• Codename: COMIC MAKER!

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    As part of their Big Write festival, the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford have asked me to organise a drop-in comics workshop on the weekend of 15th-16th March. To tie-in with their amazing Secret Agents interactive exhibition we’re making it Spy-themed! Come along to Codename: COMIC MAKER!

    Special Agents Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, Laura Ellen Anderson, Jamie Littler, Richy K Chandler, Alex Milway (and me) will be on hand to guide you – those who dare – on a mission to create their own Secret Agent comic.

    They’ll also be signing books and comics on sale in the Centre’s brilliant book shop. It’s just one of the fantastic activities taking place that weekend – the place will be choc-full of book illustrators and writers. All the details can be found here. Hope to see you there!

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    Jampires via mail

    Speaking of Sarah McIntyre reminds me that the printer’s proof of our picture book, JAMPIRES, arrived in the post the other day.

    It’s out in September from David Fickling Books – lots more about that in the future.

    Also in the post were a couple of advance copies of MONSTER & CHIPS: Food Fright! It’s out a bit sooner: March 27th! I’ve put as much information as I can on the Food Fright book page and will keep it updated when I have more.

    World Book Day

    Finally, tomorrow is World Book Day (in the UK!). I shall be doing my bit by paying a visit to the Chicken and Frog Bookshop in Brentwood, Essex on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be there from 4pm – come along for some drawing fun. Here’s a photo from the shop’s Instagram account – looks like they’re ready for me!

  • Comic Creators at Work!

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    The lovely people at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford ran a Story Party at The Mill in Walthamstow last Saturday.

    The Mill is a community centre (though it’s much, much more than that – see their website for details) which Discover took over for a day of story making, and they asked me to help with a drop-in comic-making table. I made some comic templates (which you can download from here) and took along a bunch of copies of the wonderful Phoenix comic for some inspiration. I had some friendly competition from a table devoted to biscuit-making and decorating!

    There was a map theme to the event, so I’d made a treasure map-style comic, which seemed to go down well. Other brave souls were quite happy to create their own comics without any assistance. I posted below photos of just a very few of the brilliant comics created on the day. There was so much good stuff it was very difficult to choose which to show!

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    As well as biscuits and comics there was a story-telling monster yurt(!) and some poetry reading too. Discover are holding another Story Party this Saturday at the Paradox Centre in Chingford – do come along!

    I’ll being writing about another exciting Discover Centre event that I’m taking part in very soon.

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    W.A.S.P. Week

    Speaking of comics, this week sees the return of W.A.S.P., the Webcomic Artist Swap Project! Masterminded by Richy K. Chandler, the event lets various webcomic creators loose on each others comics! It’s a lot of fun for us and also give readers the chance to discover new comics. This year, it was my privilege to work on a very beautiful comic – it’ll appear this Friday, so watch the W.A.S.P. website for details! And there will be a special guest on the recently resurrected Tozo on Wednesday.

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  • Battling Boy!

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    Deadlines done and dusted, I escaped into the real world last night to go and see Comica Festival director Paul Gravett interview US comic artist Paul Pope, who had been visiting Europe for the Angoulême festival. I love the fluid and inky brush technique he uses (contrarily, I’ve drawn my fan-art of his character Battling Boy with a pen, but only because it’s new and I’m trying it out).

    It was a fascinating talk, as Pope is a candid speaker with an uncompromising attitude to his art. He spoke of the his time working with a Japanese manga producer and their terrifyingly strict corporate approach to producing comics, and his rejection of working for the big mainstream US comic publishers in favour of  book publishers who tend to be more experimental in the type of material they’ll publish. He also talked about his experiences of working with the film industry (a Battling Boy film is apparently in the works) and how writing the screenplay at the same time as writing the comic could  potentially affected the course of the book. He did a bit of live-drawing too, which was fun to watch. He is obviously someone who loves what they do and it was a pretty inspirational evening – lots of thought-provoking stuff for the journey home.

  • Deadlines

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    I’m in the final days of what’s known as some ‘ambitious’ deadlines, so have been very quiet as I plug away at Getting Things Done. It feels a little like the new year hasn’t really started yet as I’m still working on projects from last year, but I’m looking forward to getting started on New Stuff very soon.

    Monster & Chips News

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    The Dutch edition of Monster and Chips is in the shops (I think: release dates seem to vary, but it’s ANY DAY NOW, I promise)! It can be found in various online shopping places if you’d like to get hold of a copy, in a very handsome hardback edition. I’m hoping to pop over to the Netherlands at some point to see if I can spot it in the wild. Published by Veltman Jeugd and translated by Sandra Hessels.

    It comes out just as I’ve got word that it will be joined on my bookshelf with a Brazilian edition from Editora Fundamento. I’m very excited to see how Fuzzby appears in Portuguese! Mind is officially blown.

    Also: the audiobook of Night of the Living Bread should be out on February 6th, if I’ve got my dates right.

    Pesky dates! Narrator Oliver Hembrough did such as great job with the first book of the series and I can’t wait to hear book two – it’s almost like a different (better!) book when you hear someone else’s voice reading your words.

    As soon as I’ve got any buying links I’ll post them to the book’s homepage.

  • Happy 2014!

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    A very happy New Year to everyone! 2013 was pretty great all round, and I hope 2014 brings lots of good things to all.

    I’ve lots of exciting things planned for the coming year. It’s going to be a busy one! As ever, fitting it all in is going to take some major planning, which is hard work in itself. I’m revisiting my time-management bag of tricks, and flexing those organisational muscles in preparation.

    Monster & Chips Audiobooks

    Here’s a bit of Monster & Chips news: the first audiobook is released tomorrow, read by the supremely talented actor Oliver Hembrough. It’s so exciting to hear someone else’s interpretation of the story and I absolutely love it! You can listen to an extract on SoundCloud (or clicking the orange play button in this very post).

    The other books in the series will also be released as audiobooks in due course, available as downloadable mp3 or as CDs from libraries. I’ll post buying links in the Monster & Chips page when I’ve dug them out.

  • Fan Mail – freshly baked!

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    Every author loves getting emails or letters about their books (even if it’s saying something horrible – at least it means someone is paying attention!) but the best letters and emails are the ones where the writer has been creative! And there’s nothing more creative than a bit of baking.

    Ansel (8) and Toby (6) made their very own zombie cupcakes from Monster & Chips! They’re rather fearsome. I particularly like the little feet made from raisins and the rather cross looking fellow above. You wouldn’t want to meet these cakes on a dark night so best eat them up fast! BRRAAIINNNS!

    This reminds me of the magnificent cakes made by Polly a while back. Feeling a bit hungry now!

  • Santa and Chips

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    Some exciting Christmas-y news! Every visitor to Santa’s Grotto at Canary Wharf in London this Christmas gets a copy of Monster & Chips(I think some T&Cs apply but Canary Wharf haven’t got back to me on this yet.) Santa can be found in the marvellous (but not edible – I tried) Jubilee Place grotto every weekend in the run up until Christmas and every day from December 14th onwards. Good little boys and girls only, please!

    10% Discount in the Shop

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    Speaking of Christmas presents, for the Christmas period you can get 10% off everything in my online shop. Just enter XMAS13 at the checkout (the code is valid right until the end of the month). New additions include signed copies of my Monster & Chips books and also the latest issue of ink+PAPER, the comic anthology that I edit (and have a comic in!).

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  • Thought Bubble 2013

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    It’s the biggest comic convention of the year at Leeds this weekend! The super-spectacular Thought Bubble is back and I’ll happily be seated at Table 61 in the New Dock Hall for the whole of Saturday and Sunday.

    For sale I’ll have Monster & Chips books, ink+PAPER (with NEW issue #4!), Tozo, Christmas cards, notebooks and a new selection of prints (including Mr & Mrs Vampire and family above) – and I’ll be making little mini-artworks at my table too. Hope to see you there!

  • Autumn Comiket

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    Last Saturday was the Autumn Comiket at Central St Martins College of Art. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a comic convention so I was looking forward to it.

    Here’s a pic of my table with my new display stand. Very useful for hiding from potential customers! I was sharing a table with Paul Ashley Brown, who I’d not met before but who was excellent company during quite a long day.

    I was asked to take part in the Drawing Parade, doing a bit of live drawing on the big screen. It was quite nerve-wracking but I think it came out ok.

    I was supposed to supply a sound-track of music that I listen to when I’m drawing. However, I don’t listen to music when I work so I suggested the first thing that came into my head: the Scissor Sisters. Not sure how appreciative the audience were!

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    Here’s me in action (pic borrowed from Is Right Cartoons @isrightcartoons on Twitter). Here’s how the drawing turned out:

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    Comics prodigy Zoom Rockman and elder statesman Gary Northfield did a comics jam together which was a lot of fun. Also live drawing were Katie Green, Kripa Joshi, Dan BerryTakayo AkiyamaIsabel GreenbergJingxuan HuGinny & Penelope SkinnerOscar ZarateIlyaMetaphrogAlex PottsGareth Brookes (live embroidery!) and Krent Able.

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    As usual, socializing is part and parcel of the day. Great to talk to Broken Frontier reviewer Andy Oliver and Keara Stewart, Tanya Meditzky and Lando in the pub afterwards. The next Comiket is going to be in the British Library, no less! Looking forward to it.

  • Cosy penguins

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    I thought one of my Inktober sketches might make a good Christmas card. I plan to have some of these for sale at conventions soon.

  • More Inktober

    Some more ink sketches – the end is in sight! These are from days 11-14.

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    The Gentle Author’s London Album Launch

    I’m a London-nerd and a history-nerd, so the Spitalfields Life blog is pretty much essential reading as far as I’m concerned. A great mixture of stories and pictures capturing the London of today, and the London that is vanishing or has already vanished.

    The launch of the Gentle Author‘s latest book, The Gentle Author’s London Album, took place last week at the appropriate venue of Christ Church, Spitalfields. It was great to have a chance to meet the mysterious person behind this fantastic blog; I love the way it documents the ordinary life of the city, ordinary but not without its quirks. We have some family connections of our own in Spitalfields and the G.A. was able to enlighten us about some interesting leads for investigating further.

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    You can read the G.A.’s own account of the launch here. My bonce even makes it into a couple of the photos. Nice to run into illustrator Noelle Davies-Brock there too.

    New in the shop

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    I’ve some notebooks with freaky creature covers designed by me on sale in the shop. A6-sized, they’re filled with blank pages for drawing or writing, or both (if you’re me). They’ll be available at the Comiket and Thought Bubble too. Great stocking fillers!

  • Inktober Update

    How many times have I started a daily drawing project and regretted it? EVERY SINGLE TIME! It’s hard! I’m supposed to be taking this week off but it’s turned into the most stressful week ever with all the unfinished odds and ends I’m trying to cram in.

    Here are some of my Inktober drawings. I’ve not had the chance to scan them all. I’ve no idea what I was thinking with half of them. Mostly free-hand, about 15 mins on each.

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  • Jampires, W.A.S.P.s and other animals

    The manuscript for MONSTER & CHIPS: Food Fright (or MC3 for short) has been handed in, and so I’m taking the opportunity of a brief break to catch up with various things before I’m plunged into rewrites and illustrations.

    Jampires

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    If you follow Sarah McIntyre or me on Twitter, you might have seen this announcement last week. Our long-in-the-making picture book, JAMPIRES, was on show at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It looks brilliant (though I would say that!) and I can’t wait to be able to properly be able to show it off to the world. It comes out in October 2014 – more on that nearer the time.

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    Workshops

    JAMPIRES started out as a ‘comics jam’ between Sarah and myself, where we took it in turns to improvise a story in comic form. I’ve been doing a bit of this in some recent workshops I’ve run at festivals and at schools. It’s such a great (and fast) way of putting a story together, with the pictorial elements (from my experience so far) being much better at generating ideas and stimulating the imagination of the participants than words alone. Here’s a lovely bit of imagination from a recent workshop:

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    Any pictures that get sent to me from workshops will go in a gallery at the Monster & Chips website! I’ll let you know when that’s ready. You can also download the template and send your character to me. I’d love to see what you come up with!

    W.A.S.P.

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    It’s the return of the one-and-only Webcomic Artist Swap Project!

    Masterminded by the estimable Richy Chandler, W.A.S.P. is where webcomics creators do the illustration duties on each other’s comics for an episode. I took part last time (even though my comic Tozo was taking a break) and drew a strip for his comic Lucy the Octopus.

    But now Tozo is back and I’m really looking forward to seeing how someone else handles him! Richy is recruiting new artists for the next W.AS.P. event – contact him NOW if you’d like to take part: all details at this link.

    Richy’s also recently been posting  about some of the comics workshops he’s been running. Some great ideas here, which look to be producing some great results too!

     Autumn Comiket

    Finally, there are a couple of comic conventions coming up next month: the fabulous Thought Bubble in Leeds on 23-24th November, but firstly the Autumn Comiket in London on November 2nd. I’ve a table at both events and am very honoured to have been asked to do some live drawing too as part of their Drawing Parade. It’s completely FREE to enter, so do come along!

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  • Superheroes & Comic-making at the Holburne Museum

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    Superman, the Hulk and Wolverine looked a little out of place amongst all the old masters but it was the young masters and mistresses whose art was important yesterday!

    I took part in a couple of events at possibly the grandest venue I’ve ever worked in: the Holburne Museum in Bath. Originally a hotel that formed the entrance to some eighteenth-century pleasure gardens, the building is now an art museum. It’s made quite a few appearances in period films, and ‘Great British Bake-Off’ viewers will have recently seen it in a featurette about Sally Lunn buns!

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    I was there to take part in the Big Draw 2013, conducting a superhero draw-along with a very keen crowd of artists, some of whom had even turned up in their favourite superhero outfits! We got through quite a few superheroes in a short space of time, but everyone kept up and those difficult superhero action poses proved to be no trouble to anybody, as far as I could see. I can report that old-style pants-outside-trousers superheroes were much more in favour than the current fashion for pants-less superheroes!

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    Next came a monster-themed comic making workshop that was part of the Bath Children’s Literature Festival. I’d been very fortunate to briefly meet David Almond, author of Skellig and the festival’s Guest Artistic Director, that morning who was looking tired but happy after a successful festival fortnight. The workshop took place in the Holburne’s Gardener’s Lodge, now an education centre. Workshoppers learnt about character design and basic story-telling techniques and also how to make a quick minicomic. I never fail to be impressed by the imagination of the creators who come to these events – I think I probably learn as much as they do!

    Thanks so much to the Festival and the Holburne Museum for being such welcoming and helpful hosts – I really enjoyed myself! Also, apologies for walking off with the museum keys – I hope they get back to you safely! Huge thanks as well to HarperCollins publicist Mary Byrne for looking after me for the day, and smoothing a woolly-headed illustrator’s path! Follow Mary on Twitter: @marysbookstuff

    Photos pinched from Mary’s and the Bath Festival‘s Twitter streams.