My lovely publisher Bloomsbury are running a Chocolate Factory Ghost competition over on their Twitter account (@KidsBloomsbury) for this week only! There’s an entire hamper of luxury chocolate from Prestat up for grabs. It’s dead easy to enter, so if you’re on Twitter then hurry over and let them know what your favourite sweet treat is!
Also, clever illustrator Claire Powell has created a book trailer for The CFG – she’s so talented! I particularly love the music.
Yesterday was a bit of struggle.
Firstly, I had to judge the entrants to the Guardian Children’s Books monster drawing competition.
It was great to see so many exciting and colourful pictures! A lot of thought and hard work had gone into the drawing (and often, the accompanying text) and it looked like the entrants had had a lot fun being creative, which is what I’d hoped. The struggle was in picking a winner. Whenever someone judging a competition says “I wish I could pick them all!” it’s easy to think that they’re not being genuine, but I really, really wish I could. Anyway, a winner has been chosen and will be announced on the Guardian website very soon.
The second struggle of the day was walking my dog Treacle through the rain to get her hair cut (it grows very quickly, probably something to do with her shih tzu ancestry, I’m told) and then back home though the rain again.
Result: one wet, sulky dog and one wet, sulky human.
I think of my dog as being completely daft, but am often surprised by how sensitive she is to body language and mood. She knew ‘Daddy’ was in a bad temper.
And so, instead of trying to clamber onto my lap or root around in the rubbish looking for food scraps as is her usual way, she just sat, still and quiet until the mood passed. Then back to normal.
Dogs are great.
The last struggle of the day, having got myself warm and dry, was to venture out into the rain again (still sniffling from my stupid cold) to attend the opening reception for the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library. Of course, I’m very glad I did. Subtitled ‘Art & Anarchy in the UK’, the exhibition is co-curated by Adrian Edwards, John Harris Dunning and the brilliant Paul Gravett. It looks at the history of British comics and their wide-ranging style and subject matter, with a focus on those works that challenge social, political and sexual boundaries. Fascinating stuff and beautifully designed by Dave McKean, it’s an amazing-looking, eye-opening exhibition.
As usual, I was hopeless at getting any photos but here are a few grabs from Twitter to give an idea of the evening. From the British Library’s own feed:
Jonathan Ross, broadcaster and comics fan, gave the opening speech. Lawless Nelly is the exhibition mascot, designed by Jamie Hewlett, and apparently named by a BL staffer after Charles Dickens’ mistress!
From Bridget Hannigan’s feed:
Woodrow Phoenix‘s one-of-a-kind super-sized comic ‘She Lives’. A huge piece of work in many senses.
From innovative comic-maker Douglas Noble’s feed:
One of the nice things about the exhibition is the inclusion of screens displaying digital comics of various genres. Douglas’ work is particularly interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve being enjoying his current Parakoe series very much.
Lastly, one picture of mine! I was delighted to see the inclusion of ink+PAPER, the comics anthology that I created and edit, amongst the exhibits. It was open at the comic created by Katriona Chapman, detailing her experiences with flat-sharing and the state of the housing market. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and Katriona’s first ever comic, so I’m thrilled it’s being displayed.
Details of the Comics Unmasked exhibition can be found here. There is also a series of events and workshops associated with it – I’m looking forward to seeing a personal hero, Posy Simmonds, chatting with Steve Bell in a couple of months.
Excitingly, The Guardian are running a MONSTER & CHIPS competition throughout April where you can win a piece of original art drawn by me!
Get your pencils, pens and crayons together and create your own monster – the winning entry gets their monster drawn into a picture by me, as well as a signed copy of Monster & Chips: Food Fright! There are runners-up prizes of books too. I can’t wait to see what people come up with. All the details can be found over at The Guardian’s website.
For the competition, The Guardian asked me to give my ten top tips for creating monsters. I’ve reproduced them here:
The Monster and Chips series of books have an enormous cast of characters but very few of them are actually human (or “hooman”, as the monsters say). From Fuzzby Bixington, the monster chef, to Uncton Slugglesbutt, his villainous rival, I’ve had to create and draw all kinds of strange and funny creatures to inhabit Monsterworld. The wonderful thing about making monsters is that there are no rules, but here are some things that might help you while working in your own creature laboratory.
- When drawing a monster, start with a simple shape that fits its character: maybe an oval for a fat, blobby monster or a rectangle for tall, strong tree-monster or a triangle for a squat, pointy-headed frog monster. Or combine all three for something really strange… Blobotreefrogasaurus!
- What is the body made of? Is it covered in bright green fur like Fuzzby, the owner of the Monster Diner? Or a hard insect exoskeleton like Gordon, a customer who dissolves his food with acid saliva? Or maybe wobbling blue jelly, like flatulent Mr Jubbins and his see-through tummy?
- How many heads? Just one eye or fifty-three? Four ears or seven antlers? As many legs as a centipede or a one-legged hopping monster? The sky is the limit (especially if the legs are really long). Just remember that drawing twenty-nine tentacles can get boring very quickly if you have to do it over and over again.
- Does your monster wear clothes? Monster apparel is something that is often forgotten. Perhaps King Kong would have been more welcome if he’d worn a smart tie, stripy socks and patent leather shoes. Would people have run screaming from Godzilla if he’d been wearing a woolly cardigan and a bobble hat? Choose your monster’s attire carefully: it’s a fine line between trendy triumph and monster fashion disaster!
- Gross is good: the grosser the better. Everyone likes a fart joke. Even your granny (probably)! Make your monster as disgusting as possible. Sludge-drippingly, mucous-oozingly, slime-burpingly, toilet-stinkingly, cheese-bubblingly, bog-gurglingly, toe-chewingly, bum-scratchingly, tongue-dibblingly disgusting. But make sure you’ve had your dinner first.
- Speaking of dinner, what does your monster like to eat? Everyone loves the monster-sized chips served at Fuzzby’s Diner, but perhaps your monster has a particular favourite food? Stinky Coughy Pudding? Splodgeburgers? CHILDREN ON TOAST? The food it eats can reveal a lot about your monster’s character.
- Where does your monster live? A lovely, tidy monster house with curtains tied back with ribbon? Or a dark, toadstool-infested cave with hot-and-cold running rats? Or maybe UNDER YOUR BED RIGHT NOW? EEEK! In Food Fright, the “hooman” boy Joe discovers a load of monsters are living in the shadowy sewers beneath Fuzzby’s diner. If only he can find his way out…
- Does your monster have a job? All the Bixington family are cooks or chefs. Fuzzby’s cousin Zuffby is an expert monster mega-sandwich maker. Perhaps your monster is a teacher, teaching young monsters rending and writhing? Or a mechanic, like Fuzzby’s friend Petrolla who specialises in machines that explode (sometimes on purpose).
- How does your monster talk? Does it have its own language? Does it roar like a dragon with fiery special effects? Or does it fart Morse code? Does it sound creepy, nice or just plain silly and stupid? In the Monster and Chips books all the monsters sound just like ordinary grown-up humans, as I’ve never heard anything sillier or more stupid than the way ordinary grown-up humans speak.
- Finally, and very importantly, make sure your monster has a name! I like names that tell you something about the monster. Like “Fuzzby” which sounds warm and cuddly. Or “Barry”, which sounds like… um, a cat (luckily there is a cat called Barry in Monster and Chips! Phew!) Alternatively, just throw a load of words together: the audience at a Monster and Chips event at the Edinburgh Book Festival lost year came up with a monster name of Sluggybottom Ninjapants! You can’t get more descriptive than that!
The competition runs until April 29th.
Today is officially the best day ever, as it’s officially the release day for my book MONSTER & CHIPS!
It’s been a real adventure for me and I’ve loved every second – and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have enjoyed creating it. My publisher, HarperCollins, has been brilliantly supportive (editors Harriet Wilson and Sam Swinnerton, designers Elorine Grant and Kate Clarke) and I’ve really felt looked after.
The book is in the shops already (please, please, please buy from your local bookshop if you can!) but the e-book goes on sale today from the Amazon Kindle store, iTunes and Google books. It’s in full-colour and I’m thrilled with the way it looks.
The promotional work the HC team have done has been fantastic – take a look at the brand new MONSTERANDCHIPS.com! As well as info about the book and characters, there’s a fabulous competition to win an iPad pre-loaded with the MONSTER & CHIPS e-book. All you need to do to enter is think of your most disgusting recipe! Stinky coughy pudding? Frog fritters in snotted cream sauce? Vomitburgers? See what you can come up with.
I popped into HC HQ yesterday and was amazed to see the canteen was being set up for a MONSTER & CHIPS-themed lunch for today, including a bit of fancy dress, apparently! I hear chewy worm spaghetti and parp tarts are on the lunch menu today, HarperCollinsers – enjoy!
HC also presented me with a souvenir apron. I hope they weren’t suggesting a alternative career. The apron reads: Monsters need foooooood! Too true. [Spatula, model’s own.]
Phew! All this AND I’m working on Book 2 right now, so more monstrous goodness to come very soon!