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Polly Faber

As a child

I grew up in Cambridge, in a house where every room was full of shelves and piles of books, even the toilet! My grandfather founded the publishing company Faber & Faber so that was where most of the books came from. They covered a wide range of topics and genres. A particular favourite was ‘The Life that Lives On Man’ – including photos of the secret bugs that live in your eyebrows, but I’m glad to say there were plenty of children’s books too. When I wasn’t reading I spent a lot of time pretending to be a pony or a dog and hiding in dens made of rugs and the clothes line in the garden. I have two big brothers and a big sister. My brothers used to tease me terribly but I loved being around them too. The worst thing they did was tie me to a deck chair in the garden for the whole of Sunday lunch and tell our mum that I’d gone out to visit a friend. What made me most cross, was that they left me with an open book to read but my hands were bound so I couldn’t turn the pages. Torture! The first things I wanted to be (in order) were a baker, a naturalist, a 3 day eventer and an actress. Although I have always written it took me a very long time to work out that a writer was the right thing for me to be.

As an adult

I went to Oxford University and did a degree in English after school. I loved it as it gave me an excuse to read and read and read. I performed comedy at university and wrote and appeared in shows at the Edinburgh Festival. That’s how I met my husband, who still writes comedy. When I finished my degree I made a big change and went and trained as a midwife: It felt like the most important job I could think of. You are always going to be part of a family’s ‘story’ if you are with them when their new baby comes into the world. I loved being a midwife but it was very hard work and sometimes sad too. When I had my own children I stopped working and stayed at home with them. We spent years stirring muddy puddles, catching leaves, icing biscuits and also of course; sharing stories. Through them I rediscovered a passion for children’s books, both old favourites and wonderful new writers and illustrators. And once my children were both at school I was ready to start writing myself.

As an artist

I write in the smallest room in our house in north London. It used to be a bit smelly and full of junk and a place no-one wanted to spend time in. Now I have made it cosy with cushions and pictures and inspiring objects, EVERYONE comes to disturb me in it. I like to write when nobody else is in the house and without music or other distractions. I do a lot of walking in the local woods or staring into the biscuit tin when I’m stuck for what to write next. I also have a pebble on my desk with the word ‘concentrate’ on it. That’s helpful.

Things you didn’t know about Polly Faber

  1. I had chicken pox at 12 days old. Apparently, I looked like I’d been covered in raspberry jam and rolled in rice krispies.
  2. I am the youngest of four children. This has trained me to be very good at eating treats quickly.
  3. I always wanted a pet as a child and used to look out for an abandoned puppy, kitten or pony on every country walk. Meeting a tapir on a zebra crossing would have been wonderful.
  4. Unlike Mango, I am not at all good at karate or chess but I AM good at making and eating pancakes. My clarinet playing is a lot like hers.
  5. I love reading aloud and being read to. My dad carried on reading to me until I was almost a teenager and I plan on still reading to my children until they force me to stop! Even then I may carry on, sitting on the landing with a book, bellowing outside their shut bedroom doors.
  6. I can do impressions of a tortoise eating a piece of tomato and a rasher of frying bacon.
  7. I have a beautiful Bengal cat who looks like a leopard. His full name is Goldhills Pride Thundercat Indiana Jones Faber the Magnificent but we just call him Jones because that’s easier. He likes to catch frogs.
  8. Singing karaoke with my sons or my friends makes me happy. I am not at all a good singer but that doesn’t seem to matter.
  9. We have a tiny book swap library outside our house where anyone can take or leave a book. Watching people stop and browse is a bit like having a bird table.
  10. If there’s a choice, I’ll always choose the chocolate pudding and generally, the yellow shoes.

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