Sunday 10 January 2010

Pippa Goodhart: The Challenges of a Children's Writer

Pippa Goodhart is a successful children's writer with 72 books published and more in the pipeline. So what is her secret of success? She's always busy. When she's not writing, she's visiting schools, teaching writing students, supporting fellow writers... but most of all she never refuses a challenge.

Challenge: To take on somebody else's character

Giddy-Up Winnie is the latest in the highly popular series of Winnie the Witch stories. Pippa has been writing Winnie the Witch stories for several years.

'The original Winnie stories were mostly pictures with just a few words,' Pippa told me. 'The author didn't want to write longer stories and so I was asked by the publisher if I would do it. It was difficult for a start, getting to know characters that somebody else had created, but I've become very fond of Winnie. She's a child in an adult body, lots of fun. Korky Paul has continued as illustrator and writing things for him to illustrate is lots of fun too.'

Pippa doesn't have her name on the front cover of the Winnie the Witch books. I asked her how she felt about that. She shrugged and told me with a smile,

'I've made sure that every book is dedicated to a member of the Goodhart family and in Winnie and the Ghost in the Post I've included a ghost writer with the initials P.G. In the story it stands for Post Ghost, but it's really Pippa Goodhart.'

Winnie and the Ghost in the Post can be found in the Mini Winnie book.

Challenge: To rescue a much-loved out-of-print book

Flow was Pippa's first novel published in 1994. She was sad when it went out of print, especially as she regularly uses it for school visits.

'I still have the very first draft, written by hand in the days before computers, which I use with children when I'm talking about the redrafting process. The original publishers had no plans to reprint so I contacted Barn Owl*. There is now a lovely new version with a new front cover.'

Pippa obtained a grant from the Arts Council to further develop the use of Flow in schools. The grant paid for local primary school teachers to create worksheets for use with the book and they are now available on Pippa's website, which was also set up with thanks to help from the Arts Council.

*Barn Owl Books specialised in 'replenishing carefully selected out-of-print titles. Sadly they are no longer operating as the grant funding has been withdrawn.

Challenge: To write an easy-reader book and get it shortlisted for an award

Pippa was a poor reader as a child and so she knows how important it is to have exciting books to read when you're struggling to make sense of a story. Barrington Stoke specialises in producing books for struggling readers. When they issued a challenge to write a funny, fast-paced story about global warming Pippa produced Connor's Eco Den which was shortlisted for a Blue Peter award.

'As well as Barrington Stoke, I've written many short reader books for the Oxford Reading Tree,' said Pippa. 'I sometimes get letters from children who have read one and say it's the best book ever. I know it's because it's been a break-through book for them.'

Challenge: To create a best-selling picture book in the style of a catalogue

'My children always loved looking at catalogues,' said Pippa. 'I wanted to create a picture book that included as many pictures and appealed to as broad an age range as possible.'

Over three quarters of a million copies of You Choose have been sold to date, not bad for a book that was initially turned down by nine publishers.

'It was a real treat, sitting with Nick Sharratt and discussing ideas while he sketched roughs.'

The book was taken up by Bookstart, a charity that aims to procide a free pack of books to every child in the UK to help give children a good start in life.

'So many children arrive in school not able to talk properly,' said Pippa. 'You Choose is the sort of book that encourages children to talk.'

If you like You Choose you'll love this:

Pippa is working with Nick Sharratt on Just Imagine which will be in a similar format to You Choose. It will take several years to complete all the illustrations, so the book won't be out until 2012. I'm ordering my copy now.

If you would like to contact Pippa Goodhart please visit her website at