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Pippa Goodhart

How many books have you had published?
Twenty eight

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I was "bad" at writing at school because I couldn't ( and still can't) spell. It's a joy to realise now that the story is more important than the writing. It's only as an adult that I've had the confidence to write for fun.

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

I've done a little teaching and a lot of working in a bookshop. As well as writing, these days I'm busy being a mother and I also do some adult teaching and work for a publisher.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
Flow was published in 1994.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
I wrote Flow for the Kathleen Fidler competition. It didn't win. But I'd also sent it to the great children's book agent, Gina Pollinger, and she liked it and sold it to Heinemann for me. So I was lucky! And even luckier when it got shortlisted for the Smarties Prize.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
I've got a soft spot for several of them because they relate to things in my own life or were particular fun to write - but they all frustrate me too. I always wish I'd done better.

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

Dogger by Shirley Hughes. It's the perfect love story and makes me want to cry every time I read it.

How long does it take you to write a book?
What do you count as writing a book? All the thinking as you peel the potatoes? The half ideas jotted down years before they develop to book size? Impossible to answer I'm afraid.

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

I've come to love using a computer - the freedom to throw words at a page, read them and make instant changes. If only computers were as reliable as a pencil!

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
When I get the chance. In theory I write while the children are at school, but there are so many interruptions, some unavoidable, some self-inflicted to put off the writing, even though I enjoy it once I'm started.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?

When I'm struggling to get the rough shape of a story in a first draft I long for the finer work of rewriting. And when I'm rewriting I long for the present-opening excitement of the the first draft. There's no pleasing some people.

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

I've been on courses and now teach courses, which certainly helps by making you stop and think about your work in a properly critical way. Talking to writer friends always stimulates ideas too, as well as making you feel less isolated.

Have you got an agent?
Not any more.

Why do you like writing for children?

Because they are a fresh, honest, interested audience open to almost anything.

How do you get your ideas?
From my own childhood, from my children and their friends and from life all around.

Do you draw the pictures for your books?
I wish I could! No I don't on second thoughts. It's a great treat having a host of wonderful different illustrators bringing my stories to pictorial life. But I do think pictures as I write picture books. You have to or you end up telling in words what should be shown in the pictures.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Read and read and read, and read critically. Why does one book take off and fly and why does another fall flat?

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes, I've done lots of primary school visits, talking to children from 4 to 11.
Nearest home in Leicester is easiest, but I'm happy to travel. I can be contacted via any of my publishers.

Have you won any awards or prizes?
Not quite! I've been shortlisted for the Kathleen Fidler Award, the Smarties Prize and the Young Telegraph book of the Year.

To visit Pippa Goodhart's website,   click here

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