So the front page of yesterday’s Guardian tells me that Barak Obama has written a children’s book.  What is going on, people? And where will it all end? We’ve had Steven Hawking, Katie Price (if you don’t mind my putting them in the same sentence), Jay Leno, Madonna, Paul McCartney.

What strange by-product of global warming or the birth-control pill in the drinking water has convinced 9/10ths of the known universe that whenever they have a spare moment, the thing to do is pen a book for children. I don’t decide to become ruler of the free world when I have a spare afternoon, explore glitches in the space-time continuum while waiting to hear back from my editor, or take off most of my clothes and prance around on stage simulating sex with my back-up dancers when I can’t get my plot moving. What is it that makes everyone think that a classic children’s book is as easy to produce as a cupcake?

Enough already. A few years ago, a woman I vaguely know with certain illustrious family connections heard that I’d sold my first novel for a six figure advance. She wrinkled her nose and said, “That’s interesting. I’m thinking if all else fails, I’ll write a children’s book too.” All what else? I wondered. You don’t even have a job.

I love and admire Barack Obama. And Steven Hawking (well, admire at least). But I wish they (and all their famous cronies) would stick to the job at hand. And leave writing books to people whose day job does not involve achieving world peace or proving that the universe is shaped like an eskimo pie.


18 thoughts on “OKAY, THAT’S IT. I’VE HAD IT.

  1. Tony 9 years ago

    And David bloody Walliams – don’t forget him. Probably going to win the Roald Dahl Funny Prize …

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Yeah, thanks Tony. I wrote this entry in a bit of a rush, and had to go off the top of my head — but there are thousands more. I’m waiting for someone to announce that Ceausescu wrote one while waiting for the firing squad to load, and Peter Mandelson dashed one off at a slow signing of The Third Man.

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  3. Ying 9 years ago

    There’s a (probably apocryphal) story about Margaret Atwood meeting a brain surgeon. The surgeon said, “I’m planning to write a novel when I reture.” Atwood replied, “Funny. I was planning to become a brain surgeon when I retire.”

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      I’ve heard that story, too. We can only hope it’s true, Ying.

  4. Kathryn Evans 9 years ago

    Sorry about that. It’s the 10+ years I have spent learning this craft, inching towards publication, having it with in a finger snatch and losing it, returning to the desk, starting again, drafting, redrafting, thinking so hard my brain starts to shrivel , it makes me somewhat tetchy…

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      And rightly so.

  5. Ebony McKenna 9 years ago

    And another thing. As much as I admire Obama and Hawking and the others (they have their entertainment value!) Their children’s books suck oxygen from other good books. There are so many good books out there already for children, why can’t Obama recommend them instead?

    I’ve nothing against novelty and fun. Everything has its place. Sometimes people buy a celeb book and it’s the only book they read all year. So the celeb book isn’t really eating into the market because it might bring in non-readers.

    But, Obama writing a children’s book? He really should stick to what he’s good at. Writing adult books. I mean, running the USA. No, maybe I mean adult books after all (oh, my fickle affections!)

    And yes, it must make you grind your teeth to powder when people blurt out the vapid, ‘I could be a writer’ guff.

    Also, Australia is not immune. Our former PM Kevin Rudd (Kev of 1,000 days?) wrote a children’s book too. While he was PM.

    Stop it! Stop it now or I’ll scream!!!!!!!
    (screams anyway)

  6. Debbie Edwards 9 years ago

    Completely in agreement, guys! But it’s not just writing that gets the stick. I so often hear that ‘if all else fails, I’ll go into teaching’ !

  7. Anne Rooney 9 years ago

    So true, Meg. And the assumption of the ‘if all else fails’ brigade is that their novel will get published – just like that! Where does that assumption come from?

  8. Vivian Oldaker 9 years ago

    We all know that most sleb books are ghost-written. Jordan, for instance, is far too busy marrying/divorcing people, promoting perfume and generally whipping-up publicity for herself to write books. And she admits as much. Is Mr Obama’s tome really all his own work? If so, how on earth did he find the time to pen this sickly-sounding schlock? I find buying wine and browsing Facebook enough of a distraction from writing – if I had to be Leader Of The Free World as well I’d never get past Line One.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Yes, it’s his own work, and i haven’t seen it, but he wrote it before he was president. I don’t mean to pick on Obama, particularly. He’s my hero. Maybe he had a lot of time to kill in the old days.

  9. Rhubarb 9 years ago

    Celebrities tempted to write children’s books would do well to listen to William Shatner sing “Mr Tamborine Man” over and over and over. Or, Sebastian Cabot do “It Ain’t Me Babe”. Clearly, children’s books have become what folk singing was to celebrities in the 60’s & 70’s, the trendy “easy” crossover field.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      I loved William Shatner singing Lucy In The SKy With Diamonds, which George Clooney chose as one of his desert island disks — saying it would encourage him to get off the island in a hurry.

  10. Vivian Oldaker 9 years ago

    I love Obama too. Just wondering how he found the time – even before he became president I guess he was quite busy being a senator etc!
    I probably shouldn’t judge his book – it’s not as if I’ve read it; it sounds a little syrupy for my taste – but it may be wonderful and he may be a truly talented writer in addition to an inspirational politician. I suppose I was just saying that most these “so-called” celebrity books aren’t even written by the celebrities themselves. Which makes their success even more infuriating!

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