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Gillian McClure Interview

Posted on 06 February 2006. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Gillian McClure, children's writer and illustrator, about her work, and why she'd rather get one letter than 30 from her readership

Tell us something about your background.

Iíve written and illustrated 18 childrenís picture books. Although I do illustrate other writersí stories, I prefer to work on the whole book, for then Iím free to play around with the interaction of text and image. Iím currently experimenting with the picture book form; pushing its boundaries out towards something akin to a concrete poem.

Apart from three years teaching in an infant school after I left university, Iíve only ever been a childrenís writer/illustrator and mother, supplementing my income with sessions and talks in schools, colleges and libraries.

How did you get your first agent/ commission?

My first book was published in 1974 after a Schoolís Inspector spotted it in my classroom: a small homemade book, written out in the Initial Teaching Alphabet. He sent it off to Andre Deutsch who were just starting a childrenís list and they published it. As easy as that! After nineteen secure years with the same publisher and the same editor, the Deutsch childrenís list was sold on to Scholastic and I discovered nothing was going to be easy ever again.


What's the worst thing about writing?

Silence when I donít want it; publishersí silence; answer phones that say, ĎYou have no messagesí.


And the best?

A letter from a child; not 30 letters after a visit to a school, all of them copied from the blackboard, but one unexpected letter from a child who loved one of my books. Response to this reader and others who love my books: they make me feel that what Iím doing is worth all the struggle and sacrifice.

Breakthrough moments?

These seem to be linked to good timing; a book in the right place at the right time. I had this when I started out; my first book turning up just when Andre Deutsch were looking for books for their new childrenís list. I also had it at the end of the 1980s when my books were being short-listed for awards, but then things went all-out-of-sync in the 1990s after I lost the security of a small publisher and had to deal with big conglomerates and a succession of editors. Now that timing is improving again: a book that survived seven years without being put-out-of-print, recommended for a childrenís TV serial; the possibility of a UK publisher taking my Korean Folk Tales because thereís been a shift in the market; suddenly UK publishers are becoming more interested in collections, when a year ago they were only interested in a single tale.

What inspires you to write?

I think places inspire me to write; places Iíve known from my childhood. While Iíve been a RLF fellow at Kent University Iíve been thinking about a story set in Kent where I used to be taken hop picking in the early 1950s when I was a tiny child.




A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.






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