Career Focus - The World of Writing

Children's Author - Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen is an hugely successful Children's Author, Poet, Radio and TV Broadcaster. Author of classics such as 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' and 'You're Thinking About Doughnuts' he writes books for children of all ages.


The Interview

Name - Michael Rosen

Location - Hackney, London


How did you first get into writing? Did you write as a child?

The first piece I ever wrote outside of school was when I was 16 and I wanted to sound like the writer James Joyce and/or the writer D.H. Lawrence, particularly his poetry.

How many hours do you spend writing a day? Do you have to be quite disciplined?

I'm not very disciplined because I do a lot of other things apart from writing books. I keep doing these instead - radio, TV and the like. So, no, I don't have a set time or set day to do it. I should though!

What or who has been your biggest inspiration?

Probably my brother and parents. But when it comes to books, it was probably the poetry of the American poet Carl Sandburg that turned on the light inside my head.

What story do you remember most from your childhood?

The easiest stories to remember are the bible stories that our headteacher told us in assemblies. As for stories that I read, I guess it would be some of the incidents in Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer'.

What story do you love reading to your children?

I think the story I enjoyed reading to my 18 year old was 'The Binding of Fenrir' - one of the Norse myths and also 'Emil and the Detectives' by Erich Kastner. To my older kids it was 'Daz 4 Zoe' by Robert Swindells.

Have your own children been good 'story testers' for you?

Yes, two books I wrote 'You're Thinking About Doughnuts' and 'You're Thinking About Tomatoes' were both tested on my sons Joe and Eddie. In fact, Joe helped me make some important revisions in the second of those two books. And he was only about ten.

In your opinion what makes a great children's story?

Intrigue, oddity,passion, humour...

As children are so visually led do you think good illustrations are key?

I think for young children, yes, the illustrations are massively important.

How did you find your first illustrator?

The publisher married me up to Quentin Blake. I didn't choose him.

Was it hard getting your first book published?

Yes, quite hard. I sent it around to a few people who didn't really know what it was.

How did you go about it?

I made sure that everything was typed well, and literally sent it off to a few publishers.

Did you have an agent? Do you think they are essential?

Yes I do have an agent and yes nowadays it's absolutely essential. When I started out, it didn't matter quite so much.

What is the best bit of business advice you have been given?

Keep all your bills in a box so that when it comes to doing your tax returns you can be sure that you can claim all you're entitled to.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Mums (or Dads!) who would like to become Children's Authors?

Try and entertain your children with stories and rhymes. Keep a note of the ones that amuse them or that they enjoy. Read as many chldren's books as you can. Read what you write to people. Keep a notebook. Be inventive. No publisher will know of your material unless you send it to them. As long as it's locked up in your head or in your computer, it'll never be published

Books by Michael Rosen

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