After arriving fifteen minutes late, London transport was to blame, I walked into the theatre and I saw a halo of light around my childhood idol. Now, don’t imagine that I entered a magical realm of some sort, it was just a spotlight on her but it really felt like a moment of magic. Jacqueline Wilson, in front of me, the woman to whom I owe my entire book obsession. I have idolised this woman practically my entire life. She was my first favourite author and as a child I don’t think I read any books other than hers. For my 10th birthday I asked for only Jacqueline Wilson books. I believe I own all of the books she published when I was younger. I did, however, grow out of her writing and onto young adult authors. Nevertheless, Jacqueline Wilson remains my biggest writing inspiration and idol. Today, after all these years, I met her for the first time. Met, might be a strong word in this case. I didn’t actually personally meet her, but I got to listen to her talk about her life as a writer and her new book, Wave Me Goodbye.
She began by talking about her passion for writing, having written her first novel when she was nine years old. She reminisced on her secondary school English lessons, and the relationship she had with her teacher, who was not entirely supportive of her passion for writing. Jacqueline Wilson claimed her teacher would have been awed at the success of her books – 106 in total! She has such a natural talent for writing, and speaking as well. I was transported into the 1960’s through her storytelling. She spoke of her first job as a writer for a magazine. At age seventeen, Jacqueline Wilson sent in a story to DC Thomson for a girl’s magazine that would later become Jackie Magazine, in honour of her. I could see her sat at her typewriter, writing the romance story she told us about. She made me laugh at how much she dislikes writing romance novels. I’m not the biggest fan of romance, if you couldn’t tell, but her (anti)romance story amused me – a young girl is not invited to dance at her school prom. Classic rejection story about the horror of school dances, but it got her published for the first time. She said she was so overly excited that she ‘bombarded’ DC Thomson with stories every week and they eventually offered her a job! Talk about perseverance! So, her writing adventure began, and over fifty years later she is one of the most successful and beloved children’s writers of all time!
She continued to talk about her newest release, Wave Me Goodbye, in which Shirley is evacuated from London during WW2. She meets Kevin and Archie on her journey to the countryside but unfortunately all three are not chosen by anyone in the village and so end up living with Mrs Waverley in the strange Red House. The way she spoke about her characters made them seem alive, as if they were sitting in the audience amongst us. Shirley, Kevin and Archie were a part of Jacqueline as she talked about them. These are characters that live in the heart of the author and always remain a part of her. I have always admired that she uses sophisticated language in her books rather than reverting to childish vocabulary. I haven’t read one of Wilson’s book in many, many years but I am going to dive back into her wonderful world with my signed copy of Wave Me Goodbye.
After meeting Jacqueline Wilson I am even more inspired by her. This is a woman who has a true passion and talent for writing. She has worlds inside her mind that she has so graciously shared with us over the years. Her characters are filled with pieces of her heart and she writes to fill the hearts of so many children with joy. It was wonderful to see the theatre full of giddy, smiling children who are clearly the next generation of bookworms. It is heartwarming to see them ask questions with such enthusiasm and even more heartwarming to see the care Jacqueline takes to reply to them in the most detailed way possible. A beautiful little girl, sitting in front of me, asked ‘What is your favourite word and why?’. This answer to this question struck me. Jacqueline replied, ‘I like word rainbow because it is so beautiful to see the colours in the sky after the smell of rain still lingers in the air. There is something mellow in a rainbow that I think could inspire the world to be more peaceful’. I’m not entirely sure if all the children completely understood what she meant but it is true that our world deserves more kindness and peace. I can only hope that the children there today will be inspired by Jacqueline and carry her words with them as they grow up.
For now, I am going to read Wave Me Goodbye in hopes that I will feel like a carefree child again, and who knows, I may end up buying all the Jacqueline Wilson books I have missed out on all these years!
Until Next Time,