Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with two-year-old children’s writer Hazel Nutt. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Hazel. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
I also like to blog about my observations on life so far and teach other toddlers how to train their parents. My parents are my willing and sometimes unwitting guinea pigs!
Other than that I’m a normal toddler, throwing terrible two’s tantrums, trying and succeeding in wreaking havoc wherever I go.
I live in Sussex in the UK with my Mum and Dad and I am an accidental writer! Well, to be honest I don’t actually write anything (I am only two), I just inspire my parents to write in my name! They had no idea of all the creative ideas that would come flowing to them upon my arrival.
Morgen: You’re my youngest interviewee by miles (although you’re not a million miles away from me – I live in Northamptonshire). I wrote a story for Story a Day May about a talking squirrel (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/a-story-a-day-may-may-13th-–-‘whatever-you-say’), they are addictive creatures. 🙂 This is probably a silly question; you write children’s books, was there a reason to choose this genre?
Hazel: I chose the picture book genre, because I hope that my enthusiasm and love of nature is catching through the words and pictures in my books, and that I can encourage other young children to get nutty about nature as well.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Hazel: I have written (well, inspired and my parents have written in my name) the ‘What Squirrels Do’ Trilogy of Picture Books:
- What Squirrels Do When You’re Not Looking (Book 1)
- What Squirrels Do: The Squirrel Olympics (Book 2)
- What Squirrels Do: Just For Fun (Book 3)
And also available on Kindle are Groovy Owls and Awesome Owls, which essentially are the same book, except with different illustrations. Groovy Owls has bright colorful cartoon owls and Awesome Owls has oil paintings created from real photos of owls.
Yes, Hazel Nutt is a pseudonym. There is a real Hazel whom the pen-name is pretty much entirely based on at this moment in time, but her surname is not Nutt (although she is sometimes quite literally nuts).
Morgen: <laughs> What age group do you write for?
Hazel: I think that my picture books are suitable from birth to five years.
Morgen: Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Hazel: I like to think that my books are pretty unique, but from a humor perspective if you like the silly (but very funny) books from Gerald Hawksley or Xavier Finkley, then mine should tickle your fancy also.
Morgen: Do you think it’s easier writing for children than adults?
Hazel: It is easier to look ahead, than it is to think back. You have to put yourself in the shoes and mind of the children or young adults that you are writing for, which is not always that easy if that was over 20 years ago. I’m a toddler, so I can get in the minds of my peers really easily (well, my parents certainly hope that they can)!
Morgen: Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
Hazel: Yes, we get a second opinion on our proof copies from adults and other toddlers. We like to say that our books have passed the Toddler Test!
We define the Toddler Test as follows: Hazel and other toddlers at the toddler groups we attend have wanted the “What Squirrels Do” series read AND REREAD to them, once they’ve heard it the first time (and the Mummies and Daddies are pretty impressed to).
Morgen: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
Hazel: You never know until you try. It so easy and cheap to get your books out there these days. Even if you are not a great artist and you want to create picture books, there are sites like www.Fiverr.com, where you can cheaply obtain illustrations, or you could take your own photos, or use stock photos. Please don’t regret not trying. It really is the most amazing experience when people like your book and sing its praises.
Morgen: Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Hazel: My parents and I decided to self publish. The What Squirrels Do Trilogy was published on my second birthday as a present to me. To be honest, we didn’t really look into the traditional publishing route, we just wanted to do our own thing and prove that we could do it by ourselves. It is hard going it alone, as getting published is only half the task – letting people know that you and your books exist is a whole different ball game.
Morgen: It certainly is, and marketing is usually the answer to ‘What’s your least favourite aspect of your writing life?’, usually because it’s so time-consuming and as writers we want to write. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Hazel: Yes, our books are also available as ebooks. We had to outsource the formatting of our books to get it to look right on Kindle, but essentially we did all the work to make them available.
I have only really liked and read one ebook, so far. At the moment, I definitely say I prefer paper picture books. I like to turn pages and kiss some of animals I see in the books. I also tear picture books occasionally, as I like to feel the sellotape that is put on to hold them together!
Morgen: What a scamp you are. 🙂 Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Hazel: Yes, we choose the covers and titles of our books. I think that the covers are important, we made them as brightly colored as possible to stand out and appeal to children. We think that the titles are fun as well, but maybe we should have done a little keyword research before finalizing them!
Morgen: Oh dear. But then titles aren’t copyright. I’d say you can use any title you like unless you go for something like ‘The Prizoner of Azkaban’ (picking something at random). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Hazel: At the moment, I am turning my hand to painting pictures. In some of these pictures my parents can see different animals and mythical creatures. My Mom hopes to write short poems and stories to accompany these pictures, so we can have a real Mom and daughter picture book, where we have both done equal amounts of work!
There are also more What Squirrels Do books in the pipeline, some are already half-written and illustrated, but it might be slow progress as I will have a little sister very soon and she will probably take up some of my writing and inspiration time, but at least I’ll have a new playmate.
Morgen: Congratulations. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Hazel: I make it very difficult for my parents to have any kind of writing schedule, I don’t always have a nap during the day and I refuse to go to sleep before 9pm and if they try and pick up a pen to write any notes when I’m about, I generally grab the pen out their hands. So it’s late nights or nothing! I do provide them with oodles of inspiration though, so writer’s block is never a problem, in fact its too many ideas that causes the problems!
Morgen: I have that problem too. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Hazel: We have many half-written books and ideas written down and unfortunately there will be plenty that won’t see the light of day, because there is never enough time and always too many ideas!
Morgen: Maybe you could train your little sister to help. Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Hazel: We are tying different ways of marketing our books and Hazel Nutt as a brand. This month we are conducting a virtual book tour, where we have contacted many people for reviews, book spotlights, interviews and guest posts to create awareness about our books. These are all permanent links, so even if the end results we want don’t happen overnight, we have a good firm base to conduct more marketing from.
We have another idea to offer humorous compilation books for free on www.Smashwords.com, if we can get a number of people together to contribute to them (obviously with their own links within the book). Then we could all advertise the compilation books on our websites, so it becomes a win-win situation for all of us. After the virtual blog tour has ended, we will look further into this and probably carry on doing guest posts, as often as we can.
Morgen: I know I’m biased, but I do think it’s the best way to get noticed. The more readers get to know you as a writer, the more they’ll be interested in your books. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Hazel: We have all very much enjoyed the process of writing the picture books. The formatting side of things were a bit of a nightmare, but we got there. It was definitely all a whole lot more work than anticipated and took a good six months longer, than we originally thought to get published. Getting the books in front of the right people seems to be hardest part.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Hazel: Don’t give up – if just one person reads your book and loves it, then you are successful.
Morgen: And I love it when they email me to tell me. 🙂 If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Hazel: Do Pingu, Iggle Piggle and Shrek count? I’ve no idea what I could get Mum to cook for them all though. I think that they would all have to eat very different things!
Morgen: Absolutely you can have those three, although if you’re going to invite Shrek, I’d want Donkey along too, especially if your mum made waffles. 🙂 If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Hazel: It would have to be Christmas or my birthday, as I love unwrapping presents and I could do that everyday quite happily.
Morgen: And then play in the cardboard boxes if they’re big enough. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Hazel: My favorite writing quote is “”Writers fish for the right words like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called.”―Jarod Kintz
Morgen: <laughs> I love that. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Hazel: Well whatever I do, I’m always inspiring Mom and Dad with different stories and books they could create about me! I’m a busy toddler who loves running around, screaming, emptying cupboards, feeding the ducks, and going for walks. But, best of all I like getting into situations where my Mom and Dad’s hearts are in their mouth, as I practice stunts like head over heels, climbing up the back of the bed, or bouncing too close to the edge!
Morgen: Oh, be careful! Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Hazel: I am on quite a few networking sites, which have proved invaluable in finding people to host me on my virtual book tour. The most notable ones are:
Morgen: I’ve only recently joined World Literary Café but it looks great. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Hazel: The internet has opened up a whole new world of writing opportunities and ways of getting published (even if all your writing is on a blog). I think that anyone that has any aspirations to write, or become a writer have a chance in today’s arena. Don’t they say everyone has a book in them? It’s just about finding your audience and then the future is bright and limitless.
Morgen: I write a short story (usually flash fiction) every day for my 5pm Fiction slot and it’s great because it gets me writing, knowing I have to post something at 5 o’clock every day. I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo next month but I’m still planning to write the daily story. Even 300 words a day equates to 100,000 words a day. That’s astounding. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Hazel: Below are my author and book website. Please do stop by and say hello.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Hazel: First of all, I like to say thank you for this opportunity of an interview. Also if anyone wants a virtual signature (and personal message) for any of my “What Squirrels Do” picture books, then I’m doing a virtual book signing on the 31st March 2013 here: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/1HazelNutt
(I will check back regularly after this date, if you read this after that date has passed and you’d like a signature)
Morgen: And I’ll let you know if anyone ‘like’s or comments on this page. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Hazel: If you could talk to and understand any animal (or bird), what would you choose?
Morgen: Probably my dog. He acts like a child so it would be great to know what goes through his mind. Thank you for joining me today, Hazel. It’s been a pleasure and my best wishes with your future projects (and not falling off that bed!) and of course to your mum for the arrival of your sister.
I then invited Hazel to include a short synopsis of her books…
Ideal for an adult and child to read together the “What Squirrels Do” series combines funny and imaginative rhyme, with delightful illustrations. The books inspire little imaginations and instil the seeds of a lifelong love for reading.
The books also encourage a love of nature. Rest assured, after reading this trilogy, you will never look at squirrels in the same way again!
Hazel Nutt is a toddler who loves nature, especially squirrels, who she often has a good natter with. They tell her their secrets and her parents help her to write them down to share with the world as amusing picture books. Loving nature is really important to her and she hopes to make sure that lots of other kids love nature as well.
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