Sunday, 10 July 2011

Miriam Moss on Picture Books - interviewed by Dianne Hofmeyr

Capture young children with picture books at an early age and they’ll be more likely to be receptive to reading thereafter. So, with this in mind, I interviewed Miriam Moss, author of over 30 picture books, for our ABBA Birthday Litfest. Matty in a Mess (left) has just been read by Sheila Hancock on Cbeebies and Miriam’s latest short story, Old Boy, is in the July edition of London Magazine.

What advice would you have for someone about to embark on writing picture books? Immerse yourself in them, check out several publishers’ lists to see which you are drawn to and buy the Writers and Artists Yearbook.




What are the key elements of a good picture book? As they are read aloud, every word needs to be in the right place. The stories need to be child-centred, multi-layered and appeal to all ages from toddlers to grandparents. They should open up the world to young children, sometimes representing strong themes like coping with anger, fear or separation, but always in a reassuring package. They need to include plenty of playfulness, humour, rhyme, rhythm and song but never compromise on the richness of language.

Which one of your own books has been most successful & what do you put that success down to?
Success comes in various guises not only from awards and co-editions. The Snow Bear was successful because of US merchandising, Wibble Wobble (also a SATS paper) and Scritch Scratch (recently in animation) because children related powerfully to the feelings expressed in them. This is the Reef and Jungle Song were successful because of their affiliation with deep learning projects in school and, of course, being read on CBeebies always helps.

Do you believe a great text can survive poor illustration? No, and ultimately the success of a book once it’s written, depends (apart from one’s own efforts of promoting the book) on what the publisher does or does not do with it.

Are you optimistic about the future of the picture book? Completely.

Interveiwer Dianne Hofmeyr’s latest edition of Eye of the Moon has been published this June by Aladdin in the US. Eye of the Sun will come out in July in the US www.diannehofmeyr.com
Labels: Miriam Moss, Dianne Hofmeyr, tips on writing picture books

13 comments:

Sue Eves said...

Thanks Miriam and Dianne - it's great to read you live and clear this morning. Can I ask - do you have any digital plans for your picture books?

p.s. The Children's Writer's and Artist's Yearbook (A & C Black) is a great addition to our bookshelves

Rebecca Brown said...

Interesting to hear from a picture book writer. Very true that the words need to be exactly right and appeal to all ages; my son enjoys hearing some books that I really don't enjoy reading and at the end of the day I'm one the buys them and reads them! Thanks for this interview.

Rebecca Emin said...

Very interesting post and a lot of useful information for people thinking about writing picture books. I totally agree, the best picture books are interesting to adults as well as children. Otherwise they get hidden away and not read so much!

Enid Richemont said...

After a long saga, my very first picture book text will be coming out next year with Little Tiger Press - and I'm thrilled. I have enormous respect for this genre.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Congratulations Enid. Its a tough market! I posted a commnet a moment ago but blogger seems not to like me this am... and it went into the ether. Miriam is away in Italy as we speak so can't answer for her but the digital aspect is a good question... Sue. I usually sign eBook rights away because (for now) the Royalty is good. But I think its wise to keep Enhanced digital books. It could be fun for an author to develop her own Apps for this (though expensive) Certainly with books where I've got the Rights back, its an option. Would be interesting to know what other pic book writers are doing.

Joolze said...

I agree about writing a story on all levels - adults are the ones who have to keep reading the book. Much easier if they love it too!
Good to read tips from an established picture book writer - thanks.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes I think it was John Dougherty who said with his novels for younger readers, he always tries to slip in something arcane or entertaining for the adult who is reading the story to the child. And perhaps the sign of a really good picture book is if the child and adult reading are equally absorbed/amused by the story even to the 100th reading!!!

Wendy Meddour said...

It's lovely to hear from a picture book author and I think this is a tricky genre too. I agonise over every word I write for this age group. But isn't it fantastic when it all 'clicks'?

Keren David said...

Very interesting interview, and I remember how much my children enjoyed Wibble Wobble when they were younger (and so did I, which is the secret of a great picture book!)

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes Miraim was clever with Wibble Wobble... a small subject but SO important in a child's life. I think that's why Lauren Child's books captivate children. She writes about small but very real moments and sees it from the child's perspective. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

A big thankyou from sunny SA for a really interesting interview and thankyou Dianne for telling me about this wonderful blog! For a 'wannabe' illustrator this is really good to see. Happy Birthday ABBA

Miriam Moss said...

I've really enjoyed reading all your posts. Thank you to everyone for writing in - especially to Di for responding while I struggled with my internet connection here. Like many others, I'm watching to see what happens digitally with interest, especially as the market is so young. My main focus is on writing, as always. (And my new website, out very soon.) Recently I've been fascinated by the similar skills required to write picture books and short stories. Depth in simplicity. The most difficult of all to achieve, but wonderful (on those rare occasions) when you do manage it.
Happy Birthday indeed ABBA!

Isabelle Whitely said...

I am a huge fan of Miriam's books, my favourite being The Snoops which my children (and me and my husband) absolutely love! I look forward to seeing what the future holds for picture books and am also very optimistic. Miriam - I look forward to checking out your new website to see what you have on the horizon. Happy Birthday ABBA!