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Category Archives: Cats

Journey of a Book – Part I – children’s literature creation under the microscope

Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be  inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or  stylus or it may be  storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean  adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like  Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace  or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu.  Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.

If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted  to  institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised  the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to  make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story  had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.

SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to  bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal – something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!

THE SET UP

Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the  items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case.  I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the  photographic prints in place.

I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was  a good match colour-wise though not quite the  perfect size.

Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book, all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!

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The Exhibition, Journey of a Book, has a wide range of book journeys exhibited, from YA novel, like David McRobbie’s, to real life adventure  by Prue Mason, picture books like those by Kathrine Battersby and chapter books like the one by Angela Sunde, to non fiction works on calligraphy as an illustrative art form by Peter Taylor.

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Ian Beck, Award Winning Illustrator, Describes the Creative Process as Bestselling Author

Ian Beck on Visualizing the Characters in his YA novels,  

Hi Ian,

Hearty congratulations on the release of your two new YA novels, both in the one year! That is some achievement! I’m fascinated by  how you come up with such a range of amazing and vastly different characters and all so vividly drawn.  

Do you ‘see’ with your illustrator’s eye, the characters before you flesh them out? What part of the author is still the illustrator? Does the  novel roll out in movie sequence in your mind?

I do see the characters quite clearly and I watch them move about in my head too, so in a sense it is a little like watching an inner cinema sequence  but not quite, not entirely. At the same time you are questioning their motivations and inner lives, thoughts etc so it is also like seeing an x ray of the character too, all very hard to explain and much more like a waking dream than a film, and one which you are able to leave and enter again at will. The story certainly rolls out in movie like sequences, a chunk at a time but not necessarily in the narrative order, which is where the importance of editing comes in, the shaping and reordering and the advice and admonitions of the third eye, your editor, which is the vital spark. I could never publish my drafts without the benefit of my editor’s input.

Firstly, the characters in “The Hidden Kingdom” [see review below]-  

What was the origin of Prince Osamu, the arrogant prat turned soldier king?

The whole book started with a single  sentence.  I wrote it for inclusion in a book which was intended to kick start ideas in children and encourage their own writing . The original sentence went something like, ‘The Prince woke to the howling of wolves’, and I thought, ‘well I would like to write that story myself and see what happens’, and so my Prince was the first settled character around which the story built. I imagined him as  a pampered princeling in a fairy tale forced to confront something very big but I wasn’t sure what it might be at the beginning of the process.

Why Baku and the Snow Maiden? Is this a tip of the hat to the Brothers Grimm with their tales of transformation and  tragic love, thinking particularly of The Little Mermaid, but with role reversal?

Not quite, Baku and the Snow Maiden were in a separate book, based on a Japanese myth story.  It was only after working on both discretely for  a few months that I realised in a flash of inspiration, (which now seems obvious but didn’t at the time), that they belonged in the same book as Prince Osamu.

Lissa, the warrior maid, is a thoroughly modern miss.  What were her antecedents?

I think Lissa is to me quite clearly based on the character and beauty of Zhang Zi Yi in the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, that is exctly how I saw her  in my mind, fiery and difficult, but dedicated to the saving of the Prince even though she begins the story despising his weakness.

Secondly, the lead roles in the very visually realized, “The Haunting of Charity Delafield” [see review below]-

Charity Delafield, is a quintessential heroine for a disaffected generation. The working woman’s children, tossed from home to childcare, child care to school and back and never long enough in one place to identify with it as ‘home’, whom I suspect ask ‘Who is Mum? Is she really the hollow eyed lady who picks me up late afternoon/early evening, rushes me through dinner to bed and pulls me out in the morning, drives me and drops me off with a stress fraught kiss and a wave?’  Charity is a brave new kind of heroine, finding her way, finding herself. In a seemingly disaffected world.  What inspired her?

Charity began life as picture book idea. I had drawn some rough sketches of a girl in a long red coat out in the snow in an old fashioned formal garden. I liked the place and time of the story, the only difficulty was that there was no story. At about the same time my daughter started leaving notes for the Fairy she believed to be in the house and I started to leave replies in minute hand writing, which developed into a nice game. I mentioned them to my agent and she thought it might be worth developing as a book. My editor at Random House, Annie Eaton, always liked the initial drawings and would occasionally enquire if I had done anything with them. After I had finished the Tom Trueheart books, I finally saw a way to develop the story as a novel with the girl in the red coat in the garden. It went through three very different drafts before it was finished.

Do you ever get tempted to ‘storyboard’ the creation of your characters in the way you used to ‘storyboard’ illustrations to a picture book?

I do have visual avatars of my characters in mind usually a strange amalgam of bits of drawings and half remembered films, or people I know or have known and so on.

Have any of your own doodles or sketches actually inspired one of your book characters?

In the case of Charity Delafield certainly yes.

How do you go about plotting a story or does it just flow through mind to pen as if you are scribing from a screening?

I am very much a ‘gardening’ type of author. Apparently there are two kinds of author, Architects and Gardeners.  Architects plan carefully, and gardeners scatter seed and wait for the growth. I tend to plan in retrospect, what Bernard Cornwell calls ‘putting doors in alleyways’.

Finally, what are you creating for readers right now?

I am working on several things. One is a book of my own poetry (for grown ups) called, Behind The Dusty Glass. This will be  a limited edition and finely printed on heavy paper, illustrated by me too, and in the case of the special copies each illustration will be hand coloured by me as well.

Click here for a preview of  poem and illustration for  “Behind the Dusty Glass”:  “Flora at Kings X” by Ian Beck from forthcoming “Behind The Dusty Glass”

pattern paper, mono, for cover

Ian Beck’s design of pattern paper, mono, for cover of his “Behind the Dusty Glass”

I am also publishing a book of poetry which I have written as if I were someone else; namely the husband of Lucia in the Mapp & Lucia books of the 1930s by E F Benson. He is called Pepino by Lucia and his book is called Fugitive Lyrics. The poems are mentioned in the novel and the appearance of the book is minutely described. He is dead and Lucia wants to be found reading the poems in her grief but can’t untie the ribbon on the binding. My late Brother in Law, Jonathan Gili, always wanted to see the fictional book made real and so it is being created in his memory as an elaborate spoof. I have also illustrated the poems and, again, specials will have hand colouring. I am also writing two novels. One is called The Sky Stone and is set in the 1300s, a big adventure story about art, lapis lazuli, and a fallen warrior which will be published by  Oxford University Press. For Random House I am hoping to write a series of stories collectively called; The Casebooks of Captain Holloway about a top secret department during world war two in London dealing with the mysterious and the occult and the inexplicable. The first will (I hope) be called The Disappearance of Tom Pile.  I also hope to write the story of the Sweep’s boy Silas and what happens to him up to and after the Charity Delafield story.

Thank you Ian! We have a feast to look forward to! Keep us posted! 🙂

Other books by Ian Beck – “Tom Trueheart” series Past World”!   

Review – The Hidden Kingdom, by Ian Beck

The Hidden Kingdom

The Hidden Kingdom

The Characters are drawn very visually in this  old world adventure with an Asiatic setting.  This is no surprise, as author Ian Beck , is also a master illustrator who half way through his illustrious career turned to story telling himself. The prince, Osamu is very typical of his era and culture, spoiled, petulant, and arrogant. Not a particularly likeable character till circumstances take through him together with Lissa, a girl soldier and Baku, a humble potter’s assistant and the three of them find themselves fleeing for their lives in an unforgiving winter, though lands torn by war with a supernatural origin.  Will the prince find his destiny, despite himself, as leader of his besieged people? Will the young potter ever find happiness with his love and nemesis the mysterious snow maiden?  And the fierce soldier girl, is she capable of more than dealing death? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyLad-6odnw&feature=related    

Review – The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck 

The Haunting of Charity Delafield

The Haunting of Charity Delafield

Have you ever felt you are a stranger to your own family, a prisoner in the life you find yourself living? The heroine of Ian Becks’ latest YA book experiences exactly that. Her father treats her a bit like a potentially dangerous alien, surrounding her with rules and regulations so she feels a prisoner in her ‘home’. And where is her mother…?  Children are good at unraveling conspiracies of silence, and this is exactly what Charity does with the help of a mischievous chimney sweep and a curious black cat. The cover is wonderful, a genuine enticement to open and savour contents, but then Ian Beck is a master illustrator as well as an award winning author. Peopled with larger than life characters and a magical world within a world, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The central character deserves a revisit in another adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XMwYigBNiw

Collaboration – an adventure to be savored!

I have found the opportunity to collaborate with illustrators something eminently rewarding, an experience that  enriches both participants and results in a more vibrant and much richer work. It does this because, in the best collaborations,  it  broadens the vision of the work, taking in as it does the illustrator’s perception of the story’s universe.

My first picture book, “Mending Lucille” was the result of a collaborationWorking with the amazing Sarah Davis was inspirational! I have gone on to collaborate closely with illustrators all over the world. I have found them on the internet’s illustration sites, on http://www.Jacketflap.com and on http://www.utales.com. We have created and are creating numbers of other picture books, some digitally published, some in process with print publishers and some I am still researching the right publishing outlet. Finding the ‘right’ outlet is very important. Not every publisher is ‘right’ for every book.

Digital Publishing

I have had the pleasure of collaborating with first time picture book illustrators, Jade Potts [USA], Jonas Sahlstrom [Sweden], Alexandra Krasuska [Sweden] and fellow Aussie, Jodi Magi [now of Abu-Dhabi] on uTales, and am about to have my latest collaboration, “Little Dragons’ Babysitter” released with Caroline Lee. Utales is non-exclusive which means  creators can take advantage of other  opportunities for their work as they arise. I have just signed a contract with Flying Books, Islreal, for “Rich Man, Poor Man” the book I did with Jodi Magi. My first digital collaboration is on http://www.istorytime, “At the Beach with Bucket and Spade” with Sarah Bash Gleeson [USA], whom I met on JacketFlap.com, a wonderful children’s literature networking site along with many other amazing and inspiring folk. Sarah is editor of magazine, “Dream Chaser” which focusses on children’s books and their creators.

Joanna Marple’s mini review of my latest digital book, “Xengu and the Turn of Tide”:

“A Tolkienesque tale, I love it!”

See a review of her first picture book in my last blog post with links to her interview with Darshana Shah Khiani on “Flowering Minds“.

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Thoughts on Collaborating, incorporating an Interview with Joanna Marple on uTales

Collaborating

Darshana Shah Khiani‘s interview on her Children’s Book Review site, “Flowering Minds”, with new children’s picture book author, Joanna Marple, is revealing on lots lof levels.

Joanna and Darshana met on children’s writer and illustrator FaceBook site, 12 x 12 , a very lively, supportive, share and learn community set up by Julie Hedlund. When Joanna released her very first picture book, a collaboration with the very talented Maja Sereda, Darshana jumped in with the interview offer.

“Snow Games” is a fun tumble and rumpus in winter’s wonderland aimed at 3 to 7 year olds. Maja’s wonderfully endearing little animal characterisations beautifully complement the story.

Joanna  shares what it was like to collaborate with Maja to create “Snow Games”. Close collaboration between author  and illustrator is a circumstance largely [and sadly] foreign to most traditional print publishing. For Joanna and Maja it was a fun and very rewarding experince. But the interview goes beyond the creation of  “Snow Games”. It also details Joanna’s experience of the uTales website and her thoughts on traditional and digital publishing.

Cover for “The Sea Cat Dreams” collaboration with Muza Ulasowski, a narrative verse story with a theme of surviving the changes in life.

Joanna Kindly makes mention of my collaboration with noted animal and wildlife illustrator, Muza Ulasowski, a story about surviving change, “The Sea Cat Dreams”. Muza was one of many wonderful illustrators I met on the uTales Facebook group and have since worked with to create a varied range of children’s books.

CAT’S CONCERT – latest modern classic by Bernhard Oberdieck to hit the shelves

Cat's Concert -1

Cat's Concert -1

Dirk Walbrecker and Bernhard Oberdieck

“Katzenkonzert”, The story of Bianca and Nero

How sad life can be if there is no one to play with! This is the fate of an old piano which is all alone in a cellar bar. Longingly, it remembers the days when the pianist Tom coaxed beautiful sounds out of it. But who appears in the cellar instead of Tom and starts to produce totally new sounds? First Nero, the amorous black tomcat with the white paws! Then Grrr, the amorous grey tomcat with the grim face! And finally Bianca, the elegant cute white cat with the black paws … A concerto for cats in major and minor modes, on black and white keys, with black, grey and white paws. And who plays best with whom in the end? The text and music of Katzenkonzert can be listened to on the accompanying CD – spoken by Dirk Walbrecker with jazzy classical improvisations by Jenö Nyári. Dirk Walbrecker studied German language and literature and educational science, among others. Since 1986 free-lance author: screenplays, radio plays, picture books, novels for children and young people. Many reading tours. For further information, see web site at http://www.dirkwalbrecker.de.

Cat's Concert - 2

Cat's Concert - 2

Bernhard Oberdieck sat at the desk of his father at the age of four already, decorating the back sides of business letters. Studied graphic design in Bielefeld, worked as art teacher and in advertising agencies. Since 1978 free-lance illustrator of more than 180 books for national and international publishers. For further information, see web site at http://www.kinderbuchillustration.com. When Cats are jazzing … A musical story for young and old cat lovers A concerto with black and white paws

Including CD

Target group: Children aged 6+, parents

32 pages (with CD) fully illustrated in four colours

hardbound 21,8 x 27,5 cm

ISBN: 3-7957-0186-4 (ED 20433) € 19,95

Cat's Concert -3

Cat's Concert -3

Cat's Concert-4

Cat's Concert-4

Teacher, Librarian, Parent ‘Resource’ Alert – “Ten of Them” poster – free download

Ten of Them text by J.R.Poulter, illustration by John Blackford

Ten of Them text by J.R.Poulter, illustration by Jason Ferguson

“Ten of Them” is available to download now free from http://www.sharing -books.com. Above I have inserted the name tags for each cat to assuage the curious!

Topics include:
cats, pets, counting, numeracy, numbers, sequencing, numerics, maths, mathematics, addition


Wacky Wordage No. 11- “Mes Feline” – Tricia Waterbury & J.R. Poulter

Bowler-Hatted-Cat by Tricia Waterbury

Bowler-Hatted-Cat by Tricia Waterbury

Cat Character No. 1: “Mes Feline” by J.R.Poulter

I have a cat in a bowler hat

Who struts his stuff in style!

He went to dine at Le Chez Feline

And ordered jalapos and wine.

>o >o > o >o

The wine was fine but the chilli was hot,

Hot as pepper from the pot!

The cat spat the chilli back into the vat,

Threw up in his bowler hat,

Was booted out onto the welcome mat.

>o >o > o >o

A sorry cat with a ruined hat,

He sadly sat under the neon sign

Drank the rest of the bottle of wine

And that was that for mes feline!