Interview with Irene Marynowicz
Irene Marynowicz has devoted much of her life to helping children in need as a social worker. She has channeled this same generosity and compassion into her picture books. We’re delighted at The Children’s Book Review to highlight the work of authors, like Irene, who bring joy and wonder to their work. Listen in as we discuss Irene’s creative process, influences, and future projects.
Nicki Richesin: You dedicated Gwendolyn’s Nose to your children for planting the seeds for this story with their creative curiosity. How did you first come up with the idea for this book?
Irene Marynowicz: This book very simply jumped into my mind. My daughter would do some fantastical things like hide potatoes in shoes and everything could turn into a story. I had put my daughter down for her nap and was crossing the living room when the words ‘Gwendolyn Brose had a ponderous nose’ popped into my head. Really they were nonsense words that evolved into a story.
NR: You were born in Grenoble, France and immigrated to Canada with your Polish parents. Do you try to bring a European sensibility to your storytelling?
IM: I don’t know specifically about a European perspective but I do know that almost all my own experiences can inspire a book. I was raised in a very close European family though and to this day we all still celebrate many of the special occasions the way I did as a child. I find these very full of meaning and color and have enjoyed telling my children the stories of where the traditions come from. They might yet become children’s stories.
NR: I thought that the illustrations of Gwendolyn’s nose were vaguely reminiscent of the Hindu deity Ganesha known as the Remover of Obstacles. Was this your intent when illustrating your book?
IM: I did not do the illustrations so cannot speak to the illustrator’s motivation. I do love the way she brought Gwendolyn to life. Mike Motz and his team of illustrators are terrific.
NR: You’ve also worked with children for many years as a social worker. You observed their fascination with words. What did you learn from interviewing and interacting with them that inspired you to write children’s books?
IM: Children like to experiment with words and explore language the way they do everything in the world around them. Not unlike finger painting with their food, they play with the sounds, texture and images of words. When I had my first child I found myself doing the same when talking to her. It was a natural step from there to writing.
NR: Gwendolyn’s Nose teaches children a valuable lesson about working with others to solve problems together. Did you encounter a real-life Gwendolyn whom you hoped to help by telling this story?
IM: Perhaps my history as a social worker is reflected here but certainly not deliberately. I generally write from a fun point of view, usually playing with words. Inevitably my observations of life will sneak into the stories.
NR: You’ve also worked with troubled teens. What has been the most important piece of advice you’ve given or been given while working with teenagers in trouble with the law?
IM: People often speak of how ‘bad’ these young people can be. I have never met a child or youth that did not have amazing dreams, hopes and aspirations. Some have more obstacles in reaching them and need a louder cheering section to help them reach their dreams.
NR: Who were your greatest influences, in terms of reading, during your childhood?
IM: Any book I could get my hands on. When it came to writing children’s books, I found myself drawn to Bill Peet, Dr. Seuss and the Berenstain Bears. The latter were great favourites with my children and would be read off by heart. Bill Peet though was a great inspiration. How can you not love someone who can write a story about “The Whingdingdilly”!
NR: What do you hope to accomplish by writing children’s books? What larger message would you like to convey to your readers, if any?
IM: My message is nothing more than encouraging children (and their parents) to read! By making the stories FUN more than focusing on a message, I hope children will love just playing with the sounds and images of the words in the stories and in turn be encouraged to read.
NR: If you could be reincarnated as a character from children’s literature, who would it be and why?
IM: Winnie the Pooh. I often find myself having to “Think, think, think” and I absolutely love honey.
NR: What sort of books and projects are you currently working on at the moment?
IM: I have a number of other books I am hoping to bring to life soon, including The Elephant’s Pyjamas, The Calico Crocodile and Rhonda the Runaway Washing Machine and I have a number of children’s poems which I’m not sure if I will do as a separate book or turn one or more into books of their own. I am also working on a professional article about the youth I work with called Mama Duck with two colleagues. This one is about how youth attach to people when they are in crisis and need support.
Thank you for your time and best of luck promoting Gwendolyn’s Nose.
Read a full review of Gwendolyn’s Nose.
For more information, visit: http://mirene13.wix.com/granny-marys-library
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