World Book Week: Susie Day on why creative writing matters
Children's writer Susie Day recently met wish child Sophie, on World Book Week she blogs about how why she thinks she has the best job in the world, the emotional benefits of creative writing and her special afternoon tea with Sophie.
I often tell people I have the best job in the world. I’m not an astronaut, or a brain surgeon, or a wizard - but I could be all three any day of the week. I write books for children and young people. So while it looks like I spend all day sitting in a chair, in my head, and on the page, I can be flying through space or saving a life or conjuring up a Patronus.
Actually, most of the time I’m being an eleven-year-old, worrying about making new friends, or what bonkers thing my daft sisters, brothers, or dog will do next. My PEA’S BOOK and SECRETS series are all about friendship, families and feelings. They’re funny books, but they have a serious side too, like real life. I think I use them to figure out answers to important questions, like: what kind of person do I want to be? Could I live in an attic for a whole week eating nothing but cheese sandwiches? If my best friend wanted me to run round in circles pretending to be a horse, would I?
Where do those ideas come from?
The answer isn’t just ‘my imagination’. (I’m not that clever.) One thing I tell children when I visit schools is that we are all storytellers, in ways we often don’t notice. Have you ever told a joke? Or unburdened yourself of feeling cross about the person eating stinky beef crisps next to you on the train by telling a friend? These are stories too. Narrative underpins our daily lives. And it’s a small step from ‘This happened’ to ‘I wish that had happened instead’ to ‘What if it had been a dragon on the train next to me eating the stinky beef crisps after all?’
Exploring ‘what if?’ is where all stories begin.
Thanks to the kindness of Make-A-Wish and their wishgranters, earlier this year I had the immense privilege of meeting a writer named Sophie, along with her lovely mum, over afternoon tea in Oxford.
Sophie, who’s twelve, loves to write fantasy adventure stories that start in the real world and transport you to an imaginary new place, like a daydream made real. Sometimes she uses magic portals to get there - and has to work out a way for her characters to get back. She doesn’t plan; she lets the story and the characters lead her. But when Sophie’s having a good writing day, she can’t possibly be distracted. It’s her passion. It brings her joy.
It was such a treat for me to meet such an interesting, funny, bright young woman. We could have talked forever, about the things we both find tricky (when we get stuck and don’t know what happens next! So frustrating), how to approach editing (I like to put my work in a drawer for a month before I look at it again with fresh eyes), and how to become a ‘real’ author.
But stories aren’t only for professionals - we can all tell them. There’s no special equipment required, no exam to pass. I find a laptop handy, but paper and pencil, a mobile phone to record your voice, or getting a friend to write your thoughts down for you all work too - or you might prefer to tell your stories through pictures or comic strips.
And unlike real life, as the writer YOU are in charge. Your stories can be as long or short as you choose. They stop when you want them to. If you get fed up, you can start again with something new, or go back and change what you wrote.
So the next time you find yourself on a train - or in a cafe - or in your bedroom staring out of the window - do keep an eye out for dragons.