Welcome Claire to my writing site- I know writers and readers are always keen to learn about that mysterious journey a manuscript takes to the finished celebration of a launch. Thanks for taking time to answer these questions.
Your first picture book was about water- is the sea an important subject in your writing for children?
I’d never thought of it like that, but yes water is very important to me. My dream is to one day live where I can see the sea from my desk. I spent a lot of time by or in the water as a child and I still love it. I don’t know whether that’s why it features in my books, or whether it’s because I have such a rich vein of memory to tap.
Is rhythm and repetition an important part of your picture books writing especially in this book?
Rhythm is very important in my writing, particularly of picture books. Repetition too. I read the drafts out loud, listening for the rhythm and the flow. For ‘There Was an Old Sailor’ there is also rhyme. The three ‘Rs’ here are the scaffolding on which the story hangs. I read at my local kinder to the four-year-old group and they respond very strongly to all three elements. The kinder motto is ‘Play is the work of childhood’ and sharing story with the children is part of the foundation for their literacy.
Do you guide an illustrator in their interpretation of your text?
No. I trust them to bring their own vision to the narrative. And they always do.
Often beginning writers or even those with book published become discouraged with the wait on acceptance of a manuscript, do you have any advice to offer?
I wish there was a magic formula to make waiting easier. Waiting is always hard, especially for manuscript responses. There are always stories about manuscripts being lost either in the mail, or in a pile, but mostly they are working their way through the process. In some circumstances, it can take more than a year. The best advice I can give is to forget about it! Not at all easy, but essential for developing patience. Work on another project. Gnash and wail and worry as little as you humanly can. And in case anyone is wondering…it doesn’t really get any easier.
I know that you write across genres, especially poetry, non fiction and chapter books, do you have any preference for a genre?
Not really. I love creating story, and playing with words and language. The form that a story takes is not always something that I decide consciously. Some stories lend themselves to a longer form, others to a very short form. Some, like ‘There Was an Old Sailor’, develop from an already constructed ‘shape’, by modeling from an existing story. I like trying different things and will sometimes set out to work in a very different way, just to see what might happen.
Publicity for any new book is always a challenge; have you any sure and tried ideas which have helped over the number of book launches you have put together?
I enjoy launching a book for a number of reasons. The first is to share my book with the world. The second is to say thank you and to celebrate with those people who have been part of the writing journey. Family, friends, colleagues. As for sure and tried ideas…choose a venue big enough for the invited guests but also allow for passersby to feel they can stop and see what’s happening. Keep it simple. Don’t talk too long J. ‘Success’ in promotion is very difficult to measure. It’s almost impossible to know which promotional seeds planted will produce results. I enter every promotional activity prepared for anything! Important: be flexible!
What motivates your writing? I know this is a hard one- but do you wait to be inspired or do you establish a writing routine?
Ooh, yes. A very hard one. Probably a mix of both. I try to write every day, even if inspiration seems elusive. I’m usually working on more than one project at a time, so can focus on different parts of the writing process depending on what the world around me is doing. Eg I don’t try to develop a new plot if my children are in and out asking me questions, it’s too hard to keep the plot balls in the air. On days like that, I’ll do things that don’t suffer if I’m interrupted. Ideas do clamour for attention though and I try to capture the essence of the idea as it occurs. Then I leave the development of the idea until there is time to work without interruption. Deadlines are a wonderful motivator though, and I do like having them.
Do you put a hook on the end of each age spread so that your reader is compelled to turn the page to finds out what happens next?
Not consciously. I concentrate mostly on shaping the story. Often page break decisions are made by others. In chapter books, I do try to finish chapters in a way that encourages readers to start the next one.
When you write picture books do you use poetic images or write simply? Or use humour?
My first draft is about getting a rough story arc and I don’t spend a lot of time on the language. But subsequent drafts, when I’m happy with the shape, are all about getting the images right. The simplest images are often the most difficult to craft well.
Claire thanks so much for sharing- its great to have you here on your blog tour and I’m positive that readers everywhere will thoroughly enjoy ‘There was an old Sailor’.
Here are other sites where Claire has shared her writing insights about her latest picture book:
Monday 8 February: Sally Murphy's Writing for Children
Tues 9 February: Dee White's Tuesday Writing Tips
Wed 10 February: Dale Harcombe's Read and Write with Dale
Thurs 11 February: Robyn Opie's Writing Children's books
Fri 12 February: Lorraine Marwood's Words into Writing
Sat 13 February: Mabel Kaplan's Tales I Tell
Sun 14 February: Sandy Fussell's Stories are Light