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Christine Butterworth

How many books have you had published?
So far about 60 non-fiction (these are all short books - 24 pages or so) and 10 fiction stories.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I can't remember: I don't think I wrote anything at home. - I know I always enjoyed English most, especially writing stories - and I read a lot at home.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?

I taught - in schools and further education, then spent 20 years in teacher education. I started writing once I was home half-time with my children, and have been writing for about 12 years ( though I don't do it all the time.)

When was your first book published and what was it called?
It was called 'Rabbits' and it was published in (I think) 1987

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No - I was just lucky, because I started writing non-fiction for young children at a time when hardly anyone else did, and the publishers were looking for writers.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
I don't have one favourite - perhaps non-fiction books are different. It may sound corny, but my favourite is usually whatever I'm currently working on. I get enthusiastic about the subject while I'm involved. Once the book's finished I get keen on my next idea.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
I like lots of different writers - if I had to choose one, it would be Maurice Sendak's 'Outside over there'.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends how long it is, and how much research I have to do: I'd say about two months, to get to my final draft. (which is not the editor's final draft.)

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?

I use a computer. Sometimes I start by making notes in handwriting.

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
I try to keep to a daily routine, just as if I were going out to work.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?

I hate it - again, non-fiction books are different from fiction. All my books have lots of pictures (which are nearly as important as the text) and there are always changes to be made once the pictures have been found. Lay-out and design are very important, and that's the editor and designer's job, but I may have to change bits to fit in with what they want.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?

Yes - I've tried good ones and bad ones. I don't think I've ever learned anything about writing from a writer's group, but you can get a lot of confidence and motivation from other writers that help you stick at it, or try something different.

Have you got an agent?
I used to have an agent, but this year I stopped using one - because with my sort of books, (which are usually always commissioned). I get the work because editors ring me.

Why do you like writing for children?

I like the kind of writing I do because I'm always learning about something new as I do the research for a new book. I once read one of my old school reports, and it said 'she is interested in everything' - and I think that's why I'm a non-fiction writer - I'm nosy/curious by nature, and if I discover something I think is really interesting, then the teacher in me always wants to tell someone else about it.

How do you get your ideas?
I just get bees in my bonnet - I read or hear about something interesting. Lots of times the first idea comes from an editor.

Do you draw the pictures for your books?
I tell the editor what pictures I want - but someone else draws or finds them. First I write the text.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Either - if there's a story you'll burst if you don't write - go ahead and do it. Worry about if anyone else will like it later. Or - be very methodical about who you want to write for. Research your market before you start.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I'll be pleased to do school visits/workshops over the Greater London/S.East area. Up to now these have all been to primary schools (all ages), but some of my books now cover lower secondary years, so up to Y10 probably covers it. (Actually, of course, in another life I've taught English all through to 18.)

You can contact me at

For a list of Christine Butterworth's books in print  click here

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