Sunday, June 28, 2009

stocking the idea soup in my brain...

I told my SO what I'd last posted on my blog and he asked what it had to do with writing. Apart from the fact that blogging is another form of writing itself, I explained how reading the newspaper and watching televised news is one of the ways I keep the idea soup in my brain stocked up. Even if the news doesn't provide me with a particular idea or spark, everything mixes in together and sends my brain off in all sorts of different cognitive directions as I wonder about stuff and mull things over. Somewhere inside that mysterious grey matter unpredictable connections are made which then contribute to the content of my stories, the makeup of my characters and the convolutions of my plots. Its a hard-to-explain alchemy and I like to keep it well fed.

I went to see the movie Transformers 2 yesterday with the famdamily. I can't say I didn't like it but a lot of my favourite things from the first one were missing. Especially the peppy dialogue and brilliant story line. There was a tonne of action and some fun transformer robots, big and small. But the individual parts didn't add up so well. And why did Megan Fox need her hand held everytime she ran anywhere - are women incapable of running to safety on their own? My children who enjoyed the movie thoroughly got the pip with me when I began analysing the plot and couldn't understand why the shortcomings of the story were so important to me - they just were alright? Sheesh! I'm a writer - its my job. Ultimately I wondered about the director and whether he'd understood why the first movie had worked so well. Were all those good bits the first time round a lucky accident? Or was he in too much of a rush to get No. 2 out to capitalise on the success of No. 1.

I thought in my next post I might tell you a few more things about myself so you can add some facts and info to the pictures. If you want to know anything in particular (not already covered by my bios at the Book Council, Scholastic, Storylines and Christchurch City Libraries websites) leave a question for me in the comments section.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I heard the news today, oh boy...

I suspect I do not perceive the news like other people do. For example Michael Jackson's untimely and tragic death at the young age of fifty. I am embarrassed to say one of my thoughts was Farrah Fawcett picked the wrong day to die. I do not mean to trivialise death. Its the biggest crisis we will ever face in our lives. But her, also tragic and untimely passing on the same day, will forever be overshadowed by the unexpected death of the King of Pop. Maybe thats how she would have wanted it. I don't know. I hope both of them rest in peace. They both seemed to share an air of sadness about them. Michael Jackson in particular appeared, like Benjamin Button, to live his life backwards. I can't help thinking of him singing one of my favourites of his, Rock with You, in an amazingly sparkly costume, looking young and handsome and talented and full of joy. There are so many questions surrounding the person he became. I think I will continue to think of him as he was when he made Off the Wall. There has been no mention of his children by the media so far. I hope they are okay.

But back to my strange news consumption habits. Don't think I don't read the headlines because i do. But my favourite newsworthy items are the strange and curious that only get one paragraph, always leaving me wanting to know more and I guess, with a writer's eye, conjuring up all sorts of possible extrapolations of the story. And folks, should I be worried that I laughed myself silly over the story of the German old folk who kidnapped and held hostage a financial advisor responsible for the loss of $5.14 million of their savings. They attacked him with a zimmer frame, tied him up with duct tape and stuck him in a cellar where they beat him up. My favourite quote was this one, "... they bound me with masking tape until I looked like a mummy. It took them quite a while because they ran out of breath." I guess he wasn't the fittest specimen himself if he couldn't subdue two breathless geriatric attackers. Upon release, the financier could only whine and complain about the harsh treatment he had received and turned his focus on having his captors charged, with the possibility if they are found guilty of being jailed for up to 15 years. Seeing as they have lost their retirement savings maybe jail offers a greater level of security then they got from the financier's handling of their nest eggs. I don't condone violence and crime but I could not bring myself to blame those OAP for their actions. No court of any country seems to be adequately dealing with the self-important, over paid, smug, creepy, greedy people who play risky games with other peoples life savings.

And more evidence that tv can have a positive influence (after all, its where the idea for The Were-Nana came from) - another news item in the paper talked about a young boy who survived when lost by doing things he'd learned watching Bear Grylls on Man vs Wild. No reality show is truly 100% real but obviously the survival tips in Man vs Wild have credible value. They helped save a small life. Now thats good news.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More distractions...

Totally love this post by Katy Jackson over at her blog Moving back, Moving On. Go and read it. It stirred all sorts of memories of my own, and reminded me of my own time as a student at a catholic school and the less-than-saintly things we sometimes got up to.

And here is another something I wrote...


We can’t speak. If we say something, the old lady comes and raps us on the knuckles with a stick or maybe hits us on the head with a book. So we are silent. But it is very hot and still inside the room and there are a lot of us. We are too scared to speak but we poke each other and pinch each other daring the other to stay silent. It is not fair really. If you speak you are punished. If you stay silent you are tortured. We are mean to each other. Anything to stop the boredom. At the front of the large room a large fat furry bee buzzes on and on. None of us could tell you what he is saying right now. But we have heard it many, many times before and if you asked us we would usually know enough to escape a smack. It is for the grown ups.
If I close my eyes I can think what I would do if I won a million dollars. Maybe a pony for my sister and a Gameboy for me. And some jeans. I don’t know. Dad would like a new car and Mum wants a holiday. Or a dishwasher. I guess with a million dollars I could maybe get her both. Ouch! The old lady whacks my leg with her skinny stick. It stings bad. I jerk up straight.
“Open your eyes. Sit up straight,” she scolds.
Can I dream with my eyes open? The buzzing makes me sleepy. It is better to keep my eyes open. Now the bee reads from the book and the buzzing is stronger. Like the bee with honey. Here it is my friends he says.
That girl is very pretty. She is new. Her eyes are big and her eyelashes are thick and dark and long. They are like a curtain hiding a secret. She knows she is pretty. On her arm are all these coloured bangles. The old lady will have those if she sees them. Her friend is plain. Is it always like that? One pretty, one plain, like the knitting stitches my mother does. They are not speaking but I can see something passing between them. Pretty drops her eyes. Her cheeks turn rosy.
There is a red mark on my leg. My mother will know I was bad. I like the pictures on the walls. They look kind. They make me feel calm. My friend’s fidgeting is annoying. He cannot sit still. I like him because he does not tease me like the others. And he does not poke and prod me like the others. But instead he wriggles and squirms to himself and it is as bad as the poking and prodding. I want to pinch him but he is my friend. He has a skateboard. Instead I look at pretty and she is staring at me. I smile but straightaway I feel foolish and I can feel my face burn.
Whack! “Are you listening?” Two red marks. My mother will be worried and sad for me. She’ll cry. If she cries my father will be angry. I don’t want her to be sad. I don’t want it to be my fault. How can I make the marks go away. I rub my leg. The buzzing sounds louder and annoyed like wasps. The pictures seem different. I feel like everyone is looking at me even though they all face the front. It’s not my fault.
Now it is over and we all stand. Like silly sheep we all move toward the door at the same time. Maybe if we squeeze tight enough we can all pop out at once and be free. As I pass through the doorway I am pressed by the crowd against the pretty girl. My body brushes against hers. She is turned away but her hair smells like apples. I smile. The sun is shining. It is a good day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the meantime, read this...

I'm very proud of myself that I can keep a secret (or two or three...). I totally admit that I have the worst patience in the world but secrets I can do - so Fifi, no amount of begging or arm twisting will make me unseal my lips. Of course when I said 'tomorrow' I meant 'tomorrow' in publishing time which could mean weeks - hah!. I can say I am scheduled to be interviewed on the radio on July 11th, by Gordon Harcourt on RNZ according to this. But as for everything else, like you, I must wait to have things confirmed or otherwise. The interesting thing is that the one thing I have had some news on is the one thing not on my list of 10 possibles. So...

Here is an excerpt from a short story I wrote some time back, that I am very fond of, called The Gift. You can read the whole thing in the anthology, Short (Black Dog Books, 2008).

Everyone says I talk too much. My Mum says that as soon as I could make sounds when I was a baby, I would make noise all day long. When the sounds turned into words I was making sentences long before anyone else my age could. In class my teacher, Miss Watson, is forever saying, "Stop talking. Turn around and face the front of the class." Sometimes she says, "You will never learn anything if you don't listen."

My little sister Bubby says I even talk in my sleep. All night long she reckons. It's keeping her awake. My older brother Jimmy is always telling me to "Shut up."
"Mum," I call. "Jimmy told me to shut up." Mum used to come and tell him off but not anymore. Because I talk too much. I only do it because I have a lot to say. There's a lot going on in my mind and if I don't talk about it I feel like my head might explode.

Dad says if I'm not careful, I'll use up my allowance of words before I'm grown up. He says when I do I'll have to use somebody else's allowance and I'll probably start saying things like "Pass the cucumber sandwiches please, Cyril". Or maybe I just won't say anything at all. That would be the worst. My head would just keep filling up with thoughts and ideas and they'd have nowhere to go.

Then my Mum has a new baby. She calls her Renee and she is beautiful. Fat and shiny and full of smiles and giggles. She gets to be 18 months old and then two years and then two and a half and she doesn't talk at all. And then I know. I have used up my share of words just like Dad said and now I'm using up Renee's allowance too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Whatever happens tomorrow, I've enjoyed today...

So that gorgeous flashy star (Venus) was trying to tell me something. I am full of secrets. I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you. Most are just hints of potential opportunities, but that is exciting enough for me right now. When publishing seemed to be a contortionist forcing itself into a smaller box and closing the lid against the world I wondered how I would get in there and find room but the lid has come ajar and I can't helping feeling more positive...Whatever happens tomorrow, I am enjoying that feeling of possibilities today. And having kept the secret of The Were-Nana being shortlisted for the NZ Post Awards for more than a month don't bother trying to get anything out of me :)

Instead I offer you this distraction at Jane Smith's blog - a post on some excellent blogs kept by editors and publishers you might like to check out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What, or who has influenced my writing...

I'm being interviewed today. The interviewer has very generously given me a heads up on the questions and there's a couple which have my brain in overdrive:

Who or what has influenced your writing and in what way?

There's someone at the moment saying their father's book influenced JK Rowling's Harry Potter series and they'd like 500 million GBP as a thank you very much. Ms Rowling's representatives state she has never even heard of the book or author she has apparently borrowed from. A few years back I was stunned to see a book written by a writer friend explore the same subject matter I'd explored with a particular character (specific to the main theme) having the same name as the name I'd given my key character in a story I'd written. The most surprising thing was I found out about this book the first time I met this writer and held their book in my hand. I could not have been influenced by her and she could not have been influenced by me. But there we were. Justine Larbalestier has blogged on the topic of influence recently and I felt comforted by her take on the subject and by the responses of her writer friends. Influences can be hard to spot as a writer. I guess that all my favourite books and authors have influenced my writing but I couldn't point to any particular one as having influenced any one story of mine. Maybe the closest I can come is seeing a hint of The Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen in The Were-Nana. I loved their fairy tales growing up and read and re-read them frequently. But there are so many other things in The Were-Nana - my own experience growing up, my european background, all my thoughts on fear, and story-telling and the unknown and monsters like were-wolves and the scarey thought of going from being a child to an old lady without experiencing anything inbetween (I don't know if anyone has picked up on that one yet?). Its all in there, plus some other stuff as well. And because its illustrated you have to add in the illustrator's experience and influences too. Phew. Its amazing what you can stuff in to 32 pages and less than a thousand words eh?

I try to write books like the ones I enjoyed reading as a child, so there's the influence of the book writing heroes I worshipped. And then the people who have loved me and encouraged me along the way. My parents, my siblings, my husband and my children all get a nod (and a hug) here. But then there's the lady who ran the Writing for Children paper at Massey University that I took as part of my BA where I wrote the first short stories I had accepted for publication. Its not any one thing she said or taught but that is where some penny dropped and my writing changed. Then there's the kind words of encouragement that Diana Noonan, then editor of the part 3 and 4 school journals at Learning Media gave me when she took on that first short story. Her comments were life changing but also influenced my style and content just by saying I was doing the right thing. Then there have been comments from all sorts of people like Jo Noble and Joy Cowley that have given me hope at important times and impacted on the way I write. Sometimes there have been unkind comments that have made me more determined to succeed.

But its not only books, authors and people that influence me. Its all the movies I've seen, all the television I've watched, all the news I've read about, the way I was brought up and its probably even the food I eat. Ms Larbalestier suggested influence is something the reader can spot more readily than the writer but the reader has their own set of influences and experiences and there will be times a reader will see something the writer has no knowledge of (maybe case in point for Ms Rowling?). Or maybe the influence is not another book but the event or experience that prompted it. This is what I think happened with the writer friend of mine and me.

Sometimes I'm tempted by the idea of the Bene Gesserit witches in the Dune books by Frank Herbert, where the memories of all their ancestors are absorbed by the new generations of witches. I'm not just a product of my own experience, I'm a product of all the experience thats gone before. And thats too big a bag of influence to try and describe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Before anyone else is awake...

Every morning for the past week I have wakened to see an outrageously bright star hanging in the pre-dawn sky. I'm reminded of Tintin and The Shooting Star, because it looks impossibly large, like its hurtling towards us, a meteor on a suicide mission. Or maybe someone left a light on up there. Maybe somewhere in a distant solar system on the edge of time, a sun went supernova thousands of years ago, billions of years ago - I don't know. I read the science books which talk about these things but the numbers just drop out the other side of my head. Or the shear scale of those numbers is too much for me to manage so a few zero's are bound to wander off. All I know is, this week, this enormous shining star has been hanging in my bedroom window when everything else is dark and silent. Does anyone else see it? I feel like its trying to tell me something. Maybe I can only understand its message in my dreams and when I wake its just beyond my grasp, leaving only the star to wink and hint...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Which television series would you like to live in...

Remember how grumpy I was several weeks ago cos I hadn't heard back from publishers about my submissions - I STILL HAVEN'T HEARD! Sorry for shouting. I am doing my very BEST to be patient which is the hardest thing in the world for me and it still isn't good enough because patience is just rewarded with more waiting. Sigh.

I am off on another school visit tomorrow. Last week it was Campbell Bay Primary and the week before Remuera Primary. Next week it is Panmure Bridge Primary. Tomorrow it is Manurewa Central Primary. I hung out in Manurewa a bit in my youth, what with growing up in Mangere and all. School visits are cool. It is the driving there and back that is the stressful part. As a devoted watcher of Star Trek over the years I hoped they would have sorted this tele-transportation business out by now. They've had forty something years to turn their cool idea into reality. Thats plenty of time, surely. Marcus Chown in his book Quantam Theory Cannot Hurt You (not true - it hurts my brain every time I read some) talks about the theoretical possibility of tele-transportation. The way subatomic particles behave it is possible. Except (isn't that word a major drag sometimes - a bit like 'but' really, but not 'butt' which just tends to make me laugh - sad innit) some other aspects of subatomic particle behaviour screws up all the potential. Surely with all the people who hate driving they would have come up with some way better alternative to public transport by now!! Maybe if I lived in the television series it would work. Which television series would you live in, if you could?

And sorry, its my fault its just started raining again - I hung some washing out. Sometimes I think I do it just to thumb my nose at the weather. Sadly the rain always has the last laugh.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Whether we like it or not, writing is a business...

I liked this discussion over at Jane Smith's blog on how it's readers that drive publishing. As we know publishing is a business and publishers are in the business of publishing books they think people will want to read. Okay there are a lot of other players in the game as Jane lists in her post, but ultimately if the reader doesn't pay money for the books they publish, the publisher cannot stay in business. No, publishers don't always get it right (think Harry Potter) when they try to guess what the public wants. And there are plenty of times when they pay big bucks and print thousands of books that the public turn their nose up at. But generally their intent is to find books readers want to buy and read. I've spoken before about not wanting to try and guess at and write to trends myself. I write best when I write what makes my wheels spin. But its good to remind ourselves about this basic tenet of the publishing industry. Sometimes a rejection is not about the quality of the writing or the story, but the fact that publisher just doesn't think there will be enough buyers to cover the costs of publication. Of course I won't always agree with their assessment. Sometimes they don't agree with each other on this either. But its not necessarily a criticism of your writing, its a marketplace decision. I don't like it. I am always writing stories I think readers will like. For me as a writer, I know I need readers. In the beginning I wrote for myself. I tried to write the kinds of stories I liked most as a child. My focus was on finishing the book and sending it to publishers and with luck getting published, but once that happened I knew the readers were who I wanted to connect with. I want to write something people will enjoy, maybe make discoveries from or learn something from as a result. I'm certainly not trying to produce stories readers won't like. But my bottom line is I want to keep writing the stories I want to write. And I guess that means sucking it up when a publisher says no. It won't change the way I write or the things I write about. Getting published is not the goal. It's getting the books I like to write, that I think readers will like, published.

Of course, having said all of this, the biggest issue I face as a writer (apart from convincing the publisher to take on my work) is letting readers know about my stories. Readers may like what I have written but might not be aware I even exist. And readers have a huge choice of titles to pick from. So readers drive publishing? then getting their attention has to be part of the game plan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Its Jacks turn...

Jack the Viking is a ripping read aimed at boys and girls aged 9 to 13. Adults seem to enjoy it too. What happens when a troubled twenty first century boy is thrust back into the viking world. You can't phone home for help. You can't shut yourself in your bedroom and play playstation. And when your new best viking mate needs you to join the battle to save his family and win back his village what choice do you have.

Reviews can be found here and here. Go check it out in a bookshop and see what you think.

Good book design...the silent hero of many a good book

Awhile back I checked in at this blog and read an interesting post on book design. Book design is one of those things that you probably never notice. But you can be certain that when you have found a book particularly enjoyable and satisfying, good book design has played an important part in this reaction. And when you put that book down five seconds after picking it up in a bookshop, poor book design most likely played a part in that too. Or when a book seems hard to read or confusing. Or gives you a headache.

Great book design is one of those things that is a seamless part of the whole product that makes a book a delight to hold, to read and to pore over again and again. And its absence can make even the most heartbreaking work of exceptional genius a trial to read. Good design can make text books easier to learn from. Good design calls out to you across the bookshop. It makes reading a pleasure.

I know it has made a difference to my books. Which is why its such a buzz to tell you that the book designer for The Were-Nana is a finalist in the picture book category for the 2009 BPANZ Book Design Awards. Its especially exciting because the The Were-Nana was designed by its fabulous illustrator Sarah Anderson who is truly multi-talented. I love that the design supports the underlying themes of the book so well and that everything contributes to the telling of the story and the changing moods and emotions that Sarah has illustrated so well. The winners are announced in September. Good luck Sarah!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A trilogy has such a lovely sense of completeness about it, don't you think...

Last night I had an idea for another Jack the Viking book, the third in what would then be a trilogy. There is however a difficulty. I would need to go to Norway to do some research. Hmmm. I do not currently possess enough funds for a trip to Norway. Could I fudge it and make my trip to Wellington do instead? Perhaps not. Maybe Dannevirke.

I really like the new idea. It will have to get in line and take a number to get its chance to be written as I seem to have about a million things on the go at the moment. A little bit of stewing will make for a better story though so I'm happy to let it sit for awhile. A trilogy has such a lovely sense of completeness about it, don't you think? And Jack has some more growing up to do. And he's a nice kid to hang out with. But investing time in him may not pay off in the long run; not in the dollar sense anyway. However some stories just don't care about such things. They couldn't give a rats bottom about what havoc they play on the writers solvency. They hang around in your brain refusing to disappear, quietly insisting on existing. A trip to Norway would be a blast. Stranger things have happened...

Friday, June 5, 2009

SPOILER ALERT - Jack the Viking: Magnetic North...

Here is how the sequel to Jack the Viking begins...(if you haven't read Jack the Viking yet and don't want to spoil it - DON'T READ ON!! )

I don’t dream so much anymore. I don’t read stories about Vikings any more either. There are two reasons really. One is that the last time my head was full of Viking stories because I read about them all the time, something strange happened to me: I went there, I lived there. The other reason is that having lived as one, stories about them just aren’t as good anymore. When I was a Viking I spent most of my time being afraid: afraid of dying, afraid of never seeing my friends and my family again, afraid of living in a strange world. It was only when I died as Jack the Viking that I stopped being afraid. Stein said being afraid is a good thing. A good thing that sharpens your thinking and keeps you alive. I’m not afraid of anything anymore, except of not being afraid.

Chapter One
“Are you nuts?” Harry yelled, as he ran up to me.
I couldn’t stop myself laughing. My hands stung. “That was fun. Can I do it again?”
“What’s got in to you? You could have been killed.”
A red stain was growing on the leg of my jeans. I tried to roll them up but my knee hurt like blazes. I slowly stood up out of the gutter where I’d fallen, dusting the crud off the seat of my pants.
Harry, first glancing left then right, darted out onto the road and rescued the skateboard from its resting place, flipped up-side-down out in the middle. He scuttled back to the pavement and just stood there holding the skateboard looking at me.
“So you gonna give it to me?” I asked.
“You’ve changed Jack,” Harry said.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m okay. Nothings broken…I think.”
“You’re not bulletproof.”
Yes I am I thought. I laughed.
I looked at my hands. At the shredded palms. I shook my head. Stop being a wuss Harry, I thought.
“You know what I’m talking about.”
Yeah I knew what he was talking about. So I’d jumped off Harry’s garage and only just missed the rake lying on the ground. My ankle had been fine after about a week. And I’d jumped into Eddie’s swimming pool from their second floor balcony. I guess it was lucky my butt hit the bottom first. But it wasn’t about luck. I was doing all these crazy things and I was surviving. I was hardly getting hurt at all. And I wasn’t hurting anyone else.
“I liked the old you better.”
I didn’t. The old me had been beaten up by a bully. The old me had been too shy to ask Nikki to be my girlfriend. The old me was terrified of my own shadow, too scared to stand up for myself, afraid to take a risk. There was nothing wrong with the new me. It was a major improvement as far as I was concerned. Anyway, I couldn’t go back to the old me even if I wanted to. I was changed forever.
“That stuff,” I started, “that stuff that happened to me. You’d change too if it happened to you.”
“But it didn’t happen to you. Being with the Vikings - it was all in your head.”
“No,” I said. “You weren’t there!”
“Yeah well, neither were you.”
“You don’t know what it was like,” my nails dug into my hands as they balled into fists. I know it had been for real but I had nothing to convince Harry with. He needed evidence and the only evidence I had was my experience, and that was in my head. There was no point in arguing. “I was there. I…I went deer hunting, and rowed for like days on the ocean in a Viking ship. I fought in a battle.”
“No, ya didn’t.”
“I’d rather be there than here. Here’s boring,” I said. I didn’t say the next bit but I could tell by Harry’s expression that he knew what I’d left out.
“Yeah? Well that whole Viking story is boring,” he retorted.
I charged him, my fists thrust out in front of me. I caught him full in the chest and Harry, a stunned look on his face, fell back hard on the pavement dropping my skateboard. I stood over him; my chest heaving, my jaw tight with anger. The stunned look didn’t disappear. Harry slowly picked himself up and shaking his head at me, he turned and limped away.
“Harry!” I called but he kept going up the street.
“Stuff you!” I yelled after him. My experience had changed me but surprisingly, somehow it had changed Harry too. He was right. If I hadn’t jumped off, I might have been run over by that car, although it did slam on the brakes. But I didn’t want to hear that. I’d jumped. I was okay. He should lighten up.
At least my skateboard wasn’t broken. The man in the car had driven round it after honking his horn angrily. I picked it up and headed up the street back to my house.
“What happened to you?” Dad asked as I walked down the driveway. He wiped the back end of his work van dry with the chamois.
“I fell off.” I could feel my face turning red with the lie.
“Is everything okay, son?” Dad said, his eyebrow raised in question.
“Great,” I said grinning. At least that was true. I did feel great. The more extreme I behaved, the better I felt.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So thats how illustrating is done...

Another school visit today. Remuera Primary in the midst of their bookweek. I like bookweeks. I was impressed by the trouble the school and especially the librarian had gone to, to organise stimulating and exciting events for the students. The'd had a books-to-movie night the previous evening for the children, with any accompanying parents able to attend a talk for grownups. Brian Lovelock had visited earlier in the week and an artist friend of mine Sally Blyth had been along too. Today it was my turn and I was doing the talks together with the illustrator for The Were-Nana, Sarah Anderson. It was a treat for me to hear her side of the story. When I write I don't really envisage the pictures for each page. Someone asked me about this during my tour to Westport and I confess I muddled my answer. Probably because I don't imagine the visual images but I do have an idea in my head of how things look. These might sound like the same things but for me they aren't. My style of visual representation is an odd mixture of picture and description, words and images mingled and untangle-able. A result perhaps of the fact that I can't draw well enough to illustrate my words, so any image I have has to be helped by a verbal description.

On completion of a picture book story I send it off to the publisher and if they decide to publish, they arrange an illustrator. There is a large element of trust in doing this but I believe the publisher is as keen as I am for the book to succeed so they will be working hard to source the right images. With my two picture books so far I have not been disappointed - in fact quite the opposite. But to a certain extent the illustration side of the books production has happened magically and I have had little idea of the process involved in the illustrators work. With my first pb, Clever Moo, I was lucky enough to see the illustrator Malcolm Evans in action, doing free hand drawings of the main character Margaret - I even have one framed on my wall. I assumed that the process for the book's illustrations was just an extrapolation of this. So listening to Sarah today, describing (with power point presentation) how she took my story and created the pictures was wonderful for me. I loved hearing how she started by exploring the emotions of each page and then searched for the right look for each character by finding the right human representative to base her drawings on. Seeing how she planned her illustrations for the whole book with appropriate changes of colour palette and light and dark. Following the process of starting each frame with a rough concept and then adding detail through background, emotion and action. It was all fascinating. It will be interesting to see if this knowledge has any affect on the way I visually imagine my stories in the future.