This is the first in a monthly series of interviews with our writers and illustrators. We hope that their words and pictures give some insight into the process of writing and illustrating literacy resources for the classroom. We know that they help to instil in students a love of reading. Susan Frame is a Dunedin-based writer who has written 56 stories for Sunshine Books. She is a wonderful collaborator and her stories are modern and quirky.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER FOR SUNSHINE BOOKS?
I credit that good fortune to our three sons and my mother! As a stay-at-home mum I read countless books to our boys when they were toddlers… and beyond. One day, after a marathon reading session, I decided to have a go at the writing lark myself. Subject matter? Spiders, and my mother’s hatred of the little critters. In 1994 I sent Scary Spiders off to Sunshine Books and, voila! a contract.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WRITING EDUCATIONAL CHILDREN’S BOOKS?
The knowledge that in some small way I am contributing to the future literacy pleasure of the littlies reading these books is the most gratifying feeling. I also enjoy the challenge of taking what are often very prescriptive guidelines and producing a story that “fits the bill”.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
A lot of my ideas come from things that have happened; things that have involved our children or other people’s children. For example, I wrote Billy and the Basketball after our youngest son wanted to show off how good at was at shooting hoops. As I stood and watched, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t land a shot. He then turned around, threw the ball over his head and said, “That’s it. I’m not doing this anymore.” Of course, the ball went in and a story was born. Sometimes, especially if there are guidelines to follow, it’s a case of deciding what would appeal to children and nutting the stories out – this usually involves a lot of coffee!
ANY ADVICE FOR BUDDING AUTHORS?
I was at a writer’s conference last year and one of our key note speakers did something I’ll never forget. She opened a suitcase, grabbed a handful of A4 pages and said, “Whatever you do, never give up. Never give up on your dream of being a writer.” She dropped the pages to the ground, grabbed another handful and repeated the process. It turned out all those bits of paper were rejection letters. She is now one of America’s most successful, award-winning writers. So, my advice is simple – NEVER GIVE UP.