notes, but type straight onto a computer.

5. Do you write books for yourself, or do you write them with particular children in mind?

I write them for myself, though I keep in mind my sons when they were young, and my little granddaughters.

6. How do you keep younger readers hooked until the end with a story?

I think very hard about the page turns, and try to make them surprising or exciting. A good editor is a great help with this!

7. How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?

I always read my texts out loud, even if it means I’m talking to myself.

8. Over the years have you seen a change in the types of books children enjoy?

Children still enjoy many of the same books, but publishing goes through fashions and stories have become faster-paced. As a writer you have to keep up!

9. Do you think it’s important for children to meet authors?

Yes, an author visit is a great way to inspire children to create their own stories and to encourage them to read and write.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Have fun writing your first draft, then get down to business and do loads of re-writes. If you’re writing for children, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Edited by Janey Robinson

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