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1. scribble: my 24-hour comic

Hello! Here's the comic I made for the 24-Hour Comic Marathon at this weekend's Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal.

The challenge I set myself (besides making a whole book in 24 hours!) was to make a comic book that an adult could read aloud to a child. (Usually comics are rather difficult to read aloud.) So there are bits that might be slightly wordy, but I was doing that to try to make it read better. It was an experiment, so see if you think it works!


















































Ta-DAH! Thank you for reading! I'll blog more about the event and creating process soon, but big thanks to Scott McCloud, who set the original 24-Hour Comic challenge, and came all the way from the USA to give the festival a boost and pop his head into the room a couple times with his wife, Ivy, to cheer us on. Here we are in the Page 45 room with the six other creators who were working on their own books along with me through the night (from left): Jack Teagle (@jackteagle), Kristyna Baczynski (@kbaczynski), Warwick Johnson Cadwell (@WarwickJC), Scott ((@scottmccloud), awesome coordinator Dan Berry (@thingsbydan), Fumio Obata (@FumioObata), Joe Decie (@joedecie) and me. Dan was amazing and worked with a local Kendal printer, Absolute Digital Print, to roll out 50 copies of each book by that evening. (Wow!) I've sold out of my copies, but perhaps sometime I'll print some more.



Oh, and did you notice that big crowd scene, when Jamie the scribble is on display at the art museum? I got some help with drawing the crowd from the amazing team of Kendal College assistants who stuck with us through the night, in two shifts. A lot of the people were drawn by Janet (here with her sketchbook), who's ace.



And here are Phil Welch and Katie White, who stayed with us through the WHOLE 24 HOURS and created an AMAZING BLOG, tweeting as @24hcm and using the #24hcm hash tag. Also, a little look at my work desk, and a pose on the following Sunday with festival-mascot-creator Felt Mistress and the two top festival coordinators, Julie Tait and Sandra Wood. Thanks so much, everyone!



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2. Interview: Anim’est Festival Director Mihai Mitrică on Romania’s Budding Animation Scene

While animation has been made in Romania for many decades and the country has even produced some internationally recognized figures like Ion Popescu-Gopo, the contemporary animation scene hadn't received much exposure until the founding of the Anim'est festival.

0 Comments on Interview: Anim’est Festival Director Mihai Mitrică on Romania’s Budding Animation Scene as of 1/1/1900
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3. manx lit fest 2014

So Philip Reeve hijacked my previous blog post and turned it into a Manx Reeve & McIntyre pop quiz. But it wasn't exactly a comprehensive look at my visit to the Isle of Man for the Manx Lit Fest. The main reason I blog is so that I don't forget things, and Manx Lit Fest was so fabulous that I absolutely must go back and record it.



Writer Rakie Keig plunged me straight into a Manx cultural lesson when she drove me from the aiport to Douglas, where I would be staying for the weekend. We drove over the Fairy Bridge and she urged me to greet the fairies (as everyone does on the island, I learned from asking around). She also advised me never to say the word r-a-t, and subtitute the wod 'longtail' if I needed to say it. Her third tip was never to say I had come over from 'the mainland', but to call it 'the adjoining island'. Thanks for the tips, Rakie!



Douglas has a lovely long promenade along the beach, with a sort of faded grandeur that makes it easy to imagine the old days, when it was a prime seaside holiday destination. The Regency Hotel had lots of quirky old features, including a beautiful but tiny lift.




The lift had those sorts of grated gates you see on Russian lifts, and of course, I had to take a photo down the shaft. And then I imagined the pile of dropped camera phones at the base of it.



The lift became a major feature of my stay, and got tinier and tinier as my costumes grew larger.



My first event was a reception for the festival's sponsors, and one of the nice surprises was getting to meet a young author named Harri Sansostri. I meet a lot of kids who write, but I'd connected with Harri a year ago, when he was just beginning to try to promote his book on Twitter. He was sending the same promo tweet to everyone and I at first thought it was spam, but then realised his age, and we had a good conversation about promotion, which led to me writing this blog post for him. There was too much to say on Twitter, and I thought it might help Harri and other kids (possibly even adults!) who are trying to walk the fine line between promoting their books and being annoying. I'm sure I often go about it the wrong way, but Harri is proof that just getting out there and trying something, even if he got it wrong at first, can pay off in the end.



Harri's learned so much since then about using social media and his mother came up to me and thanked me for giving him that advice, and he tweeted me later to say how helpful it had been. (Which was good to hear; some people would just get angry if another person referred to their early tweets as spammy!)



I was so pleased to see he's ploughing forward with his books, having finished the second one and working on the third. Here's an update about it on his website, and it's great to think he's already being invited to a literary festival. He's also done quite a few school visits, which is very impressive!



Another person I met at the reception was teacher-turned-rap-battler, poet Mark Grist. The only things I knew about rap battles are from watching Eminem's film 8 Mile, but talking with Mark so intrigued me that I went to see his event later, which was undoubtedly the most entertaining poetry evening I've ever been to.



The actual rap battle videos are quite sweary (one of them has over 4 million views), but you can see a family-friendly version here, where Mark talks about taking rap battles into schools. The thing I loved most about his gig was the way he wove stories about his teaching experiences in between poetry recitations; it was great comedy.


http://markgrist.com/video.php

After the reception, my Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space co-author Philip Reeve and I hosted the annual Book Fanatics' Quiz Night (see the previous post). The next day was Schools Day, and I spent the morning with the kids at Marown Primary School.



I led an Oliver and the Seawigs session with Years 2-4 and we finished by drawing Sea Monkeys and singing the Sea Monkey sea shanty.



These cheeky Sea Monkeys made me laugh:



The youngest children, Reception and Year 1, had already been reading Jampires, so I was able to build on what they already knew. We started out by drawing Jampires (who love jam), but then I had them think of their favourite food, and invent a little critter that might be obsessed with it. We even did a little bit of world building, talking about their creatures' homeland, filled entirely with their favourite food, and we drew trees with the food hanging from them (sausages, chocolate, salmon, etc).



Besides the Jampires, it was fun seeing Pizzapires, Sausagepires, Chocopires...



And then I finished with the oldest kids, Years 5 & 6. I led them in a Comics Jam, which was quite intense.



It's always fun watching them at the end of the session, when their comic is returned to them, and they can see where other kids have taken their story.



This loo door made me laugh, but no, the Marown staff do not have visible horns! Huge thanks to the school's Literacy Coordinator Megan Udy, who organised my visit, and to Nicki McMullin, from festival sponsor Isle of Man Bank, who drove me to my events.



I did solo events in the morning, but I was glad to join up with Philip in the afternoon for a shorter visit Cronk-y-Berry School. (Isn't that a great name?).



In the evening, we had a Serious Literary Event in St Bridget's Chapel on the gorgeous Nunnery Estate, just outside of Douglas. (Here's Philip being all posey in the evening sunlight.)



We were joined in our event by novelist Sara Crowe, author of Bone Jack
, and we talked on the subject of 'Creating a Lifelong Love of Words'. A lot of what I talked about was the importance of visuals in getting kids reading, their love of comics, and the importance of making books to inspire kids to love books. You can get an idea of what I talked about in an earlier blog post I wrote here, about setting up school comics festivals. Actually, we talked about A LOT, but you really had to be there. Come to one of our events sometime!



The next morning was Cakes in Space morning, and I assembled various bits of my costume on the hotel window ledge. Standard illustrator equipment, you see.



And then we went to Douglas' Family Library, where we were met by an eager crowd, and possibly our youngest ever!



We demonstrated the power of SCIENCE with the Nom-O-Tron:



Delighted everyone with the tuneful strains of our Cakes in Space song:



And presented awards for the best Cakes in Space-themed craft projects! Check out THIS HAT:



Utter genius, such a beautiful hat! It was created by the contest winner, a boy named David. Hurrah!



The hat was almost good enough to eat. (Stop that, Reeve!)



Oo, look, David also made a Cakes in Space Poglite! So fabulous!



We didn't get explanations for these drawings, but they looked pretty amazing.



And we also did a bit of drawing ourselves, on the day!



I led the group in drawing Pilbeam the robot, whose voice was so expertly reenacted by Philip.



Check out some of these great Pilbeams!



When we first started doing our Cakes in Space event, Philip and I were worried that drawing Pilbeam would be too complicated. But somehow, the step-by-step approach seems to work with even very young children. You can learn how to draw Pilbeam (as well as Astra and killer cakes) over on my website here.



One of the nice things about the book signing session after the event is getting to see people's drawings up close, and having little chats with everyone.



Big thanks, Family Library team, for a great morning! We were so pleased to see wonderful decorations everywhere, and the competition was a real bonus!



After a quick costume change, our next stop was Laxey Glen Gardens for the Roald Dahl Family Day, where we did an open air Oliver and the Seawigs event. And we got to hang out with fabulously funny writer Mark Lowery! If you haven't read his Socks are Not Enough, go read it now, it had me laughing and dying with embarrassment for its main character.



One of the cool things about the Isle of Man was just HOW many people had read Philip's books. Here's a Murderous Maths fanboy popping out from the trees, and so many people told him how his Mortal Engines books had a huge impact on them. Even Mark Grist said he walked into a lamppost reading the end of A Darkling Plain.



We were VERY lucky for sunny weather for the stage event, and we had to shout quite a lot to be heard, but we had a good audience and the dog on the stage slept peacefully throughout the show. Thanks to everyone who came along!



We were hoping to do a bit of sightseeing, and just before we left, festival Treasurer Pam Cope kindly drove us to Peel, for a look at its magnificent castle. I'd been to the Isle of Man for a wedding 13 years ago, and I'd forgotten an awful lot, but I knew Peel Castle would be worth revisiting. And gosh, it's pretty.



And so many interesting parts to explore! Hey, where has that Reeve gone off to?



Hmm, something's flitting through that bit of ruin there...



Let's zoom in. Ah, 'tis just a little Manx fairie.



Of course, in such a dramatic location, one must create dramatic album cover photos:



And I took a photo of a beautiful, rusty, old boat in Peel Harbour, for Ian McQue, who draws such things so well.



Festival photographer Steve Babb had us pose with the local Viking rope sculpture, and tweeted that we were arguing over our next book title.



Here's my photo of Steve! He was great fun and took so many terrific photos! Thanks, Steve!



Manx Lit Fest was a brilliant festival and I recommend it to any authors or visitors. So much to see and do! Huge thanks to the festival team (having a tiny breather in a Peel cafe): Festival Director John Quirke, Pam Cope, Jane Quirke and Technician Andrew Kniveton.

\

But that's not the whole team, there were SO many other people involved, driving, running events, baking, you name it. Here's volunteer Rakie Keig, the person who drove me from the airport:



Harri Sansostri with the excellent staff of Bridge Bookshop in Port Erin, who sold books at our events:



And one more photo of John Quirke, just because in the Mortal Engines books, 'Quirke' is a god, and that is undoubtedly why we got invited, ha ha... Thank you so much, John and team for a brilliant festival!

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4. manx lit fest quiz 2014

Last weekend Philip Reeve and I flew out to the Isle of Man for the Manx Lit Fest. We'll blog about it in more detail soon, but here's a quick taster of our adventures.

Our first assignment was to be quiz masters for the Book Fanatics’ Quiz Night.



We’d never run a quiz before, but while we wouldn’t want to blow our own trumpets, we were magnificent. So we’ll put our new-found quiz-running skills to use in the rest of this blog.

Test Your Reeve & McIntyre Knowledge

QUESTION 1: How many authors can you fit into the lift at the Regency Hotel in Douglas?



ANSWER: Just Sarah: all the other authors have to walk up the stairs.

QUESTION 2: Can you guess the purpose of these unusual objects?



ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION 3: What is this?
a) A hat?
b) A cake?





ANSWER: Both! It’s the winning entry of the Family Library’s ‘Cakes in Space’ competition, designed and made by David.



QUESTION 4: What happens if you press this button?





ANSWER: All of the above.

QUESTION 5: When exploring the ruins of Peel Castle, can McIntyre do a good brooding face?



ANSWER: No.

QUESTION 6: Can Reeve do a good brooding face?



ANSWER: Yes, it is one of the most impressive things we have ever seen.

QUESTION 7: Can you guess who is typing this blog?

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION 8: What is the title of Reeve and McIntyre’s next stadium rock album?

a) The Unforgettable… Um… Errr….
b) The Joshua Hatstand
c ) Appetite for Destruction and Biscuits
d) Kippers By Post




ANSWER: The Unforgettable… Thingy, you know, oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue…

(Kippers by Post is, of course, the title of McIntyre’s new solo album of Gaelic lullabies.)



QUESTION 9: How much is this 1960s Sarah McIntyre action figure worth? (Note that it is still in its original box.)



ANSWER: It’s yours for a tub of Manx Knobs and a fistful of fresh Queenies.

QUESTION 10: Where does McIntyre keep her emergency doughnut supply?

a) In her hamster-like cheek pouches.
b) In an offshore bank.
c) Concealed in her wig.



ANSWER: C. These doughnuts have not been concealed well enough, and have attracted the attentions of local wildfowl.

HOW DID YOU SCORE?

0 - 3 Well done! You are a very sensible person and probably haven’t bothered reading this far.

4-6 You have a profound appreciation for Manx culture and literary life.

7-10 Congratulations! You are awarded honorary membership of the Reeve & McIntyre Appreciation Society! (Meetings held regularly in the lift at the Regency Hotel, Douglas.)

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5. budleigh salterton lit fest 2014

Traveling to rural Devon in full space costume must be the zenith of my career. Look at Spaceman Reeve, he's practically glowing with radiation.



Devon people, do not be alarmed if you look toward the end of your garden and see an other-worldly figure emerge.



He mostly comes in peace.



Invite him in to your home, for he is quite handy in the kitchen.



The Western Morning News printed a double-page spread to commemorate the spectacle.



Once we got used to the earth's gravity, we set off for Budleigh Salterton.


Photo by Sarah Reeve


And there we were, Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival! We demonstrated some of the gadgetry in our book, including the wonderous Nom-O-Tron, which can, from a simple protein formula, synthesise any sort of food you like.


Photo by Sarah Reeve

And I was pleased to find it produced a most excellent coffee walnut cake. (My favourite!)


Photo by Sarah Reeve

We always get people drawing at our events - everyone drew Pilbeam the robot with me - but this girl, Lauren Taylor, drew a whole comic strip in between the time we finished the show and the book signing session!



Check it out: killer cakes, robots, even little Reeve and McIntyre royalty! I like my victorious arm gesture at the end.



It's so fun getting people to draw Pilbeam. (Reeve does a great Pilbeam voice when we do one of the readings from Cakes in Space.)



I think people get a lot of confidence seeing that, if they take a drawing step by step, they can turn out something interesting on their paper. And I love how the drawings don't all look exactly like mine; they all have their own intriguing character.



Thanks so much to everyone who came along to see us and made drawings!



And big thanks to the organisers of Budleigh lit fest, we enjoyed our visit very much.


Photo by Sarah Reeve

And here's our production team, the most excellent Sarah Reeve and Stuart! Sarah did a great job bringing a killer cake on stage for us to examine in a Great-British-Bake-Off style, and Stuart worked the music (composed by Sarah Reeve). Thanks, team!



We even met one of the stars of the Save Budleigh Library documentary film and, when our event was finished, we stopped by the library for a peek. A nice lady with a zimmer frame insisted I wear her scarf for the photo.



I contributed a bit to the video, which you can see here. We do hope the government reconsiders closing this heart of the community and listens to local people who are throwing themselves into the campaign.



It was quite funny walking around Budleigh Salterton in cognito. We passed several people who had been at our event and they didn't recognise us at all without our space gear. Hey, check out the stone pictures on Budleigh beach! A masted ship, a panda, a bee, a Dalek, a whole pebble exhibition.



It's a beautiful place and I'd never been before; so glad to have had the chance.



Sarah's a professional portrait photographer and took lots of photos of us in her studio when we got back to the Reeve Ranch. They're great; I'll show those off soon! In the meantime, you can follow Budleigh lit fest on Twitter as @BudleighLitFest. And if you missed us this time, be sure to keep an eye on my Events Page if you want to catch us in action!

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6. Ottawa Winners: ‘Hipopotamy,’ ‘Seth’s Dominion’ Win Top Prizes

Veteran Polish filmmaker Piotr Dumala won the short film grand prize for "Hipopotamy" at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, which wrapped up its 2014 edition yesterday.

0 Comments on Ottawa Winners: ‘Hipopotamy,’ ‘Seth’s Dominion’ Win Top Prizes as of 9/22/2014 1:12:00 PM
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7. jampires book launch!


Photo by James Petrie

Hee hee, it's great fun to stand in the middle of a field wearing sparkly red platform heels when everyone else is walking around in wellies. This weekend my co-author David O'Connell and I launched our new picture book, Jampires, at The Big Feastival in Oxfordshire.


Photo by James Petrie

I couldn't believe it, I forgot to pack my Bakewell Tart hat! Nooooo!


Photo by Dave Warren

But never mind, our book was well and truly launched with a dramatic reading by David and me. (Dave's very good at doing the voices.) And I can rock a converted poodle skirt. (Thanks to my mum for helping me sew on all the Jampires.)


Photo by Neill Cameron

And I taught everyone how to draw a Jampire! 'But what is a Jampire?' you may ask. Well, if you've ever bitten into a jam doughnut and found it disappointingly dry and jamless, they are the culprits. These little critters suck out them jam. They LOVE jam. Our book is basically a hymn to jam.


Photo by James Petrie

And you can learn how to draw a Jampire, too! David and I have put all sorts of goodies on our new website, so do have fun exploring it: jampires.com


View as a PDF

We have masks, too! Check out the website! :)


Photo by James Petrie


Since the Jampires are obsessed with jam, we had actual jam on site...


Photo by James Petrie

...and an actual jam maker, who has joined our Jampires team! Meet Emma Preston-Dunlop, jam maker extraordinaire, who gave us a little lesson on how to make jam, and treated us to samples of her tasty concoctions.


Photo by James Petrie

Emma runs a jam company called The Butch Institute and while raspberry jam is always my favourite, she gives it a real run for its money with her Cherry Bakewell with amaretto syrup and almonds.


Photo by James Petrie

Since The Big Feastival's all about food, we explored, and went straight for the PIE. Gotta love a pie. Emma taught me how to eat it from a carton without getting gravy all over my skirt.


Photo by James Petrie

And our lovely publisher, David Fickling, cycled all the way over from Oxford - a two-hour journey across many hills - to be there for our launch. Hurrah! (He didn't cycle in his signature bowtie, but he put it on as soon as he arrived.)


Photo by James Petrie

JAM. Who doesn't dream about The Great Jam Pot in the Sky? *wistful sigh*



Dave and I couldn't be there both days, so actor Devon Black stepped in and led her own Jampires session on the Sunday, which looked brilliant. She made a costume, a whole new show, and I hear she did a brilliant job! Thank you SO MUCH, Devon!!


Photo tweeted by Philippa Perry

Feastival had some rival vampiric creatures, not all as small and cuddly as our Jampire.


Photo by James Petrie

After a little scare, he got a cuddle from Neill Cameron, and everything was all right.



So Neill was mostly busy drawing comic characters over in The Phoenix Comic area. He's the amazing creator of stories such as Pirates of Pangaea, Mega Robo Bros and has a new book out, How to Make Awesome Comics. Here's a Cyborg Mode Jamie Oliver (the chef who hosts the festival, along with Blur bassist-turned-cheesemaking-farmer Alex James):



The drive to Feastival was quite a long one, and our friend James Petrie was a hero and gave us all a lift in his car. As you can see, Dave and I were terrible back-seat drivers.



Lovely Dave. It's not just his genius talent, you see; I mostly work with him because he has such beautiful flowing tresses.



Big group selfie! Huge thanks to David Fickling for publishing us, Emma for being such a great Jam Master, Devon for Sunday's awesomeness, Feastival for hosting us, fab publicist Philippa Perry for organising the day, James for driving and photos, and Ann Lam for our knitted Jampire. Jammy times!



Head over to the David Fickling Books website to see their blog about Jampires, and jampires.com for all your jammy needs.

Jammy Twitter links: @davidoconnell, @DFB_Storyhouse, @ButchInstitue, #JAMPIRES

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8. Scottish Space Adventure: Edinburgh Book Festival 2014

This year Edinburgh Book Festival was OUT OF THIS WORLD!



My literary co-pilot Philip Reeve and I had been putting together a Cakes in Space stage show and this was our first full-on performance. (Since Reeve lives on Dartmoor and I'm in London, we only had one other chance to practice, at Nine Worlds a couple weeks before Edinburgh.) And just as we were leaving for Scotland, this fabulous animated Cakes in Space trailer popped up, made by Ed Beck & David Mead from MB Films:



Our book features a spaceship food machine called the NOM-O-TRON, so we brought along a smaller, portable version:



And I showed everyone how to draw Pilbeam the robot and a killer cake! Here's one of the drawings, tweeted in by @Lorna_May_D:



I still can't quite get over seeing Reeve in streaky blue hair and lipstick.



And we even got our portraits shot by festival photographer Chris Close. We were the only authors he took into his special anti-gravity booth. Thanks, Chris!





When Stuart and I first arrived at the book festival, I raced around looking at all the other photos... and spotted some friendly faces! Here's Philip Ardagh (who works with Axel Sheffler on his The Grunts books; Axel draws Julia Donaldson's Gruffalo - that's the link to the little chappie on his shoulder - and Babette Cole, with characters from her new James Rabbit and the Giggleberries book.



And while I was there, Babette drew me a birthday picture! Thank you, Babette! :D She made sure I paid special attention to the space pants.



I did quite a lot of costume changes, and Stuart was wonderful about helping me with them, even if he thought I was slightly nuts.



On the Thursday, I had a full day of Outreach Events in Fife. The festival organises these so schools and libraries outside of central Edinburgh can still take part in the festival. Here I am in the festival Yurt, very early in the morning, practicing my There's a Shark in the Bath song. I first sang it at the Hay Festival and I was super-nervous, but I'm a bit more confident about it now.



I took those sharks to Kirkcaldy West Primary School. They were great fun, that lot! And we even got our pictures in the local paper. (Thanks for tweeting that, Damon Herd!)



My assistants and I got to have lunch at the beautiful new Kirkcaldy Galleries:



The Schools Outreach is very strict about not taking photos in the schools, so I only got one. But it's of the excellent team who took me around on the day: Outreach coordinators Sarah Bingham, Grainne Crawford and Rona Neilson and a tag-along Jampire. Thanks so much, team!



One of the challenges of Edinburgh Book Fest is trying to do a few other things outside the book festival. But this time Stuart and I made a point of going to see our friend Emma Vieceli acting at The Fringe festival, in a play called Parade. She did a great job! Emma now makes comics, but she started out as a children's telly presenter and she's recorded music, and it's fun seeing her go back to her roots.



Ah, here's Emma (second from right)! Together with comics people Hannah Berry, Pat Mills and their partners:



On the way to Emma's play, Stuart spotted my Summer Reading Challenge banner in the front window of the new Edinburgh Central Children's Library, together with two of Philip Reeve's three GOBLINS books. Cool!



Another fun thing about Edinburgh is going out for publisher dinners and meet other authors who are published by the same team. Here's Philip, our excellent Oxford University Press publicist Keo Baxendine (who did a lot of our planning) and another of their writers, Wendy Meddour, whose 12-year-old daughter illustrates their Wendy Quill books. (Or maybe her daughter's older now, but still, pretty amazing.)



And hanging out in the Authors Yurt is fun, too. Everyone's sort of equal in there, so you can talk with anyone (and grab cake and whisky and other nice treats and meals). Look, it's Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman! While we were there, Malorie did an interview with a Sky reporter, quite rightly calling for more diversity in children's books, and got stuck with a very bad headline, which caused massive internet outrage, and quite a lot of abuse, too. But Malorie stuck by her guns, and all our colleagues rallied around her, and the whole thing made it much more clear just why we need more diversity in books. Not in a tick-the-box sort of way, but in a way that lots of different kinds of people can find other people like themselves in books. Patrick Ness talked on Twitter about how he couldn't find any books about gay people in his school library, and there aren't that many UK children's books with black people as the main characters. Here's Malorie's initial Sky interview, and a Guardian article about her response.



Here's Malorie's Summer Reading Challenge video:



More exciting encounters: it's Di Cameron from Oxford's Story Museum, comics artist Adam Murphy in The Phoenix Comic), comics colourist Lisa Murphy, Cameron Jr and comics artist Neill Cameron! Adam and Neill both have new books out with The Phoenix Comic and David Ficking books, compilations of their Phoenix work: Corpse Talk by Adam and How to Make Awesome Comics by Neill. Lisa did quite a lot of the colouring for Adam, and has also coloured for my studio mate Gary Northfield (Gary's Garden) when he was pressed for time.



Philip and I were hugely flattered that Geraldine McCaughrean came to our event! Geraldine's been a big influence on Philip, and her book The White Darkness is one of my all-time faves. Geraldine's on Twitter now: you can follow her: @GMcCaughrean.



Philip and I did two Cakes in Space events, one for schools and one for the general public. During the schools event, festival sketcher Morag Edward drew us! She did a great job, but I don't think we made it easy for her: "You moved around a lot!"



COSTUME CHANGE!



Ha ha, I got this week at Afflecks Palace in Manchester during an earlier festival, and I love the name of it: Skyscraper Blond.



Head of Marketing and Publicity Elaine McQuade from Oxford University Press came with Philip and me to Wester Hailes Library to do another Outreach event, this time featuring Oliver and the Seawigs. I'm really getting into this wig thing. My bird thought Elaine was rather splendid and cuddled up. One of the librarians had a phobia of feathers, so I had to put away my fluffy fan.



We had a great time at Wester Hailes, drawing Sea Monkeys with everyone and singing the EEP song, but I didn't get any photos. Our next stop was Leith Library, where we were helping them with their Summer Reading Challenge final medal ceremony. First I sang an opera aria...


Photo by Jeff Holmes

(No, not really.) If you've been following my blog, you'll have seen that MYTHICAL MAZE theme of this year's Summer Reading Challenge has been a big part of my lasts few months. I got to be the official illustrator, and when I first took on the job, I met with kids at Leith Library and got their ideas and feedback on some of the characters. So it was great coming full circle and hearing how they'd enjoyed the challenge, and congratulating them for reading their six books.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

We tried to slide the medals on gracefully and not get them stuck on anyone's ears. It's a tricky task.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

Philip and I read a bit from our Oliver and the Seawigs, the myth we've created, and I talked with the kids a bit about myth making. There's no way to say your characters will be remembered thousands of years from now, like Medusa or the Minotaur, but if you do your best, you never know!


Photo by Jeff Holmes

I led everyone in drawing Medusa, Edinburgh City Libraries' Simon Radcliffe said a few words, and our sponsor, Tesco Bank, took a big Summer Reading Challenge group photo.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

One of the fun things about this summer is the way so many kids and librarians have dressed up in mythical creature costumes, and the photographers took us outside for a few more cosplay shots:


Photo by Jeff Holmes

Whee! Thank you, Edinburgh! A huge thanks to the festival's Children & Education Programme Director Janet Smyth, and you can follow the festival on Twitter: @EdBookFest and see some other things that happened on the #EdBookFest hash tag.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

As much as I love book festivals, I find them exhausting, and I was very grateful that I didn't have to go straight back to the drawing desk (despite impending deadlines). Stuart and I took a couple more days to visit Glasgow Auntie, and she looked after us wonderfully. Here she is, having an intimate moment with a Jampire.



Glasgow Auntie took us to beautiful Troon. I had no idea Troon had such an amazing beach.



But jellyfish... JELLYFISH! We were glad we weren't swimming. Check out this alien creature that had washed up:



One last shot with lovely Stuart in the Troon sun.



Bye bye, Scotland, but just for now! If you're further south and still want to see our Cakes in Space performance, there are still a few spaces left for our Saturday morning family-friendly launch at Daunt Books Marylebone, central London on 13 Sept at 10:30am. Book your free ticket now! (You can come with kids or without, in space costume or not, it's up to you!) :)

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9. Drawing the Summer - Festival Fun!



Sheffield Museums have had funding for an exciting new festival this year, called Drawing the Summer. It's all about getting people to draw: everyone and anyone, especially encouraging those who don't normally do it, to have a go.

It's such a great idea - there are so many people out there who secretly want to draw, but who lack the confidence, or just the time in their busy lives, to get out some paper and 
just try.

As well as lots of practical hands-on events, there are also some great exhibitions on, to tie in with the festival: the Recording Britain Now show in the Millennium Gallery is wonderful - really exciting and varied new work by artists shortlisted for the 2014 Ruskin prize. There is also an excellent series of lithographs from 1916 by Joseph Pennell at The Graves. They bowled me over!

© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Anyway, one of many activities taking place for the festival involved Yours Truly on Monday. Museums Sheffield commissioned me to host an urban sketching session in the centre of Sheffield. 


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Our Drawing the Summer base-camp was a big table set up with drawing boards and stools, pencils, A3 paper and a big box of coloured pencils. We strung a washing-line up too, so we could peg up drawings. We had two lovely big banners, but it was so windy, we couldn't use them. Hence all the multiple pegs above!


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

We grabbed any passers-by, to ask if they fancied stopping and doing a sketch. There was plenty to draw: as well as all the extremely varied architecture, Tudor Square has a couple of table-tennis tables set up for the summer months so, to get the ball rolling, I had a go at sketching some of the different people who stopped for a while, to play:



We clocked 80 people during the 2.5 hours we were set up, but my favourite was this man, who said he had never drawn before, but who sat for about an hour, very carefully drawing a complex view of the buildings, which turned out really well. I think he was astonished at what he'd achieved.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Many people took their work home, some gave it to us to peg up on the line. Some people asked for help and advice, which was where I came in, but mostly they just got stuck in. I obviously had my sketch gear too, so when I wasn't needed, I drew alongside them, hoping to attract attention and perhaps to inspire. This was one view from our table: 



The older kids were lovely to watch: we had various families with children, often around 8 - 11 years old.  In an age of short attention-spans, it was interesting to see how well the act of drawing focussed them. They sat, totally absorbed, for around an hour at a time and created drawings which were strong and confident.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

One very interesting thing I noticed: the Crucible and The Old Monk pub in Tudor square have prominent lettering. Adults always started by drawing the shapes of the buildings and then added in the typography afterwards, so invariably ran out of space for the letters. The children all started by drawing the lettering, then created the building shapes around the words, so that everything fitted. A curious difference.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

There are still lots of events to go, between now and September 10th, in fact there is another very similar event tomorrow (Sunday 24th) at Weston Park, so you too could have a go. Whether you are an experienced sketcher or a complete beginner, it'll be fun. And if you really don't want to draw yourself, there are still some excellent talks and demonstrations you will enjoy. Check out the Events Guide and look for the yellow pencil icon.



© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

In the meantime, if you want to see more photos from my Tudor Square event on Monday, take a look here.






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10. comics jamming at london world con

Last Friday I went to the huge international Science Fiction convention that is World Con, this year hosted right in my hometown! (And somewhat confusingly, also called < ahref="http://www.loncon3.org/">LonCon3</a>.) And I saw some familiar faces right away! Spot the family who were in my Nine Worlds convention blog post from the previous weekend... (The lady in the excellent Vivien of Holloway dress is Adela Terrell.)



And since I was going to lead a Comics Jam session, I wore my best Jampires dress! And brought along my beautiful new Jampire friend, knitted as a surprise by Ann Lam. Poor little Jampire; World Con was a BIG PLACE and he couldn't find jam anywhere, just post-apocalyptic landscape.


First photo tweeted by @ExLibrisNora


Meanwhile, I was schmoozing it up in the Green Room with writer Emma Newman in her amazing red frock coat. Wait, check it out, the Green Room at the Excel Centre was in this crazy pod on stilts. Funnily enough, I also sat right by George RR Martin in there, but since I don't watch or read Game of Thrones;, the experience was a bit wasted on me and I chatted with fab Hannah Berry instead. Cons are like that for me, I don't know any of the people I'm supposed to know, because I never get a chance to WATCH TELLY.



So for the Comics Jam session, I brought along a range of indie/self-published comics, a mix of work by adults and kids, to show to the group. And I talked about how writing and drawing are one thing, but making their own books is even better, because they can learn how a whole book is put together, practice the form, and play around a bit with marketing it, designing covers, etc.



Here we are, in the midst of the Comics Jam, everyone working on panel number three at the same time.



And a couple of the comics we came up with, each panel drawn by a different person:



One of the dads in particular was very interested in helping his son find out more about making comics, and I was hugely pleased to be able to recommend Neill Cameron's brand-new book, How to Make Awesome Comics. In the past, I've recommended Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, but I find Scott's book has a bit too much advanced technical theory for younger kids, say, under 10 or 12. Neill's book is a wonderful gap-filler and I know I will be recommending it often. (You can buy it here from The Phoenix Comic online shop, among lots of other great kid-appropriate comics.)



Oh, and as a side-note, Scott McCloud will be a special guest this October at the Lakes Internation Comic Art Festival in Kendal, which I'll be attending. Neill does lots of workshops at the Story Museum in Oxford and elsewhere, so keep an eye on his website events page.



If anyone from the Comics Jam is looking for guidance specifically on running more Comics Jams, I've created a guide with my Jampires picture book co-author David O'Connell on our Jampires.com website.


Click here to read more

I also spoke on another panel on art, and then went to see Audrey Niffenegger give the English PEN H.G. Wells talk. I sat next to Sophie Lyons, who'd studied on Audrey's novel writing course in Chicago. Audrey talked about Wells' short story The Door in the Wall, which I managed to find and read online late that night. It's like a dark inversion of one of my childhood favourites, The Secret Garden, about a man who once finds a wonderous door to a garden and then spends the rest of his life yearning for that garden; he's unable to find the door, except at the most inopportune times, when he feels he can't take time to walk through it. Good stuff.



And here are some of the LonCon team! There's Maura McHugh, Erin Horáková, James Bacon and Esther MacCalum-Stewart, and they all looked after me very well. Thanks so much!



I knew Maura from trips to Ireland, where she had hosted me when I spoke to the Dublin chapter of Laydeez Do Comics. Maura does loads of things, but you might know her for the famous list she made of currently practicing female comic artists in the UK and Ireland... Ah, and I see she's widened it to Wome in Comics in Europe! You can follow her on Twitter as @splinister.



I made a quick foray into the Dealers Hall and saw the art exhbition, and was particularly pleased to see my ol' studio mate Ellen Lindner's books on display at the Soaring Penguin table, manned by John Anderson and Nora Goldberg.



So my experience doesn't even begin to encompass the vast scale of the con, and it ran for five days. But I was glad to have a little window into it, for the day I was there. Thanks, Maura and James, for inviting me to be a part of it!



I'll leave you with a few more of the Comics Jams.



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11. World Premieres of ‘Big Hero 6′ and ‘Parasyte’ Set for Tokyo International Film Festival

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is putting a special emphasis on animation this year, and has announced that Disney's "Big Hero 6" will be the opening night film of their 27th edition.

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12. Venice Film Festival Selects ‘Boxtrolls’ And Two Animated Shorts

The Venice Film Festival, which is the world's oldest film festival, announced the line-up today for their 71st edition. The festival is known for not giving much consideration to animated cinema, but they always throw in a few animated films.

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13. london YA lit con 2014

Hatted up, suited and booted: just another day heading into the office...



Ha ha! It's so much fun when other people dress up, not just me. Yesterday I went to YA Lit Con (that's Young Adult Literature Convention, or #YALC), held as part of the London Film and Comic Con at Earl's Court in London. On the pavement outside, this lady in her fine threads won my heart... until she shot an arrow straight through it. Aiee!



Seriously, where else do you get this many unaccompanied kids and teenagers together in one place - many with MASSIVE WEAPONS - and have such a well-behaved, literate group of people? These people LOVE stories, and they often don't just want to read them, but become actual characters in these new myths and legends. I love this so much. Here's Martin Chilton's coverage of YALC in The Telegraph:



When I got to the Green Room, I went a little crazy with taking selfies with lots of people there. Steve Cole was super-chuffed to get his photo taken with one of the Doctor Who characters, Paul McGann. (Steve had written BBC books starring Paul's Doctor from '97-'99.) To be honest, I had a bit of a crush on him in the film Withnail and I; there's even two pages in Morris the Mankiest Monster based on screen shots I took of that film.




Hey look, Mark Gatiss! Editor of Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space Clare Whitston REALLY wanted a photo with him. Wahey! I think he does a great job playing Sherlock Holmes's brother Mycroft in the BBC's Sherlock. Ooh, and writer Catherine Johnson got in for a shot!



Oo, and Clare quite fancied a shot with Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anthony Head. And writer Bryony Pearce!



Then I got SOUNDLY TOLD OFF by one of the red-t-shirted YALC staff, saying that the Green Room is a place of refuge from fans and I was NOT to be taking any more photos. Which was actually pretty gutsy, as she was quite young, and it's not easy to tell people off like that. Respect.

But I did snap a few more very quiet Green Room photos of friendly faces, including YA Lit Con founder and Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman, fellow comics panelist Emma Vieceli, writer Catherine Johnson and writer Charlie Higson.



Malorie's been such a great laureate; this YA Lit Con was her idea, to get books and their authors right in there where so many kids gather for comics, film and dressing up. Then Katherine Woodfine and Booktrust set the gears in motion and put in a LOT of hard work to make it happen. You can read more about it in this piece Malorie wrote for The Guardian:



YALC really was two worlds colliding for me: usually I have my book world friends and my comics friend, and rarely do the two meet. If you look at book festival line-ups, you'd think UK children's book authors are quite evenly divided male-female, but if you go to children's book social events, I usually see a lot more women. Whereas, until recently, I'd go to comics gatherings and sometimes be the only woman in the room. This is all changing and it's great to see the different crowds mixing and merging. The place it really started for me was with the DFC weekly magazine, which is now The Phoenix Comic, and it brought out of the comics woodwork people who can write for children (and many who because solid friends).

I wouldn't label myself as a 'YA writer', but people of all ages have given me great feedback on my Vern and Lettuce comic, and I hate to think Oliver and the Seawigs wouldn't appeal to teens and adults. But as YA isn't specifically 'my thing' (What even is YA?), I chaired a panel, rather than spoke on it. Here's our Going Graphic event with Marcus Sedgwick, Emma Vieceli and Ian Edginton, where we discussed adapting comics from pre-existing text-only books. I think the event went well, despite it being very noisy in the big hall; we had a great turnout and several people live-tweeted it. At dinner that evening, Emma wanted to clarify that what she had said about writing and drawing; she meant that it's easier to get work if you can produce images, not just a script, but that that actual drawing part is WAY harder and more time-consuming than the writing. But I thought it was quite funny when she talked about how she'll sometimes have internal arguments between herself as the writer and as the artist; one side of her can get quite annoyed with the other. You can follow the three of them on Twitter: @marcussedgwick, @Emmavieceli, @IanEdginton. Ian's adapting Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses, with artwork by the amazing John Aggs, and I'm with loads of people who are looking forward to that.



Emma and I did our signings next to each other and it was fun seeing some great costumes parade by. Emma has some MEGA fans for her Vampire Academy series, and she was able to provide a printed prologue for her ongoing BREAKS web comic.



One of the coolest things that happened all day was something I don't usually get to see at book festivals; three black boys, aged somewhere between 10 an 13, hung around for awhile watching me draw and sign in books. Two of them spent time looking through the books and bought themselves copies, and one of them asked me how I went about getting published. I was able to introduce him right there to my Oxford University Press editor, Clare Whitston, and he grilled Clare, quite professionally, about what he needed to do. He's written about aliens, and I suspect this kid could go places. Special kudos to their librarian, whom they said told them about the event, and may have even brought them and let them go off on their own to explore.

Sadly, I didn't get photos of them (and wouldn't have had adult permission to post them), but I DID get a great photo of writer Andy Robb's kid. His whole family came by for copies of Oliver and the Seawigs, and I tweeted this photo. Then Andy tweeted back:



Hooray! This is what YA Lit Con's all about, I really hope loads of kids went away inspired from having seen book creators are real-life people, and realised that they could also write/draw/film/animate their own stories. Ah, here's Andy and gang... with a reviewer who's name I can't remember(?), writer Sally Nicholls, and blogger/writer Laura Heath (aka Sister Spooky, in the hat).



I went to see Natasha Ngan on her panel about blogging, but I got there a bit late and couldn't get close enough to hear anything. I was quite curious to hear about Natasha's fashion blog, Girl in the Lens, from which she earns more of an income than from her books. She works with her partner, Callum McBeth to come up with high-quality photo shoots, and I think the lovely visuals, along with her specific taste, are a big part of the secret to their success. Natasha's publishers had sent along 100 early editions of her new book The Memory Keepers, and they were snatched up so quickly that I didn't even manage to get one.



I don't watch Game of Thrones, but it had a BIG presence at the wider London Film & Comic Con. And of course everyone wanted to sit in the throne, including Mitch Benn, (whom I met for the first time in the Green Room). We nipped over with Emma to the second hall to see the comics area, and Mitch had fun ogling the two Batmobiles. (Thrones photo lifted off Mitch's Twitter feed.)



Here's a trailer for Mitch's book Terra. It looks like it has some links to my upcoming Cakes in Space book with Philip Reeve (both about girls have wacky space adventures), so perhaps I'll see him again at a future space-related event or something.



Lovely book world people! I think they were amused at how normal I looked there in full costume. Photo by Karen Ball of (eek, help me with the name!), me, Sally Nicholls and Jo Cotterill (who's very active on the Girls Heart Books blog).



In fact, there were a LOT of girls there who heart books.



My favourite costumes are always the home-made, self-designed ones. Some of them were well suited to the hot, HOT hall, but... POOR CHEWIE! I really felt for whoever was in there; I think the heat kept the St John's Amubulance service fairly busy.



At the end, all the YALC writers, illustrators and publishers gathered for a party hosted by Booktrust. Here's Claire Shanahan passing out YALC-themed mini cupcakes, baked by Bluebell Kitchen. And a group photo, where Patrick Ness and the rest of us tall folk are hiding at the back.



YALC's still running today, and I'm sure lots of people will reflect on what a great weekend it's been. Huge congratulations to Malorie Blackman, Katherine Woodfine, the whole team at Booktrust, London Film & Comic Con for bringing in such an excellent partner convention, and to my fellow comics panelists. Thanks for making it a great day!

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14. 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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15. 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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16. Very short talks

vsi banner

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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17. Annecy Announces 18 Animated Features For 2014 Festival

Today the Annecy International Animated Film Festival announced the feature film selections for their 2014 edition. Eighteen films were selected—nine in competition and nine out of competition. A total of 68 animated features were submitted this year.

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18. #555 – Minnie & Moo: Hooves of Fire by Denys Cazet

minnie and moo hooves_page107_image1.

Minnie and Moo: Hooves of Fire

by Denys Cazet

Creston Books     2014

978-1-939547-08-8

Age 8 to 12     206 pages

.

“It’s a perfect day for the First Annual Hoot, Holler, and Moo Talent Festival. The sun is shining in a warm autumn sky and the stage is set. Mr. and Mrs. Farmer are away on vacation, Minnie and Moo are dressed in their togas, Elvis has his bagpipe, the hyenas their jokes, the fox his magic tricks, the sheep a protest poem, and the cash box is stuffed with money from ticket sales. A perfect day. Wait a minute . . . Where is the cash box? Why are those coyotes on motorcycles? And who pushed those port-a-potties down the hill?”

Opening

“It was Indian summer on the farm. The air smelled of damp leaves and fallen apples.”

The Story

Minnie and Moo are on the stage looking over their First Annual Hoot, Holler, and Moo Talent Festival when Minnie begins worrying. Whenever Minnie thinks, she worries. First up on the stage are Zeke and Zack, formerly conjoined turkeys, to sing a turkey poem in two-part harmony. Wait, who is that with the greasy, slicked back hair pushing the turkeys off stage. It’s Elvis the rooster, with an ego bigger than the farm. He will steal the show all day long and when kicked off, again, he will go reluctantly with two words, “Geeze Louize.”

Meanwhile the coyotes are starting trouble, the weasels are conniving, and both want the cash box that is supposed to buy the farmer a new tractor. Throughout the day little catastrophes will occur. Moo will take it all in stride sure things will work out. Minnie worries. She wants to call off the festival. Now the hyenas have joined the coyotes and the weasels and that means just more trouble for Minnie to worry about . . . but then the cash box does go missing. It’s those hyenas, or those coyotes, or those weasels, or maybe all three. Minnie and Moo must get the money back, clean up the festival grounds, and get back to their animal homes before Mr. and Mrs. Farmer return home, just hours from now. Will they make it, or will all the hard work be for naught and Minnie right, they should have canceled the festival?

1a

Review

Minnie and Moo are quite a pair. They complement each other. One is of the mind that everything will work out fine, the other worries about everything. They are also two of the funniest cows in togas middle grade readers will ever meet. The cast of characters are right out of a slapstick movie. Most are the good guys, but then there are the bad guys who only want the moneybox. Then there is Elvis, a rooster performer that tries to steal and keep the stage as long as possible. Jokes are plenty, slapstick flies all over the stage, and sarcasm will have kids rolling on the floor. The animals have their eccentricities, all played for laughs.

The writing is very good. The author uses lots of dialogue, which speeds up the story. Minnie & Moo:  Hooves of Fire is a fast, enjoyable read, with loads of black and white illustrations to help the reader visualize the story. It was never difficult to see in my mind’s eye what was happening, but the illustrations are a nice break from the fast-paced story.

2

This is the newest of several Minnie and Moo stories, including Minnie & Moo and the Seven Wonders of the World. This is not a series in the traditional sense. Book 1 does not lead to book 2 into book 3 . . ., instead each are separate stories that stand on their own. The one advantage to reading the first book is knowing the characters, and there are a lot of them, prior to starting Hooves of Fire. Marketed as a middle grade book, Minnie & Moo:  Hooves of Fire could easily have been an early reader. The vocabulary is not difficult, nor is the plot hard to follow. Reluctant readers might even find Minnie and Moo an agreeable read.

I fell in love with these two adorable cows who only want to help their farmer get a needed tractor. The weasels are wonderful as villains with trickery, smart-aleck remarks, and a talent for smooth talking Moo into complacency—until Minnie begins to think and worry. Kids will find Minnie & Moo:  Hooves of Fire fun, funny, and frivolous in a good way. This is the kind of story a teacher could read aloud, one chapter at a time, with students eager for the next chapter. If these two moos are not the stars of a third book, I will miss them.

 

MINNIE & MOO: HOOVES OF FIRE. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Denys Cazet. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Creston Books, Berkeley, CA.

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Learn more about Minnie & Moo:  Hooves of Fire HERE.

Buy your copy of Minnie & Moo:  Hooves of Fire at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryCreston Booksyour local bookstore.

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Meet the author / illustrator, Denys Cazet, at his blog:    http://www.dailypretzel.com/

Find ore books at publisher Creston Books’ website:    http://www.crestonbooks.co/

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Also by Denys Cazet

 

Elvis the Rooster Almost Goes to Heaven

Elvis the Rooster Almost Goes to Heaven

Minnie & Moo and the Seven Wonders of the World

Minnie & Moo and the Seven Wonders of the World

 

Minnie and Moo: Wanted Dead or Alive

Minnie and Moo: Wanted Dead or Alive

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hooves of fire


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: children's book reviews, cows, Creston Books, Denys Cazet, farms, festivals, humor, light-hearted fare, slapstick, weasels coyotes and hyenas

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19. hay festival 2014: doing our best diva impressions

Look! I have come up in the world; I now have a Inflatable Shark Blower-Upper! :D



Now here's the thing about the Hay Festival: it's a public collection of people who usually come up with their ideas for books while sitting alone in their houses or studios, very often in their pyjamas. And suddenly, they're taken to rural Wales and thrust onto stages in front of hundreds of people to entertain the audience for an hour. ...WHOAAAA. (Hang on, this wasn't mentioned in the book contract!)


Ad man Robin Wight and his wife, lighting up the Green Room

And here's the other thing: festival organisers don't want their writers/illustrators/musicians/poets/actors/translators/etc to come to the festival and hide their talents (as is natural to most Brits), they want them to be BIG! FASCINATING! FAMOUS! ...or at least, as much of these things as they can possibly muster.

It's a bit like school visits, when kids ask me, 'Are you famous?' The first couple times they posed the question, I flapped my hands about and said, 'Oh no, not very, not at all, really...' and the kids' faces fell; they lost a bit of interest in me. That's when I realised it was MY JOB to be famous, at least to those kids, right then. Make their eyes go big. Doing any less than that was letting them down.


Photo by Clara Molden for The Telegraph. See more Telegraph Hay photos here.


Being Famous has nothing to do with how many people have actually heard of us... NO, NO. It's about letting go of the fear of looking stupid in front of people - realising we just WILL look stupid, it's inevitable - and then mucking about as flamboyantly as possible and trying let as many people as possible take part in the fun. Some people don't need to be over-the-top, they can sit on a dark stage in a single spotlight and look wise, and wear intellectual/slimming black clothes, and spout bons mots. But it's not an easy way to entertain 500 children for an hour, particularly if they're mostly five-year-olds.



Ha ha, welcome to the world of being children's authors at literary festivals. One great way to break the ice when we walk into the Green Room is to grab as many people as we vaguely recognise and take as many stupid photos as possible. The fabulous Holly Smale and Philip Ardagh are always up for this, which is one of the reasons I love them!

...Actually, once Ardagh gets started, you can't get him OUT of the photos.



Hey, look, writer Steve Cole also brought a ukulele! Ukes were all the rage this year.



I have a confession to make: I was scared spitless about the ukulele song I was planning to perform for my There's a Shark in the Bath event. Philip Reeve and John Dougherty had written it for me (the second song I've ever learned) and I'd figured out how to play it, but the last time I'd tried, the song had TOTALLY BOMBED. It was at a huge school assembly in Spain, the Spanish kids had very mixed English language abilities, the room was boomingly cavernous and I couldn't even hear the strings or my own voice. I was out of key, the kids weren't following along, I was trying to make up for the agony by adding more enthusiasm and realising I was just looking like an Incredibly Sad Person. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me, and had chills thinking about it for weeks. I did NOT want to do that at Hay.

But I still had this song. A good song. Maybe slightly too gloomy-sounding; I put the chorus into a major key to make it more bouncy. I kept forgetting which version I was playing.



Playing a song at home is very different than trying to get a crowd of people to follow along. And I wasn't confident enough in my own voice or playing just to perform the song, I wanted it to be a way the audience could get involved. I wrote a frightened-sounding post on Facebook about it. Then I deleted it, thinking, all these other seasoned authors are going to think I'm SO unprofessional!

But when I arrived in the Green Room, Holly Smale (author of best-selling Geek Girl) and David Sanger, my Scholastic publicist, were there, and they both said they were game to help me out. Being on a stage with two friendly people is SO much easier than doing it alone.



During the song at the end of the event, Holly and David sang along, led the kids in stomping and shouting, and were totally awesome. It was a wonderful moment of book world solidarity. I was almost tearfully grateful. And just knowing they'd be there to help, and seeing their friendly faces in the audience for the first three-quarters of the event gave me so much more confidence.



I taught everyone - kids and adults - how to draw a silly shark, and a kid named Matthew volunteered his name to give to the shark. Here's Matthew with his little brother at the signing following the event. I'd never met his mum before, but she e-mailed afterward, finishing with: Matthew said it was the best ever that he had seen at Hay - So thank you.



I was so absorbed in signing people's shark books and looking at their drawings that I let a bunch of adult people standing behind me give me a thorough briefing on some radio interview they wanted me to do, and I happily agreed, and didn't listen to a word they said. So I turned up, vaguely thinking I was going to be in a little cupboard with one other local radio person, answering questions for five minutes. And it wasn't that at all! It was a whole other BBC event, with an audience, the National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke, comedian Marcus Brigstocke, painter Shani Rhys James, presenter Nicola Heywood Thomas and two excellent musicians from a group called The People The Poet. Also, we started off talking about Maya Angelou, and I had no idea what to say, other than things everyone says about her. And my memory stirred to something I'd heard on Hay radio earlier in the week, where writer-illustrator Lauren Child was being asked about Belgian gun crime, or something like that. Eek!

But the radio show went fine; I got to meet the other people, who all turned out to be fascinating, look at their books, hear their music and just talk a bit about how I like to get kids drawing. (Which is something I know about, big relief.)


Shani, Gillian, Sarah, inflatable shark, Nicola, The People The Poet, Marcus

If you like, you can listen again for a month to a podcast of the show over on the BBC Radio Wales website.



Thanks for hosting, Nicola!



My second event (or second I'd known about in advance) was The Big Draw with my Oliver and the Seawigs co-author Philip Reeve, Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown, hosted by the excellent Paul Blezard. We'd done the event two years earlier, and had gotten such a buzz from it that we were keen to do it again. But we only wanted to do it if we could have Paul hosting, because he has a tremendous way of whipping up the audience while Philip, Martin and I have our backs to the audience, drawing.



And draw, we did! The audience of over 700 people helped us come up with six funny animal characters, then we turned out attentions to the big strip of paper across the stage and had them advise us on making a GIANT COMIC STRIP. It was nuts, we were all finishing each other's drawings, colouring in, adding speech bubbles to each other's cartoons...



The end-of-event deadline drew closer... would we finish?!



And, drawing on stage, we were battling to balance our own usual senses of getting lost in drawing (being in 'the zone') with trying to listen out for what the audience would want to happen next. It's quite tricky!



And in the end... we DID IT! WAHEY!


Photo by Sarah Reeve

Ha ha, if any of you don't like the way the comic turned out, you can BLAME THE AUDIENCE. It was their ideas. But I think we all had lots of fun.



We only had 30 minutes after that event before going on stage again, Martin to his event, and Philip and I to present Oliver and the Seawigs. Quick costume change! These photos by steward Trish Thomas make me laugh, it looks like Philip and I are having a massive on-stage row.



And we are, in fact, STILL TALKING TO EACH OTHER. The audience were great, and after everyone had drawn their own Sea Monkey, Sam Reeve, Philip's son, even came on stage and help us lead everyone in singing the Sea Monkey sea shanty. Thanks, Sam!


Photo on left by Gemma Cooper, on right by Trish Thomas

Then we signed books and signed, and signed. (Our little drawings make the signings take a bit longer.)


Photo by Sarah Reeve

We signed so much, that I had to run off to catch my train and didn't get to say hello to half of the people I wanted to talk with. That was rather agonising.

But I DID get to see a couple events on my first day. I'll post a few more photos to give a better idea of the overall festival. The first event I got to go to was Jasper Fforde's, introducing the third Dragonslayer book in the series he plans to make a quartet. I absolutely love his Thursday Next books, which start with The Eyre Affair. He actually has a very similar sense of humour to Philip Reeve; if you enjoyed reading Philip's Larklight trilogy and Goblins trilogy, you'll love Jasper's work, too.



I bought the first book in the series, The Last Dragonslayer. One of the joys of festivals is that you don't only get to listen to an author speak, but you get to meet them afterward and spend a minute or two making an absolute idiot of yourself in front of them as you try to pack in everything you want to tell them, forget it all completely, and satisfy yourself with an inane selfie. Hooray!



The other event I got to attend was Toni Morrison, talking with Jerry Brotton about Desdemona, her adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello. I'm originally from the USA, and Toni Morrison was always a huge figure in our culture, and I remember reading Beloved when I was about 15 and feeling quite shocked by it. As I came in, I scanned the huge auditorium to see if there were any seats left, close enough for a decent view. Aha! ONE seat left, in the second row! I wriggled my way into it and got ready to be amazed. But from the seats behind me blew PUFFS of indignant air. Of ALL PEOPLE to sit in front of us!... SO INCONSIDERATE. THAT HAIR. And you'd think getting here early would give us an advantage. HARRUMPHHH. I looked around and two peeved-looking middle-aged women behind me were looking daggers at my bunches and fascinator. (My smallest fascinator, I have to say. But still.)



The lights began to dim. I couldn't get out without making the whole row stand up. I couldn't unclip the fascinator without a mirror and it would've been super-awkward attempting to strip off my hair extensions on the spot. I hunkered down as low in my seat as I could, my knees pressed painfully against the metal seat in front of me.



Toni began to speak her words of wisdom, but those women behind me were still blowing their outraged puffs of air. Wow, British middle-class women have SUCH a way of making a person feel totally unwelcome without actually telling that person to B***** OFF. I could feel their eyes boring into me. I tried to hunker down lower and listen. I couldn't see anything through the head in front of me. My back started to throb, then send stabs of pain through me. The women huffed. I stayed down.

It was okay. Toni's great, but it was really hard to concentrate. I was freaked out about my upcoming ukulele song. I felt a tragic sense of loss, that I was right there in front of this great woman and missing so, so much of everything she was saying because I was self-absorbed, distracted, insecure... She talked about removing Iago from the story as a main character, because he takes over and never gives Othello the chance to have a good monologue. I thought about removing the two women behind me so I could sit up and have a good listen. She talked about Goodness, and the difficulty in portraying interesting good characters, and how it's something she's exploring - perhaps most in wise, older women - and as she was saying this, a jangly ring-tone went off right behind me. One of those WISE OLDER WOMEN behind me frantically dived into her handbag and switched it off. ...Oops, and there it went AGAIN! I tried not to guffaw. It wasn't hard, because I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to stand up again, and at last, I staggered out of the theatre to go do my Shark event, wishing I'd sat right at the back.

So that was what will probably be my one-and-only encounter with the living legend that is Toni Morrison. Later I was talking to Paul Blezard, who was pondering the significance of being the person who's job it was to let Toni know that Maya Angelou had just died. Two Grande Dames of American literature. He'd met Maya years earlier, and had one very good interview with her, and he and Toni were able to talk about Maya, as someone they'd both known; he a little bit, and her, very well. I think, by conveying the news, he felt a bit in awe to be a tiny part of their history together. I rubbed my back and reflected on how we get to be a part of a few things in life, but we never know which encounters will really be the special ones. Toni and me, it wasn't to be.

Ah, well. Back to my world of fruitcake children's authors and drawing and stuff. And eating. Here's my dinner date, Sam, drawing Monster Consequences with me and doing a Comics Jam (with a small contribution across the table from The Telegraph's Martin Chilton.).



Ah and there's Steve Cole again! He's taking over from Charlie Higson to write the next Young Bond book.


Photo by Jay Williams for The Telegraph

Charlie was wearing a rather fine tweedy cap.



I'd met Welsh writer Fflur Dafydd a few months ago on my last visit to Hay, doing school visits. She's one of the many, many people I wanted to spend all afternoon chatting with, and sadly it never happened.



But I did get to have breakfast with comics creator Karen Rubins, who was staying in the same house as I was, and running seven comics workshops for The Phoenix Comic. (Do subscribe, The Phoenix is a wonderful weekly comic!) And I had dinner at the River Cafe with lovely Norwegians Helga and John Rullestad, who are a big part of running the SILK book festival in the town of Skudeneshavn, which I'd visited with a Hay group in February. (Norwegian blog post here.) Stuart and I are going back for their festival in November and really looking forward to it. I'll be doing one of my events there with Rosie Goldsmith (another person at Hay I didn't manage to catch up with properly). Thanks for a great evening, John and Helga!



And a big thanks to the whole team who made Hay happen! Here's writer-illustrator Steve Anthony (whom I met for the first time) with children's programmer Mary Byrne.


Photo tweeted by Steve Antony

Mary and Heather Salisbury have been working their absolute hardest to get all the logistics right, and we were amazed at how smoothly everything went. A big thanks to Penny and the team in the kitchen, drivers Darren and Les, all our event stewards and helpers, and of course to my publicists who were always there to help: Keo Baxendine from Oxford University Press and David Sanger from Scholastic. And a special thanks to Jean Moseley, who let Karen Rubins and I stay right in her house - she doesn't normally run a B&B - and who looked after us so well.



Hay Festival's still going on, and you can follow updates on the Twitter hashtag #HayFestival, follow them at @HayFestival, Director @PeterFlorence, Children's Programmer Mary Byrne at @marysbookstuff and get news from @BBCRadioWales, @TelegraphBooks, journalist @MartinChilton and photographer @ClaraMolden.

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20. ELCAF Previews Night: Kristyna Baczynski’s ‘A Measure of Space’

Astounding designer and comic-maker Kristyna Baczynski will be at ELCAF, debuting what look to be a number of new pieces. One will be her zine ‘Intrepid’ which she says mixes a short existential story with “jungle girl drawings”. Which, now there’s a combination nobody could refuse, right?

She’ll also be launching a new comic called ‘A Measure of Space’, which she announced a few days ago on Twitter. Here’s a look at the cover, as well as one of the risograph spreads within the book. Want to see more? See her at ELCAF!

kb1 kb2

 

Not heading to ELCAF? Then you can keep up with her work here instead!

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21. ELCAF Previews Night: Ricky Rouse Has A Gun

Launching early for ELCAF (the full release isn’t slated until September), Jörg Tittel and John Aggs’ book ‘Ricky Rouse Has A Gun’ will be on offer at the SelfMadeHero booth. Possibly the most likely comic ever to get sued by Disney, the book takes aim at a certain familiar rodent, and the rest of his crew.

Billed as being a satirical action-comedy, the book is a manic take on US-China relations, as US army deserter Rick Rouse finds himself in China, where the only job he can get is on a knockoff Disney theme park. But when terrorists land in the grounds, he’s the only one who can save the day – only, he’s probably not allowed to take off that costume, because that’d break canon.

micky mouse cover.2bb rr2 rr3

John Aggs will be on hand himself to sign copies of the book – and like I say, this is an early chance to get your hands on a book that nobody else will get to touch until September!

If you’re not at ELCAF? You can keep an eye on the book right here!

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22. ELCAF Preview Night: Dan Berry’s ‘The End’

ELCAF is tomorrow, and all sorts of wonderous and startling comics and arts are going to be going on all day. Remember the Kokiri Forest from Ocarina of Time? It’s essentially going to be like that, only with more pixies floating through the sky at any given moment. It’s a magical sort of festival, and there’s more things going on than you could justifiably shake a deku stick at.

So to help you keep track of all the books you’ll be pining for across the rest of 2014, tonight I’ll be looking at some of the many projects that are launching or will be available to you. Previews Night!

Dan Berry will be launching a new book at the festival, called ‘The End’. With just 100 copies available tomorrow, each issue is embossed with a gold numbering, and should sell fairly quick, I’d imagine. The premise of the book is that one morning, people wake up to find that the number ’14′ has been daubed across walls all around the UK. Assuming it’s a viral marketing gimmick or something, they don’t pay too much attention – until the next day, when the number has been replaced with a ’13′. And so as the days go by, the numbers start ticking down.

Something supernatural is going on! Zounds, alors! Berry; best known for books like ‘The Suitcase’, ‘Carry Me’, and ‘Cat Island’; will be on hand to explain more.

 dbte1 dbte2 dbte3 dbte4 dbte5

If you’re not at ELCAF? You can keep up with Dan Berry’s comics here!

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23. sniffing the print at ELCAF 2014

For the past couple years I've been trying to get over to the East London Comics & Arts Festival, organised by young and beautiful Nobrow Press, and always had some reason I couldn't go. But this year I headed up to Hoxton station and walked along Hackey Road to see what all the fuss was about.



I hadn't been up to Hackney Road for ages, and there was lots on which to feast my eyeballs.



Check out this cloud-blue house, just past Hackney City Farm. And then I finally reached the ramshackle little factory area where the fair was happening, and at 10:15am, there was already a queue to get in. I'm very glad I was early, as I saw complaints on Twitter from people who arrived after 1pm or so, when the festival was running a one-in-one-out policy. Steve May said he couldn't get in at all, although Steve Antony said he arrived half an hour before closing and managed to get in and do a fast sweep of the place. Whatever the case, the venue started out comfortably full, but by lunchtime was HEAVING.



I made a beeline for the table of one of my all-time favourite self-publishing heroes, Philippa Rice. And she had a new comic out! I bought one for me, and my sister. You can read my interview of Philippa about We're Out here. Philippa has such a great playful way of making comics, both with drawing and with collage, and I love her gentle humour and beautiful colour palettes. Her work's almost the exact opposite aesthetic to the Comics Unmasked exhibition I visited earlier at the British Library, and I think hers is just as subversive, in its own way. A couple weeks ago, I read an interesting Spiked article, surmising that some people

'...think that unhappy and twisted stuff is correspondingly profound, while comedy is trivial and facile. The truth is often the other way round, where horror and gore are really just sentimentality, prurient and moralistic at the same time, while comedy allows marvellous slippages of meaning that are much more intelligent.'

EXACTLY. And the humourous alternative doesn't have to be The Beano, either. (People always seem to mention The Beano, and there's so much more out there.) Philippa's comics are one of my first ports of call.



And one of my other ports is Isabel Greenberg's table! I love her Encyclopedia of Early Earth so much; it completely taps into the woodcut-printmaking, limited colour palette aesthetic I appreciate, and I like the way she sets up a story as some epic legend and then humanises it with little anachronistic bits of dialogue and humour.



I haven't been keeping very good tabs on people on the Internet, and I thought her latest mini, Rites, Customs and Histories of the Great Empire of Migdal Bavel was a comic, but it's more of a historical guide with text and pictures. It looks beautiful all the same, and I snapped one up. And then my eye was caught by the colourful Magic Capes display next to hers, and I ended up buying a copy of this gorgeous double-sided accordian print, The Firebird, by Lesley Barnes. I'd never heard of Lesley, but check out her website, she's amazing. She also picks up on a lot of folkloric imagery. Lesley was exhibiting with Tereza Rowe, who has a lovely young-readers comic out with Candlewick Press, Hearts.




Check out one side of The Firebird, so lovely! I really need a fireplace mantle to display this properly.



Oh man, I'm totally going to get lost in her website. Goodbye, world. She's @lesleybarnes on Twitter.

I Didn't See it Coming from Lesley Barnes on Vimeo.

And of course Felt Mistress and Jontofski! (Or Louise Evans and Jonathan Edwards, if you prefer.) I'm endlessly inspired by the different ways Jonathan pushes himself with experiments in drawing and painting, and I love the way he and Louise collaborate on amazing costumed monsters, tapping into her expert tailoring skills. (You can see my blog post from their Creature Couture launch earlier on my blog.) Here's a peek into their new booklet, The Hiber-Nation, and if I ever cosplay someone else's character at a comics convention, it's going to be this one, Myfi Snark. Check out her amazing blue-and-yellow Welsh tweed ensemble!



My studio mate Gary Northfield was gutted he couldn't come along, because he's a huge fan of French comics artist Anouk Ricard, and her Anna & Frogo books. So I got a text begging me to pick up a signed copy of her new adult book, Benson's Cuckoos (which I did). Here's her Drawn & Quarterly website (in English), and her own blog (in French).



Anouk comes across as quite shy, but the interviewer and translator did a wonderful job. (I'm sorry, I didn't catch their names. Can anyone help me here?) Anouk used to draw with pencils and pens, but she's recently gone to working purely digitally, with a Cintiq screen. She much prefers it to the Wacom pad, where she could never quite get the hang of not seeing her hand drawing. And she has much more fun drawing animals in human situations than people; she said she finds people boring. 'You can draw animals in so many different shapes, and use such different colours.' Right now she's adapting a Guy de Maupassant story Une vie, because she wanted to try drawing costumes from an earlier era, but still using animal characters.

It was great to see Greek creator of picture books, comics, screen prints, graphics and lots more besides, Katherina Manolessou. She's one of the first people I ever discovered in small press books, perhaps ten years ago, at the London Artists Book Fair. You can read my blog about her Zoom Zoom Zoom launch here.



And Viviane Schwarz! I got a copy of her Rabbit Stew in its first printing, when we shared a room for Thought Bubble festival in Leeds. But I want more for prezzies; it's a brilliant, twisted story about a family trying to relate to and encourage their daughter while being a bit freaked out by her. Here she is with my fab friend co-author David O'Connell. (Our picture book Jampires launches this September.)



I was so glad to see that ELCAF had planned family activities. (A lot of comics festivals have failed in this area, although they're gradually improving. David O'Connell and I are going to be a big part of the family activity area this year at Thought Bubble.) I loved the way Alexis Deacon set out this mural workshop: he's already made sea-life shapes on a the paper in one colour, and kids went in and decorated them. In the other activity area, families sat around two big tables full of toy parts, which they could assemble into their own weird and wonderful new toys, a bit like that neighbour kid in Toy Story 2. The kids were really getting into it.



Fab to see some beautiful experimental comics by Andy Poyiadgi, and a wearable book jacket by Otto Graphic.



I've had a big poster hanging on my studio wall by Swedish artist Matthias Adolfsson, so it was great to see him drawing at ELCAF. To say Matthias's work is incredibly detailed is an understatement; go check out his website. And here's The Book Sniffer blogger Emma O'Donovan with her Matthias loot, and David O'C smashed in between us, heh heh. (That's Matthias in the stripey shirt.)



Lovely comics and dance moves from Kristyna Baczynski and Dan Berry! If you haven't heard of Dan's Make It Then Tell Everybody podcasts, go check them out, they make for great listening. Dan's also organising the 24 Hour Comics Marathon I'm taking part in this October for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal. Dan said that all seven of us who are doing the 24 Hours were their in the room, but I didn't manage to spot Fumio Obata... boo!



No comics fair is complete without these guys: Joe Decie, Adam Cadwell, Warwick Johnnson Cadwell.



I'm a huge fan of Joe's work. Here's my review of The Listening Agent:

I love this book. Joe Decie has such a wonderful way of noticing small things about daily life, creatiing a witty commentary about them and then taking the situations one step further into the surreal. I keep having to buy new copies of this book because I keep giving it away to friends. When people tell me they don't read comics, understand comics, or think they're all about superheroes in tights, I urge them to read this; the way it deals with the ordinary makes the little stories in it completely extraordinary. I'd also recommend Decie's earlier book, 'The Accidental Salad'. In both, you get to see him being a bemused dad, dealing with his own foibles and gently pushing back against things in society that irk him. Decie uses beautiful ink linework and the subtle ink wash tones give the book a wonderfully human feel.



Warwick keeps some of my very favourite sketchbooks, I follow him on Twitter, Instagram, around comics fairs, etc. Ha ha, the first time I met him, I was running a table at a Birmingham comics fair and was so excited that I shut down my table for an hour and took him out for coffee. (It was my first con and I learned later that you're not really supposed to do that.) I bought another copy of Dangeritis, his collaborative comic with Robert Ball, which is full-on fights, car chase scenes, stupid moustached silliness, and drawn with jaw-dropping skill. (I nicked Adam's Instagram of Robert since I forgot to take a photo on the day.)



And not to forget Adam Cadwell, who is a brilliant artist in his own right and has started up Great Beast Comics with his friend Marc Ellerby; they're publishing some really exciting stuff. 'Like what?', you might ask. Well, besides Dangeritis, Great Beast have just come out with Rachael Smith's House Party, which raised crazy-big levels of money with Kickstarter crowdfunding. Congrats, people! Here's Rachael, with Dan Cox (Hitsville UK with Great Beast) on the left and John Cei Douglas (Show me the Map to Your Heart

with Great Beast) on the right.



And some of my favourite people were manning the Blank Slate table: Darryl Cunningham, Martin Steenton (his last day at Blank Slate!), Bridget Hannigan and Woodrow Phoenix.



Woodrow has his giant book on display at the British Library and you can view all the pages with him on June 17 at 6pm, July 22 at 6pm and August 12 at 3pm.

SHE LIVES - a fast preview of a very big book by Woodrow Phoenix from superadaptoid on Vimeo.

Oo, it's John Aggs! John's partner Nana Li cut off his long, thick hair, and I'm still doing big double-takes every time I see him. He has a new book out, full of guns and furries, and it really isn't my thing, but gosh, can the guy draw.



Oh, and who's that guy to the left of John? It's Mark Stafford, and check out the notebook sketches he was making on the day. And seated with him, two more super-talented dudes: Ed Hillyer/Ilya and Rob Davis. (In my children's book world, you probably know Rob for his Horrible Histories work, but don't miss his AMAZING Don Quixote books, and I'm super-excited about his upcoming The Motherless Oven.



Gareth Brookes (sans beard) and Hannah Berry (also without beard). The ELCAF percentage of beards in the crowd was unusually high.



I promised I wouldn't post the photo of Andy Poyiadgi when I accidentally made him knock over his neighbour's table display.



And great to see Barnaby Richards with Tor Freeman and Alice Lickens. Barnaby has a book coming out with Blank Slate, I think this autumn, which is exciting.



I wasn't able to stay all day, so I missed talks by Seth and Chris Ware. But I'd seen Chris give a Comica Festival talk before, and I don't know either of them, so I was more gutted to miss the post-festival drinks with people. Ah, well. All in all, a brilliant festival, and beautifully curated for a certain aesthetic which I really admire. I'd love to see the festival get a larger venue, so no one would have to be turned away. But I recommend if you go next year, be sure to get there early. And you can check out Nobrow's lovely shop on Great Eastern Street in East London, a great place for a good browse.

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24. Being Sick and Sketching in the Park (Luckily, not Simultaneously)


So far this weekend, John and I have mostly been in bed. No, I know what you are thinking... nothing saucy (far from it). On Thursday night, during the private view of The Great Sheffield Art Show, I suddenly had to rush to the loo to be violently sick. Not, I hasten to add, an effect of the artwork, but of a very nasty tummy virus. I had my head in the loo once an hour, all night long. Lovely. John wasn't actually sick, but felt awful (at least that's what he said... or was he malingering?). Anyway, we both slept all of Friday and still felt decidedly delicate yesterday. 

Thank goodness it was this weekend though, and I was fit and well last weekend, as that was the weekend of my Broomhill Festival eventFor the last three years, the festival have asked me to run a SketchCrawl in the Botanical Gardens. 


Often the people who come are less experienced sketchers than at the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire SketchCrawls I run each month and my role is more to offer help and inspiration than to actually sketch. In previous years, we have had a fairly modest turn-out though, so I have done quite a bit of drawing too. This year, we had a lovely big group, so I only grabbed 10 minutes at the end to do the quickie above.

It was glorious weather and a really lovely group of people, so we all had a good time. They worked really hard too and several of them have now signed up for my regular SketchCrawls, because they want to try it again - result!

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25. eep!!! manchester children's book festival 2014

Do you have those occasional moments, when you're looking in the mirror and you realise you have blue hair and sparkly gloves and look like Dame Edna, that you think, how did I ever start doing this? If you'd told me I'd be doing things like this, even ten years ago, I never would have believed you.



The number one thing that struck me about the Manchester Children's Book Festival was... THE SEA MONKEYS. They were everywhere!!! Here are two that my co-author Philip Reeve and I drew for Simply Books indie bookshop just outside of Manchester, in Bramhall.



Kaye Tew and James Draper who run the festival asked us early on if it would be okay to use the Sea Monkeys from Oliver and the Seawigs for their mascot and we were thrilled to see them popping up all over the Internet before we even arrived!



The chief instigator of the Manchester Sea Monkey Invasion was Ann Lam, who's here (bottom left) with her two kids (her daughter helped her out with quite a bit of the knitting). She used the knitting and stitching pattern that my studio mate Deadly Knitshade (aka Lauren O'Farrell) designed and can be downloaded free from my website.



Check out all those awesome Seawigs!!! Loads of people made them for the Grand Seawig Parade. Here's Manchester librarian Debra Conroy looking incredible... and more Sea Monkeys!




Having the parade indoors was a great idea, as the rain couldn't put off anyone or ruin their fabulous headgear.



And I got to feel like Grace Kelly, or Evita, or the Queen, doing the balcony waving thing, ha ha.



Philip and I also visited Manchester Children's Hospital, which runs its own on-location school, and the staff had absolutely thrown themselves into the spirit of things. They said it was amazing, how many different things they could make out of a paper sick bowl!





We visited as guests of ReadWell, a wonderful charity that provide books to children in hospital. They go around with their rolling shelves (shown here) so kids can choose what they want to read. And the books are new, so that there won't be problems with infection for the kids in the isolation wards.



We led an event and a Seawigs Parade in the big lobby, and then went around visiting kids in the wards, and we could see how they'd light up when it was their chance to pick out a book. The school had enjoyed bringing Oliver and the Seawigs into the curriculum and it had inspired a lot of craft projects besides the Seawigs, including this diorama of Cliff the Rambling Isle.



It was fun seeing kids of all different ages - and their parents - getting involved and having fun, despite having some major physical setbacks. You can follow ReadWell on twitter: @ReadWellUK.



Great Seawig by Tracey Gallier! She's Assistant Head Teacher at the Manchester Children's Hospital School.



So much creativity! You can read more about our visit to the hospital over on the festival blog.



Janet and Maisie Chamberlain, both sporting fine Seawigs:



And little Joseph, who had our big flip chart Sea Monkey named after him and somehow managed to get back and make quite an elaborate lion thank you card for us before we visited him in his room. The glue was still wet! This guy was awesome, and had loads of good questions and comments for us. He had a full Seawig of decorations on his roving medical stand, which was named Mr Robot-Man.



The Sea Monkeys followed us wherever we went. When my husband Stuart and I checked into our hotel, there was one right there at reception!



And when we arrived in our room, there was a magazine with a big picture, which made me feel a bit giddy. (Thank you, Lancashire Magazine! Click on the pic for a larger image.)



When I saw that, I realised just how much costume the organisers were expecting, and they weren't going to get the six-foot Seawig, as I'd have to have arrived by forklift. And I'd forgotten my fancy gloves. So Stuart and I paid a visit to Afflecks Palace and stocked up.



Look, another great Seawig! This one's by the excellent Rachel Bruce.



A huge thanks to the team for making the Grand Seawigs Parade day so much fun! And thank you to everyone who waited patiently for Philip and me to sign and draw in your books; we hope you like them.



The night after our hospital visit and before our Seawigs Parade, we went to the opening launch event, where local drummers and dancers did some great performances for us.



The festival was also raffling off some of the Sea Monkeys, which disturbed me greatly, as I wanted to take them ALL HOME WITH ME.



Check out Ann Lam's notebook; she made some lovely sketches planning out different themed Sea Monkeys to go with different events.



And each Sea Monkey had its own profile!



Rachel Bruce and I joked that it was really an early version of a dating website, and that Zom doesn't care about looks, only brains.



Poet Laureate (and original instigator of the festival) Carol Ann Duffy officially opened the festival by reading one of her poems. This is the third year the festival has run, and organiser James Draper said they might go from doing it every two years to doing it every year, which is exciting and will take LOTS OF WORK. We passed by her office when I was looking for a mirror to fix my wig, and she works with James, teaching at Manchester Writing School, part of Manchester Metropolitan University.



I showed you the Sea Monkey picture that Philip and I drew for Simply Books; here we are outside the lovely shop, with owners Andrew and Sue Steel. They've been running it for ten years, and had no experience in running a bookshop. But Andrew was tired of his job, they brainstormed what they really wanted to do, and took the risk to do it. They really focus on being part of the community, and we saw lots of people come in for a chat and a cup of tea or a piece of cake in their little cafe, as well as buying books.



They had illustrator art everywhere. Here's a stairway painted for them by Emily Gravett as their reward for a competition:



And pictures on their wall by loads of illustrators we knew! See if you can identify any!



Sue took us to a school in Cheadle, Lady Barn House School, and we talked about Oliver and the Seawigs with them and led them in drawing Sea Monkeys. One quick teacher even managed to have a whole poster finished, made up of some of their drawings, before we left!



Thanks so much for hosting us, Lady Barn House! (And for the packed lunch you sent along with us!)



The festival's running for quite a long time - 26 June - 6 July - so we only overlapped with a few of the other guest speakers. But we were very glad to have the chance to spend time with writer Cerrie Burnell, author of a picture book called Snowflakes. Do you know the Evil Emperor Penguin comic strip in The Phoenix Comic? It's written and drawn by Laura Ellen Anderson, who also illustrated Snowflakes! We got to have dinner and breakfast with Cerrie and talked about books, including how we both felt it was important to show mixed-race families in picture books. (Her Snowflakes and my There's a Shark in the Bath both include parents from different races, but it's just an incidental detail in both, not part of the story.)



Huge thanks to everyone who made the festival possible, to wonderful Manchester-based publicist Liz Scott, who liased for us and made everything run smoothly, and to Kaye and James, who have been working their tails off for this. They're a great double act! You can follow the festival on Twitter at @MCBF2014 and be sure to keep an eye out for daily updates on their blog.



The festival's only just begun, and the Sea Monkeys are itching to try out all sorts of new shenanigans. Here's James, keeping a very close eye on them.



Goodbye, Manchester! Huge apologies to people I didn't manage to catch up with while I was there - the whole thing was a bit of a whirlwind - and I hope to see you again soon.

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