Monday, September 18, 2017

Majestic Storyteller Margriet Ruurs

Storytelling in Haida Gwaii
Margriet Ruurs is absolutely wonderful! I first saw Margriet at a local SCBWI conference (Burnaby, BC Canada) in 2013. Unfortunately, I don't believe I introduced myself! She gave tips (I'm sure I have the notes somewhere) on preparing oneself for publishing and doing research for writing. I don't remember everything about the conference, but I do remember Margriet's warm and friendly presence! Her Booklover's Bed and Breakfast is on my "must visit" list!

The one book that stuck with me was "My Librarian is a Camel" I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because she talked about it so much at the time. Maybe it's because librarian Camels are just awesome (I think the latter). Not too long ago in 2016 "A Brush Full of Color," by Katherine Gibson and Margriet Ruurs, won the Crystal Kite Award! 


'A dream is a story that no one else gets to read'.
From Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones

Dani: Where do you get all your wonderful book ideas?

Margriet: Ideas can come from so many different, often unexpected, places. It might be something I hear, something I see or read. I get ideas during my travels and from the wonderful things my (grand) children say. One of my next books coming out is a novel (Bus to the Badlands, Orca Books) and is completely based on all the things my own kids did in Grade 5.

Dani: When do you know that a story is done and ready for submission?

Me with girls in Lahore, Pakistan
Margriet: I don’t… I have stories on my computer for years and years. I keep tinkering, researching, changing, editing… Some stories come as a complete package but many, especially nonfiction, need more work for a long time. But at some point you need to submit it. And even then it isn’t done. I often work for a year or more with an editor on editing and tinkering.

Dani: How does reviewing books inform your own writing?

Margriet: I enjoy reviewing books mostly in hopes of bringing more attention to Canadian authors, illustrators and the beautiful books that are published here. As a writer I am also a voracious reader so I read many picture books, novels, books of poetry. It is good to see what works and what doesn’t work. It helps to stay informed on what is selling and what others are writing.

Dani: What are some of the critical components to any story?

'The best of good companions is a book’. -- Gertrude Bell

Margriet: When my son was 9 he urged me to read ‘Redwall’ by Brian Jacques. I asked him why he liked that book so much. His answer was “because it has all the ingredients a good book should have: suspense, romance and adventure.” I loved that statement because it showed me that he was a connoisseur of books, even at age 9 he knew what made a story work.

Whether a book is poetry, nonfiction, even a graphic book - it should stay with the reader after you finish reading it. A good book changes you, helps you to grow as a reader but also as a person. A story needs to be more than just an interesting story. It needs to have a unique viewpoint, fabulous language and a ‘wow’ factor. Not easy to accomplish, but then the job of a children’s book creator is not easy. Every story is a challenge.

Dani: Is there any other advice you could give to those working on their dummy this month?

At the launch of Stepping Stones
Margriet: Dummies are crucial. They help to map out the story. Maps bring direction and clarity. If you believe in your story, then never give up. I’ve had books accepted after many years or many rejections. Just don’t ever think it is done! You can always improve. Share your story out loud with children and listen to their feedback. It helps in making the story stronger. And if you get rejected, keep in mind that this is just one person’s opinion. It can be a business decision rather than a reflection on your writing. Just send it to the next publisher!


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Her Booklover's Bed and Breakfast:


  1. Thanks for your post, Margriet. I hadn't heard of Ted Harrison before. It's nice to learn about artists from around the world.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement. I just finished the first sketched version of my dummy and it made me want to ball it up and toss it into the trash. BUT I need to fix it so I can't do that. I believe in this story. :3 thanks Margriet!

  3. Its encouraging to read that our process of working and reworking is not because of our insecurities or newness but actually a part of the process. Thank you, your timing was perfect ... I was becoming discouraged with my lack of progress on my currect project. But now I'm looking at it from another view and I can really see the growth!

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and very adventurous path, Margriet. "Never give up" is my mantra!

  5. Thank you Margriet. I appreciate the thoughts and encouragement you shared today. :)

  6. Thanks for your post Margriet. I could not believe how much I edited my ms when I dummied it up. Guess I should do this with all my manuscripts, even if I don't plan to illustrate them all.

  7. Thank you, Margriet. Your words are encouraging, and inspiring.