My 13-year-old daughter has just won a creative writing prize. I would like to get her a book that continues to inspire her talent – either a teaching book or something that inspires the creative spark in her.
First, many congratulations to your daughter! A lot of people say that they want to write but then never get down to actually doing it, partly because it is very hard! When asked by children about how to become a writer I have frequently heard authors ask them in reply, “Do you write? Do you like writing?” Sometimes children and adults alike think they’d like to be writers but don’t think about just how much work it will take to become one. Your daughter has already cracked that – and with success. All writers stress how important it is to read and read and read if you want to become a writer. Jacqueline Wilson loved Enid Blyton when she was very young – not the adventures, which irritated her but the real-life stories. It is easy to see why and how that influenced her own work! But by age eight, the young Jacqueline had grown out of children’s books altogether, and would read any kind of ‘real life story’ she could lay her hands on. It was a way of feeding her thirst to find out more and of developing her own creativity. Philip Pullman and Michael Morpurgo were both influenced by listening to Rudyard Kipling’s wonderful Just So Stories being read aloud. The wonderful flow of words such as ‘The great, grey-green greasy Limpopo river all set about with fever trees’ resonated for them as they still do today for many young readers. Philip was then influenced by Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll stories and Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives, not for the adventures alone, but also for the gorgeous pictures that accompanied them. As a teenager, he discovered adult books that delighted him such as Leslie Charteris’ The Saint stories and Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet before moving on to Dylan Thomas and the metaphysical poets, because at that time he was writing poetry himself. A brief look into the reading histories of just two writers for children shows how they navigated their way from books for children to books for adults, searching for the kinds of stories and the kinds of language that touched them as readers and influenced them as writers. Bearing that in mind, I’d choose something by one of the contemporary writers with exceptional storytelling skills. Award-winning authors such as Philip Pullman, Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff, Sally Gardner and Marcus Sedgwick to name just a few, all write wonderful stories for readers of twelve plus. They tell very different kinds of stories and they tell them in very different ways, but all of them will, I’m sure, first entertain your daughter and then inspire her writing.