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World Book Day Q&A with Jill Murphy

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KatGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 03-Feb-14 09:09:46

To celebrate World Book Day 2014, author and illustrator Jill Murphy will be doing a Q&A on all things World Book Day related.

World Book Day is back with a bang on 6 March and ten must-reads, including Jill Murphy's Fun With The Worst Witch, can be picked up for FREE using a special £1 World Book Day Token handed out in nurseries and schools.

She's also taking part in this year's new pre-recorded format of The Biggest Book Show On Earth. Available online for the whole of March and including the World Book Day authors and illustrators, schools across the nation are being welcomed to register, log on and watch together on 11am 6 March.

Compered by CBBC’s Dick and Dom, World Book Day authors and illustrators Jill Murphy, James Patterson, David Melling, Emily Gravett, Jim Smith, Lauren St John, Terry Deary, Martin Brown, Alex T Smith, Sarah Lean, Robert Muchamore and Maureen Johnson give exclusive hints and tips on different aspects of writing and drawing.

Post your questions below to Jill Murphy by 12pm 17 Feb.

Scream Wed 05-Feb-14 19:25:45

Hi Jill. I read somewhere that you started writing The Worst Witch when you were at school and was published by age 24! That's very impressive. How did you get noticed and what advice could you give young aspiring writers?

NanKate Thu 06-Feb-14 07:58:04

Hello Jill,

This is more of a statement than a question. My son is an author too having appeared at WBD twice and written one of the 99p books.

From the prospective of his family, the life of an author is far from the rosy picture of sitting quietly in his studio writing.

It comprises writing to deadlines, answering fanmail, replying to a myriad of related emails, travelling all around the country visiting schools, flying off to foreign invites and being moved from place to place daily so that he hardly knows where he is. Attending Festivals where the payment for authors is by bottles of alcohol which are too heavy to carry on the train !

All of this has to be dealt with before a finger touches the computer to start writing.

No doubt you Jill will empathise with the above and you like 'my boy' wouldn't change your career for anything.

Deedaa Thu 06-Feb-14 22:57:44

Hi Jill,
Your books were always a great favourite with my daughter. One of the high spots of her school days was when you came to a Book Fair at Richard Lander and she got your autograph! Sadly, her 7 year old son is only interested in books with guns or aliens, or preferably both. But we still have happy memories of the Worst Witch.

Tegan Thu 06-Feb-14 23:12:02

We loved Peace at Last. If we went anywhere and forgot to take a book with us me and the kids used to recite it [there's a lovely rhythm to it]. My little boy was terribly late talking but I can remember him lying in his cot; I was reading Peace at Last and got to the bit with the aeroplane and he started making aeroplane sounds [I can still picture it now]. So, no questions but a big thank you for writing what was 'the' book from my childrens early years.

gillybob Thu 13-Feb-14 13:28:27

Hi Jill

My grandchildren love The Large Family smile

They pick themselves out of the family members and relate very well to each story. Who would not feel sorry for poor Mrs Large in her bid for a peaceful bath?

My question to you is When you wrote The Large family stories were you writing from experience and relating to events and people in your own family?

I am not in anyway suggesting that you are a family of elephants

LoveAndSqualor Sat 15-Feb-14 08:43:27

Hi Jill,

Question from my DD: "how did you think up the worst witch?"

Thanks!

LyndaW Mon 17-Feb-14 08:51:49

Hi Jill

What is your experience of the dramatic changes in publishing since you were first published? Is it harder to get your book noticed and published do you think? Do you use social media at all to promote your books? Are any of your books available in ebooks format? I just can't see how ebooks will be as useful for kids books? They like turning pages don't they?

petitpois Mon 17-Feb-14 08:53:16

I'd like to know if you have any grandkids - and if you do what you read them? Who do you rate as a very good upcoming (or recently popular) author/series?

Brie Mon 17-Feb-14 11:18:21

Did you ever think to get an illustrator for your books, or was it always going to be the case that you write and illustrate your own?

JoJo Mon 17-Feb-14 11:20:59

Do you think more could be done to emphasise the purpose of World Book Day - as in, getting children to read? It seems to me in schools and nurseries, it's just an excuse to dress up!

CaffeineAddict Mon 17-Feb-14 11:23:20

Hello Jill! How did it feel having your books turned into a TV show? Do you think the shows did the books justice?

Peaches Mon 17-Feb-14 12:49:36

Hi Jill. How do you get a child to be interested in reading when it's "boring" and they'd rather play on the iPad? There's one thing making them read, and another trying to get them to read on their own accord...

kaybh Mon 17-Feb-14 13:08:28

Hi Jill, there are several books as I was growing up that helped shaped and inspire my reading for the rest of my life. What do you think are some important books for kids to read in their younger years, and then when they're on the brink of adulthood?

granin Mon 17-Feb-14 13:13:32

I've banned my GC from any kind of ipad, ipod, iphone or what-have-you for any length of time when they're at mine. I have shelves and shelves of books for them to choose from and I want them to explore these for themselves. I've now acquired the somewhat unflattering label of a 'book pusher'!! Is this too harsh? I really do worry about my GC's education when I see how little they actually read since I believe that reading has taught me more than anything else. What do you think?

ElenaT Mon 17-Feb-14 13:21:34

Am I too late? Hope not! I wondered Jill, do you have a particular favourite book you've written? If you could suggets just one for me to give to my granddaughter, which would it be? THanks, Elena.

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:46:45

Scream

Hi Jill. I read somewhere that you started writing The Worst Witch when you were at school and was published by age 24! That's very impressive. How did you get noticed and what advice could you give young aspiring writers?

I never really thought about getting anything published, especially when I was a child and writing stories all the time. I think the best thing is to practise and practise until one day you have a really good idea — my idea was “The Worst Witch” when I realised you could take a normal school, with chemistry laboratories, bicycle sheds etc., and make it a magic school. I had spent years writing hundreds of stories before that idea struck me like a light bulb and I could see immediately that it was something special and worth ploughing on when three publishers turned it down, one after the other.

So I suppose this is a rather long-winded way of saying keep plugging on and don’t give up!

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:47:56

gillybob

Hi Jill

My grandchildren love The Large Family smile

They pick themselves out of the family members and relate very well to each story. Who would not feel sorry for poor Mrs Large in her bid for a peaceful bath?

My question to you is When you wrote The Large family stories were you writing from experience and relating to events and people in your own family?

--I am not in anyway suggesting that you are a family of elephants--

You might be surprised to know that I wrote most of the Large Family books before I had any children at all! The characters in the books are based on my friends Sue and Geoff and their family of five children. I made them into elephants because you can have more fun drawing elephants than people. After I had my son Charlie, I often found myself in the middle of one of my own books, for example trying to get out of the house when I was off to the publishers in my smart clothes, with Charlie flinging his arms round me holding a piece of gooey chocolate cake!

The last two books “A Quiet Night In” and “Mr Large in Charge” were written after I had Charlie — the only thing that I didn’t know about while observing all my friends and their children was the absolute exhaustion which comes with a new baby and that gave me the inspiration for “A Quiet Night In”.

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:49:20

LoveAndSqualor

Hi Jill,

Question from my DD: "how did you think up the worst witch?"

Thanks!

The characters in “The Worst Witch” are all based on my school days. Mildred is based on myself when I had plaits so long that I could sit on them! Maud is based on my little best friend, Elizabeth, and all the teachers (both nice and nasty) are based on my schoolteachers. It was a very strict school and I began to think up the story of Mildred when I was still at the school, aged fifteen. I used to draw little pictures of Mildred, with her pointy witch’s hat, all over my school exercise book. I made them into witches because I thought it would add a touch of magic to the story. “The Worst Witch” was published forty years ago when I was twenty-four, but I had been trying to get it published since I was eighteen. I still have the first rejection letter, dated 1969 stuck on my notice-board to cheer me up when I’m feeling down!

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:50:04

ElenaT

Am I too late? Hope not! I wondered Jill, do you have a particular favourite book you've written? If you could suggets just one for me to give to my granddaughter, which would it be? THanks, Elena.

This is a difficult question — a bit like asking which grandchild you prefer! I always work so hard on every book and I thoroughly enjoy inventing the characters and making the illustrations as nice as I can.

It depends what age your granddaughter is. “Peace At Last” was my very first picture book and I still can’t believe that I managed the light effects that I did in those pictures. I remember, as I did each one, I used to leave them propped up on the chest-of-drawers at the end of my bed so I could see them first thing in the morning as I was so proud of them. The same with “The Worst Witch”. I couldn’t believe my luck when a publisher finally accepted it, and that whole period was very exciting, so let’s say “Peace At Last” for a young granddaughter and “The Worst Witch” to start off the collection for an older one.

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:51:04

LyndaW

Hi Jill

What is your experience of the dramatic changes in publishing since you were first published? Is it harder to get your book noticed and published do you think?

If you are referring to the dramatic use of eBooks and screens, it doesn’t seem to have made a huge difference to the publication of real books. In my case, I just plough on writing my stories as I have always done [in longhand, because I prefer the feeling of the book coming out of my hands onto the paper], and as I am an illustrator too, it really matters to me that the illustrations are placed on the pages in a way that will help my readers to be involved with both the illustrations and the stories. A good example of this is on pages 4 and 5 of “The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star”. There is a description of everyone arriving in the playground during a rainstorm where I have taken the illustration right across the base of the two pages so that the writing fits neatly on top.

LyndaW

Do you use social media at all to promote your books?

No, I’m not on Facebook and I don’t use Twitter. Life is exhausting enough answering e-mails and trying to write and illustrate books!

LyndaW

Are any of your books available in ebooks format? I just can't see how ebooks will be as useful for kids books? They like turning pages don't they?

All the Worst Witch books and “Dear Hound” are published in e-format, but I completely agree with you that I would much prefer children to read the real books, for the reasons I have outlined above — that the books are laid out with great care to knit the writing and pictures together. Also, if they are reading an e-book on an iPad, the iPad is distractingly full of so many other things, whereas a book is just a book and gives them a nice, calm space to concentrate.

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:54:51

petitpois

I'd like to know if you have any grandkids - and if you do what you read them? Who do you rate as a very good upcoming (or recently popular) author/series?

I had my son Charlie when I was forty, so he is only twenty-three and a bit young to start a family. However, my brother had his children when he was twenty so I have had nephews and nieces, not to mention all my friends having their children and grandchildren and I can see what a fantastic relationship it must be and I really do hope that I might be lucky enough to have one before I am too elderly to be any fun!

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:55:27

Brie

Did you ever think to get an illustrator for your books, or was it always going to be the case that you write and illustrate your own?

I have always written stories and drawn pictures since I was a little girl. I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t sit on the floor telling stories to myself then writing them down and doing coloured pencil pictures to illustrate them. Because of this, it never occurred to me that people who wrote stories didn’t do their own illustrations. I was quite shocked when I found out that it was actually a rarity to be a strong writer and illustrator at the same time. I suppose I was just very lucky that I could do both.

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:56:01

CaffeineAddict

Hello Jill! How did it feel having your books turned into a TV show? Do you think the shows did the books justice?

I was thrilled to bits to have Mildred and Co. in their own TV series. I thought it was better in the early episodes, but I do think that it was basically a good series and people still remember it very fondly. By the way, just in case you don’t remember, the girl playing Ethel was Felicity Jones, who has gone on to be a very high-powered young actress. She is in The Invisible Woman showing at cinemas at the moment.

JillMurphy Mon 03-Mar-14 10:56:43

Peaches

Hi Jill. How do you get a child to be interested in reading when it's "boring" and they'd rather play on the iPad? There's one thing making them read, and another trying to get them to read on their own accord...

The difficulty with iPads, as I have mentioned earlier, is that they are completely full of distractions. If they’ve got used to playing on iPads before they have learnt to be delighted by the peace and calm of reading a book and looking at pictures, it’s going to be a bit of an uphill struggle. You could try going to a bookshop and asking one of the assistants if they could help you assemble some really interesting books to charm them with! If the child is young enough you could actively stop him/her playing on it and just provide books for a while, but this would be much more difficult if it is an older child who has got used to playing games. Best of luck!

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