Award-Winning Children's Book Author Lesley Beake

Award-Winning Children's Book Author Lesley Beake

Is defined by books, reading … Africa. Although I was born and schooled in Scotland, only my accent betrays those roots. I have lived and travelled in various parts the continent of Africa for over forty years, and enjoyed every one of them. These are the landscapes and loves that inform my stories and my memories.

I have always read and always written. But writing comes from listening and watching – observing and recording, and that’s what I mostly do. There are stories everywhere and some of the simplest ideas produce the most powerful plots.

It is critically important to stay in touch with children’s lives and realities. Nostalgia has its place, but I always write from a child’s point of view. I deeply respect the strength and courage children have to show, even in the seemingly routine matter of growing up, and especially in the difficult circumstances many – most – of them find themselves.

I am often asked if I feel disempowered as a writer for young people by the fact that I have no children of my own. No. In some ways this has given me the freedom to absorb the stories and the sense of place that are my books - and the time to write them.

Editing books written by other writers brings new perspectives and understanding. I have edited well over two hundred books in my time – from adult biographies to pre-text picture books – and I love it. (The latter are the more difficult, the former by far the more time-consuming!). It has been a particular pleasure to be involved with innovative and exciting reading schemes for Primary Schools and to work with children on stories for a Parliamentary project that opened my eyes to the realities of rural schools.

I also enjoy being involved with new writers and have given workshops throughout South Africa to adults wishing to write for children – and also to children who want to focus their writing skills and to teachers who need to use the power of story to better effect in their classrooms.

Another life-long interest came through working in remote San villages in northern Namibia with anthropologist Dr Megan Biesele. I have been involved on the perimeter of educational projects there for many years and now edit a website for San people – which is a fascinating way to begin every working day.

My brother and sister all live in South Africa and are frequent visitors, as are a multitude of friends who descend on my home at regular intervals and sustain me in all that I do. Hobbies seem to have gone out of the window – perhaps while I was reading a particularly good book – except for my dogs. I will always have a dog and my latest is Lyra, the third in a regal procession of Wiemaraners – two of whom were rescued from animal shelters. (And Lyra, naturally, got her name from a book – The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman).

Apart from books and dogs (and an impressive display of jewellery-making equipment gathering dust) perhaps the thing that I most like to do is laugh. We don’t do enough of it – and we don’t have enough books for children in Africa that make them smile.

Phone: +27 (0) 82 6464 420  |