Inspirational people surround us at every turn. To celebrate some of the incredible women who continue to motivate me on my writing journey I have decided to post a Monday Muse – a weekly look at the women who are my artistic inspiration.
Last week I honoured my childhood favourite, Enid Blyton. You can read that post here. Sticking with the early influences in my life, I have chosen another beloved children’s author for today’s Monday Muse; Jill Murphy. Even before the world fell in love with a young wizard called Harry, we were delighted by the antics of Mildred Hubble.
Born in 1949 and raised in London, Jill is an exceptional writer and illustrator. She spent her early years stapling her own little storybooks together while sat on the kitchen floor. It’s thought that her mum kept all of these early works! I remember making my own books (minus the illustrations) when I was a youngster, spending hours filling the pages and then adding them to my ‘library’.
Jill was only eighteen when she wrote The Worst Witch. Her time spent at a strict academic convent primary school fuelling her inspiration. Mildred Hubble was a little girl who didn’t fit in at her new school, a topic that nearly every young student has faced at some stage. When I was eight we moved from Leeds to the West Midlands and my new school was a frightening place – I might not have had as much trouble as Mildred, but I could certainly relate to her!
“After only two days at the school she crashed her broomstick into the yard wall, breaking the broomstick in half and bending her hat. She mended the stick with glue and sticky-tape…”
After several rejections, Jill put her copy of The Worst Witch in a drawer and concentrated on other things. It was six years later that she received a call from a small publisher and her book was published, selling out immediately. Her passion for becoming a writer/illustrator was born.
Jill has won numerous awards for her books including the Nestle Smarties Prize and is known as one of the most engaging writers and illustrators for children in the land.
I love that Jill never gave up on her dream of bringing Mildred to life. She started writing The Worst Witch when she was just fifteen years old, doodling out illustrations of her main character. It makes me want to revisit all the notebooks I filled when I was a teenager.
“I have the first drawing I did of her in my school rough book. It’s obviously drawn by quite a young person, but she looks very similar to how Mildred actually turned out when I was 18, when I wrote it properly.”
It was an eye-opener for me to realise that Mildred Hubble turned 40 two years ago! It was also the kick I needed to keep writing – if Mildred is still waving her broken broomstick in her forties, then I can keep working on my own magic!
Who is your favourite character from a children’s book? Share your Monday Muse.