Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Interviews, TGIF, Writing

Not My Interview With Robert Munsch

Hi Kerry:

Thank you for writing. I am sorry but Mr. Munsch is not available for
interviews. He had a stroke a couple of years ago and more recently a heart
attack. He is no longer visiting schools, touring or doing interviews. He
is concentrating on his over 200 unpublished stories.

I have copied below an interview he did. I hope it answers some of your
questions.

***

Lunch with Munsch

Canada’s most beloved children’s writer goes nuts with story-telling but
takes kids seriously

by Barb Williamson

Journal Staff Writer

Edmonton

When Robert Munsch tells a story, kids listen.

Perhaps it’s the animation in his face or his booming voice or the way he
waves his arms wildly to illustrate a point.

Munsch has kids captivated.  At 54 he has sold over 30 million children’s
stories.  About 20,000 letters from fans reach him in Guelph, Ontario every
year.

Munsch made a stop in Edmonton last week on tour to promote his latest
book, Up, Up, Down, a story about a girl named Anna who loves to climb.

Set all expectations aside when sitting down for lunch with Munsch.  His
best-seller status has not turned him into a snob. What you see is who he
is, not who he pretends to be.  Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, Munsch is
surprisingly the exact opposite of his boisterous stage persona.

He smiles a lot.

Sitting down to lunch, he begs the waitress for black coffee and orders a
tropical fruit plate with two croissants.  It comes with banana bread.  No
complaints from Munsch.

Throughout the interview he is honest and direct, and most refreshing,
seemingly untouched by his success.

*What were you like as a kid?*

There were nine kids.  I was in the middle. There was no individuality.  And
I was a kind of very smiley nutcase.  The older kids had all the sane
family roles.  I guess I tried to be a clown.

*What intrigues you most about children?*

Kids are so new.  They’re so open-ended.  I can look at a kid and wonder
what they’ll be. The job of children is to be professionally appealing to
adults.  That’s how they get what they need.

*Tell me how Up, Up, Down came about.*

This is an old story that started in 1978 as just a finger play with
two-year-olds.  I gradually turned it into a book for older kids.

*What’s the best way to read to a child?*

People do it a lot of different ways and they’re all right.  But I have a
few general rules.  If the book isn’t working, say “The end” and get
another one.  Feel free to change the text.  That’s what I do when I tell
stories. Reading can be an interactive game.  It can be more than just
decoding the text.

*What do kids really want in stories?*

They want to be able to identify.  To kids there’s only one character in a
story and that’s themselves.

*Is there anything you won’t write?*

I won’t write stuff that kids don’t like.  A lot of kids’ books are
actually adult books in disguise.

*How do you define your success?*

I guess sales or recognition or something like that.  One of the nice
things about audiences of little children is they’re not impressed by my
reputation.  They don’t care.  Here’s a man who’s going to tell stories.  If
they like the stories they’ll be nice and if they don’t like the stories
they’ll be brats. Their impression is not filtered through some idea of
reputation, which it might be with adults.  They’re sort of like, what has
he done for me in the last five seconds?

*What’s the best thing about being a writer?*

Being able to construct my own life.  It gives me a lot of freedom.

*When people ask you how to become a writer, how do you answer that
question?*

When people say I want to be a writer, the first thing I say is get a
job.  First
get a job, make sure you’ve got a job to make money.  Adults will say,
“Well, I’ve decided to become a writer” and I’ll say “Well, what have you
written?”   They say, “Well I haven’t written anything yet but I’ve decided
to become a writer.” There’s something wrong with that.

*Do you still climb trees?*

I still climb trees.  I take my dog on walks out in the country.  There’s a
couple of really big white pine trees.  First I have to climb up a spruce
tree, go across at about 10 m up, then I climb a white pine tree so I get
really high and deathly scared because the tree is swaying in the wind.
Yes, I still climb.  I’m the only 54-year-old I know that still climbs
trees.

*What did you do before you wrote children’s stories?*

In high school I was a dweeb who just read.  I went off to study to be a
Catholic priest for seven years.  That didn’t work massively.  I left that
job, moved to Ontario, went into day care because I wanted a year off to
figure out what to do with my life.  I thought, “What could I do with a
degree in philosophy?” But I decided I liked day care.

*How did you become an author?*

I started telling stories in day care because it was just something I was
good at.  I actually started, and this is what I still do, I make up
stories in front of kids and see how they do.  In day care I was making up
one story new every day and then they’d ask for one old one.  So the kids
were a filter.  A lot of my first books were in my head in day care but I
didn’t know they were books.  I thought they were just stories.

*You have a reputation as an amazing storyteller.  Where does that talent
come from?*

I don’t know.  I used to think anybody could do it. Then I tried teaching
it to people and I found out they couldn’t do it.  I’m not sure where it
comes from.  Maybe a little bit that I’m a bit of an obsessive compulsive
manic depressive who goes nuts with stories.

*What’s your favourite colour?*

Black, because nobody else has the favourite colour black.

*What’s your favourite food?*

Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot chicken wings or Indonesian coconut and lemongrass
soup.

*Favourite book?*

Of mine?  I Have To Go.  I also love The Cypresses Believe in God, by Jose
Maria Gironella.

*What kind of dreams do you have?*

I have a lot of dreams where I’ve lost something and I’m trying to find it
and I can’t.  It’s just sort of those panic sort of dreams.

*What are you most scared of?*

Getting burned.  Flames.  I love fires and I like to build fires but I’m
deathly afraid of getting burned.

*What do you find most comforting?*

Pancakes with real maple syrup.  That’s my big comfort food. I make my own
pancakes from scratch with real maple syrup and black coffee and the world
is just fine.

*Why do you write children’s stories?*

I don’t know.  Why are carpenters carpenters?  Because it’s something
they’re good at.  I’m good at this.  Why not do something I’m good at
instead of something I’m lousy at?

*Do you have children?*

I have three kids: Julie who was the kid in David’s Father AND Makeup Mess,
Andrew who is the kid in Andrew’s Loose Tooth; and Tyya who is the kid in
Something Good. All three of my kids are in the book Finding Christmas.

*And what kind of a father are you?*

I was lucky because I didn’t have a regular job by the time my kids were
growing up.  My kids just got used to the idea that daddy was always around
to play with or to come and talk.  I really liked having kids.

*Do you consider yourself a big kid?*

No, I just take kids seriously.  If you look at my books they’re mostly
about apparently trivial situations.  They’re everyday events in kids’
lives.

*What was your favourite book as a child?*

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss.  The little kid kept
getting in trouble no matter what he did. That seemed to be my role in my
family.

***

On this Fiction Friday I decided, if I couldn’t get an interview with the man himself, I’d at least share one done by someone who had.

🙂

I have sent email requests for interviews to three writers since I started this blog: Alice Munro, Jean Little, and Robert Munsch.

Thanks to:

Sharon Bruder, Assistant

I at least received a response back this time.

http://robertmunsch.com)

Looking forward to hearing more about some of the 200 previously unfinished stories, mentioned above.

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