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Moira Munro

How many books have you had published?
Four if you count picture books I illustrated but did not write.

I’ve written and illustrated Hamish. The Bear Who Found His Child

I've finished work on Hamish and The Missing Teddy, which will come out in October 2004.

In between, I illustrated (but didn’t write) two picture books for a series called Our Wonderful World.

I also illustrate school books and draw cartoons for magazines and newspapers.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I only wrote a couple of pages of fiction. But I filled up loads of diaries.

Have you always earned your living as a writer?
I only started a couple of years ago. I’d had enough of working as an ergonomics, health and safety adviser in hospitals. It would have been OK if the people at the top let me help people feel better at their work, but they hardly ever let me have my own way. So I looked at what I could just about do, my hobbies, and became a free-lance illustrator. I worked at writing as well, do increase my chances of getting work in picture books

When was your first book published and what was it called? Hamish. The Bear Who Found His Child, written and illustrated by myself, published in March 2003

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
It was remarkably easy (deep apologies to all the other people who have had to persevere a very long time, I was sooo lucky!). I sent samples of illustration work to 20 publishers, and one of them asked me if I could do a book with teddy bears and write it as well.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Hamish. The Bear Who Found His Child, will probably be my favourite for a long time, as it’s associated with the tremendous excitement of doing my first book. I’m very fond of a new bear I’ve drawn for the sequel, so maybe that will become my favourite.

Which is your favourite children’s book written by someone else?
Within picture books, I love it when there’s a plot to interest parents as well. Julia Donaldson’s and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo is right up there, along with Tony Bonning’s and Sally Hobson’s Stone Soup. But suddenly I remember how much I admire Lauren Child’s books, and … and… OK I’ll be sensible and stop here.

How long does it take you to write a book?
My first book took me 5 months of intense work. The sequel was much faster to do and went so smoothly it was a joy. The hardest bit was when my printer jammed up just when I'd promised the publisher a dummy. First time round, I had to sketch 153 teddies to get to Hamish, the hero of my story. The second story has a new little bear who only took 20 sketches or so.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I think up stories using mind-maps and doodles, then writing long hand.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
Everything goes in huge waves. Days or weeks of intense drawing and painting, days or weeks of fiddling with a story, and what feels like weeks of wall-to-wall administration and fixing bugs on my computer.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
For me, rewriting is the easy option, when I can’t be bothered to settle down to painting.

Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group? If so, did it help?
I'm only a member of online lists like http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wordpool for writing, and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/illustratorsUK for illustrating. They've made all the difference: giving me practical advice, and on the emotional side, showing it's normal to get ups and downs in this business.

Do you have an agent?
No

Why do you like writing for children?
I suppose I’m childish myself. Having a small child got me enthusiastic about the gorgeous books produced nowadays.

How do you get your ideas?
Walking seems to do it, along with very disorganised mind-map kind of things.

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first - the words or the pictures.
Yes, I consider myself an illustrator first, a writer second. Don’t know why, because I haven’t learned either. The words come first, though once the first good draft of the story is written and approved by the publisher, I alternate time to edit with time to draw.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
I suppose you have to be lucky, but you can increase your chances with total professionalism, which you can develop with books, internet browsing and internet groups. All these can be found by following links on the Wordpool website.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I love doing author/illustrator visits. It’s a good example of getting out more than you put in. The children who get the most out of my visits are probably the 5 to 8 year-olds. I can visit anywhere within an hour of Glasgow – and possibly central London as well. I’m on the Scottish Book Trust’s scheme, so Scottish schools or libraries can easily get a grant to cover most of a standard fee. My website www.moiramunro.com shows a bit of what I do, and you can contact me at moira@moiramunro.com.


For more information about Moira and her books visit her website, http://moiramunro.com

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