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Phillip Pullman

Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Phillip PullmanPhilip Pullman is one of the most popular children's writers around today with critical acclaim to match. He was recently awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Years Honours list.

Pullman has won a number of prizes and awards including the 1996 Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Fiction Award and the British Book Award for his book 'Northern Lights'.

In 2001 he became the first children's writer to claim this prestigious Whitbread Book of the Year Award for 'The Amber Spyglass', the final part of the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy.

Pullman has also won the United Kingdom Reading Award and the International Reading Association Children's Book Award in 1998 and the Author of the Year Award at the 2002 Nibbies Awards.

In 2002 Philip Pullman won the Eleanor Farjeon Award which is awarded annually to an individual in recognition of their distinguished contribution to the world of children's books.

He was born in Norwich on the 19th of October 1946. The early part of his life was spent travelling all over the world, because his father and then his stepfather were both in the Roal Air Force. He spent part of his childhood in Australia, where he first met the wonders of comics, and grew to love Superman and Batman in particular.

From the age of 11, he lived in North Wale, having moved back to Britain. It was a time when children were allowed to roam anywhere, to play in the streets, to wander over the hilss, and he took full advantage of it. His English teacher, Miss Enid Jones, was a big influence on him, and he still sends her copies of his books.

After he left school he went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English. He did a number of odd jobs for a while, and then moved back to Oxford to become a teacher. He taught at various middle schools for twelve years, and then moved to Westminster College, Oxford to be a part-time lecturer.

He taught courses on the Victorian novel and on the folk tale, and also a course examining how words and pictures fit together. He eventually left teaching in order to write full-time.

His first published novel was for adults, but he began writing for children when he was a teacher. Some of his novels were based on plaus he wrote for his school pupils, such as 'The Ruby in the Smoke'.

Philip still lives in Oxford, and he writes in a shed at the bottom of his garden. The shed contains two comfortable chairs (one for writing in, one for sitting at the computer in), several hundred books, a six-foot-long stuffed rat which took part in his play Sherlock Holmes and the Limehouse Horror, a guitar, a saxophone, as well as the computer, decorated with dozens of brightly coloured artificial flowers attached to it by Blu-Tack.

Blu-Tack plays a big part in Philip Pullman's writing process. With it he sticks to the wall pictures, notes, posters, reminders, postcards, book jackets, anything that will stay there.

Another product of techonology that Philip can't do without is Post-it Notes, the smallest yellow ones in particular. They are very useful for planning the shape of a story: he writes a brief sentence summarising a scene on one of them, and then puts then on a very big piece of paper which he can fill with up to sixty or more different scenes, moving them around to get the best order.

Philip Pullman believes firmly in the virtues of healthy exercise and a moderate diet - for other people. It makes them feel virtuous, and makes them feel good if not happy. The most exercise he normally takes is unscrewing the top of a whisky bottle. If he liked the taste of tobacco, he would smoke vigorously. He is fond of sport, and plays it by watching television. He is a big fan of 'Neighbours', but that is the only soap he watched, as 'Neighbours' gives him quite enough to think about.

He is married to Jude. Their sone Jamie is a viola player, and their younger son Tom studies music at the university.

As far as he can tell, Philip Pullman is moderately harmless and useful. He would like to carry on doing what he is doing now and there seems to be no reason why he shouldn't, but if it suddenly became against the law to write stories, he would break the law without a second's hesitation.

"Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all."
Philip Pullman

Profile supplied by Scholastic.