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  • Writer's pictureLittle Thoughts Press

Interview: Jonathan Sellars


A photograph of Little Thoughts Press Issue Two: Natural Wonder with a sneak peek of the poem "Do Manatees Make Wishes" by Jonathan Sellars. The cover of the issue has a natural tree branch, rocks, and greenery against a pink and blue watercolor painted background.

 

Jonathan Sellars loves rhymes and is waiting for the day someone invents a word that rhymes with his name. His poems can be found in The Caterpillar and Parakeet Magazines as well as flying high in The Dirigible Balloon. His first picture book, Polly Plum: Brave Adventurer, is available now through National Maritime Museum. Should you invent the word he’s looking for then please let him know @JSellarsLies on Twitter.


 

Little Thoughts Press: Your poem, "Do Manatees Make Wishes?" makes me chuckle every time I read it because it reminds me of the way young kids will ask the most bizarre and probing questions. What is your method for tapping into and infusing your work with childlike wonder? In what ways does your use of rhyme contribute to that process?


Jonathan Sellars: I really struggled at school when we had to study poetry. We had to write essays analysing these long, laborious poems that made absolutely no sense to me. I always came bottom of the class and made up my mind that poetry was just the worst.


It took me a long time to realise that I was just driving down one lane of the great poetry highway, and that there are in fact many different lanes, home to many different types of poems. Some are very cryptic, some are very emotionally raw, and some are just there to entertain you; they rhyme, are fun to read, and only want to put a smile on your face. Those are my kind of poems.


That’s all I think about now when I sit down to write poetry. How can I put a smile on the face of my younger self? If it’s not a poem they would have enjoyed then it’s not a poem I want to write. I think it also helps that I still look at the world with a childlike wonder and random thoughts, like whether manatees gaze up at the night sky to wish upon shooting stars, constantly pop into my head. I love the challenge of turning those thoughts into something tangible.



Little Thoughts Press: Issue 2: Natural Wonder is all about celebrating nature. Do you have a favorite spot in nature or a place you have visited where the wonder of nature was on full display?


Jonathan Sellars: Mountains. Mountains are my happy place.


I always look at the blackbirds that flap around my small garden in London and think what a waste, why don’t they fly south and live in the Alps? Then they could spend every day soaring over snowy peaks, or whooshing up cliff faces, or discovering hidden valleys. But I guess they have their reasons. Like not being able to read maps. Or not liking the taste of mountain worms. It’s a shame though.



Little Thoughts Press: What initially drew you to writing kid-lit and what do you find most challenging and rewarding about writing for a young audience?


Jonathan Sellars: I think the best stories are those that anyone can read, child or adult. Adults always love being taken back to when they were younger, when they weren’t bound by the constraints of their adult lives. Children on the other hand love reading about the adventures that still lie ahead. Everything I write aims to cross that divide.


As for challenges, I think it's important to make sure any writing for children offers a fair reflection of the world. The world isn’t all good, but it isn’t all bad either, and there’s a lot more good than bad. The best stories are able to capture that and help children realise that they have the power to enforce positive change, because they really can.



Little Thoughts Press: Which kid-lit authors and books were your favorites growing up?


Jonathan Sellars: In terms of poetry, it was always Michael Rosen. He made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

In terms of longer stories, I’ve always been a sucker for adventures and so loved the Willard Price books growing up, although some of them haven’t aged well (I’m pretty sure in one of them they go whaling!). I was also, like most people, a big fan of Roald Dahl – I’ve made hundreds of (unsuccessful) attempts to recreate George’s Marvellous Medicine. I’ll probably stop when I get to a thousand.


I'm also sure, sadly, that I went through a long period in my teenage years when I didn’t read at all. Although that now motivates me to write something that would have persuaded that sulky adolescent to sit down and give it a go.



Little Thoughts Press: And what about today? Any kid-lit writers you love and want to shout out?


Jonathan Sellars: I have a real obsession with Michael Morpurgo. Even though I only read him for the first time a few years ago I find it mad that he started writing for children in the 1970’s and he’s still writing for them now. He doesn’t speak down to children, or try and win them over with cheap laughs, his stories just seem to draw you in with the power of his storytelling. He’s a real hero of mine and I haven't come across a better writer.


I’d also give a shout-out to The Dirigible Balloon which is a website dedicated to children’s poetry. It has a huge range of poems from poets all over the world and is a brilliant resource.



Little Thoughts Press: What advice would you give to young writers?


Jonathan Sellars: Writing isn’t about perfect grammar and spelling. It’s about getting an idea out of your head and onto a piece of paper. You don’t have to share it with anyone, but don’t you dare let it rot inside your brain.


And don’t worry if you don’t think it’s very good. Nothing you write will be perfect the first time. But at least once it’s out there you can come back to it and make changes.



Little Thoughts Press: Is there anything else you wish I had asked? Any upcoming projects, publications, or other news you'd like to share?


Jonathan Sellars: I was lucky enough to have a picture book, Polly Plum: Brave Adventurer, published this year. Of course, it rhymes, and yes it’s meant to make you laugh, but hopefully it has a nice message hidden away in it as well. Why not give it a go and let me know what you think.


I also post poems on Twitter (@JSellarsLies) and on Instagram (@JonathanSellarsLiesHere) if anyone is interested.







1 comentario


Carrie S Fannin
Carrie S Fannin
28 jun 2022

Lovely interview, Jonathan! "I think it also helps that I still look at the world with a childlike wonder and random thoughts, like whether manatees gaze up at the night sky to wish upon shooting stars, constantly pop into my head. I love the challenge of turning those thoughts into something tangible." 💕

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