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Shaun Traynor

How many books have you had published?
Poetry:
  The Hardening Ground
  Images in Winter
  Still Life
Essays:
  The Emancipation of The English Language in the C20

For Children:
  Hugo O'Huge, the Children's Giant
  The Giants' Olympics
  A Little Man in England (The cautionary tale of the only English leprechaun
    to have been discovered or should I say "unearthed…")
  The Lost City of Belfast

All above books are shamefully out of print at the minute. But do try your local library!

Kate in England (pending)

In Progress:
  Brother Troll and the Supply Teacher
    (setting : London and the Isle of Wight)
  Sit on the Mat
    (new poems from the primary classroom)
  Van Gogh in Brixton
    (new collection of adult poems)

Anthologies
  The Poolbeg Book of Irish Poetry for Children
  (The only anthology of exclusively Irish poetry for children readily available in the UK)


Did you write for fun when you were at school?
In grammar school - and especially in mock A level year - I wrote to show my skills. My English master drew me aside one day and spoke in a voice loud enough for the whole class to hear although he pretended to speak confidentially, he said, "Traynor, I have just read this essay of yours on Milton, do you perhaps harbour thoughts of one day becoming a poet and a writer?" I said, "Yes. I do sir. I do." He hit me on the head with my exercise book and to the jollity of my peers, said "Don't."

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?

I teach.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
1974 The Hardening Ground (A Collection of Poems)

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
It was the only thing I wanted to do, I devoted all my time and energies to it, I focussed. It was still difficult but I was determined it would happen. When it came out and encouraging reviews began appearing in papers like The Times Ed and the Times Lit. I felt I had really achieved. I had left the past behind me, laid ghosts.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
A Little man in England because although the first page and a half it is less well written than anything else I have done - I was rushed for a deadline - I couldn't get it right - it turns the English/Irish thing on its head. The leprechaun of the title is English and really rather posh! He admits to having Irish antecedents or cousins far removed. He breaks down stereotypes. Some of the chapters (not all) are really rather gripping.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?

The Little Train by Graham Greene. It inspired me on my travels. "The little train sobbed and sobbed, why had he gone so far? Now he had run out of coal and it was raining and he would just simply rust away. He would never see Little Snoring again." Not many people will know about this book and I have a first edition in my keeping. NOT FOR SALE. Well go on then, offers over 10,000.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Consistently two years - but maybe longer if those two years are interrupted by other projects clamouring for their place at the table. Two years real time minus teaching time. But there is also a "maturation of ideas" period so even if one were not having to teach there would still have to be a time lapse for ideas to develop organically or be cut away, pruned, a time also to test the language, is it memorable i.e. can you quote it by heart? Test it by constant repetition, it must become more and more of a delight.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?

All those things.

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
          
Both.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?

Like a potter or a sculptor, it is the whole point, the shaping.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?

No. I regret this. It would have helped me.

Have you got an agent?
I did and I got things published very much more easily but against that you had to go where you were put and I didn't feel comfortable with that so in the end we parted ways. I would like a new agent now, hoping that with my experience, I could maybe control things better, but it's hard to get back on a moving carousel.

Why do you like writing for children?

The innocence, remembering back to the sheer delight I had in reading, the childish excitement of first understanding plot and irony and jokes and japes. It is the tapping back into that childhood again which gives me real pleasure and nostalgia, knowing now or sensing, that life is the macabre breaking open of a dinosaur's egg.

How do you get your ideas?
From language.

Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No. I hear my words and speak them. I don't see at all.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Always be true to yourself. Always write for the child within. Follow no trends.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I do a lot of school visits. For more information, please visit my website

For a list of Shaun Traynor's books in print  click here

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