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Kaye Umansky

Kaye Umansky

Kaye Umansky is best known as the creator of Pongwiffy. Kaye's stories about "the witch of dirty habits" are laced with irreverent humour and are great to read aloud. Visit Kaye's website at

Born: Plymouth, December 6th 1946
Jobs: Teacher (Music & Drama), Singer & Keyboard Player, Actress
Lives: Crouch End, North London
First Book: Pongwiffy, 1988

Humour and music play a big part in Kaye Umansky's life and work. You'll find the trademark Kaye Umansky humour in all her books, from the Pongwiffy adventures to her stories for younger children like The Romantic Giant and her non-fiction titles, which include Witches in Stitches. It comes as no surprise to learn that Kaye's favourite TV shows are Red Dwarf and The Simpsons. Kaye's background in music gives her writing and, in particular, her dialogue a strong rhythm which makes it ideal for reading aloud. Kaye not only taught music and drama for a number of years, but performed in a soul band with her husband Mo. As a child, Kaye's favourite reads included Peter Pan, Ballet Shoes, Wind in the Willows and the Just William stories. These days, she is a devoted fan of Terry Pratchett. "There are times when I've rationed myself with his books because I can't bear them to end," she says.

"I don't visualise my characters, but I can hear what they sound like, which is why I give them funny voices."

"I always mean to sit down and work it all out first, but I never do. I have a few ideas and then I get all excited and can't wait to get on with it."

"Pongwiffy wasn't based on anyone I know, but I sometimes get the feeling she may be my alter-ego. I'll disintegrate into her when I'm older, if I'm not careful."

"I get inspiration from ordinary things like listening to conversations on a bus."

"Kids these days are sophisticated and streetwise, but they have such vivid imaginations... It keeps us on our toes gaining their interest."

"Young readers adore the rude jokes, grubbiness, smells and creatures with awful names like Sludgegooey and Sharkadder. Nice antidote to the neat, clean and twee." Susan Hill, The Telegraph

"For sheer, high-spirited inventiveness, there's little to beat her... an invigorating blend of anarchy and humour destined to charm the most reluctant reader." She

"A great read." Daily Mail on Pongwiffy and The Goblins' Revenge

"Children like characters like Pongwiffy who break all the rules." The English & Media Magazine

Nottinghamshire Book Award 1993 for Pongwiffy and The Spell of The Year
TES Junior Music Book Award 1999 for Three Rapping Rats

Plymouth, Devon; 6 December 1946

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

My two cats

'Today I'm singing the blues' by Aretha Franklin

Bladerunner, Bambi

When did you start writing?
I've always written stories - my favourite subjects at school were English and music. I started writing for a living in 1985, just before I had my daughter. Before that I was a teacher and wrote just for fun. It's a wonderful job and I wouldn't want to do anything else. I never dreamed I would end up writing full-time. I always thought authors must be special people - not ordinary, like me. In fact, there is no magic to it you just need to enjoy it and be prepared to work hard.

Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from all kinds of sources. Overheard conversations, which give a little glimpse into people's lives, things seen on television or read in a newspaper or books, jokes people tell me, things that happen to me, my family or my friends.

Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?
1. Read, read and read again. It is by reading that you learn how to become a good writer.
2. Always have paper and pencil handy to jot down any ideas. If you don't write them down, you'll forget them.
3. Don't be discouraged if your first efforts aren't accepted. Keep practising - you'll get there in the end.

Favourite memory?
1. Being in hospital and seeing my brand new baby girl for the first time.
2. Seeing my name in print for the first time.

Favourite place in the world and why?
Thailand. My husband and I had a wonderful holiday there twelve years ago. We stayed on an island. It was like paradise. The place is beautiful, the people friendly, and the food is fantastic!

What are your hobbies?
I read a great deal. I like science fiction and fantasy, but will give anything a try. I listen to jazz and soul music a lot and sometimes tinkle on the piano. I like films too.

If you hadn't been a writer, what do you think you would have been?
I would have liked to be a singer. I tried it and loved it, but never got rich or famous. I taught for years. Maybe I could have carried on doing that, if the writing hadn't worked out. I would have liked to be an actress too.

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