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Literature

Maria Mprastianou: Entertaining and Nourishing Young Minds

October 20, 2020

Maria Mprastianou was born on Thassos Island and grew up in Thessaloniki. She still lives there with her three children, and her childhood years were full of images both of the sea as well as of Epirus, where she has roots. Her immense love for children led her to become a teacher in preschool education, having the belief that a sound grounding and pure love during these tender years are absolutely necessary for the growth of childrens’ minds.

She has been teaching in Religious Studies for Children for seven years, preparing educational programs for kindergarten and primary school students. Maria has organized craft activities, along with theatrical and musical performances, adaptations of fairytales, puppetry, and relevant presentations. Over time, her love for writing children’s books surged, and this what has filled her heart since then. 

THE NATIONAL HERALD: How did you start writing children’s books?

MARIA MPRASTIANOU: The writing fulfilled a deep need in me. I always remember myself writing since puberty. When I became a kindergarten teacher I was trying to find interesting and amusing ways to impart any kind of knowledge to my little listeners. Writing children’s books was another way for me to show my love and my contribution to their education and an effort to make them see everything around us from a different perspective. The impact of books is significant, especially in children.  The power a good book may have and its hidden treasure was the key that urged me on in writing.

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

MM: Well, it was not only one … the way Honore de Balzac describes nature and daily life, giving even in the most insignificant detail a kind of greatness, was the first writer I’ve tried to imitate … then came Cronin with the Keys of the Kingdom which still amazes me by his emotional effect on the reader, and last but not least the great Penelope Delta and her amazing book A Story Without a Name and the power of her writing. Their ability to make the reader feel a part of their story, living whatever they describe in their books, even their emotions, was an important lesson for me, understanding what defines a good writer and of course a great book!

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

MM: It depends on the subject … Because my books contain historical information, major research needs to be done for every detail to be valid and confirmed. That takes time but I don’t mind … I love looking for answers, discovering new elements, and I am excited every time about the process no matter how long it will take. However, there are great books delivered in a short time too!

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

MM: Everything is an inspiration! The greatness of nature, the greatness of man, even a word, an incident! Everything has something to say! It doesn’t matter if it is something important or merely amusing. We live in a world full of wonders which we should not overlook. Being an observer, open-minded, and considering everything as a blessing and an opportunity, everything has a story to narrate! All we have to do is listen!

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

MM: Every writer has a special way of presenting his ideas, his perspective, and point of view. As long as a picture book intrigues the little readers both by its pictures and by its interesting text, while it is not tedious but full of action and high imitation standards, it is sure to be read aloud!

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

MM: They lead the way! There is always a plan, to begin with, but It is amazing how everything finds its place as the story unfolds. There are times that I have decided about the plot and the end of the story, and a word or action of the main character could change the whole story!

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

MM: Mainly by organizing presentations at schools, municipal theaters, or public and private institutions. There I have the chance to be in touch with my little readers. The enthusiasm of the children is very touching, their questions, their approach is so true! I get excited every time I come in contact with the little heroes! The approach of parents or adults is also moving. Receiving back all the love I put into my books encourages me to continue … However, there is always social media where I present my efforts, available to everyone who wants to get in touch with me.

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

MM: In my first book Tito and Alexander the Great my main goal is to inform about unknown aspects of history and remind of the glory and the importance our nation used to have. Besides, children can discover the traits of true friendship, understand misconceptions about religious issues, and eliminate the fear of beautiful, little known creatures such as bats and owls. I try to make not only children but adults too to see everything with a different approach. Everything has its purpose in the world and should be treated with respect.

In my second book The Life of St. Onoufrios, the special bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter presents the knowledge that we are responsible for and are able to impart to our children. The life of a Saint and the greatness God gives to everyone who wants to be with Him are also revealed!

Children need high life standards for their own power supplies to be strong along life’s path. It is our duty as teachers and as scrupulous individuals to instill those standards in them, as well as knowledge. Good books have the power to do so! This is my goal as a writer!

TNH: You have fans in high places – like the Archbishop of America.

MM: Yes, he sent me a note that said: “Dear Ms. Mprastianou, we just received Tito and Alexander the Great and enjoyed this wonderful metaphorical presentation about the time of St. Anastasia in the region of Thessaloniki. I congratulate you for your literary endeavor and urge you to continue writing childrens’ books for the promotion of both our language and our age-old history. With paternal blessings, Elpidophoros of America.”

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

MM: I wish I had written The Story Without a  Name, The Whirlpool of the Shop Window by Alki Zea, Three Little Wolves by Eugenie Triviza, and many more … we have so many exceptional writers!

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

MM: Well, I have written the Life of St. Onoufrios adapted for children, where the life of a man of God is revealed in front of children's eyes, giving the greatness of man’s nature when it approaches God. Of course I also present the greatness of God – who accepts anyone who wants to be with Him – and how much He glorifies people!

This book contains an educational program useful for every kindergarten or primary school teacher. Here is the link https://ear-books.com/shop/paidika/louloudia-ths-erhmou-agios-onoufrios/

TNH: What is coming up next for you?

MM: Well, I have already sent my new books for evaluation and I am waiting for the news … I hope to get positive answers!

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

MM: I believe I am not in a position to give my own advice due to the existence of great writers who would have much better advice to give. It is my strongest belief, however, that if anyone has something unique, beautiful, and interesting to express, through writing, it will find its way. So, keep up the good faith, never stop trying, and never lose hope!

BIOGRAPHY

Maria Mprastianou was born on Thassos Island and she grew up in Thessaloniki. She still lives there with her three children. Her childhood years were full of images both of the sea as well as of the Epirus area where she originates, too.

Her immense love for children led her to become a teacher of Preschool Education, having the belief that the sound grounds and pure love during these tender years, are absolutely necessary for children’s mind growth. She has been teaching at Sunday School (Religious Studies for Children) for seven years, preparing educational programs for Kindergarten and Primary School Students. Maria organized craft activities, along with theatrical and musical performances, adaptations of fairytales, puppetry and relevant speeches. Her love for writing for children’s books surged and this what fills her heart since then.

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