Did you write for fun when you were at school?
NEVER EVER – until I started writing songs (with electric guitar) at the age of 15. NOT ONCE did a teacher ever ask me to write a poem!
Have you always earned your living as a writer?
Lecturer at Reading University (still do – a few sessions a year – in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature)
When was your first book published and what was it called?
Talking Books (book of interviews with authors such as Philip Pullman and Jacqueline)
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
I tried to get a few published before that – and was trying on and off for seven years, so yes, it wasn’t easy!
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Cars Stars Electric Guitars – because I love writing poems more than anything else.
Which is your favourite children’s book written by someone else?
That’s a v. v . v . tricky one - …maybe His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Impossible to answer – but a poem can take between 10minutes and 14 years!
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I very very rarely write poems straight onto the computer. It’s best to write by hand first, and then do drafts onto the computer. But still printing out for further tweaks.
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
I think about writing on and off all day. My most creative times are 6-8am and 4-6pm and from April – October.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
LOVE IT!!!!! It’s the most important part of the writing process. You can turn a very indifferent first draft into a very special third or fourth draft.
Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group?
No – but many do this and find it very helpful. I have a very good editor in my wife – she’s very harsh – but very good indeed!
Do you have an agent?
A poet have an agent?
Why do you like writing for children?
Because I can be more playful than if I was just writing for adults. I think I write for 2 audiences – 3-6 year olds and 7 – 107 year olds.
How do you get your ideas?
I go to the magic wood. I find the magic path and journey to the magic tree and there beneath the magic tree is a magic box in which is a magic book entitled 1001 Magic Ideas For Poems. True or False? False! The only magic wood is my imagination. I write about things in my life – my daughter said she was afraid of the dark, so I wrote a poem asking ‘why are we so afraid of the dark?’ At the bottom of my garden is a shed so I wrote ‘ a garden shed, a garden shed, my head is like a garden shed..it’s fullof junk and flower pots…’
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No! I do shape poems though which is akin to drawing with words.
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Never ask children you know what they think of your work because a) they might just say nice things because it’s you and b) they might enjoy your reading of the work rather than the work itself. Ask other adults to try it out with children. Read a lot of contemporary children’s books. Above all, read read read and write write write write!
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
YES PLEASE! I visit primary schools all over the UK. I do performances for Foundation / Key Stage 1 / Key stage 2 – poetry and manic guitar music! I do poetry writing workshops with Years 2 – 6. And I also love doing twilight INSET sessions for teachers on writing / performing poetry in primary schools. Please contact me via WALKER BOOKS.
Have you won any awards or prizes?
Yes! The Raymond Wilson Children’s Poetry Competition 2000 (it’s a Reading University competition) for my poem ‘The Dark’.
You can see Jame's book of poems for 6-11 year olds Cars Stars Electric Guitars (OUP) (Walker Books) on Amazon.co.uk
You can also find him on the Poetryzone website.