This video is especially for Luke-Mark Williams, who is possibly my biggest fan, and whose birthday it is today, January 3rd, the day this video went live on YouTube – Happy Birthday!
I was thrilled to wake to the news today that Michael Morpurgo has been knighted. My career as an illustrator has been way-marked by our collaboration with the Mudpuddle Farm Stories.
It was a long time ago that I took my illustrations up to London, to have tea at the Royal Overseas League and meet Michael first. I had struggled and cried with frustration with those illustrations, but I’d also found my feet and my style under the patient guidance of Fiona Kenshole at A&C Black (More of that here!)
I held my breath as Michael went through the artwork, hoping he would like it. When he’d finished, he had tears in his eyes. “That’s my Mossop!” he said, talking of the cat that was the hero of Mossop’s Last Chance.
When children ask how I became a writer, I tell them that it was through illustrating Michael’s stories. Those books were unusual. It was my job to lay out the book as well as illustrate them. Pulling the stories apart allowed me to see how Michael carefully plotted them. As I was pasting up one well-crafted paragraph, it struck me that it was a complete story in itself. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. It was a blinding moment of understanding that all those year’s of schooling hadn’t got through to me.
Talking of schooling, It turns out we both went to King’s School Canterbury. Michael was Head Boy and I was the rebel who left as soon as I could after failing all my o levels but one! I’ve since found out that Philip Ardagh is also a member of the club. They must put something in the Canterbury water!
When I read some of my early stories, I can hear Michael’s voice in them. It took me a lot of practice and another wonderful editor, Christine Lo – now managing editor of Granta Magazine, to give me the confidence to find my voice.
So I have much to thank Michael for and would like to wish him all the best and to congratulate him for this wonderful achievement. As I’m now the Chair of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) of the Society of Authors I can also say that we feel this an honour that also recognises our profession and the work we all do in it.
A very happy New Year, Sir Michael!
Here is an easy way to draw a Christmas stocking and an even easier way of painting the Christmas Stars on too.