Toronto Tuesdays: Frieda Wishinsky

Today I’m pleased to interview Frieda Wishinsky. Frieda is a great contributor of kidlit and supporter of kidlit creators. She has been a steady voice of encouragement for me over the years, particularly when cheering me on as I searched for an agent (her cheers eventually paid off! 😀) Thank you, Frieda, for all the ways you support others. And welcome to Toronto Tuesdays!

What’s your favourite creative medium? What draws you to expressing yourself this way?

I love writing in many genres: non-fiction, chapter books and novels but my heart belongs to picture books.  Maybe because my first published book, OONGA BOONGA, was a picture book but mostly because it’s difficult yet satisfying to say so much in so few words. It’s a challenge to craft engaging characters, a riveting plot and an ending that makes readers go “ahhhhh” all in under 500 words. It’s satisfying to know readers of all ages will read the book again and again and still feel that special moment at the end. The amazing thing too is that I’m not writing just for kids but for their parents, grandparents and most of all for the kid still in me. In many ways I am still that five, six or seven year old discovering the world, hurt, happy, excited, scared and trying to figure out how to cope with people and events that feel out of my control.

What inspires you to create?

When I write I discover what is important and meaningful to me. We all have personal themes and I think writers work through their dilemmas, confusions, sadness and joys while crafting a story. I tell kids that you can’t control life but you can control a story. 

What, or who, is your greatest creative influence?

Without doubt my childhood and books are the greatest influences on my writing. The things that happen to you as a kid stay with your forever. I was also an early and avid reader and my favorite books from then and the many excellent books I‘ve discovered along the way are writing mentors. When I’m stuck on how to begin, I look at a mentor text and see how they’ve done it. (I even look at some of my own books and ask myself: “Why did I start the story this way?”) When I ponder what to do next in a story, I think about how other authors I admire have handled a plot. Reading is a constant learning experience. Plus getting good editorial feedback is enormously helpful. 

What is your favourite time of day to create?

When I was in university I did a lot of work at night. Now mornings are the best  time for me. By evening I want to stop and do something else like watch a good movie, documentary or series. I get ideas from those too even while I’m involved in someone else’s story.

Which of your creations is your personal favourite, and why?

That’s an impossible question for me to answer because everything I’ve written  is a part of who I am. But I have recurring themes: the power of friendship, how to deal with bullies, humor as a way to cope with life, a fascination with history and the importance of the natural world. Although I’m a city girl I love and need greenspace.

How do you deal with creative slumps?

I don’t think I’ve had slumps because there are so many stories I want to tell and so much that triggers an idea. The tricky thing is deciding what to focus on and  yet, almost magically, the story you need to tell at that moment, grabs you and doesn’t let you go. 

Having said that, I tend to work on two or three things at the same time. When I hit a wall in a story, I shift gears. Taking a break from writing is creative. Your mind works things out while you are taking a rest from a story. 

Who are you beyond your art? Give us three insider facts about you.

1.I love to travel and meet new people. My travel motto is if you see an alley, take it (not in a dangerous part of town, of course or at night) What I mean is you never know what’s around the next corner. And it might be wonderful and if not there’s always the next corner (or alley).

2.  I love my own time and space.

3. And here’s a saying I like: “Dance like no one is watching. Live like you’ll never be hurt, sing like no one is listening, live like it’s heaven on earth.”

What’s something you’re excited about right now?

I have three new projects and each is different. One is a picture book with my lovely and talented  illustrator friend Karen Patkau on flowers. Another is a middle grade non-fiction on greenspace and finally a  picture book series collaboration with my long time wonderful writing partner Liz MacLeod on space. Plus somewhere in there I hope to work on a New York based picture book and tell some of my family stories from WW2. (I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell the latter for years. Those are the hardest stories for me to write.)

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Frieda! I’m excited for your new books, too!

Will you share a link where people can find you?

My website is: friedawishinsky.com

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