Well, by an afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson it wasn’t just me and her, but nearly five hundred girl fans and their mums (mainly) crammed into Kingston’s Rose Theatre. Viv Groskop was understated as literary event host, the two seats opposite, that me and my son had our eye on, were soon occupied so we shuffled down on our silver and brown fluffy floor cushions brought from home and got comfortable. Off we went.
Jacqueline Wilson is watchable. With her shock of short grey hair and huge silver baubles, black cowboy boots and her dark darting eyes, she’s mesmerizing. She’s answers questions in fast-paced humour, her mind flitting around round like a butterfly.
I loved her answers to some great questions thrown at her by an adoring fan base of girls aged mainly between seven and thirteen. Borrowing her passion for first person writing, here is my personal impression of this creative lady’s talk:
On meeting Nick Sharratt:
“Writers don’t usually get a choice about who their illustrator is – I was lucky the publisher set up a meeting between me and Nick. Sometimes if you earn lots of money for the publishing company, you have a bit more say! It’s funny but we were both rather shy. He was wearing a very smart grey suit and looked very buttoned up. I was looking for someone who was quirky someone who could do all of these little pictures I had imagined to go in Tracy Beaker. Someone who could really bring her character to life on the page, almost like doodles in a diary – I don’t ask for much! Anyway I had just reached down to pick up a tissue out of my handbag or something when I looked under the table and noticed that he had bright yellow socks on. That was it – I knew he was the right man to illustrate my book.”
On finding names for her characters:
Opal Plumstead? Well I’d just spent a huge amount of money on a rather large opal ring and was feeling a bit guilty about it, so I thought I call the book Opal, I can say I named the book because of the ring! Tracey Beaker. I was in the bath – that’s my day dream time – and I was thinking about a surname for Tracy. I knew I wanted to call her Tracy and wanted a last name that was a bit silly that would stick in the mind. Toilet, soap, flannel all sounded a bit silly. When I went to rinse my hair, I use an old snoopy beaker for this, I thought that’s it – Beaker!
On being a writer:
I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I was very little – I used to read a lot as a small child and even before I could read, I used to make up stories to picture books. It took me a long time to make it as a writer, I had some very good teachers at school, but none of them would have imagined I would succeed at being a writer. I used to go to those grim adult parties, where you have to introduce yourself to complete strangers. I would always say my name clearly because usually no-one can never remember anyone’s name. People ask you what you do for a living, I would say I write children’s books, they would say; what name to you write under? Clearly the implication being, they had never heard of me!
I’m very disciplined, I make myself write 1,000 words a day in the morning, even before I start any of the other writer-ly duties, such as checking proofs or doing publicity. As long as I’ve done my word count each day I feel better.
On writing Tracy Beaker:
This is the point where more people heard of Jacqueline Wilson’s the writer; Tracy was a lot of fun to write, she is sassy and spirited and likes to do things her own way. Tracy Beaker was a lucky book for me, I met Nick Sharratt, the illustrations were just as I wanted them and Tracy and her adventures were commissioned by the BBC.
On why my main character’s are girls:
Well, I feel I know more about girls, I have a daughter and no sons so it’s feels natural for me to write about girls. I really enjoy it and I’ve even sat through Frozen and I will be going to see Cinderella at the cinema! I also tend to write in the first person, to make my books feel immediate. I was a little girl a long time ago, so I can pretend to be my characters and this seems to work.
I really enjoyed the talk, as a writer, albeit for a different genre, I learned a lot.
I give you words like I give you gold