Writing life

Raymond Briggs

The Snowman author Raymond Briggs reveals how he creates his iconic illustrated books

How do you write?

By hand. Can't type, don't want to. Went to typing evening classes years ago, but when the principal of the school found out he had the famous Snowman in the building he immediately asked me to become a governor. Thank you, but no. Goodbye!

What are your essential tools of the trade?

Got to write on A4 narrow feint and margin. Red line margin vital. Propelling pencil Faber-Castell Grip Plus 0.7, lead 2B.

How do you order your writing day? What are your rituals?

Being 81 sets the rituals of life. Everyday domesticity, exercises and pills. Writing and drawing have to be fitted in somewhere.

How have you solved writing problems?

Having written When The Wind Blows, I realised it was far too long for the standard picture book length – 33 pages, occasionally 40 if you're lucky. I asked for the biggest format possible, but even so it was still too long. Then I saw a foreign edition of my Father Christmas book in miniature. 

The frames were tiny. I then realised: get the biggest format, the smallest frames and the longest length. You might just get it in.

How do you celebrate finishing a book?

Depends what is meant by “finishing”. When you write, design, then illustrate a book, each of those stages gets “finished”. Then when it is finally handed in you wait months for it to be published. By that time you have started on a new book and have slightly lost interest and are getting fed up with all the endless interviews and publicity. Possibly celebrate when the publicity rigmarole is over.

What’s the most useful piece of advice about writing you’ve been given?

Never had any advice about writing from anyone.

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