Kaye Umansky: How I write

Guest blogger Kaye Umansky has written over 130 children’s books. How did she find writing a story for Bloomsbury’s 247tales?

Kaye Umansky

Author Kaye Umansky

Write a story in 247 words. Phew! That’s a tall order, right? I write longer notes to the milkman.

I was given the title “Spring Cleaning” and the suggestion that the story should centre on Pongwiffy, a witch of dirty habits. Seven books are coming out about her this year, so it made sense, as I am currently in the Pong Zone, as I call it.

Stripped down to basics, a story needs two things – characters and plot. In my case, it needed a third – humour – as I fondly like to think of myself as a funny writer.

So I sat down with pencil, paper and a mug of strong coffee and began.

The third book in the Pongwiffy series (Spell Of The Year) features spring cleaning, which didn’t help. It ran to 35,000 words, for a start. I only had 247. I needed to forget all that and think again.

It is rare that plot comes first for me. I write in a haphazard sort of way, starting out with the thinnest of ideas and fleshing things out as I go along. This approach wouldn’t work, I could see that. I needed a plot.

What’s the opposite of spring cleaning? Muck spreading, of course! The idea came in a flash of inspiration (after hours of thought, though. That’s the thing with inspiration. You have to put in the groundwork.)

Right, I had it. I would feature Pongwiffy and the two characters closest to her – Hugo (her hamster) and the Broom – set them spring cleaning and end up with muck being spread instead.

My thought processes went like this:

Question. As a witch of dirty habits, why would she be spring cleaning her hovel?

Answer: She wouldn’t, unless there was something in it for her.

Solution: A cleanest house competition, with a box of chocolates for the winner. That’d do. And I could include Grandwitch Sourmuddle, the coven boss, who would be the judge.



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