Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Frieda Wishinsky

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The Queen's Secret, by Frieda Wishinsky

The royal wedding we've all heard so much about is well underway, and those glamorous guests must be just about ready to kick off their shoes and dance. Maybe you love the royals, maybe you love to hate them, or maybe you've just always wondered what the Queen carries in her little purse. Either way, Frieda Wishinsky's children's book The Queen's Secret (Scholastic Canada) promises to delight readers and young princesses across the country.

Open Book:

Your book The Queen's Secret is about a little girl named Kay who wonders what the queen carries in her purse. What was your inspiration for writing this story?

Frieda Wishinsky:

For years I wondered why the Queen of England carried a purse. What did she need the purse for and what could be inside? One day I mentioned how it intrigued me to a bookseller and he said, "Write it." "What a great idea!" I said. So I did.

OB:

Kay finally discovers what the queen's secret is, but she promises not to tell! When you started writing the story did you know what it was that your queen kept in her purse, or did this come as a surprise to you as well?

FW:

I played with a lot of possibilities, but when the idea I finally used popped into my head, I knew it was just right. (Notice that I'm not telling what was in the queen's purse in my answer!)

OB:

With today's royal wedding that's been getting so much press, I have to ask: are you intrigued by the lives of the royals?

FW:

I'm curious about their real lives — as opposed to what you see on camera. I think it must be hard being in the media constantly.

OB:

Why do you think that princesses and queens are so popular with so many little girls these days? Do you think that it is a positive ideal?

FW:

I think it's the glamour and access to gorgeous clothes and jewels, and meeting important people and traveling to exotic places. It looks like a lot more fun than it probably is in reality. I'd like to see kids think helping people is just as wonderful as glitz and glamour.

OB:

Being a writer, you must have had an active imagination as a child. What was one of the fantasy worlds that you lived in as a little girl?

FW:

I was a big fan of time travel as a kid. I still love books and movies that have a historical base and I like to imagine what it would be like to live in another age, time or place.

OB:

The news in the publishing world is that picture books haven't been selling that well these days. Why do you think this is, and does it worry you?

FW:

Maybe demographics? I'm hoping that as the baby boomers' kids have their own kids, that will change. I love to read picture books and I hope people will see what a wonderful, multi-layered genre it is. I always say that picture books are the hardest genre to write well and the most satisfying to get right, and that a good picture book stays with you forever.

OB:

Tell us about an average writing day for you.

FW:

I often walk in the morning. Then I write usually in a coffee– or tea-shop for a few hours. After shopping for groceries or the library, I head home and write some more. Some days I meet writer friends and talk about work for a few hours. On other days I speak to kids at schools and libraries and then my schedule is different. But I try to write every day at some point (sometimes on the subway), except on the weekend.

OB:

Do you give many readings of your work? How does the response of the children affect your feelings about the story?

FW:

I often present at schools and libraries. I used to be a teacher and am comfortable speaking to kids. I'm also aware of my audience when I speak. I keep it lively, interactive, dramatic and flexible. You know when a story works when you read aloud to kids. If it's not great, you lose your audience quickly!

OB:

Do you ever deal with difficult subjects in your children's work? If so, how do you make these issues approachable for children?

FW:

I often write about bullying but never approach it in a heavy-handed way. In real life humour is one way I cope with tough stuff, and that's true of how my characters cope in my stories. My dialogue is also true to the way kids speak (many reviewers have noted that). I think that's because I pay attention to kids and listen to the way they interact. I also remember my own childhood.

OB:

You have many wonderful books to your name now. Is there a subject, technique, or style that you haven't tried in your writing before that you would like to experiment with in a future project?

FW:

There are some stories based on my personal history — the loss of family in World War II, growing up without grandparents — that I'd like to write about. I've started but I've been diverted by other writing. Then again maybe I'm avoiding those deeply personal stories. They're tough.


Frieda Wishinsky is a multi-talented children’s author who writes for all reading levels — picture books, chapter books, novels and non-fiction. Her first picture book, Oonga Boonga, was published in 1990 and voted a “Pick of the List” by the American Booksellers Association. Some picture books that followed are Jennifer Jones Won’t Leave Me Alone, Nothing Scares Us, Each One Special and Please, Louise!, winner of the 2008 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. You’re Mean, Lily Jean was published by Scholastic Canada in 2009 to great acclaim. Her most recent picture book is The Queen’s Secret. Frieda Wishinsky lives in Toronto with her husband. Find out more by visiting her website.

For more information about The Queen's Secret please visit the Scholastic Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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