Meet the Author…

Written by  Luigi Dal Cin

...or, some notes on writing for children.Luigi Dal Cin.

I was really nervous before my first meeting with young readers. It was the first time I was going to meet children that I didn't know, but who had already read my book. But I had prepared well. I had gone back over everything on children's literature and the psychology of the age group I was going to meet. At that first meeting, the first child that raised his hand asked me "Can I ask you a question about your last book?" And he just sat there, hand still held up - "of course..." I answered, all excited. "How did you manage to glue the pages together?" Children's questions are always very interesting. Like when a child will ask me in amazement "If you're a real writer, how can you still be alive?" What they mean is that usually writers of published books are already good and dead. Another common question is "how can you write so well?" However, when it is children who are in first class that ask me that, I've learned that the reference is not to theSome of the books published by Luigi Dal Cin in Italy. style, but to the actual print characters. I understood this after a little boy showed me an open book of mine and said "yes, you write really well! It looks just like a photocopy!" I can usually get around that type of question. On the other hand it is harder to answer the question "why do you write books?" When someone writes a book, they normally say they are doing it to 'express themselves' or to 'communicate'. However, I don't really like the term 'express yourself'. I prefer to say that I write 'to tell the truth (my discoveries, dreams, needs, hopes, wishes, fears......especially hope) through fiction', and then 'to communicate it'. It seems contradictory to imagine telling the truth through fiction, but it's children themselves who explain reality by inventing stories with princesses, witches, ogres or wizards..., when they say "lets pretend that I'm..." and "let's pretend that you're...". It's obviously fiction, but these stories certainly contain a lot of truth! And then there is the other aspect: communication. When you write for children, you have an implicit "responsibility to educate". If I want to write a book for children, I have to be able toSome of the books published by Luigi Dal Cin in Italy. communicate efficiently, I have to ask myself whether my writing can be really interesting, well actually, more than interesting, if it is fascinating. How do you fascinate your reader? This is where we enter the seductive world of writing techniques: invention, plot construction, choice of narrator, personalities of the characters, choice of language, construction of the descriptions, dialogues... I tell everything to the children, sharing my writer's tools with them. "But techniques aren't anything as important to a writer as having a magical assistant!" This is what I tell young readers when they ask me what you need to be a children's writer. You have to have a magical assistant who shows you the way, just like the fairy tales - to get close to the deepest core of the child who is reading your story. As much as someone can relate to the world of children, an adult is still an adult, and so the adult writer needs the help of the magical assistant - what I call the 'child pen'. The child pen is a tool that takes the child's side, and allows the adult writer to express his or her adult thoughts and language in a way that he or she doesn't use any more with other adults, but has never actually forgotten: the language ofSome of the books published by Luigi Dal Cin in Italy. children. And be careful - this doesn't just mean knowing how to use words that children can understand. It is based more on tones, the ability to create parallels between the text and what the child who is reading the book is experiencing, basically knowing how to accompany the child. Over time, I've become convinced that the magic child pen reveals itself only to those who really take the side of children - to those who really consider them to be real people, here and now, in all their childish essence, and not just the projection of the adults they will become. The real children's writer is the person who has the personality and talents to always take the side of the child. Otherwise the writer is not a children's writer. He or she is something else - maybe a writer who writes about children. But not for them.