I never knew I wrote for children. Not until someone read one of my manuscripts and said “My children would love to read this!” Then it clicked. I do write children’s stories. At least that’s where my style “fits” within the literary market.
You see, I grew up in the farthest side of a small and cozy town, about twenty-five minutes away from the busy and grey capital of Peru, Lima.
In Chaclacayo the sun was always out, the grass was green and there was a constant smell of spring. Since my house was so far from the others’, there was seemingly not much to do after school. But my huge backyard, dogs, TV, and books provided me with lots of time to wander and wonder.
My mom didn’t read to my sister and me, like they tell us now parents should read to their children every night. Times were different then. But even so, my mom always had a book or two by her bedside. She was passionate when she discussed her favorite authors. Asimov and Camus were some names I often heard mentioned. She wasn’t a big fan of buying toys outside the Christmas/birthday seasons, but she would frequently show up with the most fascinating books for my sister and me. The excitement on her face said it all.
My dad zealously protected his book and music collections. Those were his biggest treasures. From Bradbury to Vallejo, he had some real gems in his shelf. He too would avidlydiscuss his books with friends or family.
As a matter of fact, our whole family was passionate about books.I remember one of my uncles had converted his garage into a library. The first time I visited the new libraryI was a teenager. There were shelves full of books running from the floor to the ceiling. Every book was neatly classified and sorted in their specific category. I could swear his book collection was bigger that my town’s own public library. I asked him to lend me a book. He looked me up and down and asked with a stern look,“How old are you?” “Eighteen,” I answered. He nodded and opened a notebook where he wrote my name, the date and the name of the book I was taking with me. I didn’t dare ask for a second book that day, but when I left, I thought that place was even better than The Batcave!
Growing up, there was no such thing as children’s books, at least not in our house. We had book shelves filled with all kinds of books, free for anyone to pick up and read. That’s how I discovered Hamlet when I was 10. Something about a young man on the cover, with a profound look in his eyes, holding a cranium, caught my attention. I read it . . . some big words called for the dictionary. I’m not sure I understood all of it but I loved it! I was ‘hooked on Shakespeare’ from that day on. I found Alice in Wonderland, as well. It was a hardcover, big book with large illustrations. I really didn’t know it was for children, I read it and it became my companion for many years to come.
I discovered most of my books, on my parent’s shelves and through their ‘good taste’ in literature. When we moved to another house, my bedroom had its own bookshelf. I started my own collection of titles: Tennessee Williams to William Shakespeare;Peter Pan to Little Women;H.G Wells to Pablo Neruda; Rosemary Wells to The Smurfs comic books. My bookshelf was simply organized into two categories: ‘Books I have to re-read’ and ‘Books I have to finish’. That was all.
I was also a writer from an early age, and I dreamt of one day publishing a book to add to that collection. I would put my booknext to Oscar Wilde’s in the ‘Books to be re-read’ category.
Now I have two books of my own to add to my library. Yes, they are children’s books. But I didn’t write them thinking of a specific audience. I just wrote my heart out with the hope that, maybe someday, someone would find my work inspiring. I hoped that someone else would like to add me to their bookshelf.
That’s why when a blogger or “fan” (that’s still hard to say!) asks me why I choose to write for children, I smile inside because I know I didn’t choose to write for children. I guess it is children who chose to read me. And I couldn’t be more thankful!
(PS Tristan Wolf is available in English AND Spanish):
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