Before my niece was born my brother asked me if I’d like to write her some stories. There were two problems with this. Firstly, any stories for her would require pictures and my drawing is abysmal, as is my skill at hunting down on-line pictures for my blog. Secondly, I have never before attempted to write for children. The creative side of my brain being very much attracted to the darker end of the fantasy spectrum. I called my blog the Wicked Queen’s Mirror for goodness sake, not the Princess in the tower – although towers, glass coffins, glass slippers they’re all a bit wrong if you look too closely.
My niece is now a toddler and despite some efforts I haven’t managed to come up with anything. She does read though, and she remembers. On one visit I found myself enchanted while she rattled out verbatim the entirety of The Gruffalo while taking the role of the little brown mouse. My brother played the Gruffalo himself with equal enthusiasm but markedly less talent. Watching my niece’s performance it made me wonder how much I will really get to know her, or she me. Our homes are separated by The Thames and the circular car park of the M25. As my niece babbled away about the Gruffalo’s terrifying appearance, I had the sudden, desperate urge to connect to her through the medium that we both loved.
I do genuinely believe that stories are one of the most important things in society and they bring people together though shared experience and identity. For a moment I did consider reinventing some fairy tales for my niece. I wanted her to know that Little Red Riding Hood can be a role model and before the Victorians got hold of her she was more than capable of rescuing herself from the wolf. That is the entirely wrong way to go about it though. How can I share an experience with my niece if I am preaching down to her? I have not enjoyed trying to write children’s stories, but I do enjoy reading them. I believe I will have more success if I find out what my niece loves and enter her world. Perhaps that way, rather than being the wicked queen I will remember what it was like to be the princess stepping out in the world in innocence and shed some of my cynicism. I will no longer be horrified and repelled by the colour pink. Who knows, perhaps that could lead to me writing something she will enjoy. Failing that, if I am very lucky, one day when she’s grown up, she may get a slightly twisted variation on Little Red Riding Hood dedicated to her.
How about you? Are there any parents, aunties or uncles out there who have written stuff for children, or do the children in your life inspire you to write? Let me know, I need some help here.