Maria Kaltsi was born and raised in Lamia in Central Greece. She studied Agricultural Technology at the Department of Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture at the Technological Educational Institute of Mesolongi, Greece. Since 2003 she lives and works permanently in Ioannina and is the mother of two children, Peter and Alice.
Kaltsi’s fairy tales have been awarded in World Literary Competitions organized by the Greek Cultural Association of Greek Cypriots EPOK and the Petrideio Foundation, and it is worth mentioning that all her fairy tales have been approved by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth of Cyprus as educational material for the library of students and teachers.
The National Herald: How did you start writing/illustrating children’s books?
MK: Ever since I was a student I loved to write, but as soon as I became a mother I started telling stories to my two children every night. They liked my fairy tales and so I started writing again. As a student I never imagined that at some point in my life what I was writing would become books. My children have been my inspiration from the first moment and in 2015 my first book was published, so I have been a writer for 7 years now.
TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?
MK: I was not inspired by a book, but an incident in my life. In the city where I live, something tragic happened to a twenty-year-old student. He was found dead very close to my house after one month. I wrote my first fairy tale with a dragon hero who was different from the others. Everyone was making fun of him, but in the end, however, my lovely dragon proves to everyone that no one is ‘different’, but that each is unique and special and no one deserves to have a life that is full of isolation and fear.
TNH: How long does it take you to write a book?
MK: I usually have my idea completed in my mind, so when I start writing it takes about one to three days. Then I read my story to Peter and Alice, my children. They are strict judges and I trust them.
TNH: Which is the source of your inspiration when writing a book?
MK: Inspiration can be an emotion, a song, a beautiful word, an incident, a fear, an image, the smell of a flower, a hug, a sunset, a rainbow, the sweetness of a sweet, a dream – we can talk about many more things and never stop! It’s what makes you free yourself on paper and inspires you to give a thought a soul from your soul.
TNH: How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?
MK: From a young age I loved the world of fairy tales, where everything is eerie and beautiful and where good always wins over evil. I believe that this is the secret that will entice young readers, the magic of the eerie. The journey through the fairytale world is guided by the adventure until the good heroes emerge victorious.
TNH: Do your heroes lead your way through the story or do you decide about their fate?
MK: I definitely define the beginning of their story, as well as their character. But there are moments when my heroes can finally guide me. I can’t answer that completely! Probably in the end my heroes lead me but I also lead them in their story. We have a two-way relationship!
TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?
MK: The most beautiful way to get in touch with young readers is through book presentations. There, I tell the story, we play games, we make constructions with papers and many other materials and definitely with a lot of gold dust that the children like. I try to disguise myself as a witch, a fairy, and other fairytale heroes because they love to see the hero of the story alive in front of them. The most beautiful moment is when I finish the story and they ask me to meet again to tell them another story. In their eyes I see a longing to get together again for more fairy tales. It shows me that I somehow touched their soul.
TNH: Children’s books get the message across regarding social issues. Which is your goal in writing your stories?
M.K: My goal when writing a fairy tale is for the children who will read it to have a good time – to love my heroes and seek this journey again and again. This is my primary goal, for them to have fun with my story so that every time they read it takes them to the eerie, the mythical. I want them to have a nice trip with a guide that offers values such as friendship, kindness, and love. I also want to give them an opportunity to discuss what concerns them and what they think.
TNH: Which are the Greek children’s books you wish you had written?
MK: I do not feel that I would like to write a book by another author. I am very happy for the books I have written, for my own successes and for all the love I receive from my young readers. Maybe a secret desire of mine is at some point in my life to write an adult novel again, but so far I have been won over by the world of fairy tales.
TNH: Which are the most recent books you have published?
MK: Rosa the Pink Dragon by OnTime Books, UK (June 2021) is my English fairy tale which is sold in Greece and is sent to the whole world on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, Booktopia, and Gandhi. This book is a best seller in Amazon and the tale talks about diversity and bullying and is my award-winning Greek book published in Greece in 2015.
There is also A Hot Air Balloon for My Grandfather by Oselotos Publications, Athens (April 2019). This book talks about the difficult issue of losing our loved ones and mourning and has received three awards as book of the year in 2019 and has been approved by the Ministry of Education of Cyprus as educational material for the libraries of students and teachers.
Slide on the Rainbow by Ydroplano Publications, Athens (November, 2021) is an anecdotal fairy tale that has received the 1st prize for children’s literature in an international literary competition organized by a Greek Cypriot Greek cultural group in 2019.
TNH: What’s coming up next for you?
MK: For my English fairy tale entitled Rosa the Pink Dragon, I was recently informed that it will be translated into Serbian and Hindi and all Indian dialects, so it will soon be sold in Serbia and India! Everything that happens with one of my books is like a dream.
TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
MK: It is true that I do not like to give advice. When I write I am a child because only with the eyes of a child can you see what young readers see and feel. also speak and express myself like a mom, as I would talk to my own children. And, they like me. Maybe in the end this is the secret that makes them love my stories, but also the fact that they feel like I am their friend.
Email: [email protected]
FB: Maria Kaltsi