AUTHOR INTERVIEW / MIRI LESHEM-PELLY AUTHOR OF SCRIBBLE & AUTHOR



Miri Leshem-Pelly is the author-illustrator of 14 children’s books. She’s also illustrated 14 books for other writers. When Miri isn’t writing she can be found speaking at schools, kindergartens and libraries. She is invited to do more than 200 presentations with her books per year. Miri is also a Regional Advisor for SCBWI (Society of Children’s book writers & illustrators).

Miri is represented by Olswanger Literary Agency.

Miri’s works have won awards and her illustrations have been shown on several exhibitions.

Miri lives in Israel with her husband and two children, and loves reading books and going on nature hikes.

Her latest book is Scribble & Author.

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What’s inside the mind of a picture book author?

My mind is always buzzing with ideas for my stories. A big part of the creating process of my books happens when I’m away from my desk. When I’m walking, cooking or even brushing my teeth, I often think about the story I’m working on, about the character, about the plot. Then I rush to my notebook and write my ideas down so that I won’t forget them.

What is so great about being an author?

Creating is great. As an author-illustrator I get to fully express ideas which are deep inside my head and bring them out to life. Then, other people read the books and they, too, can get inside my head in a way… The greatest moments of being a children’s  author is when I meet enthusiastic readers and I see how my writing has touched them. There’s nothing like it.

When do you hate it?

There are tough moments, for sure. When I struggle with a story or an illustration and I don’t get it right. Or when I feel stuck and have no idea how to continue. Or when I submit a story and get rejected. And rejected again, and again… Yes, sometimes it’s hard, but I never really hate it! I feel so blessed and I’m always thankful for being able to do the thing I love most. Therefore I embrace with love even the hardest parts of this occupation.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

Define “regular”… I don’t really have a regular routine of a writing day. I’m busy doing other things like school visits (around 200 per year) and illustration projects, and I’m also a mom. Writing usually comes in between all other things, and - as I said before - lots of it happens inside my head while I’m doing other things. But sometimes, when I’m not too busy, I can take up more time for writing and then I sit for hours, completely immersed in the story, and I don’t feel the time passing by.

How do you handle negative reviews?

Luckily, I didn’t get many of those so far, but surely it isn’t easy. I feel that, for some reason, it takes many good reviews to make up for one bad review. But it’s OK. People have different opinions and tastes, and I know I could never please everybody. Also, I remember cases of bad reviews (not on my books) which resulted in a big buzz and actually made people go buy that book! So you never know…

How do you handle positive reviews?

I want to hug the reviewer! It makes me very happy when I feel somebody really understood what I was trying to say. I’m moved by people who want to share their excitement about my book. I feel very honored when that happens.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
I heard so many times people telling me: “I always wanted to write a children’s book.” Or something like that. They think it’s a piece of cake, and if only they had a few minutes to sit and write their fabulous idea, they would have been a best seller by now. But the truth is that writing a good picture book is really hard. It could sometimes take me more than a year to complete the process from idea to a finished picture book manuscript.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

As I said earlier, I do other things as well, other than writing, therefore I usually anticipate the time when I could finally get to write. But one thing that helps me with my motivation is that I’m a part of a writer’s critique group, and therefore I have a deadline when it’s my turn to submit to the group.

Any writing quirks?

Hmm… I never thought of that. I don’t know if that counts for writing quirks, but I do tend to take my notebook everywhere in case an idea suddenly pops up. I guess I could be caught day dreaming once in a while and I observe and pay attention to many little details, which others might not notice. I could get all excited about an ant carrying a very big seed, for example. I guess that all of these things are part of my writing, even though they are all happening while I’m outside of the house.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I’d know for sure they are simply jealous. I know I have the best job in the world!

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

Yes, sure. When I was a child, I used to get mad when my drawings or poems didn’t end up as I wanted. I used to tear up my drawings in anger, or scribble hard all over the poem, as if I was punishing my poor creations for not meeting up with my high expectations. With time, I learned to take it a bit more lightly. But still - Yeah, creating a story could get frustrating sometimes. On the other hand I love those moments when the pieces of the puzzle of my plot start to fit in and fall into place. This could make me walk on clouds for hours.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

Not really. I mean, I wouldn’t mind getting loads of money over a best seller. But I often think: What if I become extremely rich, and I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life. What would I do then? The answer is, of course, I’d have more time to create more books! So, you see, I’m hopeless… But let me tell you something I recently heard from a mom who read my new book, Scribble & Author, with her kid. The young boy, not even 3 years old, asked to hear the story over and over again. A few days later, they brought home a new bunk bed. The little guy climbed up on to the top, and said: “Nothing can scare me anymore!”, quoting Scribble after she conquered the mountain in the story. Now that, to me, is success.

What has writing taught you?

Writing taught me courage. Because there are so many things which scare me in the process of writing. I’m scared I wouldn’t find an idea for my next book. Then I’m scared I’d write a boring story. I’m scared of exposing my emotions through my writing. I’m scared I won’t find a good ending. Then I’m scared of getting my story rejected. You get the picture. It’s scary. But being courages means going with the fear and simply doing it, step by step. And then I find out I did it and I stand on the top of the mountain and call “Nothing can scare me anymore!” Until the next day, when it starts all over again…

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

First, I want to thank you for this interview. The questions were very interesting and made me think a lot and even realize a few new things. Reading back all my previous answers in this interview I can sum up and say that writing is hard, takes a lot of time, it is frustrating and scaring, and usually doesn’t give you much money. Writing makes me do weird things and face tons of rejections. And yet I call it “The best job in the world.” Go figure. But it is all true. I wouldn’t choose any other job in the world.

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