Maria Farrugia | Learning how to write a captivating first sentence

Maltese writer Maria Farrugia spoke to LAURA CALLEJA about what it was like to craft an award-winning book after taking home the Terramaxka Prize for best original works for children ages 0-7 for her book ‘Luċjan u Enzo: is-sriedak li kienu jgħiru għal xulxin’

Could you tell us about your trajectory as a writer/illustrator/translator?

This was a trajectory which I never really realised was happening. As a child, my favourite hobby was reading, and at school, teachers would often compliment me for my creative writing skills. Whilst taking a break from work to look after my children, I met up with a very good and talented friend and we started discussing how she would like to illustrate a picture book and how perhaps I could write the story for her. So later that day I wrote the first story of the set and emailed it to her. And that was how the ball started rolling…

What was the process of crafting your award-winning book like?

Basically, sitting on the sofa in a comfortable position with a pencil and a scrap book, jotting down ideas in a web diagram, and then using the correct words to make the narrative of the story as capturing as possible to young children.

However, a very important factor in this process which cannot go unmentioned, is the great teamwork with the illustrator and the publisher, which made this experience, which I unexpectedly embarked on, very gratifying.

How did it feel to win the National Book Prize in 2023?

I wasn’t expecting it since I am new to this sector/ industry, but it felt amazing to be recognized in front of other authors – authors who gave me such a happy childhood with the books they wrote and other authors who are giving me a happy motherhood thanks to the contemporary books they are writing and which I am now reading to my young children.

What are some of the particular challenges of writing/illustrating/translating for children and young adults?

Finding a common factor to attract children’s different interests and making sure to write a captivating first sentence and keep the story flowing throughout as not to lose their attention. But thankfully, having my children and their friends around surely gives me a lot of insight!

What’s next for you?

Following the first set of books of which Luċjan and Enzo were part of, we published another set of books, this time about a contemporary princess and her magical dog – Emma u Arturo. We hope they make it to the shortlist for the upcoming National Book Prize! In the meantime, whilst another project is in the pipeline, I plan to continue reading as much as my limited free time allows me to, not only beacause I Iove reading, but also to acquire more insight in this field and perhaps unlock some new ideas of my own too.

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In collaboration with the National Book Council, MaltaToday will be interviewing the winners of the 2023 National Book Prize and Terramaxka Prize for children and young adults. More information regarding the awards can be found at