martedì 13 dicembre 2011

Nicola Davies talks about non-fiction

 Breve intervista all'autore di

Interessante è capire l'approccio di un libro non fiction e nel caso dei suoi libri la capacità di fare un confronto con il mondo animale.

Molti suoi libri sono stati illustrati da Neal Layton

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1 Do you prefer writing non fiction or fiction? 
I really like writing both. When I've been writing fiction for a while I'm always glad to get back to non fiction, and vice versa. I don’t think there’s that much difference between writing fiction and non fiction – you have to engage your audience, communicate with them, with both. What all writing boils down to is the delivery of information; in fiction, the source of that information come from your head and in non fiction the source of that information is rooted in the reality of what the world is really like. Of course there's an awful lot of overlap between the two – a fictional framework can hold within it the reality of the solid and factual world, and the solid factual world can be spun into something magical, strange and unreal. I suppose that's why I like both genres, because I can play around with that borderline. But with both fiction and non fiction I want to make my readers excited, stirred up. When I'm writing non fiction I want them to feel the buzz that simply knowing stuff gave me as a little girl – and still gives me now – and I want them to feel delight in the natural world. When I'm writing fiction I want them to feel that delight in life itself, in the challenge and adventure of living and in finding out about their own capabilities and limits and how that fits with the big world.

2 Why is non fiction important for children?
Good quality non fiction is more important now than it's ever been. Children have access to a wildwood of unprocessed information via the Internet, information which is often inaccurate, poorly presented and packaged in a way that is utterly unsuitable for children. What non fiction offers children is a route through that tangle at the right pace for their age. It gives them interesting, thought-provoking connections that invite them to explore and make connections of their own. The lovely thing about a book is that as a reader it's utterly yours, utterly personal, and you can take its pages at any pace, in any order you like. Unfortunately, some of what is termed children's non fiction are simply what I call “tile grouting” books, pictures with words squirted around them like the grouting round tiles. These books don't invite readers to engage with either text or pictures, they just look quite pretty and deliver nothing except a bit of profit to the publishers.

3 Where do you get your ideas from for non fiction books?
It sounds a bit airy-fairy to say “from nature”, as though I drift through meadows picking buttercups, dressed in a diaphanous frock. But the true answer is “from nature” – from the experience of seeing animals in the wild in their natural habitats and from my lifelong passion for the science of zoology, the great jigsaw of evolution, and how they fit together. Sometimes I'll read a new piece of research, some new discovery of what an animal gets up to and that will spark off an idea. Sometimes they arrive from a sight or sound that lodged itself in my mind long ago that suddenly pops up to the surface and demands attention. Sometimes they arrive by talking. I have a very old friend who is a Professor of Zoology, and last year we were in the Sea of Cortez studying sperm whales and chatting a lot about the dolphins we could see, which were always doing amazing jumps and acrobatics, almost as if they wanted to distract us. We talked about “what if a dolphin was born sensible?” and an idea for a book was born – but it may be ages before I write it.

4 What do you see as the future for non fiction writing for children?
It's getting harder and harder for writers to get non fiction for children published, because there is the perception that now we have the Internet we don't need it. No one for a moment suggests that adult travel, historical, science and biography writers should stop writing because we can look it all up on Google. There is a recognition that non fiction for grown-ups has value, that the input of the writer's voice is worthwhile. That simply isn't there when it comes to children's non fiction writing and until that changes we will be in danger of letting our young people drown in ignorance, floating on a sea of “tile grouting” books and web pages.

5 What non fiction books did you love growing up?
I spent hours pouring over the human physiology pages at the back of my dad's Encyclopaedia Britannica. He had the belief – like many working-class Welshmen of his generation – that education would get you anywhere. So he bought a complete set of encyclopaedias. Those pages, with the illustrations of human bodies on acetate so you could peel the body from skin to bone, layer by layer, fascinated me. I can shut my eyes and see them still and feel the thrill they gave me. I was given The Observer’s Book of Birds’ Eggs for my seventh birthday and I remember looking at it in bed when I had measles. The pictures of birds and their eggs (magical things) hypnotised me. I stared at them, wishing and wishing I could see them for real. I was ill a lot as a kid and during another long bout of being in bed my dad got me Marvels and Mysteries of Our Animal World, a series of non-fiction anecdotes about animals in the wild with great photographs. I read and re-read every single story in that book. And all of Gerald Durrell’s books about his trips to Africa and South America. Just thinking of those books now makes me happy. They were full of fun, and had a powerful sense of place and of the people he met, but also gorgeous descriptions of the animals. I wanted to be him so badly when I was eleven. And, last but not least, two things I read as a teenager, J.A Baker's The Peregrine – a story of passion for landscape and birds – and D.H Lawrence’s animal poems. The clarity and delight expressed in his animal poems has given me images that have lasted a lifetime in my heart.

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