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Marjorie Newman

How many books have you had published?
I've had about 90 books for children published.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes, I started to write stories when I was about seven - as soon as I could manage the writing without it being too much of a problem. Most of the stories were unfinished!

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I started by working in various offices, had a short time in a snack bar, a very short time in a children's home and an even shorter time as a shop assistant.Then I worked for a while in a small private school, teaching the youngest children. It seemed a good idea to go to Teacher Training College where I trained to become a Primary School teacher. I taught full time for a number of years before changing to part time teaching, part time writing. As soon I could manage financially I gave up teaching for full time writing.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first 'proper' book was Wilkins the Armchair Cat, published in 1978. Before that I'd had a paperback book published by Help the Aged's Education Department.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No.I was very lucky. The editor - Paul White at A & C Black - saw the Help the Aged book and invited me to go and see him. When I told him I was thinking of writing about a fat cat called Wilkins he laughed so much he rocked on his chair. So I wrote the book and he accepted it straight away.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Mole and the Baby Bird. Mole was one of those magical books . It seemed to write itself. It made me cry - it still makes me cry - and I just love it. Of course it owes a lot to Patrick Benson's wonderful illustrations.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
This is difficult. I love so many, especially picture books. Probably the one which has influenced me most is Anne of Green Gables.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It all depends... If I'm writing a really short text it can be as little as two days, although I will have been thinking and planning before that. The Children's Bible took a year. And there is one book on which I have been working every now and again for the past three years and it's still not finished.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I usually make notes in long hand, but can then move straight to the computer.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
As my main routine I try to write every morning as soon as the dog has had his walk. If I'm writing to a deadline I may continue after lunch. Sometimes I write in the evenings.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I like rewriting. And when I find I'm putting back what I had in the first place I know it's time to send off the manuscript!

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Yes I have. A writers' group is very helpful when you're new to writing.

Do you have an agent?
Yes I do.

Why do you like writing for children?
There are several reasons. I like children. I enjoy reading their books. Also there is a very wide market. If one text doesn't seem to be working you can always leave it for a while and work on another completely different one within the children's range.

How do you get your ideas?
Ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes there is something I want to say, like 'don't give up'. Sometimes something on television or radio will trigger an idea. Sometimes I read a book and get the idea for a variation on the plot. Often I see children doing something interesting, or hear them say something interesting.

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first - the words or the pictures.
No, editors won't let me do the illustrations although it's still one of my ambitions to manage this one day! When I've been trying to do it quietly at home the idea comes first, then the words and pictures arrive together.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Talk to children, read their books, watch their television programmes, think about your own childhood , then have a go!

To see the most recent of Marjorie Newman's long list of books in print  click here

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