Child Authors – Nurturing the gift

The importance of getting children into writing, a Q&A with Harrison Sansostri.

“Writing can be one of the greatest and most involving experiences in existence.”

– H.G. Sansostri

It goes without saying that reading and writing are crucial to a child’s educational development. Even from a young age, reading to your child will help them improve their vocabulary, their concentration, their ability to retain information, their curiosity, their imagination, and their listening skills.

The stories that we read to our children can have an even deeper impact, because these stories can help nurture empathy, help our children learn a little more about the world, and help them understand the importance of friendship.

The beauty of sharing stories with children is that it can be done from any age. Even reading to a newborn can help parents create that all-important bond!

Reading to children, introducing them to stories, and encouraging them to write their own has an abundance of developmental benefits – but it’s also fun!

We decided to catch up with Harrison Sansostri – the successful young author of the Little Dudes’ Skool Survival Guide, a crucial helpbook for young people looking to navigate the tricky and sticky situations of school life – to find out more about his experience entering the publishing world at a young age.

Harrison published his first book at just 12-years-old. Now he’s 16, has published a second book, The Chronicles of Derek Dunstable,  and has some things to say regarding the importance of getting children into writing!

Q: How did it feel the first time you saw your book in print?

Harri: My book, the Little Dudes Skool Survival Guide, was published on my twelfth birthday. I got home to find a massive cardboard box in my room and, I won’t lie, a part of me thought it would be an Xbox One or something like that. I opened it to find another box, and then I opened that box to find another box, and then I eventually reached the final one. Inside it was the first official issue of my book and it felt amazing to be holding my book, my creation, in my hands there.

I used to think authors would just click their fingers and bam, they have a book. I realised how grueling and exhausting the process was, but I found it was all worth it to hold that first copy in my hands for the first time. It was an amazing experience.

Q: What advice would you give to other children who want to write books but don’t know where to start?

Harri: I’d say the first piece of advice I’d give to young aspiring authors is to just go for it and stay disciplined. Maybe set a designated time during the day or have a schedule where they dedicate to their writing, as I can assure you the greatest challenge with writing is sticking with your story. Some kids will go home after my talks, looking to write their stories down, and then will give up days later because they’ve hit their first bump in the road and have lost momentum.

They also need to have the discipline to go through their work afterwards and edit it, which I know can be a pain as I personally don’t like editing. However, a famous quote says that ‘you can’t be a good writer – only a good rewriter’. A manuscript will never be perfect the first time and kids will need to have the discipline to go back through their work and correct grammar and change things. They need to stay disciplined and push forwards with their stories!

Q: If you were to write a book now, what would you want to write about?

Harri: I am actually working on something right now! It’s a fantasy story about my main character Corsair Sedrid, who is a warrior champion that goes on a grand quest to… well, I’m going to stop myself before I reveal or spoil too much! It’s a work in progress, and I’m anticipating it to be  series of seven books, but I’m really enjoying my current project!

Q: Are there any books that inspired you to write this guide or was it all simply inspired by your own experiences?

Harri: Definitely by my own experiences. Unfortunately, I underwent a negative time from Year Four to Year Six that involved bullying and the Little Dudes Skool Survival Guide was a result of myself creating a guide to give myself advice on how to deal with the situations I was put in.

Bullying isn’t the main focus of the talk, as parts that were considered too in-depth about bullying were removed to not dampen the happy tone I wanted the book to have, but there are parts where I do instruct the readers on how to handle situations that they may feel are developing into bullying.

Q: What was the most fun topic to write about regarding school survival techniques?

Harri: My favourite part was the Specifics! This was a section where I categorised the different types of children I stumbled across whilst in primary school, and dubbed them with names like ‘the Peacocks’ (trendy kids) and ‘the Muscles’ (sporty kids). Also, I really enjoyed creating the quizzes in my book as I felt they were interactive for the reader and fun for them to take part in.

Q: Now that you’re a little bit older, is there any new advice you would add to the guide?

Harri: My golden piece of advice to kids, now that I am older, is communicate with your parents. School is an enigma that warps and transforms to become a different experience for every kid, so some advice may not apply to some children. However, this applies to all children because the most important thing they can do is always be open with their parents.

Some days at school they may have a great time, and other times they may not enjoy themselves as a result of something that went on, e.g. bullying. Communication allows them to get any problems off their chest in case they do experience a negative situation in school and makes sure it does not progress or continue any further. The only reason my bullying lasted two years was that I refused to communicate and thought that it would all become smooth sailing eventually, and I feared being called a ‘snitch’.

I tell kids that, even if they know they will be called a ‘snitch’, that their happiness in school comes above any lame insult a bully can throw at them and they should always talk to their parents.

Q: Which three words would you use to sum up this whole experience (of writing and publishing your own book)?

Harri: The three words I would use to sum up the writing process are ‘invigorating’, ‘satisfying’ and ‘exhausting’.

Invigorating because writing can be one of the greatest and most involving experiences in existence, where your mind is lost in the world you have forged and you’re there watching every moment transpire within your story and it’s such a good feeling!

Satisfying because reaching the end is like running an extremely long marathon – it was a hard process, and there were some bumps and challenges along the way, but crossing that finish line and typing that final full-stop makes all of the challenges you endured worth the trouble.

That nicely ties into my next word, exhausting! This is because writing can be the most infuriating and uncooperative process ever – sometimes words just won’t stick to the page, and all you can do is delete and repeat as every sentence you create just seems awkward or it doesn’t flow like it should. However, my mantra is ‘make the backspace key your best friend’, as writing is a lot of deleting and rewriting and repeating in order to reach your end goal, which only leads to more deleting and replacing!

Visit Harri’s website to learn more about his projects, keep up to date with the latest news, and enquire about bookings.