Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with Mayra Calvani

Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster has just been released. I am thrilled to have, author Mayra Calvani answer a few questions about how she works.

A little bit of introduction:
Multi-genre author, reviewer and animal advocate, Mayra Calvani, enjoys writing for children and adults. A regular contributor to BLOGCRITICS MAGAZINE and AMERICAN CHRONICLE, she's a member of SCBWI, CWCC and Broad Universe. She keeps two blogs, Mayra's Secret Bookcase and The Dark Phantom Review.
Additionally, she's the co-author of the ForeWord Best of the Year Award winner, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING.
Visit her newest, fun blog, Pets and Their Authors, where her golden retriever interviews authors' pets.
Mayra does Spanish translations of children's picture books, is co-editor of Voice in the Dark newsletter, and the National Latino Books Examiner for
Check out her children's books at Mayra's Secret Bookcase.

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.


Shari Lyle-Soffe said...

Two picture books a month!!! Yikes! I'm not working hard enough or fast enough.

Love the interview. Now back to work.


theartofpuro said...

Loved the interview!Thanks Kit

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for featuring me and my work, Kit! The book wouldn't have been as good without your wonderful illustrations. You really brought Humberto and his little friends to life!

terri.forehand said...

I agree with Shari, I am not working hard enough either, and I loved the interview. I can't wait to have one of my stories illustrated as by someone as talented as Kit and who will bring what I have written to life.


Mayra Calvani said...


Thank for stopping by, ladies!

Actually, I started being so productive after joining the CWCC (Children's Writers Coaching Club).

Suzanne makes me submit a story a week! LOL

Janet said...

Very interesting interview. Thanks for sharing it.

kathy stemke said...

Thanks for the great interview. I love Mayra's books. Is that an illustration from the book?

good luck to both of you. I'l pray for lots of sales!

Mayra Calvani said...

Yes, Kathy, that's an illustration from the book. Kit really did a great job.

Thanks for your good wishes!

Margot Finke said...

What a terrific team both you ladies make.

A Wonderful story, delightfully illustrated.

Margot Finke

NancyCL said...

Wonderful! I'm in awe! Great interview.

Donna M. McDine said...


I enjoyed learning more about Mayra through your interview. I too save all my drafts and several times I've gone back to pull something out that I deleted and need to place it back into the mansucript.

Best wishes for your continued success.

Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
Donna M. McDine’s Website
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Anonymous said...

Kit & Mayra,
What a wonderful book & cuddly character. It's crazy, but I went through a month of writing picture books like crazy. I wrote 12 & edited & polished them for a month. Now I'm in a dry spell and am writing 1 every couple months. That seems to be how my writing goes. I write in a frenzied flood then it slows to a trickle. Wish it poured out of me all of the time.


Kit said...

Thanks for such nice comments. Humberto is such a love.
Kit Grady