Writing a story is fun at any age. When I was eight, I wrote a play that ended with a big dueling scene, and the final stage direction was: “They fight. By and by, they all are dead.” I was delighted with my tidy ending, but I went on to write less violent tales of dogs and cats and kangaroos having adventures, and girls and boys finding haunted castles and ghostly princesses and magic bracelets.
It was fun to write of a more ordinary world too: of football games and fierce teachers who had to be outwitted, and computers with secret codes and minds of their own.
I was an only child, but I never felt lonely. There were friends and family around, but at times on your own, there is always the wonderful world of imagination. The great thing is, it has no limits. You can imagine all kinds of fantastic things, like the king in my book who decides to build his own special ship and sail to the edge of the world, which everyone thought was flat. People like the idea of Quizzical Island and a king who is always asking questions and finds some very unexpected answers.
I have worked as a broadcaster and lyric-writer as well as writing children’s books, and I enjoy performing. So I read my work in schools and libraries and talk about writing, encouraging audiences to do their own writing, whether it’s poems or stories or plays.
People often ask where I get my ideas, and I always say that if you just keep looking and listening, almost anything can kick-start a story. I watched a sparrow once, pecking around in the grass for food, and thought it must be quite a boring life. So I invented stories about a sparrow who kept trying to be like different birds: a robin, a heron, or even a penguin—with disastrous and comical results!
You can spark off a story if you imagine animals and birds that can talk and get into sticky situations. It could be your pet dog, or a crow you see perching on a tree, or a horse running around a field. The main thing is to let your imagination roam —that’s the way authors get their stories, so why not you?
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I can make my ears waggle up and down without moving my head.
2. When I was young, I learned to walk on stilts, and I still can!
3. My name “Schnell” is a word that means “fast” in German; “sharp,” like a wind, in Scotland; and meant “bold and brave” in Old Anglo-Saxon English!