Frances Gilbert, a British born writer of children’s stories and psychological mysteries, spent many years as a special educator in language and literacy. Frances loves to write about the twists of time, the moodiness of landscape and the ambiguity of relationships. She writes from her home in Connecticut and retreats to her cottage in the Scottish Highlands for inspiration.
Bonnie Ferrante: You have seven books listed on Amazon. How long does it take you to write one? How many edits do you do?
Frances Gilbert: For most of the children’s books, which are short and quite poetic, I usually keep a ‘video’ version in my mind for several months before I sit down to type the text … I play with editing in my mind rehearsing vision, rhythm and flow … so the actual sit down and type is quick … some outside event or remark usually prompts me to set the words down. I use the same process for the longer stories, but type them up in chunks, ruminating on each between committing to print. I rarely change text once it is typed but do edit for typos, punctuation… for the shorter books I prefer no capitals and no punctuation, just short lines … how words look on the page is important to me, I sometimes refuse words because I think they don’t look attractive in the line.
Ferrante: So visuals are as important to you as sound. That’s interesting that you are able to hold that in your mind for so long without taking notes.
You have used at least four different illustrators for your books. How do you connect with them? Do you work in collaboration?
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Gilbert: Artists are so important for a children’s book … I have been fortunate to work closely with them … I almost always meet with them to discuss my vision for the book, before and during the process … for instance in Teacher I wanted a poignant look, long pony tails, and specific clothing detail … the artist usually submits pictures on the computer and we discuss … I find the artists contribute a great deal to the overall mood of the text and they often have very shrewd insight into how they work the pages to complement the text … two artists I found locally, one I met at a book show and one was introduced by a publisher… I am very particular about background color and text arrangement … so far it works well and I love my artists.
Ferrante: That’s wonderful. The illustrations are as important as the words.
In addition to your picture books, you have a suspense novella for adults, Where is She Now? Will you be writing any more?
Gilbert: I have just published Village Dream, and the e-book She Should have Come for Me is available from Amazon … I like writing the short novella length in that suspense genre and I will do more .. I am challenging myself to try a traditional locked room mystery, but I have a very feeble brain for that kind of plotting and clue making! It is hard work.
Ferrante: Do you organize your work differently for a picture book compared to a novel?
Gilbert: No, I use the in the mind rehearse and imagine technique for both. I can hear and see the whole setting which is helpful when it comes to writing the scenes.
Ferrante: Today the Teacher Changed Our Seats is a picture book that incorporates math. What was the impetus for this book?
Gilbert: The math aspect was really peripheral, the book is about belonging or feeling comfortable in the classroom … it is for younger children and I drew on my teaching experiences in the early grades for content and grouping seemed a good vehicle.
Ferrante: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Gilbert: I write best when it is raining, white noise for the mind. I wish I could illustrate my own books then the process of turning ideas to books would be seamless. I write to be read aloud, rhythm, proximity and voice are so important. I believe reading aloud and bonding with the reading voice are vital precursors to reading success for children.
Ferrante: If you could have a 30 minute show each weekday morning, what type of show would you have?
Gilbert: Latin roots, big words and glorious texts that combines the two … magically supported by visual images and music… a children’s show that would pull even reluctant readers into language … with great voices doing the reading and maybe the ability to zap interactively when certain words or roots are used … Wii for literature?
Ferrante: If you could swallow a pill that would stop anything of your choice from ever happening again – anything except keep you from getting sick – what would the pill permanently end?
Gilbert: Personally, my inability to sing in tune or remember music … on a humanitarian level bias and judgement.
Ferrante: If you could have any object in the world completely to yourself for one day, what would you choose?
Gilbert: A hot tub.
Ferrante: LOL. Maybe to celebrate your next book. Thank you so much for your time and interesting responses.
Today the Teacher Changed Our Seats will be reviewed on October 14, 2016.
Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.