Lessons of a Child Writer, by Joe Prendergast


HE has done more in his eleven years than most of us will do in a lifetime. With a trilogy under his belt, a Young Person of the Year accolade in his cabinet and several national newspaper cuttings, of his face, adorning his walls, Joe Prendergast’s journey is awe-inspiring.

Having first been published, by Emu Ink, at just nine years of age, it’s been a hectic two years for the young Dublin lad.

We asked him, however, to take some time out and reflect, share the lessons he’s learned so far, his hopes for the coming year and, most importantly, his top five books!

 

THE most valuable lesson that I’ve learned during this incredible, but strange, whirlwind – also known as publishing a book – is the fact that you have to work hard. I imagined it to be an hour in front of the computer, sitting down and changing a few bits and pieces. It’s not anything like that.

Editing the book was a long journey, and for someone who doesn’t take corrections or criticism very well, like me, it’s even harder! I struggled with the concept of letting go of characters that only filled a page, or worthless chapters that I thought were 'cool.’  Some authors would probably read this and say ‘Nonsense! I did way more work than that nine-year-old boy!’ They’re probably right. I probably didn’t work as hard as them, I probably wasn’t quite so conscientious. I was stubborn, probably a little arrogant and probably a little childish. Correction. Very childish. And if somebody was editing this right now, they’d probably say that I said ‘probably’ way too much. They’d probably be right :)

I remember during the last weekend of the editing process of Dead End, I had to redo my work five times. It was unsaved or it was lost on some memory key somewhere. It seemed like it would never ever get finished. During this time I certainly learnt the value of pressing the ‘Save’ button.

 

 





Joe with world-famous author Louis de Bernieres

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, slowly and surely, The Great Fragola Brothers Trilogy became what it is today. However, what you think is the finished product never is. Even now I look back on The Great Fragola Brothers and think of lots of different words I could have used, more settings I could have described. There is lots I would change. Unfortunately, I can’t change anything. That was a lesson that I had to learn – the printed book was the printed book. It was done and dusted and that was it. Sometimes when I have to read aloud from my book now, I feel a little embarrassed. It doesn’t seem to me to be as good as I thought it was. Especially the first two. But, I have to remember, I was only nine when I wrote them.

What I’m trying to say is that I learnt that books are hard work. I’ve been lucky to have been rewarded for my hard work. Very few authors would get the publicity I got when Emu Ink first e-published my books. Very few authors would get a chance to appear on the Six One News, to be interviewed by Ray D’Arcy and to be featured on ‘BBC Online.’  Very few people, never mind authors, are awarded a ‘Young Person of the Year Award’ and I was so lucky to be given this honour in 2013. How amazing it was to receive my award from Nicky Byrne, take a selfie with An Taoiseach and to be told, by The Script, that I’m in their Hall of Fame.

I’ve learnt that this excitement doesn’t last forever. I find it hard to get back to writing books. But I take advice from all the great authors I have met who tell me to relax, keep reading and the writing will come again. Hopefully they’re correct but maybe I’d better get back out on that trampoline!

 

My hopes for 2015 are to take it slightly easier than 2013 and 2014, when I was very, very busy. To escape from the craziness of life and to enjoy my last few months in primary school. Book-wise, I’ve many projects that I’ve started but my newest idea looks the most hopeful. I’d love to continue writing.

Finally, I hope to have as much fun as possible!

  

My Top Five Books

5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I love this book because of the sheer excitement you get when you read it. James Dashner truly brings you into Thomas’ world, and you instantly sympathise with all of the Glade’s population – creating an action-packed, ferociously fast-paced, yet incredibly moving novel.

6)The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

I didn’t pick this book because the author is Irish. That was only one part of an incredibly long list of wonderful things about this novel. Despite this book being about suicide attempts, depression and desperate search parties, it’s one of the happiest books I’ve ever read. It’s an amazing read all about friendship and care through hard times. And times don’t get much harder than what the main characters are put through in this book. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, and you’ll cry some more. This book is truly one of a kind.

3.The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

I remember reading this book within a drive to Tipperary. I then read it again as a class novel. In simple terms, this book is absolutely incredible. It really displays that friendships can blossom despite being set against the backdrop of the horrifying events of the Holocaust during World War Two. I correct people when they call it a war novel, because frankly, it’s not. It’s a book about friendship. And what a wonderful book it is.

2.The Giver by Lois Lowry

This book was blacklisted when it first came out. Marked as a criticism of religion, the book was famous for all the wrong reasons. But finally some people found out what it was really about – emotion. Jonas lives in an emotionless world. When he learns to strongly feel things, he is different. Rightfully, The Giver by Lois Lowry now appears on American children’s ‘Booklist’ for school. Now it’s one of the best loved novels of all time.

1. Wonder by R.J Palacio

So here it is. The big one. My favourite book that I’ve ever read before in my entire life – Wonder by RJ Palacio. It wasn’t hard making this decision. This book is and always will be the best book in the world. It’s not just the fact that it tackles difficult subjects, such as bullying, it’s the fact that you see August’s world from every single person’s point of view. It’s beautifully written, incredibly funny, heartbreakingly sad. It’s a tearjerker, but the best one I’ve ever read.

 

So there you have it. The five books that you need to rush to a bookstore, and get. Not just for kids (or teenagers) but for adults too. These truly are ‘my top five books!’