How many books have you had published?
Eight now (If you include my reading scheme book)
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
For fun? I wrote for serious! It was always my ambition to write.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
No way! (I still don't). I have done lots of different things - my last full-time job was as a sub-editor on a local newspaper.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
In 1996 I published a book in a reading scheme. It was called The Good Manners Prize, about a mother who gets fed up with her children's manners (where do I get my ideas from?)
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes. Every step in my writing career has been difficult.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
I don't have a fvourite any more - it would be like having a favourite among your children!
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars. It is funny and profound and moving all at the same time, and written in wonderfully simple prose.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies enormously. For Astrid it was about two years' thinking time, about three months writing and, say, eight months on and off rewriting.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I use a computer.
Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
I don't set a very good example, I'm afraid, I really just write when I feel like it. If I'm excited about an idea, I can work really hard. If my heart's not in it, oh dear...
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I like rewriting. The real work's in the first draft. Ido a lot of rewriting., much of it at my publisher's request. A good editor can be incredibly helpful.
Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
For several terms I attended a children's writing workshop at the City Literacy Institute in London. This was brilliant. It is a good discipline to have your work read by one member of the group and then commented on (quite robustly) by the others.
Have you got an agent?
Why do you like writing for children?
Children can be very appreciative -and critical!- readers. I do like the feedback. I also think (but perhaps I shouldn't say it!) that writing for children is a rarer talent than writing for adults. There are lots of marvellous novelists writing for adults today, but far fewer really good writers for children.
How do you get your ideas?
Anywhere and everywhere. It's the most dificult part of writing. I pinched the plot for Annie and the Aliens from a Victorian writer called F Anstey. I don't think he's likely to complain - though I'm in for a shock if he does.
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Read lots of children's books. Listen to your writing (read it aloud). learn to take criticism, rewrite and rewrite Treat your readers as intelligent (if not necessarily knowledgeable).
Don't expect it to be easy. It isn't.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
The Publicity Department
Random House Children's Books
61-63 Uxbridge Road,
London W5 5SA
Tel: 0208 579 2652
The Publicity Department
96 Leonard Street
London EC2A 4XD
Tel: 0207 739 2929
Have you won any awards or prizes?
The Shrimp won the Gold Award in the 6-8 age-group of the 2001 Smarties Awards.
Astrid won the Silver Prize in the 6-8 age group of the 1999 Smarties Awards.
When Mum Threw out The Telly was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2004
For a list of Emily Smith's books in print click here