Claire King

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A Year on the Shelf

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Claire - 22 Comments

It’s one whole year since The Night Rainbow was first published. The UK hardback and ebook were released on February 14th 2013 and the paperback six months later. So to celebrate my ‘Year on the Shelf’ (it’s Valentine’s Day, see what I did there?), here are five things I’ve learned over the course of the last twelve months:

Books coming off the printing press

Hot off the press.

(1) You don’t publish and tell 

There are quite a few things that will surprise a new author as they take this journey for the first time, and you won’t have seen them blogged about or discussed on twitter. I’m not going to talk about them either. Why? It’s the same reason why people who are already parents don’t sit their pregnant friends down and say, “Right, well let us tell you what’s about to happen to you.”  Sometimes it’s better to let people wait and see.

However, what you will need are some people who have been through it before to be there for you once you are finally living that dream. So, when it’s your turn, make sure you find author friends and mentors who will give you the lowdown if you ask.

The gorgeous window

The gorgeous window – Little Ripon Bookshop

(2) Authors are great

Other authors are generally lovely and generous and want you to succeed. Many will encourage and support you, even if they have never heard of you before. It’s a lovely group to be part of. Pass it on.

Jodi_tweet

 

(3) You will be busier than ever

Remember how you managed to squeeze writing a novel – an actual novel! – into your already full life? Well now that novel now needs taking to parties, to readings and events. And people will ask you to write about your book, and write about writing your book. For your own sanity, remember you don’t have to do everything. Decide, along with your publisher, what you want to commit to and learn to say no to the rest.

Also people will immediately start asking you when the next book is due out. It isn’t going to write itself, you know.

Marie-Claire

I was reviewed in Marie-Claire!

(4) We are not the same

Chances are that you will have highs and you will have lows, but your experience will be different from mine. It will depend on your agent, your publisher, your book, timings, the market, luck and so many other variables that there is no way to know how things will pan out for you. All you can do is get an idea of if you are falling somewhere within the spectrum of ‘normal’ –  see (1) – and hope for the best.

Will your book win prizes? Get reviewed in the New York Times? Sell foreign rights? Will Oprah pick it? Will it even get into bookshops so people can buy it? Getting into retail is harder than you think. Once your book is out there in the world, frankly it’s anybody’s guess how it will fare no matter how hard people are championing it on your behalf.

It might be that your book doesn’t get as much recognition as those you have decided to benchmark it against. On the other hand it may do better than other books that you have read and think deserve to win every prize going. You need to stop comparing. Remember you’re at the start of a long road and you need to conserve your energy.

As for sales – everything you have heard is true. Right now the prognosis is pretty shocking. But your publishers have faith, or they wouldn’t have taken your book. If you go off with a bang at launch, brilliant, congratulations! But if sales in the launch period are ‘quieter’ than you’d hoped, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your book is going to die a lonely death. If readers like it, they will spread the word, slowly but surely. Sometimes you need a bit of critical mass and that can take time for a new author. Think about how long it takes you between hearing about a book and actually buying it, and then actually reading it. For me it’s months.

Euston Station

Euston Station, August 2013

(5) Readers above all else

It is so wonderfully rewarding when people you’ve never met take the time to look you up and write to you, just to tell you that they loved your book. That you have given them something special, a story they won’t forget. That, for me, is what writing is all about.

Of course sometimes readers don’t write to you personally, but instead take the time to write a review (thank you, reviewers!). Reviews do matter, but try not to get obsessed by them as they are completely out of your control and will not always make you happy.

Sometimes they will say things like this:

***** “Officially my Book of 2013. Wow… Read it!”

and

***** “This book resonated with me. I will carry Pea with me for a very long time.”

but sometimes they will say this:

** “Ideal for nature lovers seeking a blow-by-blow description of the French countryside without the distraction of a plot line.”

And that’s all OK. Remember that all sorts of people are now reading your book (HURRAY!) and they can’t all be expected to like it.

Also, there will be reviewers who write spoilers, sometimes in the very first line of their write up. Even in national newspapers. But hey, girl, your book got reviewed in a national newspaper.

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

If you’re about to head out on the same journey, good luck to you! And for those of you who have played a part in this marvellous, exciting year of mine, a huge thank you from me.

 

Bonus Tip: Social Media

Nothing has changed. Even now you are published, Social Media is not the boss of you.

Following a Trail of Thoughts.

Posted on: November 25th, 2013 by Claire - 2 Comments

Sometimes people visit this blog via a link from another website, and of course I like to pop over and see who sent them here.

- Today I found myself at the blog of Mitzi, whose blog is Tea & Biscuits & A Good Book (and who can argue with that?) and who has just finished reading The Night Rainbow (in the bath).

I had a look around her blog and was interested to see that Mitzi lists three criteria for how she chooses her books, and the first is:

“1. Recommendation – you know whether your taste in reading material is the same as the person who recommends it.”

Sure enough, in her review Mitzi mentions that she had heard about The Night Rainbow last month from Jo, at her blog Through The Keyhole.

I followed the trail, and in reading Jo’s post, I found that in her turn she had come to the book through recommendation, having heard about The Night Rainbow from Anna at the Green Tapestry blog, (a gardening and allotment notebook), who had written a post back in August talking about her summer holiday reading.

I usually try not to read too many reviews, as I’m finding that what people have to say about a book that has been published somehow affects how I feel about the one I’m writing now. But as an author it was a joyful little moment, finding this organic trail of blog posts. It’s reassuring to see readers picking up on recommendations and passing them on in their turn, and a privilege to peek at the dialogue between the bloggers and the readers who leave comments.

So my thanks to each of these three bloggers for sharing their thoughts, and to everyone who has taken the time to write a review or simply to tell others how you’ve enjoyed reading The Night Rainbow. After the brief burst of excitement over the launch of a book, I honestly believe it’s people like you who determine how it fares in the long run.

Tea and Biscuits

If you’re interested in other blogs where you can find book recommendations, I did a series of interviews with book bloggers earlier this year. Start here and follow the trail!

Word of Mouth 1

 

(Author not included)

Posted on: August 22nd, 2013 by Claire - 7 Comments

So, have you seen the amazing posters that have been calling out to train passengers as part of the marketing campaign for The Night Rainbow?

Well, as well as the ones that went up at railway stations, Bloomsbury also have two spares (I have the other one), and we thought that one of you lovely readers out there who have enjoyed Pea and Margot might like one, maybe to wallpaper a small room or cover a very large book. Those lovely people at Bloomsbury have kindly agreed to give their two away, by means of a game for those of you who have read The Night Rainbow.

Night Rainbow Poster

It’s simple to play, just leave a comment below with your favourite quote from The Night Rainbow. Or share it on twitter with the hashtag #NightRainbow. Then I’ll put all the names in a hat and get my daughters to pick out a name each.  And we’ll send you the poster.

And of course you can still play for fun, even if you can’t think of anything to do with a big purple poster the size of a person.

No really, they are. Here I am holding mine:

author not included(Author not included in prize).

UPDATE: August 28th

And the winners are…

I’ll be in touch to arrange your posters to be sent out!

Food

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 by admin - 6 Comments

Summer Food

Food has been on my mind lately. (This is not unusual).

I love food. I love the colour and smell and taste of it. I love how tactile its preparation is and I like eating with my hands too. Food is one of the simplest human necessities that is also one of the finest pleasures, and you can do it three times a day. Sitting around a table to a meal can bring us together and it can nourish us. Of course food can also divide us, make us miserable and destroy us.

There’s little wonder, then, that food slips into fiction a lot. It certainly features heavily in my own writing

In The Night Rainbow, food is central to Pea because she’s having to source a lot of it for herself. She picks ripe peaches straight off the trees, waits for the morning baguettes to be delivered by the breadlady, and is very happy to take the biscuits that Claude offers. Her mouth waters at the pans of paella at the market and she tries to improve her mother’s mood by preparing food for her.

Food is also prominent in my next novel, although in a very different way, and I often use food as a metaphor in my flash fiction. Here are a couple of examples up at Fictionaut:

Anything Again

Flesh & Blood

Here is tonight’s supper, cooked and photographed by Mr King:

Since we moved here to France, our relationship with food has changed, and I was recently asked to write a magazine feature about our experience – the way we shop, prepare and eat French food. This week a photographer was sent over to shoot pictures of me with the family, as we took our weekly trip to the market, made meals and ate together. It’s was quite a surreal experience, and a very tiring day, but at the end of it, seeing how we eat through the eyes of someone else made me appreciate more than ever just how fortunate we are.

Here is a picture my husband snapped of me in the kitchen between shoots, wondering what to make for lunch:

Claire in the kitchen

And here is the photographer, Tom Parker, in our very shabby kitchen, taking photos of our pickles and preserves! You can bet when his photos turn up in the magazine feature it will all look very French and glamorous.

Food_Photographer

But food isn’t really glamorous at all, is it? Certainly around here, the people who produce it work extremely hard for very little pay. If anything, the attitude we tend to have in our family towards food is one of gratitude and respect. Gratitude because we have such good and plentiful food, and respect in terms of our understanding of how it is produced and limiting waste.

This summer we crossed the Pyrenees over into Spanish Catalunya. We stayed at a lovely gîte there, owned by a family who have a few arable fields nearby, plus a farm with fruit, vegetables, chickens and pigs. They also have a Michelin starred restaurant. The farm is called Tancant cercles, which means closing circles, and their philosophy is that they produce the food they serve in their restaurant from start to finish, including growing the grain for their livestock. The owners were happy for us to take our children to have a look around the farm. There they showed us the harvested grain in the hoppers, which they feed to their pigs, they showed us the vegetables they grow and the free range chickens, and let the children go in and collect eggs. They showed us the pigs out and about, and the pregnant sows and those suckling the new litters. Then the owner took us and showed us the fridges, where they hang the pigs which have come back from the abattoir, the sausage and ham making processes and the cuts of meat, ready to be sold, or to be used in their restaurant. Later, we ate in the restaurant, and our children could point out pretty much everything on their plates and how they had seen it at the farm.

I know that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do feel strongly that when many children and adults don’t have a clear understanding of how the food gets to their plates, seeing the end to end process is an important part of having respect for the food you eat. My children are still young, but they can now make the link between the piglets they petted and the ham they ate. As they grow up, I hope that they can keep that in mind, and never justify eating food produced in a way that they would not be happy to witness for themselves.

If you are ever in the area, the hotel/restaurant is Els Casals and the gîte (which sleeps 14) is La Rovira. They are all within a few minutes of each other, not far from Berga in Northern Spain (Catalunya, about an hour North of Barcelona).

Also, I’m thinking that maybe next year I might run a little writers retreat there, so let me know if you’re interested.

Old farmhouse in Spain



Paperback Launch and Marketing!

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by admin - 10 Comments

It’s paperback publication day for The Night Rainbow. I didn’t think I could possibly be as excited as I was in February when the book launched in hardback, but I really am!

Before I forget I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bloomsbury who has been working hard on the paperback launch – updating the cover, planning the PR and marketing campaigns (of which more in a second), championing the book so enthusiastically with retailers and basically just crossing their fingers and being so lovely and encouraging to me.

The Night Rainbow Paperback

So, the paperback is out today – a nice small supple book at a lower price than the hardback edition. Perfect for summer holidays, reading in bed etc. There are a lot of exciting things happening, but what is *VERY EXCITING* for me in particular is that there is a marketing campaign running for The Night Rainbow paperback launch, which should get it noticed by more people and help get them into book shops to buy it.

As a debut novelist, having a marketing campaign was thrilling news that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it all happened quite recently. Thanks to the hard work of Bloomsbury’s sales team, they won really strong advance orders and enthusiasm for the paperback from retailers, including The Night Rainbow being the August Book Club pick at Sainsbury’s; being selected for Tesco’s new New Talent slot; being promoted in WH Smiths high street, train station and airport stores.   I know already there are plenty of amazing independent book shops stocking it and Waterstones too.  So do pop into your local shop – there should be paperbacks aplenty. And of course ebooks are available in all the usual places.

Here are a few places you might spot Pea this summer:

  • At railway stations: There is a huge poster going up around London and South-East England. Here are a few examples. If you keep your eyes peeled over the next few days and send in photos, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy. Follow @BloomsburyBooks and #NightRainbow on twitter for more details, and find Bloomsbury Publishing UK on Facebook.
  • On The Daily Mail online - Takeover of the Books page, it’s worth a look! (I think you can only see this wondrous juxtaposition if you’re in the UK)
  • On Mumsnet  – the giveaway is closed now, but the discussion thread is open. Hopefully spoiler free!
  • At The Reading Agency where reading groups could win copies to review.

I took the opportunity to ask Tess Viljoen, who has been responsible at Bloomsbury for the marketing around The Night Rainbow, including this beautiful book trailer to answer a couple of questions about marketing books in general.

1) Would you say it’s true that publishers expect authors to ‘market’ themselves and their books now more than ever? What does this mean in reality?

The shift towards social media has, brilliantly, put fans directly in touch with the authors they love. It’s a powerful way of communicating with readers and exciting for everyone involved. The downside of this, given it would be disingenuous for a publisher to try and impersonate an author online by running a social media stream on their behalf, is it has shifted that responsibility back on to authors. Social media can be very rewarding but it can also be immensely time consuming and doesn’t appeal to all authors. At Bloomsbury we encourage our authors to have a go, and support them as much as we can from our social media platforms but ultimately, it’s up them if they feel it is a medium they can work in.

2) When I worked in consumer goods marketing (years ago!) there was a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ situation with smaller brands, whereby advertising support was minimal or non-existent until (hopefully) word of mouth took off. This also meant it was harder to get those products stocked in shops and positioned well. Does this apply also in publishing/book retailing? If so what factors help get the ball rolling?

The percentage of books that receive advertising spend is in fact very small and so the majority of books are sold into bookstores without that support which makes it a much more level playing field. We have sales reps that go into bookshops around the country and pitch our titles directly to the booksellers and with word-of-mouth still being the most powerful form of recommendation this gives our books a strong chance to being taken by a bookseller and in turn, recommended to their customers.

3) What is more important in book marketing, the author or the book?

They are entirely inextricable. Obviously an author who is happy to do events, to be active on social media and be widely available for publicity is a strong asset for a book, but we regularly work with authors from foreign countries who for all sorts of reason cannot give us their time or physical presence and we have found ways of working around this and still build strong marketing and publicity campaigns.

Thanks, Tess!

For more information around paperback launches specifically, see this post  for an interview with Trâm Anh Doan, my paperback editor at Bloomsbury, when I talked to her about the launch last year of another Bloomsbury novel, The Cowards Tale.

 

Cover art – UK Paperback

Posted on: May 3rd, 2013 by admin - 9 Comments

After some discussion with booksellers, The Night Rainbow UK paperback, which is out this August, is getting a new cover.

Here it is:

The Night Rainbow UK Paperback just a reminder, here is the hardback: The-Night-Rainbow-front

So here is my collection of covers, including USA / Netherlands / Germany in case you’ve not seen them!

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Rainbow Launch, USA & Canada!

Posted on: April 7th, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m very excited that this week The Night Rainbow is being published in the USA and Canada.

Here she is, complete with beautiful new cover, about to whizz off to bookshops everywhere Stateside.

The Night Rainbow USA Cover

I feel a little wistful that I can’t whizz over the Atlantic to celebrate, but I have been raising a glass here in France, and lurking on twitter doing US & Canada pub-day high fives!

And look what the lovely Rachael Dunlop just sent me:

The Night Rainbow on store shelf

On the shelves at Barnes & Noble, New York City

I’ve also been busy meeting book bloggers:

  • I answered 11/20 questions at Linus’s Blanket, including what my favourite books are set in my local region of France.
  • What’s in a first line? Find out as I take part in the Friday First Lines series over at Books on the Brain.
  • I have been interviewed by Mariam Kobras over at #amwriting
  • Daria Anne DiGiovanni hosted me on #writestream, with an interview on blog talk radio which you can also find archived here, and a twitter chat – the summary of which is now here.

Thank you…

Thanks already to some of the lovely reviewers and book bloggers who have reviewed early copies:

Ilana Teitelbaum, who says, in her review in Shelf Awareness “King’s story of a young child’s quest for a light in the profound darkness of her life reaches deep into the complexities of human consciousness. As it explores adult grief through a child’s eyes, The Night Rainbow also underscores the need for stability and love ever-present in children’s lives, yet at times nearly impossible to attain.”

Catherine at Gilmore Guide to books who says “The Night Rainbow is soft, sweet, scary and immense.” *****

Nicola at My Good Bookshelf gave it 9/10 and said “I would happily recommend this book to readers interested in contemporary fiction or family dramas; this was a beautifully written tale with a shocker of a twist that I definitely did not anticipate- just brilliantly done.”

Ionia at Readful Things said “Claire King has done such a supreme job of making you want to hug these children and tell them everything is going to be okay, that it is sometimes hard to believe they are not real…I would recommend this elegantly written novel to anyone. Really a beautiful book.”

Shannon at River City Reading - Richmond, VA said “Writing from the perspective of a child, particularly one so young, without relying on cliche phrases or coming off childish is not an easy task. Claire King does it masterfully.”

Patrice Hoffman says “Claire King writes spectacularly from a child’s point of view using vivid imagery with fantastical qualities only imagination can provide.”

and Cayacosta72 calls The Night Rainbow “A story of love, loss and grace.”

The Pin Map!

In celebration and anticipation of meeting lots of new people in the USA and Canada through the launch, even only virtually, I have put together a pin map.

To get it started I’ve added places I have visited in person (the red pins).

I’m going to add new pins on the map for everyone who tells me they’ve read The Night Rainbow, so do please leave a comment or say hi on twitter, telling me where you are, and you’ll get your own purple pin.

Also, if you have a book group that would like me to call in by Skype for a few questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Pin Map

The travels of Claire, Margot & Pea

 

 

Great Expectations

Posted on: February 21st, 2013 by Claire - 7 Comments

A week on from the publication of The Night Rainbow and lot of people have been asking me the same question – how do you feel?

I suspect the expected response is something along the lines of “Amazing!” But in practice for me the answer is much more complicated than that. I’ve heard some authors say that upon publication they’ve felt numb, or scared, or nothing at all. That’s certainly not the case for me. I have felt elated, thrilled and joyous. I’ve also felt anxious, a bit stressed and possibly a little obsessive. And I’ve felt grateful, a lot of grateful, for those who’ve supported me, knowing that what is to many just one more book out there in the world is to me the realisation of years of ambition and work and hope.

Rainbow in a meadow

Hope?

A lot has been said about hope:

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“Hope is a good breakfast but it is a bad supper.” (Francis Bacon)

and my favourite,

“I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

Yes, that’s the one. That’s how I feel now – hopeful, but in a realistic sort of way. I hope that things will go well with The Night Rainbow. That it will sell well and people will love it. That it might even get nominated for some kind of a prize. I probably should be being bashful and saying “Oh no, not my little debut, I’m just grateful it’s been published at all.” But let’s be honest, that’s not true. I do hope for still more good things. And I’ve felt this way at every step along my writer’s journey:

  • The sharing of a piece of writing with someone and waiting for their reaction, hoping for a positive one.
  • The submitting of a poem or a story into a competition and hoping for a placing or even a win!
  • Submitting work to a journal and hoping for acceptance.
  • Submitting to agents and hoping every the ping of every email is a request for a full.
  • Hoping that the publishers will want to offer a contract.
  • Hoping for foreign rights deals.
  • Hoping for a nice cover quote or two and then later for good reviews…

It’s not greedy to hope, it doesn’t mean you’re not very happy with what you already have. It’s simply picturing the road ahead in a positive light. Despite the inevitable rejections and disappointments along the way, we dare to hope in all aspects of our lives because if we didn’t, what would the future look like? We have hopes for our loved ones and for others around us, for ourselves and for our societies and beyond. And the fact we perpetually experience things not working out as we’d hoped doesn’t – or shouldn’t – teach us we were wrong to hope.

We can’t give up hope because it keeps us moving forwards, keeps us living.

I titled this post Great Expectations because some people have said things like ‘You must have great expectations for your book!’ But I don’t. Expectations are another matter. If your hopes are not met then there’s a twang of disappointment and you move on. But if have expectations, and they are unfulfilled the disappointment is much more profound. You probably don’t have a fall-back. Expectations don’t allow for being prepared for the worst.

So here I am, hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst, since there’s not much else I can do for this book. However, there’s a lot I can do for the next one, and hope won’t fix my edits… I’m putting my attention to those now so I can hand the new novel into my agent and start all over again…

A Launch Party Mingle

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m having (whoopee!) an actual launch party in London on 13th February, on the eve of The Night Rainbow’s official publication date, but not everyone can be there, so I’ll be doing some virtual mingling over the next couple of weeks with some very smashing people indeed.

I’m hoping it will be like being at a party on the web, where you wander around chatting, you meet some new people, ask some questions, have a bit of a laugh. And all this without having to wear heels. So come on in, help yourself to a drink, and I hope you have a good time!

Champagne glasses

Take a glass and mingle

Who I’ve met so far:

Kate at For Books’ Sake, where we talk about the portraying pressures of motherhood and how long a story should be.

Jen at The View From Here literary magazine, who asks me what are the important things, and where did the idea of a night rainbow come from?

Roz Morris, about the Undercover Soundtrack to The Night Rainbow - the songs that were part of its making.

Joe at the Bristol Short Story Prize, the home of my first published short story, who asks “What has it been like?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs  - who asks about the environment of the novel and the surrounding countryside. ”It becomes as important as the characters. Was it based on an actual place?”

Simon Savidge, who pokes around my bookshelves and asks “Are there any guilty pleasures?…”

Jen Campbell - Bookshoppist and author, who I may have made happy-sad.

Caroline Smailes, who wants to know about being a debut author and asks “How has your following your dream influenced your daughters?”

Isabel Costello on her Literary Sofa, where we talk about the pleasures and challenges of writing in a child’s voice.

Waterstones blog, where I talk about the inspiration behind The Night Rainbow

Alison Bacon, who asks about my experience of the publishing process with a top publisher, as well as life on twitter!

Vanessa Gebbie, who asks “How much did you want the novel to explore notions of non-belonging?”

Alison Wells - Who has been running a series of posts exploring ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. I talk to her about keeping the joy in writing

Rumjhum Biswas at Flash Fiction Chronicles where I chat about how writing short fiction has influenced my novel, and what I looked for as an editor of a literary magazine

 

Spotted across a crowded room! I’m heading towards…

Chris Mosler  over at Thinly Spread, who has things to say, and a giveaway!

Nik Perring, about getting started and keeping going on a novel and…

… Jonathan Pinnock, who wants to know how I managed to wait out the two years from signing a book contract to publication…

and other people too…I hope there’s enough champagne.

The-Night-Rainbow-front

Paparazzi!

Marie-Claire selected The Night Rainbow as one of their top reads for the month.

Marie Claire Book Review

“An original and beguiling debut.”

Stylist magazine tipped me as one of their 4 soon to be bestsellers (alongside Maya Angelou and Dan Brown!)

You'll be on tenterhooks throughout

You’ll be on tenterhooks throughout

Good To Know magazine have listed The Night Rainbow as one of their 2013 book club picks (alongside Jodi Picoult, Yann Martel and Jojo Moyes!). If you post a review here you could win an e-reader.

 

Overheard…”Have you read it yet?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs - The picturesque setting of Southern France in the midst of a heat wave is almost hypnotic.”

Nettie Thompson - “Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned “

Teresa Majury - ”…a narrator who will grab your heartstrings and never let go”

Tracey Upchurch - “Favourite character? Margot — little sister, voice of reason, bearer of night rainbows.

Laura Vickers at For Books’ Sake Recommended for… Dreamers, mothers, lovers of the rich landscape of the south of France, and those in need of warming up.”

See more reviews on this page.

I’ll update the page with links as they happen.

For mingling in person, please see my events page here.

Champagne photo (c) Chris Chapman

 

 

 

Be careful!

Posted on: January 6th, 2013 by admin - 12 Comments

It’s the 6th January 2013 and it’s a glorious warm sunny day here in the south of France. We took the dogs out to a nearby field we’ve named The Big Meadow, for a run. After the Christmas holidays we all needed a good run.

From the meadow you can cross a fallow field and go down to a stream that comes down off Canigou. In summer it is teeming with water boatmen, tadpoles, dragonflies and pond skaters, but at this time of year the water is low and you have to look harder for waterlife. There are also lots of games to be played with pebbles, fallen branches, shadows and reflections and the nearby cows in the adjacent pasture.

My smallest daughter is just 5, and as she crosses the rocks I stand back, because I know she wants to do it, and she wants to do it by herself.

My instinct is to go with her, hold her hand, tell her ‘Be careful!’ But I don’t. I stand back and wait.

“Please don’t slip, please don’t slip, please don’t slip and hit your head.” (What I think).

“You’re doing brilliantly! You’ve got great balance.” (What I actually say.)

She does fine. She gains a little more confidence in the process and I gain a little more confidence in her abilities.

I’ve been following the early reader reviews of The Night Rainbow recently, and one of the discussion topics is about Pea, who is 5 1/2, and the fact her adventures in the meadows and down by the stream are unsupervised.

‘Is that realistic?’ readers ask.

The truth is I don’t know, because I don’t let my own children go wandering off down in the meadows and by the water on their own. When they get to a certain age then of course I will; I just don’t know what that age is yet. I’m hoping I know it when I see it.

But once upon a time young children, some as young as my daughter, were allowed to go tadpoling, or hunting for sticklebacks without adult supervision. It used to seem normal. It doesn’t any more, does it?

**UPDATE**: I’ve been directed to a couple of interesting websites that talk about this topic.

Here is an article called ‘Please don’t help my kids‘ : “I don’t want my daughters to learn that they can’t overcome obstacles without help. I don’t want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort.”

Here’s Free Range Kids : “Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers, Ivy League rejection letters and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”

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