Today I'm privileged to be interviewing all-round writing superstar Anthony McGowan who will be leading the WRITING FOR CHILDREN course at the Faber Academy starting in January. The course sounds utterly brilliant - you can check out the details here.
Tell us a little bit about the WRITING FOR CHILDREN course and your involvement with it.
Like many authors, I grew up in love with the Faber name and heritage. I’ve been teaching creative writing at various institutions for a few years now, as well as writing children’s books, which obviously meant I was picked up on the Faber Academy RADAR. They approached me, and I leapt at the chance. The course is aimed at anyone from total beginners, to someone who’s finished or almost finished a children’s book. We’ll be covering the whole range of writing for children and young adults, except for picture books. I suppose the course is a distillation of all that I’ve learned in my years as a children’s writer (and reader). There’ll be plenty of workshopping and exercises, and we have some amazing special guests – Anne Fine, Michael Rosen and Meg Rosoff.
Do you think there are unique challenges in writing for children and young adults?
The basics of good writing are the same for adults and children – it generally boils down to great characters and a compelling plot. The main challenge in for writing for children is to get into the mind of a child, without losing your adult sensibility. And you generally have to work harder to keep children reading, given how many other things there are for them to do. This puts a little more emphasis on plot and action, as well as humour, as ways of keeping your grip on the young readers.
What are some of the common mistakes people make when writing for children?
Not thinking about the audience. The belief that ‘fine’ writing is somehow enough. Spending a page describing the sunset. A failure to appreciate the beauty of a good fart gag.
You write for different age groups. Which is your favourite? Go on, you can tell us. We’re VERY good at keeping secrets.
I love writing for teenagers. It’s where my heart really is. And my head. It’s such a dramatic and intense time in our lives, the possibilities for stories are endless.
What are your feelings about first person versus third person? (Careful here, you’re talking to a first person kind of girl.)
Most of my books are first person narratives. It comes most easily to me, and seems the most natural way of telling a story.
What are your top three YA books of all time?
Red Shift by Alan Garner, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff and The Lord of the Rings by, well, you know who.
Have you ever walked up to someone in a bookshop and said, ‘I wrote that!’?
Yep, just once, with my first Y/A book, Hellbent. Couldn’t resist it! I still can’t go into a bookshop without turning my books so the cover faces out (I suspect we all do that …).
Please tell us your famous crossbow story, Twitter style (140 characters or fewer).
2 boys hunt rats with a crossbow in a filthy beck. An abandoned gypsy dog. A stray shot. A merciful boot crunches. The bones lie restless.
Best Twitter story EVER. Now, the most important question of all... If you could only have one for the rest of your life, which would you choose: chocolate or cheese?
I could actually live without either. Crisps, however …
Your answer has blown my mind. A life without chocolate OR cheese...?! I think I need to go and lie down for a minute. Thanks for stopping by, Tony!
Tony McGowan will be teaching Writing For Children at The Faber Academy, starting on January 25th 2011. For more information or to book, please visit www.faberacademy.co.uk, or call Ian Ellard on 0207 927 3827.