Saturday, August 9, 2014

Interview With Heather Maisner

As anyone who has ever moved knows all too well, one of the most difficult aspects of moving is getting the children to accept the changes and settle into their new home. Heather Maisner's children's book We're Moving has been a godsend to parents who want to explain an upcoming move to their young children in terms they can understand. Here, Heather talks with us about her writing and the children for whom she writes. 

Tell us something about your background and writing career.

I grew up in a lively household with two sisters, a dog, a cat, two budgerigars, too many visiting aunts and uncles, and over 20 cousins. I used to hide away in the lavatory, making up stories. I wrote a novel (unpublished) when I was 12
, and won the Daily Mirror Children’s Literary competition out of 35,000 contestants when I was 16. I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I began writing for children after my son and daughter were born.  I’ve now written over 30 children’s books, translated into eight languages.

Recently, I became author and publisher of Dinosaur Douglas Books. The first title Dinosaur Douglas and the Beastly Bugs, featuring the very naughty Dinosaur Douglas, encourages children to look after their teeth.

What led you to write the book “We’re Moving?”

The stories I write for the very young are often based on real-life situations. When a publisher was looking for an author to develop a series about the everyday events in a young child’s life, several authors wrote samples. Happily, mine was chosen. “We’re Moving” is one of four titles about Amy and Ben.

In “We’re Moving” you zone right in on exactly what causes preschool-age children anxiety about moving - leaving friends and familiar surroundings, missing the flowers they planted, the emptiness of the new house at first. How did you get that insight into the mind of a child?

I teach creative writing to children in schools across the borough of Hammersmith and
Fulham, where I live. I am also Author in Residence at two local schools. In this part of London, there are many transient families. I visited schools and asked the children how it felt to move house and what they missed most from their old homes. I spoke to many children and parents and, when I had written the story, I read it to the children, too. I felt it was really their story.

All children handle moving differently. What are some of the more common responses to moving that a parent can expect?

During and after the move, a child’s behavior can suddenly change: They may become withdrawn or irritable. They may start having tantrums; their sleep can be disrupted and they can become fussy about eating - or not want to eat at all.

Is there such a thing as being too young to be anxious about a move?

It is never too young for a baby to be anxious. A psychotherapist friend, who works with mothers and babies in a neo-natal intensive care unit, says even premature babies can be anxious, as they pick up their parents' stress.

What advice do you have for parents who are moving children and want to alleviate some of that anxiety they’re going through?

It’s a good idea for parents to prepare children in advance. You should visit the house a few times, if possible, and talk about what is going to happen; get the children to draw the house or their new bedroom and plan some exciting things they might want to do when they get there. On the day of the move, children can help pack their belongings, and it’s important to let them keep their favourite toys safe beside them on the journey.

On arrival, make sure their bed is made up as quickly as possible and put up some pictures or hang curtains from the old house in their room to make them feel at home. Spend time as a family  – go for a walk, go shopping, enjoy the new surroundings together. Naturally, parents are frantically busy trying to get everything done but it makes a real difference if you spend as much time as possible with the children, too.

When you’ve settled in, remember to visit the old house and keep in touch with friends. If you have moved far away, children can draw or Skype or look at photos, so that they don’t feel they've dropped off the end of the world or that something bad has happened. Above all, spend time with your children: listen to what they have to say; go for walks and explore the area together, so that everyone gets to enjoy this new adventure in a new place.

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In addition to We're Moving, Heather Maisner has written more than 30 children's books. More about Heather and her books can be found on her website at


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

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