Making Connections with Children’s Stories

Brian Falkner discussing his publishing journey.

I’m in a rainy Auckland this weekend at the Storylines Children’s Writers and Illustrators Hui. There are over a hundred writers and illustrators here this weekend, from people who have yet to start writing their first book to the venerable Joy Cowley, who has published so many stories over her long career she’s lost count of them.

Some curious observations:

The vast majority–probably 80%–of the participants are middle-aged women, parents of teens and adult children.

Another 10% is composed of younger women.

Most of the women are writers, though some are illustrators.

Only about 10% are men, and at least half the men are illustrators.

So why are most participants middle-aged women? Is it that a workshop like this appeals more to that demographic? Is it because that demographic has a greater ability to take off for a weekend to attend a workshop (both because of finances and because our children are old enough to stay at home alone)? Why aren’t more of the women illustrators?

My unscientific and haphazard look at how we all arrived at this place reveals a preponderance of teachers and former teachers in the group (which would partly explain the preponderance of women). Not surprising, perhaps. We have spent more time with children than others, and have an affinity for children and the books they read. Maybe we want to write the books we wish our students had read? Some, like the wonderful David Riley, who produces books about Pacific island heroes, write the books his students are desperate to read.

However we’ve gotten here, all of us share the goal of making emotional connections with children through stories and books. It is inspiring to hear the creative and diverse ways in which New Zealand authors are doing that.