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 Examiner.com.
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.