Tag Archives: writing

I’m working with Michael Morpurgo again!

New Book – New covers

Twenty nine years ago, I illustrated a book for an up and coming author called Michael Morpurgo. He’s done quite well for himself since!

The book was Mossop’s last Chance, a sad story about a farm cat that was past his expiry date. Fiona Kenshole, my editor at A&C Black, had a vision that she manifested in the groundbreaking Jets series.

Jets were such anew idea. Fiona had seen what “desktop publishing” could achieve. Computer artwork and typography was very new and had released type from boring straight lines. Why not let the illustration flow around the text and include the text in ways that were appearing in trendy print?

We didn’t have a computer! In fact I got a computer capable of doing interesting things before my publishers did!

So in the beginning we faked it. if the text needs to be on a curve, then we cut up each word or even letter and pasted it down – the origin of the phrase cut and paste. I say we… I did t the book layout and pate up and drew around the text to get it to fit nice and tight. Integrated text, we called it.

One of the first 6 in the famous Jets Series

I received the fearfully expensive typesetting in a long roll and had to cut Michael’s story up with scissors to paste down on the pages. Speech bubbles I drew with hand-lettering.

Inadvertently, Michael taught me how to write while I was doing this. Being so intimate with his text, I “saw” how he constructed his stories. Fiona then taught me how to edit and I was away.

Mossop’s last chance was one of the first Jets. The series was huge success. I went to to write and illustrate my own Jets books, Grandad’s concrete garden and We won the Lottery.

We made six books books together in the Mudpuddle farm series. Being a farmer himself, I always felt that Mudpuddle Farm was close to Michael’s heart.

9 million happy meals!

In 2012 9 million copies of Mudpuddle farm were given away in a McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion!

There was life in the old series yet.

Harper Collins had always done the paper backs. A&C Black had meanwhile been bought up by Bloomsbury.

HC Have now taken over the Mudpuddle series and we are starting again.

Michael has written two new stories which I am illustrating at the moment. They will be bound together in a two story book called Hee-Haw Hooray! It should be out this summer, if all goes to plan, along with new versions of the previous six, all ion their new-style, brightly coloured jackets.

It’s both thrilling and weird to be doing the books again. Weird because I’m copying my drawing style of so long ago. I started out thinking I would draw things so differently now, but now I’m in the swing of it, Im really enjoying going back to the naiveté of my younger self, but with added experience. I’m certainly a lot faster than before – and I remember I used to get blisters on my fingers from using the old rOtring isograph pens!

I’ll keep you up too date with the project as it proceeds. I’f wished the first story, now on to books two!

Questions for a Children’s Author

I visited St Paul’s CofE Primary School in Gloucester last week and some of the children still had questions to ask when our time was up. I asked their teacher Mrs Bevan, to send me an email with the questions I hadn’t answered, and promised to make a video for her and her class 5.

Having made the video, I though I might share it on my website too!

I mention that Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, is my favourite book. I made a video explaining why. You can see it here:

These are the questions that Year 5 asked

Lesley-Joyce:

  • How long does it take you to write your books?
  • Did you make the character Harri like drawing because you like drawing too?
  • Is it possible for you to give our school a couple of your books to put in our library? (her question – honest!?) Vikki asked this too!

Ethan:

  • How many books do you sell in a year?
  • Is it hard to write books?

Bea:

  • Who is your favourite character out of all of the books you’ve written? (Finnley asked this too)
  • What’s your most recent book?

Karl:

  • Where do you get your ideas from for your books and characters?

Gabko:

  • What is your favourite book that you haven’t written?

Vikki, Jennifer, Mario also asked the same questions as the ones above!

 

Full Stop. Comma, new Paragraph – all you need to write anything.

Sometimes, when I hear of the complicated grammar that primary children have to learn, I want to cry. The grammar that the curriculum requires them to learn is not to help them read or write, but to help academic examiners tick boxes.

Reading and marking a piece of writing is a difficult and subjective process. It requires effort. Ticking required items of grammar and keywords is much easier. But that doesn’t produce readers or writers. With all the effort that has been put into Literacy in the last 20 years, how come we still have a problem with struggling writers and reluctant readers?

In the world of music, three chords are all it takes to write multi-million selling songs that colour and punctuate our lives. Do we then still need complicated classical or jazz music to show off the rarified aspects of musical composition? Yes, we need it all. But we accept that some people write simple music and others write complicated music. We accept that complicated composition is a subject for experts – not beginners.

Most people listen to, understand and receive all the solace, fun, and entertainment they require from just three chords.

When great classical music reaches the soul, it is usually through simple moods and catchy melody lines – not because of the use of esoteric composition techniques. Once hooked, a few become aficionados and learn to understand the hidden complexities.

To write, all the grammar you need, is a full stop, a comma and a new paragraph – clear handwriting helps too.

To know what to write, one needs experience so you have something to write about. To know how to write, one needs to see how it is done and that means reading. Not reading to analyse grammar, but reading to seek knowledge, understanding and even for simple fun and entertainment. Reading lets you see how others do it.

As you read, you see how other writers glue the words together and, by a process of osmosis, learn to do the same.

If you don’t read, you will never see how the trick is done. If you spend all your time learning grammar, you will have all the tools but have no raw materials to work with.

Full Stop. Comma, new paragraph. The three chord trick of writing is all you need to write anything. If you want to progress and add a bit of sophistication to colour your voice, try an exclamation mark! Most everything else can be inferred.