A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Masterclass in Story with a Master Storyteller by Mo O’Hara

If I could have a writing masterclass with one author who would it be?  When I started thinking about what author, in all of literature, I would want to teach me in a writing masterclass my tiny brain snapped.  There was too much choice.  Did I go for the irreverence of Roald Dahl, the characterization of Judy Blume, the poetry of Shel Silverstein, the world building of Phillip Pullman, the suspense of Neil Gaiman or just opt for the full Shakespeare ‘make up your own word if you can’t find one that fits’ masterclass?  So many options.

In the end, I thought of an author who was also a playwright and a poet. He’s a master of dialogue and of plot.  He’s commercial and literary. He’s laugh out loud funny and incredibly moving too.  He apparently was as charismatic in a town hall in Oklahoma as he was in a drawing room in Mayfair . He is Oscar Wilde.


I chose Oscar Wilde to give me my fantasy author masterclass on writing because he has used words and story in so many ways.  He wrote across generations, across genres, across classes, across cultures and did it with both sincerity and wit.

I think one of the many things that I would want to learn from Oscar Wilde in that class would be how to let all the avenues of your writing inform each other so that what you learn in one discipline you can apply in another.

What you learn as a poet makes you a better novelist.

What you learn as a novelist makes you a better speaker.

What you learn as a speaker makes you a better playwright.

What you learn as a playwright makes you a better children’s author.

What you learn writing for kids makes you a better poet.

All of the modes of writing and speaking and acting just come down to storytelling and I truly think that Oscar Wilde was one of the greatest storytellers in the English language.


There are so many wonderful Oscar Wilde quotes about writing but these really resonated with me.

1. ‘If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.’ ( This is so important to keep in mind in writing for children as that is just what they do.  You have to picture your reader delving into your book again and again.  What is there for them to find on the second, third or fourth read?

2. ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’  (This is also something to keep in mind as we chase market trends and look for the next big thing.  It will soon be the last big thing.  As authors we need to find our voice. If that’s not distinctive then why are we writing ? )

3. ‘A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.’  (Especially in writing for kids we have to let our brains misbehave.  Kids get so fed up with everything having a moral or a message.  They can spot ‘worthy’ a mile away.  Sometimes they want irreverent, mischievous, anarchic. It’s remembering how to play I think.  Playing with ideas and with words and making it fun. ) I think my masterclass with Oscar Wilde would be intense and intriguing.  I hope it would make me a better writer, a better speaker, a better poet, a better actor.   All in all- a better storyteller. And I think it would be fun too.



This entry was posted on May 8, 2017 by .

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