September 8, 2007
I finally attended a Writers' Circle meeting, organised by MPH at 1 Utama (a frighteningly gigannormous and somewhat user-unfriendly shopping complex!) As the speaker was children's book reviewer Daphne Lee, whom I had wanted to meet for some time, I just had to turn up. The moderator was Sharon Bakar, a book editor and self-confessed bibliophile.
Daphne was speaking on the daunting topic of "How to write good children's books"! In general, I agree with most of the points she made. The gist:
Daphne's advice was first of all, not to dummy down a book as she believes children should read above their level ( I agree). She also does not believe in teaching or preaching in her books - if a certain moral position occurs naturally that is fine but she will not write for the sole purpose of preaching (absolutely!). However, according to Daphne, writers should not be afraid to address serious/thorny issues or bad behaiviour in their books. Her advice is to know what you want to say and to be true to the story and the characters and also to yourself.
There was a lively discussion after the talk. One of the members of the audience asked if one should write about topics of current interest or follow certain popular trends etc According to Daphne, one should alwys write about something we are passionate about otherwise we will not give our best to the book. Point taken, but it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on current trends!
The topic than turned towards marketing books. Eric Forbes, from MPH publishing, gave the advice, that from the marketing point of view, it was better to publish a series of books on the same subject or with the same characters. We all agreed with this as a book will be "lost" by itself among so many books in a bookstore. I also pointed out the fact that my daughter, who is an avid reader, often said that she preferred books with several sequels! (She also thinks a book with less than 200 pages is not worth reading) From the psychological point of view, I think we grow to like a certain character in a book and regard him/her as a friend and therefore want to 'visit' them often!
Another participant thought that children's books should be published as cheaply as possible and should not be too good in terms of quality! Naturally, this was a position I totally disagreed with. I said children's books should be as high quality as possible because they are treasured and read and re-read for a long time. Adults fiction, on the other hand end up in the bin after one reading!
As I had to rush off to pick up my daughter, I didn't get to meet Daphne after all.