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Last Updated: Thursday June 09 2005 09:24 GMT

Hotseat: Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson. [Photo by Alexandra Strick]
Jacqueline Wilson popped into Newsround to take part in a live webchat.

The best-selling author and new Children's Laureate was in the hotseat, answering all your best questions.

If you missed the live event, you can read the transcript or watch the video below and see what Jacqueline had to say.

Rachel: How old were you when your first book you wrote was published?
Jacqueline: Hi Rachel, I was writing stories throughout my childhood, and my first short story was published when I was 17. But I was 22/23 before I got a book/novel published.

Imogen: How did you first become interested in writing? Did any author or teacher inspire you?
Jacqueline: I loved books, I liked pictures, and it evolved from there. No, at my primary school, they made a fuss of me, I was chosen to read my stories aloud. At secondary school, stories were made to be more formal, so I had lots of corrections. So I feel if they read any of my books now I'd still get full of red marks! Do it the school way at school and your own way at home.

Chloe: How long have you been writing books? And what is your favourite book you have written?
Jacqueline: I never can decide, I think it's possibly the Illustrated Mum, it's probably the saddest of my stories, but it came almost how I wanted it to be. Each time I start a book, I want it to be this and that and it hardly ever does. I've written over 80 books now.

Nasima: How do you come up with all your ideas?
Jacqueline: I think it's a bit like asking you, where you get your dreams from, you don't exactly know, do you? Dreams are distorted and you have no idea where they came from.

I don't know what's going to come next! I came up for the name of Tracy Beaker in my bath. I knew I wanted her to be called Tracy and be a feisty girl but I couldn't think of the right surname for her. In my bath, I came up with Tracy Toilet, Tracy Bath and lots more and then I was washing my hair and I pulled up this beaker to wash my hair down with, and that's when it came to me "Tracy Beaker".

Lauren: Did you ever think your books would become a TV series?
Jacqueline: No I didn't. For years and years, I got letters for children saying why don't you make such and such a TV Show? I was thrilled to bits with Tracy Beaker. I met a lovely woman called Sue, who held on to that idea for years and I don't know how anyone thought it would be that big. I do like to visit the set, I don't write the script as there's too many and it wouldn't be possible. They've written it just the way I would have though!

Vicky: I have always wanted to become an author and my stories are sometimes quite good but I wouldn't know where to begin starting a career, where do you begin?
Jacqueline: If you want to write you need to read, lots and lots and lots. The more books you read the more ideas in your head. Relax and enjoy writing and then if in your mid teens you're still keen to be a writer, specialise in art subjects at school and keep writing.

What I want to do it is to try as hard as I can to get others hooked on books. Read to children when they're very little, even with a baby a totally simple book will help. Right throughout small childhood, so by the time they can read themselves they associate reader with fun and laughter. But adults shouldn't stop reading to children even when they can read themselves. They become hooked for life!

Laura: Out of all your books, which characters are you most like?
Jacqueline: I wish I could say that I was like some of my daring characters but I'm actually a wimp really. From Double Act... I'm more like Garnet but I can get in a strop like Ruby sometimes.

Rachel: How long does it take to write a book?
Jacqueline: Rachel it takes too long! Children read them in 3 days and think it takes that long to write it - I wish it did. I write little bits on the train, and here and there. I try to write 500 words a day, then when it's finished I type it up, it can take as long as 6 months. I like to get two books written a year.

Nancy: When did you realise you were good at writing and why did you decide to write for children?
Jacqueline: I always wanted to write books for children, when I was growing up books were about cosy families, but if your family isn't like that then there's nothing for them. I wanted to write books for children who come across these sorts of problems. It does make me feel wonderful, although I write them to express myself and give an enjoyable read, if I feel someone has been helped by something I've written and if comforts them, then that's just wonderful.

Lauren: Do you enjoy being famous?
Jacqueline: Well I'm kind of a little bit famous, it isn't as if I'm David Beckham, I can go out in the street. People sometimes look at all my rings and think "what a funny lady!" However, when I'm around children, they will recognise me and come up and chat and ask for autographs, a little bit famous is the way to be. Brooklyn and little friend and grandma saw me at a theatre, and Brooklyn can run just as far as his Dad after the ice cream!

Beth: How did you meet Nick Sharratt and ask him to be an illustrator for your books?
Jacqueline: Well I met Nick because I'd written the story Tracy Beaker and I knew I wanted heaps and heaps of pictures of Tracy and my Editor said she knew the illustrator for me. I saw when he dropped something he had wacky bright yellow socks and I knew he'd be great!

Well because we're friends and we meet up from time to time. The book I'm writing at the moment has fair grounds in it and he's looking forward to it. But normally I send him the book and he reads it until he gets a hold on the characters and works how he's going to draw them. Nobody is like my Nick!

Sofie: I find it quite hard to think of titles for my stories, how do you do it?
Jacqueline: Titles can be quite difficult Sophie; sometimes you get them just like that like The Illustrated Mum, some jump out of you and 'Best Friends'. Other books I have waited almost until they were published to find the right title and lots of people help me and eventually we find something that works.

Caroline: Do you reply to your fan mail?
Jacqueline: Caroline, I used to reply to each and every letter and long ago I used to draw a special picture. I had a lucky mascot called Raddish. I used to draw her and change her costume, for winter as Father Christmas, for November she'd be holding a sparkler.

However, I didn't get many letters then, now it's hundreds and hundreds each week, schools send me letters and I feel so awful but it would take me forever to reply to them. BUT I do read every single letter and if there's a special letter, if someone's ill etc, I do write back to them. I did think should I have a team writing on my behalf but I thought that's a bit silly. If I cloned myself, perhaps I could do it.

Dayna: Where you get your research?
Jacqueline: I don't do much research, I check my facts afterwards. For Tracy Beaker I talked to my friend who worked for the Foster association. I find if I do lots of research first it can stop things being real for me.

Lucy: Are you ever going to make a film that comes from one of your books?
Jacqueline: How lovely that would be. A lady called Catherine Bailey has done some of my books as radio shows. There are plans of a TV film as Vicky Angel. Let's hope it comes off.

Sarah: Why do you mix your stories up? E.g.: having Biscuits in Best Friends or Tanya in Dustbin Baby?
Jacqueline: Occasionally I might have a character like Tanya in Bad girls, when I wanted Gemma and Alice to have a fun boy friend, I had biscuits come in. I think it makes it fun. I don't do it every single book but occasionally I like to mix characters around.

Megan: Did you ever imagine becoming the new Children's Laureate?
Jacqueline: I knew I was short-listed, I felt very honoured and excited, I take it very seriously. We've had 3 really great ones who've worked so hard, and I thought what can I do? Then I thought I can talk to lots of children, talk to lots of adults too. So many children write to me about author projects I thought it would be lovely to have a book project with about 50 different authors. Lucky pens, photos of what we were like as children etc. I was brimming over with ideas and I hope they come to fruition.

Risha: I love your books and think my brother should read them, he thinks they are too girly but I totally disagree how should I get him to read them?
Jacqueline: I think Tracy Beaker would beat you up if you told her she was too girly! Maybe The Dare Game, as it has lots of football in and it's about tough Tracy as well.

Christie: How do you know pre-teens' emotions so well? The accuracy is so uncanny - it's almost like you're one, yourself!
Jacqueline: Thank you very much Christie, I do have a vivid memory about what it's like to young. I pretend to be my characters and write it down. I'm very pleased you feel I'm able to do it.

Jacqueline: Get Reading...not just my books...there's so many other books out there...enjoy reading!



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