So, who is granny moff?
Granny Moff is an eccentric old lady living in what used to be a derelict barn and cow shed, in deepest, darkest Cornwall. There is a dragon on her roof, a stone Sea Giant in her garden, which leads down to a magical creek on the Helford River Estuary. Usually accompanied by chickens, pigs and ponies; her long suffering husband spends his time filling numerous bird feeders and growing flowers.
Her ambition to publish a children's book set in Cornwall featuring Cornish creatures - written, illustrated, edited, printed and published by local people living in Cornwall has been fulfilled with her first book 'The Ballad of Morgowr'.
The first of many Morgowr adventures is written and illustrated by Judy Scrimshaw. There are actually three stories within the one book.
Granny Moff thinks it's brilliant value for money! I hope you agree.
My Cornwall Interview 2019
Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to Cornwall…
Hou! (Hi!) I’m Judy Scrimshaw, an author and illustrator of some children’s books with a Cornish flavour; I’m also known as ‘Granny Moff ‘, my self-publishing title. I fell in love with Cornwall 59 years ago when on holiday , but it wasn’t until 1974 that I came to live here; my husband took on a tenant farm beside the glorious Helford River on the Lizard – splann! (brilliant!) I’d always wanted to write and illustrate stories for as long as I can remember, but family life, the farm and village activities (such as mother and toddler/ playgroup/youth club and later part-time teaching) made for a full and hectic life! So I didn’t begin these books until I was sixty!!
What inspired your passion for writing children’s books?
My grandchildren! I had always made-up stories for my own children but never wrote them down. My books were originally intended only for my family maybe with just a few copies printed. I thought my first book, ‘The Ballad of Morgowr’, would be a paperback with about 15 small illustrations. However, when reading the final draft to my eldest grandson (10 years) he had other ideas! He suggested illustrations on every page so that his 5 year old brother could follow and enjoy the story. So, one year and 132 illustrations later the ‘Ballad’ emerged in its present form. It breaks all the rules, of course!
You beautifully illustrate your work, what do you love about being able to illustrate your own work?
Learning how to paint… and hopefully bringing my characters to life! They bounce around in my brain and argue amongst themselves about who should be painted next! I believe in a good story – for both children and adults to enjoy. The Morgowr stories are aimed at upper infants and juniors to read for themselves, but are fully illustrated so that younger children can follow the story by pictures alone. This can encourage slow or reluctant readers who can flick through the story, but dive into their favourite bits. Looking at the pictures in my books I think “Who painted those?” and laugh! I never had any formal training in illustration, so this is an experimental journey – alongside attending courses to learn how to do a ‘proper job’ from wonderful Cornish artists such as Paul Lewin (with the Newlyn School of Art) and Susan Hillier.
Tell us about one of your best-known characters, Morgowr; where did you get the inspiration for her?
First sighted and reported in 1876, Morgowr (Cornish for ‘Sea Giant’) is believed to live in Falmouth Bay with sightings around the coast and resembles a plesiosaur. I was surprised nobody had written children’s stories about this legend, so I had a go!
In “The Ballad of Morgowr” part 1: Morgowr explains how her plesiosaur family survived the Cretaceous dinosaur extinction and why she came to Cornwall.
Part 2: she avoids capture by changing into stone (by a full moon, sea mist and a magical Cornish word) and was inspired by finding a wonderful, craggy granite in a quarry near Falmouth. I thought it looked like a monster and (with difficulty) moved the stone to my garden; later I added granite humps and a tail! My 7 year-old grandson painted eyes and teeth on this Morgowr stone… inspiration part 3!
My latest little book Morgowr Ov/I’m Morgowr is bilingual in Kernewek/Sowsnek (Cornish/English) including a CD with the story and sea shanty in both languages.
What messages do you try to convey in your works to your readers?
Reading is fun! Children should not be put off stories because of the amount of words to read. Keep our oceans clean! Morgowr became an eco-warrior against plastic in ‘Morgowr and the Leatherback Turtle’ and will continue with this quest!
Where do you look for inspiration and what pieces are you working on now?
I don’t look for inspiration – it finds me! When I visited the Caribbean island of Grenada (the location of the turtle beach) I came across “Kick-em-Jenny”, the submarine volcano in Morgowr and the Leatherback Turtle. It was belching out red and orange mineral blobs in the sea – I couldn’t resist adding that to the story! She did erupt a few months later… but thankfully, unlike my tale, she’s too deep to cause a tsunami!
Children inspire me… for instance 6 year olds at Mousehole Primary school asked me to add Fact Pages at the end of Morgowr and the Leatherback Turtle. This is now so popular, I add them to all my books which extends the reading age.
I’ve finished the story of Morgowr and the Spanish Armada of 1588, but not the illustrations! I’m also working on the 2nd Morwenna Pendragon book , Capt’n Spargo (a Cornish Pirate Pig) and CD’s! Also more Cornish language books… I need to clone myself!
What advice would you give to anyone who writes children’s books?
Get an agent who will hopefully find you a publisher! I’m very pleased that my books are printed in Cornwall – bryntin yw! (it’s great!) However, it’s very expensive. Self-publishing isn’t making me any money, but as long as I can cover my next book’s printing costs, that’s OK… and I’m very proud to be a member of the Made in Cornwall group.
I am very lucky to have such brilliant (and very patient) help locally from my book designer, John Greenwood of artdesk and from my printers Andy and Rachael Hallam of ARRC Print. However, I really need to clone myself! Doing everything else – writing/illustrating/publishing/doing the business bit, emails etc/promotion and selling … is MANIC! Also, I’m a lousy agent… anyone want the job?!
When you’re not busy writing or illustrating, what do you do like to do to relax in Cornwall?
Exploring the Cornish countryside, messing about on the River (the Helford), peering into ponds and rockpools, observing animal behavior (wild and my free-range animals… ponies, hoghes and chickens) Arabic and Indian dancing, riding my pony Honeypot in the moonlight, singing sea shanties and learning Cornish.