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Wed, 17 Oct 2012 11:46
Today, we welcome beauty journalist Alice Hart-Davis onto the blog to talk about her new book, 100 Ways For Every Girl to Look and Feel Fantastic, co-written with her daughter Beth Hindhaugh. Alice tells us what it's like to write a book with your teenage daughter(s).
When I started work on 100 Ways For Every Girl to Look and Feel Fantastic two years ago, I thought it would be plain sailing. Admittedly, writing my previous book with my eldest daughter Molly had been a bit of a struggle - it had taken us ages (and much re-drafting) to find our voices. (That sounds like a pompous, writerly thing to say until you're grappling with conveying what you want to say without sounding prissy or patronizing.) But with the benefit of that experience, surely my next project would be simpler?
For 100 Ways, I had Molly's younger sister, Beth, as my co-author. Beth, who's now nearly 16, is a quieter character than Molly and I had imagined she'd be more diffident about putting her ideas forward on paper - but far from it.
At first, when there were topics that she didn't feel merited inclusion, she'd say politely that she 'wasn't sure' that we should cover it. If I persisted with them, or with points that would be awkward for her to see in print in future, she'd lay out her reasons so clearly and forcefully that I'd have no option but to back off, though I insisted on putting in a section on self-esteem at the risk of boring some readers. That bit contains all the stuff I wish someone had told me when I was her age. Beth says they get taught a good deal of all this in PSHE (personal, social & health education) classes, but I think it does no harm to reinforce this.
Beth's observations on the text were razor-sharp. She weeded out anything that sounded 'dorky', and when she spotted where I'd tweaked her copy, she'd say, 'That sounds like you trying to sound like me.' Even worse were occasional accusations that I was trying to sound too 'down with the kids'. Eek. And fair enough. She's the one whose picture appears throughout the book, and I remember how excruciating it is when you're a teenager and parents have no idea just how embarrassing they're being.
Occasionally, I'd find her and Molly in giggles over something I'd written. 'Seriously Mum, who says "veg out"?' they'd ask. What does it even mean?'
I'd harrumph, but we got there in the end and now, of course, we're delighted with the results. Would I do it again? Perhaps. Except my next co-author-in-waiting is my 13-year-old son whose interest in, and patience with, the topic of looks is limited, to say the least. I fear that How to be Buff is destined to remain on the drawing board...
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