I’m delighted to welcome new Scottish children’s writer, Elizabeth McKay, to the Flights of Imagination blog. A very appropriate guest, since Elizabeth’s beautiful picture book, Wee Granny’s Magic Bag, is a wonderfully imaginative story for young children.
The library was packed out and the pile of books was completely sold out! No new author could ask for more, and this is only the beginning. Elizabeth is a well published short story writer and I was intrigued by her change in direction. Welcome to my blog, Elizabeth and thank you for answering the following questions
What made you write picture books?
I attend the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference every year and one of their competitions is to write a story for under 7s. I wrote Wee Granny’s Magic Bag a few years ago and was delighted when it won first prize.
How does this compare with writing for adults?
One of the great things about writing for younger children is you can let your imagination run wild. I’ve had lots of rejections from magazine editors commenting that the plots were unrealistic; there’s more flexibility when writing children’s stories. Children love eccentric characters and crazy situations, whereas adults are looking for believable characters and realistic plots.
Is Wee Granny based on anyone you know? (I had to ask!)
When my mother visited her grandchildren when they were small, she always produced something from her shopping bag. It might be a comic, or sweets, or cakes left over from the Woman’s Guild coffee morning. The idea for Wee Granny’s Magic Bag came from remembering how the children used to run to get her bag to find out what she’d brought.
Did you work closely with the illustrator?
Maria Bogade, who has done a fantastic job on the illustrations, lives in Germany, so we’ve never met, although we’ve recently made contact on Facebook. Initially, the editor asked me to give a brief description of what I thought Wee Granny looked like and passed it on to Maria, who then sent a sample for approval. I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to come up with exactly the picture I had in my head.
Any tips for new children's writers?
As this is my first children’s book, it’s all been a bit of a learning curve for me. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to think of everything from a child’s point of view. Try to fit the story around their world as much as possible. And try to think in pictures. Setting the story in a garden or a park will provide more scope for colourful pictures than setting it in the house.
And finally, where can we buy Wee Granny's Magic Bag!
The book is available in book shops from 22 September. It can also be bought online from Amazon and direct from the publisher’s website at Floris Books.
Elizabeth McKay lives in Ayrshire and works eight hours a week as an administrator at a day centre for adults with learning disabilities. She has been writing short stories and articles for about fifteen years, mainly for the women’s magazine market.
Wee Granny’s Magic Bag is her first children’s book, and she’s hoping it won’t be her last. When she’s not writing, she’s probably reading. Her favourite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird, closely followed by Little Women.
She loves chocolate and can think of nothing better on a rainy afternoon than to put her feet up with a brand new book and a bar of Cadbury’s Turkish Delight!
Thanks for being here today, Elizabeth, and all the best with Wee Granny's Magic bag!