How it happened
Last year, one of the first magazines on my list to approach for a review of Freckles and Friends was New Nature, a fresh online magazine aimed at young people, who I had been following on Twitter for some time. The lovely Emma responded with an enthusiastic yes please and said that she would ask around to see who she could line up to do the review.
Not long afterwards came the news that she had arranged for a review to be done by Year 8 of Calderstones School, in Liverpool! Their teacher comes across as just the right sort of teacher to have, positive and engaged with the world around her. I looked forward to the answers with a mix of excitement and anxiety. It was so exciting to have a class of schoolchildren go through the book. But what would they say?
The tweeted glimpses of their work looked positive and I awaited the promised piece. By October came the fact that Emma was no longer working on the magazine, but Alice made contact with the school and promised that a blog would be forthcoming.
When there was still no news, I made contact with the teacher in February this year and she promised to send me the scripts so that I could write them up.
So. I wrote the book and I am going through the reviews. Authors rarely get the chance to respond to feedback, it is certainly not a good idea to go on the defensive. What has struck both of us (Simon and me) is how consistent these kids were in their reaction to the book. For this reason I have decided to quote from each of their pieces where they had something individual to say about the book. I will then summarise their niggles and the grading that they gave. At the time they were thirteen years old. To have taken the trouble to write their reviews is a mark of their characters, as the book was really written for younger children, a fact that they all pointed out with relish.
How it happened
In this current era there appears to be a need for things to be categorised or allocated nonsensical 'rules' about what is or is not appropriate. In the greeting card industry this has taken things to an arguably daft level, where a card for the wife needs to have 'For My Wife' on it or one for the stepson similarly has to have 'For My Stepson'. It's quite normal for people in these relationships to know full well what they are to each other, so why is it SO important to find something that says it?
In writing, apparently, you've got to be published in your 20s or else you are a freak of nature. Newspapers regularly spout gushing prose of shock and awe at anyone who publishes in their 40s for the first time. Anyone older than that, in the eyes of these not all youthful journalists, appears to be rebellious or overly ambitious.
The best writing of any sort comes from having had experiences! There should never be hard or fast rules for when you use those experiences or share them. My mother was an art teacher many years ago and her favourite saying has always been 'an artist is not a special kind of person, every person is a special kind of artist'.