• CBC Writing & Illustrating A Picture Book Course

    If you’ve ever thought about writing or illustrating your own book, then Curtis Brown Creative have launched a series of online courses for aspiring picture book creators. They asked me and my fab friend and Jampires co-author Sarah McIntyre to help come up with content for three courses: one for writing (me), one for illustrating (Sarah) and a combined course offering material from both of us.

    When I quit my day job to work in children’s books I spent a long time floundering around: I was completely clueless as to how to go about it. We’re passing on our experience so you don’t have to make the same mistakes and can get on with being creative.

    There are detailed notes and accompanying video content, creative exercises and mentoring, all to help you make your picture book idea a reality. The courses start in October, so sign up now at the CBC website.

  • Genesis of a Villain

    Book 2 of the Dundoodle Mysteries has an important role for the villainous Mrs Puddingham-Pye. I thought I’d write about her for my newsletter, The Dundoodle News, as not only is she a favourite of mine (I love a villain!) but she also has a bit of a history. (If you want to read more of this kind of thing before everyone else, as well as other exclusive stuff, you can sign up for the News here.)

    Back in 2014, I worked on a picture book with the brilliant Sarah McIntyre, called JAMPIRES, published by David Fickling Books. Sarah had an idea for these cute, little characters that were like vampires. But instead of blood, they loved to eat jam and other sweet things! It took us ages to come up with a story that worked for them, and the book went through many, many revisions before we found a story everyone liked (Psst! Available to purchase here!).

    In one early version, I came up with  a character called Mrs Puddingham-Pye – I can’t remember if she was meant to be a goodie or a baddie (she was probably both at one point or another). Georgie and Portia were a pair of nasty pets cats originally, rather than nasty twins. I imagined Mrs P-P to look like a deranged Jackie Onassis. Sarah even created this lovely painted study of her, based on one of my sketches.

    Mrs P-P didn’t last very long in Jampires, but I liked the character and the pun of her name, so stored her away for future use. There were a number of occasions when I thought I might use her, but the projects I was working on didn’t feel right. Eventually, as I wrote the first draft of The CFG, and needed an antagonist, I knew this was her chance! Several characters in The CFG have food-related names, so it was the perfect fit.

    When I’m creating characters, I often draw them to get a feel for their personality. Here’s my design, complete with malevolent handbag, which I recycled as a character for the Inktober daily drawing challenge (a whodunnit) in 2016. It just shows it’s always worth hanging on to ideas you like – you can find a use for them somewhere eventually!

    Of course, Claire Powell has created her own fabulous version of Mrs P-P for The CFG, and I was really pleased that she picked up on the deranged Jackie O vibe, without any interference from me!

    (This post originally appeared in my newsletter, The Dundoodle News.)

  • Choccy bits

    The Chocolate Factory Ghost didn’t have an official launch party, but illustrator Claire Powell and I did have some drinks and a social meet-up for some friends last night to mark the occasion. Here’s a couple of pics that my friend and Jampires co-author Sarah McIntyre took:

    The second photo is of Claire and I with our with brilliant designer Andrea Kearney (left) and amazing editor Lucy Mackay-Sim (2nd left). Lucy told us that The CFG is already going to be reprinted which is great news!

    By the way, Sarah has a fab new picture out called the The New Neighbours which sees the return of her characters from The DFC comic, Vern & Lettuce. It’s a beautiful book – Sarah’s artwork has never been better – with a great message about prejudice – find out all about it here.

    And this morning, Claire spotted The CFG in WHSmiths children’s chart! It’s so exciting to see our book nestled amongst the celebrities and big name books. Fingers crossed it does well.

  • Spring happenings

    Here’s what has been happening with me for the first part of this year.

    When I’m a Mummy Like You!, the picture booked created by me and Francesca Gambatesa was released into the wild in February! We had a launch party at Gosh! Comics in Soho to celebrate (pic by Sarah McIntyre). It’s also out now in the US as When I’m a Mommy Like You! You can read a lovely review at Bookblog Book Monsters here. Francesca spotted the book in Foyles window as part of a Mother’s Day display.

    Meanwhile, I finished the illustrations for Tom Nicoll‘s Boyband of the Apocalypse that’s out in June, and I’m pleased to say there’s a sequel on the cards which I’ll also be drawing. I’m looking forward to that, as I really enjoyed working on Boyband.

    Also in February, Sarah McIntyre kindly invited me to take part with her show at this year’s Imagine Festival at the RFH, along with Katherina Manoulessou and Stephen Collins.

    We had to talk about our book characters and then lead the audience in a draw-along – the (huge) audience were very enthusiastic and some fantastic drawings were produced.

    Read Sarah’s report here (from where I pinched these pics).

    In March I had another big event at Leicester Author Week, organised by Whatever It Takes, an initiative to encourage reading within the city. I gave a talk to two sets of school children – about 400 children in all – about my work, followed by creative writing workshops. It was a busy day, but a lot of fun! Thanks to WIT for organising it, probably the best organised event I’ve been invited to. (Pic by WIT)

    World Book Day (or at least, the UK version!) is in March and it always pleases me to see how many people dress up as Jampires, year after year. Here are some pics that appeared on Twitter:

    So cute!

    Currently, I’m working on the edits for the first book of my novel series with Bloomsbury books, which comes out next year. An illustrator has been chosen and I’m very excited about the whole thing. Fingers crossed that other people like it too!

  • Nice news

    Blogging is less of a chore when there are lots of nice things to write about.

    Firstly, lovely letters. Here’s a drawing from Theo, aged 7, a Monster & Chips reader. He’s drawn a brilliant monster with a snot-burger and chips. Great use of colours, too. You can almost smell the fart!

    theo

    barry_letter

    I also had a very nice letter from Charlie, which was beautifully written, so I’ve taken extra care with my reply. Charlie, from St Bede’s School in Weaverham, said the Barry the cat was his favourite character in Monster & Chips so here’s a little picture of Barry that I drew at the bottom of the letter.

    Recently, I finished the illustrations for the last Creature Teacher book. It’s a great series and I was over the moon when the first book won the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award! Woohoo!

    I couldn’t be more pleased for writer Sam Watkins as it was her first published book. And I was completely bowled over when Sam tweeted about an animated trailer that the children from the participating schools had made. It’s absolutely amazing and I keep replaying it and having a chuckle!

    Freshmade NYC are a cooking and craft studio that run cookery sessions for kids in New York City. They have a storybook cooking class, which sounds like a fab idea, and recently ran a Jampires doughnut making session! Here’s a pic from their Instagram feed:

    Banana doughnuts! Yum.

    What am I up to at the moment? I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately and a few weeks back finished a manuscript for a book idea that I’m really hopeful will prove to be publisher-friendly. It’s doing the rounds of publishers right now, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying to the book gods that it works out.

    I’m also working on a window artwork display for the nice people at Chicken & Frog bookshop in Brentwood. I visited them a couple of years back and am doing an event for the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival which they are organising (tickets on sale!). It’s not something I’ve done before so it’s very exciting.

    In the meantime, When I’m A Monster Like You, Dad! is out in the shops very soon! My advance copies arrived from the publisher today. Illustrator Francesca Gambatesa and I are hosting a launch event at Gosh! Comics in London on the evening of May 27th – all are welcome, so do come along if you can and say hello (and buy a book!).

    WIMLY_party

  • A Late Catch-Up!

    It used to be that I wrote blog posts as a way of procrastinating before work. Now I find that I’m procrastinating before writing blog posts. It does seems a very cumbersome way of communicating news in these days of Twitter and other social media. But it’s a useful way of recording what I’ve been up to so I’m going to keep at it, even if updates get a little few and far between.

    Find me here:
    Twitter
    Instagram

    I can be found in a couple of social media-type places (above) but here’s a more long-winded catch-up with some things that happened in the latter part of 2015. Mega-post alert!

    Books

    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:

    CT2_spread

    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!

    Writer Sam and I will be doing an event together at the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival in July – come along and say hello if you can. Tickets are available here.

    creature_teacher03

    CT is also coming out in Turkish which is very exciting. I love seeing books I’m involved with coming out in different languages! You can find information on all the Creature Teacher books here, or on Creature’s very own website where there are a load of activities to do too.

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    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.

    jampiresoct1501_tweaked

    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.

    jampiresoct1502

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    I’ve blogged previously about my friend Alex Milway‘s This Book is Funny initiative and was very pleased to be invited to join him and comics chum 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.

    funnysticker

    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:

    Monster_Dad-INS-2

    As usual, I have a page devoted to the book with all the buying information here.

    Comics

    I haven’t made any comics recently and actually took a break from even going to conventions in 2015. I’ve really missed being involved in comics and I don’t think it’s something you can ever really leave behind, although I know I’ve benefited creatively (and financially) from the break.

    However, when my friend Richy Chandler asked me to take part in his anthology that came out in September there was no way I was going to say “No”! The theme of Richy’s book Tempo Lush Tales of the Tanoox was the idea of positive transformation, with the Tanoox being an emblem or totem of this change. I decided to do a short slice-of-life comic, a genre I’ve become more interested in over the years.

    TLT-2-Cover-Double-Page-Spread-Update

    Here’s a snippet:

    David-Tanoox-Sample

    I’d like to do more with these characters, so might be tentatively dipping my toe in the murky waters of comics at some point this year.

    TLTotT is a great anthology, with a diverse set of creators who’ve all taken very different approaches to Richy’s challenge. You can get a copy here, at various comic shops, or at any of Richy’s many convention appearances (and it’s worth meeting him in person as he’s such a nice chap!). His webcomic Lucy the Octopus is back next month after a break  so make sure you bookmark that for some future funny-aquatic-eight-legged reading.

    Out & About

    There was a bit of London-exploring done last year – quite a lot of it underground.

    ccross04

    We went on a tour of the disused Jubilee line Tube station at Charing Cross, that’s now used mainly for film-making (Skyfall being a recent example). We got to walk through the utility passages that stay hidden from passengers, although we could spy on them through the various ventilation grills that you see at the stations (but never give a thought to). The tunnels lead right underneath Trafalgar Square until you’re directly below the now-famous fourth plinth. Mind-boggling stuff.

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    ccross02

    We also visited the deep level bomb shelter that was built underneath Clapham Common to protect residents from the blitz during WWII.

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    clapham01

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    Such a huge space! And very easy to get lost down there.

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be stuck in the shelter when the bombs were falling.  The smell from all the people must have been a bit wearing, at the very least. This shelter was later used as a budget hotel for visitors to the Festival of Britain, and as a temporary home for the first Caribbean migrants to the UK, which is the reason that Brixton and that corner of London became centres of the Afro-Caribbean community. The shelter is one of eight that were built and still exist today – they are mainly used for archive storage, but I think TfL want to try and open more of them to visitors.

    Lastly, a trip into the bowels of the iconic Tower Bridge to see the workings of the bascules (as the draw-bridge bits are called). You get to see the massive counterweights that were used in the steam-driven era, and the chamber into which the road disappears whilst its far end goes skyward.

    tower02

    tower01

    You can’t go in there when the bridge is open because you’d get squished!  You also get a chance to visit the old Victorian engine room, as well as the walkways over the road with their great views and rather sick-making glass floors.

    tower03

    This publicity video gives a good preview of the tour if you fancy it:

    Outside of London we spent our summer holiday in Blakeney, Norfolk. Brilliant beaches, lots of walks through wind and salt-blown scenery and lots of good food.

    norfolk03

    The dog enjoyed it and so did I!

    Now: time to look forward to the challenges of 2016. Onwards!

  • Mega-May Recap

    Argh! Half a year gone and I haven’t achieved nearly enough, including blog posts. Here’s few things that have been going on:

    Creature Teacher

    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!

    CT2

    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.

    CT_biccies

    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.

    CT_launch

    Our visit even made it into the Worthing Herald. Oh, the heady heights of fame. Here’s a clipping from Sam’s Twitter feed:

    CT_herald

    (You can read the online version here.)

    herald2

    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:

    CT_brighton01

    CT_brighton03

    CT_brighton04

    CT_brighton02

    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.

    Monster & Chips

    I was thrilled to see Whitchurch School in Hampshire have been reading Monster and Chips as part of their Year 4 book group. You can read all about it here. 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!

    I was very pleased the group had read Jampires too! The US edition is out at the end of the month and my co-author Sarah McIntyre and I were very happy to have a nice review from Publisher’s Weekly.

    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.

    pw_jampires

    DinoPolice_cover

    Sarah has a new picture book out in June: Dinosaur Police! I saw the print proofs for it a while back and it’s her best book yet – absolutely brilliant!

    Red Alert! How will Dinoville’s police squad catch Trevor the T-Rex, who’s at the pizza factory, gobbling up all the pizzas meant for the town fair? Inspector Sarah Tops and Seargeant Stig O’Saurus are on the case!

    This Book is Funny!

    I’ve blogged previously about Alex Milway‘s initiative to promote funny books for children. He’s been sending out thousands of stickers to schools and libraries so they can help their readers find the books they love.

    Alex has also produced a couple (so far) of podcasts full of comedy sketches, readings and interviews. I’ve written a bit material for him for a future recording featuring Fuzzby and Barry from Monster & Chips. Need a laugh? Then follow Alex’s Soundcloud for guaranteed chuckles.

    Out and about

    I try to get away from my desk when I can. 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 (who designed the This Book Is Funny logo).

    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.

    brighton_bif

    Nunhead Cemetery is an old Victorian graveyard near where I live. It was abandoned for years before the local council took it over and in the intervening years nature completely overran it, turning it into some kind of gothic film set.

    Burials still take place there, but the council have wisely left most of the cemetery untouched. I think some bits are ‘managed’ to encourage some bio-diversity. It must be heaven for foxes, judging from the number I’ve seen there. You have to be careful in some parts in case you fall into an ivy-covered tomb!

    I’ve been there several times (it’s good for dog-walking) but they had an open day in May, providing tours for those interested. I prefer to wander and soak up the peaceful/melancholy atmosphere (depending on your mood!).

    nunhead nunhead2

    I’ve also made a couple of visits to the recently opened Sky Garden. It’a worth a trip if you’re able, as it’s free (though you have to book) and has one of the best views in London, in my opinion, plus added tree ferns.

     

  • Doughbots, Goblins & Finches

    I’ve had a horrible cold with a nasty cough that’s kept me in bed for a bit. Yuck. It’s stopped me from getting out and about and doing things but I’m finally catching up. First up: DOUGHBOTS!

    I was delighted to hear from St Michael’s School librarian Sam Pope that the year 3 and 4 book group had been discussing Monster & Chips: Night of the Living Bread.

    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.

    doughbots

    What else has been going on?

    Goblins

    Webcomicker Evan Dahm announced Goblin Week was going to take place at the end of January. It’s a week where people draw or do other creative stuff regarding goblins because… well, I’ve no idea to be honest, but it sounds like a fun way of getting the creative juices flowing. Here are the pics I drew:

    goblin_ambush

    goblin_queen

    birthday_goblin

    goblins

    (Click on any of the pics to make them bigger.)

    Jampires

    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:

    jampire_knit

    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.

    jampire_knit_2

    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.

    Finches

    Lastly, last night I took the aforementioned dog along to the launch of Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz‘s new picture book I Am Henry Finch at my local bookshop, Review. I always think of Alexis and Viv as two people who have as much book DNA as human – they just seem to ‘get’ how books should be made. I think the key thing is they just focus on creating good books and don’t worry about target markets or any of that nonsense. As as result they produce work that is innovative, thought-provoking, funny and just downright beautiful, and Henry Finch is no exception. I loved it. You can see some of the insides at the link above. Using fingerprints for the finches was inspired. Treacle approves:

    henry_finch

  • End of Year

    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 McIntyre and I looked after a Jampires-themed kids drawing area which was very busy all weekend. We managed to sell and sign a lot of books (and some lovely badges) too!

    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.

    badges

    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.

    tb14_team_jampires

    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!

    jampire_knitYou can download the pattern from the Jampires website, from the activities page.

    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.

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    Most recently I’ve written a book around this little chap which is one of the projects I hope will find a home somewhere in the new year. I’ve also ideas for picture books, early readers, comics and more. It’s just a case of getting it all down on the page! And that takes time! TIME! Ugh – there’s never enough of the stuff. So that’s what I’m planning to do over Christmas (with a festively-appropriate break, of course): have an Idea Audit, and spend time Getting Things on Paper so I can start 2015 up-and-running and ready to go!

    I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a brilliant New Year.

    xmascard2014

  • Jampire Jamboree

    story-museum

    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.
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    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.

    makingcomics

    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.

    storymuseum01a

    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:

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    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.

  • JAMPIRES! Out now.

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    Happy publication day to us! Sarah McIntyre and I are most pleased to announce our picture book, JAMPIRES, is officially in the shops! So go get a copy – or else!

    It’s been a long road to get here, and Sarah is blogging about some of the development work we did here. I’d forgotten about some of those sketches we did!

    All the information you need about Jampires can be found at the JAMPIRES website, including activities and buying information. Phew! Time for a doughnut.

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  • JAMPIRES at the Big Feastival

    It’s JAMPIRES week!

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    The picture book I co-authored with Sarah McIntyre is out on Thursday and to launch it we did something a bit different: an event at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival food extravaganza! The Jampires are all about jam and tasty treats so it seemed appropriate (as well as giving us the chance to sample some rather lovely cheese and ice cream, amongst other things…).

    But we brought our own treats with us – not just Jampires books but our own special Jampire Jam, courtesy of dapper jamologist Emma Preston-Dunlop. Emma joined us in a moment of relaxation prior to our event:

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    And here’s the jam itself, with its own labels and everything! It’s raspberry and vanilla with a bit of sparkly silver Jampire magic in there too. It almost seems a shame to eat it – almost.

    Emma explained how easy it is to make jam – she’s supplied loads of special custom jams for all kinds of occasions and has to be very creative.

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    Then it was time for us to be creative. We did our first dramatic reading of the tale of the Jampires. Note the intensity of the acting taking place. Oscars all round!

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    I’m holding a ‘prop’ doughnut, which I’m afraid had to be eaten in the cause of publicity. Check out Sarah’s amazing Jampire dress that she made with the help of her mom. I’m quite proud of my sequinned waistcoat and home-made Jampire hat too. I spent whole minutes stapling those ears on.

    Our reading was followed by some Jampire-drawing and Jampire mask-making. This is us with honorary Jampire Logan, son of brilliant comic-maker Neill Cameron, who was at the show with our friends from the Phoenix comic.

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    David Fickling, publisher of both the Phoenix Comic and Jampires turned up too, after cycling all the way over from Oxford! Time for a Sarah-selfie:

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    The little Jampire was made by the super-talented Ann Lam – he proved so popular with one audience member he had to be gently ‘liberated’!

    I’m so pleased with this book: it was a long time coming but I think it looks just lovely, as well as being a fun read. Sarah’s finishes are just magical. Here’s one of my favourite ‘spreads’ (pardon the pun):

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    I get hungry just looking at it!

    You can make you own masks, as well as download other activities, at the Jampires website – there’s more information there on where to buy the book too.

    Thanks to Philippa Perry our publicist for working so hard on the event, to Devon Black, who apparently did a brilliant job as ‘Jampire Jill’ on Sunday, and James for driving us there and back again – you can see more of his photos here.

  • Meet the JAMPIRES!

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    Who are the JAMPIRES?

    They are these cheeky little chaps! And that’s their friend Sam too. They’re flying off to… well, you’ll have to read JAMPIRES to find out! It’s a picture co-written and co-illustrated by the super-brilliant Sarah McIntyre and myself that’s out on September 4th.

    Sarah asked me years to ago to work with her on a book: she had an idea about little creatures who were like vampires but preferred jammy doughnuts to human necks! Interestingly, Sarah wasn’t a fan of vampires themselves and wanted to avoid all the easily recognisable vampiric clichés. We went all around the houses trying to come up with ideas – jampires are tricky little devils to pin down – but eventually found, as is usually the case, that one of the simplest ideas was the best. And it works, even if I do say so myself. A yummy, treat-filled book, perfect for Christmas (sorry for mentioning it in August but it really is!). We have a JAMPIRES website too where you can read more and have a go at some fun activities.

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    The book is a true collaboration: we worked on the text together, then Sarah drew the finished art over my page roughs. I think this might confuse some people who are more used to the idea of author and illustrator being something separate but it can make for a very satisfying creative experience for the people involved. Sarah has gone on to further collaborative projects: her books with Philip Reeve (Seawigs, Cakes in Space) are also co-productions and have been widely acclaimed.

    One of the collaborative tools we employed was the appropriately named ‘comics jam’. We improvised a comic together to generate story ideas, taking it in turns to write and draw a page, never knowing what was going to happen next!  You can read the whole comic here. We’ve had some copies of the comic printed – if you see us around we may let you have one. Here’s a page from the comic that explains how we worked (click for a bigger view):

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    Comics jams are a great way to make comics with friends or classmates – we’ve used them in workshops and events and the ideas come thick and fast. Find out more about how to make your own comics jam on our Jampires activity page.

    We are launching the book at the end of this month at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Our amazing publicist Philippa Perry has even commissioned a special Jampires Jam from boutique jam-maker The Butch Institute for the occasion. Can’t wait to try it! We’ve also had a photo shoot (photographer: David Warren) in our glitzy Jampires event costumes – so showbiz! There’ll be more about JAMPIRES and the launch very soon, so keep an eye on our Twitter feeds: @davidoconnell and @jabberworks for more.

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