From wondering “What if…” to the publication of Cotton Cloud, this Q&A with Elizabeth Hill will allow readers a rare glimpse into an authors life and writing! Check out her favourite books list below as well!
Can you tell us a bit about your new book?
Cotton Cloud Refuses to Rain is the story of a little cloud who loves people and wants only to make them happy. So, Cotton Cloud refuses to rain. After all, rain makes people sad, doesn’t it? Cotton’s friends—Sun, Wind, and Waterfall—are not so sure. But Cotton refuses to budge: No rain, ever! Imagine what might happen when someone’s good intentions go awry. Better yet, read the story to find out.
Where did you get the inspiration for this story?
I live under Alberta’s amazing blue sky, which is dotted with spectacular cloud shapes. I have watched the clouds all my life. One day, while a lovely, puffy cumulus cloud shape-shifted across the sky, I suddenly thought, “What if . . . “
Do the themes, the characters or plot come first for you when writing?
For me, the characters come first, with intertwined plot and theme coming soon after.
What is your typical writing day like?
Budding young writers should probably not read this answer. At the moment, I don’t have a typical writing day. If I get a good idea, I’ll eat some chocolate and write until I’m finished. If I don’t have a good idea, I’ll just eat the chocolate. But I have read about authors who write for two hours every morning. I think that would be a very good idea. (Maybe budding young writers could read that part).
What are your top tips for budding young writers (children)?
All human beings tell stories. That means you are a born storyteller.
Play the “what if” game. Take anything—a tree, a rock, a doll, a pet—and imagine “what if it did this . . . or what if that happened . . .”
Don’t be too hard or too easy on yourself. When you are creating the story, don’t criticise it, but when the story is finished, go back and improve it. Every good story needs editing.
And READ, READ, READ!
You worked as a librarian – can you tell us a bit about that?
I have been a librarian in special, community, and school libraries. I love working in school libraries, finding good books for children to read, doing book talks, helping students find information, listening to children talk about what books they like, creating interesting activities to help everyone learn how to use the library and its materials.
Has your career influenced your approach to writing for children?
Yes. I care about literacy and in my opinion, the best way to foster literacy is to provide children with great literature. Therefore, as a writer, I want to write a rip-roaring good story—the kind that a child will remember forever and will want others to read.
How do you hope schools might use the book?
I hope librarians and teachers will primarily promote it as a really good story for children to read and enjoy. Teachers could also use it as supporting material for science (the water cycle, environment, earth sciences, and climate change) and literature and civics (discussion of themes such as good intentions, selfishness, generosity, kindness).
Were you a reader as a child?
Yes, I was (and still am) a book worm. Many of the books I read as a child are my life-long friends and they still give me pleasure when I read them to children today.
Favourite books from your childhood? And now – which children’s authors / books do you particularly love?
I might need a few more pages! But some of my favourites include…
As a child, I loved fables and folk and fairy tales: Aesop’s Fables, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales, and Tales From the Arabian Nights. In picture books, I liked Horton Hatches the Egg and The Cat in the Hat. Some of my favourite novels were Black Beauty, Heidi, Snow Treasure, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. My favourite series included: Anne of Green Gables, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking, Swallows and Amazons. My favourite comics were Archie, Betty and Veronica, and Richie Rich.
Children’s picture books and authors I particularly love now: Emma Chichester Clark (Happy Birthday to you, Blue Kangaroo!), Jane Clarke (Knight Time), Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo and Tiddler), Pat Hutchins (The Wind Blew), Margaret Mahy (A lion in the meadow), Korky Paul (Winnie the Witch) and Judith Viorst (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day).
Children’s novels that I love: Journey to the River Sea, The Secret Garden, Tom’s Midnight Garden and these series: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dark is Rising, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials.
But there are so many more!
Cotton Cloud Refuses to Rain by Elizabeth F. Hill, illustrated by Hannah George, is published by Five Quills today, 5th October. www.fivequills.co.uk