Find out more about children’s author Sir Michael Morpurgo
Sir Michael Andrew Bridge Morpurgo OBE, FRSL, FKC is an author, poet, and playwright is known best for children's novels such as "War Horse", "Kensuke's Kingdom" and "The Day the World Stopped Turning". He became the third Children's Laureate, from 2003 to 2005. In 1976, Morpurgo and his wife Clare established the charity Farms for City Children, which has helped over 85,000 children to date!
Do you have any advice for budding writers?
Every writer is different. Here’s what I do. I try to live a life that is interesting. I fill my memory full of living. I go places, meet people, read books, all sorts of books. I look, I listen and I learn. I explore the world about me, explore my feelings and explore the feelings of others. I fill my head with all there is out there, the good, the bad, the lovely and the ugly, the funny and the sad. From all this comes ideas, notions, that are the seeds of my stories.
To grow the seeds I do my dream-time, and this means I find out all I can about my growing story, from people who know, from books, from memories.
Then when I’m ready, I sit on my bed, pick up my pen and tell the story down onto the page, not worrying about it, not anxious about spelling or grammar, I just tell it down as if telling it aloud to my best friend, telling it from the heart, meaning every word.
I write only in the mornings when my mind is fresh and clear. Later I read it though, correcting this and that, hearing the sound of the story out loud, as you might hear the sound of the sea, with every sentence a wave coming in and breaking on the shore.
Then when I’ve finished the whole story I give it to Clare who’s my wife and my best friend. She tells me what she thinks and I listen! I don’t always agree, but you can do that with best friends.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Ted Hughes once told me never to look at a blank page before you’re ready to begin your story but to dream it out first in your head, so that when you write your ‘once upon a time’ you know where you’re going, even if you don’t know how to get there, or what will happen when you do. The writing will take you there. So sit down and write!
Who has been your inspiration as a writer?
Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote “Treasure Island” and many different kinds of books. He wrote adventure books for young readers, serious and dark novels for adults, poetry, and travel books for everyone. He was the first writer whose stories I really believed as I was reading them. I became the characters, knew the hills, the islands, the seas he wrote about so well because he took me there with his words.
Did you write as a child?
No. I tried not to because it was always at school that I had to write. My handwriting was untidy, my spelling was hopeless, my grammar useless, and my teacher kept telling me with her red pencil slashes and with my low marks out of ten, that my stories were no good. So, I’m afraid I rather gave up on writing.
I didn’t find my voice and my confidence until years later when I was a teacher myself, trying to encourage children in my class to write down their stories and poems. We did it together and then if they liked to they read their work out loud, and I did the same. I liked that more and more, and that’s really how I became a storyteller and a writer.
What was your favourite book as a child?
My mother used to sit on my bed at bedtime and read me the stories and poems she liked best. She always read very beautifully, bringing life and music to the words. I loved what she loved. Her favourite story and mine was, “The Elephant’s Child” from Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”. It’s about how one day, in a world before elephants had trunks, a baby elephant acquired one and how useful it turned out to be. Read it, you’ll love it! Because of this story, I think, elephants have always been my favourite animal. And because of that I’ve written two novels about elephants, Elephant in the Garden and Running Wild.
My mother’s favourite poem, and mine, the one she read most often, was “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear. I’ve just written a story about that poem. I called it “Owl or Pussycat”. Read it and you’ll find out why. Hope you enjoy it. It’s all true, by the way.
Happy writing, happy reading, happy dreaming!
You can find out even more about Michael on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/michaelmorpurgoofficial
Michael’s latest book “The Birthday Duck” is out now and available from all good bookshops.
Full of friendship and adventure, this charming collection of stories celebrates the way the countryside and its animals can leave an impression on a child's heart forever.