We are very excited to welcome the fabulous Laura Mucha into The Reading Realm today to talk all things poetry…
Without giving too much away, can you tell us about your debut book ‘Dear Ugly Sisters and other poems’?
It all began when I decided to write my ugly sisters a note to let them know I was leaving. They were pretty annoying at the best of times, but when they went to the ball without me, it was the last straw. If it wasn’t for my fairy godmother I would have been stuffed – but thankfully I now don’t have to see them and live in a palace with 83.5 bedrooms.
Still, I thought it was good manners to leave a goodbye letter. That’s how the whole poetry thing started.
I wondered if you had a favourite poem in the collection and why it might be your favourite?
I can’t give you a favourite poem as it changes depending on my mood. And besides, the other poems would be offended.
I particularly enjoyed the poem ‘Chop, Rewrite’ which cleverly captures the writing and editing process. What advice do you have for young poets about the writing process?
STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WRITE.
Obviously not always – if you’re in the middle of fighting a hungry rhinoceros, for example, probably best to carry on.
Then STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND EDIT.
By editing I mean hacking, shaking, reshuffling, cutting, rejigging, jiggling, moving and losing words. Lazy words (e.g. ‘big’) often find their way into poems and it’s your job to find them and make them word harder (e.g. GINORMOUS).
It’s easy to think that writing is all about writing things down for the first time, but that’s only one part of the process – editing is ESSENTIAL.
It’s great to see fairy tales like Cinderella and Rapunzel given new life! Why did you decide to do this? Do you think fairy tales, which often reinforce gender stereotypes, still have a place in today’s society?
I’ve read a lot of the work of Professor Jack Zipes, a leading academic on fairy tales, and interviewed him on the subject. Having studied them his whole life, he said that in fairy tales, women are usually saved by men – and those men are often princes on white horses. I don’t think it’s a very helpful or healthy message for children (or anyone). Of course you can rely on people you love, but you also have to take responsibility for your own wellbeing. Wait for a prince on a white horse and you may be waiting a lonnnngggg time.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Tania Rex. Can you remember how you felt when you saw this artwork for the first time? What do you feel Tania’s illustrations add to the collection?
I think Tania’s artwork clarifies, energises and adds humour and emotion to the poems. For example Listening To, which is a poem about birdsong, is SO much better thanks to her illustrations of the different birds that create the stupendous sounds on the page.
I’m really thankful to have such beautiful illustrations to keep my poems company.
I know there’s a free audiobook which accompanies this collection, which is such an excellent idea! How did this come about? It’s made me wonder why more poetry collections don’t come with audiobooks – any ideas?
I LOVE audio, so I decided to get myself into a recording studio and record the entire book. Then I worked with a brilliant sound designer, Bridey Addison-Child, who used her epic audio skills to turn me into a wizard, alien and astronaut (among others). Thankfully Otter-Barry Books were open to me doing all of this, and linking to the audio via a QR code printed on the book, which they – and most publishers – haven’t done before.
I think collections rarely come with audiobooks because they take a lot of time, energy and money to make. But I think audio helps bring poems to life and can also make them more accessible, particularly to people who find reading intimidating. I also think it’s nice to hear the person who wrote the poems perform them – historically poems were spoken far more than they were written down, so it’s lovely to be able to honour that oral tradition in this book.
Are there any other children’s books you’ve enjoyed reading this year or are looking forward to reading?
Oh SO many – I have been / am looking forward to reading the latest books by Matt Goodfellow, Sue Hardy-Dawson, AF Harrold, Joshua Seigal, Chris Riddell, Coral Rumble, Shauna Darling-Robertson, Dom Conlon, Eloise Greenfield, Ana Sampson, Allie Esiri… The list goes on. And that’s just poetry!
I need to learn to read faster. Or while I sleep. Or both.
Finally, can you describe ‘Dear Ugly Sisters and other poems’ in three words?
Thought-provoking, funny and original.
(Am I allowed to call my own poems funny…
WHAT IF PEOPLE DON’T ACTUALLY LAUGH?!)