Christina Gabbitas, you’re quite a wonder-woman!
Not only are you a greatly respected children’s author but also a passionate advocate for encouraging children to write. Tell us a bit about the recent writing competition you ran.
I first began the initiative in 2013. My son was part inspiration for this, as he struggled with dyslexia. He had a poem published in a very uninspiring poetry book at school, that was made available to family members, at an inflated cost of £15.00 per book. The font in the book is very small with poems crammed on many pages. However, it was good for his self esteem to have his work published.
I wanted a brightly coloured illustrated book, that would attract other children to read and ‘have a go’ at writing too. There is a £1.00 donation to Barnardos from the sale of each book.
I am very proud to say, that the Children’s Poetry Book Volume 2, has been awarded The Dame Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award 2015
The initiative gained support from the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove. Dr Stephen Fear, Entrepreneur and Ambassador at The British Library has also been a great support, coming on board as a judge for 2015.
After visiting many schools in the UK and United Emirates, we have more fantastic poems for the Volume 3 publication, which will be out in September 2015.
We first met you at The London Book Fair a couple of years ago. Your stand was adorned with beautiful books from your Felicity Fly series. Could you tell us how your primary character came to life and what initially inspired you to put pen to paper?
I had some ideas penned in an old box file, and thought, one day I would perhaps do something with them. The inspiration for the first book came from my own fears in childhood, I used to be scared of anything that moved! Initially I wanted children to understand that we all have fears and sometimes they don’t just disappear. I didn’t want them to feel alone with their thoughts. I felt like a failure as a child because of my fears. I decided then that the series could teach children about the world around them with fun.
The characters in your book series are delightfully connected and carry an environmental message. How important is sustainability to you and do you think we can inspire young ones to be greener through creative writing?
If children are taught from a young age about the world around them, this will make them more aware and informed. Felicity Fly In The Garden addresses pollination in a very child friendly way. It’s every child’s right to be educated and we are failing them if we don’t take more positive action to ensure this.
Getting your work into print can be an exhausting journey. Was the process a smooth one for you and how much control did you have over the finished product?
It was very stressful and didn’t come without mistakes! I wanted to maintain control for the finished product (I’m not a control freak, honestly).
You recently said, ‘It is my mission, to give all children an equal opportunity to have access to books/reading.’
What are you doing to tackle that?
I am currently working on a project, to take reading festivals into towns. We currently have 350 literature festivals in the UK, with a small amount concentrating solely on children. There are some wonderful festivals, but I want to make them more accessible to children from all backgrounds. I will keep you updated on further progress with this one, but keep checking www.childrensreadingfestivals.com
Your books contain a very engaging audio CD. Tell us a bit about the production of them. Also, which of these statements do you hold true: (a) they help children develop their reading and listening skills (b) they allow grown ups to indulge reading with their young ones?
Both! Haha! I have had comments from parents, who love reading with the accents. Once again, inspiration came from my childhood. I was never a prolific reader but loved to read along, it definitely helped to engage me – it was tapes back then.
All the series have read along, with different character accents, anything from an Indian butterfly, Italian vacuum cleaner to a Brummy woodlouse. I met Jasper Carrot after a BBC Interview and read him a snippet of Willamena Woodlouse, he was impressed with the accent. These characters can be found on www.felicityfly.co.uk
The imagery in your books is a delight to behold. Tell us a bit about the illustrator and how you work together.
Julie Omond always had a flair for drawing and worked designing greetings cards for Hallmark. I was introduced to Julie by my bank manager; we met up and had a connection that enabled us to work together. I’m often seen pulling faces and acting out some of the characters with Joolz, and we have a good chuckle.
Ric Lumb, has illustrated Felicity Fly Meets The Dragon Fruit with Joolz original designs. I also commissioned Ric to illustrate for a safeguarding book, that I spent two years researching. This book entitled Share Some Secrets can be found at www.sharesomesecrets.com and has recently been endorsed by the NSPCC.
Finally, what have you got coming up next and how can people keep up with your adventures?
I’m currently trawling through poems to be showcased in the Volume 3 Poetry Book (out in September 2015).
Felicity Fly Meets The Dragon Fruit is being showcased in TPBP Summer Collection, it would be wonderful to gain some votes and reach the final for 2016.
In the meantime if you visit PoemsAndPctures.co.uk there will be regular announcement and news feeds here.
Always a joy!
Thank you Christina and congratulations on your well deserved success.