Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 471
As a child, I intended to be a writer—a novelist, of course. It's a common dream. The nearest I seemed likely to get, as an adult, was in the job of scriptwriter-producer for the School Broadcasting Department of the BBC. This experience, over thirteen years, must have helped as much...
(The entire section contains 471 words.)
See This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.
As a child, I intended to be a writer—a novelist, of course. It's a common dream. The nearest I seemed likely to get, as an adult, was in the job of scriptwriter-producer for the School Broadcasting Department of the BBC. This experience, over thirteen years, must have helped as much as any to make me into a writer of children's books. I wrote for the same public, changing only the medium. (p. 169)
In 1951, while I was working for school broadcasting, I contracted tuberculosis. I went into hospital in Cambridge for most of that summer, a particularly fine one. I didn't feel ill at all, and it seemed almost unbearable to be lying in bed missing all of the summer on the river, only five miles away, in Great Shelford, where I had been born and brought up…. Imprisoned in hospital, I went there in my imagination as I had never done before—as I had never needed to do, of course. I knew, by heart, literally the feel of the river and the canoe on it. It became hallucinatory, like vividly-imagined fiction.
At last I went back to work; but now began to dawn on me the idea that I could do it too—write a children's story. One needed a good, reliable plot, of course: a search for treasure; a family home on its last legs; and so on. As for the setting, I had that already; and that was what really interested me.
I wrote Minnow on the Say mostly with pleasure. I was just about to let the heroes find their treasure (at a point half way through what is now the finished story) when I realized that the whole thing would be on the short side. So, with a dislocating wrench, I changed the plot: the treasure wasn't there, after all, and the characters had to plod on through renewed complications. (pp. 169-70)
I began to think out Tom. At first, in reaction against the first book, this one was to have had a minimum of plot; but, of course, it changed and grew. At least it has more of a theme than a plot. I still think it the best of the books I have written: I think it's the best done, and it's the closest, dearest.
I used to think—and to say in print—that authors of children's books usually wrote out of childhood experience: that I myself certainly did. Now I'm not sure; almost, I'm sure not. That is, I think I write out of present experience; but present experience includes—sometimes painfully—the past. (p. 170)
Philippa Pearce, in her essay in A Sense of Story: Essays on Contemporary Writers for Children by John Rowe Townsend (copyright © 1971 by John Rowe Townsend; reprinted by permission of J. B. Lippincott, Publishers), Lippincott, 1971, pp. 163-71.