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Literature

Aesthetic Delight and Spiritual Nourishment for Children’s Hearts

September 11, 2021

Author Angeliki Mastromichalaki enjoys meeting her readers in schools, parishes, and book festivals throughout Greece, Cyprus, and Europe. Some of her books released in 2021 include: '21 Twice Over and The Virgin Mary Travels with the Children, published by En Plo Editions, and Greek Easter by Nama Editions.

Mastromichalaki was born in Chios and lives and works in Athens. She has studied Pedagogy-Psychology, and Philosophy and holds a PhD from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, working in Public Education.

Ηer 12 published books include works for children, on literary themes and general knowledge, and educational books for Greek primary schools. In addition, she has participated in 16 collective volumes of literary and scientific texts and has been writing articles and chapters in books concerning children, family, and education since 1993.

TNH: How did you start writing children’s books?

Angeliki Mastromichalaki: My love for books began in my student years. I grew up on the island of Chios and attended a school which was located opposite the Korais Public Central Historical Library of Chios.  From a young age, I wrote texts, read too many books, and admired the journeys of mind and soul revealed to me through them. I always carry inside me all the stories I have read. During my university student years, while I was studying to be a teacher, I dared to write a book which a publisher believed in and published. This book was very much liked by children and teachers, and so my ongoing relationship with the writing of children's books began.

TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?

AM: The authors who inspired me as a reader were: Jules Verne, Alexandros Papadiamantis, Penelope Delta, and Victor Hugo. I was inspired by their work, the imagination, the adventures, the memory of historical events, and the expressiveness of their descriptions, overwhelmed me and made me dream.

TNH: How long does it take you to write a book?

AM: To write a book, you start with an idea – an inspiration. From then on, in the author's mind the structure of the book, either literary or educational, is constantly growing. If needed, the time is proportional to the research. On average, writing a fairy tale might take me three months, from the first writing to word selection and triple checking, up to 18 months – as was the case of my latest book, which entailed a lot of research and study.

TNH: Which is the source of your inspiration when writing a book? 

AM: Children are the first source of inspiration for me, as well as the issues that concern them and all the values and virtues in life that I would like to infuse in a different but meaningful way.

TNH: How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?

AM: When I write, I become a child myself and I think like a child, so I have little difficulty adapting or changing the form of the original idea to better suit the ages of young readers. Dealing with children requires love, patience, endurance, calmness, cooperation skills, empathy, and a high sense of responsibility. What I truly want is to enjoy with the readers all the multiple possibilities of ‘reading’ the world. To live with them the adventure of an alternative interpretation. I like the small moments that go unnoticed in History.

TNH: Do your heroes lead your way through the story or do you decide about their fate? 

AM: Each story carries its unique messages, which the heroes communicate in their way to the heart of the reader. What’s more beautiful at a time when values are being deconstructed is that fairy tales inspire and transmit to our little friends the beneficial qualities of love, kindness, mutual help, and cooperation. They cultivate the empathy and social and emotional intelligence of children as well as their sensitivity! The combination of indulgence and education that arises effortlessly, I think, is ideal. Yes, the heroes often guide me through the story's development.

 TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?

AM: I meet my readers in presentations, bookstores, schools, summer activities organized by municipalities, in book festivals, but also through my radio interviews.

TNH: Children's books get the message across regarding social issues. Which is your goal in writing your stories? 

AM: Of course, my stories also convey social messages. My goal is the cultivation of the children’s spirit and soul, but also the aesthetic delight that comes when reading something you like. To educate means to give form to the thoughts, feelings, and skills that a person needs to work creatively for themselves and society as a whole.

TNH: Which are the Greek children’s books you wish you had written?

AM: The Prophecy of the Red Wine (L. Petrovich). The Secrets of the Swamp (P. Delta). The Kaplani of the Showcase (A. Zei). My Girlfriend Hazel (A. Varela). God Loves Birds (A. Varela). The Treasure of the Elder (P. Zoura). The Boat Called Memory (V. Iliopoulos).

TNH: What are the most recent books you have published? 

AM: The last book published, which was co-written with Pantelis Zouras, is '21 Twice Over. It is a book of knowledge that refers to 21 men and 21 women of the Greek Revolution of 1821.

TNH: What's coming up next for you?

AM: I'm preparing a new book and trying to complete two more that I have postponed finishing for years. Literature, apart from being a way of expression, has been, since my childhood, my spiritual nourishment and has contributed greatly to the formation of myself. Above all, however, literature is for me a fascinating, demanding game with the essence of words that allows me to take a piece from reality, and dress it with dreams and imagination to create a utopia of reality.

TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?

AM: Read books! Beautiful texts with powerful words and messages that stimulate the brain. I’d tell them to follow the path that their heart tells them and to support their dreams with love and respect. I believe that life, not only when we children but also when we are adults, is full of stories and images like those of fairy tales, which come to life depending on our experiences and emotions.

For more information visit her websites: www.happywriters.org and www.happywriters.weebly.com.

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