The Future Architect's Tool Kit is one of the books I've read the last year that inspired me to see differently the ways in which books for children are written. In this interview for Wild Writing Life, author Barbara Beck answers a couple of questions about the book and her writing process.
Children are extremely visual, attracted both to beauty and what I call the “wow” factor. Taking a child for a walk to see one amazing building or simply opening a book about architecture may be all that’s necessary to trigger their interest. In addition, I was never told I needed a lot of math or science in order to be an architect. I was just told to draw. In fact, many architects chose the profession simply because of their love of drawing, not math. Encourage children to draw. Draw anything. Draw everything. It stimulates the brain, and then, the sky is the limit!
- What was your inspiration for The Future Architect?
While studying for the architectural licensing exam, which required reviewing everything that goes into designing a building, I had one of those cosmic, “aha” moments. I saw the design process unfold in front of me and I remembered myself as a child drawing floor plans. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and my parents didn’t know how to help me. This is the book I needed when I was nine years old and wanted to create. It might have helped that first year in Architecture school too.
Writing is writing, no matter who the audience is. Word choice must be concise and descriptive in order to engage the reader. It’s hard to keep complex ideas clear and simple, yet not preachy and that’s the hardest thing to do in children’s literature. Kids know when they are being talked down to. I try to keep it fun. Often, placing a child in the narrative helps a young reader identify with the material. I always try to remember what delighted me as a child and how I felt. It helps that I’m not terribly mature.
- How can a child be inspired to find a profession?
I think the best way for children to discover a career is through exposure to all sorts of different professions, whether that’s through books or a parent or friend or even social media. The STEM program in schools and libraries is an excellent introduction to scientific professions. In my case, I saw a photograph of Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright when I was probably about eight, and absolutely fell in love with buildings.
- What was the feedback from your little readers so far?
So far, the kids are really engaged and like the books. I have received pictures of some of their projects, which are pretty amazing.
- What are your writing plans for this year?
“The Future Architect’s Tool Kit,” which is the companion piece to “The Future Architect’s Handbook,” was released in November (2016 - WWL). It builds on the ideas presented in the Handbook and includes drawing tools for the budding architect. I seem to be doing a lot more architecture these days and that has cut into my writing time. I am, however, currently working on a Young Adult novel about sailing, but it is still very conceptual.
Photo: Archives of Barbara Beck