The Concordian (Concordia University)
MONTREAL (CUP) — Yes, it can be frustrating, difficult, and extremely exhausting to cultivate a wonderful piece of writing. But despite the obstacles of writer’s block and trying to find widespread success, well-known author Robert Munsch encourages young writers to keep working at it — as he continues to do so himself.
“I have over 200 unpublished stories that I am working on,” the eccentric and beloved author told The Concordian in an interview, as he shared details about his life in storytelling and offered young writers advice on the art of writing.
Many have grown up reading Munsch’s short stories as children. Munsch, 66, is an American-born, now Canadian author who currently lives in the city of Guelph, Ont. A member of the Order of Canada since 1999, he has published over 47 children’s books, including The Paperbag Princess and Love You Forever, that have sold more than 18 million copies across North America.
As an elementary student, Munsch almost failed Grades 1 to 5. In fact, he claims to have never learned how to spell properly and graduated from Grade 8 still counting on his fingers to do simple addition. He was generally “not a resounding academic success,” in his words.
He began writing poetry in elementary school, which sparked his interest in literature. In high school, he did not get along with anybody and after seven years of studying to be a Jesuit priest, he decided that it was not his calling. On the topic of post-secondary education, Munsch said, “I liked university better than any other schooling. I think it was because I was interested in what I was learning and had finally taken responsibility for my education.”
Every successful writer begins small. Munsch recalls how difficult it was to get published. “I never have had an agent and I sent stories to nine different publishers before one said yes,” he said. In 2008, Munsch suffered a stroke that affected his speech, though over the years, he has slowly recovered and can now do public readings again. His writing career has, however, been put on hold until a full recovery.
When asked what he believes is a writer’s greatest enemy, Munsch answered, “Trying to find an agent or publisher!” He added that the most important skill needed as a writer is perseverance and a willingness to accept criticism.
But before getting to that point, writers need to start at square one. To write successfully, Munsch said to “write about something you love, something you feel strongly about or something you know about.” This makes all the difference in the delivery of the piece; the higher the interest level of the writer, the more effort, care, and love is put into the writing. When it comes to writer’s block, Munsch explained he makes up random unrelated stories on the spot from which more ideas expand, and often ends up finding inspiration in the original material.
For those interested in children’s literature, Munsch shared some more of his insight on this specific target audience.
“Kids are so new. They’re so open-ended. I can look at a kid and wonder what they’ll be,” he said. “The job of children is to be professionally appealing to adults. That’s how they get what they need.”
Finally, when it comes to improving and maintaining a budding writer’s skills, Munsch provided wise and valuable feedback.
“Keep on writing. Write a diary, write short stories. You don’t learn to swim by reading about it and you don’t learn to write that way either. If you want to learn how to write, write a lot and you will get better at it.”
Graphic: Katie Brioux/The Concordian