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My life's work

by Manuela Salvi
2 November 2015

Hi Everyone, I'm Manuela Salvi.

Manuela Salvi

Writing for children is my passion and what I have made, and will continue to make, my life's work. In Italy, my home country, I am a professional children's writer and have published over 20 children's books. However, studying Children's Literature in an academic sense isn't really an option as there's not a strong tradition of academic research in this field. So after 10 years working in children's publishing, I decided I'm going to fill this gap.

Studying children's literature isn't completely new to me though, neither is Roehampton - in July this year I graduated with an MA in Children's Literature. I really wanted to stay at Roehampton because I'd had a fantastic experience doing my masters and I wanted to continue working with the staff in the National Centre for Research in Children's Literature (NCRCL), so I decided to apply for a scholarship to take my writing to the next level – PhD.

When I found out in July I had been awarded the Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship I had to pinch myself to make sure that what had happened was actually real. I'm really looking forward to improving my skills as a writer even more over the next three years as well as remaining part of the vibrant community of scholars and writing here at Roehampton.

Nei panni do Zaff

This amazing opportunity means I am going to get to research something that I am really passionate about – censorship. To be precise I'll study pre- and self-censorship in contemporary Western children's publishing, and then I'll write a children's novel that will attempt to push the limits of the children's publishing, I guess something you could say I am already quite used to.  Ten years ago I wrote a book called Nei panni di Zaff, which in English means Princesses have no willy. It's a picture book that has been 'frowned' upon by politicians and teachers who said it is a “gay book”. If they mean gay as in 'joyful' I would completely agree with them: it's a really joyful book. It's about a little boy who wants to be a princess but everybody tells him he can't, because he has a willy, and princesses don't. I think the book has a very happy ending for little Zaff, who after being told he has to conform to male stereotypes, discovers the secret to a happy ending is being who he is, with no shame. Ever! Getting that message out to children is really important to me.

It wasn't all frowns from other people though - the Munich International Library of Youth included my book in the honourable selection of the best international books in 2006. You can read story (translated into English) on my blog here.

The scholarship is indeed named after our Chancellor Jacqueline Wilson who is simply one of the best known subversive writers in the whole world. This is a great honour for me, and an opportunity I am going to grab with both hands. What does the future hold for me? I'm not totally sure at the moment, but of course I would really like to be published in the UK, but I am keeping my options wide open.

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