Father and Son

An author in the family

If your father was someone like Peter Dickinson , writer of over fifty books, winner of Carnegie medals etc., you'll have grown up breathing stories. I did. He talked to us about plots and devices, and taught us the rhythm of words in our family games. (Of course I was not planning to be a writer myself. I was going to get out and do something "real". Put my stamp on the world, wasn't I? Hmm...)

Peter DickinsonI cannot report that we suffered from Amis-style tensions in our relationship. I can report that he demolished my first manuscript, but that was because it needed demolition.

John Dickinson

He took it off my desk one day, read it and told me what he thought of it: a painful but necessary experience. (In fact it was not as painful as when he was teaching me to drive – mainly because it didn’t last so long.) Then, after my mother died, the American writer Robin McKinley came along and married him. She read it too. Her advice was less blunt but no less clear. I started another. And when she had read that, she put me in touch with her agents. Breakthrough.

I expect he worried about me. I know this because I now worry about anyone who comes to me saying they want to be a writer. I want to fill the air with dire warnings about how elusive success is, and how quickly it passes once you've had it. But most are bright enough to know that without me telling them. And they wouldn’t take it from me anyway. I wouldn’t have taken it from him, would I?