Friday, 9 October 2015

Comic making workshops for children

I use my own drawings as examples in the workshops. Here is some character development work for 'Rosie'.
I haven't posted on this blog recently because I've been busy developing and delivering comic making workshops for children. Tomorrow I'll be leading the first of six one hour Comics Club workshops for 9-12 year olds at Carnegie Library in London SE24, it's fully booked and there is already a waiting list for the next time I run it - I'll post with more information about this soon but it won't be until next year.

There are still places available on my Make your own comic! workshop for 9-13 year olds on October 27 in Notting Hill, London. It runs from 1.30 to 4.30pm and numbers are limited - book in advance on the Chelsea Young Writers website. More information about this workshop is on my main website I'll be taking the children through the basics of creating characters, a synopsis, a script and their own comic.

It's great fun to work with children on comics and I've been delighted by their enthusiasm for this form of telling stories. So nice to spend time with people who love comics as much as I do!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Comic making events at Carnegie Library in south London SE24

I've not been blogging much lately because I've been putting together some new comic making workshops and events that will take place at Carnegie Library, 188 Herne Hill Road, London SE24 0AG.

First up is a 10 metre long collaborative comic "our environment" 10am-4pm on October 3. Anyone of any age is welcome to come along and draw or write on my roll of 100% recycled paper, no need to book just turn up. There will be lots of other activities going on in the library at the same time such as yoga and pasta making and I'm told there will be fire engines as well though I assume they'll be outside. This is a Fun Palace event and it should be quite a day. As the comic progresses I will be tweeting snaps of it at @ajlillywhite.

Collaborative Comic at Carnegie Library with Amanda Lillywhite

Starting the following saturday, 10th October, I will be running 6 comic making workshops for 9-12 year olds. It's almost fully booked, only one place left, so get in touch quickly if you know someone who might like to come along. My email address is written on the poster below or you can contact me via the links or contact form on this blog.

Comics Club at Carnegie Library with Amanda Lillywhite
There are more comics workshops and events coming up after that but I'll blog about them another time.

Children's Writers and Illustrators of South London (CWISL)

Earlier on this year I joined CWISL, a group of published writers and illustrators who live in the south London area.

I took part in CWISL's ShoutSouth! Festival for south London schools in June and we are currently planning a ShoutWest! Festival for west London schools in November.

It's an interesting and diverse group that produce books for children of all ages from babies up to young adult in a range of genres.

I recently took over the CWISL newsletter and the experience of putting an issue together was a fascinating insight into the range of activities and events the group is involved in. The perfect job for someone as curious as me!

You can read the latest CWISL newsletter here and you can sign up for an email subscription here.

Monday, 29 June 2015

"What is the Worth of Creating for Children?" an SCBWI panel event for Manchester Children's Book Festival 2015

I travelled up to Manchester on the opening day of the Manchester Children's Book Festival to see the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) panel event and it was well worth the trip.

Below is a round up of a few quotes from my notes. The panel event will be written up in more detail by SCBWI member Jo Dearden to appear on the Words and Pictures blog very soon.

Writer Marie Basting and Julia Churchill of AM Heath Literary Agency

Marie Basting had some interesting questions for Julia Churchill, Kate Pankhurst and Jon Mayhew such as "Do we need these books? Are they trivial?" and one that drew boos from the audience "Do we need more issue books and not waste time with adventure stories?".

Julia Churchill said she places no value judgement on books “any book is a good thing” and there should be “a book for every child”. On how she selects books herself she said she looks to be transported - whether it is a story for adults or for kids.

Illustrator/writer Kate Pankhurst and writer Jon Mayhew
Kate Pankhurst said she feels that it is important to talk about children's books at a time of library closures and when space for reading in schools being squashed. She added that there is a need to spread the word about the worth of creating books for children. She believes that the books you read as a child contribute to who you become as an adult – you take something from every book you read.

Jon Mayhew is often asked “have you thought of writing a book for adults” he said he has ideas for books for adults but they don’t call out to him as much as his story ideas for children. He said we should “never underestimate children as an audience”.

As mentioned before this is just a brief taste of what was said at the event, there is more to come on SCBWI's Words and Pictures blog.

Other highlights of my visit to Manchester Children's Book Festival...

Some of Sarah McIntyre's Sea Monkeys (from her book with Philip Reeve, Oliver and the Seawigs)
up for adoption at MCBF to raise money for the Readwell Charity. My daughter named the one I brought home
for her "Tallulah" and it seems to have developed a taste for plastic fried eggs.

 Beautiful Mancunian red brick architecture photographed on the way back to the train station.
Manchester Children's Book Festival opened on 26th June and will continue until 5th July. There are lots of fantastic events in and around Manchester, go to their website for details and tickets

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A comic for children that helped raise money for Authors for Nepal (Ebay charity auction)

This was first posted in my general blog

In April and May 2015 two major earthquakes struck Nepal, more than 8,700 people died and many homes were lost. Shortly after the first earthquake author Julia Williams set up the Authors for Nepal auction on Ebay to raise money for a charity already established in the region, First Steps Himalaya. 281 illustrators, writers, agents, editors and others offered items that included critiques, book dedications, artwork, character naming and much more. At the close of the auction more than £14,000 had been raised.

My contribution was to offer to create a comic for my winning bidder based on a subject chosen by them. After several days of wondering whether I'd have to draw cars (not my strong point) I was delighted to find out that I would be making a comic for author Anna Bell. She wanted a story based around her son and her dog – an adventure set in the countryside near their home. Anna also told me that her son loves blueberries and her dog loves carrots. This was a dream brief for me and I loved working on this comic. Below is the story I came up with for her:

Nepal continues to struggle in the aftermath of the earthquakes. A statement from First Steps Nepal's website:
This is a catastrophe for Nepal that will take years to recover from.  First Steps Himalaya is dedicated to helping rebuild communities, not only our schools and early childhood centres, but the lives of the precious children we support.
You can donate to the charity via their website

ShoutSouth! 2015 - a story making festival for primary and secondary school children

This was first posted in my general blog, I'm reposting here with a few updates at the end.

Illustrators involved in ShoutSouth! Festival 2015 clockwise from top left: Loretta Schauer, me, Deborah Allwright, Gillian McClure, Sally Kindberg and Bridget Marzo
I joined Children's Writers and Illustrators South London (CWISL) a few months ago so this was the first year I've been involved in their ShoutSouth! festival. One hundred children from ten primary and secondary schools took part. I was delighted by the quality of work I saw over the three days they were with us at London South Bank University

The kids were split into four groups with writers and illustrators assigned to running workshops for them and helping them create their own stories. I was with the Lions along with authors Beverley Birch, Sally Kindberg, Cate Sampson, Karen Owen, Alex Wheatle and Deborah Allwright. Other illustrators and writers worked with the Panther, Tiger and Leopard teams. You can get an idea of how many of us were involved by looking at my photo of the display on the Pea Green Boat Books table and there is information about us all on the CWISL website.

Today was the final day of the festival. As it was a Saturday, parents of the children and their siblings were invited and got involved in their own workshops. Sam Osman ran a writing workshop for adults (some teachers also took part in this) and Loretta Schauer had the younger siblings drawing with her. Meanwhile the Lions, Panthers, Tigers and Leopards finished their stories, then some of them read them out to us all – they were amazingly creative. The festival closed with a story from Margaret Bateson-Hill, cake and certificates.

It was lovely to see the kids so motivated and excited by creating stories, I look forward to the next festival. If you think your London primary or secondary school might like to be involved in a future ShoutSouth! please contact CWISL via the website for details.

A big thank you to Derwent for supplying each child with their own selection of pencils.

Thanks also to the kids, their families, their teachers and their schools for making ShoutSouth! such a wonderful experience: 

Granton Primary
English Martyrs Primary
St Mary's Primary
Lilian Baylis Technology School
Bolingbroke Academy
Sacred Heart Primary
Christ Church Primary
London Nautical School
Jessops Primary
Isleworth and Syon School

Part of the story mountain visual aid I made for Cate Sampson's Spot the Plot workshop.

Karen Owen got the Lion group off to a good start.

Sally Kindberg talked about characters with the group.

Bridget Marzo got all the kids drawing faces.

Cate Sampson explained the story mountain to the kids plus Beverley Birch, Alex Wheatle and Karen Owen.

One of the kids came up with a new story for Jack and Jill.

Beverley Birch got the kids excited about using their senses to add interest to a story.

They all worked amazingly hard on their stories throughout the three day festival.

Loretta Schauer got younger siblings of the story makers interested in drawing.

The pencils provided by Derwent were put to good use by all the kids.

A display of books by the authors taking part in the festival.

Margaret Bateson-Hill had the kids enthralled by one of her stories.

Mo O'Hara gave out certificates to all the storymakers.

A cake was sponsored by Pea Green Boat Books.

Well done Lions you did some great work during ShoutSouth! it was a privilege to be part of your group.

If you'd like to read about the experiences of other ShoutSouth! writers and illustrators go to Patricia Elliot's post on the CWISL blog or to Bridget Marzo's blog. Artwork from the event will be posted on ShoutAbout (a CWISL website that any writer or artist under 16 can contribute to).

CWISL is now preparing for ShoutWest! – a similar festival to ShoutSouth! to be held at Brunel University in west London on 5th and 6th November 2015. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Tips for illustrators and writers thinking of going to London Book Fair 14-16 April 2015

Say hello if you see this panda at London Book Fair 2015!

I've been to London Book Fair a few times now and have sometimes found it overwhelming. Occasionally I've questioned whether it is worth the trouble. To be honest LBF is not really designed for illustrators or writers like me, it's mainly for those involved in the business of publishing and the real action (I'm told) happens in the International Rights Centre upstairs.

Having said that, if you are a writer or illustrator and happen to be in London on 14-16 April, I think it's worth a visit:

  • Most of the stands of the larger publishers are manned by sales people and usually you can only talk to someone if you have an appointment. However a lot of smaller publishers have stands and many times you might find yourself talking to someone involved in commissioning illustrators or buying stories.
  • LBF is an opportunity to see ranges of books by particular publishers and, sometimes, to collect their catalogues. This is helpful when deciding who you should submit your portfolio or story to later. Does your work fit in their niche? Are they already publishing something that is too similar?
  • Each year there is a market focus on a particular country, for 2015 it is Mexico. Publishers from many other countries have stands at LBF. It is a wonderful opportunity to see books from around the world.
  • There are lots of conferences, events and seminars spread over the three days covering a wide range of publishing related topics. You're sure to find something of interest.

Some tips for pre-published writers and illustrators attending London Book Fair 2015 for the first time

  • Look through the conferencesevents and seminars on the website and have a think about which ones you would like to attend. Information is available on the day but it takes a while to go through it and they start early - you don't want to miss out!
  • Print out level one and two floorplans, mark the stands you would like to visit and the locations of seminars or events you'd like to go to. If, like me, you are easily lost, this will save you a few tears of frustration.
  • The LBF website has a list of exhibitors with a set of useful filters to refine your search. Clicking on company names will take you to general information and website addresses.  Use the stand number to find them on the floorplan.

Some suggestions for what to take along

  • Business cards or postcards that give more than just contact information. Someone on an LBF exhibition stand once told me they collect so many cards during the exhibition that afterwards they can't remember why they were interested in that person in the first place and might not contact them. Including one of your illustrations or a blurb about your book on your card is a useful reminder.
  • If you are an illustrator you could take a portfolio either on a device or printed out. I recommend that you don't load yourself up too much because you'll be carrying it around all day. I prefer to take print outs because they are easy and quick to access - just pull them out of your bag!
  • Some food and water - there are lots of caf├ęs but they get busy and are sometimes expensive.
  • A sturdy bag - there are printed guides, newsletters, publishers catalogues and much more to collect. It adds up to quite a lot over the course of a day.

What to do when you are there

  • Don't make your expectations too high for what you'll achieve on the day. Some lucky people have productive meetings at LBF but, from what I understand, this is rare. However it is an opportunity to find out about publishers and to pinpoint people to contact when it's all over. So make sure to collect business cards, catalogues and contact information.
  • Take a notebook to jot down information from conversations with publishers. If you talk to a few it can become difficult to remember exactly who said what. (Another tip is not to lose your notebook as I did last year.)
  • If you are interested in a publisher but their stand is very busy, browse through their books and sooner or later it's likely that someone will speak to you. Be interested in what they are publishing rather than going for the hard sell.
  • Pace yourself, it can be exhausting.
  • Seminars are free and unticketed so arrive early at your favourites to make sure you get in.
  • Keep up with what's going on at LBF or connect with others via social media. A link to an LBF app and to Twitter and so on (scroll down for this) are on the website.

If you have any other tips for London Book Fair please add them to the comments below. And if you happen to spot me do say hello!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bayard magazines - SCBWI at the House of Illustration

A selection of Bayard magazines for a range of age groups.
Last Saturday I went to an SCBWI British Isles overseas illustration opportunities masterclass at the House of Illustration in London. The speakers were Bridget Strevens Marzo, illustrator, and Marianne Vilcoq, art director at Bayard in France.

I came away enthused and impressed by the wonderful Bayard magazines I collected at the event. Bayard publish children's magazines and books all over the world including the UK (known as Story Box here) but the French magazines were my favourites. They are strikingly colourful, illustrated throughout and beautifully designed.

During the masterclass there was an interesting discussion about eyes in illustrations. Apparently UK illustrators too often give their characters closed eyes, OK for characters that are asleep but not good otherwise! Having said that Marianne commissions work from illustrators all around the world including those in the UK.

Marianne's advice for submitting to art directors is to make sure to include character sheets in your portfolio that show lots of different positions and attitudes - this is to demonstrate that your representations of your characters are consistent. She also suggested putting some rough drawings in amongst the finished illustrations to show your working process.

Another tip is that she, and other art directors, often search online for new creative talent so make sure to include your own name in tags and on all your website pages. She said that she often looks for illustrators in Issuu, Pinterest and Instagram. Also Bologna Children's Book Fair seems to be a great place to meet with French art directors such as Marianne, to see the books they publish and to show them your work.

Saturday's event was the first SCBWI-BI illustrators event I'd been to – I hope to go to more. You can find about SCBWI events in the UK on this link, you don't have to be a member to go along.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Staying warm while drawing and editing

It's winter at the moment in London, I drew some cartoons of how I've been keeping warm while I work.

The best place to edit in the winter.
Drawing outfit.