Tuesday, 7 January 2014

‘Writing for children is an art in itself, and a most interesting one'

As a child, my parents encouraged me to read- well, when I say encouraged, I mean forced; and now here I am studying English Literature at university. Reading is something that I try and make sure I do every night; I love books- novels, poetry, anything formed by words. Over the years, I have become a massive believer that each piece of text holds the key to the author’s soul. No matter how much an author denies that their work is not even slightly autobiographical, I disagree with them. To create such beautiful work takes soul, passion and of course, imagination- and what makes up your ‘imagination’? Life experiences, dreams, thoughts all combined with your own fantasies and a touch of magic!

Only yesterday did I watch the BBC television film, ‘Enid’, about the life of the infamous author Enid
 Blyton whose work practically made my childhood. If anyone asked me who my favourite author was the answer would be ‘Enid Blyton’ and the answer as to which series of books were my favourites would switch between ‘The Wishing Chair’ and ‘The Faraway Tree’ collections. The happy, idealistic world that the children in these books lived in and the magic of a chair with wings and a tree that could whisk you away to different lands, (my personal favourite being ‘Birthday Land,) with the help of faerie folk Silky and Moon-Face was enough to keep me entertained for hours on end. I will always credit Enid for my love of reading and I’m sure my parents will eternally thank her for keeping me quiet! I hate the fact that so many children today either do not get the opportunity to read brilliant books like these or that, in the case of many, they just don’t want to Unfortunately, as amazing as technology is these days, it’s a huge distraction to children and doesn’t give them the opportunity that I had- to read, imagine and play.  I used to spend hours with my younger cousins making up games; bossing them about and making them dress up in my grandma’s silk scarves. Every time I read a book, it’d trigger an idea for a new world with different characters and I’d turn those into stories written in scrawled black ink.  I
watch my very young cousins now and see how their ‘play’ involves watching the same film over and over again and playing on the Xbox, which is why I play the evil babysitter when I look after them and make them read with me! I am proud to say that the eldest got reader of the week at his school after I’d read with him! Reading is so important and we all have to use it in everyday life, so why not make it interesting and read things that you enjoy? Learning and pleasure at the same time- I’m all for it! What Enid did is write what all children wanted to hear about. Her talent was that she knew her audience, got into their mindsets, taught and kept them entertained simultaneously, which like she says for herself, is an art in itself!

So from watching the ‘Enid’ film, I learnt a lot about her and why her work, well, worked for so many children and continues to be a huge success today. Of course, I never take these biopic films at face value as the plot and events are obviously exaggerated for entertainment purposes. However, after further research, I have come to the conclusion that Enid wrote so well for children because she was still a child herself. Her father, whom she was very close to left when she was young girl and never came back, leaving her alone with her two younger brothers and her mother who she didn’t get on with. With a lack of father figure in her life and suffering from inevitable abandonment issues, it’s no wonder that she found her outlet in her writing and rekindling the adventures that she had often had with her father as a child. It is perhaps these that inspired her writing and by reliving these memories, enabled her to try and deal with her loss. Therefore, even though she was an adult writing for children, she was probably writing about her own experiences and feelings in a filtered and light-hearted manner; a manner that allowed her to be a child again. I can identify with Enid, having my own dad leave when I was a child and not being able to understand properly why. Even though things have changed and I’m practically an adult now, it is something that I will carry with me forever and has shaped the way that I want to live my life in the future.

Another thing that I found interesting about Enid was that she did not have a good relationship with her two daughters, yet she adored her young fans and would often hold tea parties and read to them. Again, this was probably something that stemmed from her own experiences as a child, yet her ability to relate and play with children other than her own seems very… odd. Maybe her lack of attachment with her fans, who she notably refers to as her ‘friends’ in the film, enabled her to relax more with them, rather than those she has held responsible for.

To conclude, (god, I sound like I’m writing an essay- which is probably what I should be doing right now,) I love Enid Blyton’s work and find it to be inspirational for any kind of author. I will definitely be making sure that any future children of mine read all of her books! I also believe that it is possible for ANYONE to write- everybody has a soul and a story and you never know- that story might just make you millions if you’re lucky ;)

NB: ‘Enid’ is a film that I would recommend any Blyton fan to watch or if it’s a rainy day and you’ve got nothing better to do- not a lot happens plot wise, but I found it really interesting to watch, and Helena Bonham Carter portrays Enid brilliantly. The full film is available to watch on YouTube.

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