One of the first pieces of advice I got as a beginner writer was to read other writers’ work. I’ve modified that for myself – read about the writers themselves as well. When you’re alone and suffering those scary writers’ blues and wondering if you’ll ever achieve the goals you’ve set, it helps to know that some really famous writers have been where you are and still have days when they doubt themselves or find it difficult to get that vivid idea in their head onto the page.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Judith Kerr’s brilliant children’s book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and it is also Judith Kerr’s birthday today, Thursday, 14 June. Judith Kerr is 95 years old and came to England as a refugee, escaping the wave of Fascism which took the lives of so many. The Tiger Who Came to Tea was a bedtime story she told to her daughter and it became her first picture book.
In a BBC Radio 4 programme this morning, she explained how she’ll make several copies of a piece of work to give her scope to play around and develop it. She freely admits that “Drawings don’t take me as long now because I’ve got better at it.” Such honesty is encouraging when so many famous writers prefer not to share their development process and give the impression that they’ve always been able to create with great ease.
Listening to her speak this morning and reading about her in the The Telegraph Magazine of 2 June, she had some useful tips and although she is an illustrator, she’s also a writer:
“I go on for as long as it works. You can’t just stop, even if what you’re doing is rubbish, because you have to work through that …”
However, when she has to stop, it’s always “at a point where the next thing is sort of in view.” And her final comment: “A blank page can be very intimidating.” We can all identify with that!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Judith Kerr!
“Pink Rabbits and Other Animals” available to download on BBC i player