Saturday, January 9, 2010

Interview with Mayra Calvani

Interview with Mayra Calvani
Interview by Kit Grady

When working on a story, what steps or process do you use?
For a picture book, what usually happens is I get an idea and then let it simmer in my mind for weeks, sometimes even months or years. Then one day I just feel the need to write it down and the whole thing pours out of me in a sitting. When this happens, I stay working on the story a whole morning or a whole day. I then take a break from it for maybe a day or two before going back and polishing it. Then I send it to my critique group for feedback. This is very helpful. I may or may not take on their suggestions, but their advice is always good. I save each version of the story, so if I edit the story 5 times, I’ll save those 5 files of each version under a folder named after the book’s title.

What sparks your ideas for stories?
Real life, newspaper articles, TV shows, family stories, memories, photos, beautiful scenery. Everything around me may spark an idea in me. The Muse is a very curious thing.

What is your strongest personal trait that make you a better writer?
I would say persistence. I never give up, no matter how many rejection letters I get or the competitive state of the children's book market.

Where did your last story idea come from? Where were you when you began working on it?
For a long time I wanted to write a picture book story about a little mouse or hamster who loved books so much, he didn’t have time for friends. That’s how Humberto the Bookworm Hamster came about. As usual, I let the idea simmer for some time, then, one morning, I got up from bed and had to sit down and write it. So that’s what I did, and the story poured out of me in one sitting.

Humberto loves books so much, he reads at all times of the day; even while he sleeps he reads—audio books. The other animals want to become his friends, but he doesn’t have time for them. He’s too busy reading! Then one day a flood comes and he must decide whether to salvage the rest of his books before they sink in the rising water or helping the animals. Humberto’s story is a tale about books and the true meaning of friendship: how good are books really if you can’t share them with people who care about?

I can sympathize with my character because many times I see myself in him. As a writer and reviewer, I’m so involved with books I tend to become a hermit. Socializing is important too.

What advice would you give a new writer?
My first advice would be, of course, to read a lot. If you want to write picture books, read dozen of picture books a month. Especially read award winners and when you read these books, study them and what made them so successful. If you’re new to the craft of picture book writing, read nonfiction books on the subject, take a course or a workshop. Join a good critique group, one that focuses on picture books. A writer who’s not familiar with this genre won’t be able to help you, no matter how good they are at writing, let’s say, chick-lit novels. Last but not least, WRITE. I try to write one picture book story a week, or at least two a month. You get better the more you write and, most importantly, the writing will come easier.

Peek inside Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster at Guardian Angel Publishing.

Where to find Mayra:
Mayra's website
Mayra's book website and blog
Mayra's articles

ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award Winner


Nancy Famolari said...

Good advice for new writers, Mayra. I love your book cover!

Great post, Elizabeth!

elysabeth said...

Thanks Nancy. I think the cover is adorable too. Mayra has some other books available too. Crash! is really cute looking. Looking forward to more by Mayra - E :)

kathy stemke said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. Mayra is an extremely talented author. This book is adorable.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

One picture book story a week sounds mind boggling to me. Do you follow a formula of sorts or does every book come together in a different manner as you go along? Do you visualize the pictures that might accompany the text as you write it?

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Hey, Mayra, I do the same thing when revising - I save each revision as well as the original.

And, that is great advice for new writers.

I also read Humberto and it's a wonderful picture book that I highly recommend!

Thanks for a great post, Elysabeth.


DarcĂ­a Helle said...

Mayra, I love the cover for Humberto the Bookworm Hamster. It looks like a fun read for kids.

Helena Harper said...

There's some great advice here for budding picture book writers, myself included! Your latest book, Mayra, looks delightful - the best of success with it.


Martha said...

Mayra, I love the cover of your book. What fun! Great advice as well. Good luck
Martha Swirzinski

Brigitte A. Thompson said...

What a great idea for a book! I appreciate your advice for writers too :)

Mayra Calvani said...

Thank you all for stopping by and I'm so sorry I wasn't able to leave a comment earlier. I kept getting a 'Blogger Status' message every time I tried to access blogger.

Thanks for hosting me and thank you all for visiting!

Mayra Calvani said...

Hi Jane,

I'm only working on one PB a month for the moment, because I'm working on a novel.

But before I was writing one FIRST DRAFT of a PB every week or so. I have so many ideas, this was a good way to put them down on paper. Of course, the editing process is extensive! It may take me months before a PB is good enough to send to a publisher. :-)

Mayra Calvani said...

THANK YOU all for your kind words about my books!

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