This brilliant monster is Buddy, created by Jesse Becerra. Buddy’s super-cool, with his tentacles and multiple eyeballs, and also has great taste in pizza. Thanks, Jesse!
It’s a gorgeous-looking book. Above is author Katherina giving a speech with editor Kate Davies (left) of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
Molly Jamieson and Emily Talbot from United Agents, with authors Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah McIntyre.
An interior of the book – so much work! It’s amazing. Congrats, Katerina!
2016 is rapidly coming to its end and most people seem to be quite happy about that, as far as I can tell. It’s been a bit of a bumpy one, current affairs-wise, but 2017 promises more of the same. Let’s hope that cooler, wiser heads will prevail and that it’s not too troublesome.
For me, the second half of 2016 (as it’s been that long since I updated this blog!) was quiet, book-wise. I was focused almost entirely on writing, something that makes me very happy! I can report that the first draft of the first of my two books for Bloomsbury has been handed in, and I’m awaiting the editorial verdict. I’m expecting lots of red pen as even I could see the flaws of this draft, but I’m looking forward to fixing things up with my editors’ help. I love the world I’ve created in this book and really enjoyed writing it, in spite of a few uneven
sentences paragraphs chapters. I have to finish this book and hand in the first draft of the second book by June next year, so I’m expecting the first six months of 2017 to be spent tapping away on a keyboard…
…apart from January/February, when I’ll be working on the illustrations for this book written by Tom Nicoll. It’s very funny and I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty on the drawings. There are some great, quirky characters in it, which are always very satisfying to do. More info on that when I’m allowed to show it.
The last Creature Teacher book was published in July. It’s now out in six languages (English, Turkish, Danish, Slovak, Hungarian and Vietnamese) which is very pleasing.
Writer Sam Watkins is currently working on a new series from Egmont: The Fintastic Diary of Darcy Dolphin which is out soon, and I’m sure will be… well, fintastic!
Jampires has become something of a Hallowe’en book – not quite what Sarah McIntyre and I intended, but I love hearing about little Jampires turning up at costume parties in October – there are more and more each year!
On the subject of Jampires, here is Mrs Coventry from St Joseph’s School in Keighley, Yorkshire, reading the book aloud for us:
A very impressive performance! I went to a workshop for children’s writers in October on how to inject a bit of drama into book presentations so I’m hoping my reading skills have buffed up a bit. It was hosted by the Golden Egg Academy who mentor up-and-coming authors through the writing and publication process. It was an excellent day and the Golden Eggers are a lovely bunch of people too. I’ve a big couple of presentations in March (among other things) where I need to step up my showbiz side a bit more.
My most recent public gig was at the brilliant Brentwood Children’s Literature Festival back in July, organised by Natasha and Jim at the Chicken & Frog Bookshop. It was very well-organised for a first-time festival and there was a great crowd at the Brentwood theatre to see me do my Monster & Chips comic-making spiel. Some fab comics came out of it too, my favourite being about a prince and princess who meet, fall in love… and are eaten by a giant fly. (Pic below by Natasha.)
Here are some more monster-y drawings that have been sent my way – firstly, this fearsome chap who comes with his own specials board (I love this colour combination!):
And also this brilliant comic featuring Fuzzby and pals (a couple of years old but which I only just found out about):
Last, but definitely not least, I’m very excited about the next book from me and the amazing Francesca Gambatesa: When I’m A Mummy Like You! It’s out in early February (just in time for Mothering Sunday in the UK) and a bit later in the US – where it’s called When I’m A Mommy Like You! (obviously).
I can’t get over how super Francesca’s art is! She’s done such a wonderful job with my rhyming nonsense and I hope people love it! There’ll be a launch party at some point which I’ll post about here when we’ve firmed up the details.
I’m going to be offline for the rest of the year but have lots of plans for 2017 so will be back refreshed and recharged in January.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful 2017!
A second book of Sam Watkin‘s Creature Teacher series came out in August with me on art duties again. Creature Teacher Goes Wild is set at a theme park which meant lots of fun things to draw. Here’s a bit when Mr Hyde and the gang are on their way to Wilf’s Wild Adventure Theme Park – it gets messy pretty soon afterwards:
There’s another Creature Teacher book out very soon – next week in fact! Creature Teacher Science Shocker introduces a new character who’s more than a match for Creature – but who is it?
The fourth CT book is due out in July and I’ll be drawing the illos for that any day – can’t wait to get started!
CT is also coming out in Turkish which is very exciting. I love seeing books I’m involved with coming out in different languages!
Speaking of foreign editions, JAMPIRES is going to be coming out in Korean which should be really interesting to see as it’s such an attractive written language. My fab co-author, Sarah McIntyre, and I donned our Jampire gear for a spooky Hallowe’en window-painting session at the wonderful GOSH! Comics in London back in October.
It’s very hard to paint on glass, never mind back-to front. I’ve borrowed these photos from GOSH’s Facebook page – they’re both taken by Mauricio Molizane De Souza and there’s plenty more of his ace work to be seen there too.
I’ve was very pleased to be invited to join Alex Milway and Gary Northfield at the Discover Children’s Story Centre‘s summer Storyfest that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford in July.
We talked about our books – all of them funny books – having visited the schools involved in the previous weeks to see what kind of funny stories they could come up with themselves.
It had to be one of the hottest days of the year – not a day to be dressed up as a lion fighting a zebra Roman gladiator.
Yes, dear reader, that is me in the furry onesie, having taken on gladiator Gary, and in the middle of my (very dramatic) death throes. A career highlight.
Finally, I’ve recently got to see the artwork for When I’m a Monster Like You, Dad!, the picture book I wrote that is being illustrated by Francesca Gambatesa. It’s been ages coming (for publisher scheduling reasons) and I was over the moon to see the final images. Francesca’s done such a great job so I couldn’t be more happy!
The second book in our collaboration is in production now and will be out next year some time, but WIMLY (as I call it) is out in the beginning of June – just in time for Father’s Day. I’ll be talking a lot more about this before then, but here is one spread from inside just to whet the appetite:
Now: time to look forward to the challenges of 2016. Onwards!
I’ve a number of activity sheets available on my website (and there are more on the websites I made for JAMPIRES with Sarah McIntyre and CREATURE TEACHER with Sam Watkins). It’s always gratifying to know that people are downloading and using them.
Madame Picque recently emailed me from the Collège Romain Rolland of Waziers in northern France to say that she had been using my ‘Create Your Own Monster’ sheet as a way of teaching her English class physical descriptions. What a great idea!
Here are some of the results, they’re all wonderful but I think Nathan‘s monster ‘Georges’ was my favourite (see if you can spot him)!
Thank you to Mme Picque for letting me know – I’m sending a drawing of my own monster to the school in return:
The first book of this series came out in April. It can sometimes be a bit confusing working on a set of books that are being published at relatively short intervals. Whilst book one was appearing in the shops I was working on the illustrations for book two and simultaneously working on the cover for book three! I keep getting the books mixed up in my head. Here’s a rough pencil-version of an illustration from book two, with the CT gang on the hunt for mischievous creature!
Creature Teacher writer Sam Watkins had a very busy launch event at Thomas A Becket School in Worthing in May. She spent the whole day doing short events with children from years 1 and 3 – I think she was losing her voice by the end of it all.
I joined her for the afternoon sessions to do a bit of drawing whilst she read from the book. It was a lot of fun but quite exhausting! It was the first time Sam and I had actually met (she is lovely, thank goodness!). Sam even made some swirly biscuits to match the book cover design. I can personally vouch for how tasty they were.
Here’s a pic of us at the end-of-day signing (we didn’t play the bongos, alas). Not sure who took this photo – apologies for pinching it.
Our visit even made it into the Worthing Herald. Oh, the heady heights of fame. Here’s a clipping from Sam’s Twitter feed:
(You can read the online version here.)
We ran a competition at the school to design a cover for a Creature Teacher book – you can see all the entries at the CT website here. I love how much energy there is in all the drawings, but then it is a very energetic book!
More recently, Sam and I visited Brighton Waterstones for a drawing and reading session. Everyone got to design their own Creature Teachers, drawing or doing a bit of collage. Here’s some photos from Sam’s Twitter:
It’s great doing events with someone else – you get to bounce ideas off each other, as well as providing a bit of support. Sam and I will be doing more events together at some point soon.
Whilst in Brighton for the Waterstones shindig I popped along to the Brighton Illustration Fair, part of the town’s fringe festival.
It was good to catch up with comics chums Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson Cadwell and Amber Hsu, who all had tables, as well as bump into Matt Baxter.
Lots of lovely things to see, but I was very much taken with the drawing activity they had: rotating towers of cardboard boxes that you could draw on in a heads-and-tails fashion. Worth bearing in mind for a future event.
I was thrilled to see Whitchurch School in Hampshire have been reading Monster and Chips as part of their Year 4 book group. The readers have been creating their own monsters and even making up their own ‘delicious’ menu:
- Bashed Beetleburger AND CHIPS
- Slimy Slug Surprise with antennae eyes
- Eyeball soup with slug slime chips
- Bogey burger gravy AND CHIPS
- Smelly cabbage soup with poo plop croutons
- Earwax tart
Poo plop croutons! Tasty. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book – I love seeing people’s reactions to it. Thanks to librarian and book evangelist Jo for the tip-off!
Sarah has been very busy – and successful – with her Pictures Mean Business Campaign, trying to get more recognition for book illustrators in their contribution to a book’s success. You can find out more here, or follow the #PicturesMeanBusiness hashtag on Twitter
In the book, Joe and the monsters create a robot made from bread – a doughbot! – and the book group members even had a go at making their own versions. You can read all about it and have a look at all the photos here – there are instructions on how to make your own, if you fancy it (I recommend adding some tuna and mayonnaise and erm… recycling the doughbot parts afterwards).
I’ve pinched this photo to show all the doughbots lined up – aren’t they crumbily menacing? I’m particularly loving the hair extensions. Thanks so much, everyone! It’s great to see a school library being so actively used – do have a look at some of their book reviews and other goings on. It looks like a lot of fun.
What else has been going on?
I’m not the only creative person in my family – my Mum is an excellent knitter. She’s one of those knitters whose needles go all blurry when she’s working, she’s that fast! My childhood collection of Action Men were always warm through the winter, thanks to their mum-knitted balaclavas. Anyway, a Jampires knitting pattern was obviously going to be a done deal, and Mum revealed the finished item the other weekend:
Bless him! I’m very pleased to have a Jampire of my very own. I have to keep him on a high shelf, as the dog has taken a fancy to him and he’ll end up buried in the back yard!
Here’s another wonderful Jampire made by Joy – thanks to Martin Hand for bringing that to our attention. This chap was made for his daughter Katie’s birthday (picture pinched from Martin’s Twitter stream):
If you’re interested in behind the scenes stuff in the children’s book publishing world, my co-author on Jampires, Sarah McIntyre, has written a couple of interesting articles on the way illustrators are perceived as being something slightly ‘lesser’ than writers, particularly relevant to the creation of Jampires which we very much co-wrote/illustrated.
Here’s the first article: Why I hate the Word ‘Author’, and she’s recently written about how the problem seems to be ingrained in the publishing world’s very own reference systems: The Real Reason Illustrators Keep Getting Overlooked. Some excellent points made and well worth a read.
I’m probably going to be staying off the internet for the remainder of the year, what with Christmas busy-ness and so on, so here’s a quick catch-up post. I’ve had a few computer issues recently so haven’t been able to update as much as I would like, particularly about November’s Thought Bubble Comic Festival up in Leeds.
Sarah wrote a magnificently comprehensive post about the weekend (you’re better off reading that than any account I could write) and what I really like about it is how she gets across how much fun the weekend was.
Particularly because of the help we had from Matt Badham and Molly Bruton in manning the tables (see the photo I’ve pinched from Sarah).They were great company and marvellous sales-people, and it really made a difference having their help. I’m not planning on doing any comic conventions next year so this was a lovely event on which to end 2014.
Speaking of Jampires, if you’re a crafty type and looking for last-minute gifts ideas, why not knit someone their very own Jampire? Graffiti knitter Lauren O’Farrell has conjured up a pattern to make a woolly version of our little jammy dodgers. I guess you could use whatever colour wool you like depending on your favourite flavour of jam. My mum’s a bit of a knitter so I’m hoping she’ll make me one!
It’s been a good year, though not as productive as I’d like (but then I always say that). I had two books out in 2014, and will have two books out next year (that I illustrated) with books that I’ve written following on from that.
I still need lots more projects to keep me busy and all the bills paid, and I’ve loads of ideas, but it takes a while for things to happen, and I keep getting caught out by just how slow the publishing world is. You need to have many irons in the fire, all the time, as so many of the ideas you come up with won’t go anywhere.
I’ve been doing loads of writing and have joined an excellent writing group which has helped with that a lot.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a brilliant New Year.
Yesterday was a bit of a busy one: off to Oxford for a workshop and ‘show’ (look at the purple-y poster I made for it!) at the fabulous Story Museum. It’s an amazing and highly unusual space devoted to story-making and telling, and a real gem amongst all of Oxford’s better known attractions.
I ran a comic-making workshop in the morning with a Hallowe’en-y/monster-y feel. Lots of keen comic-makers were there with loads of ideas – the beginning of a workshop is usually talkative and boisterous.
But the moment they had to get on with making their own comics the whole room descended into such an intense silence that I wished I’d brought some music with me!
And there were some fantastic comics made – we had some time at the end of the workshop for those brave enough to share their comics with everybody. Some were hilarious, some action-packed, some more gentle – I always try to get across that the great thing about comics is how versatile they are as a medium.
I made a handout for the work-shoppers to take away. There’s a PDF version available to download from my activities page if anyone needs a bit of inspiration during half-term.
One work-shopper brought along his collection of Monster & Chips books to be signed. I was so pleased to see how well-worn the covers were! Nice to meet you, Aydin! It was at that moment that Sarah McIntyre arrived for our afternoon event and she snapped me busily scribbling in the books.
Then Sarah and I rushed off to do our JAMPIRES show! Our performance is still a bit wobbly in some places, especially after the last-minute addition of a Jampires song (!), but it all adds to the fun. I need to brush up on my tambourine skills, that’s for sure. Here’s a pic from after it was all over (pinched from Sarah) with some of the audience and their Jampire artwork:
Sarah always manages to look so elegant in her costume whilst I just look a bit of a fool! Thanks to everyone who came along – both events were sell-outs – and huge thanks to the Story Museum for being such great hosts.
I’m currently producing the illustrations for the first of two chapter books. I’ve not written these books and it’s been a lot of fun interpreting someone else’s text. The deadline for the first book has been very ‘ambitious’ in publishing-speak (‘insane’ in Dave-speak) but thankfully my Cintiq has really come into its own. I completed fifty greyscale illustrations in seven days – without any stress – and I’m personally pleased with the way they turned out, which is unusual for me. Let’s hope the publisher likes them too! Here’s a sneak peek:
I’ve spotted Jampires in my local Sainsburys, where it’s part of their Hallowe’en seasonal promotion and is reportedly selling well. Jampires isn’t really a Hallowe’en book but I’m not going to complain! To see Jampires sitting so close to Monster & Chips in the same shop was pretty exciting for me. Also, Nectar points!
The international book fair in Frankfurt is this week, one of the two book fairs of the year that drive the children’s book market. I’m represented in a couple of places, but was very pleased to see my upcoming picture book in the HarperCollins Children’s Books catalogue: When I’m a Monster Like You – illustrated by Francesca Gambatesa.
This is the only image I’ve seen so far and it makes me very excited to see how Francesca’s interpreted the rest of the story! The catalogue says it’s not out until January 2016 which seems like along way off right now but I’m sure it will go quickly. More about this book (and the two others in the series) in the future.
Everyone loves a bit of fan mail – I do particularly! These letters and pictures have come all the way from Monster & Chips readers (and superb artists) Sammi and Olivia in Australia. Love the colours on these – I’ve not used felt tip marker pens in a long time but these make me want to crack open a pack and get colouring.
Meanwhile, Duncan decided to review M&C on camera:
Brilliant! You can see more of his reviews here.
And here’s a recent and intriguing tweet about Jampires:
I wonder if they caught anything?
I’m kicking off a new work project today. Here’s a sneaky peek at one of the characters! I’m using a Cintiq 21UX for this job, which I recently bought second-hand. I’m hoping it will make the process faster. Unfortunately it doesn’t make me a better artist!
This is a Cintiq – it’s a touch screen device that plugs into your computer and acts as a second screen. With a stylus you can draw on it just like paper.
On the screen you can see a two page spread from the book I’m illustrating, with the text all ready in place.
The grey box is where the book designer wants the illustration to go. She’s also high-lighted some text in blue that is relevant to the picture. Using the Cintiq I can draw the illustration straight into the page, rather than using paper, pencils and ink and then having to scan the whole thing.
I always get a bit nervous about new projects and have to take a couple of days to get my head around the task and try not to panic about what I’m being asked to do. Sometimes you just have to go for a walk to get your thoughts together.
On a trip to Sainsbury’s I was very pleased to see they were stocking the re-packaged Monster & Chips for their Reading Scheme. It looks very nice next to all the other books and they’re doing a buy-one-get-one-free offer, if you’re interested!
World Book Day was back in March – it’s a chance for children at schools all over the country to dress up as characters from their favourite books.
I’ve not heard of anyone dressing up as characters from MONSTER & CHIPS so these photos sent to me by a mum yesterday are a first, as far as I know! And they’re brilliant!
Take a look at ‘Joe’. He’s absolutely perfect – even the hair is right! And look at those hand-sewn zombie cupcakes! Spectacular creativity and a lot of hard work too. My day is officially MADE.
I’ve surprised myself that I really enjoy book events – something I didn’t expect when I started out doing them. I work with a great age group that are enthusiastic and full of ideas, and are not afraid to push things a little!
One such event took place at Oxford’s Bookfeast on Tuesday, as part of their annual schools festival. I did a couple of drawing-and-talking activities in the wonderful surroundings of the Pitt Rivers Museum, hidden at the back of the University’s Natural History Museum. The Pitt Rivers Museum holds a huge collection of anthropology and archaeology from around the world and made for an amazing venue. So many inspirational objects to look at whilst I scribbled away on the flip chart!
The kids are also very good at asking very direct questions. These didn’t all come from Tuesday’s audience but are fairly representative of the type of things I get asked:
I’m always trying to think of ways to improve my presentation and make it more entertaining, and am curious to see what other authors do.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to match author Veronica Cosantelli, however, who turned up for her event with her corn snake, named Thisbe, in tow. I tried to take a snap but Thisbe was just too busy to pose – she’d already done a runner in the car park! Gorgeous colours and patterns on her scales. I’m sure she was a hit with the audience.
Thanks so much to the organisers of Bookfeast for inviting me along for the day, and in particular to volunteers Sue and Mervyn who looked after me so well. As ex-teachers they were great with the kids which is always helpful.
My co-creator on JAMPIRES (coming soon!), Sarah McIntyre, has written a blog post for event organisers on how to make for a good author visit. There should probably be a companion piece on ‘How to be a good author when on a visit’ – it’s always good to be as prepared as possible!
It’s been a busy few days with a bit of wandering around but I’m back home and suffering silently (NOT REALLY) with a nasty cold. Here’s what’s been happening:
Also known as the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, it’s a relatively recent addition to the literary festival circuit. However, that hasn’t stopped it being ambitious in its programme as well as beautifully organised – and all in a lovely setting up in the Cotswolds.
I was there as part of the Schools Programme, visiting Kingham and Chadlington Primary Schools for some monster drawing workshops! Here’s a pic of me in action that I’ve stolen from the Twitter feed of the wonderful HarperCollins publicist Becca Palmer (@BeePea91) who was super-efficient in getting me out into the wilds of Oxfordshire and back again, safe and sound.
The children came up with some brilliant ideas (no surprises there, from my experience with these events) but also asked some very direct questions about writing and creating books – some budding authors there, I think. Either way, it was a lot of fun!
Here’s a pic (also stolen from the Twitter feed of @ChipLitFest themselves) of some of the other authors attending the Schools Programme at a superb dinner organised by the festival team at The Chequers:
Thanks so much to everyone behind the scenes at the festival: drivers, selling volunteers, food makers and wonderful bookshop Jaffe & Neale for hosting our lovely Green Room. It all made for a brilliant time!
After the festival I dashed off to Heathrow airport to catch the last flight of the day to Amsterdam. I lived there for a couple of years and absolutely love it. It’s been four years since I’ve been back, but as soon as I stepped off the ‘plane everything felt very familiar and I was very much at home. It was the weekend of the first King’s Day so all the locals were in a party mood, filling the city with a relaxed but convivial atmosphere.
Saturday had the perfect weather for wandering around old haunts, looking for bargains in the tax and licence-free flea-market that’s permitted just for the day, and also for general people-watching. Everyone wears the national colour of orange so the streets and canals have a vibrant and jolly feel to them.
It was also a chance to spot the Dutch edition of Monster & Chips or De Monster-Snackbar, as it’s called, out in the wild. Excitingly, it was on display in the five-storey Scheltema bookshop on Koningsplein.
De Monster-Snackbar looks great in this hardback edition. It’s published by Veltman-Jeugd and translated by Sandra Hessels. There were lots of fabulous picture books on sale, so I picked up a few of those as souvenirs too.
Coincidentally my friend Dirk spotted De Monster-Snackbar in SpeelBoek in Amersfoort at the same time! Thanks, Dirk.
Now it’s time to get back to work, if I can shake off the sniffles! Lots to do. I’m working on some picture books and doing some writing too, for picture books and ‘young fiction’ (ages 7-10).
Before then, I’m in Oxford at the Bookfeast for more monster shenanigans. See you there?
There were Secret Agent shenanigans at the Discover Children’s Story Centre last weekend – was everyone exactly who they seemed?
What exactly was going on?
Have no fear – it was just a bunch of comic illustrators being nutty as usual. That’s Secret Agents Richy K. Chandler, Laura Ellen Anderson and Jamie Littler (whose photo I’ve pinched) up top, and escapees Sarah McIntyre (another victim of photo theft) and me below. All part of Discover’s Big Write Festival!
The Centre has an amazing interactive exhibition running throughout the summer, taking the form of a secret agent academy. It really is fun, and quite challenging too – definitely worth a visit just for that.
However, at the weekend there were loads of other activities as well, with author and illustrator visits and a comic making workshop, which it was my pleasure to organise. It was secret agent-themed too!
I made a poster for it and some other artwork you can see below. I also created some activity sheets for visitors: a character design page, a colouring sheet and a comic/book cover. You can download printable versions of all of these from my activities page.
Here are some ideas-and-inspiration posters I created for the workshop space:
And I also made some bunting with a secret code displayed on it, so special messages around the room could be decoded. You can see it in this photo hanging above the busy secret agent workshoppers:
Speaking of busy, here’s Agent Littler doing some live-drawing (photo by Richy). Check out Richy’s blog for more photos of Saturday.
On Sunday we were joined by Sarah, and the super-talented and funny Gary Northfield and Alex Milway. It was quite unseasonably sunny, so we relocated to Discover’s fantastic garden for our comic-making.
As usual I didn’t think to take photos but Sarah has written a lovely comprehensive report on her blog. Loads of photos from inside the Centre too!
Thanks so much to all the brilliant illustrators who came and helped me with this event, and to the Discover Centre for being such wonderful hosts and looking after us all. If you came along, I hope you enjoyed yourself – congratulations, you are officially Secret Agent Comic-makers!