A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Elli Woollard, poet extraordinaire (and weirdo possibly. No, no! Don’t judge me. That’s what SHE said, see below), today celebrates the publication of Woozy The Wizard: A Broom To Go Zoom. The book is the second in her series about a brilliantly funny wizened old wizard and his pet pig, told in addictive rhyme, with vibrant and hilarious illustrations by Al Murphy.
Woozy The Wizard is such a great character, a bit of a klutz but sweet and well meaning. Where did he and his pet pig come from? (I mean inspiration wise, don’t tell me they come from Snottington Sneeze because I know that already.)
Somewhere, on one of the early versions of Woozy, there’s a note to my editor that reads something along the lines of ‘OMG! I thought Woozy came from nowhere, but I’ve just realised he’s my Mum!’ Actually klutziness is a bit of a family trait – there are a lot of us who are well-intentioned, not unintelligent, but completely and utterly dippy.
As for Pig, I think it was my editor’s suggestion that Woozy had a pet, and after rejecting all the usual suspects (bats, rats, cats) I decided a pig would be perfect. Although bats, rats and cats would have made the rhyming a whole lot easier. One of these days Pig is going to have to dig. While dancing a jig. Eating a fig.
The first Woozy The Wizard book, A Spell To Get Well, came out last October. What’s been your loveliest moment to date as a published author?
School visits, I guess. They’re absolutely exhausting (how do teachers do it ALL DAY?) and I sometimes inwardly grumble about them as I want to get on with my writing too, but it’s so lovely to see all those children really engaged with your book.
If you were magical yourself, what spell would you cast and why?
Er, world peace and an end to global poverty? Universal happiness?
Yeah right. I mean, it would be nice, but I’d be about as rubbish as Woozy when it came to using magical powers. I’d probably end up causing baked beans to rain from the sky or something, completely by mistake.
If it was just a little spell, maybe I’d ask for a clean house. Me and cleaning hate each other with a passion. Which is why I very rarely do any.
“Abra-ca-donkey and chocolate eclair!” I love your playful rhyme and seemingly madcap use of language. You make it look so easy, does it come very naturally to you? So, er, do you ever just make words up? 🙂
Are you telling me that Abracadonkey isn’t in your dictionary? What kind of dictionary do you use?
Are you going to be doing events and workshops this year?
I’ll be appearing at a few major festivals this year, but I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say about them yet, so for the moment my lips are sealed. What I can say is that I’ll be doing some rhyming workshops based around Woozy. What’s a rhyming workshop? Actually I don’t know either. I should probably find out.
You have a brilliant blog – Taking Words For a Stroll – where you frequently publish new poems about every day or topical things. So do you rhyme pretty much constantly internally?
You mean you can’t guess if it’s no or it’s yes?
I tend to see words and start toying.
And as someone who rhymes for a lot of the time,
I can tell you – it’s REALLY annoying.
Ha ha! I hear ya. 🙂 As a fellow rhymer, I’d love to know about your writing method. Do you plot a story/poem first and then rhyme that baby up, or just let the whole thing flow?
That depends. If it’s a poem I generally just write it. For shorter picture books (i.e. around 500 words long) I tend to have a plot in my head before I start. For longer things like Woozy, I make notes for the plot, which I then desperately try to decipher. But I never actually write the whole thing in prose before writing it out in verse – my mind just doesn’t work like that. According to my agent, my mind works in a different way to everyone else’s. I can’t decide if that makes me a genius, or just weird.
Some might know the story already, but for those who don’t, please explain how Michael Rosen’s glasses played a part in you starting to write… 🙂
To cut a long story short (there’s a link to the longer version here), I was at an event that Michael Rosen was doing, when my youngest son accidentally stepped on his glasses. Which Michael Rosen had left on the floor. My son didn’t step on his face. That would be weird. The event left me both mortified and inspired, so I wrote a few poems by way of apology. And then found that I couldn’t stop rhyming.
You’re fluent in Thai aren’t you? Can you rhyme in Thai? I don’t even know if that’s possible!
Ha ha. Ha ha. That’s me chortling because although I can read Thai I’m not 100% fluent in it, and Thai verse is another thing altogether. Thai verse forms and their rhyme schemes are incredibly complicated, and the language they use is very, very different from everyday Thai. There are all kinds of rules about which syllable of which line is supposed to rhyme with which syllable of another line, and quite frankly the whole thing makes my brain ache in a very Woozy-like manner.
How many more Woozy books are currently in the pipeline? What’s coming next for him?
In the third book it’s Pig who takes the starring role (dressed in a tutu and sparkly bow tie). It’s Pig’s birthday, but Woozy, being Woozy, has completely forgotten. I couldn’t possibly say who I based that on, but if you never get a birthday card from me in your entire life, even if you’ve told me when your birthday is, you’ll know why.
As soon as Woozy realises his mistake he tries to magic up a present for Pig, but of course everything goes wrong, and meanwhile Pig is getting crosser and crosser. As I wrote in a note to my editor: ‘This is one p*ssed off pig!’
Ooh, ace. I can’t wait to see Pig getting in a strop! And, excitingly, you have another book coming out soon too… details please.
The Giant of Jum! I’m very excited about this one. It’s a rhyming picture book illustrated by the phenomenally talented Benji Davies, and it’s a sort of follow-on from Jack and the Beanstalk. I won’t give too much of the plot away, but it features a grumpy giant and LOTS of cake. It’s coming out from Macmillan on May 7th, so (if you’re in the UK) you can cast your vote in the general election and then run straight to a bookshop.
Roll on May! Thanks Elli. And happy World Book Day everyone.
At the age of four Elli wrote her first picture book, involving her best friend, a tricycle accident, blood everywhere, and the author emerging as the hero. Several years later she completed an MA in social anthropology, moved out to Thailand, taught herself the language, and has since worked variously as a Thai to English translator, a copywriter for a domestic appliance insurance firm (about as interesting as it sounds) and an assistant editor in academic publishing. She now lives in London where she combines writing with freelance translation work, looking after her four children, butchering nice music on the piano and being dictated to by her deranged cat.
Pip Jones is author of the Squishy McFluff series, which is published by Faber Children’s. The first book, Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat! won the inaugural Greenhouse Funny Prize in 2012, and was recommended by The Booktrust in its Best Books Guide 2014. The second Squishy title published in August 2014, the third is due to publish in February 2015. In addition, Pip has written a picture book, Daddy’s Sandwich, which will also be published by Faber, in May 2015. In a previous life, Pip wrote and edited features about glamorous things, such as fast cars and travel. Following the birth of her two children, in pinball-like succession, she began writing about pregnancy and babies (very little she doesn’t know about sleeplessness, colic, projectile vomit and the various consistencies of baby poo). If she wasn’t a children’s author, Pip would like to be an inventor, but no-one will let her go on Dragon’s Den because of the risk of sectioning. Pip is secretly in love with Benedict Cumberbatch (despite the fact he behaves like she doesn’t even EXIST)… and though writing is how she’d spend all of her time, she sometimes goes crackers from thinking in rhyme.