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December 1, 2009 / theoldsilly


Today we have a special guest, author Mayra Calvani, a fellow member of the Yahoo group I belong to, VBT – Writers on the Move. Mayra has a charming new children’s illustrated book out, titled, Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster, released through Guardian Angel Publishing.

Here’s the book cover and the delightful short promo blurb-

Humberto is an antisocial little hamster. He’s addicted to books! Until disaster strikes and he must choose between saving his books and helping his soon-to-be friends.

I didn’t have time to do an interview with her, but she sent me this recent interview with her, done by author and illustrator, Kit Grady. It is a brief but very good read. I now turn this post over to Kit and Mayra-

Kit: When working on a story, what steps or process do you use?

Mayra: For a picture book, what usually happens is I get an idea and then let it simmer in my mind for weeks, sometimes even months or years. Then one day I just feel the need to write it down and the whole thing pours out of me in a sitting. When this happens, I stay working on the story a whole morning or a whole day. I then take a break from it for maybe a day or two before going back and polishing it. Then I send it to my critique group for feedback. This is very helpful. I may or may not take on their suggestions, but their advice is always good. I save each version of the story, so if I edit the story 5 times, I’ll save those 5 files of each version under a folder named after the book’s title.

Kit: What sparks your ideas for stories?

Mayra: Real life, newspaper articles, TV shows, family stories, memories, photos, beautiful scenery. Everything around me may spark an idea in me. The Muse is a very curious thing.

Kit: What is your strongest personal trait that make you a better writer?

Mayra: I would say persistence. I never give up, no matter how many rejection letters I get or the competitive state of the children’s book market.

Kit: Where did your last story idea come from? Where were you when you
began working on it?

Mayra: For a long time I wanted to write a picture book story about a little mouse or hamster who loved books so much, he didn’t have time for friends. That’s how Humberto the Bookworm Hamster came about. As usual, I let the idea simmer for some time, then, one morning, I got up from bed and had to sit down and write it. So that’s what I did, and the story poured out of me in one sitting. Humberto loves books so much, he reads at all times of the day; even while he sleeps he reads—audio books. The other animals want to become his friends, but he doesn’t have time for them. He’s too busy reading! Then one day a flood comes and he must decide whether to salvage the rest of his books before they sink in the rising water or helping the animals. Humberto’s story is a tale about books and the true meaning of friendship: how good are books really if you can’t share them with people who care about?

I can sympathize with my character because many times I see myself in him. As a writer and reviewer, I’m so involved with books I tend to become a hermit. Socializing is important too.

Kit: What advice would you give a new writer?

Mayra: My first advice would be, of course, to read a lot. If you want to
write picture books, read dozen of picture books a month. Especially read award winners and when you read these books, study them and what made them so successful. If you’re new to the craft of picture book writing, read nonfiction books on the subject, take a course or a workshop. Join a good critique group, one that focuses on picture books. A writer who’s not familiar with this genre won’t be able to help you, no matter how good they are at writing, let’s say, chick-lit novels. Last but not least, WRITE. I try to write one picture book story a week, or at least two a month. You get better the more you write and, most importantly, the writing will come easier.

The Old Silly: Great advice, Mayra. And thanks for being with us here on Free Spirit today. All right, peeps, let’s show Mayra some love in the comments, and make sure and stop back in later, she will be dropping in to reply and chat with you all. Oh – for more info on Mayra and her books, click here for her website, and to get a copy of Humberto (great Christmas present idea for some youngsters, I would think, eh?), click here.

Chow for now, blog back in tomorrow for Hilarious Hump Day – I got another knee-slapping lollapalooza for y’all!

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Leave a Comment
  1. Elizabeth Spann Craig / Dec 1 2009 7:02 am

    Great advice and a nice interview! Persistence really is key, isn’t it?

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Ron Berry / Dec 1 2009 7:08 am

    I agree with the keep writing idea. The muse can be fickle also. I write a variety and sometimes the muse wants to write nonfiction when I want to work on a childrens story. I listen to the muse.

  3. Jane Kennedy Sutton / Dec 1 2009 8:25 am

    Who couldn’t love a bookworm hamster! It’s sounds like a great concept for a story. What age group does it target?

  4. L. Diane Wolfe / Dec 1 2009 9:15 am

    I love that photo of Mayra and Amigo!

  5. Cactus Annie / Dec 1 2009 9:36 am

    Love the interview, and the idea of an anti-social bookworm Hamster as a protagonist is just too cute!

  6. CatLadyLarew / Dec 1 2009 10:23 am

    I think I was that hamster in school! Always had my nose in a book and was too shy to make many friends. Thanks for sharing, Marvin!

  7. Stanley Berber / Dec 1 2009 10:38 am

    Very interesting interview, and the kids book sounds great. Thanks, old silly and Mayra!

  8. Nancy Famolari / Dec 1 2009 10:51 am

    Couldn’t agree more; persistence is the key. Love the idea of a bookworm hamster! Great post, Marvin.

  9. ReformingGeek / Dec 1 2009 11:16 am

    I always knew hamsters wanted to do more than spin their wheels. Wait. Is that some kind of a pun?

  10. Barbra Kelser / Dec 1 2009 11:18 am

    Wonderful sounding children’s book, and really enjoyed the interview. Thanks, old silly, and Mayra – best wishes for your writing career!

  11. Katie Hines / Dec 1 2009 11:33 am

    Great interview, Mayra and Marvin. I’ve hosted her before, but it’s always nice to meet and “old” author anew.

  12. Lea Schizas / Dec 1 2009 11:54 am

    Mayra, writing picture books is not an easy task as many believe so my hat comes off for you. Kudos.

  13. Karen Walker / Dec 1 2009 11:57 am

    Needed to hear this today. Thank you both. Persistence…

  14. quirkyloon / Dec 1 2009 11:57 am

    Nice interview and great advice. Read more, write more, and may I add…. RAWK!

    hee hee

  15. Darcía Helle / Dec 1 2009 12:03 pm

    Mayra, I love the idea for your book! And the cover is great!

  16. Debra Eckerling / Dec 1 2009 12:41 pm

    What a fun read! Picture books are so not what I do – I really enjoyed a glimpse into that world. Thanks!

  17. kathy stemke / Dec 1 2009 12:44 pm

    Thanks for a fun post Marvin.

    I love Linda’s book. It’s educational and FUN!

  18. Stephen Tremp / Dec 1 2009 2:28 pm

    Persistance is a great theme for kids to learn. Thanks for the interview. I had a guinea pig when I was a kid, which is like a large hampster. Kids love little varmits in their stories.

    Stephen Tremp

  19. thedarkphantom / Dec 1 2009 3:49 pm

    Wow, I just saw all these comments! Thank you, guys! And thanks to Marvin for the nicely done post.

    The book is for 4-8 year olds.

    Thank you all for your support. 🙂

    • theoldsilly / Dec 1 2009 4:08 pm

      You’re welcome, and it was my pleasure! The book sounds like it is perfect for that age group.

  20. John Standish / Dec 1 2009 6:12 pm

    This book sounds perfect for my niece.

  21. Connie Arnold / Dec 1 2009 6:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Marvin. I have Humberto the Bookworm Hamster on my gift list for my grandsons! I’m thrilled to become a part of the Guardian Angel Publishing group with the acceptance of my first children’s picture book and admire Mayra’s writing and Kit’s illustrations!

  22. Helena Harper / Dec 1 2009 6:45 pm

    Mayra, being an aspiring picture book author myself, I read this interview with great interest. My first picture book story, which is being illustrated at the moment, has also undergone numerous revisions from its first writing about 13 years ago! And another one of my stories also has the message that friendship is more important than – in my case – winning a race. Humberto sounds like a wonderful character for young children to identify with – I think you’re on to a winner there with your book and I wish you every success with it!

  23. Sylvia Dickey Smith / Dec 1 2009 6:48 pm

    You said “I can sympathize with my character because many times I see myself in him. As a writer and reviewer, I’m so involved with books I tend to become a hermit. Socializing is important too.” Me, too!

  24. Karen Cioffi / Dec 1 2009 8:37 pm

    I reviewed Humberto, the Bookwork Hamster and it is a delightful children’s picture book. With amazing illustrations it tells an important story of balance and friends. Children learn valuable lessons through story telling and Mayra’s book is one that I will read to my grandsons.

    I had a hamster when I was a child. Now, I can’t imagine why!

    Great post, Marvin,

  25. Enid Wilson / Dec 2 2009 3:33 am

    Great advice Myra. And your illustrations look great. All the best with the sales.

    Bargain with the Devil

  26. yvonne lewis / Dec 2 2009 5:17 am

    Great interview Marvin, the book looks a winner, just shows what a bit of tenacity will do.


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