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Luvverly LISTS for Writers and Illustrators!

Hi Everyone! ūüôā

Lists can be extremely useful, especially when they are constantly being updated!

Here are SIX such.

The first, compiled by the enterprising and enthusiastic Brain Grove, is a list of US publishers who are currently accepting submissions for children’s books – http://j.mp/SVbnCk¬† – he also, very helpfully, adds links to each entry to take you straight to the site.¬† I also recommend his ebook on¬† query /submission letter writing.

A second list, an international one, that is¬† regularly updated is on Lou Treleaven’s Blog:

http://loutreleaven.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/childrens-publishers-accepting-unsolicited-manuscripts/

The third,  a veritable database of bloggers who interview and/or review, is continuously being updated by the very proactive authors, Delin Colon and Lisa Kalner Williams Рhttp://bit.ly/writerinterviewopps …

Fourth – a database of legends and folktales – if you are looking for inspiration for twists on fairytales or legends, fables etc – here is a whole swag!

Fifth – oh this one is an essential! The inimitable Katie Davis’s Tool Kit is¬† linked out under 5 ‘HEADLINE’ headings!!

If you haven’t joined www.jacketflap.com, I highly recommend it – an excellent networking site for all things related to children’s literature and books.

Latest addition, number six, Rachelle Burk has a wonderful resource site Р http://www.resourcesforchildrenswriters.com/ Р her awarded list of wonderfully helpful links is truly encyclopaedic!

Get busy and good luck!

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“The Sea Cat Dreams” has a Face Book Page

Muza Ulasowski, my wonderful collaborator, has created a fabulous FB page for our picture book, “The Sea Cat Dreams”! Muza’s wonderfully life like illustrations have perfectly captured ¬†the story in a way I could never have envisaged! She has truly captured the story’s essence! ¬†Here are some samples:

The story is about coping with life impacting change something that can happen planned [as in a house move] or completely unplanned [as with a natural disaster, accident, death etc]. Coping with change, as child/family psychologists and counselors all say, is something that has a profound impact, especially on the young. As with grief, adults are often too preoccupied with the change and its ramifications to be able to take in how the children, who are being impacted by change, are managing or not managing in the new setting/situation.

The cat in the story moves, accidently, from one environment & family on a farm, to another very different one, aboard a fishing boat.¬† He is then impacted further by the loss of a master he has come to love. But this is not the end. He moves through his life’s dramatic changes; firstly, by grieving, something we need to encourage each other and especially children, to do. He then reaches out to, shares with and cares for others also affected by loss, in this case, the fisherman’s widow. He gradually accepts his new life situation, not for a moment forgetting what has happened, but treasuring the wonderful memories he has.

The process of grieving must be acknowledged and the grieving child/adult be allowed to express their grief or sense of loss at the change in their lives and encouraged to do so.  Let them talk, let them share as much as they need to. Highlight the  constructive aspects, positive elements, e.g, wonderful memories of a dead friend, relative or pet. If the impacting change has involved a move Рbe it to a different school, to another suburb, another state, another country Рencourage  the keeping of contacts where possible, assist with the making of new contacts and the sharing of the process of moving and resettling, especially any humorous incidents.

The hope in writing this book, was to help children talk about their own stories of life changing events and to recognise, that whilst change is not always pleasant, we can become stronger for it and be better able to reach out and empathise with others experiencing its many faceted impact on their own lives.

Reviews and recommendations:

The Sea Cat Dreams is a beautifully written and illustrated book for children. In today’s world with so many young people facing loss and change, this important resource supports a child’s journey through grief and separation.

I am adding it as a good resource in my new book, the third edition of ‚ÄúLife and Loss‚ÄĚ.

Linda Goldman
Author, Children Also Grieve, Life and Loss

website: www.childrensgrief.net

Fellow in Thanantology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT), MS degree Counseling, Master’s Equivalency in early childhood education, LCPC and NBCC. She worked as a teacher and counselor in the school system for almost twenty years.

I’ve just lost a dear friend to cancer and¬†I felt refreshed after reading¬†the¬†Sea Cat’s Dreams story.

I found myself¬†identifying with the Sea Cat in the story and this metaphor¬†provided a comforting space from the painful loss, but it also¬†normalized it.¬†Like the cat’s life, our life¬†is often interrupted by hurtful events. Through the cat’s eyes I witnessed my sorrow and of those around me but in the midst of it all there is a safe, calm place on¬†our heart’s¬†sill where we know¬†we shall be well, allowing the sorrow to run its course¬†while cherishing the memories.

I would definitely use it with my clients, young and old.

Youla Overbey, MA, LLPC

http://muskegoncounseling.com/

Behavioral Health Counselor at Catholic Charities West Michigan; Professional Counselor at Muskegon Counseling & Educational Services

The Sea Cat Dreams is the latest bibliotherapy book penned by JR Poulter. The story, recounted in beautiful poetic form, centres around the life transitions of a cat and the devastating loss it has to bear, rendering it a very versatile bibliotherapy tool which can be used with children who have experienced different types of life transitions including change and loss in different dimensions. The slogan for the book is “Coping with change…” and this is an apt choice as change is paradoxically the constant in the cat‚Äôs life resulting in losses borne on lots of levels. The losses associated with the first transition in the cat‚Äôs life pale into insignificance compared to the devastating loss associated with the second and this bears out the author‚Äôs sensitivity to different losses having different impacts. The contrast is rendered starker by the positivity of the first transition in the cat‚Äôs life and this also shows awareness on the author‚Äôs part that not all life changes are unsettling.¬† These observations lend further testimony to the nature of the author‚Äôs outlook on life which is both realistic and positive and shines through her work. Poulter focuses on coping with change and all its ramifications. She highlights the relational aspect of coping with bereavement in caring for and comforting one another and gives prominence to the importance of memories and fantasy in coping with changes and loss.¬† The book is illustrated by Muza Ulasowski with delightful romantic imagery in hues that evoke comfort and warmth, blending seamlessly with the overarching theme of resilience in the face of tragedy.¬† The Sea Cat Dreams is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Claire Casha is a psychology graduate with over ten years’ experience of family therapy work. She is currently working as a research officer and reading for a Master in Family Studies at the University of Malta.

Preview and purchase: http://utales.com/books/the-sea-cat-dreams

Cover for The Sea Cat Dreams

Cover for the Utales edition of The Sea Cat Dreams

Part III – Journey of a Book – the Launch, 13th July, 2012

The launch was wonderful, a chance to ¬†see everything in place, admire friends’ exhibits, show it all off to¬†friends¬†and family and network! Sheryl Gwyther, Prue Mason of SCBWI and Michelle Richards [our¬†wonderful¬†Exhibition¬†coordinator from Brisbane Square Library] organised the launch event. Jenny Stubbs, Coordinator of one of Australia’s leading children’s book festivals, “Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature”, ¬†came down from Ipswich to open the exhibition. Jenny gave a stirring and encouraging speech to gathered authors, illustrators and friends, despite protesting she didn’t fancy herself a speaker . ūüôā

Visitors included Dr. Virginia Lowe of “Create a Kid’s Book” fame and Lucia Masciullio of¬†Blue Quoll Publishing, teachers and teacher librarians from Brisbane and Ipswich. Feedback has been excellent. It is vindicating, as an author or as an illustrator, to have people acknowledge the work that goes into a book’s creation and to have a new appreciation of the end result!

Read other reports of the Exhibition on Anil Tortop’s Blog and the SCBWI Facebook page. Better still, go along and have a squizz – Level 2, Brisbane Square Library, George Street Brisbane CBD, from 13th July to 31st August, 2012!

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Part II – Journey of a Book – setting up, hanging in there

The set up, which I thought would only take an hour, stretched to all morning. Coordinating the set up of an exhibition this size with so many ‘exhibitors’ had Michelle Richards, the Brisbane Central¬†Library’s¬†exhibition¬†coordinator, running a million directions at once, advising as to ‘how [it was¬†something¬†new to a lot of us], finding stands and ¬†suggesting modes of ¬†display, and generally¬†guiding¬†us all¬†through to ‘VOILA!’ – one ¬†fascinating and very varied exhibition!

But¬†there¬†was more – not just the glass cases to set up, but hanging around to do the hanging! ¬†this was not as straightforward as it sounds. We had to somehow attach our paintings to fine dangling wires and – here’s the worst part GET THEM TO SIT $#@*# STRAIGHT!

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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.

Wow of a launch results in 3 titles in reprint already!

Andrea has gotten it spectacularly right! The CEO of Tell Me a Story launched 10 new titles on 30th June, this year. I was privileged to be guest speaker at an event that had even seasoned politicians, Ian Rickuss, MP Lockyer, and Steve Jones, Mayor, Lockyer Valley Regional Council,  commenting on attendance numbers!

Assembled authors, illustrators and guest panelists with Andrea Kwast

Muza Ulasowski [Panelist] and Guest Speaker, J.R.Poulter

The audience was rapt. I have seldom been at a publishing event where everyone’s eyes shone! Andrea has the ¬†devoted support of her very wide community of readers and growing. She also has the ¬†good fortune to have a very devoted group of assistants in administrator, Rel, and local photographer and budding author herself, Jenni Smith.

Research and innovation, preparedness to think out of the box, are hallmarks of Andrea and her team. She believes stories are lurking everywhere and it just takes the right determination, editing and dedication to bring them out. That she is succeeding over and above expetaction is more than demonstrated by the sellout and reprint, within the first few weeks since the launch, of no fewer than 3 titles!

Hearty Congratulations Andrea and Team and to all her authors – keep writing!

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The Self-Publish Journey with a Children’s Book – Jo Linsdell’s Experience

Why Choose Self-Publishing ‚Äď Jo Linsdell‚Äôs experience as a new children‚Äôs picture book author

“Why did you choose to self publish?”¬†

I wanted full control over every aspect of the book. I wrote the story for my son and designed it to suit his tastes. the fact that he played such an active role in it’s creation makes it all the more special to me. By self publishing I got to call all the shots and make it exactly as I wanted it.

“Why did you choose to do the whole book yourself, instead of collaborating with a writer or an illustrator? Are there drawbacks to ¬†going it alone”

I studied art and design at college and love it. I figured I might as well put both my writing skills and my illustrating skills to practice. Why hire someone else when i can do it myself? There is a down side to going it alone though. For example, I had no problems in sketches the illustrations for the book, but making them digital and print quality was a whole different story. I’d never used a graphic program before and so it was a huge learning curve for me. Luckily for me, one of my tech savvy friends was on hand to give me advice and assistance. he saved the day more than once ūüėČ

“How has the experience been for you so far? “

Great. This book has been so much fun to do right from the beginning. I’m having fun with the marketing side of things too.

Is the process¬†something¬†anyone could undertake or do you need to be tech savvy?”

I think a certain amount of tech-savviness is definitely a plus. If you’re not lucky enough to have a graphic friend to help out with the technical stuff than I suggest going a different route. There’s so much you need to know, from what colours you can use to dealing with transparencies and layers, in order to get a quality end result. Producing a children’s book is not as easy as some people might think.

“How¬†cost effective¬†is self publishing?”

Very. I spent no money in the creation of the book. I wrote the text and did the illustrations myself. I’m also lucky to have a fantastic network of friends that volunteered to proofread for me and help out with my technical questions. My network has been amazing in supporting my promotional tour to launch the book too with many of them offering to host me on their sites, review the book and help spread the word.

The only cost I’ve had was $25 to have the book added to expanded distribution via createspace (to make it available to bookstores, onlne retailers, libraries etc…) and the cost of a proof copy.

“How¬†time effective¬†is self publishing with regards to ¬†all the promotional and marketing¬†work?”

Marketing takes up a lot of time. I don’t think self publishing differs particularly from other publishing routes when it comes to marketing though. Even if you publish through a traditional publisher you will be expected to do a certain amount of promoting yourself.

“Would you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?”

I did. Self publishing was plan A for me. The reputation attached to self publishing has changed a lot over the last few years and even big name authors are ditching their traditional publishers in favour of self publishing their work.

“Would you self publish again?”

Definitely. I would only consider using a traditional publisher if I couldn’t get the result I wanted on my own.

Jo Linsdell

www.JoLinsdell.com 

REVIEW

Out and About at the Zoo

Out and About at the Zoo

Jo has chosen a palette of bright flat colours such as young children love for her first picture book, ‚ÄúOut and About at the Zoo‚ÄĚ, which she wrote with her small son acting as honorary head of her children‚Äôs consumer advisory panel.¬† Her son influenced her story‚Äôs creation each step of the way, which¬†has¬†made the whole experience¬† of making this, their first picture book, very special indeed.

The images of the animals are cheeky and fun and are complemented by the simple narrative with a strong rhyming element. Children love the musicality in rhyme so I can see why her little boy loved this mode of storytelling. I’m sure other children will find it fun too!

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 ‚Äėsee‚Äô with your illustrator‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄúThe Hidden Kingdom‚ÄĚ [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, ‚ÄėThe Prince woke to the howling of wolves‚Äô, and I thought, ‚Äėwell I would like to write that story myself and see what happens‚Äô, 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‚Äôt 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, ‚ÄúThe Haunting of Charity Delafield‚ÄĚ [see review below]-

Charity Delafield, is a quintessential heroine for a disaffected generation. The working woman‚Äôs children, tossed from home to childcare, child care to school and back and never long enough in one place to identify with it as ‚Äėhome‚Äô, whom I suspect ask ‚ÄėWho 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?‚Äô¬† 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 ‚Äėstoryboard‚Äô the creation of your characters in the way you used to ‚Äėstoryboard‚Äô 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 ‚Äėgardening‚Äô 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 ‚Äėputting doors in alleyways‚Äô.

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! ūüôā

Other books by Ian Beck – ‚ÄúTom Trueheart‚ÄĚ series ‚ÄúPast World‚ÄĚ!¬† ¬†

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 РThe 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‚Äô 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 ‚Äėhome‚Äô. And where is her mother‚Ķ?¬† 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

Nicola’s Monsters! An interview with illustrator turned author, Nicola L. Robinson

Interview with Nicola L. Robinson, illustrator turned author and the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a change of hats!

Hi Nicola

First off, HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on the release of ‚ÄúThe Monster Machine‚ÄĚ with¬†Pavilion Children’s Books – a sort of mad inventor meets Granny‚Äôs knitted nightmares joy of a book!

Have you always had a strong visual sense of story?

Yes I have, I’ve always loved drawing (like all illustrators I should imagine!) but particularly loved drawing pictures with something happening in them, be it a big thing chasing a small thing or any kind of interaction between my creations. As a child I’d name the characters and make up stories around them..

I grew up and went to university and did a degree in Fine Art, which was fantastic, but I realised my work was more illustration and less ‘Fine Art’. I have always looked for the story in the picture, and love adding narrative details to things, be it a little mouse hiding behind a teapot or something more sinister watching through a crack in the curtain... I am a visual thinker, but at this point I didn’t consider writing the actual words down to go with the illustrations.

What were your favourite storybook images as a child and how did they influence you as an illustrator and the style you adopted as ‚Äėyou‚Äô?

I didn’t have many traditional picture books, I did however pour over photos of crocodiles and snakes from a really old book on ‘The Animal Kingdom’. One of my favourite storybooks was a book of Greek Myths which had a lot of colour plates inside of the various mythological beasts and some nice black and white ink illustrations, fairly traditional in style. My favourites were always the ones I could imagine myself being in, something with some perspective, or one where you can see inside an open door or window. I also loved the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, with Smaug the dragon. I have drawn many dragons since then and continue to do so today.

I have always loved the traditional fairytale illustrators like Arthur Rackham and others like Aubrey Beardsley and more recently Edward Gorey. Black and white ink illustrations in particular have always appealed to me, as has the sinister so I expect I have absorbed a little of their influence into my current working style. I certainly hope so!

Do you have a favourite among your previous illustrative projects? Would you tell us something of the creative process involved in bringing the images to light?

¬†My favourites change all the time, but I am still very attached to a detailed illustration from last year titled ‘Downtown’

It started off like so many drawings as a few scribbles on the page, I could see a cityscape of sorts in my head… I often write lists of words and ideas to include in a piece, little descriptions like ‘Dark alleys’ and ‘Iron Bridges’ just as little word pictures, alongside thumbnails which I find very helpful.

1 The Rough idea is drawn

From here it gets its structure and is drawn out. If I’m going to be working in colour I usually stretch some paper at this point before transferring the idea to it.

I work up the details in pencil…

2 The pencil sketch

2 The pencil sketch

Before going back in with a fine nibbed pen using black waterproof ink to make an underdrawing…

3 The Ink Drawing

3 The Ink Drawing

and here I decided I needed to add some life into the scene, I knew the city itself was alive and alert, but it had to be interacting with something, so I re introduced the tiny little figures on the bottom right.

I then add my colour and shading using various materials including pencils, watercolour acrylics and other coloured inks before transferring to Photoshop where I make the final enhancements…

4  The finished piece 'Downtown'

4 The finished piece ‘Downtown’

 

I love collaborating on picture books! Have you been able to collaborate with authors or have the books you have worked on been more a case of the traditional ‚Äėpublishers keeping at least an ocean between author and illustrator‚Äô?¬† What are your thoughts on collaborating as opposed to working on a project entirely on your own?

I have had a fairly traditional experience so far as an illustrator and have not had much contact with the authors whose work I have illustrated, although there are a few who have connected with me through twitter which has been great. You do wonder whether the author likes what you’ve drawn, and you hope they do, so it is lovely to hear it from them!

I think collaborating is a wonderful way to work the creative process, and a way to bring more creative ideas and experience to the table, being able to communicate directly and discuss ideas with one another has to be a good way to work. Providing you get on well and have harmonious ideas of course!

That being said I can’t deny enjoying being both the author and illustrator for my picture book, for me I found it saved time with regards to putting the book together in that I was the one who could edit both text and pictures simultaneously, which was handy.

When and why did you decide to go it alone as author/illustrator?

I have been illustrating for a good few years now but had not had the opportunity to be considered for a picture book, and I had always wanted to illustrate one, they always look like so much fun. However I hadn’t tailored my portfolio towards this with my work being geared towards an older audience, so I wrote one for myself.

I honestly wasn’t sure how people would take to it though, I had my illustrator hat well and truly screwed onto my head, so it was a bit alien to think of myself as an author too.

Did you do the traditional storyboard for your book?

The Monster Machine Storyboard

The Monster Machine Storyboard

I did, I had a look at other existing picture books and also had a look online to find out the right format. Square seemed like a good shape, and already suited my machine drawings, and I started drawing lots of little rectangles into my notebook… [see storyboard left] before working out the page breaks and what images I wanted to put on each page with lots of crude little thumbnails like these –

Thumbnail-1

Thumbnail-1

Thumbnail-2

Thumbnail-2

Honestly, how did you find the journey from inspiration to publication? I’m sure other illustrators will be fascinated to get a belated peek over your shoulder into the whole process.

Patience is a virtue, as the journey is not a quick one!

After the initial inspiration had set in and I knew my subject matter, I tackled the words. I knew it was also important to have a book which would read well out loud, so kept rereading it until I was happy.

I then took this along with my thumbnails and rough storyboard and I set about drawing up fairly detailed pencil spreads, and a cover. I picked out a couple of the spreads and worked them up in colour to give the publishers a flavour of how the book would look. I then put it all together into an A4 sized mailer. There is quite a lot of work involved in putting together a manuscript idea to pitch, particularly, when you’re doing the illustrations too.

Pencil rough of interior spread for The Monster Machine

Pencil rough of interior spread for The Monster Machine

Colour version of spread for The Monster Machine

Colour version of spread for The Monster Machine

I researched likely publishers, which I thought may be interested in my work, spent a lot of money on stamps and envelopes and sent them out into the universe. I also discovered the post box on my road has a really small letterbox that day so I had to walk a few miles to the nearest post office to send them off. Lesson learned.

Then came the waiting….

It did cross my mind that as both Author and Illustrator I was in a sense putting all my eggs in one basket. What if the publisher liked my illustrations but hated the story? Or worse, as an illustrator, what if they liked my story but hated my illustrations? Would I have wanted someone else to illustrate it? Probably not…

Fortunately, it wasn’t too long until my publisher contacted me saying they were interested in my work and invited me down to London, which was a wonderful experience, and such a relief to think that someone else likes the idea, something which I have written! After some more waiting, I was finally given the go ahead and contracts were signed. (It is very important to fully understand any contract you go into, if you aren’t sure get some legal advice to make sure you’re absolutely happy with the terms, read all the small print!)

The actual writing and illustrating of the book was the quickest part, I was lucky that I did not need to make too many major changes and I just set about working my way through the book. I submitted all the work ahead of deadline, which was nice, and also gave me some time to work out little extras for the fly pages and a This Book Belongs to page etc.

For me the longest part has been waiting for the actual book to come out, and be ‘published’ which happens a good few months after all the artwork is signed off. I did get my advance copies in the interim which was wonderful! They looked great, and I was really pleased with them. You rarely get your name on the cover unless you’re the author so it was really nice to see it there for once!

One of the most frustrating things has been friends and family and those not in the publishing universe constantly asking about ‘the book’ and other than being able to say ‘it’s on its way’ I haven’t been able to give a satisfactory response yet. But now it’s actually out which is nice! ūüôā Now they can see for themselves.

I‚Äôve been tempted, from time to time, to illustrate my own book but feel I am a learner artist, not an illustrator of story. It is quite a different skill.¬† I have, on occasion, used illustrator friend‚Äôs orphan images to create the story hiding in the image ‚Äď a sort of collaboration in reverse ‚Äď a different kind of challenge and creative pleasure. Did you get the image inspiration first or the¬† ‚Äėstory‚Äô inspiration? Can you tell us about the evolution of your ‚Äėstory‚Äô?¬†

Chicken or egg? In this case it was the Machine. I can pinpoint the beginning of the story itself from the day I sat down and sketched a machine.

The Monster Machine Machine sketch

The Monster Machine Machine sketch

The Monster Machine - The Machine in colour

The Monster Machine – The Machine in colour

I love machines so this isn’t unusual for me. I was thinking about the machine and it crossed my mind that the machine would be a machine that makes something, monsters…. it really went from there. I worked backwards from the machine and then forwards from it creating the monsters.

Something which I have enjoyed, which has come from being both author and illustrator is the fact that I can write about things I love to draw, which is great. I love monsters and I love machines. Obviously you hope a good editor will match a manuscript with the perfect illustrator who will love the subject and themes it requires, but in my experience, there is no surer way than writing it yourself.

Finally ‚Äď what next? Have you anything else¬† ‚Äėon the drawing board‚Äô yet?

There’s always something on ‘the drawing board’ it is a matter of getting the time to coax it out to its full potential! Indeed what next?! I’m currently working on a pop-up book project which is great fun, and getting some ideas for more picture books! I’d love to do another one.

Thank you very much for having me Jennifer!

The Monster Machine has its own website to match the book- www.monstermachine.co.uk

Nicola’s website www.nlrobinson.co.uk

Researching the environment of story

By happy accident, I¬†discovered¬†the ¬†way to travel interstate, overseas,¬†inter-culturally¬† and explore the ¬†ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.

It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the

Inspiration for “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”

inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity. ¬†I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need¬†to¬†explore.’

West Hougham, Kent, country road, travelled via Google Maps street view.

I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down¬†country¬†lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…

Now, if I need to capture¬†something¬†of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address.¬† Real estate notices for sale/auction/for rent are a good source, then go explore in Google Earth. ¬† Wander around that area, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as ¬†street art, verge¬†gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings. Don’t forget YouTube – Example – Dingle, and with Celtic song overlay Dingle

I have also found that  exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the lifestyle and inhabitants of the town. Many homes  give a slideshow or even a video tour online.  This helps you pick up on details of lifehome decor, layout, from wall hangings to  cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden. Example.

Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a ¬†‘feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!

Lovely example of a virtual tour – 1893 mansion, St Georges Road, Toorak.

http://imagetrack.com.au/pv/view.php?sc=ffdc8554de&v=/v/ffdc8554de

Another lovely virtual tour – historic “Douglas”, built in 1881, in Birchgrove, Sydney.

Visualising Story

The tips above, of course, are beneficial to¬†illustrators¬†as well. Not many can afford to jet around the¬†world¬†on location research for images. ¬†Other ways¬†to¬†‘get in the setting’ for free include YouTube clips.¬†This is even a Youtube video clip on West Hougham, Kent. Sadly, it doesn’t feature that house…

Other ways¬†to¬†‘get in the setting’ for free, besides YouTube clips, are Flickr and photographic collections held in State Libraries and on¬†places¬†like Pinterst. Jeff Faria recently sent me ¬†a great link to early circus posters – fascinating. Little did he know I am¬†currently¬†writing a story ¬†which involves Civil War period circuses in the US.

If your story requires an historical setting, you are in luck! Heritage listings in Australia and the UK are excellent.

Below are some very useful research sites¬† for historic buildings in Australia –

Federation style dwellings   lists many excellent buildings, of which Alister Brae, Pymble is an outstanding example.

Additional links are given for some residences, as in the case of “Venice”, Randwick.

The NSW Heritage database also gives excellent information. TIP: Put in the street name and the suburb to narrow your search for a particular building. Just putting in the suburb will bring all heritage listed buildings in that suburb. Putting in the street number and street will draw a blank. Putting in the property name will sometimes bring up additional material otherwise unaccessed, e.g., “Glen Rhoda”, a gothic residence in Woollahra. Using the¬† name in the search brings up information on the existing residential property, No.71, and and an additional link to the listing for, No.67, property formerly part of the original “Glen Rhoda”.

For anyone researching Kew, Camberwell or Hawthorn buildings [mainly but not only residences] from 1860s through to 1969, this site is a must. Other Councils will have similar sites.

Open Gardens, Australia has links to various of its  most notable gardens. Windyridge shows the garden in all four seasons in a map based virtual tour.

International settings – the virtual tour

Aside from a drop in to street level via Google Earth, many online sites feature virtual tours of historic settings, buildings,¬†rambles around towns, cities and country areas.¬†A few examples –

Castles –

Eilean Donan, the iconic Scottish Castle featured on  innumerable  calendars, tourist  brochures and used as a location in numbers of  feature films [you need Java 7 to see the virtual tour on the official website] can be viewed in Youtube Clips.

The best clip of Eilean Donan, features a commentary on the Castle’s history and shows the exterior, surrounds and interior in much more detail.

Neuschwanstein [Castle that inspired the Disney fairytale castle] – site tour;

Virtual Tour of Neuschwanstein with  commentary in English subtitles;

Virtual sight-seeing – contemporary and historical

Paris

A walk around Paris by video [sadly not signposted but gives a good  overview of  everyday life];

Louvre  Рhistorical commentary and tour [mainly external],   contemporary , history [in French] and tour of architectural features;

Tuileries, Paris  surrounds, exterior, interior in brief;

Whatever the historic building or the town, you are quite likely to find a youtube clip or at least flicker photos, then there is always Google earth! Have fun!