I haven’t blogged for some time, it seems. I haven’t written assiduously for some time, it seems. My characters have not succeeded in calling to me, beckoning me, urging me into their worlds. Why? Writers block, of course, you say. Not as simple as that.
Writers will tell you they write because they have to write, as if we have been chosen to share this gift of words, similes and metaphors with the world. Yes, I write because I have to write; but I also write with another purpose. I started to write, as people know, because my children/our children had nothing that related to their lives, on this island, that they could read. Which comes first, the need to write or the importance of writing relevant stories? And if this importance of writing is removed will the need to write also disappear? This has turned out to be, for me, a serious question this year. I began to think that it didn’t matter any more whether we wrote or not, that our books could not affect our children’s lives when compared to other environmental variables; that our books could not compete with so many negative variables.
You see, in this our fiftieth years of independence, we were asked to consider the achievements of our country, (naturally), and we did, and we found them somewhat wanting. The Olympics and our bold and brave athletes was the magnificent accomplishment, the highlight. It is not that we haven’t achieved; it is that we are such a creative people, rising to such heights of excellence when we set our minds to it, that surely we should have achieved so much more, it seems, including becoming more caring citizens. Someone told me that this ‘lack of achievement’ applies to all of the Caribbean. I’m not comforted. I could as easily then be discouraged about our lack of cohesion as a region.
And then if you think about it, the world itself has seen a year of distress after distress, and much to cause us to despair. It seems as if the world has gone mad. We absorb sadness after sadness, one after another, before we can even catch our breaths. And the latest tragedy affecting the children of the world has left us bewildered, and dissolved into tears.
How does this all relate to writing children’s books, you ask? Well, you see, you can write anything you want for adults; it will sell or it won’t; it can be a run away success or not; it can sit waiting to be a classic after many years or just be passing entertainment. However writing for children is a far more serious thing; even when it is humourous, or fantasy. There are responsibilities which a children’s writer has to bear in mind. And children’s writers the world over are aware of this; they take these into consideration as they write. That you, the readers, may not be aware of this, is a testimony to the skill, the talent of the writer. I would venture to say that most writers believe that the child/young adult, should come away with something valuable from their books: laughter; courage; the excitement of the adventure; the joy of discovering words and breathtaking images; a revealing of some historical past; fascination with an idea; delight in interacting with a character; but most of all, the sense that there is a sort of hope after all, that things could work out in some way, and that they, the young readers, can take this knowledge/experience into their everyday lives, to shine even a little light along their way. (Although they may not know that is what they seek.)
So I ask in a world gone mad… what do we write for our children? In a world where it seems old-time/humanitarian values have disappeared… what do we write for our children? In a world where we know that each individual is deserving of our respect and tolerance, but where beliefs which we think are integral to our particular lives polarize us, what do we write for our children? I do not have the answer, my friends.
Funnily enough, blogs I’ve read in the last month or so suggest that we should more than ever write about contemporary concerns for children old enough to understand them. That could be challenging. And in future blogs, I will invite you to consider how far way in time and space a happening has to be before it can become the subject for non-fiction or fiction. A very recent blog suggested that books can be healing, and again one might ask about time and space. I do not have the answer, my friends. However, by writing this blog, I know we have to keep on writing for our children; here in this island, even if our people do not realise that there are local children’s books - they always act so surprised (Nancy Drew et al still more relevant it seems) ; here in this region, even if we do not buy each other’s children’s books (Enid Blyton and company still more relevant it seems); in a world which we perhaps no longer understand, we have to discover what each of us should write for our children. We have to be brave enough to write, not in spite of, but because of the many variables to which our children are exposed. Our children need us - even though they may not know that they do.