Writing for Children
I sometimes feel it necessary to remind people, vigorously, that children do not belong to a separate race; they are us, not yet wearing our heavy jacket of Time. ... Many things change as we grow up, some for the better and some for the worse, but a few do not, and one of them is the imagination. ... Age and education and experience can direct it and feed it, but they won’t alter its quality. They can however starve the imagination; they can even kill it. That’s why such a huge responsibility rests on the shoulders of parents, teachers, and children’s librarians, the keepers of the imaginative flame in an increasingly drafty world.
Very young children, their conscious minds not yet developed, are all feeling and instinct. Closer to the unconscious than they will ever be again, they respond naturally to the archetypes and the deep echoes of fairy story, ritual, and myth. But after that, learning begins, as it must; the child is launched on his long quest for understanding. As he discovers the world around him, and the books that show him that world, his tastes in reading veer naturally toward realism. Some children not only reach that point but stay there ... But others, born with a different chemistry, go on seeking out fantasy all their lives, instinctively aware that so far from being babyish, it is probably the most complex form of fiction they will ever find.
When Joseph Campbell talks about myth, he is talking about the tree of which fantasy is a branch—or more accurately, a whole cluster of branches. And his great complaint is that we live today in a demythologized world: a society without the guidelines of ritual ... He’s saying that artists have inherited the myth-making function of the shaman and the seer, and of course he’s right. Where the art of writing is concerned, his point applies most of all to the poets and the writers of fantasy. Both deal with images, and with their links to and within the unconscious mind. And the fantasist—not one of my favorite words—deals with the substance of myth: the deep archetypal patters of emotion and behavior which haunt us all whether we know it or not.
Dreams and Wishes  
Read more in Dreams and Wishes, Susan Cooper’s collection of essays and articles about writing for children.
ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS FOR FURTHER READING
"Lessons From a Literary Legend: Recalling the Work and Influence of Margaret K. McElderry" (New York Public Library, April 29, 2011) (Here is an audio of the memorial, with photos.)
 
Video of Susan Cooper’s acceptance speech for the ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Award (July 2012)
“Staying Power: Edwards Award winner Susan Cooper has been working her magic for more than 40 years,” by Anita Silvey, cover story for School Library Journal, June 2012
An interview with Susan Cooper by Nikki Gamble for Just Imagine, March 2008
Roundtable discussion with Susan Cooper, Gregory Maguire, and Roger Sutton for the Cambridge Forum, Nov 2007
“Unriddling the World: Fantasy and Children,” lecture by Susan Cooper for the Cambridge Forum, Nov 2007)
“Author Uncertain About ‘Dark’ Leap to Big Screen,” by Margot Adler, audio interview with Susan Cooper on All Things Considered, National Public Radio, Oct 2007
 
Audio interview with Susan Cooper at Symphony Space for the Thalia Kids’ Book Club, by Madeline Cohen (includes a reading from actor Daniel Gerroll), Oct 2007
“There and Back Again: Tolkien Reconsidered,” article by Susan Cooper in The Horn Book Magazine, March/April 2002 issue
“Taliesin’s Successors: Interviews with Authors Of Modern Arthurian Literature,” interview by Raymond H. Thompson with Susan Cooper for The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester, July 1989
BOOKS FOR FURTHER READING
Four British Fantasists Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper
by Charles Butler
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2006)
“Butler convincingly demolishes reductive, issues-oriented critics by explicating and celebrating the artistic choices made by these four masters of their craft.”
The Wand in the Word The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy
by Leonard Marcus
(Candlewick Press, 2006)
“Wisdom, variety, and humor characterize these interviews full of incisive comments from thirteen fantasy writers. . . An unusual exposition of creativity and courage, this book offers a fascinating glimpse into the diverse ways imagination and fantasy work.”