Around this time last year Kate wrote on this blog about what we all wanted for Christmas and 2012 – how the time has flown… I’m struck, looking at that wish-list and this one, how some things never change: we’re always looking for great picture book ideas, new illustrators, and interesting novelty ideas!
Louise would like to receive some picture book texts with love, heart and warmth… and also some ideas for great picture books for 4-6 year old boys, packed with action, adventure and derring-do.
Camilla would like some really innovative paper novelty.
Ola wants to sell rights to some new Eastern European markets.
Imogen would like to see affordable novelty projects, and ones that are wow-y and clever, but not complex to produce – Camilla wants those too!
Kate wants to receive submissions for seasonal picture books stories, as well as picture book texts generally. She’d love to see some girl-skewed fantasy fiction. And she wants to find some great new illustrators.
And I would like to see some app ideas which have proper stories at their heart AND have been conceived specifically for the medium – with really clever ways of using interactivity and shaping a narrative.
What are you hoping for in 2013… and what would you like to read?
Last week I was invited to talk at the Nosy Crow Author and Illustrator panel as part of the YLG Conference in Central London.
As the title of this blog post suggests, this was my very first book event and I was rather nervous to say the least.
I am used to talking about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam with the Nosy Crow team, my students at City Lit and my family and friends, but this was to be the first time I would talk about my experience and designs to a fresh audience.
Our merry band followed an informative and humorous talk on the future of children’s publishing by Kate Wilson, where we witnessed, amongst other things, the magic of Stories Aloud.
Philip talked about The Grunts series of books whilst Axel drew a fantastic Sunny, one of the characters from said book. They made a terrifically fun and entertaining presentation which was followed by Lyn Gardner who discussed the motivation behind her Olivia fiction series.
Then it was the turn of Tracey and myself. Tracey introduced our characters and her original inspiration behind Shifty and Sam and read, again for the first time, their story which went down a treat – phew! Tracey also debuted her newest, now infamous ‘story sack’ which we will use at all our Shifty and Sam events – cleverly designed as Shifty’s SWAG bag!
I then spoke about my design process and ideas behind the two protagonists and some of their fellow dog cast in the book – it was very strange standing in front of my designs on a large screen but I didn’t spot any mistakes, again, phew!
The audience of librarians really enjoyed our presentations and we had some great chats with them during the Q&A session and beyond.
Being given this opportunity to talk about my first book has given me a taste for future book events and I can’t wait to do more of them with Tracey throughout 2013!
Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam will be out in May 2013 – but you can take a look inside now!
Art in Action
is a four day event held at Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxfordshire. Every year around 25,000 visitors come to observe hundreds of artists demonstrating how they work.
This was my second year demonstrating in the illustration and calligraphy marquee. Along with four other illustrators and five calligraphers we drew and talked and painted as well as selling some prints and originals and lots of books.
I was showing how I am working on sketch layouts for my next book, Dinosaur Zoom, using an iPad, alongside examples of the layouts for Dinosaur Dig! (which were done on paper).
I showed how rather than sticking lots of layers of paper one on top of the other when working up plans for illustrations, and ending up with a very bumpy paper sandwich, I could work the layers separately and smoothly on the iPad. People were amazed at the degree of subtlety that can be achieved drawing directly on the screen with a capacitive stylus. Some children had a go at drawing a dinosaur on the iPad themselves, and loved the way the brushes app we use would replay their drawing step by step. Pure ‘Art in Action’! (You can see a video of how the process works here.
I did reassure people that I would still produce the actual artwork for DINOSAURZOOM using watercolour and pencil crayons on real paper, but the iPad is certainly great for roughs.
While this was going on some very hardworking friends were also talking to people and selling books – lots of books! Ten in the Bed and Once There Were Giants were favorites and Dinosaur Dig went so fast we started to run out on the first day with Friday and the weekend still to come! Imogen was brilliant at Nosy Crow HQ, and managed to send another load which arrived the next day. All of those went too! Here’s the last copy being sold!
It was lovely to see the range of ages who liked Dinosaur Dig. A rather hot and tired 6 month old baby in a facing out sling carrier stopped crying and laughed when he saw the cover – excitedly shouting and flapping his arms and legs! Bigger children liked reading it and asked lots of questions about making the book – some even said “Cool!” when they got to the end. Many nursery and infant teachers said how it was just the thing for reading AND number work with their children. We were really delighted with all the reactions.
I want to say a huge thank you to the organisers of Art in Action and all the volunteers for making it such a unique and wonderful event! Now it’s time to unpack everything back into the studio and start on the actual artwork for Dinosaur Zoom… so which box did I put the drawing board in?
Julia writes fiction for older children (The Princess Mirror-belle books, The Giants and the Joneses and Dinosaur Diary) and has written a dark and challenging novel for teenagers (Running on the Cracks), but she is best known for her rhyming (though not always rhyming: The Smartest Giant doesn’t rhyme except at the end) picture book texts, of which the best known is The Gruffalo, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who has been the illustrator of her most successful picture books.
I felt, vicariously, very proud: I’ve been responsible for publishing over twenty of Julia’s books over the years. I first got to know Julia’s work in the early 1990s. She sent the lyrics of a song to Methuen (which has been absorbed into Egmont) where I was working as a rights director. An editor there, Elke Lacey, liked it. I suggested that a friend, who I’d met when he was illustrating a couple of fiction titles for Faber and Faber when I was selling rights there, might be the man to do the pictures. He was Axel Scheffler. The book was A Squash and a Squeeze. Elke was a fiction editor, and hadn’t worked on picture books and she and I worked on A Squash and a Squeeze together. But then she got ill and died, ridiculously young, just before the book was published.
A little later, I moved to Macmillan as a publisher, and Alison Green came with me as editorial director of picture books. One day soon after we’d started, Julia sent Axel the text of The Gruffalo, and, we decided to publish it. It was the resumption of what became a truly astonishingly successful partnership, though Julia’s texts were also wonderfully illustrated by other illustrators including Nick Sharratt, Julia Monks and David Roberts. After ten years, Alison and I moved to Scholastic, and Axel and Julia’s new books were published under the Alison Green Books imprint there, though Julia continued to publish other picture books with Macmillan and has had some books published by other publishers too. The first of several Scholastic Julia-and-Axel books was Tiddler, and the most recent one, The Highway Rat, comes out this autumn.
Julia is many things. She has a command of the combination of rhyme and story that is unparalleled, and that she produces excellent book after excellent book is breathtaking. She’s passionate about her work and a true perfectionist. She’s an absolutely brilliant and indefatigable performer with as much of an affinity with music (she introduced me to this, which is one of the many reasons I am eternally grateful to her) and drama as she has with words. She’s honest, outspoken (even if it’s sometimes about subjects on which we don’t entirely agree!) and approachable. She is, quite properly, famous.
I think Julia will be a highly-visible and committed advocate for reading, for printed books and – at this time of real need – for libraries, and, I am sure, for other things too, as her Laureateship evolves. She’ll be great.
As soon as Sarah’s agent showed me these loveable pre-school characters, I knew I wanted to publish them. Lucky for me then that the rest of the Nosy Crows shared my enthusiasm! And, since having met up again with Sarah to see how she is getting on with our first Zac and Zeb book, my enthusiasm has gone into overdrive, as has Steph’s. So much so, I thought I’d better become a true Nosy Crowite, and learn how to blog. Help, Tom, is this right?
Sarah Massini and I had crafted the first story together, and then it was down to her to think about how the story might work illustratively and graphically on the page. She rocked up with a sketch book simply overflowing with thumbnail sketches for the whole book – about three times over. Suddenly, these two characters were coming to life in front of our eyes – it was so exciting! The great thing about working with an artist like Sarah is that she is simply overflowing with creative ideas and vision, as well as having a fantastic sense of graphic design and how a story should work as a visual narrative for young children. It’s so wonderful to be picking out the best ideas from a whole wealth of ideas, and I do believe that the best picture books come out of these kind of meetings. It’s often tempting to cram every single good idea into one book but that might lead to a lack of visual clarity, and Sarah was fantastically open to us cherry picking through her thumbnails. Thank you, Sarah, and at least we know the second Zac and Zeb book will also be a visual delight.
They took the – big and lively – audience through the creation of the series, a unique and silly blend of doodle book and young novel that they describe as “draw your own adventure” which they both write and illustrate.
They said that some of their ideas come to them on the Thinking Couch in their studio. Here’s Nikalas on the Thinking Couch:
And here’s Tim on the Thinking Couch:
However, they also confessed that they traded ideas for cookies with the elves at the bottom of their garden.
Conveniently, Nikalas is right-handed and Tim’s left handed, which means that they can illustrate the same picture at the same time without either getting in the other’s way… and they demonstrated this on a flip-chart at the event:
They pulled in audience suggestions and questions brilliantly. Here’s Tim getting a suggestion from half-way up the theatre:
They asked, for example, what the roundish object might be that they’d drawn being spotted through a telescope hurtling toward the Romans’ and Dinosaurs’ Martian city, Romasauria. “A grape!”, suggested one child (it was an asteroid). In turn, they were asked whether they liked brussels sprouts. So we covered a lot of ground, not all of it fruit-and-vegetable-related, as well as drawing mashed-up characters together.
There was a long queue of enthusiastic children waiting for them to sign books, and I was surprised and pleased to see how many girls were in the audience, as I’ve always thought that these books skewed towards boys, and reluctant boy readers in particular:
Described by Library Mice as “… exactly the kind of books us parents need to be able to hand to our offspring in school holidays or on long car journey!” you can find out more about the Mega Mash-up books on the Mega Mash-up website, where you can also post your own pictures, like this one by Alex Kosowicz:
Hello, everyone. Pip and Posy here, posting from the Hay-on-Wye festival. It’s fantastic here – there are millions of books, quite a few clever grown-up people talking about books, and loads of wet other people wearing wellies. We even saw a royal Duchess (Camilla – no crown, but no wellies either).
It was brilliant fun. We didn’t have to sit still, or behave ourselves properly or anything. Penny showed us how she drew the pictures which was really interesting – how do you get a T-rex’s tail in a dumper truck cab? But the best bit was when she got us all to stamp and stomp, and to roar a lot, just like in the book!
We had such a good time that Pip very nearly had a little accident, but we got to the (really nice) toilets just in time, so it was ok.
Today’s a big day for all of us at Nosy Crow: our The Three Little Pigs app app is the Number 1 New and Noteworthy app in the UK App Store. It’s on the homepage! This is a real recognition of the app’s quality and innovation. The Three Little Pigs is Nosy Crow’s first app, and it has already been reviewed amazingly well, as you’ll see from the list of reviews in the Media Mentions section of our Media Kit page.
The Three Little Pigs has
appeared on the home pages of 12 continental European countries already it’s great to see it here in the UK App Store. Not only is the UK a really important market for our apps, but it is also “our” store: the one we buy our apps in ourselves.
The app also tops the “What’s Hot” list in book apps on the UK store:
I went up to Lincoln on Saturday to talk to a group of children’s authors and illustrators (and agent Elizabeth Roy, many of them aspiring to be published. The event was organised by writer and blogger Addy Farmer (pictured here with me) for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
It was hard to know what to cover (and Kate had a scary 90 minutes to fill), other than pointing people in the direction of our “submissions guidelines” and to telling them we prefer to receive submissions digitally, which is the work of a minute. But I talked about how Nosy Crow got started, and what’s important to us: identifying the core audience for each book or app that we do and trying to ensure that every aspect of that book or app is right for that audience; bringing our own creative energies and skill to projects as we work with authors and illustrators to shape and make books and apps; embracing digital technology both as a means of creating new reading experiences and communicating with people about them; and thinking internationally, and accessing international markets through our partners in key countries.
Of course, most of the people there really wanted to know what Nosy Crow was “looking for” and that’s a hugely difficult thing to define.
But here’s a shot at it:
Fiction for 0 – 12, bearing in mind that a lot of the texts for board and novelty books are are produced in-house.
“Mum-friendly” books – no drugs, sex or gritty or gratuitous violence.
Strong commercial concept-driven or character-led series novels and picture books.
Brilliantly-written stand-alone novels and picture books, but nothing too intensely high-brow.
Great illustration with child and parental appeal – nothing too dark and arty.
While some of our future apps may be based on our books, Nosy Crow is currently focused on commissioning apps that start as apps, not as books. We are interested in working with authors and illustrators who are excited by, and really understand how, touch-screen devices can enhance and extend the story experience. As we have engineers on staff, we don’t need people who can code apps, and we don’t need to see a ready-made app. Instead, we want to see really great ideas and really great art (and need art that is created digitally in layers for this medium).
I got to visit glorious Lincoln Cathedral:
And I even saw a little of the top part of the city (here are Addy and Elizabeth Roy in front of something lovely and half timbered) before leaving.
I got a couple of nice comments on Twitter, and Addy blogged about it.