Thursday 19 April 2018

Jacqueline Wilson will no longer write about teens as they're now 'social media obsessed'

Hannah Furness

Jacqueline Wilson, the bestselling author, says writing modern teenage characters is difficult because they spend too much time on social media

It is becoming too difficult to write books about teenagers because they are so busy on social media they do not do enough to form a plot, the novelist Dame Jacqueline Wilson has suggested.

Dame Jacqueline, one of the best-selling children's writers of all time, said she has turned away from writing about teenage girls because they are not "actually going out" enough to create action.

Saying she had not written a modern teenage book for some time, she added she now found it "quite difficult" to think of plots involving them.

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson speaks on the Tata Stage on the third day of the annual Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire, Wales. Sunday May 25, 2014.
Children's author Jacqueline Wilson speaks on the Tata Stage on the third day of the annual Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire, Wales. Sunday May 25, 2014.

Speaking at Hay Festival, she said she is now more likely to write about Victorian or Edwardian children instead.

Her latest project will see her re-write the children's classic What Katy Did, originally created by Susan Coolidge in 1872, after she became frustrated with its message about disabled people.

When asked which age range she preferred writing for, Dame Jacqueline told an audience of children she enjoyed aiming her novels at young people between the ages of seven and 14.

The author, beloved by generations for her characters including Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather, said: "If I'm writing for girls up to about 16, I haven't for a long time written a modern teenage book. Because it's quite difficult to think of plots.

"If everybody's social networking or whatever, they're not actually going out and doing stuff. And maybe the sort of stuff they are doing isn't the quite sort of thing you have in a children's book.

"So I tend to write about Victorian or Edwardian teenagers."

Her latest novels have starred the likes of Opal Plumstead, a clever Edwardian schoolgirl, Hetty Feather, a Victorian foundling, or younger protagonists such as primary schoolgirl Tina in her new Butterfly Club.

Dame Jacqueline's next project will see her re-write another 19th century heroine, Katy from the What Katy Did series, for a new generation.

In particular, she hopes to counteract what she believes is the damaging message of Classic literature of years past, including Heidi and The Secret Garden, which cons young disabled readers into believing they could be cured if only they were well-behaved.

"As a child I thought oh this is wonderful and inspiring. As an adult I felt more uncomfortable. Because mostly, if you're unlucky enough to have a spinal injury and you can't walk, you are not going to be able to walk again.

"And I thought how irritating for a child if this happened to them.

They know full well that if they're very good or very patient or breathe in lots of fresh air, they are still not going to be able to walk again."

The plot of Katy originally saw a "fantastic tomboy, naughty, headstrong heroine" being severely injured after falling off a swing in an accident that was "all he own fault".

She is later visited by her "saintly Cousin Helen", who tells her she must learn to be good, patient and motherly. Eventually, Dame Jacqueline said, "she suddenly feels her legs differently, decides she's going to stand up, and she does".

Dame Jacqueline's reinterpretation will see her version of Katy reach redemption in a different way: by overcoming her anger at her illness and learning to live a different but fulfilling life.

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