Friday, 1 March 2013

Speaking picturebook - Linda Strachan

Writing, for me, is like two sides of a coin. I spend a good bit of time on my own and at other times I am out and about meeting people of all ages and talking about books and writing.

When I am at home in my shed 'Tuscany' I am all on my own.  It is the place where I shut out the rest of the world and for some reason I find I can concentrate better there than almost anywhere else. 
Some writers write in coffee shops, surrounded by noise and people and they create their own bubble to work in.
 I admit I have done this at times but I am too nosy and end up people-watching instead of writing and it's not so good if I am thinking about a picturebook, because I like space to spread papers around so that I can sketch little images and look at how it will lay out over the pages.

Other writers work a table or desk in their kitchen or bedroom or study and I don't suppose it matters as long as you can find that quiet zone in your head where the ideas and characters can come to life.
Elm Park School New Zealand
The other side of my writing life is all about being with people, travelling around to visit schools talking to children, teachers and  librarians and talking at events or book festivals or conferences.

 Children love to be told stories and they enjoy picturebooks what ever age they are and whatever part of  the world they live in.

I never thought I would enjoy this side of things as much as I do.  I used to be too shy to stand up and speak in front of people but over time I have discovered that it can be a lot of fun, and sometimes a real challenge.  I love to speak to children, whether they are 3 or 13, or older.
They are amazing, imaginative and interesting. You never quite know what they will ask you.

I cannot understand people who will not make time to listen to children.  They have such interesting things to say, such a fresh way of looking at the world.
   I love talking picturebook in libraries, schools and nurseries.

Picturebooks are so much about the characters and sometimes I have a trusty friend or two to accompany me.
I love having props when I visit schools, something to surprise the children, to get even the quietest child to take part.

Of course big  Hamish cannot come everywhere with me but I do have other creatures who often come to visit schools with me.

I've found that children are delighted to help tell the story of What Colour is Love? especially if they can get to hold one of the characters, or a colour card.

Telling Hamish stories with sally on the Falkirk Wheel
 I've read to children in all sorts of places, in
wildlife parks, haunted castles, and even on a canal boat high up on the Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel (the only rotating boat lift in the world)

Sometimes I am working on my own, but now and then I do an event with Sally J. Collins,  the illustrator of the Hamish books.  She gets the children drawing Hamish which is a lot of fun.
 This week I had a very special delivery, the very first Hamish cuddly toy,  which I will be taking with me as I start a month of events.  Between now and the end of March I will be visiting lots of schools and speaking to all ages and a lot of the time I will be 'speaking picturebook'!


Linda Strachan is the award winning author of over 60 books for all ages, from picture books to teen novels, and writing handbook Writing For Children.


  1. What a lovely post and I love the cuddly Hamish - I'd be fit to bursting if one of my characters were made into a toy.

    1. Thanks, Lynne, I am absolutely delighted with wee Hamish.

  2. Great photos of you speaking 'picturebook', Linda. Ah yes, it's that's time of year when we're out and about. I would love the opportunity to rewrite my picture books after having read them to children so many times.

    1. Always! Reading them out loud when writing is one thing but reading a book to a group of children seems to bring out all sorts of things you never expect.
      It changes the book into something more, I think, and give a great insight into what children enjoy most, and what they find funny, or fascinating.

  3. I know what you mean about becoming two people - one who writes peacefully and quietly on her own, one who performs for children with a big smile. But I have recently found I need a third me - for admin! I seem to spend more and more of my time answering emails and setting up events and visits. All those forms of me can be exhausting! I love the photos of your visits - full of beaming children. And the little Hamish is so cute :)

  4. The children are definitely the stars! I have a lot of fun and as you can see the children do, too.
    I agree, it seems ridiculous quite how much time is spend in admin organising even the most straightforward school visit or event. About a year ago I decided that I needed an events organiser. She is wonderful and sorts out all the details for me otherwise I would never have any writing time at all.