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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Sarah Mcintyre, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Best New Kids Books | January 2016

Take a look at our selection of hot new releases and popular kids' books and let us know which titles and covers catch your eyes. There are so many amazing new kids books coming in 2016!

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2. HAT WEEK: Sarah McIntyre, Celebrity Hat Stand

When I first started planning hat week, I knew I wanted to invite the wonderful Sarah McIntyre, illustrator and writer of picture books and comics extraordinaire to take part. The creator of Vern and Lettuce, Princess Spaghetti and half of the all singing all dancing Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space team Sarah has serious form when it comes to hats. Her hats are book events are legendary. She has even been called a “celebrity hat stand”…

Thus it is with huge delight and a great sense of honour that I’ve a guest post today from Sarah McIntyre, all about her love of hats. It is time to doff mine and let Sarah take the floor…

“I daydream a lot. I love my job, but sometimes I wonder, what would I do if I wasn’t illustrating children’s books?

mcintyre_birdwig

I’ve contemplated taking various jobs, including:

  • a window dresser (I watched Mannequin too many times when I was a kid)
  • a medical illustrator (my biology teacher said I made good dissection drawings)
  • an archaeologist (I thought Indiana Jones was awesome)
  • a journalist (I tried it but found it too high-pressure)
  • a ship’s rigger (I interviewed for this job once but didn’t get it)
  • a shoemaker (I know exactly what kind of shoes I want and I can never find them)
  • a milliner
  • Okay, this last one. I’m not actually a hat maker, but funnily enough, my job has let me make little forays into this world of wearable sculpture. I don’t get very excited about the world of fashion; it’s mostly intended for skinny people and I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t understand all that stuff about stilettos and expensive handbags.

    I used to think I needed to wear slimming black and try to all but make myself disappear because I wasn’t a standard size, but south-east London has changed me. A large Afro-Caribbean population live in my neighbourhood and, let me tell you, a lot of those women don’t let a bit of WEIGHT stop them from looking absolutely fabulous. I adore their block-printed fabric designs. Here are some of my African-print dresses, from Sika Designs in Greenwich, and Esther Marfo in New Cross.

    mcintyre_african_dresses

    And the outfits on these Nigerian and Ghanaian ladies don’t stop with curve-enhancing dresses in bold patterns, their bright colours rise two or three feet up into the air with incredible head wraps. On a Sunday morning when people are going to church, the bus stop can look like a sea of giant fancy sweet wrappers. It’s glorious!

    Making books has given me lots of reasons to dress up, and if I’m doing a stage event, I can go as over-the-top as I want; my only limits are whether I can fit the outfit onto the train or into the airplane. Here’s a six-foot-tall wig made out of purple clingfilm:

    clingfilm

    In fact, I almost didn’t fit into my Oliver and the Seawigs book launch. I hadn’t counted having to pass through a glass door before ascending to the deck of the Golden Hinde ship. Here’s a photo of my editor helping me through. (Thank goodness for my dignity, I didn’t have to crawl.)

    doorway

    The other thing that has changed for me is that I used to think comfort was the most important thing in dressing. But there’s a certain amount of discomfort that’s worth it, because it’s so fun seeing people’s jaws drop in surprise. This alien cake hat, for the Cakes in Space launch, for instance. It was quite heavy and clopped me hard on the forehead whenever I jumped in the air (because one does jump in the air, in stage events). But when I’d squeeze the hidden valve and its mouth would open, I’d have a wonderful time watching people gape. Some kids would obsess over it, trying to figure out how it worked, or if it really was alive.

    mcintyre_cakehat

    My sculptor friend Eddie Smith helped me with both the giant Seawig and the Cake. He’s a Royal Academy sculptor and has done lots of Proper Art Stuff, but he’s loved doing something a bit different.

    For Jampires, I tried to find a Bakewell Tart fascinator on the Internet, and there were lots, but they were all too SMALL. So I made this one out of a sprinkler attachment from the pound shop, a children’s ball (also from the pound shop), a foam pizza base, the plastic lid from a Christmas pudding, some felt, lace, fabric and glitter.

    mcintyre_jampirehat

    My Summer Reading Challenge Medusa hat was also a pound shop marvel: a green pencil case, craft pipe cleaners, a yoghurt pot and a bit of painted foam. (I’m sure the Duchess of Cornwall wears very similar things herself.)

    mcintyre_camilla_reeve

    If you go on to my Hats Pinterest page, you can see lots more things I’ve worn! Some of them I’ve made, and some of them I’ve customised, from vintage hats I’ve found in second-hand shops. It doesn’t take much to make a quiet hat into a startling headpiece; just stick on some large feathers or a big bow, or a ship, or a giant octopus. Some day I may make a book exclusively about hats, but for now, go check out David Roberts‘ fab new picture book with Andrea Beaty, Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, inspired by his favourite hat makers.
    madame_chapeau

    I do daydream about taking a year off to go study under someone such as Philip Treacy and make all sorts of wild headgear. But for now, I’ll be content with doing it as a job sideline… so much fun to be had!”

    *************

    So now you can see why I wanted Sarah to be part of my Hat Week extravaganza, can’t you! Do you have a favourite among Sarah’s hats?

    cakesinspace_philsarah

    Sarah McIntyre’s most recent books include Cakes in Space with Philip Reeve and Jampires with David O’Connell. Visit the book websites for fun activities!

    jampires_sarahdave

    Website & blog: jabberworks.co.uk
    Twitter: @jabberworks
    Hats Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/mcintyre1000/my-hats/

    3 Comments on HAT WEEK: Sarah McIntyre, Celebrity Hat Stand, last added: 11/2/2014
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    3. The real Summer Reading Challenge? Lari Don

    Exactly a week ago, I was privileged to launch the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland (I needed to take a deep breath every time I said that!) in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. In case the title doesn’t make it clear, it’s the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge, in Scotland, sponsored by Tesco Bank. I was also privileged to also launch the local Summer Reading Challenge in Dundee two days later.

    Launching the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland

    This year’s theme is Mythical Maze. And there couldn’t be a better theme for me – I write collections of myths and legends, I write contemporary adventures inspired by old myths, and one of my books even has a Maze in the title.

    So that’s probably why I was asked to launch this year’s theme and challenge in Scotland. (And yes, I know it seems a bit early to all of you south of the border, but we grab summer earlier up here in Scotland, so the schools are already out and the libraries are already challenging kids to read books during the holidays.)

    The launches were all positive and smiley. I met kids who had done previous challenges and were keen to do it again (which was great) and I met kids who had never done it before but were keen to give it a go it this year (which was even better.) So I had hoped to post a really cheerful blog for you all about summer and reading, with these wonderful illustrations by Sarah MacIntyre.
    With lovely librarian Ruth in Dundee, and a dragon behind us.

    But when I posted pictures of me with posters and books and dragons and kids online last week, someone who had been involved in a campaign that I supported to keep their local library open, a campaign that sadly failed, contacted me to say, this is lovely, Lari, but what about the kids who don’t have a local library any more? 

    And I didn’t have an answer. Sad face emoticons don’t really do it.

    The Summer Reading Challenge brightens up and invigorates libraries all over the country and allows them to run fun family-focussed events. The different themes every year make reading relevant and exciting to lots of different children. Kids get involved, families get involved, authors get involved. It’s a brilliant scheme. Well done the Reading Agency for organising it, and Tesco Bank for supporting it in Scotland. But it can’t reach every child, because not every child has access to a library.

    And perhaps that’s the real challenge for all of us.

    I had intended to write a really cheerful summery sunny post for all you Awfully Big Blog fans, but the shadow over it is that even the best things we do with books can’t and don’t reach everyone. Not until we make sure every single child has access to a library.

    So clearly my challenge is to get away from that dragon breathing down my neck and take up my sword again on the subject of library closures.

    In the meantime, have a fun summer, losing yourself in mazes and finding new myths!

    (Lari is now away polishing her sword…)

    Lari Don is an occasional library campaigner, and also the award-winning author of 21 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers.
    Lari’s website 
    Lari’s own blog 
    Lari on Twitter 
    Lari on Facebook
    Lari on Tumblr

    0 Comments on The real Summer Reading Challenge? Lari Don as of 6/30/2014 3:09:00 AM
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    4. Oliver and the Seawigs

    Ten-year-old Oliver Crisp encounters a shy Rambling Isle, a myopic mermaid, and a talking albatross in search of his parents in this gorgeously illustrated adventure. Will Oliver rescue Mr. and Mrs. Crisp? Or will he be engulfed by the Sarcastic Sea? A hilarious read-aloud for the whole family! Books mentioned in this post Oliver and [...]

    0 Comments on Oliver and the Seawigs as of 7/29/2014 3:24:00 PM
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    5. Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

    Imagine packing up your home, leaving Earth and setting out to travel across space to colonise a new planet.

    The journey will take so long you’ll be put into a cryptobiotic state. But there is absolutely nothing to fear: You’re on sleek new spaceship, looked after by a team of well-programmed robots, and everything has been carefully thought through. When you finally arrive at Nova Mundi (it only takes 199 years to get there), you’ll be woken up to a delicious breakfast and the start of a whole new and wonderful life.

    It sounds great, doesn’t it?

    cakesinspacecoverAnd so it is in Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Astra and her family are on their way to their new home but – you’ve guessed it – something goes wrong. Astra wakes from her suspended sleep, and feeling peckish goes off in search of a chocolate biscuit.

    The Nom-O-Tron (a highly developed version of Star Trek’s Replicator) satisfies Astra’s request, but when she’s tempted to ask for something a little more outlandish (how many times have you seen the word “Ultimate” used to describe a dish?) something goes awry. Soon Astra is hurtling through space surrounded by cakes which have learned to evolve. Cakes which are fed up of being eaten themselves. Cakes which have developed a killer instinct.

    Will Astra be able to save her family from the Ravenous Crispy Slices and Ferocious Fruit Cakes stalking the spaceship’s corridors? How much more complicated will things get when a second front opens up and her spaceship is raided by alien life forms known as Poglites, desperately searching for their holy grail, that technology which they haven’t been able to master: SPOONS.

    Yes, this is a totally surreal and deliciously outrageous story of friendship, ingenuity and hundreds and thousands.

    It’s fast-moving, exciting, just ever so slightly scary in that enjoyably adrenalin pumping way and above all it’s FUNNY! Add into the mix some genuinely beautiful writing (sometimes young fiction is all about the plot and the language – especially for an adult reading it aloud – can be somewhat unremarkable, but Reeve at times writes sentences which I found myself wanting to copy out), a plot which will enthral both boys and girls of a wide age range, and the subtle inclusion of some philosophically meatier issues (the consequences of greedy desire, the demonisation of that which we don’t know and can’t name) and you’ve got yourself a remarkable book.

    Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post - well worth reading!

    Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post – well worth reading!

    McIntyre’s illustrations are a crazy but perfect mix of 1950s brave new world sleekness and outrageous sponge-and-icing based fantasy. I’m delighted that Astra’s family are mixed race (this isn’t mentioned in the text at all, but how great to see some diversity just as-is, without it being an issue in the book).

    The top-notch content of Cakes in Space is matched by a stunningly produced physical book. Like last year’s Reeve and McIntyre production, Oliver and the Seawigs, this is first being published as a small hardback in pleasingly chunky, strokingly hand-holdable format. Everything about the book is appealing.

    After indulging in a solo read, I read this book aloud to both girls over a couple of days last week. Before we’d even finished the books my girls were off to raid the cutlery draw in the kitchen for highly prized spoons to create a collection of which any Poglite would be proud.

    spooncollection1

    spooncollection2

    Carefully curated, they labelled every spoon with where it had been found in the galaxy, its rarity and its monetary value (I can see how this could develop into a Top Trumps game…)
    spooncollection3

    Spoons are one thing, but cake is another, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to host our own mini Cakes in Space party. We baked a host of fairy cakes and then turned them into KILLER CAKES…

    cakesinspace3

    Lollies made great eyes on stalks…

    cakesinspace6

    … as did Maltesers and Aero balls.

    cakesinspace9

    We had fun making teeth out of snapped white chocolate buttons, tictacs and rice paper snipped to look like rows of sharp teeth.

    cakesinspace10

    We also had some Ferocious Florentines and Sinister Swiss Rolls (helped along with edible eyes).

    cakesinspace4

    cakesinspace5

    Other characters from the book were also present: The Nameless Horror was a big bowl of wobbly jelly dyed black with food colouring and with licorice shoelaces reaching out across the table, and jars of purple gloop (thinned down Angel Delight, again dyed to give a good purple colour) with gummy snakes in them made perfect Poglite snacks. Alas these were guzzled before I got to take a photo!

    Preparing for the party was at least as much fun as the party itself…

    cakesinspace7

    Great music for a Cakes in Space party includes:

  • Cake by Mindy Hester & The Time Outs – heavily influenced by George Michael’s Faith
  • Peggy Seeger with Ewan MacColl, “The Space Girl’s Song”
  • I like Pie, I like Cake by the Four Clefs
  • To the Moon by the Mighty Buzzniks
  • Man in the Moon by The Full English. This comes from the album Sarah McIntyre listened to a lot whilst illustrating Cakes in Space.
  • Crunch munchy honey cakes by The Wiggles… not everyone’s cup of tea but it is sort of earwormy…
  • Other activities which would make for a great Cakes in Space party include:

  • COSTUMES! Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve have the most amazing Cakes in Space costumes (you can see them here), but if you want some inspiration for your own costumes you could try these: Using a bucket and plastic tray to create an astronaut costume as per Spoonful, how to create a papier-mâché helmet on StitchCraftCreations, a Pinterest board dedicated to cake costumes.
  • ROBOTS! I’d pile a load of “junk” from the recycling bin on the table and let the kids loose on designing and building their own robots or spaceships. NurtureStore has some ideas to get you going.
  • SLEEPING PODS! For the grown ups at the party if no-one else… You could use large cardboard boxes painted silver lined with duvets, and with the lids cut out and replaced with something see-through, with bottle tops/lids stuck on for the various buttons… you get the idea!
  • We’ve all heard of Death by Chocolate, but what’s the nearest you’ve come to being killed by a cake?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Cakes in Space from the publishers.

    4 Comments on Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, last added: 8/18/2014
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    6. Why I hate the word 'author': by Sarah McIntyre


    I have a problem with the word 'author'. Well, it's more that I have a problem with how people use it. When I do 'Author's Visits' to schools, teachers will introduce me as an 'author', explain to the children that this means I write books. Then I have to explain to the kids that I write a little bit but, actually, I mostly draw for a living. It's confusing! Yes, I AM an author! And I would still be an author even if I never wrote a word.

    Authors are the people who create the book, they're the people who turn an idea into a story. Traditionally the authors are a writer (who writes) and an illustrator(who illustrates). My co-author, Philip Reeve, and I pretty much worked like this on our Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space books (even though we brainstormed the story ideas together).




    But it's not always that straightforward. For example, in making our Jampires picture book, my co-author David O'Connell and I brainstormed the story together and took turns writing drafts to submit to the editor. I created some loose thumbnail roughs, David reworked the compositions and drew the detailed pencil roughs, then I went over his pencil lines and turned them into finished artwork. So it's impossible to say that one person is the illustrator and the other is the writer; we both did both jobs. I think this working method is rather exciting; it let interesting creative things happen that shaped the book. And I think it could inspire kids, by showing them that they can try a bit of everything, they don't have to decide this early whether they want to only write or only draw.

    But oh, this can cause PROBLEMS! Because my name is listed first on the book cover, people assume I'm the writer and David illustrated. Which is understandable, being the traditional format. But the thing that makes me SPITTING MAD is that often, because of this, David's name gets left out of listings altogether. I'm deemed the writer so therefore, somehow 'the boss', and his role is seen as less important. A friend told me that a respected journalist explained how he leaves out the illustrators' names because 'the writer is the one in charge'. ...NO WAY! If you want to put it that way, the editor is in charge, or the publisher, or possibly the Sales & Marketing team. The writer often has a lot less 'control' than you'd expect. (Cue loud weeping from writers with terrible book covers.)



    If you're buying books and you just see the writer's name on the cover and not the illustrator's, it's misleading. You might assume that the writer also drew the pictures. Or you might assume that the illustrator isn't worth mentioning because his or her role is less important. In some books with minimal illustrations (say, a small picture on the title page), this is probably true; the writing is what conveys the story to you. But in highly illustrated books, this is unfair; you're learning as much about the story from the pictures as you are from the words. ...And the uncredited illustrator feels about this big:



    Oddly, in British culture, some people DO actually believe that words are more important and more worthy than pictures. They believe a 'proper book' is one that lets them create all the images in their head, with no picture crutches. They might assume pictures are for children, a means of luring them into the REAL business of reading words.

    But think about this: when people read a story set on, say, a distant planet, they still tap into pictures they have been fed from outside sources. If there aren't pictures in the book, readers will conjure up images they've seen in film, on television, in video games, advertising, etc. Their brains might use the text to tweak these images a bit, but people draw their imaginative pictures from images they've already seen. When we give them an illustration, it teaches their mind something new; they have to move beyond what they already know and they gain a new way of imagining something, they can picture a new world. Unusual illustrations can stretch the mind and make the words of a story conjure images that are much more unique to the pictures the readers might have had in their minds with plain text.

    So why would people still think a writer is more important? Partly it's a mythology we've created, or even a working uniform, like a boiler suit on a mechanic. We like to think of writers as thoughtful, possibly depressed and alcoholic, but torturing themselves to pull profound truths out of their deep, dark souls.



    Illustrators, on the other hand - particularly children's book illustrators - are often thought of almost childlike. People associate drawing with something they enjoyed in childhood, but put aside when they grew up. They like to think of illustrators as children who never grew up, bohemian artists, who dance about a studio splashing paint around and giggling merrily.

    Guys... this just isn't true. I know a lot of writers who run around having fun and acting like children, and I know a lot of illustrators who are almost permanently attached to their work desks and computers and suffer back problems and repetitive stress injuries. Everyone's different, and works differently, but everyone's due the respect given to professional adults. And reviewers need to learn how to describe illustrations and how they enhance a story, not rely on stock phrases such as 'bright and colourful'.

    This supremacy of the writer over the illustrator most certainly IS a British cultural thing. In France, the illustrator is considered far more interesting, and it's the illustrator who will get mobbed at signings. But the French attitude might not be ideal, either; illustrators find they're expected to draw more and more elaborate pictures on the dedication page at signings, often painted, in full colour. (Gallery-worthy art, really.) It gets so intense that at one festival a few years ago, a lot of French illustrators joined together in refusing to do anything more than sign their name because the expectations were getting so high. This doesn't usually happen in Britain, fans are often surprised to find they get more than a signature. Some children even panic slightly, seeing someone drawing on their book. ('But Mummy, drawing on books isn't allowed!')



    But you might correctly point out: a book isn't only made by a writer and an illustrator. There's a much larger team involved. And yes, I'm hoping to see more credits given to people in the production process, starting with the editor and designer. David O'Connell and I made a deliberate point of including the names of our designer (Ness Wood) and editor (Alice Corrie) on the dedication page of our David Fickling Book, Jampires. I suggested it to my Scholastic editors when I was illustrating Superkid and they looked askance at each other and said they didn't think it would be allowed. But I recently suggested it for my upcoming book, and they seemed pleased and said they would include their names.

    The only reason I can see authors might not want their editors listed in their books is that, as any aspiring writer or illustrator will know, it's quite hard to find out who the editors are at publishing houses. Even the listings in The Writers & Artists Handbook can often be incorrect because people move around a lot in these jobs. So authors might worry that, if people know the name of their editor, they will mob the editor with their own submissions. This could be a selling point for the reader but not popular with all authors. But... hey! I like to think my editors and I are strong teams, and if I can give them credit, they'll be even more glad about working with me, since people will be able to see their hand in it. The book's created by a team.

    The biggest problem with crediting the book to everyone in the whole production team, including the names of the people who printed it in China, is that people can't remember more than two or three names; if you put more names than this on the book cover, they'll all be unmemorable. It's a branding thing. But this isn't a problem in films; you only get the big stars listed at the beginning of a film, but there's a big rolling list of credits at the end. I'd like to see more of this on the page with the ISBN number and all the small print. If someone really wanted to find out about the team, then they could.

    So, reviewers, teachers, parents, writers, publishers, all readers: think twice when you say who a book is 'by'. Here's the simplest guide I could come up with for crediting a book:


    (You could also say 'words by/pictures by', etc.) I've noticed that a couple of the organisations that used to use the first two styles of crediting books have recently changed their ways and are using the second two styles. I don't think it's something most people do deliberately; it's the sort of thing that when I point it out to them they say, 'Ah yes, well, of course'.

    Some writers commit what may be an unintentional crime of putting their illustrator's artwork all over their own website - it's part of their books' branding - but then not crediting the illustrator. This rankles badly. But whenever I mention attitudes toward illustrators on social media, writers fall over themselves to say, 'Oh, but I always credit my illustrator!' or 'But it's not my fault, it's what the marketing team does!' Besides being honourable or chivalrous, crediting an illustrator makes sound business sense. Book publicity is so reliant on events these days, that it's financially silly not to have two people doing the publicity work and traipsing about the countryside to festivals and things. I love working as a team with my co-authors; it's much more fun being on stage with a friend.



    I'm lucky that Philip and Dave have worked so closely with me and I love that we're completely in this business together.


    Website and blog: www.jabberworks.co.uk
    Twitter: @jabberworks

    0 Comments on Why I hate the word 'author': by Sarah McIntyre as of 10/16/2014 11:39:00 PM
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    7. Down to Earth & Up to Speed


    My text rework is still going OK, so I feel I have earned the time to scan in some more of my train sketches and talk to you properly about the conference. Add Image

    As well as the lovely Tim Hopgood, I also met Sarah McIntyre, whose illustrated characters are hilarious (and whose glasses I am SO planning to steal...).

    Sarah took amazing, picture-book style notes throughout the conference. You can see more of them on her blog but here's just one of the sheets she did at Tim's talk:


    She also sketched her own take on my conference space chicken:


    In the conference bookshop, I discovered a new, favourite picture book, by Jason Chapman (sadly, no relation), called Stan and Mabel, which manages to combine beautiful, painterly backgrounds with great, cartoon animals characters. It also has the funniest endpapers I've seen in ages - go and have a look!

    By the way: if you're looking for charity Christmas cards, Stan and Mabel star in their own range in aid of Battersea Dog's Home.


    I met Jason in person at the celebration party on Saturday night, so was able to congratulate him. It was a rather classy affair, with a string quartet, free champers and colour-coordinated balloons everywhere.

    5 Comments on Down to Earth & Up to Speed, last added: 11/19/2010
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    8. Pop-Up Festival of Stories

     "...Moomin Tea Party on Saturday, 4.30pm in the Coram's Fields Dome, with a feast of cakes and drinks from the Moomin Cookbook; Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler, also in the Coram's Fields Dome, on Saturday at 2.30pm creating fantastic drawings; and the grand finale on Sunday night at 5.30pm in Coram's Fields Arena - a performance of poetry and jazz, named Nonsense! by Michael Rosen and the Homemade Orchestra."


    Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July in Coram's Fields and The Brunswick in London. Find more information and the full programme on the Pop-Up website.

    0 Comments on Pop-Up Festival of Stories as of 1/1/1900
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    9. What I did on my summer holiday in the real world - Anne Rooney

    Fabulously serious logo by Sarah McIntyre
    I got back from my summer holiday last night. I went to CWIG, which is not an obscure Welsh village, but the Society of Authors Children's Writers' and Illustrators' Group conference. It happens every three years in different cities, and this year it was in Reading.It was called 'Joined-up Reading'. Is that 'joined-up reading' or 'joined-up Reading'? Who knows. Maybe both.


    Normally, we writers and illustrators spend our days, doing what we want, bossing around people  who don't exist and skiving work to chat on Skype/Facebook/twitter about the work we should be doing. We're not used to being with other people all the time, or doing as we're told. We're not used to having to get dressed before working, eat at regular times, use a knife and fork nicely or sit quietly without telling a bunch of lies. But a conference is a proper organised thing with set mealtimes, talks to attend and other people to interact with.

    So why do we go? Holiday!

    CWIG is a delight. Full of old friends and potential new friends, a chance to gossip, eat, drink and whinge. If any snippet of useful information leaks in, that's a bonus.

    Nicola Davies, unfazed by being
    elbowed by a giant ghost - all in a
    day's work for us
    CWIG is just writers and illustrators - it's not somewhere to look for an agent or publisher. And so no one has to be impressive, there's no point in showing off, and we can all just relax. It's a time for singing silly songs and drinking the bar out of wine. (We did that on the first night; the last time I was party to drinking a bar out of wine was in Outer Mongolia in 1990 on the day the Iraq War started.)

    I loved it. But like all the best holidays, it had its grumble-points. The food was poor, the bar was hopeless, the cabaret compulsory (hah! we laugh in the face of compulsory!), the coffee undrinkable (that's serious) and the microphones non-functional. The Germans took all the sun loungers and there was tar on the beach. Oh. Hang on.

    But we don't get this stuff every day, unlike, say, manager-type-people who are forever going to conferences and staying in the Scunthorpe (or Dubai) BestWesternMarriotHilton hotel. Indeed, most days we don't get interaction with another human being who actually exists. To be in a whole room of around 100 people, none of whom can be given green hair or three arms on a whim, is quite a novelty. CWIG is a weekend away in the real world.

    Only our invisible friends were
    skiving outside
    But look - we can play in the real world, too.

    We talked about the state of publishing (in turmoil), of what the hell the government thinks it's doing with libraries (wanton armageddonising), of the progress of e-books in children's publishing (mollusc-like in its rapidity) and whether Allan Ahlberg's glass contained red wine or Ribena (who knows?) And heard the usual disingenuous comment from a publisher that there's never been a better time to be a children's writer.



    Now for my holiday snaps. Don't shuffle like that. You might like to visit the real world one day.



    Here is our venue: a very plausible-looking Henley Business Centre at Reading University.









    We had proper signage, just like real business people. Well, perhaps not quite like real business people.







    Just in case we didn't know where to walk ...





    .... and where to dance, there were some stick people drawn on the floor.

    (Obviously the nice people at Reading know that all writers - and  especially illustrators - speak fluent stick.)








    We know how to dress. Alan Gibbons and John Dougherty, as usual, wore shirts chosen to burn out the eyes of Ed Vaizey. I won't dazzle you with those. Sarah McIntyre chaired her session in the best conference hat I have ever seen. [What do you mean, 'what's a conference hat?']








     Allan Ahlberg brought his teddy.









    And he had a drink on the stage, though his wasn't see-through, like they usually are when you see conferences on TV.










    We all transacted our own little bits of networking and business. I secured a promise from Catherine Johnson to translate some text into Jamaican Fairy and asked Jane Ray if I could commission a dodo from her.





    So you see, we do know how to do it.

    I had a wonderful time, but holidays can't last forever and it's time to settle be back into speaking stick and bossing around a steam-powered autamaton and an orphan in a boat. Sigh.

    (If you would like to read a more informative account of what happened at CWIG, you could turn to David Thorpe. I'm sure more will appear, and I'll update this list later in the day/week/millennium.) 

    Anne Rooney
    (Stroppy Author)

    16 Comments on What I did on my summer holiday in the real world - Anne Rooney, last added: 10/7/2012
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    10. TIME TO MAN-UP! – Anna Wilson

    A couple of things have happened this week which have made me think about how I promote myself as a writer who also happens to be a woman. I would like to share these things to get your opinions, which I know will be many and varied!

    On Wednesday 26th March I went to an event organized by the wonderful Bristol Librarians. It was, as much as anything, to say a fond farewell to Margaret Pemberton and to thank her for her inspirational and tireless work in the Library Services over the years.




    It was also a fantastic opportunity for authors to network, as it was advertised as ‘Speed-dating with Librarians and School Teachers’ – every bit as scary as it sounds, but not quite as dubious.

    We children’s authors were invited to bring along samples of our work and be prepared to talk about our books and what we can offer for events. Every five minutes or so, a bell would be rung and the teachers and librarians would move on to another author. Clearly the idea was for us to sell ourselves convincingly in a succinct and engaging manner in order that the teachers and librarians would remember us, buy our books for their establishments and hire our services for events.

    I was on a table with Che Golden, whose Mulberrypony books are hilarious, action-packed tales about (in her own words) ‘evil’ ponies - definitely ‘not your average pony books’. She has also written a series about ‘homicidal’ fairies, the first title of which The Feral Child, has sold in the US and already has a large fan base. Sitting with us was Rachel Carter: her debut novel for 9-12s, Ethan’s Voice, has been extremely well received. Rachel is a Bath Spa graduate from the MA course, Writing for Young People. She is a talented writer with more stories in the pipeline.

    So, of course, the three of us sat there telling the teachers and librarians how marvellous we were, blowing our own trumpets and generally setting out to impress . . .

    Did we, hell. (I know Che and Rachel will agree, because we discussed it afterwards!) We were bashful and self-deprecating, we had brought no books to sell and we shared each other’s business cards as we had not thought to bring much in the way of promotional material.

    Then there was John Dougherty: he had a stack of books to sell and a pile of beautifully put-together, carefully thought-through leaflets which helpfully and concisely laid out what he does, how much he charges, what a school can hope to get from a day with him and how good he is at doing it. He had added selected quotes from happy readers, teachers and librarians who could testify to how good he was and what benefits his visits had brought to their schools. It was brilliant! And it gave a very professional impression. (I have since showed his leaflet to friends and family who have said, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ Why, indeed?)

    Che and I also discussed events and festivals with Wendy Meddour (author of the wildly funny Wendy Quill books). Wendy said at one festival she was on after two well-known, hilarious male authors, and that it made her anxious as it was ‘like following two stand-up artists’.

    I went home thinking, ‘Why is it that women writers do not put themselves out there as confidently as men?’

    The next morning the headline below featured in the Guardian. It provoked some heated debate on Facebook amongst a few female authors I know:

    Discover the Booktrust 2014 Best Books awards shortlist!
    David Walliams, Jeff Kinney and Jonathan Green [sic] make the shortlist for the Booktrust's Best Book awards – which children's books do you think should win?


    Apart from the glaringly obvious mistake that it is in fact John Green’s name on the list, not the mysterious Jonathan, the thing that riled me and more than a few of my friends was the lack of women’s names in the headline. If you scroll down through the shortlist, you will see many prominent women writers included on the list, some of whom (Lucy Cousins, Joanna Nadin, Sarah McIntyre, for example) are well-known, well-loved writers who have already won or been nominated for prestigious awards, and so are hardly also-rans who deserve to be tacked on after the men.

    Both the article in the Guardian and the ‘speed-dating’ event made me wonder about how we women promote ourselves. I know that in an ideal world it would be great if there was an entirely level playing field to start with, and it would also be lovely if publishers did not leave the lion’s share of promotion to us authors who really only want to get on and write rather than be cajoled into the role of performing monkeys . . . But with John Dougherty’s leaflet sitting on my desk and Wendy’s words about men’s events being ‘like stand-up’ ringing in my ears, I did wonder what I could do to change things for myself.  

    My husband works in the food industry: I asked him if women were as backwards at coming forwards in business as I felt I was in the book world. His reply:

    ‘Oh yes, the women I work with admit that if they have only 20% knowledge on a certain subject, they will hold back until they feel they know about 80% before they voice an opinion, whereas I would say that men are happy to chip in confidently with their views when they know only 20% of what they are talking about.’

    This would certainly back up what teachers have said to me about the differences in male and female behaviour in the classroom, too. Girls will tend to sit quietly and wait until they are sure they know the answer, whereas boys will have a go even if they are not 100% (or even 80%) confident.

    So, I have made a decision. If I want people to take my writing seriously, pay me what I charge for events and (maybe one day) put my name in a newspaper headline, I shall have to take a leaf out of the men’s book and talk myself up a bit.

    As Caitlin Moran says in her marvellous book, How to Be A Woman:

    The boys are not being told they have to be a certain way, they are just getting on with stuff.

    Now, where is that excellent leaflet of John Dougherty’s? I feel a copy-cat session coming on . . .

    Find me on the web at http://annawilson.co.uk






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