Being an author is not just about writing books. At least, it isn't for me. It's about loving the people I am writing for. It's about making them feel special, and doing my very best to give them something they will enjoy and remember. It is about inspiring imaginative play and helping children develop a love of books and reading. It is also about helping parents create special moments with their children and giving them a helping hand with the difficult job of parenting.
I get lots of tweets from parents telling me that one of my books is their son or daughter's favourite and that they have read it every bedtime for the last three weeks. It fills me with great pride to know that something I have helped create means so much to somebody. When I think back to my own favourite bedtime stories as a child, it is with very fond memories of special time with a parent. These moments are so precious and I feel immensely proud to be a part of this special time for families across the UK.
I sometimes get a batch of letters too, from school children who have read some of my books. Like the ones pictured that came a couple of days ago from a group of young children at St George's Infant School and Nursery in Colchester.
Their teacher, Deborah Laughlin, emailed in advance, asking permission to send the letters. She said, "I work as a Nurture Leader at a primary school in Colchester Essex. The children in my group love your stories, (we read a different one almost daily). They are so enthusiastic and ask lots of questions, some of which I can't answer, therefore I was wondering if it would be possible for the children to write to you?"
The letters arrived last week, along with an email from Mrs Laughlin telling me that the children had walked to the post box and posted the letters themselves. They were all very proud of their achievement! I have now written back with a little something to keep in their classroom.
It is wonderful to see teachers going the extra mile like this for their children. And it is wonderful for me to feel that my work has inspired these children enough that they want to sit down and do some writing. Never underestimate how much effort it takes young children to write something. They have a huge amount to think about: letter formation, spelling; getting their meaning across; sentence structure etc. It really is very hard work - even holding the pencil for a long time can be tiring. So motivating children can be a challenge at times.
But getting a reply to a letter they have written is hugely satisfying to a child - heck, it's hugely satisfying to ANYONE if you feel that the person you are writing to is important! It makes us feel special. It makes us feel like we matter. It makes us feel empowered that we can communicate our thoughts and that someone else will understand us and take us seriously. And as writers, mentors, educators and heroes to these children, we should recognise the importance of writing back.
They asked some brilliant questions too:
Why isn't there a rainbow in How to Catch a Dragon?
Why are there no princesses?
How old is Albie?
In doing so, they have given me food for thought - I will definitely ask Ed Eaves to add a rainbow or two to our next book.