Author Timo Parvela was born in Jyväskylä. He graduated from the University of Jyväskylä Teacher Training School and later from the Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä. While still at school, Timo understood how important written text is. Already then his dream was to become an author. Today, he is one of the most read and acclaimed Finnish authors both in Finland and abroad.
As a child, Timo Parvela found out that that you can entertain people with texts. He was infatuated by Väinö Nuorteva’s (aka Olli) stories and read them aloud to his uncle and grandad. The stories made them laugh. “My writing has always been tinged with humour – it’s one of my strengths,” Timo says.
In 1988, Timo Parvela got his Master of Arts degree from the University of Jyväskylä. Both his parents were teachers, so it was only natural that he also studied to be a class teacher. His debut was published during the same year. It was a young adult novel called Son, inspired by Anna-Leena Härkönen’s Häräntappoase (“The Bull Killer”). Parvela was convinced that he could describe a young man’s life better than Härkönen.
“In a Finnish demo group, we were given an assignment to write a nursery rhyme,” Parvela explains. “The lecturer’s comments were encouraging and, inspired by this, I wrote an entire nursery rhyme collection, which I sent to a publisher who turned it down. Yet the editor was wise enough and proposed I try my hand at some prose, and that’s where I still am. I’ll steer clear of poetry.”
After graduation, Parvela worked as a class teacher in various primary schools. Writing turned into a profession when he worked as a scriptwriter for “Ansa and Oiva”, a TV series for children. The Ella series, which was proposed to him by his publisher, was a breakthrough. The first part of the serial came out in the easy reading Colourful Rooster series. Parvela has always been active in maintaining and promoting children’s literacy. “Reading isn’t just a nice hobby; it’s a citizenship skill,” he points out.
Although he left the teacher’s job behind physically, his teacherhood has continued to live in the character of the eccentric male teacher in the Ella books. Although the books are tinged with humour, Parvela also discusses serious themes, such as problems related to school and our environment. In his books, children actively take part in solving problems and having an influence on things. The educational messages, however, of the stories are cleverly hidden between the lines. Parvela’s own work schedule mirrors the school year: from August to May. Yet he does not miss being a teacher.
His teaching background is useful in many situations. “I still often give presentations at schools,” Parvela says. “Many authors find this sort of situation a bit nerve-wrecking but, thanks to my teacher training background, performing in front of a hundred kids is very natural and stress-free.
“I’ve often been thankful for the timetables we had to draw up during our training periods. When planning presentations, it’s very helpful if you are able to divide them into sections and estimate their durations in advance.”
Of all his books, especially the Ella series has found a large number of readers abroad. Parvela’s works have been translated into 35 different languages, including Russian, Chinese and Japanese. In addition to his books, Parvela is well known as a supporter of children’s rights and he received the Unicef Children’s Rights Award in 2016.
Parvela is a prolific writer, releasing several books every year. He often addresses current events, with the latest Ella book dealing with climate change. Therefore, continuous learning is necessary.
“I don’t think it’s ever possible to be fully competent as a writer,” Parvela says. “The next book should always be better than all the previous ones, but the secret of a successful text still, after more than 80 books, remains a complete mystery to me.”
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