Saturday, 24 May 2014

New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

An interview with Yvonne Morrison

Image of Yvonne: acknowledgements to Booksellers NZ

The Three Bears…Sort of  Scholastic NZ

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Shortlisted Picture Book Section New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

I contacted Yvonne (who is presently living in the UK) to see if she would like to add anything since she wrote the answers to these questions but she feels she has managed to tell you as much as possible in the space.

For an excellent radio interview with Yvonne broadcast recently on National Radio go to:

 In a few days I will post the answers Yvonne gave me when I asked her for some advice for young writers for the May 2011 edition of Too Good to Miss.

The following questions were composed by Sarah Forster, Booksellers NZ

As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
I honestly can't remember. I can remember exactly where I was at the time – lying on a sofa in the spare room – and what I was wearing – pink pyjamas with zebras on them – and that I was drinking a glass of chardonnay – and that there was a sitcom on TV – and that I wrote it with pen and paper, unlike most of my books, which I type. So that's how the idea came out, but I have absolutely no clue how the idea got into my head. It just appeared, fully formed.

Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
I wrote this manuscript in about an hour, all in one go. Because it isn't rhyming like a lot of my other books, it didn't require much reworking. However, at the time, I didn't see how it could possibly be illustrated. I filed it away on my laptop in a folder I have labelled 'probably not'. (I have others labelled 'keep trying' and 'everyone hates these'.) A few months later, I was about to submit some other manuscripts, and just added it as a whim at the last moment to bulk out the submissions. But the other texts were rejected, and Three Bears was accepted! So it shows how much I know about the publishing biz.

Image: Acknowledgements to Scholastic NZ
Scholastic NZ then selected the illustrator – the brilliant Donovan Bixley who had previously illustrated my Wacko Kakapo and The Tuatara and the Skink. I figured I was in good hands then, but was still blown away by the results. Donovan adds so many layers to text – so many funny touches – and so many jokes just for adults.

Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
I wrote this for an audience of one – me – just to entertain myself, or possibly my husband too. Now, however, I can see exactly how I would use this book if I was a parent, or if I was still a primary school teacher (as I was for eight years), as a springboard for the teaching of critical thinking skills. I am a sceptic. Many people think this is synonymous with 'cynic' but there is a difference. Sceptics still see wonder in the world – in nature, and in art - but simply require that 'factual' claims require proof, and extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proof. Magical thinkers believe in things without evidence; critical thinkers make judgements based on evidence. We are surrounded by so many persuasive people – politicians and marketers, psychic frauds and medical quacks – making claims that if we vote for them, or buy their products, we will be richer, or more beautiful, or healthier, or happier. Critical thinking skills give children armour against this. The Three Bears is a fun way to get kids to start thinking about the veracity of statements. Kids can practice coming up with their own questions about other stories. Parents can talk with their kids about the truth of claims made on ads targeted to them.

Would you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
Children's books that I love include Who's a Pest? by Crosby Bonsall, and Benjamin and Tulip by Rosemary Wells. Both use language beautifully.

Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?

I can't think of a particular occasion, sorry. I have not read a book for a very long time - apart from the odd textbook chapter. The last book I read cover to cover was Genetics for Dummies. I have read approximately 300 scientific papers in the last six months. This is because I am currently at university, studying for an MSc in Primate Conservation. However, I have an ever growing (virtual) pile of e-book files to download as soon as I am done. I tend to switch between scientific non-fiction and fiction, and I'm afraid my fiction tastes are not at all 'sophisticated'. I like comedy, such as Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde and A. Lee Martinez, and my two adult novels (self-published) are written in this style. I also like cosy mysteries of the English manor house party style. I watch these on telly too – often just for the fantastic period costumes of the twenties and thirties. I am a fan of these decades, and so I LOVE P.G. Wodehouse. As for where to read – anywhere comfy is fine... hammocks, bed, bath – although the latter has been curtailed by my use of an e-book reader. I do love the medium though – mostly because I travel so often. I am homeless and move houses every few weeks, house sitting full-time. One box of textbooks is enough to lug around without having a stack of novels too!

In the Belize Animal Sanctuary
What are your favourite things to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
I love dancing – my husband and I teach 1920s-1930s style swing dance, and I love travel, and animals. I am passionate about animal welfare, and do a lot of campaigning about this. I also enjoy volunteering as a keeper at animal sanctuaries, and have done this in Thailand and Belize. I urge everyone to do what they can for wild animal welfare – particularly if travelling overseas - please be a responsible tourist!

Visit Yvonne Morrison online:

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