Space to Dream – Our Exclusive Interview with Lauren Child at Chiddingstone
Thursday, May 10 , 2018
Meeting a Legend
It’s not everyday that you get to meet the Children’s Laureate, the highest accolade for an author for young readers. Lauren Child had sold millions of books helping to create a new generation of book lovers. Lauren has been made an MBE for her service to literature and an Unesco Artist for Peace. Her eye catching work broke all the publishing rules with her use of collage and fonts, that show life from the perspective of children. An innovative talent who’s books are loved by so many.
We were lucky to meet the amazingly talented author-illustrator Lauren Child on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday at Chiddingstone Castle for their annual literary festival. As proud sponsors of Lauren’s event, we were very excited to meet her.
Celebrating the Joy of Reading
The festival was bustling with families and book lovers of all ages enjoying the glorious sunshine, soaking in the author insights, exploring the history of the castle and some were even rolling up their sleeves to make clay creations with Aardman Productions (creators of Wallace and Gromit).
Talented and Supportive
Lauren’s warm and friendly manner captivated the audience as she talked about her approach to her books and about how hard it is to write and illustrate. She encouraged her audience to take the time to think up ideas and to enjoy being creative.
So Many Fans!
Afterwards, her fans queued in a long, snaking line that spilled out of the castle doors to meet Lauren and get their books signed.
Exclusive Interview With Chilstone
Lauren kindly answered some questions for Chilstone, sharing her inspiration, notably by not being so relentlessly busy and taking the time to allow ideas to bloom, by staring of windows, daydreaming.
Who or what inspired you to write and illustrate for children?
Nobody inspired me really. I fell into writing and illustrating for children by accident. Although, I had always had an interest in illustration, I really wanted to write an idea for a film and I wrote Clarice Bean That’s Me and it seemed to work as a book.
You’ve said that ideas come when you have space to stare out of the window, what do you see out of your window?
All sorts. There’s a surprising amount of activity. This morning for example, there was an argument going on and I wasn’t sure what it was about but my daughter said it was because someone had bumped into someone else’s car. And there is always something going on and there are so many different people who walk past my window. So there is no end of things to see. Because we live near a park, there are often people having their wedding photographs taken in the square for example.
What would your perfect garden be like?
Big. When I was growing up we had more than an acre of garden with a wood and a river, and my parents are brilliant gardeners so they created these sort of rooms within the garden. There were lots surprises. You could walk round the corner and you would find something that looked completely different from the other part of the garden. Because of them I’m absolutely passionate about gardens.
You once made lampshades for a living, did this inspire you to incorporate fabrics and collage into your illustrations?
Yes, it did. I’d always loved working in collage since I was a child, but I think it meant that I had lots of scraps available to me. Sometimes it’s about using what you see around you.
Do your ideas blossom from the words or pictures first?
It’s everything really. I see in pictures in my head but I need the words as well. As I’m writing I see the pictures but I’m not necessarily drawing at the same time. I think it all comes at once.
There are lots Nancy Mitford, Norah Ephron , Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking are some of them.
You have a distinctive style, were you ever afraid to break the publishing norms when you first started making books?
Well no. You have to come up with your own thing but it doesn’t mean they are going to like it, so you have to be prepared for them not to like it and I think what finally worked for me was just waiting till they were ready.
Which authors and illustrators captured your imagination as a child?
Who bought you your most memorable book?
Well it was actually the headmistress at my junior school. She didn’t buy it exactly but she read it to us and I loved it so much I went and bought it because of that. It was the Shrinking of Treehorn.
Has your daughter, Tuesday influenced your work?
Everybody influences my work. Tuesday is certainly an influence but anybody can influence me and often do.
You illustrated Pippi Longstocking, how different was that process from writing and illustrating your own books?
It’s daunting because people have their own version of Pippi both in their heads and in previous illustrated books, as it’s been illustrated many times but it felt natural to do it because I’d read it some many times as a child so I knew it inside out so I had my own take on it.
Ruby Redfort was originally your character, Clarice Bean’s favourite book and fans asked you to write the series. Have you written other books or characters based on fan feedback?
Not really. I suppose one book is The New Small Person that’s made me think that I will write another one because of the reaction from the readers. There are other books like Pesky Rat and the Storybook Wolves that were inspired by fans writing to me.
Which is your favourite age group to create books for?
They are all so interesting that I can’t think of a favourite.
What do want to achieve the most in your role as Children’s Laureate?
I’d like to focus on creativity and the importance of children being able to discover their own creative potential. It’s vital for all of us to be able to create and explore our world in different ways. I’m trying to talk about that when I can.
Thank you Lauren for a Wonderful Day of Inspiration!
We hope that our tribute to Lauren’s talent, a Chilstone bench hand carved by Nigel Hartfield, our talented on site engraver, provided a nice spot in the castle grounds to take it all in and dream up new ideas.
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