Ruth Doyle is the author of Dreams for Our Daughters and Songs for Our Sons (Eerdmans). She has won several awards from the Winchester Writers’ Festival for her writing for children. Ruth lives in Kent, England, on the Mini Motley Farm with her family and a multitude of animals. Follow her on Twitter @RuthPopeyeDoyle.
What made you decide to become an author?
It wasn’t really a decision. Writing is something I’ve always done. I think it’s how I process life, my feelings and thoughts. For as long as I can remember, I would write poems about things that mattered to me, from my pet rabbit to the story of a warrior, which was my first published poem. I also love to invent and occupy imaginary worlds and remember making my own little story books when I was a child.
What’s a typical workday like?
I honestly don’t have a typical day! I live on Mini Motley Farm and the animals dictate how the day unfolds. I fit writing around tending sheep, training horses, feeding chickens, and checking chicks (more hatching soon!).
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Everywhere—from what I read, see, and hear…and the animals inspire me all the time!
Do you have any advice for would-be authors?
Read as widely as you can. Write because you love it and to have a voice in the world. Shut your inner critic in a padded cell until you’ve finished your first draft, then try to assess what works and what doesn’t. Practice and don’t expect perfection from your first draft. Be patient. Get an agent if you can. Most importantly, be authentic— there is only one of you, with your unique experiences, so be true to that and develop your own style.
What characteristics do writers need most?
Passion, Patience, and Perseverance.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
I save some of the fleece from our sheep and use it to sculpt animal characters. I also make little costumes for them from vintage, recycled materials and they sell all over the world—especially at Christmas. Many of my animal creations are now living in America!
What is your favorite thing about being an author?
I have permission to live in my imaginary world and sometimes get paid for it! I also love being able to connect with people all over the world.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
I change locations—go to the sea, walk in nature somewhere new, or visit London. I read poetry from indigenous cultures, listen to rap, revisit Shakespeare, and enjoy spoken word performances. Anything involving a new and experimental approach to language is stimulating. Children have a fresh view of the world, so I love school visits—and animals always inspire me.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Holding my books for the first time!
What is something you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?
That one day I would be a published author!
Tell us about your Songs for Our Sons and Dreams for Our Daughters. What inspired you to write these books?
I wrote Dreams for Our Daughters to empower all little girls to believe that they can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they choose to do. Then I thought about all the young boys I have met who are struggling, too, and how society puts different but equally damaging gender restrictions on them. If we want a truly equal society, we need all children to be empowered, so I wrote Songs for Our Sons. Both books are gender-neutral (apart from the titles) and I hope that children will enjoy both and take messages from whichever book calls to them.
The books celebrate individuality and encourage all children to be free to be whoever they are meant to be. I know from my background in nursing and social care that there are many children who don’t have support and encouragement at home. I want all children, no matter what circumstances they are born into, to know and believe that they are special and important.
The world is full of possibilities that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, and our children are bursting with potential that needs to be able to develop without the limitation of external expectations. They must be empowered to connect with and hold on to the light that’s inside them all.
What’s up next for you?
I have three more picture books being published, one about Nature coming out next year and the others within the next couple of years.
My daughter and I have a new podcast coming out at the start of 2021 about our adventures on Mini Motley Farm, and I will be doing an interactive creative writing feature for children as part of this. I hope to be able to support children with help and advice on writing about animals and to offer feedback on their writing projects.
My next writing project is longer, middle-grade fiction—a story that features my American Miniature horse, Diesel.
BUY HER BOOKS
What hopes do you have for the future? Who do you long to become? This warm, inspiring book encourages boys to shape a world so much gentler and brighter than before. Playful rhymes and tender illustrations invite them to notice nature, embrace their emotions, and use wise words as their weapons. Whether they’re dynamic dazzlers or marvelous mud sculptors, this book is an opportunity to imagine all the incredible adventures up ahead.