Liz Kessler – Book Reading, Saturday 30thJune, 1 – 2pm, MMU Geoffrey Manton building
Words and photographs by Sophie Bannister
There are small gasps from the young girls in the room as Liz Kessler, author of the successful Emily Windsnap and Philippa Fisher series, enters. I can see her books everywhere, sitting on the tables in front of their owners, ready to be signed at a moment’s notice. A hush descends, and every little girl’s face lights up and looks towards the front expectantly. There is a surreal air hanging about the beginning of this event. It is created by the strong feeling of excitement emitted by Liz’s fans and vaguely resembles what meeting the Queen must feel like. I – though arguably too old for Emily Windsnap’s adventures, sadly – begin to sense the bubbling feeling that comes from the mounting excitement. Perhaps I’m reverting back to childhood.
It isn’t much of a surprise that Liz is more popular with girls than boys; the majority of her books consist of adventures about mermaids and fairies, which, of course, most little girls aspire to be. Yet, Liz’s books have inspired all kinds of children from every walk of life. It’s not hard to see why. The scope of imagination that has gone into these books is impressive.
Liz begins the event by talking about her writing, and it soon begins to resemble a creative writing lecture. We learn about Liz’s habits as a writer and she describes some of her influences whilst incorporating events that led to the creation of her famous works. Of these, the story of how the Philippa Fisher books came about is one of the most entertaining. It was based on an experience a young Liz had when she picked a daisy one day. She immediately knew it was going to become a fairy at midnight. So she took it to her room, placed it in a jar on her windowsill and stayed up that night to wait and watch. As midnight crept closer, Liz began to grow fearful of what might happen. What if the fairy was bad? She couldn’t take it any longer. Liz flung open her window and threw the daisy out. She instantly regretted it. This was later to become the beginning of the first Philippa Fisher book, and it is just one example of how life experiences have shaped Liz’s work.
Liz confesses that when she writes, she is an obsessive planner. Her routine begins by scribbling ideas into beautiful notebooks with covers that inspire the imagination (‘if you love notebooks, you’re pretty much halfway to being a writer!’ she tells us). They then all get typed up, printed out, cut up and moved around until Liz is fairly happy with the order. Eventually, it is broken down into chapters then sent to the editor for approval. It’s a process that takes a painfully long time, yet for Liz, it is a necessary one in order to make her stories so inspiring.
It is entirely fascinating to listen to Liz’s enthusiasm. Her excited tone of voice highlights exactly how much she cares for her line of work and how desperate she is to help others to break into the world of writing. The audience is given lots of tips to help with problems like writer’s block and time management, which are eagerly absorbed by little brains.
The writing business is put aside for now, as Liz begins to read from her new Emily Windsnap book, Land of the Midnight Sun.The audience reclines into their seats and lets Liz’s words surround and transport them into the story. The whole event is over far too soon. Yet, the quality of the snippet read to us confirms one thing; if the authors of the future sit in this room today, they’ve been given a great head start with Liz’s advice.
Sophie Bannister has just completed her first year studying English Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. She hopes to complete a Master’s degree after her time at MMU. MCBF has given her the boost she needed to start her own blog and showcase her work. You can view Sophie’s blog here.