“My name is… Enid Blyton”
TOWARD THE END OF THE BEGINNING…
Enough said really.
Two words… Goodness knows how many books.
And next to JK Rowling, probably one of Britain’s most successful children’s authors, though unlike Harry Potter’s creator, considerably warmer (Legal Disclaimer: I’ve always held a grudge against Ms Rowling since, watching her at the Royal Albert Hall answer a question from a child as to whether she herself believed in magic, replied ‘no’).
Anyway, Ms Wilson was… electric. Alive. And unbelievably charismatic, sitting in a Sheldonian Hall that, for added dramatic effect, was packed to the rafters with girls aged between four and 13.
Yet without any need for a microphone - at least none I could see - spoke effortlessly and engagingly about topics I know nothing about (Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather among them). However, such was her enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but think I might sneak a look at one of these characters in Blackwell’s one day.
Frail arms bedecked in bracelets galore - a nod to Edith Nesbit, the ‘Railway Children’ author she claims has been her life-long inspiration - she was open, friendly, and clearly the apple of everyone’s eye (even some parents looked like rabbits caught in headlights).
Without notes, and almost entirely ‘um’ and ‘er’ free, she weaved some wonderful tales about her own, modest beginnings.
Admitting most memorably that occasionally, when starting out as an author and finding herself introduced to strangers at parties who clearly had no idea who she was, felt tempted instead to introduce herself as Enid Blyton. Just for a reaction.
But, as you might expect, the real stars of this talk were the audience.
I don’t know if children and young teenagers today are any more intelligent than say… 10 years ago, but boy were some of their questions smart, savvy and on the money. So, courtesy of five or six young fans of Ms Wilson, here are a few revelations you might find interesting -
When she was younger and writing for magazines, she was appointed one publication’s astrologer, without knowing a single thing about the subject
The teenage girls’ magazine ‘Jackie’ was named after her
Of all the characters she’s created, she’d most like to meet Hetty Feather
* Of all the characters she’s created, she believes she herself is most like Rosalind from her book ‘Four Children and It’
Her favourite time to write is early in the morning, after she’s been woken by either her cat, dog or both.
And, she doesn’t really know why the parents in so many of her stories… split.
For a novice to her world, it was, if nothing else, a tour-de force of personality and style.