Sunday, December 07, 2008

Meetings in Waterstones

Mark and I braved Bluewater today. I know - insane, right? Surprisingly no - we were quite taken aback by how very little traffic there was...and although most of the parking spaces were full...the place seemed large enough to swallow most of the other people there shopping.

We browsed around the various shops, trying to figure out what to buy friends and family. As usual, the siren-call I heard from Waterstones could not be denied. We strolled in, spent some time browsing books and talking to them in a crooning voice, raising a few eyebrows of those standing next to me...when I noticed I hastily moved onto the children's section where I met two very lovely young lads who were exceedingly well spoken and immaculately turned out. They used words like "excessive" and "poetry" and "tedious". We got to chatting and I discovered that they were visiting from The Royal Hospital School in Ipswich.

I hesitate to guess how old they were, I would say, maybe eleven or so? What struck me about them is how conficently they carried themselves and how well read they were. We got to chatting about books that are currently on the market, books they enjoyed reading and if they could recommend anything. (yes, I speak to strangers and sometimes they even speak back to me!) They highly recommended Malorie Blackman's work and a few others I have not heard of. I made notes. OCD, moi?

I explained that I run my own review site and gave them each one of my cards I had done up for the website, just to prove that I am not completely weird and stalkery...only a little. They are both aspiring writers themselves and I heard an absolutely brilliant plotline for a book which I think would really work - I hope the young lad decides to write it.

In turn I gave them some recommendations on books I had read. I also asked them what they think about some of the books that are out these days, specifically written for boys. They were not complimentary, saying that some of the books talked down to them or was just really uninteresting and a bit silly. And I was struck by their varied reading preferences. Boy A liked stories with a tragic mien, focussing heavily on relationships and inner turmoil, Boy B liked fantasy novels - be they set here on earth or elsewhere.

Mark and I listened to them talk passionately about the books and the authors and the stories and I felt truly put in my place. I pigeonholed kids in the past. Boys liked horror and splat. The end. What a wake-up call! I would like to thank the two lads who showed me the error of my ways (should they decide to pop by the blog). I completely misjudged them and the audience I would one day like to write for. It was a very valuable lesson. Very eye opening.

Both Mark and I left Waterstones after thanking the lads for the conversation and their time - we were both completely on a buzz, feeling chuffed to have met two such avid intelligent readers. In a way they were very inspiring but they were also a little daunting. But I'm always up for a good challenge!


Skarrah said...

Damn, where were the boys that knew their way around a bookshelf when I was that age?? Must be a recent phenomenon...

Or, yanno, my generation sucks.


ediFanoB said...

I read your blog entry during my lunch break and found it quite interesting. There are more serious young readers than we expect. I reminded me of an article I read in a German newspaper last week. There was a survey about reading books. Every fourth young adult read a book on his own. That's scary. But I'm also full of hope when I remember my visit to FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR 2008. There have been so many young people.....

Liz said...

Skarrah - I know exactly what you are saying. I'm still slightly starstruck by meeting two such eloquent and sweet boys. If Mark wasn't there to see it, I would have thought I was suffering a delusion.

Edi - it's amazing and so heartening. My librarian friend is saying the books I donated to her school has been flying off the shelf - so it's encouraging. I won't be sending books to charity shops anymore, that's for sure! The school libraries is where it's "at".