William New charms audience members despite old age

//Catarina Haber, Writer

“I need you all to pretend like you’re seven years old,” said author William New, smiling. The room let out a uniform sigh of relief. New, an established children’s author, had just finished reading one of his poems in an extremely monotone tone of voice. It was this interesting start that kicked off his reading at the Kinder Text Series on January 27.

Kinder Text, which is part of Capilano University’s Open Text series, is profiling Canadian children literature authors. It is sponsored by the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the English department at Capilano University. As it takes place on Capilano’s campus, the majority of the audience is Capilano creative writing students.

New has written several volumes of poetry for adults and four recently published books for children, which was what he was presenting. Having a clear passion for the subject of children’s literature, New was more then enjoyable to watch and listen to as he recited poems from The Dream Helmet and Vanilla Gorilla. Jumping, moving around and getting students engaged in the material much like he would if reading to a second grade class, his enthusiasm was contagious. Explaining that sharing and participating are both crucial when reading children’s literature aloud, New basically presented like he would if in an elementary school but stopped every few minutes to explain the technicalities and importance of what he was doing.

At 73 years old, New can truly be described as a child at heart. Describing stories of humorous encounters with kids, his own children and his grandchildren you begin to understand why it is that New chose to write in this genre. When asked why he chose to write children’s literature, New bluntly responded with a simple, “I like the kids.” He elaborated by saying, “I just think there is something wonderful in language and something wonderful in children’s imaginations.” New truly does love children’s literature, and even when not specifically writing for children he still keeps them deeply embedded in his adult fiction and poetry. He discussed how even when not intended, children’s rhymes can easily appear in adult poetry. Students were keen to know if New had always written for kids. He laughed and said not always, but when he was in high school he wrote parodies of “the greats” for fun.

Despite being a writer, New is very reluctant to call himself one, explaining that the term “writer” is just something others might call him to describe a person who writes. New, who also has a PhD in English, teaches alongside writing. According to New, writing is just a process of expression, and not his profession. When asked what writing meant for him he explained, “Writing for me is a way of articulating my sense of how the world works, my sense of connection with the world and what I perceive, think and feel about the world. It’s a process of expression.” New went on to describe writing as being a very self-indulgent hobby.

Every writer has a process, and New has an interesting one, “It’s a process of discovery actually. I usually don’t begin with a particular kind of result in mind. I begin with an idea, with an image, with a phrase and then it’s a process of exploring the ramifications of that phrase or that image to see where it leads.” He goes on to explain that his process of writing, much like many other people’s, is very chaotic. New’s writing and reading was nothing less then inspiring, funny, and intriguing to be apart of.

New, who has many years of wisdom to lend about writing simply tells aspiring writers to “just write and read,” happily explaining that nothing is more important. He also adds that “writers can’t be impatient [because] not everything will work. Some things you read will impress you and some things wont impress you. It’s the same as with your own writing.” On a last note New exclaims, “Writing is fun!”

//Catarina Haber, Writer

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