One of the loveliest parts of writing for children is going into schools and teaching creative writing.
I don’t really mean teaching. I always learn more than the ‘pupils’. And I don’t really mean writing: there’s plenty of talking, acting, miming and drawing. But creative? Definitely.
In what other lesson does a granny wake up to find that her feet are waffles?
Where else can November be a fluey old man in a brown suit who sneezes leaves?
Since when was the River Liffey a girl with transparent skin and a taste for Coke cans?
What about superhero Kit Kats; ghost-sucking Hoovers, or Friday declaring war on Monday?
Once everyone gives up on spelling and gets down to fun, the sky’s the limit. Right and wrong fly out of the window on bright green wings. If you say Tuesday’s purple, who am I to say don’t’ be stupid, it’s orange? If you think K is snooty and M is bossy, who can prove it’s the other way round?
If it all just sounds silly, that’s because it is – in the original sense of the word. A thousand years ago ‘silly’ meant blessed or happy, from the ancient German ‘saeliga’ meaning luck.
And there is something fantastically happy about playing with language, imagining what sort of character a ‘squelch’ would be, or what conversation a family of spiders would have round the breakfast table.
There’s also a serious side. So much of school is about getting things right: how to spell ‘necessary’, the square root of 49. Laying aside correctness and focusing instead on looking at things differently – that’s where creativity explodes. That’s where cars are invented, diseases cured, wars ended and, most importantly, laughs are had.