Small in stature, shy and self effacing, Joan Aiken nevertheless had absolute confidence in her ability to express herself in writing, so when she met with what seemed like absurd censorship or endless requests for detailed alterations to her stories, although she restrained herself from expressing total rage, she may have written various letters that were never posted…
Occasionally, however her sense of humour got the better of her!
In the early seventies when her work was regularly published in the USA, she came up against rampant fashionable ‘political correctness’, and the niceties of the prevailing American editorial style meant she got many requests to ‘translate’ and alter her work to protect children to what seemed to her a wildly unnecessary degree. This was not to remove violence or bad language or anything upsetting, but simply anything the American child might not understand, or recognise. One particular example was obviously a step too far, and she kept the letter…and her response..
Dear Ms. Aiken,
Re. your story:
At this point you will be wondering what on earth this story is about…wonder not, it is a Joan Aiken story in which anything can and does happen, but not apparently if this editor has anything to do with it!
Imagine deep intake of breath and sound of typewriter keys rattling like hail on a skylight…( or should that be roof window?)
Dear American Editor:
(First some nicely tongue in cheek new title suggestions!)
…of course no offence was intended to the Queen, or to the Mafia… I think her suggestion for the alteration of the names and nationalities of the Hatmen is simply masterly – I wonder if the hapless editor has noticed that she has now offered a list of five different examples of national headgear that might be deemed equally unfortunate – how, in this case, was another world war averted?
(Oh and Philippe never did get the job – his illustrations obviously did look too like Strasbourg!)
And in case you are dying of curiosity here’s a sample – and yes it is still called:
The Happiest Sheep in London
The story appeared in a collection called
in the UK & the USA