Tag Archives: Allen & Unwin

Interview with Andrew McLean ‘Fabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’

Today, I’d like to welcome Andrew McLean to my blog.

Andrew McLean is one of Australia’s best-loved and most highly awarded illustrators of children’s books. His CBCA award-winning titles include You’ll Wake the Baby!, My Dog and Reggie, Queen of the Street, and he has also illustrated a number of picture books with his writer wife, Janet.  

And I’m thrilled to say Andrew has illustrated our new picture bookFabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’

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1. Andrew, what was it that attracted you to the story of Fabish?

As soon as I read the manuscript I was hooked. Fabish is set in a real place, about a real event and real people and animals. I felt an immediate connection to the story.

Fabish is a moving story, beautifully written. Your empathy with and knowledge of horses is obvious. There many descriptive passages about the atmospherics that can’t be illustrated, like the heat, the wind, the crackling of the fire, the rattling of the roof.

In a picture book the two elements of words and pictures have to work together. I often take a cinematic approach to illustrating a picture book. Fabish lent itself to that way of working. And of course it had a moving and satisfying ending.

2. Tell us about the process you went through to choose the right medium and the grade of paper to illustrate Fabish?
Over the years I have used all sorts of different papers. Basically, for watercolour painting, there is hot press, that is more heavily sized, smoother and harder that cold press, which is less heavily sized and often has a texture or tooth to it. I have found that hot press is great for illustration that requires detail, but it is a less forgiving paper when taking a wash than cold press that leaves softer marks.

Because there is a lot of landscape in the story I chose cold press because it is rougher and more suitable for an impressionistic approach.

Recently I purchased quite a lot of paper of the heaviest weight available (640 gsm). This means that I don’t have to stretch it. Stretching is done by wetting a sheet and gluing it to a smooth clean board with gummed tape. This can be time consuming and not always successful, i.e. one side might pulls away as it dries, so you have to undo it and start again. This is very frustrating. I am happy to pay more for the paper and avoid the heartache and wasted time of stretching

3. How did you find the experience of drawing a bushfire?
The experience of painting the bushfire was challenging. There was no shortage of bushfire pictures and videos, so I had lots of material to work with. I used watercolour mostly, but used pastel, wax crayons, and white paint at times to leave crisper marks on the paper to represent shooting sparks, etc. For the aftermath I used charcoal (burnt wood). This was perfect for the tree trunks, and when combined with pastel, was great for creating smoke effects.

You’ve done an amazing job, Andrew, the bushfire scenes feel real.

4. How long did it take you to do the illustrations?
My recent process has involved using my iPad to do the roughs. First, I draw on paper with pencil or charcoal to size of the book then photograph the drawing and import it into an App called Sketch Club on my iPad.

Andrew at work with support from his team

Andrew at work with support from his team

This allows me to paint much faster than with real paint on paper. With Sketch Club I can paint intuitively using just my finger. This is different from the working on the Photoshop or Illustrator Apps, that requires computer knowledge that I don’t have. As I do each rough on Sketch Club I can email it directly to the publisher, and get useful feed back as I go along. It also means I have a colour rough when it comes to doing the final artwork. I aim to complete the roughs in about three months, and the final artwork in four to six months. As I get older I seem to be working smarter – not having the repeat drawings so much.

5. Tell us about drawing horses?

With the drawing of horses I had a lot assistance from Degas. He drew horses like no-one else.

Horsemen, rainy weather, 1886, Glasgow Museums and Art Gallery , Ecosse

Horsemen, rainy weather, 1886,
Glasgow Museums and
Art Gallery , Ecosse

Before Edwearde Muybridge (and he was weird) painters tended to paint moving horses like merry-go-round horses – with two legs stretched out in front and two legs stretched out behind. (Incidentally, when Muybridge found out the child born to his younger wife was not his, he sought out the real father and shot him dead. He was acquitted, the jury being of the opinion that the adulterer had it coming to him).

Anyway, Muybridge was paid by a wealthy San Fransisco horse owner to try and prove whether at some stage when running horses had all of their feet off the ground. He built a long shed, with a gridded wall on one side and a battery of cameras at close intervals on the opposite side as it ran through the shed. If you place photographs in the order they were taken and flick them rapidly you will see an image of a moving horse, with its feet off the ground at a certain point.

Eadweard Muybridge, Human and Animal Locomotion, plate 626, thoroughbred bay mare "Annie G." galloping

Eadweard Muybridge, Human and Animal Locomotion, plate 626, thoroughbred bay mare “Annie G.” galloping

He certainly changed the way artists painted horses. Now they had photos that froze them in mid-stride, no more merry-go-round horses.

Wow, that’s fascinating stuff, Andrew.

A big thank you to you, Neridah, for writing this wonderful story and to the editor Sue Flockhart, the designer, Sandra Nobes and all at Allen and Unwin for doing such a marvelous job with the production. The look and feel of the book is beautiful.

Thanks Andrew, it’s been my pleasure. And yes, I agree, a big thank to everyone at A&U.

Thanks for coming onto my blog today. I’ll keep you posted when the date of the book launch has been finalised.

‘Fabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’ can be found in any good bookstore w/c 29th July
Category: Picture books
ISBN: 9781925266863
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: August 2016
Page Extent: 32
Format: Hard Cover
Age: 6 – 9

 

A visit to Flemington

Hmm, research…a term I love to use when I should be writing, but I’m not. But I can actually say, I’m not procrastinating at the moment. I’ve already written this story (five years ago to be truthful).

This research was undertaken to assist the illustrator of my next picture book, the award winning and fabulous, Andrew McLean. My new book is called ‘The Bushfire Miracle’ due out with Allen & Unwin in 2016. It’s the story of an old racehorse in a bushfire and how he remarkably saves seven yearlings. It’s a true story from the Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009.

So, Andrew, who is not familiar with horse racing had a desire to gain a greater understanding.

I grew up in a horse racing family so it was already familiar to me and easy to visualise images as I wrote the text. Like a movie in my head. But for Andrew to make his work accurate and truly authentic, a visit to a horse racing facility became vital for him to get a feel for the ‘hustle and bustle’ of stable life.

I’m very grateful to leading racehorse trainer and friend, David Hayes, for allowing us to visit his wonderful stables, Lindsay Park, at Flemington.

Famous Flemington Clocktower

Famous Flemington Clocktower

Source: VRC website

Source: VRC website

What time do we have to be there?

6am !!!  Crickey, I haven’t been up that early since…?

It was very dark.

Mind you, everybody else at Flemington had already been there since 4am.

We met the very helpful, Jessie, the Stable Manager, to show us around Lindsay Park Stables.

After checking out the boxes and stalls and outside yards where the horses spend their days, we watched the horses being saddled up for track work. The clanking of stirrups, the rattling of a bit in the mouth of an eager horse and the clip clopping of hooves filled our senses.

We watched as a young Irish bred horse was put into the circular walker for 20 minutes. He was ‘a bit bound up in his action’ and this would help to loosen him up before he did his track work.

We had two friendly dogs as company and we crossed the path of an affectionate tabby cat that insisted on a pat.

We followed the horses out through the tunnel under the main track into the centre of Flemington to watch them do their track work.

Source: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Source: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Source: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

Source: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

In the centre of the race track, there are three different tracks. They’re ‘wet weather’ tracks and they sort of look like a fine chip bark. The horses train in both directions, so that they are strong on both sides of their bodies. That makes sense.

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Lindsay Park has it’s own little hut on stilts out in the middle of the track to watch everything.

My editor, Sue Flockart, illustrator Andrew McLean and myself in the hut.

My editor, Sue Flockart, illustrator Andrew McLean and myself in the hut.

It holds a lot of technical stuff, computers and so forth, timing gear and video equipment to monitor track work. Every horse has a different training program. They’re all different (just like us) so their training is based on the nature of the horse, how old they are, how fit they are and how close to racing they are. They all have different work loads.

Usually, if they are racing on Saturday, they’ll have a ‘hit out’ and gallop the last two hundred metres.

Source: Michael Klein

Source: Michael Klein

I’d forgotten how exhilarating this is to watch. The pounding of hooves, the flexing of muscles, and the snorting sound horses make when they exert themselves. It was very exciting!

The track riders wear monitors on their skullcaps that flash when a horse achieves ‘even’ time, which is a measure of speed they need to achieve to fulfill training requirements.

If a siren sounds, it means a rider has fallen off. Apparently, it happens on occasion. Young, frisky yearlings, skittering and jigging about, excited to be out on the track.

Source: George Salpigtidis

Source: George Salpigtidis.   Hold on!

Thankfully, we never heard one of these, so that was a relief.

Up to one hundred horses can be training at the one time in this space every morning.

It’s as busy as Bourke Street! Fortunately, there is a gentleman there that controls the entry of horses out onto the track though so that they don’t all rush out at there once (can you imagine, mayhem!), a bit like what the traffic lights do as you enter the South Eastern Freeway.

Source: News Corp Australia

Source: News Corp Australia

As sunrise dawned, silhouettes of horse and rider could be seen, legs pounding, clods of earth flying, perfectly balanced and completely mesmerising.

Clip clopping back into the stables, horses are unsaddled, hosed down and rubbed dry. Some might get to dry off in the sand roll while other horses are rugged up ready for a well deserved feed of hay and a bit of rest and relaxation.

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images.   Damn, that feels good

Someone's watching you, Andrew

Someone’s watching you, Andrew

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We got to explore the tack room and feed rooms, with rows and rows of halters, bridles, saddles, saddles cloths and horse rugs.

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Horsey smells, molasses, hay and manure…old racing photos adorning the walls.

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It was such an enjoyable experience – a big thank you to David Hayes, Susan Mills, Jessie and all the staff at Lindsay Park.

And thank you to Hugo, the dog.

Hugo looks after the place

Hugo looks after the place

 

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I’m really looking forward to seeing what Andrew McLean’s illustrations will look like.

Now, I’m wondering how on earth am I going to explain to my husband about that share in a syndicate I just bought…!!!?

Well, he did look very fast…

Nadine’s Cranenburgh’s ‘Ten Graphic Novels & Visual Stories’

Following up from my interview with Children’s Writer, Nadine Cranenburgh…

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Nadine has very kindly put a list together for us of ‘Ten Graphic Novels and Visual Stories: by Australian Creators’.

Thanks Nadine, I can’t wait to work my way through this list if books.

Hi Neridah, some of these aren’t really ‘graphic novels’ in the commonly accepted form, but use visual storytelling as a significant part of the narrative. That’s why I thought that maybe a better title would be ‘Ten Graphic Novels and Visual Stories by Australian Creators’.

Sounds good to me.

This list includes books for younger readers, teens and adults. There is probably a crossover in audiences, though, so my opinion isn’t definitive. I’ve used a very broad definition of ‘graphic novel’ here, including wordless picture books, illustrated novels and strange and wonderful amalgams of text, illustrations and more.

What they do have in common though is that they use visual storytelling (or a series of picture panels, with or without dialogue) to carry a significant part of the narrative; or use illustrations to provide an extra level to the story.

The audience definitions are also very subjective, and I’d recommend parents having a look at books to see if they agree with my judgement!

Also, it is far from a complete list, there are many other books out there that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, and many more still being created.

For younger readers (or all ages, if you like):

‘The Hero of Little Street’ by Gregory Rogers. A wordless picture book, Book 3 in the Boy Bear series. The Boy escapes a gang of Bullies by slipping into a Vermeer painting, meets a dog, and has an adventure in seventeenth century Holland. The first two books are on my to read list.

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‘The Nelly Gang’ by Steven Axelson, trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuuGtAejBf4. I haven’t read this yet, but it looks amazing.

The Nelly Gang, by Stephen Axelsen

A taste of the story...

‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan – This is an incredible story told without words, about moving to a new country and the strangeness, trials and wonders that entails. It is set in a fantastical world, but with many things that we can relate to. I know teachers who have used this book as a resource in the classroom with a great response from kids. I prefer to just enjoy and share it with my boys.

'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan

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‘How to Heal a Broken Wing’ by Bob Graham – This is a wonderful picture book that uses visual storytelling for most of the narrative, with only very sparse (but beautiful) words to support it. A bird crashes into a skyscraper window and falls to the ground near Nelson’s Column in London. As the crowds swarm past, young Will, coming out of the underground with his mother, stops and helps. A touching story which works on many levels. It is endorsed by Amnesty International.

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Getting older (teenage and up, although parents may choose to share with younger kids, I have)

‘Kate’ by Kevin Burgemeestre – This is a recent illustrated novel which combines a written story with several detailed illustrations, incorporating text motifs, which are presented as the work of the thirteen-year-old protagonist, Kate. It’s a compelling story which handles some hard-to-face themes sensitively for a young teenage audience and up. After a frightening encounter in a park, Kate is saved by the tough and elusive Mal. This sets her on a dangerous adventure, pursued by men who are convinced she has stolen something from them. Kate’s experience in drawing the illustrations is included in the text, and I think they add an extra level to her characterisation (her hero is artist Frida Kahlo).

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‘Beyond the Dusk’ by Victor Kelleher and Gregory Rogers – This is a book I picked up secondhand (it was published in 2000, so it may be out of print). It is an illustrated novel which tells the story of Meg as a young teen in the mid-twentieth century. She is living with her grandmother on a farm, and feeling isolated from kids her own age and adults, who shun her for her ‘tall tales’. The tale follows Meg as she investigates a mysterious predator that is spooking the livestock. It turns out to be something very unusual indeed, but I won’t spoil the surprise. There are not many illustrations, but they are atmospheric and stark, really setting the mood.

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‘Hamlet’ staged on the page by Nicki Greenberg – A visually stunning interpretation of the play, which takes the form of a cast of fantastical actors performing staging a production. The author has added wordless scenes showing what goes on behind the curtain as the play is performed, which adds another level of drama. I’ve been reading through it with my six-year-old, and we’ve had some very interesting discussions. Nicki also adapted ‘The Great Gatsby’ into graphic novel form.

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‘Requiem for a Beast’ by Matt Ottley – This is an incredible book, that explores some dark and complex themes (murder, the stolen generation, depression) through a mixture of text and illustrations. There is also an accompanying CD with original compositions by Ottley, and which is a companion to the book. A young man goes to work as a stockman, and tries to come to terms with his father’s grim past. Although this is definitely a work for older readers, I have shared some of the illustrations with my young son – he actually picked the book up in a second hand store as he was attracted to the pictures. We’ve talked a little about the stolen generation, and I look forward to talking to him about some of the more complex themes as he gets older.

Older again (mainly because the story is told by older narrators, but that’s just my opinion)

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‘Sensitive Creatures’ by Mandy Ord – This is a really sweet and funny collection of graphic short stories by Mandy Ord, many of which she self-published or published in literary journals before being approached to publish a graphic novel. It is set firmly in Melbourne, and covers many subjects we encounter daily: family relationships, friendship, dog ownership and dealing with bureaucracy among them. They are tied together with scenes of Mandy trying to get through a day of creating and procrastinating, which many writers and illustrators will relate to.

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‘The Sacrifice’ by Bruce Mutard – this is on my to read list, and is a complex book set in Melbourne during World War II.

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Wow – that’s quite a reading list – one of which I’m going to get cracking on ASAP. I’m off to the library!

Thanks so much Nadine for your time and insightfulness on Graphic Novels and Visual Stories.

Polly’s fabulous first picture book “Stop Asking Me!” is out now…

Well, here it is folks, this is what you’ve all been waiting for, Polly’s new picture book “Stop Asking Me!” is here…and doesn’t it look awesome?!!

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Polly wanted to write about her experience living with Perthes Disease. Her book is called “Stop Asking Me!” and it’s a funny and poignant story. I have done some illustrations for it, interweaving it with some fun photos with Polly’s text. We published it on-line with Blurb and they have been great.

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I love your book Polly, congratulations to you, what’s it like being a famous writer?

“Well, I’m not very famous yet…”

Who have you shown it too?

My family and my friends, my class mates (I took it into school and read it out aloud to my class). I’ve showed the Librarian at school, Miss Polsen. I’ve also shown it to Holly McKay from the Stonnington Leader and she’s writing an article about me. It’s going to be in the paper next week.

Wow, that’s exciting.

Yeah, it is.

How have people reacted to your book?

Um, people have said things like:

It’s amazing!

It’s funny

So, that’s what’s wrong with you…

Is Perthes Disease contagious?

I wish we didn’t put that line in the book that Perthes wasn’t contagious. That would have been really funny to leave people guessing.

Yes, but that might have freaked a few people out and they might not have wanted to be with you. 

I know. I just like to think I’m not the only one.

I get that, sweetheart.

Polly & I getting our hair done for the photo shoot for Polly's book launch

Polly & I getting our hair done for the photo shoot for Polly’s book launch

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How has “STOP ASKING ME!” changed your life?

It’s made my life more exciting. I like showing it to people and not having to explain Perthes Disease to them.

I also think that writing a book has made me more confident.

I’d like to be a writer when I grow up. I’ve been practising and writing lots of stories.

That’s wonderful, tell me about them?

At school, we are learning to write ‘Adventure Narrative’.

Cool. And what does that mean?

Well, it’s like this, you have an introduction, you build up to a problem, then you solve it and then you have an ending.

That’s excellent Polly, what’s your story about?

It’s about a little girl about my age and she has a Superdog (he’s a boxer dog like Midas), and a Mini-dog. There’s a villain called ‘Kill Blue’ who tries to take over the world and have it under his command. So, Superdog and Mini-dog are fighting to save the world.

Wow! That sounds action packed.

It is. I’ve still got a fair bit to write yet.

I hear you’re also going to write another book. What’s the next one going to be called?

“Be Brave!”

What’s it about?

It’s about going into hospital and not being scared all the time and trying your best to be brave.

I’m also going to write another story called “Stop Pushing Me!” and this is when I get out of my wheelchair and the plaster cast and get better and run around like I used to.

Tell me, what is the latest with Perthes Disease? What have yourDoctors told you?

Well, the ‘Bisphosphonates’ haven’t worked. So, my Mum says I have to go into hospital and get put into a plaster cast. It will go from here (under the armpits) down to my feet with a bar in between my knees. I’m getting blue plaster this time. I really hate pink, it had better not be pink. I had pink last time.

And guess who’s going to be the first to sign it?

Who?

You!

Wow, really? Thanks Polly. I feel honoured. I’ll have to think up something special to write on it.

How long will you be in the cast for?

It will take four weeks to straighten my hips. I might have to have something else done in hospital but they won’t know until I’m in there. They put dye in my bones so they can see inside me and after they do that they’ll know more.

O.K. When is all this happening?

This Sunday. I go in slings and springs first, just for two days, and then I have the plaster done on the third day. My Mum is coming with me and my family is going to visit me a lot.

Are you in for long?

I think it’s four days.

OK, I’ll check with your Mum.

Tell me, Polly, who are your favourite writers?

I love Roald Dahl, he’s so funny.

And at the moment I’m reading the Tashi books – I love them too.

I like the Tashi books too. They were written by the daughter & mother team, Anna and Barbara Fienberg (published by Allen & Unwin).

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Tashi gets himself into some sticky situations, doesn’t he?

Yeah, he does. He’s funny as. But he always has great ideas to get out of trouble. I seriously learn stuff from him.

Do you? Well, that’s the power of reading books, eh?

I guess.

Thank you so much Polly for coming back onto my blog today to show everyone your fabulous new book “Stop Asking Me!”

We absolutely love it. You should be very proud of it.

Thanks. I really am.

If you would like to purchase Polly’s book you may do so by contacting Polly’s Mum, Julie, by emailing her on Julie.upfal@optusnet.com.au and ordering a copy or you can go onto the Blurb website to order a copy or download an iBook through the Apple iTunes Store.

Blurb-logo

I think Polly has done a brilliant job writing “Stop Asking Me!” and I’m so chuffed she wants to be a writer (just like me she says, god love her).

We hope everything goes well for Polly with her upcoming trip to hospital and new treatment.

We are thinking of you, sweet Polly. Fellow bloggers & Blog Followers, I will let you know how she gets on.

Possum Magic is 30!

On Saturday night, Books Illustrated hosted a celebration for the iconic picture book ‘Possum Magic’ written by Mem Fox and illustrated by the amazing Julie Vivas 30 years ago.

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It was a full house attended by many and with the wine flowing, open fires burning and the original artwork from Possum Magic hung around the place, it was a joyous occasion.

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I met some old friends, my Maurice Saxby Mentor, Anna Walker and Erica Wagner from Allen & Unwin and I made many new friends including, Julie Vivas, Sue De Gennaro, Jane Tanner, Craig Smith, Francesca Rendle-Short and Sally Rippin. I also met the lovely Geri Barr from the Australian’s Children’s Literature Alliance and the gorgeous Justine who works for Ann and Ann at Books Illustrated.

Everybody was so friendly and happy to talk shop, it was great fun for me to gain an insight into how illustrators go about their work. I have to admit I was particularly relieved to hear about other’s people struggles with colour palette and character development.

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We all enjoyed hearing more about Julie Viva’s journey in illustrating ‘Possum Magic’.

‘Possum Magic’ was originally called ‘Hush the invisible Mouse’ and after being rejected by nine publishing houses (yes, nine I hear you say) Omnibus in Adelaide took a chance on it. They had just published Kerry Argent’s ‘One Wooly Wombat’ and were looking for other stories with an Australian theme. So, the mice became possums. Mem Fox reworked the story and Julie created new illustrations and the rest is history.

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At first, Julie began drawing real possums. She used to go to the night house at Taronga Zoo. She drew brush tail possums in every position until she got a feel for their body proportions and how they moved. She also looked at the injured baby ones at the Zoo hospital, too. After this, Julie then felt a bit braver about inventing her own possums. Julie explained that doing Hush as invisible was tricky but something as basic as using a broken line seemed to work.

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Julie simplified her possums, making their bodies big spheres and their heads small spheres with triangular faces. Tails and arm and legs were used for expression.

When Julie hung Grandma up by the tail she could see how this worked. In this form, not looking like real animals, Julie was able to ease them through their bike riding and their umbrella boating without it jarring too much.

“The human emotions that the possums go through are possibly easier to cope with in their visually unreal form. Early in the process, I realised real possums’ eyes are so big they take over. I felt that they took attention away from everything else in the picture, so I did adjust their eyes and this was another step away from reality.”

When it came to the colour palette Julie said she was afraid of large areas of strong colour, but colour roughs helped her decide, as the characters came into another life when the colours were applied. Using blues and purples in the fur seem to give relief from the expected brown and grey. The shape is so important, and Julie didn’t want anything to distract from that. Everything changes in a drawing when solid colour is used. The use of darker grey for the koala helps convey the weight of this character. Julie said it’s often difficult to get the balance that she had in the drawing when she start to paint.

Fascinating stuff. Stay tuned, as Julie Vivas will be the featured illustrator on my blog next month.

Julie also had on display some of her gorgeous illustrations from her latest picture book Davey & the Duckling soon to be released through Penguin Books and another of her well loved picture books Let the celebrations Begin has just been released in the Walker Australian Classic series. There was a lot to celebrate!

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We also got to see some of the amazing books and artwork collected by Ann and Ann at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair this year. Some of them very dark in colour palette and fascinating in there concepts.

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Thank you so much to Ann and Ann and Justine – it was truly a beautiful and inspiring evening.

You can read more about it on the Books Illustrated Blog http://booksillustrated.blogspot.com.au

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Reference: an extract from an interview with Julie Vivas, Scan Vol 23, no.2

Day 6 School Workshop with Elizabeth Honey at Prahran Library

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Elizabeth is a natural public speaker and her rapport with the Year 5 & 6’s of Stonnington Primary was engaging and warm. Conversational and funny, Elizabeth managed to get the children to open right up about what they like about story telling and writing.

Elizabeth talked about her experiences growing up and becoming a writer and what it takes to write a book. She used the analogy of ‘witchcraft’. For a witch to know how to make spells, she needs to understand the ingredients. She needs to learn her craft. And writing is the same; a writer must learn their craft before they can write well.

A collector of words, Elizabeth asked the children what sort of words they like to say, how it feels when they say it.

Partiality, pop, books (‘oo’ words were popular), arresting and quarrel were some of the words the children liked. Growing up, Elizabeth particularly liked the word ‘supreme’. Everything was ‘supreme’, supremely good or supremely bad. I have to admit I’m a big fan of the word ‘vivid’ (it must be the two ‘v’s).

We then launched into some of writing of our own. We were going to write some short poetry called ‘Haiku’. Elizabeth explained this style of poetry is made up of three lines. The first line consists of words with five syllables, the second line has seven syllables and the third line has five syllables.

Elizabeth showed us an image of a palm. It was facing upwards, holding some grains of rice. We were to write out Haiku about this image.

After much brainstorming and concentrating, the children had a chance to read out their poetry. It was fascinating what they wrote. It varied from “Dude, these are my drugs” to more poetic pieces about and hope and humanity.

This is mine…

The offer of seed

An open palm promise

Hope and hunger freed.

Yeah, I know, don’t give up your day job.

Then Elizabeth put up an image of an old man wearing a peaked gap. (He looked rather grumpy).

The children had to name him and make up a sentence he would say. He did look like an old sea dog, so the children came up with some terrific seafaring themed names and sentences like…

“Life on the seven seas is the only life for me…”

“Back in my day…”

“I’m not getting up and giving my seat to you…”

Elizabeth was wonderful with the children and I think they had a terrific time. They thanked her beautifully and I was very impressed with the children from Stonnington Primary School.

Elizabeth showed us how to deal with children with confidence and encouragement and I loved the way she taught them how to write simple but beautiful poetry.

About Elizabeth Honey…

Elizabeth Honey is a writer and illustrator of poetry, picture books and novels for children. Her work is always full of fun, with action packed stories, lively characters and zany illustrations. She is probably best known for her novel ‘45 & 47 Stella Street and everything that happened’ which was a CBCA Honour Book, and since then has written a number of highly entertaining novels, such as ‘Don’t Pat the Wombat’, ‘Fiddle-back’, ‘Remote Man’, ‘What do you think, Feezal?’,‘Cauldron Bay’ and ‘To the Boy in Berlin’. She has also written and illustrated a number of picture books, including ‘The Cherry Dress’ and ‘Not a Nibble’ which was the CBCA Picture Book of the Year.

“My books grow from an idea I find intriguing. I know it’s a good idea when it follows me around like a stray dog that won’t go home.”– Elizabeth Honey



You can read more about Elizabeth and her books at…

http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=311&author=98

Here are some of Elizabeth’s books…that can be bought in any good bookstore…

You can book her from an Author Visit to your school on…

http://bookedout.com.au/find-a-speaker/author/elizabeth-honey/

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Day 3 Maurice Saxby Mentorship

Visit to Allen & Unwin

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This morning we met with Erica Wagner, Publisher of Books for Children and Teenagers. Erica started off by discussing with us how our reading habits have changed. She loves her iPad and looks forward to reading it every night. ‘It’s iPad time!’

I love, love, love my iPad, although it’s awkward to hold it in bed, it’s just a bit heavy for me. I’ve tried those pillow support thingys but they don’t seem to help. It really gets me in the neck. Time to upgrade to an iPad mini I think.

And why do we love reading from the iPad? It’s just so darn easy. A click of a button and you can read whatever you want. Although, due to the format of children’s picture books, I hear it’s difficult to achieve a satisfying digital format.

One innovation that Allen & Unwin have introduced to their picture books is a direct link via a QR scan (which can be easily found on the half title page of their PB’s) to an Allen & Unwin website that provides an audio reading for the book. One is an actors voice reading the story (for playtime), the other is the writers voice (for bedtime).

These picture books will sell for $24.95 and research in the U.K shows a definite link to increased sales.

Erica then took us through the production of two wonderful books.

The first was ‘Jandamarra’ written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Terry Denton. This is a powerful story about Jandamarra, a Bunuba warrior from the Kimberley in Western Australia. Books, plays and movies have been made by about this amazing man and this picture book does his legend credit. Collaboratively written with the permission of the Bunuba Elders, text and illustration weave together an amazing tale. It’s 48 pages long, which is a big deviation from the standard 32 pages normally used in making picture books.

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The process of laying it out, fitting in what was just right, revising the artwork and the text on several occasions sounded like an incredible challenge. Erica talked about the Writer/Illustrator relationship and how the Illustrator needs to take ownership of the text to make it work. It was a fascinating process but the result speaks for itself. This book is wonderful. I’m heading out to buy this it tomorrow!

 The second book we had a sneak peak at was a graphic novel by the talented Julie Hunt (you can see an Author Interview done on Julie in todays Buzzwords magazine).

Now, this was exciting for Nadine’s as she is writing, amongst many other things, a graphic novel or a hybrid graphic novel that also includes prose.

Wow, the way Julie Hunt’s story ‘Kid Gloves’ is written is so unique I’ve never seen anything like it. It was all dialogue. Erica explained when you writing a graphic novel, you need to convey action as if it’s a film. The artwork for this book is in panel format and it was incredible.

It made me want to read Nikki Greenberg’s books, Hamlet and The Great Gatsby. More books! (Don’t tell my husband. Where are you going to put all these books he asks me as I waltz in with another armful of literary treasure?).

Erica believes graphic novels are a little risky, that perhaps they are ahead of their time. They’re a massive amount of work and they take years to complete. But all in all what I saw was a book that is completely compelling and different that it’s a real experience in itself to read and enjoy such a book.

Erica was so good to talk to, it was thrilling to discuss their publishing list and what their expectations are for writers and illustrators. She talked about Allen & Unwin’s strengths as a publisher. They love good picture books, they are always looking for Middle Grade Fiction 8 – 12 years. They pride themselves on having a varied and interesting publishing list, promoting literary qualities. I believe this to be true.

Erica also talked about the importance of finding your voice as a writer. It’s about having confidence in your voice and developing characters people can recognize and relate to. Strong story telling is always compelling and a fresh and contemporary approach to stories is what they’re looking for. Erica was very encouraging to us all. “Writing is a craft and you can always make it better,” she says.

It was such a treat to chat with Erica. She was so generous in sharing her knowledge and expertise with us, I left feeling very grateful and ready to have a go at my next story.

Visit to Penguin

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After a lovely lunch at docklands with Helen Chamberlin, Heather Gallagher, Laura Wilson and Nadine Cranenburgh, we headed off to Penguin Publishing to meet with Senior Editors, Amy Thomas and Katrina Lehmann.

The Penguin offices were pretty amazing, funky and very modern with a huge open layout workspace.

Penguin have a corporate culture with a strong commercial values. They publish about 100 books a year. Of these, only 12 – 14 would be picture books. About 15 books would be submitted by agents and only a random 1 – 2 unsolicited manuscripts (from new writers) would be picked up. Many titles are also what they call buy-ins, as in they buy the rights for picture books from the U.S or U.K and release them here. There’s little opportunity for the new writer.

Amy and Katrina explained to us how their roles as editors has changed with the tightening of Penguin’s belt in that they do their own type setting as well as editing. It certainly gives them more control, but of course, it’s added work. Their editing work involves a great deal of manuscript development. It may begin with structural editing, plot development, changes to the story arc, alterations in chapter length, character re-focusing and then they narrow it down scenes, to linking lines and line-by-line editing.

We bandied about the pros and cons of one getting an agent, which seems just as hard as getting a publisher.

Katrina took us through the production of three new books they have recently launched and what was involved in each of these and the challenges experienced.

Penguin have brought out a middle reader series called, Eerie by S.Carey (Scarey – get it?). This series was written by established writers under the pseudonym of S.Carey as the‘C’ is always stacked in bookstores at eye height. I told you they were commercial!

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This book is almost an early reader with loads of ‘break out’ text to make for easy reading, targeted at reluctant readers.

The other series of books looked at was ‘Juliet nearly a Vet’ by Rebecca Johnson, illustrated by Kyla May. This is for 8 – 10 year olds and would compete against books like ‘Billie B. Brown’.

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The pros and cons of writing a series was discussed. Penguin won’t put all their eggs into one basket by publishing them all due to diminishing returns if the concept doesn’t take off.

When it comes to manuscript submissions, Amy and Katrina focus on the manuscript first and read the cover letter later. A short and concise cover letter is adequate and if you’re previously published author, pop a book in the mail or email a digital version so they can see your ‘runs on the board’ and get a better feel for who you are.

The importance of having an online presence was seen as an advantage. Websites and Blogs and Teaching Resources were seen as an absolute necessity for any books written.

We also looked at Isobelle Carmody’s new book, The Cloud Road. This is a beautifully designed and crafted book and they all raved about the story so I’m also putting this on my reading list as well. Isobelle is a prolific writer and she did all the illustrations which are absolutely charming.

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 Amy and Katrina also explained to us the process a manuscript goes through before it might be accepted fro publication. If it’s a great story, it’s selected in an ‘Acquisitions’ meeting. From here they need to get backing from the people ‘upstairs’ (senior management, I assume). Then they need the marketing people to say ‘yes’ we can sell this. A lot of this has to do with timing.

Penguin are currently looking for Young Adult fiction with a slight move away from the paranormal to a more contemporary realisation and good stand alone Middle Readers are always sought after.

Thank you Amy and Katrina for a detailed insight into Penguin Publishing.