Charles McCheese: And The Childhood News Network

by | Feb 25, 2021 | Author | 0 comments

Today on the Authors’ Lounge, I’m thrilled to be able to discuss the role inspiration plays in the creation of literature. As a children’s author, it will come as no surprise that I draw inspiration from my own children.

When writing for children I always play with an idea from developmental psychology, where one thing that makes a child’s mind different from an adult’s is that children have access to magical thinking.

The idea that as adults we’ve lost this magic can be sad indeed, but as an author I love to try and rediscover the world through the magical eyes of childhood.

I love to spot the magic all around me, that my children are naturally responding to. In doing this I not only can experience and broaden their creativity but I can also keep some of the lost magic alive for myself.

In my newest elementary school novel, Charles McCheese and The Childhood News Network, I tuned in on my oldest son Charlie. I paid attention to what he thought was newsworthy and how it differed from the horror show that adults call the news.

We were out to eat when inspiration for the book first struck. Charlie was four at the time of the dinner, where he pointed towards the sky. A large bird had just swooped down to an outside table and had taken off with a cheese burger. Charlie thought it was hilarious, and honestly as an adult I would have missed it all together. I questioned Charlie about the moment and instantly I knew a crow stealing a cheeseburger was a magical moment for him, one filled with the endless possibilities of animal robbery.

Later that same day, we turned on the TV and the news was on. We’d only been watching for seconds when Charlie grimaced. He shouted in his squeaky voice, “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

Of course, I hurried to get the news off the TV, because grown-up news is the worst!

There it was the whole idea for the book, born in one day: children taking control of the news and reporting on stuff that they found interesting.

After that I would watch Charlie play with his friends and imagine them in the roles and adventures of The Childhood News Network. One thing I noticed right away was that Charlie and all his friends loved the question why. Why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly? Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner?

All these why’s told me that the right kind of journalism for kids was investigative journalism. The reporters in the book needed to be empowered to ask the question why and really get to the bottom of it. That’s where the Taco Tuesday Conspiracy came from, I wanted the reporters to find something in their every day life, the made no sense, and be able to ask why as many times as it took to get some real answers. What better question for a kid to ask then, “Why do I have to eat tacos every Tuesday?”

I centered the book around the Taco Tuesday Conspiracy with my son Charlie as my target audience. I wrote the book for and with him. I read to him my newest additions to the manuscript most nights for months. He loved being involved, he loved being the star, and like any good star he loved giving me notes on the work.

Without the inspiration Charlie gave me, I never would have been able to create the magical world of Charles McCheese and The Childhood News Network.

For more about Emma Jean follow her on instagram @Emma.Jean.Author

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