You may be familiar with the very popular children’s book, The Gruffalo. But have you ever wondered about the author Julia Donaldson? Read our profile:
Julia on Becoming a Writer
For my fifth birthday, my father gave me a very fat book called “The Book of a Thousand Poems”. I loved it. I read the poems, recited them, learnt them, and then started making up some of my own. Although I wanted to be a poet all those years ago, I later decided I would rather go on the stage. That didn’t quite work out, so I did other jobs – teaching and publishing. But somehow I’ve ended up doing what I wanted to do when I was five years old. I have a theory that this happens to quite a lot of people. In 1993, one of my songs, “A Squash and a Squeeze” was made into a book.
Julia on Inspiration and Ideas
I get my ideas anywhere and everywhere: things that happen to my children; memories of my own childhood; things people say; places I go to; old folk tales and fairy stories. The hard part for me is not getting the idea, it is turning it into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
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Julia on Writing
It can take months or years for the idea to grow in my head and for me to plan the book. This is a very important part. Then, when I am ready it could take anything between a week (for a picture book) and six months (for a chapter book) to write it. For THE GRUFFALO the ideas and planning stage lasted a year (obviously I was doing other things too!) and the actual writing took about two weeks.
When I’m writing a rhyming book I start off with a pencil or pen, writing in a big exercise book and doing lots of doodles along the way. If the book isn’t going to rhyme I often write it on the computer.
I write in my head when I’m in the bath or out for a walk. (I do have my own study, too, and sometimes I write on trains or in the library.)
Julia on The Gruffalo
Then I thought up the lines: “Silly old Fox, doesn’t he know/There’s no such thing as a _________________ ” and somehow the word “gruffalo” came to mind to fill the gap.
The gruffalo looks the way he does because various things that just happened to rhyme (like toes and nose, and black and back)
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Julia on Working with Illustrators
The publisher knows lots of illustrators and they choose the one which they think would suit my words best. (They usually ask me first if I like the illustrator’s work.)
I write a story and send it to the publisher. Then the publisher sends it to e.g. Axel to illustrate. I do get to make comments on his rough sketches but try not to interfere too much – and anyway, I wouldn’t want to as they’re always so funny and brilliant.
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Julia on Being an Author
I find the actual writing quite hard work. I often get stuck, or feel that I’m plodding along in an uninspired way. But when I realise that a story is working after all it’s a very exciting feeling – and I love doing all the polishing touches at the end (or “tweaking” as publishers call it). It’s lovely when the first rough illustrations arrive and I see how my characters are going to look.
I have written 193 books. (92 of them can be bought in shops, and the other 101 are for schools.)
My favourite book keeps changing. At the moment I have two: “The Snail and the Whale” for younger children and “The Giants and the Joneses” for older ones.
Julia on Hobbies and Pets
One of my favourite books is “Watership Down” by Richard Adams, an exciting story about rabbits.
I like walking, cycling, playing the piano, singing. I’m also interested in wild flowers and fungi.
I have a black cat called Goblin whose favourite hobby is going in the garden, getting his paws muddy and then walking all over whatever I have just been writing.
Over to you now. Are you a Julia Donaldson fan? What’s your favourite book of hers? Tell us in the comments below.