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Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen

Fifth Children's Laureate Michael Rosen is one of the best-known figures in the children's book world. He has written numerous award-winning poetry books, non-fiction and picture books.

Harrow, Middlesex, 07/05/46

Carl Sandburg: Complete Poems

A book I had as a child called The Merry Pranks of Till Eulenspiegel

Bob Marley: Three Little Birds

Pelle The Conqueror

When did you start writing?
I think that the first time I started writing outside of school was when I was about 16. I wanted to write poems like D.H. Lawrence's poems.

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I think most writers write out of a mixture of remembering, observing and imagining. What happens with me is quite often I start with a memory, mix it with observations of people I know and then mix in a bit of 'What if ...?'

Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?
1. Write! - don't say to yourself 'I might' or 'I could'. Instead - just do it.

2. Copy up whatever you write into something that can easily be read to anyone. Typed/word-processed or hand-written very clearly.

3. Show what you write to people you respect. Listen to what they say.

Favourite memory?
From childhood - sharing my bedroom with my brother and having jokes and fun at the weekends, doing imitations of people we knew.

Favourite place in the world and why?
Broadcasting House in London because it has become the place where, apart from my home, some of the nicest things I've done or have happened to me, have taken place.

What are your hobbies?
Watching football - especially Arsenal. I like the way football is full of surprises, scares, drama.

Collecting books - I like the way a book is like a storehouse of ideas.

If you hadn't been a writer, what do you think you would have been?

Probably a teacher. My parents were teachers and for a time it looked like it was the only thing I could do.

I was born and brought up in the suburbs of north-west London. It was a strange place for us to be, really, and I often think that my parents, my father especially, were in a way stranded there. They had come from the East End, and whose parents or grandparents had fled from the anti-Jewish pogroms of eastern Europe. Their friends and soulmates seemed to live elsewhere so that as my brother and I established our friendships through school, I felt as if I led two lives, the one suburban, the other more radical and bohemian.

I went through school and university fairly successfully, with a peculiar zig-zag that took in a couple of years of studying medicine. Then I took up a traineeship at the BBC which was terminated fairly abruptly on account of a minor witch-hunt of BBC employees in the early 1970s. Since that time, I've done a mixture of writing, performing, teaching, lecturing, appearing on radio and TV programmes and helping bring up my own and other people's children.

The three books, Carrying the Elephant, This Is Not My Nose and In The Colonie are intended to be peculiar autobiographies. Using key moments, the death of my son, a ten year bout of hypothyroidism and a stay in a French Colonie de Vacances respectively, as metaphors, I've tried to present three fragmented, themed looks at my life. The first tries to deal with loss, the second with the hiding and revealing of reality, the third with questioning where I (and we?) belong.

For the last thirty years I've been writing and editing children's books, including We're Going On a Bear Hunt, Quick Let's Get Out Of Here and the Sad Book. In the last fifteen years or so I've spent a good deal of time working for radio, as a presenter of programmes about books, poetry and language.

It's an interesting and peculiar life. I see it as a kind of patchwork, made up of quite distinct and different squares, contiguous but not overlapping. When I go to bed at night, quite often I have no idea what I'm doing the following day until I look at my diary and it could be anything from working on a radio script, writing a children's book, doing my one-man show in a school, teaching at a university, writing a prose-poem or just playing about with one or some of my children.

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