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Julia Donaldson

How many books have you had published?
I am losing count! It’s about 70 but that is counting my educational titles (plays etc). More like 30 if you only count the ones you can buy in bookshops.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes – occasional stories, poems and songs, and also plays for the family to put on (I got very cross with my father when he was cast as the woodcutter in Little Red Riding Hood and collapsed in hysterics so that none of my rhyming couplets could be heard.)

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I worked in publishing and taught English for a bit before having children. Then I was a stay-at-home mum cum songwriter for the BBC, earning money from the songs but not what you’d called a living. (Luckily my husband could earn a living for all of us by working extremely long hours at various children’s hospitals.) I’ve only been full-time since The Gruffalo came out in 1999, but now it feels like full-time-and-a-half.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
My rhyming picture book A Squash and a Squeeze (illustrated by the brilliant Axel Scheffler) was published in 1993. But it was a song long before it became a book.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No – I was lucky enough to be approached by a publisher! But since then I’ve had my fair share of rejection letters.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Of the novels, The Giants and the Joneses, because it’s the most exciting one and has a made-up giant language in it. Of the picture books, The Snail and the Whale because it’s the most poetic and I love Axel’s pictures.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
I recently loved reading The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
When it’s in rhyme I always work longhand. Otherwise I sometimes creep to the computer.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
When I feel like it or when I’ve got a deadline. I am not very good at routine.

Do you have an agent?
Yes, and she has been a fairy godmother to me. But I went for many years without one and managed fine - I think that when you’re starting out it’s easier to find a publisher than an agent.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Get hold of a copy of The Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (published by A & C Black). It’s full of useful information and advice.

Have you won any awards or prizes?
Yes – The Smarties Prize, the Blue Peter Best Book to Read Aloud (twice), the British Book Awards (Children’s Book of the Year, 2005), the Experian Big Three Award, the Spoken Book Awards (3 times), the Sheffield Book Award, the Scottish Children’s Book Award, the Stockport Book Award, the Norfolk Libraries Book Award and the Book Trust Early Years Award,
(The winning books have been The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Smartest Giant in Town, The Snail and the Whale and The Gruffalo's Child, all illustrated by Axel Scheffler.)

For more information, visit Julia Donaldson's website.

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