The child within us

When adults view children as some kind of alien race, as if they themselves were delivered to the world as pre-formed grown-ups, never having touched down in the inescapable years of infancy - I smile wryly.

These folk are possibly akin to writers who deem children's writing as being not grown-up enough to either enjoy as adult readers nor indeed to be seen in a serious literary light.

To blank the irrefutable existence of childhood, to attempt to package it up and pretend it never happened – well, it's impossible. For better or for worse, we've all been there. In all that we do and say in the moment of today, our child-self will be there, with a buried treasure of nuances. Like the pea buried beneath the layers and layers of mattresses – we may not be able to say what these are exactly, but their presence will most definitely be felt.

To be able to connect with children through stories and illustrations – we naturally tap in to our own experiences, to our own resonances. We look to our own journey - albeit along a myriad of different routes. But, I wonder, how much we do so consciously?

I was listening to Gardeners' Question Time, driving home on Friday afternoon. A woman asked the panel a question about her lawn. It was new – laid in the garden of a recently built house. Much of it appeared to be healthy, but every so often an ankle-spraining hole would appear, and with an array of mottled patches the overall colour was more camouflage than village green.

'Ah', Replied the panel. 'New build. Beneath your grass all kinds of things will be buried - from whole flattened wheelbarrows, to crisp packets. The brown patches, where the grass doesn't grow very well, that'll be where there's only rubble beneath, no nutritious soil, where there's nowhere for the rain to filter away. Your only real solution is to peel back the turf, and have a good look at what lies underneath.'

This image made me think of the process of writing, and, more specifically, of writing stories for children. To what extent are we aware of our own buried truths? How much do we really know what we know?  How much do we simply wander across the surface, fall down the holes and stare at the brown patches of our own childhoods, of our own lives – without saying – ah – that part in the story, that's where the wheelbarrow lies buried.

A quick taster of some of the features coming up on next week's Words & Pictures:

Nick's Ten-Minute Blog Break - Tuesday
The Debut Author Series with Abbie Rushton - Wednesday
The Hook Finalists! Clues only... Thursday
And on Saturday, we'll be celebrating a SCBWI member's nomination for the Carnegie Medal

Nancy Saunders is the Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders

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