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1. Very short talks

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By Chloe Foster

We have seen an abundance of Very Short Introductions (VSI) authors appearing at UK festivals this year. Appearances so far have included at Words by the Water festival in Keswick, Oxford Literary Festival, and Edinburgh Science festival. The versitility of the series and its subjects means our author talks are popular at a variety of different types of festivals. First up, Words by the Water:

Later this month, we’ll have talks from VSI authors at Chipping Norton Literary Festival on the 26th and 27th April. This is followed by a series of talks at Ways with Words festival in Devon on the 12th July, Kings Place festival in London on the 14th September, and Cheltenham Literature festival from 3rd -12th October.

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS., and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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The post Very short talks appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. cambridge lit fest 2014

Cambridge was all yellow and daffodils this morning for the Cambridge Lit Fest! Here's my Oliver and the Seawigs co-author Philip Reeve with me and Children's Events co-ordinator Sabine Edwards.

I got a lot of compliments on my hat, so I thought I would share its humble origins in case you fancied owning one, too. (Also, the bucket handle made a rather fine matching choker necklace.)

Cambridge is such a gorgeous city, and a great place to swan about with a ukulele, wearing a sailor dress and a squid on one's head. Here are Reeve and me leading the Eep Parade:

The audience helped us come up with things to draw to build a Seawig for a Rambling Isle:

And we led everyone in drawing their own Sea Monkeys!

I was surprised at the signing session that not only had people drawn Sea Monkeys, but a couple kids had also drawn their own Rambling Isles. Cool!

The culinary highlight of the festival definitely had to be these Chelsea buns. Chelsea buns are usually nothing like American cinnamon rolls - usually drier, with less icing and cinnamon. And I miss American cinnamon rolls. But an American would call these cinnamon rolls and I can honestly say they are better than any I have ever tasted in the USA. People on Twitter let me know that they were made by Fitzbillies on Trumpington Street. I may just have to pay it a visit on my next trip.

One of the fun things about a literary festival is bumping into other writers and illustrators in the Green Room. (That's what festivals call their hospitality room, even if it is not green. I'm not quite sure why that is.) Here's writer Tracey Corderoy and illustrator Steve Lenton with their characters Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam!

We got to meet writer Helen Dennis for the first time, and she and Philip discovered that they had both gone to the same school in Brighton, Stanley Deason. It was shut down for being terrible, was dubbed by The Guardian as 'the worst school in Britain' and Reeve used to rather enjoy watching it be at the absolute bottom of annual Ofsted reports until it got shut down. Helen said the bus drivers used to get so scared of the students that they'd sometimes refuse to stop at the bus stops. Funnily enough, Emily Gravett also went there, so it can count at least three illustrious authors, a Carnegie medal and a Greenaway medal among its alumni, which is pretty good for any school. Helen and Philip both sounded rather proud of it, and said it was a good place because if you weren't busy burning down the bus shelters, they'd count you a star pupil, and leave you alone to get on with reading, writing your own stories, whatever you wanted, really.

On the way out, we bumped into writer Darren Shan (pictured here) and also Marcus Sedgwick (but I didn't manage to grab a photo because the cab was just about to pull away).

One of the other fun things was getting to stay in one of the college's halls of residence. (The students were away for half-term break.) I stayed in Christ's College, which is a gorgeous building with ancient courtyards, but the dorm was a big modern thing, which my friend Bridget Hannigan referred to as 'The Typewriter'.

The Typewriter had a Darwin Garden out front, so we mucked around with the guy, whom I wouldn't have recognised without his beard. (Yes, Reeve's pondering his origins here.)

A huge thanks to Sabine, Festival Manager Susannah Gibson, young Greg for looking after us in the Green Room, the student who cleared all their stuff away so I could stay in his or her room, local friends who met up with us the evening before (including comics artist teams Emma Vieceli and Andrew Ruddick, and Woodrow Phoenix) and Bridget Hannigan, and everyone who came to our event and made it so much fun! You can see other tweets about the festival and photos over on the #CamLitFest hash tag.

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3. Sketchers-in-Residence at the Sheaf Valley Festival

On Saturday, I met up with some of my SketchCrawl chums, where we had a little stall at the Sheaf Valley Festival

It is an annual festival and is held in a fantastic location: an amphitheatre, right in the centre of Sheffield, cut into the steep hill behind the station, with great views down over the city: 

Just like last year, SketchCrawl North were invited to record the occasion in our sketchbooks and were given the stall for free, to help spread the word about Urban Sketching

We took it in turns to man the stall and, in-between, went out drawing the fun. There was plenty to go at. I especially enjoyed the challenge of sketching the dancers. 

Throughout the afternoon, there were performances by lots of different kinds of dancers - all ages, from quite young children up to adults, and all in fabulous costumes, like these majorettes:

The Son de America were particularly good to sketch, in their long, swirly skirts and I loved that massive sombrero:

But possibly my favourite was the Indian dancing, with it's very particular movements. The saris were glorious. One little girl of about 9 did a long and remarkably confident solo dance. She came over to see my drawing of her afterwards and her mum took a photo.

Our stall made a very handy 'base-camp': a place to chat, chill and eat cake between sketching bouts (we were opposite a way-too-tempting cake stall). There was also a massive stall (about 4 trestle tables, laid out end-to-end) celebrating different kinds of bread, all baked and donated by local people and businesses:

I am amazed, looking back through my sketchbooks from the day, that I managed so many drawings, as I seemed to spend quite a long time chatting. It was a really sociable day - more time than usual to talk to my fellow sketchers, plus and I kept bumping into people I knew.

At 3 o'clock there was a dog show. I remembered it from last year and so was really looking forward to it. There were all kinds of dogs, big and small: some beautiful, some cute, some bouncy, some hairy - almost all rather over-excited by the occasion. They had proper judges from Crufts (!) but it was still absolutely bonkers and really funny:

We were very lucky with the weather. Despite threatening clouds and occasional wild gusts which threatened to blow the stall away, we stayed dry all day and had some bouts of gorgeous sunshine to wallow in. 

The day finished off with live music. I have always had a soft spot for barbershop quartets, so especially enjoyed the Manor Tops. I gathered a crowd of children behind me while I was doing this sketch ('Can you draw me and my friend?' 'You're right good, you' 'How'd you draw that so fast?'):

It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon: local people, celebrating local talent and showcasing local produce and community groups, all having a good time, hanging out together in the sunshine - exactly what local festivals should be about. SketchCrawl North collected several new recruits over the day too. 

A big thank you to the organisers: a great success. I'm already looking forward to next year!

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4. Dubai: Emirates Lit Fest 2014

I've been to the desert! And taken far too many glam sand photos!

Also, I have met a camel. Did you know their noses are so hairy? When I got an invitation to come out to Dubai for the Emirates Festival of Literature, I talked with writer Philip Ardagh, who'd been in previous years and he said, 'YOU MUST GO, IT IS AMAZING' (or something to that effect). And Geraldine McCaughrean told me such intriguing stories from her visit that I was absolutely bouncing with excitement to see if all myself.

And it WAS amazing. I think the authors of books for adults were slightly surprised just HOW popular the children's events were! The kids there - both Emirati and expat - were falling over themselves to get books, read books, talk about books, write and draw. My Oliver and the Seawigs co-author Philip Reeve went out, too, and we got completely caught up in the excitement.

(Read the rest of the article here.)

I mean, how many times do you get to see writer-illustrator Sally Gardner and journalist Kate Adie riding a camel together?

Or even better, getting off a camel? Watching other people dismount from camels is by far the most funny part of the camel riding experience.

Here's Horrid Henry writer Francesca Simon bonding with her camel.

But that was nothing like the way her theatre director son, Josh Stamp-Simon, bonded with that camel. I have about twenty pictures of Josh and his camel snogging.

I thought at first that the camel and I were getting on beautifully, but she just wanted my drink. *sob* By the way, look how big her head is. Camel heads are HUGE.

I took even MORE photos of performance poet-musician Walter Wray trying to take a selfie with the camels. I don't think anyone else was watching, but he was going at it with such dedication and gusto that it had me quietly bent over with dry-heave laughing. He was like some Hollywood comedy film from the 1930's.

Performance poet Pam Ayres got into the swing of things and before she left, drew a camel on the signature board in the festival Green Room. A camel drawing by Pam Ayres, how cool is that?

Reeve nearly had a fanboy meltdown, he loves Pam Ayres. My one festival mission from him was to get a photo with Pam Ayres. But she insisted he come in, too. We love Pam. Reeve even made a brief return to Twitter for her:

Pam read some very funny poems at the festival Opening Ceremony. Here's one I found on the Internet. I was also hoping to find some Seventies footage of her in her Holly Hobbie dresses, but no luck yet.


On the Opening Night, we had a great performance from local schools, with a song commissioned just for the evening on the theme of 'Metamorphosis', the children all dressed in colourful Middle Eastern garb:

Speaking of Metamorphosis (think butterfly, not Kafka), costume and dressing up played a big part in my week's activities.

In fact, some of the fancy headgear was improvised on the spot:

Reeve joined me in the efforts, note his swanky crystal crown.

Even the volunteers got into the swing of things! Here's a two-pronged Jennifer Martin:

I've always envied the Emirates Airline flight attendants their red pillbox hats, and we did a brief Emirates-Pirates swapsies. (I failed in my mission to acquire a red hat full-time.)

At the desert picnic, everyone got a lovely headscarf. Reeve likes this picture because he thinks with the sunglasses that it makes him look like a Tough Dude. Don't mess with the Reeve.

Actually, I think it looks better on him as a necktie. We took way too many desert selfies. I could post them all here but you'd never read my blog ever again.

Paul Blezard (who once chaired my Giant Comic Jam event with Reeve and Martin Brown at Hay Festival) didn't want anything to do with head gear but sported an excellent skirt instead. (Check out his Saving Grace book crowdfunding project.)

And this couple, Deon Meyer and ____ (oo, can someone help me with her name? I'm trying to remember! She's very nice!) looked amazing in their desert garb. I never saw any Emirati women wearing white, just the men, so I was wondering if they might look at her a bit askance. But she told me that a woman in the lift said that she looked 'very Persian', so that was okay. Knowing which clothes to bring on this trip was a bit challenging, I didn't want to cause any cultural offense. But I never had any problems, everyone was very relaxed about short sleeves and stuff like that.

Just an hour before I left, I found this BRILLIANT shop called Alyashmac, in the Gallery mall connected to the InterContinental Hotel. I had to catch my plane, which was such a shame because there were so many amazing dresses in there. If I ever go back, I'm going to make such a beeline for that place. The shop owner said that the styles aren't the kind that Emirati women wear, but he gets a lot of customers from Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. So swish.

One of the great things about the festival is that it's nearly a week long, so we all get far more time than most festivals to meet the other guests. While I was looking at the programme before I flew out there, one of the people I was most curious to meet was Darcey Bussell, one of Britain's all-time best-loved ballerinas. I was a bit shy about even asking for a photo, but Darcey insisted I sit down on the sofa between her and Lea Sellers, and we went all happy-snappy on the cameras.

Later I watched this video about her, and I was struck by the fact that she had retired at almost exactly the same age that I felt my career was starting as a 'proper job', something I could live on. I look to illustrators such as Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr and Quentin Blake, who are in their 80s and 90s and still working, and it's strange to think that in ballet, I would be finishing my work and moving on to something else. But one similarity is that Darcey said it took her 14 or 15 years to get into her job, and I think it's taken me about that long, too. I started later than her, I wasn't focused from such a young age on making books.

(Direct YouTube link)

Oh, and the other similarity is that we both had books to talk about! Besides her Magic Ballerina children's books, I saw her signing copies of this lovely coffee table book, Darcey Bussell: a Life in Pictures.

But all this retrospection, it isn't a whole 'life'; Darcey's still going strong, and... ha ha, we're still taking pictures of her. Also, the real-life 8-year-old Dulcie who stars in my There's a Shark in the Bath book (and loves dancing) was extremely jealous I met her hero. I got the tweet from her mum almost as soon as I posted the photo.

Another person I was thrilled to meet was Joanne Harris, writer of Chocolat (inspiring the film of the same name) and very funny Twitter person. (She's @Joannechocolat.)

Also, great food! Sometimes strange food! Like this Ghost Toast with dressing syringe at the Murder Mystery Dinner.

I was a bit nervous about the Murder Mystery Dinner, that we'd all have to act out cheesy roles or something. But it turned out to be great fun, we got to watch the performance, and our table mates turned out to be fascinating: one was a headmaster at a school attended mostly by children of the royal family, another couple frequently rented the house right next to Reeve's house. His alpacas graze in their field. Small world or what? Here's Reeve's sketch of one of the actors. And a picturesque pudding.

In fact, all the meals were so good that when I hit on a single item of food that was rather tasteless and indifferent (one lone, green, savoury jelly), it stood out most strangely. Note Joanne's deeply empathetic expression.

The festival asked me to do a Princess & Pirates event, featuring my picture book with writer Gillian Rogerson, You Can't Scare a Princess!. And quite a few of the kids dressed up! I didn't get many photos from my own stage shows, but here's a picture in the local Al Bayan newspaper.

They had good fun learning how to draw Captain Waffle. (I have lots more fun activity ideas here on my website if anyone went to the event and wants to do more related creative stuff.)

We didn't mention dressing up for my Oliver and the Seawigs event with Philip Reeve, but this girl came as an excellent mermaid. Yay! Look at the great drawings she made during the event:

One of the most exciting things about doing events is when we arrive and the children already know and love the books, and have done activities featuring them. And these kids had! Reeve and I both took walks over to the Gallery exhibition in the shopping mall to see our books featured in children's artwork.

Here are some gorgeous paintings inspired by my book with writer Claire Freedman, Superkid:

And a painted copy of the cover of my newest book, There's a Shark in the Bath! While it's good to come up with new ideas, it's also sometimes very helpful – as an exercise – to copy the work of illustrators you admire, to find out how they did it, and get an overall sense of the colours, composition, and lettering.

I like these new versions of the Oliver and the Seawigs covers, featuring bands of colourful sky.

Here are a few close-ups of the characters:

And a very cheeky Sea Monkey! Eep! :D

But we didn't spend our whole time in the hotel and mall, we also got to go on a tour of the old trading part of Dubai. Reeve shot this photo of me approaching the spice market:

I love these old boats. Living by the Thames in London, I've had to come to terms with the fact that the old days of shipping are dead - the days when people heaved crates and barrels and shipyards swarmed with people - and container shipping has taken over. But these boats still unload the old way, and it was fascinating to see huge piles of boxes on the quayside. Someone could do a fascinating photo essay of these beautifully painted boats and their workers.

Amazing textiles and embroidered dresses in the market:

Exotic biscuits (I could have bought a Lexus!) and colourful spices. That's Georgina Walsh, the lit fest cultural and social programme manager, examining some sort of sponge with cooking expert Prue Leith.

I'll have to ask someone for our local guide's name, but he was very funny; he relished his ability to speak English and come up with startling and often wonderful new ways of saying things. Our favourite phrases included:

* 'Give me your laser-like attention'
* 'Make your bladder gladder'
* 'Ginger up your steps' / 'Please walk gingerly'
* 'If you have any questions, I am disposable'
* 'I hope you enjoyed our intensive and extensive tour and that it lived up to your most utopian expectations'
* ... And another one that is so good, I won't tell you, because it will probably end up in a book.

I only remembered these because I got Reeve to help me write them down in my notebook on the bus ride back. We also quite liked this phrase from the House of the Poet:

When we next saw camels, we made sure that none of them footed on us. ...But in case people think I'm being critical, it's just like the food; the English people spoke was so excellent that the rare, slight variations only gave their speech extra charm.

While we were in the old quarter, we also visited a house hotel with lots of art displayed in it.

This photo made me laugh, because I always wear a lot of colour, whereas Reeve revels in different tea-stained tones of brown. I like to call it 'The Sepia World of Reeve'.

Our guide also led us to the Women's Museum, not far from the market. We were given a gracious talk by the museum's founder, Professor Rafia Obaid Ghubash. It was fascinating to see the focus on women, and it's great that the museum is a place for people to gather, remember historic women from the region, read their poetry and discuss modern culture. But I struggled to relate to many of the ideals the museum seemed to put forward. As a professional woman who has decided not to have children, I didn't understand how to appreciate the seeming emphasis on women primarily as childbearers and mothers, and that role seeming to define their value. What about women who choose not to bear children, cannot have them, or define themselves by other things?

Also, I had a hard time knowing how to feel positive in any way about the display of facial coverings, that looked very much like heavy moustaches or horse bridles. Our professor guide spoke positively about them giving women dignity, but I still don't understand how, in a hot climate, men could wear cool white and keep their faces uncovered, while women wear heavy synthetic black garments and obscure their faces with something that looks so uncomfortable and impractical.

Again, the Burq'a seemed very impractical for passport photos. It made me feel that women were interchangeable, in a way that men weren't. Perhaps I misunderstood the exhibitions, but it made me see the need for meeting together with people from different cultures so we can discuss, debate, question our own beliefs and take away the best things from each culture.

But we can all agree about PENS. Emiratis appreciate a good pen. Here's a lovely case from the a museum of Dubai's oldest school. I love it that Arabic culture totally appreciates that writing is as much a visual art form as illustrating.

In fact, all the authors were given a very good fountain pen at the festival, sponsored by Montegrappa. Here's my note of appreciation in their guest book.

Speaking of facial covering, I was glad for the chance to meet in the Green Room someone I would have passed in the hallway without seeing, picture book writer and illustrator Maitha Al Khayat. Here she is with science fiction novelist Noura Noman. Noura's also planning to go into publishing Arabic comics, which would be fabulous. (You can follow her on Twitter as @NouraNoman.) Maitha (@MaithaALkhayat) has worked in the past on a picture book with British writer Vivian French (also at the festival), and she has a book coming out about a child who can recognise her mother, covered all in black, by her colourful socks.

It was great being able to talk comics, but we also talked about facial covering, which Maitha does find gives her dignity and the ability to keep her looks from getting in the way of relating to people. I find that the veil itself gets in the way of me managing to connect with people at an event; I've led events in Leicester with rows of mothers in the back covered in black, all but their eyes. I've gotten used to it, but one of the things that inspires me when speaking to groups of people is the quick flash of smiles when they connect with something I've said, and I can gauge the talk by seeing how animated their faces are. Then again, I feel slightly disingenuous, since I'm not exactly in my natural state either; I hide behind big hats, lipstick and costume. But that's about choice, I choose to do it, and so does Maitha. I really don't like people covering their faces, but I'm much more against it if it's something they're forced to do, either by a husband or a culture. I'm glad Maitha let me see her face when there weren't men around, but I missed saying hello to her later when she passed in the hallway because I only later realised it had been her. I'm a visual person, I miss the loss of instant individuality. But I'm very glad to have met Maitha and Noura and listened to them talk about it. It would be nice to talk more about comics, I hope to see them again some day.

Comics! Most of my events at the festival were stage events, but I also led one smaller comics workshop.

Since the workshop featured comics collaboration, I was glad that Philip Reeve agreed to come along with me and do a Comics Jam with me in front of everyone. I did the first panel, he did the second, I did the third, he finished the story.

Here are a couple of the group's Comic Jams! Each page had four diffent authors working on it!

I was glad how much the group really got stuck in to it, particularly one dad, who came up and thanked me at the end and said how much he'd enjoyed the activity. I love it when adults get involved, for three reasons: 1, because comics are for all ages; 2, because kids take the session much more seriously when they realise they're working alongside adults, not being babysat; 3, kids realise adults can have a laugh and be playful, too, even when they're focusing and working hard on something.

I wish I could have gone to all the other authors' events; there were so many amazing choices on offer! Reeve and I did sneak into the back of Vivian French's Picture Book Masterclass before our comics session, and were able to stay for three-quarters of it. Totally ace, that woman is so clever, and she really got everyone thinking. I've run into Viv several times at the Edinburgh Festival, and one of the highlights of this trip was getting to have meals with her and get to know her better. (Viv's @fivekingdoms on Twitter.)

We had a good laugh at the Emirates display of a First Class airline compartment, posing like celebrities. Viv tweeted this photo I took of her in the paparazzi spotlight.

Another very cool thing about the festival were two Emirati women who attended some of our events and made murals about them, right while we were talking! I'm horribly disappointed I didn't get a photo of them, and if anyone can tell me their names, I'll write them in here. I didn't even realise they were doing it in our Seawigs session and was completely bowled over with amazement when I walked into the festival bookshop and saw this huge mural:

Some close-up detail:

And here's the one they did at my Pirate event! Isn't that awesome?

Another event I got to attend was Philip Reeve's event with Charlie Higson. (Eoin Colfer was supposed to be part of it, too, but he was unwell.) Some of the schools had to leave early, and the guys signed a few books before they started.

So many of the children knew their work very well; the authors undoubtedly both felt very encouraged by that, and it showed, in a sparkling good session, touching on Charlie's Young James Bond books, the Doctor Who book for which both had written short stories, and Philip's Here Lies Arthur, Mortal Engines, and Larklight books. You can follow them at @monstroso and @philipreeve1 on Twitter. Send in Pam Ayres if Reeve's off Twitter for too long.

More excited fans:

I even got to sit with the speakers at dinner and watch the amazing fountains at the base of the Burj Khalifa: highest tower in the world, world's largest fountain. They put on amazing musical water shows every half hour, they were brilliant to watch.

Here's Sally Gardner (a href=http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/data/"https://twitter.com/TheSallyGardner">@TheSallyGardner</a>) watching the display:

The restaurant with the great view was slightly disappointingly British, but, hey, you can't go wrong with a good PIE.

We had lots of wonderful dinners. At this one, I ran around being slightly obnoxious and papping people on my iPhone. Here's Francesca Simon with Christina Lamb, journalist and co-author of I Am Malala, which has been very much in the news. Christina gave a great talk at the Opening Ceremony about working with Malala as the girl was recovering from being shot in the head, and we watched on-screen a message that Malala had recorded for us. (Francesca and Christina are @simon_francesca and @christinalamb on Twitter.)

Oo, selfie with Jeremy Paxman! He liked my hat.

And here are picture book legends Helen Oxenbury and her husband, John Birmingham. I'd never met either of them before, so it was a real honour to get the chance to have dinner with them. I'm a big fan of Farmer Duck and Mr Gumpy's Outing.

Being all posey with Reeve and Richard Madeley from the Richard and Judy book show:

And here's journalist Rosie Goldsmith (@GoldRosie)! When I was in Norway last month, my hosts there (John and Helga Rullestad) raved about her and told me I MUST find her in Dubai. I'm going back to Norway in November for the SILK festival and I'll look forward to seeing her then. (That's Paxman again, photobombing us in the back.)

Here's reporter and interviewer Riz Khan, who kept us laughing with his jokes and impressions all through dinner at the amazing Madinat Jumeirah hotel.

We got to do lots of media stuff. Here's my squid attacking Jeremy Bowen before a Dubai Eye radio interview.

An awards presentation, where I got to say a few words about making books, my lovely Seawigs publisher, Oxford University Press, and congratulate the winners of a top writing competition. (Read the full article here.)

Also, an interview about making picture books in The National:

And in case it all seems too glossy, a quick look backstage. ...Okay, there are thrones backstage. Which reminds me about a very long joke my dad used to tell about glass houses and stowing thrones.

Here's a jolly picture of Philip Reeve and Joanne Harris dancing beneath the palm trees. You can read Joanne's write-up of the festival over on her blog.

My only real regrets from the festival were not getting to meet Swiss cartoonist Philippe Chappuis (also known as 'Zep'), although I'm not sure what I would have said to him, probably just grinned a lot. And I only got to call greetings across the escalator to Lemn Sissay. He did a fantastic poetry recitation at the Desert Stanzas evening, which I couldn't really capture in a photograph, but which was magical, and set in a desert camp.

And I would have loved to have gone to more author talks, and seen Walter Wray, Steve Halliwell and Chris Hardy of LiTTLe MACHiNe perform on Friday night.

Here's a video preview of them, they're @L1TTL3MACH1N3 on Twitter and they're actually based in London, so I may yet get the chance to go along to one of their gigs.

This is LiTTLe MACHiNe (EPK) from LiTTLe MACHiNe on Vimeo.

Oh, and my last regret was not knowing in advance that a ballet troupe would basically be performing a Seawigs-themed ballet clip for us in the Closing Ceremony. If Reeve and I had known, we definitely would have roped them into doing our event with us. The crab was the cutest thing EVER.


Finally, a HUGE thanks to the team who ran the festival. They were incredible. The whole festival ran so smoothly, I had such fun, everyone seemed to be so well looked after, the kids were on fire with enthusiasm, we even got to sign a vast quantity of books.

Three cheers for Director Isobel Abulhoul, the visionary person who set up the festival in the first place, with the generous patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (who is also an author). And that's fab intern Annabelle Corton standing with us!

And a massive round of applause to Acting Director and hero Yvette Judge, who started out running the children's part of the festival and took on the whole thing when Isobel was unwell and needed to stay in the UK. Total star, that woman. (She's @lit_ed on Twitter.)

Here's Cultural & Social Programme Manager Georgina Walsh coming in style across the water to collect us by boat at the Madinat Jumeirah hotel dinner:

Thank you, Emirates Airlines, for the VERY COMFY ride there and back, and for your beautifully be-hatted staff:

Here's super Jo James, who remarked on my hats each morning and was always totally organised, letting me know exactly where I should be and when.

I'm going to need some help here with names (can you help?) - names fall out the corners of my memory as quickly as coins through the holes in my ratty handbags - but these people were kind, loads of fun, and helpful, and made me feel surrounded by friends.

The Emirates Lit Fest has posted more photos on their Facebook page, if you want to check them out. I miss it already.

Goodbye, sweeping hotel view.

Goodbye, lovely breakfasts on the Crown Plaza terrace with funny, strange little birds with bobbly heads.

Goodbye, weird and wonderful architecture:

I'll miss how everything seemed to have such a heightened sense of drama about it:

And watching Reeve go off into the desert so far that all I could see was his hat bobbing along the dunes.

Thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality!

That was probably my longest blog post, ever. And here's where I make a dramatic fall into the sand, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Little Prince.


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5. seawigs at oxford lit fest 2014

Yesterday Oxford Lit Fest saw a sea life invasion!

Check out this wonderful Iris the mermaid costumes! It was made by Helen (@helen_geekmum on Twitter) and even includes Colin the crab and Iris's pointy specs!

Writer Jo Cotterill made these two great Seawigs!

And she tweeted this drawing by her daughter. (You can follow Jo at @jocotterillbook.)

Jo also took this photo of my co-author Philip Reeve and I leading everyone in a rousing rendition of the Eep Song:

It was actually quite a star-studded audience! Here's one of my illustration heroes, Mini Grey, who came along with her son. Both made drawings!

We got to see lots of people's fab drawings while we signed copies of Oliver and the Seawigs:

Photo by Jo Cotterill

So many details in this girl's drawing! Click on the photo for a close-up:

More fabulous Seawiggery!

Even the MC for our event, The Sunday Times reviewer Nicolette Jones (@NicoletteJones on Twitter) got into the swing of drawing a Sea Monkey! Here she is at lunch, with Paul Blezard (who still had his tan from the Emirates lit fest).

Thanks so much to everyone who came along, and a special thanks to the people who dressed up!

And who put up with my singing voice, which is as clear and melodic as Iris's:

Back in the festival Green Room, Horrid Henry's Francesca Simon asked to try on my Seawig:

And the daughter of our Oxford University Press publicist Harriet Bayly turned out to be a big fan of our upcoming book, Cakes in Space and we spent some time drawing Pilbeam the robot. (This book is the Uncorrected Proof copy, not the final version.)

I got to meet NYC-based writer Polly Shulman and her husband. Polly's written a book called The Wells Bequest, which I can't wait to read.

Oxford's always great fun to visit. Here I am, chucking Lewis Carroll under the chin, and the view from my bedroom in a hall of residence in Christ Church college.

Hogwarts breakfast! The Great Hall is pretty cool.

Reeve and I also visited The Story Museum, to see what they're up to, getting ready for their 26 Characters exhibition. Reeve has an uncanny knack of looking like a perfect Doctor Who.

We met up with The Story Museum's Tom Donegan and Neill Cameron, Philip Ardagh, Nicolette Jones and Ted Dewan in the pub. We were raving about the amazing Storyloom that Ted's designed, and just as the last few us of were about to leave, he invited us back to The Story Museum and said he'd fire it up for us. It's just too awesome to contemplate. (You can read an earlier blog post I wrote about it here.) Here's Ardagh, hard at work on it:

And this photo of Reeve is just plain weird:

Big thanks to Oxford lit fest for hosting us, everyone who took part in our event, Nicolette for chairing, The Story Museum, Oxford University Press and everyone who made is such a fantastic weekend. If you missed us, keep an eye on my Events Page to see if we're coming somewhere near you!

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6. comic capers at essex book festival!

So yesterday Nikki Gamble was tweeting this from the dressing rooms at Chelmsford's Cramphorn Theatre... who could these people be? (Ha ha, we were half hoping someone would draw the top part of the photo.)

And, of course, it was excellent and energetic writer Steve Cole and me, talking comics for Essex Book Festival!

Whenever I do stage events, I'm always a bit sorry that I don't get photos that I can use on my blog. But this great audience tweeted us a great selection! Here's one from @LynneWheater:

We invited people to dress up for the event and, hurrah! Some people did! Check out these great comics characters. Photo tweeted by @sarahyewman!

Steve brought a suitcase of costumes and two excellent volunteers - Heidi and Kit - came up and were transformed into superheroes, on stage and in drawings. Then Steve and I got the audience to help us turn them - Leopard Lady and Monkey Boy - into a comic strip! Photo tweeted by @DianaMayoillo:

Then we led everyone in drawing Superhamster, from Superkid, and people customised them with their own costumes and superpowers. Here's a fab one, tweeted by @LordSiBorg:

And the grand artwork finale!

Steve and I both love comics, but he gets much more excited about the superhero side of things than I do. I don't like many superhero comics, but there are so many other kinds of comics out there that I have no lack of choice! So I was particularly pleased to see Lucy dressed up as Hilda, from Luke Pearson's Hilda comics. Isn't this a great costume? We had a costume competition, and the judge picked the Doctor Who (who DID have an excellent costume, big congrats to him!), but this one was pretty awesome. Look at the hair! Check out the Hilda books if you haven't already. (He's @thatlukeperson on Twitter.) Sarah Yewman has written an excellent blog post about the day, do go have a look at it!

Check out this fab Hamster Man comic one of the kids in the audience made! So awesome to see kids making comics on the spot. I sometimes get festival people sighing when we ask for pencil and paper for everyone in the audience (it's one more thing they need to organise), but there's something really special about adults and kids not just hearing about drawing, but actually DOING it. I mean, that's really what it's all about! (So a big thanks to all the festivals who have humoured me so far with this one.) :D

Yay, Lucy and her friend brought along a couple frisky Sea Monkeys, knitted by their granny! The pattern was created by my studio mate Deadly Knitshade and you can download it free from my website if you want to make one.

Another cool thing: I got to meet the writer of our book Superkid, Claire Freedman, for the VERY FIRST TIME! She had a morning Aliens Love Underpants event, and we were able to have lunch together and talk about Superkid, being on stage, tricky-to-manage hair, all that kind of stuff. I usually work closely with my writers, so it always felt a bit odd that I hadn't met Claire, and I'm glad that it's happened at last. (Great to meet you, Claire!) She's @clairefreedman on Twitter.

Huge thanks to Steve, who was awesome to perform with. And to the fabulous Georgia Snelgrove, who organised our event for the Just Imagine story centre and Essex Book Festival! Thanks to its owner Nikki Gamble, who came to our event despite having just flown in from events in Qatar. And thanks to the Cramphorn Theatre for the use of your lovely venue, that was a fabulous afternoon!

I just had to show you the Berger & Wyse comic strip late that evening that made me spit up my tea. (Joe Berger makes children's books and comics, too; you can follow him at @_JoeBerger.)

One more thing: If you're getting today's copy of The Sunday Times, be sure to look out in The Funday Times for my Shark & Unicorn comic strip!

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7. Hisko Hulsing, Jeremy Clapin Win At Holland Animation Film Festival

The 16th edition of the Holland Animation Festival wrapped up earlier today in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Hisko Hulsing’s Junkyard won the top prize for Dutch animation, while Jérémy Clapin’s latest film Palmipedarium took home the festival’s top prize for narrative animated shorts.

The Short Film jury was comprised of Gabriella Giandelli (Italy), Steven Subotnick (United States) and Marc James Roels (Belgium). The Feature Film jury consisted of Hans Walther (Netherlands), Luca Raffaelli (Italy) and Frans Westra (Netherlands). Student Film jury was Marc Bertrand (Canada), Chris Sullivan (United States) and René Windig (Netherlands), and Dutch prize jury was Nik Christensen (UK/Netherlands), Ton Gloudemans (Netherlands) and Dennis Tupicoff (Australia).

Here is the complete list of winners:

Winner Grand Prix—Dutch animation:

Junkyard by Hisko Hulsing (NL/BE, 2012)

Winner Grand Prix—Narrative shorts:

Palmipedarium by Jérémy Clapin (FR, 2012)

Winners Grand Prix—Non-narrative shorts

Recycled by Lei Lei and Thomas Sauvin (CN, 2012)

Winner Grand Prix—Feature:

Ánima Buenos Aires by María Verónica Ramírez (AR, 2012)

Winner Grand Prix—European student films

Washed Ashore by Jonas Ott (AKV St. Joost Breda, NL, 2012)

HAFF Audience award Dutch animation
Fallin’ Floyd by Paco Vink and Albert ’t Hooft (NL, 2012)

Klassefilm HAFF Junior Audience award in cooperation with Eye
Rising Hope by Milen Vitanov (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen Konrad Wolf Potsdam, DE, 2012)

Winner web competition HAFFTube
Odio by Adriano Vessichelli (UK, 2012)

MovieZone HAFF Award in cooperation with Eye
Briganti senza Leggenda (Thugs with no Legend) by Gianluigi Toccafondo (FR, 2012)

Student film Honorable Mentions
International Father’s Day by Edmunds Jansons (Estonian Academy of Arts, LV, 2012)

Steven and the Beetle by Hoang Ngoc, Piotr Loc (Polish National Film School in Lodz, PL, 2012)

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8. Annecy Announces Film Selections for 2013 Festival

The world’s longest-running and largest animation festival, Annecy, announced short film and TV selections today for its 2013 edition, which will take place June 10-15 in Annecy, France. This year’s competition will consist of 52 shorts, 51 graduation films, 35 TV series and specials, 11 music vids, 23 commercial projects and 4 educational/industrial films. Feature film selections will be announced at a later date.

Films that were rejected from competition still have an opportunity to screen at Annecy +, the renegade Annecy offshoot organized by Bill Plympton and Nancy Denney-Phelps. The seventh annual Annecy + takes place on the Friday of the festival. Submissions are being accepted until May 13. Submission details on Facebook.

(Annecy 2013 poster design by Arthur Collin)

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9. Anifilm Festival Announces In-Competition Films and UPA Tribute

The 4th edition of Anifilm International Festival of Animated Films will take place in Třeboň, Czech Republic from May 3 to 8. The festival recently announced its competition line-up which includes 10 animated features and 50 short films. Anifilm will also present tributes to the legendary animation studios Zagreb Film and United Productions of America (UPA) with multiple programs dedicated to the films of those studios. Special guests include legendary filmmakers Borivoj Dovnikovic of Zagreb Film and Gene Deitch of UPA.

I’m excited to be heading to the festival to moderate a panel about UPA that will include Gene Deitch and filmmaker Emily Hubley (John and Faith Hubley’s daughter). I will also be serving on the feature film jury with filmmaker Regina Pessoa (Kali the Little Vampire, Tragic Story with Happy Ending) and Igor Prassel, programming director of the Slovenian festival Animateka International Animated Film Festival.

(Anifilm photo by Danica Kovacevic)

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10. “Oh Willy…” Wins Top Prize at Stuttgart

The Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film announced their winners last Sunday. The grand prize, which included a 15,000 Euro award (approx. $19,500), was awarded to Oh Willy… by Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels. The film’s continuing success on the international festival circuit means little for its Oscar hopes since it was already entered for consideration last year and was completely overlooked by the Academy.

Other winners at Stuttgart include Ryo Okawara’s short Kara No Tamago which won the prize for animated short, and Hisko Hulsing’s Junkyard which won the audience award. The animated feature prize was awarded to the French film Ernest and Celestine, which will open in the United States this fall.

International Competition Grand Prize (15,000 euros)
Oh Willy… directed by Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels

Lotte Reiniger Promotion Award for Animated Film (10,000 euros)
Kara No Tamago (A Wind Egg) directed by Ryo Okawara (Japan)

SWR Audience Award (6,000 euros)
Junkyard directed by Hisko Hulsing (The Netherlands)

Young Animation Award/Best Student Film (2,500 euros)
Eine Murul (Breakfast on the Grass) directed by Erik Alunurm, Mari Pakkas, Mari Liis Rebane, Mihkel Reha (Estonia)

AniMovie Award for Best Animated Feature
Ernest & Celestine directed by Benjamin Renner, Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar (France, Belgium, Luxembourg)

Tricks for Kids Award for Best Children’s Feature (4,000 euros)
Schrecken ohne Ende (Nearest and Dearest) directed by Michael Sieber and Max Stöhhr

Tricks for Kids Award for Best Animated Series for Children
Roy: “Foot Fat Fit” directed by Alan Shannon (Ireland)

Cartoons for Teens award for Best Animated Series (2,500 euros)
Der Notfall (Déjà-moo) directed by Stefan Muller

German Screenplay Award (2,500 euros)
Molly Monster: The Movie written by John Chambers

Animated Fashion Award (2,000 euros)
Freitag X-Mas Movies directed by Claudia Rothlin and Yves Gutjar (Switzerland)

German Voice Award (2,500 euros)
Rick Kavanian for Knight Rusty, Yesterday’s Hero Recycled (Universum, Germany)

Animated Com Awards (Awards for the best applied animation in the fields of advertising, technology and spatial communication 
sponsored by Mackevision Medien Design GmbH, Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart, Daimler AG, U.I. Lapp GmbH)

Main prize
The Real Bears directed by Lucas Zanotto

Advertising (2,500 euros)
MTV EMA 2012 Opener directed by Mate Steinforth (Germany)

Technology (2,500 euros)
Mass Effect 3 – Take Earth Back directed by Istvan Zorkoczy (Hungary)

Spatial Communication
Swiss Pavilion Expo Yeosu: “The Source–It’s In Your Hands” directed by Marc Tamschick (Switzerland)

Special Prize Mercedes-Benz Classic: Silver Arrows (2,500 euros)
A Racers Sketchbook directed by Falk Schuster (Germany)

Special Prize Lapp Connected Award (2,500 euros)
Pinball directed by Darko Vidackovic (Croatia)

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11. Anima Mundi Announces Lineup for 2013

The 2013 edition of Anima Mundi, the International Animation Festival of Brazil, has revealed its line-up for competition and non-competition film screenings. The 21st edition of the festival will take place in Rio de Janeiro from August 2 through 11 and São Paulo from August 14 through 18.

In the main competition category, 106 animated shorts were selected to be shown. There are additional competition categories for student films and children’s films. Seven animated features were also selected for competition in two categories:

Feature Film
Couleur de Peau (Approved for Adoption) directed by Jung Henin and Laurent Boileau (France, Belgium)
Fuse Teppo Musume no Torimonocho directed by Masayuki Miyaji (Japan)
Dae-Gi-Eui Wang (The King of Pigs) directed by Yeun Sang-Ho (South Korea)
Padak Padak directed by Lee Dae-Hee (South Korea)

Feature Film for Children
Krishna Aur Kans directed by Vikram Veturi (India)
Zambezia directed by Wayne Thornley (South Africa)
Anina directed by Alfredo Soderguit (Uruguay, Colombia)

Go to Anima Mundi’s website for the full list of film selections.

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12. Animation Block Party Returns To Brooklyn For Its 10th Year

This summer, Brooklyn’s Animation Block Party will celebrate its tenth anniversary with its biggest slate of programmming ever.

The festival, which will take place between July 25-28, has announced its full programming line-up and film competition selections on AnimationBlock.com. The competition slate includes over 100 short films spread across four programs of animated shorts, two programs of international animated shorts and one program of children’s animation. In addition to the new animated films, the festival will be presenting archival screenings of silent animated films, 1960s Oscar-winning shorts, and the features The Secret of NIMH and Beavis & Butt-Head Do America.

The Animation Block 2013 jury consists of Jerry Beck, Devin Clark, Carrie Miller, and Scout Raskin, and the following festival awards will be presented: Student Film, Best in Show, Audience Award, Narrative Short, Computer Animation, Minute Movie, Original Design, Music Video, Experimental Animation and Animation for Kids.

The opening night on Friday, July 26th, will be presented in association with Rooftop Films at Greenpoint High School (50 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, NY 11222) and will include live music and an after-party. Individual screening tickets and full festival passes can be pre-ordered on AnimationBlock.com.

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13. Annecy Film Festival Review by Bill Plympton

Bill Plympton with Chris Landreth

BILL PLYMPTON is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of seven animated features and more than thirty animated shorts. His new feature Cheatin’ will premiere this fall. Learn more about his work at Plymptoons.com.

I went to Annecy with mixed emotions this year—after all, it was a year of major changes.

The iconic Bonlieu Centre, where all the action usually takes place, was being torn down to be replaced by a larger and hopefully more beautiful structure. Some say the new theater complex will be finished next year and some say in two years—who knows, with French construction workers.

The other new kink was the fact that celebrated artistic director Serge Bromberg was leaving after fifteen wonderful years, to be replaced by Marcel Jean. So, naturally, I felt that this would be a transitional year.

My wife Sandrine and I arrived just in time to go to the opening night event, taking place in the freshly-constructed hybrid tent cinema. The opening film was the long anticipated Pixar sequel Monsters University, directed by Dan Scanlon, along with the new Pixar short Blue Umbrella. The latter six-minute short by Saschka Unseld had a very different look from all of the former Pixar shorts, a lot more realistic, and the love story involving two colored umbrellas in a rainstorm has certain similarities to last year’s Oscar winner, Paperman.

Monsters University was a bit disappointing—for me there were too many extraneous characters to get emotionally involved, and the colors, especially the backgrounds on the campus grounds, were too neon-bright, which made it hard to enjoy the beautiful design and follow the characters.

The next morning I had a panel about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Like a similar panel I hosted at Stuttgart, it was a packed house. After years of sucking off the government teat, the Europeans are mad for a more democratic, and perhaps hassle-free, way for raising money to make films.

Bill Plympton with his son Lucas Plympton

Tuesday afternoon was the Competition Shorts creening #2, and my film Drunker Than a Skunk was in that group, so Sandrine and I needed to attend to present the film. The program started off promisingly enough—meaning that the films were not that good and hence the audience would love our film. All the early films in the program were abstract or avant-garde, therefore not crowd-pleasers. Then came Remi Vandenitte’s Betty’s Blues, a wonderful ode to Southern blues music that had a terrific style. Then Drunker came on and we received a very nice reaction. We felt we were looking good for Awards Night.

But, later in the program, came Chris Landreth’s unmemorably named Subconscious Password, a totally delightful and bold CG film starring Chris and the enigmatic John Dilworth. Then and there, I knew our awards chances flew out the window. Oh well, once I knew I didn’t have to worry about awards, I could just enjoy the week and relax.

My next event was a work-in-progress screening of my new feature, Cheatin’. There was a really good buzz going about this film, so tickets were hard to get and a lot of people asked me to sneak them in.

I showed some pencil tests and finished scenes, drew some of the character designs and talked about the production. The audience applauded throughout (which I loved) and then I moved to a table just outside the exit, next to a beautiful creek, and gave everyone in line a free sketch, which took about an hour.

For the past seven years, I’ve been presenting the “Annecy Plus” show, first with Pat Smith, and now with Nik and Nancy Phelps. It’s been a smashing success. This year, we were forced to relocate the popular event to the wonderful Café des Arts in Old Town. We promoted the hell out of it, and the weather was perfect so we had high hopes for a big success. Unfortunately, there was no movie screen!

Jonas Raeber, the projectionist and sound man, was able to “borrow” two large sheets from his hotel. Another problem: the door with access to the balcony, where we wanted to hang the sheets, was locked with no key. So, a drunk Indian animator volunteered to leap from an open window across to the balcony—a real Jackie Chan-type moment. I had visions of a terrible accident, and me spending three years in French courts fighting a lawsuit, but the dashing Indian succeeded, and he had free beers all night.

Nik Phelps and his band kicked off the evening with some lively music, and we began the show. Then, the next tragedy struck. Even though Virginia, the proprietor of the bar, had received permission from the city council to hold a late-night screening, there was a rave the night before and it created such a ruckus that her permit was revoked. Thus, we had to turn the sound off at 10p.m., and the problem with that was that it didn’t get dark until 9:30. As a result, the audience only heard one out of the four programs—the last three were silent. Quel dommage.

Bill Plympton with Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski

However, there was enough beer and wine for everyone, and a good time was had by all. The Annecy Plus winning film, by the way, was Super by Johan Klungel. As for the main Annecy awards show, it was a happy affair with nice weather, and Serge showed up to give out the awards with Marcel Jean. The big winner of the evening, and justifiably so, was Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth. He gave a fantastic speech, then we all went to party at the Palais, where I visited with Eric Goldberg, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynoski of Titmouse Studios, Dominique Puthod (the president of the festival), Chel White, and Michaela Pavlatova, last year’s winner with Tram.

The best news was that everyone was talking about Cheatin’, so chances are good it will be in competition next year in Annecy. See you all there!

Dominique Puthod (Annecy Festival President), his wife Catherine, Bill and
Sandrine Plympton

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14. Ottawa International Animation Festival Selects 106 Films in Competition

North America’s biggest animation festival, the Ottawa International Animation Festival, has announced the feature film and short film selections for their 2013 edition. The festival takes place in Canada’s capital city from September 18-22.

“I was extremely pleased with the wide range of films this year,” said Chris Robinson, artistic director of the OIAF. “Their quality was outstanding, which made the selection process extremely difficult. The Japanese and feature films were particularly refreshing due to their boldness and originality.” The festival selected 106 finalists for competition this year, from a total of 1,924 entries.

Notably, Ottawa has expanded its feature film category this year, with a record eight feature-length films in competition. As I wrote a couple months ago, it is an “exciting time for animated features” and major animation festivals must acknowledge the growth of long-form animation to stay relevant. The feature films in competition at Ottawa this year are:

  • A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman directed by Jeff Simpson, Bill Jones and Ben Timlett (UK)
  • Anima Buenos Aires directed by Maria Ramirez (Argentina)
  • Couleur De Peau: Miel (Approved For Adoption) directed by Laurent Boileau and Jung (France/Belgium)
  • Cycle directed by Zoltan Sostai (Hungary)
  • It’s Such A Beautiful Day directed by Don Hertzfeldt (USA)
  • O Menino e o Mundo (The Boy and The World) directed by Ale Abreu (Brazil)
  • The Pain and The Pity directed by Phil Mulloy (UK)
  • Tito On Ice directed by Max Andersson and Helena Ahonen (Sweden/Germany)

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15. pop up festival 2012 - the comics big-top of awesome!

The big day finally came, and it was AWESOME! The Comics Big-Top of Awesome totally rocked London's Pop Up Festival and kids and adults alike were pumping character drawings and comics out of that pavilion.

Here was our amazing team: Neill Cameron, Nana Li, me, Gary Northfield, Jamie Littler, Jamie Smart and David O'Connell. (You can see the books they make if you click here.) When Pop Up Director Dylan Calder offered me the chance to curate one of the festival venues and do anything I wanted, it could have been daunting, but it wasn't, because I knew I could get my awesome comics friends to come along and help me run it. And most of them do a lot of comics festivals and events, so they know how to work with kids and get them excited and eager to make up their own stories. Being able to draw and tell stories, combined with a sense of humour means this stuff comes pretty naturally to them.

And the day DID run amazingly well! All the creators had a good idea of which kids needed guidance making their comics, and sat alongside them, drawing and chatting with them. And besides the comics making that went all on day, we had a solid programme of awesome events!

David O'Connell shot footage of one round of the COMICS BATTLE, a fiercely fought drawing duel: Gary Northfield vs Jamie Littler!

It was fun coming home and seeing the tweets:

When Dave, Stuart and I arrived in the morning, the incredibly talented and dedicated art student team from Central Saint Martins had been working hard until site closing time the night before and the place looked AMAZING!

They'd worked with me on a layout for the venue, and as for decorating it, Neill Cameron and I came up with the idea of making it a comics circus theme, fellow Pop Up curator Candy Gourlay suggested the idea of the Story Wheels, and I asked them to make it bright and fit in as many animal characters as possible. And I was absolutely thrilled at what they came up with! (You can see more photos of the team - Isa Caruncho, Chiahui Liao and Maddy Rita Faye - on my last blog post here.)

Our team was actually bigger than the seven adult comics artists, we had four more people on board, selling comics they'd made and drawing portraits: Frankie, Katie, Staizie and Zoom Rockman. It was one of the first times the three girls from Winchester House School had sold their comics, and they were making a comics diary of their trip to London with their art teacher, fab printmaker Tobias Till. Zoom, age 11, has been making and selling comics for several years, and I heard that he'd even been flown out to Korea to talk about comics there! The guy doesn't let being young stop him, which is the height of awesomeness.

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16. doing my bit for london 2012

Is London on target for the Olympics? Well, the Discover Children's Story Centre is! Lying in the shadow of the Olympic Park, they've set up a whole programme of interactive storytelling, called StoryCloud, as part of the London 2012 Festival cultural olympiad, open to kids everywhere to add their drawing and writing online!

So on Saturday, I threw on my sports gear and raced down to Olympicsland to do my bit. For London. FOR THE WORLD.

So while writer and my project colleague Philip Ardagh welcomed visiting dignitaries (what is a dignitary?), celebrities and heads of state, I led a big pack of excited kids in the Discover centre in bout of Down the Plughole-themed storytelling.

Since so much of StoryCloud is an online storytelling experience, I thought I'd use some of the bits and bobs I'd come up with, which hadn't been used for the interactive illustration, to create a sort of primitive slideshow animation. There was one little boy in the front, in an orange t-shirt, who went into absolute laughing hysterics when our character, Morris, got a sponge squeezed over his head, which was most heartening. Anyway, here's a rough approximation of what we did, although it was me reading, not Philip. (Hear Philip read the whole story, karaoke-style, over on the website, storycloud.co.uk.)

Then we thought about the kinds of things Morris might encounter down the plughole, and the kids helped me design a 'Sewergator'. Isn't it charming?

They also helped me come up with a comic, which made perfect sense on the day, but now seems slightly fragmented. Drawing comics to order in front of lots of people is a challenging past-time.

Then the kids came up with their own ideas about the things Morris would encounter down there. I might create my own fan art for this image by one kid, it's great.

It really was all happening that day, here's the Olympic Torch procession passing the Discover centre just minutes before our event.

...And would you look at that! Ha ha, I got to carry the torch for a whole 23 seconds. (Yes I did, of course I did.)

And then Stuart and I went for a wander around the Olympic Park, to inspect.

We didn't get to go up Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond's Olympic tower, but we'd quite like to.

The view from the skybridge inside Westfield:

And hey, cool artwork in next-door Stratford tube station. Love the 'taches!

A few more sewer be

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17. ireland's mountains to sea festival

So here are the top superheroes behind one of the best book festivals I've ever been to! Meet Tom Donegan and Sarah Webb, Ireland's ultimate dream team:

The sun was shining bright and Dun Laoghaire (pronounced 'dun LEER-y'), just next to Dublin, felt like being on the Mediterranean riviera. And I got to hang out with one of my best friends, writer Philip Reeve! We strolled along the promenade with Irish filmmaker Frank Kelly, who kindly agreed to take this author photo for the book I'm working on with Philip right now, Oliver and the Seawigs. My studio mate, Gary, just looked over my shoulder and said I look like a mermaid, so that's perfect.

On the first evening, Tom and Sarah took me for dinner with Philip, writer Marcus Sedgwick and top librarian Dr Marian Thérèse Keyes, who took the photo.

After dinner, Marcus, Philip and I went along to hear Sarah Webb talk about her book and writing, along with lots of other writers for adults and young adults, including Cathy Kelly, Katie Fforde, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, Sinéad Moriarty and Marita Conlon-McKenna. Our dinner had run overtime a bit, so we were sitting way, way in the back and couldn't see all that much. The panel gave a great talk, but the three of us were quite jolly from dinner and I made stupid drawings of us.

The next morning, Philip and I did a big MONSTERS & GOBLINS stage event, in front of something like 300 kids. It was loads of fun! Here's Philip with a miniature version of a bratapult, a weapon of war which plays quite a key part in his Goblins book. In fact, his main character spends something like two chapters falling after being hurtled from such a device. We fired goblins into the audience to make some merry chaos.

At two different events, we introduced ourselves while the other person drew an attractive portrait. We weren't allowed to look at our portrait until it was finished. You can get a glimpse over my shoulder here of Philip's drawing of me, which set the kids in the audience absolutely howling.

I grossed out the kids with a reading from Morris the Mankiest Monster and then the kids helped us invent new monsters, and Philip and I took turns drawing how we thought some of the characters in Goblins might look, including Trolls and Boglins. Here's Philip's Boglin.

Then we turned the kids into a tribe of goblins by having them each design a goblin face.

It was fun seeing the kids' work when they came up to get their books signed.

Hee hee!

As ever, I can't post photos of the schoolchildren's faces, which is a shame, but they look quite nice with books for heads.

After the show, we recorded an interview for national television, RTE2's Elev8 programme (the same show Gary Northfield and I took part in a couple years ago, which you can see here). It'll go live in the show's next season, probably some time in October. Here are camera crew Elaine Buckley, Julian Hills and Orla Morris-Toolen.

Orla (in the polka-dot dress) was an amazing interviewer; the camera crew would ask her to do something a bit different, and she'd quickly think about it and come up with a good way to ask us a question that fitted in well with the flow of the programme. Not many kids can think on their feet as calmly as that, I was really impressed.

Later on in the festival, I ran into Moldovan Elev8 presenter Diana Bunici, who'd interviewed Gary and me last time. You can follow her on Twitter as @DeeBTweets and read her blog here.

And here's the fabulous illustration exhibition Tom Donegan put together in the County Hall! Scholastic UK let the festival have sneak peeks at two spreads in my new book, Superkid with Claire Freedman, coming out next spring. Here they are, printed up large:

Both times Philip and I had some time off, we took the chance to stroll along the beautiful Dun Laoghaire harbour. Philip took a photo of me in front of this big sea urchin sculpture and said I looked like something painted on the front of a B-52, the thought of which pleases me to no end.

You can just about see the James Joyce Tower in the background. I really should know what this is. *Makes note to self to try to get into Ulysses again, despite several failed attempts*

And here's some of the jolly gang from Children's Books Ireland! Mags Walsh, Jenny Murray (and Aoife (pronounced 'EEF-ah') Murray arrived a bit later); bookseller and blogger Kim Harte, can someone remind me who that nice gentleman is?, and Tom.

The next day, Philip and I led a Comics Jam workshop in the lovely posh yacht club, with about 20 kids.

We started out by talking about character design. Here's one Philip drew:

And a kid's drawing. Isn't it fabulous?

Then we took our characters and put them into a comics story. Here's one Philip and I bashed out at great speed, taking turns with each panel, with story material based on suggestions from the kids.

Then we set the kids off on their Comics Jam!

They had five minutes to draw a panel, then everyone passed their papers to the next person and for the next five minutes in the second panel, took up the new story where their neighbour had left off.

And so on, passing every five minutes until the four panels were filled.

At the end of 20 minutes, they had some great results. Here's one that made us laugh.

One of the cool things about doing events is meeting kids who are really stuck into comics already. Here's Finn, who brought along his notebook to show us and will obviously be an awesome comics artist if he keeps working as hard as he's doing now.

I was thrilled to see he'd been studying my favourite comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes. Copying is a great way to learn in detail how another artist works, and I remember copying pages and pages of Archie comics when I was his age.

And he's coming up with great stuff of his own! Philip laughed and pointed out this Will-You-Need-a-Gas-Mask-o-Meter.

You can definitely see the influence of other comics on Finn's work, and it's great to see how he's exploring them and starting to add his own creative elements. Look out for this guy, he made be making appearances at small press comics fairs in the next few years.

After our comics jam, we met up with lots of other writers on the yacht club deck to go for the Monster Book Lunch. I didn't get to talk with them as much as I would have liked to, but that's Claire Hennessey on the left (whom I hardly got to meet), someone (can anyone tell me who?) in the middle who I didn't really get to meet at all, and Judi Curtin, with whom I chatted briefly and is really lovely. Apparently her books are as popular in Ireland as Jacqueline Wilson's books are in England, so look out, English people, you might be seeing more of this lady.

When I walked into the lovely banquet room, I was kind of expecting the table I was sharing with Philip Reeve to be packed with girls in tea party dresses. And most of the tables were like this, except ours, which was entirely seated with ROWDY BOYS. Ha ha! They were gentlemen enough to warn me not to drink the squash, which had salt and pepper added to it.

At most tables, the esteemed writers were having gracious conversations with their table mates, but that wasn't going to happen at ours. Instead we played a Monster Consequences game, and made some pretty awesome creatures.

It was loads of fun meeting kids who already knew my work, including Shauna here, who was a huge fan and sent me a lovely e-mail which I read on my phone at the airport on the way home.

Here's our marvellous bookseller for the festival, the ever-energetic Bob Jonstone, who runs The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin's Temple Bar area. His shop's been getting lots of publicity and winning loads of awards recently, and he and his team ran the whole book sales side of things completely smoothly. Thanks, Bob!

I left the Monster Book Lunch a bit early to do another Comics Jam workshop for older kids than the first one I'd done with Philip. Finn was there, but the rest were teenagers and a couple adults. They'd come to hear Steve Simpson give a talk on Superhero Illustration, but he had a family emergency, and the people at the workshop were great about letting me step in. Here are a couple of the Comics Jam results:

Meanwhile Philip Reeve was getting ready to go on a panel with writer Michelle Harrison, and I managed to dash in to listen, just as they were getting going.

The panel was a project for the three girls interviewing Michelle and Philip. They'd had the chance to choose writers they'd like to interview, get them invited to the festival, and spend quite a lot of time preparing for the interview. They knew the writers' books well, and were able to ask some great questions.

I was interested to find out that, like Philip, Michelle also does some illustration (as does Marcus Sedgwick, whom I mentioned earlier). And both she and Philip were very influenced by the early work of Brian Froud, who designed the looks for The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth films. Michelle writes a lot of horror stuff, and read from her recent book, Unrest, inspired by the sleep disorders she's encountered in people she knows. Here's the trailer video, and you can find out more over on her website.

Here's the fab panel, being VERY SCARED.

Or is that speakers being VERY SCARY?

One of the great things about Mountains to Sea is that the festival's all within walking distance and everyone stays at the same place. So we were always bumping into people, including the writer Eoin Colfer (creator of Artemis Fowl), who wasn't even taking part in the festival this year!

Here's the Royal Marine Hotel, a lovely Victorian candybox of a place:

I got to sit across from Michelle at dinner, and meet writer Robert Muchamore. I didn't really know Robert's work, but he's the writer of the Cherub graphic novels, which my friend John Aggs illustrates, so it was great to meet him. Michelle (@MHarrison13) tweeted: Sat next to @RobertMuchamore at dinner earlier. He threw olives at me and pulled my hair. ...I think I will say nothing about that.

The next day, writer-illustrator Chris Judge and I went to the People's Park to take part in the Picture Book Picnic. I'd met Chris once before, at the festival at Tales on Moon Lane, but I'd been so busy keeping my group of kids from dumping paint on the bookshop floor that I didn't have much time to see him in action.

Here I am, reading from You Can't Scare a Princess.

Chris did a great job reading from The Lonely Beast and The Great Explorer and getting the kids to respond.

It was so obvious that all the kids, parents, festival volunteers, everyone, really love him. That's something so nice I'm noticing about Ireland. They don't have a huge home-grown publishing scene, but those they do have, they really get to know and cherish them. I really like that.

We both did some drawing with the kids. Here's Chris showing us how to draw the walrus from his book.

So many kids showed up that some of them had to share clip boards. I love this photo.

And this one, too. The team of volunteers was brilliant. And can I just say that if I was making an epic action film, I would want to cast this awesome-looking one in the lead role? This is designer-illustrator Simone Crowley and I spent some of the picnic admiring her and her tattoos from afar.

And one more photo with Chris. The weeping willow in the Secret Garden section of the park made for a wonderfully atmospheric storybook kind of place.

After the picnic, Tom and a lovely volunteer named Jenny hustled me off to County Hall for The Big Picture Panel Discussion with Chris, Inis magazine editor David Maybury and David Mackintosh.

No event involving the whirlwind that is David Maybury can be anything other than terribly exciting, and this panel was no exception. The best part for me was finding out about David Mackintosh's work. I'd never even heard of him, but his books are SO beautiful.

David's now London-based, but he was born in Belfast and grew up in Australia. And he worked as a graphic designer before moving into making his own picture books. And you can really tell: his understanding of typography, colour, how to use space on the page is exceptional.

I'm already such a fangirl. Here's the dedication in one of the books I bought:

Aren't these pictures the best thing ever?

I talked a bit about self-publishing during the panel, and at the end, two members of the audience came up and gave me copies of their self-published books, The Enlightened Light Bulb Boy by Dublin-based Brazilian illustrator Tarsila Krüse and the Yum! Yum! Recipe Booklet by Tarsila and her friend Paula McGloin.

Googling their names, I saw their blog post about the annual Dublin Zine Fair, which looks like something worth visiting or taking part in if you're in town.

After the panel, CBI's Jenny Murray set me up for my interview for Inis magazine with Cethan Leahy, and we had a good chat.

Then it was time to go home. Jenny whisked me off for a late lunch at the bagel place, then I got a festival taxi to the airport with Philip's agent, Philippa Milnes-Smith, and Sara Wingate Gray, who runs The Itinerant Poetry Library. Philippa and I listened, enthralled, to all the stuff Sara's been getting up to with her suitcase of poetry books, providing her 'guerilla public library service'. She was one of the first librarians to know about Twitter, which you can guess from her succinct Twitter name, @Librarian. I mentioned Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile
and short story Moths of the New World, and we decided that Sara had probably crawled out of the pages of one of those books before they were even written.

Oh, and this is my lovely new companion, a 'zonk' which I have named Webbster Donegan. She loves flying, even though her wings aren't terribly aerodynamic.

I was sad to leave. Someone tweeted a Dr Seuss quotation during the Paralympic Closing Ceremony that evening - 'Don't be sad it's over. Be glad it happened.' - and I thought that was a good way to look at it.

Goodbye, Ireland! An enormous thanks to Tom, Sarah, Marian, David, Jenny, Philip, CBI, Bob, Orla, the team of volunteers, and loads more people who made this festival such a wonderful experience.

I feel like sleeping for a week now, and I'm sure the festival team do, too, but wow. That was amazing.

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18. “Junkyard”, “Arrugas” Win Top Ottawa Festival Honors

The winners of the 2012 Ottawa International Animation Festival were announced earlier tonight at the National Arts Center in Ottawa. The top prize for short film went to Dutch filmmaker Hisko Hulsing for his short Junkyard. The animated feature prize went to the Spanish feature Arrugas (Wrinkles) directed by Ignacio Ferreras. It’s Such a Beautiful Day by Don Hertzfeldt picked up the audience prize.

I Am Tom Moody by Ainslie Henderson picked up two awards, including the grand prize for best student animation. Two films in this year’s Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival were also recognized: Kyle Mowat’s Ballpit won best graduate animation and Noam Sussman’s Gum won the Canadian student animation award.

The complete list of winners is below:

Nelvana GRAND PRIZE for Best Independent Short Animation
Junkyard directed by Hisko Hulsing, Netherlands

GRAND PRIZE for Best Animated Feature
Arrugas (Wrinkles) directed by Ignacio Ferreras, Spain

Walt Disney GRAND PRIZE for Best Student Animation
I Am Tom Moody directed by Ainslie Henderson, Edinburgh College of Art, UK

GRAND PRIZE for Best Commissioned Animation
Primus “Lee Van Cleef” by Chris Smith, USA

Best Animation School Showreel
Supinfocom (France)

BEST Narrative Short
A Morning Stroll by Grant Orchard, STUDIO AKA, USA

BEST Experimental/Abstract Animation
Rivière au Tonnerre directed by Pierre Hébert, Canada

Adobe Prize for BEST High School Animation
The Bean by Hae Jin Jung, Gyeonggi Art High School, South Korea

Honourable Mention:
La Soif Du Monde (Thirsty Frog) by a Collective: 12 Children, Camera-etc, Belgium

BEST Undergraduate Animation
Reizwäsche by Jelena Walf & Viktor Stickel, Germany

BEST Graduate Animation
Ballpit directed by Kyle Mowat, Sheridan College, Canada

BEST Promotional Animation
Red Bull ‘Music Academy World Tour’ by Pete Candeland, Passion Pictures, UK

BEST Music Video
The First Time I Ran Away by Joel Trussell, USA

BEST Television Animation for Adults
Portlandia: “Zero Rats” by Rob Shaw, USA

BEST Short Animation Made for Children
Beethoven’s Wig directed by Alex Hawley & Denny Silverthorne, Canada

Honourable Mentions:
Au Coeur de L’Hiver directed by Isabelle Favez, Switzerland
Why do we Put up with Them? directed by David Chai, USA

BEST Television Animation Made for Children
Regular Show: “Eggscellent” by JC Quintel, Cartoon Network

Honourable Mention:
Adventure Time: “Jake vs. Me-Mow” by Pendleton Ward, Cartoon Network, USA

The National Film Board of Canada PUBLIC PRIZE
It’s Such a Beautiful Day directed by Don Hertzfeldt, USA

Canadian Film Institute Award for BEST Canadian Animation
Nightingales in December directed by Theodore Ushev, Canada

Honourable Mentions
Ballpit directed by Kyle Mowat, Sheridan College, Canada
MacPherson directed by Martine Chartrand, National Film Board of Canada, Canada

BEST Canadian Student Animation Award
Gum by Noam Sussman, Sheridan College, Canadaa

Honourable Mentions
Ballpit by Kyle Mowat, Sheridan College, Canada
Tengri by Alisi Telengut, Concordia University, Canada

The Ottawa Media Jury Award
For the best short competition film, as deemed by the local Ottawa Media, consisting of:

-Peter Simpson (Ottawa Citizen)
-Sandra Abma (CBC)
-Fateema Sayani (Ottawa Magazine)
-Denis Armstrong (Ottawa Sun)

I Am Tom Moody by Ainslie Henderson, Edinburgh College of Art, UK

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19. Waterloo Festival For Animated Cinema Announces Feature Film lineup

Every year at this time I find myself jealous of the people in the vicinity of Kitchener-Waterloo in Northern Ontario, Canada. No, not because of the weather, but for The Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. I’m thankful, however, this event is happening anywhere in North America as it’s the only annual festival devoted to “showcasing the latest unreleased international animated feature films”. The festival just announced the first 12 films (several more to be announced shortly) of the 12th edition of the Festival – and it looks like an incredible program with a strong set of productions from Japan and Europe. The films confirmed so far include:

A LETTER TO MOMO • Director: Okiura Hiroyuki (Japan, 2011)

ANIME MIRAI • Directors: Kawamata, Miyashita, Kaiya and Tomonaga (Japan, 2012) A compilation of “four delightful films that point to the future of anime”

ARRUGAS (Wrinkles) • Ignacio Ferreras (Spain, 2011)

ASURA • Director: Sato Keiichi (Japan, 2012)

AZ EMBER TRAGÉDIÁJA • (The Tragedy Of Man) Director Marcell Jankovics (Hungary, 2012)

BABELDOM • Director: Paul Bush (U.K., 2012)

BLOOD-C: THE LAST DARK • Director: Shiotani Naoyoshi (Japan, 2012)

HEART STRING MARIONETTE • Director: M Dot Strange (U.S.A. / Iceland, 2012)

JENSEN & JENSEN • Director: Craig Frank (Denmark, 2011)

MARCO MACACO • Director: Jan Rahbek (Denmark, 2012)

STRANGE FRAME • Director: G.B. Hajim (U.S.A., 2012)

WOLF CHILDREN • Director: Hosoda Mamoru (Japan, 2012)

The 12th Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema runs November 15th to 18th, 2012. All screenings will be held at The Chrysalids Theatre, 137 Ontario Street North in Kitchener. For more information on each film and how to obtain festival passes click here.

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20. This Week In Amsterdam: Klik! Animation Festival

The Klik! Animation Festival begins tomorrow in Amsterdam and continues through the weekend.

The quirky animation gathering has grown quickly in its first five years of existence. This year’s Klik! includes a full slate of competition screenings, special screenings ranging William Kentridge to Adventure Time, and a focus on the theme of violence in animation. The latter thematic emphasis is particularly intriguing, with programs related to “cartoon violence,” “serious violence,” and “disturbing violence;” screenings of the features The Suicide Shop and Watership Down; and a half-day symposium on violence with a line-up of speakers that include filmmakers, scholars, and psychologists.

And if all that animation isn’t enough, the festival will take place in the impressively futuristic EYE Film Institute, which opened earlier this year. I visited the waterfront Institute last summer, and it’s a perfectly inspiring space to hold an animation festival.

Below is Klik’s 2012 festival leader, directed by Lukas Krepel, Patrick Schoenmaker, and Joost Lieuwma:

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21. NCBF Gala Day with Julia Jarman

I just received a package through the post: a mysterious little jiffy bag that, once opened, proved to be a DVD of photos from the Northern Children's Book Festival Gala Day, where I did events with my good friend Julia Jarman: we've done 4 books together now. 

Gala Day is the big finale, where lots of authors and illustrators perform in one venue. It already seems ages ago, although it was only 3 weeks. It's great fun, although quite an undertaking to organise, which is why the responsibility for it rotates around the region's libraries. This year we were in an extraordinary living museum. Our events, were in a room called 'the ballroom', with a huge crystal chandelier above and walls encrusted with oil paintings. 

As usual, Julia and I had a
 great laugh - we make such a good team. Luckily everyone else seemed to enjoy it too!

After each event, we had to put on big coats and leave our warm, cosy room to walk the length of a Victorian cobbled street (complete with working shops, street urchins and a blacksmith's yard) to the signing tent at the other end. It was so cold, the street was shrouded in icy mist all day long, which leant it an authentic Jack-the-Ripper air!

I just love how excited these little boys are.

There were hot-air blowers to warm the tent and we were lucky - the blower was under our end of the long table, though someone (no names mentioned...) sneakily pinched our prime spot when we came back after lunch!!

Isn't this little girl cute?

I am so pleased that, so far at least, the NCBF has survived the funding cuts. It's a wonderful festival, bringing authors to libraries all over the North East and the Gala Day is something special - you only have to look at the children's faces. 

Thank you lovely library people, for all your hard work (again), and thank you to Tom Kirby for the great photos!

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22. A song for the solstice

In honor of Midwinter and the world not ending, I’d like to share the following video from a folk song festival I attended back in October. First, a little background:  When my mom and her sisters were little, they used to spend part of their summers at a Lithuanian camp called Dainava, in Michigan.  And [...]

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23. imagine festival gala launch

And London's Imagine Festival is now open! Last night the Imagine team and The Book People gathered children's book people from far and wide to celebrate the start of two weeks of amazing family events on the Southbank. Check out the programme, have you booked your tickets? (Don't miss my two events with Philip Reeve next Sunday!)

I took rather random photos on the night and missed out lots of people (including David Roberts, who's one of my all-time fave illustrators), Jeff Norton (whose book I reviewed recently) and Steve Cole (who's done joint events with me), but here are a few peeks at the evening. Oh look, there's Philip Ardagh, mucking about as always, with publisher Alison Green.

Some of my best mates, David O'Connell (whose first book with HarperCollins, Monster and Chips, is launching in three weeks) and my fab studio mate Gary Northfield (whose book with Walker Books, TEENYTINYSAURS, launches in May), and our lovely agent, Jodie Marsh.

Showing off my fancy hat with super-prolific writer Ali Sparkes!

Babette Cole and I adopted young illustrator Sam Usher and spent all evening doing our best to embarrass him. He took it very well.

Writer Andy Stanton with Book People chair Ted Smart and writer Anthony McGowan:

Writer and reviewer Nicolette Jones, writer-illustrator Jez Alborough, writer Nicola Davies, Ardagh and Thirst for Fiction YA book blogger Rhys Jones:

We were all asked to bring along our favourite word and make a badge of it; here's illustrator Garry Parsons with 'SPLAT':

Garry with an agent (named Alice, I think?) and illustrator Adam Stower:

Sam Usher with writer Holly Smale, whose first book, Geek Girl launches the same day with HarperCollins as Dave O'Connell's.

Illustrator-writer team Emma Dodd and Kelly Gerrard. There were quite a few Americans about, and I somehow didn't manage to get a snap of Caroline Lawrence, who last time I saw her was in full cowgirl outfit.

A big thanks to organiser Ruth Huddleston, for all the hard work she's putting into organising the Imagine Festival! Here she is with her daughter, Lydia:

Oh dear, it's that Ardagh again! I need a longer photo to fit him in.

And a big thanks to the Southbank's Performance and Dance Programmer Tamsin Ace, who's also been putting in huge efforts to get this festival rolling!

Gary Northfield, writer Alex Milway and David O'Connell. They drank beers but I stuck to the mojitos.

I found myself sitting right behind writer Sarwat Chadda during the speeches.

Here writer Lauren St John and I are trying to decide on a proper photo face.

Cartoonist and writer-illustrator Joe Berger with his partner Charlotte, and writer-illustrator Ed Vere:

Poor Axel Sheffler. Every time I've seen him, I've taken a photo of us looking more and more terrified (for some reason), but I think we've plumbed the depths of terror and must come up with a new expression for festival photos.

Thanks so much, Ruth, Tamsin, all of the Imagine team, Book People and the evening's great performers for a lovely night! Bring on the festival!

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24. imagine festival on the southbank

What a day! Philip Reeve and I did two Imagine Festival joint events in the big ballroom in the middle of the Royal Festival Hall, in front of over a thousand people! Thank you, Philip, for this oh-so-lovely picture you drew of me during my introduction:

We were introduced by the incredibly striking Madame Lark, who was rather disturbingly carrying a large saw and violin bow.

No one was injured during the course of our event, although some musical notes got some seriously abusive-but-impressive treatment. She's a hard woman with a voice box and she knows how to use it.

Can you believe I used to be shy... For our afternoon Monsters vs Goblins show, the ballroom was packed, with people standing at the back.

Photo by Ruth Huddleston

It was lovely of the festival to accommodate our monsters theme with their own monsters...

Here's a monster that the audience helped us draw, Philip and me taking turns adding bits to it.

This page started out as a joint drawing but turned into a war zone.

Another audience-assisted monster drawing:

The group at the morning show got to draw their own monsters and goblins, too!

At the book signing afterward, it was fun seeing them come up with their drawings.

This girl drew a very literal Morris the Mankiest Monster vs Skarper the goblin!

Here's a drawing Philip made when he was introducing Skarper and the goblin chief, King Knobbler. If you like, you can play the Goblins Bratapult Wars game (a bit like Angry Birds) over on the Scholastic website.

And here's another drawing of Skarper, and my very helpful drawing of a dwarf. It was fun getting a rise out of the crowd by adding the bows, bunnies and ballet shoes while Philip had his back turned. BEHIND YOU!

Philip had a 150-people, sold-out Goblins workshop in between our two events (they really worked him!). Here he is, right before the workshop, doing a warm-up drawing.

Philip led the group in a world-building exercise. He's used to the 'young adult' crowd, from his Mortal Engines books and such, so it was a little different and surprising for him, having a much younger audience. But they were all still totally into it, building their own worlds.

Such as this one, so awesome:

A few more:

A huge thanks to my fabulous Scholastic picture book editor, Pauliina Malinen-Teodoro, who came along with her son to help out for the day.

I had several editors for my last picture book, but Pauliina came in right at the end, and now I'm working with her on a brand-new picture book that I've both written and illustrated. I already love working with her, she's ace.

Hurrah to the Imagine Festival team! It took hundreds (if not thousands) of people to make it happen, but here's organiser Ruth Huddleston (@Marielairre on Twitter) and Alton Brown (@AltonCarlBrown):

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25. Thought Bubble announce first wave of guests for 2013 festival, unveil new logo

Tweet The UK’s largest comics festival, Thought Bubble, has announced it’s first wave of guests for this year. Declared rather unanimously to be the best festival on the British comics circuit by professionals and fans alike, Thought Bubble is situated in the North of England in it’s greatest city, which also just happens to be [...]

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