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.