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Kate Saksena - Sidelights

write people teenagers time

Kate Saksena told SATA: "I have always written stories, and when my children were younger, I started to write stories for them. At the same time, as a teacher of teenagers, I became aware of the shortage of teenage books that reflect the lives of ordinary teenagers in south London.

"I decided to write a book about an ordinary south London girl going through the kind of difficult experiences that I had witnessed among so many of my pupils. I wanted to show two things in particular: first to illustrate the kinds of difficulties that beset so many inner city kids' lives; second, and more importantly, to celebrate a much underrated group—young people who take on parental responsibilities, keep their families together, and at the same time manage to get to school and keep smiling, all with a quiet strength and dignity.

"In my other two books for teenagers, both quite different from Hang On in There, Shelley, I've maintained the theme of ordinary kids dealing with difficult situations with extraordinary resilience. Through these I have simply wanted to give teenagers stories about people they can relate to in order to encourage more young people to read and see the value and enjoyment they can find in reading.

"It takes me about a year to write a teenage novel. I have a full-time job, so I can only write in the evenings or at weekends. I write in a reporters' notebook, and I can write anywhere—trains, parks, buses—except at a desk or computer. I spend six months thinking about the story and the character, making lots of notes. Once I have decided on the details of the main character, I can begin to plan properly. I have to know him or her quite well so that I know how he or she will react to all the people and events I create.

"The main influences on my writing have been the major twentieth-century novelists, rather than children's writers. I have been an avid reader from the time I was able to read alone.

"The only advice I would give aspiring writers would be to read as much as they can and to write as much as they can about whatever appeals to them. It's like most skills: the more you practice, the better you get."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS


Publishers Weekly, June 2, 2003, review of Hang On in There, Shelley, p. 52.

School Library Journal, June 2, 2003, Susan W. Hunter, review of Hang On in There, Shelley, p. 165.

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