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PAM ROYDS 1924 - 2016

Pam Royds on Grasmere , 1971 with Sally Christie, children’s author and daughter of Philippa Pearce. I was just twenty two when I fir...

About Me

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United Kingdom
My blog is about writing and illustrating children's books which I have been doing since 1974. www.gillianmcclure.com has all my books. I also have another blog: www.paulcoltman.blogspot.com where I publish my father's poems.

Monday, 26 November 2012


It was worth braving rain, wind and floods to get to the SCBWI Mass Book Launch party last Saturday evening. I so nearly didn't  make it. It was a great party, held in Winchester Guildhall. Here are some friends: Candy Gourlay taking the photos, 
Anne-Marie Perks organising the illustrators exhibition 
John Shelly launching his latest book  Halloween Forest - with its wonderfully bold and haunting images. 
Then there was the bookshop P&G Wells Ltd. The owner of this brilliant Independent bookshop is David Simpkin, (not in this photo) who was taught by my father, Paul Coltman  at Steyning Grammar. David told me that, while he was at Steyning Grammar, he won the Ted Walker Poetry prize. Ted Walker was also taught by my father and they remained close friends for many years. 
The book I was launching was Zoe's Boat. There's a piece about it's graphic form in
Lin Oliver was the host at the actual Book Launch. She made it all a lot of fun, getting each participating author and illustrator describe their book in just three words. That really put us all on the spot. I came up with 'feisty, girl, adventure' for Zoe's Boat.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


The NAWE conference for writers in education was held in York last weekend. I'd not been to York before and, bathed in November sunshine, it looked glorious. This was the view from my room at the Park Inn where the conference was held. 
   I was sharing a session on self-publishing with Anthony Haynes, publisher and author. In his talk, Anthony gave a great deal of sound advice on self- publishing and I followed it with my own experiences - good and bad- of running my own publishing company, Plaister Press. In the audience, there were many authors who were also self-publishing and they too contributed to the session. 
    At the end, Anthony published the following post on his Monographer's blog: Self-publishing-why-not-and-how
which is full of useful tips for anyone thinking of going down this route.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Guest blogger, Joyce Dunbar tells me about her latest picture book Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde:

Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde, (illustrated by Jill Barton, published by Frances Lincoln), is a cat with nine lives.

    I wrote it 15 years ago. My then agent, Gina Pollinger, said the text was 'like a fine wine.' But while publishers admired it, they said it would not make a picture book for children. I made some clumsy alterations, adding a child dreamer, but that didn't work, so it sat on my file for another 11 years.
    Then one day, circa 2008, I bundled up a few cat pieces and sent them to my new agent. She picked this one out, and to my surprise, Puffin took it on for their new 'Picture Book Boutique.' We had a lovely dinner in the Strand so that I could meet the illustrator, Jill Barton, to discuss possibilities - a rare enough encounter in itself since publishers on the whole prefer to keep the two species apart.
    Jill, like me, has had an enjoyable run of bears, ducks, rabbits, and so on, but was longing to do something darker. I wondered how she would handle the text. When the bold, graphite images arrived, I danced around the house with excitement. It was so clean, clear and bold, and so different.
    Puffin was equally enthusiastic - but then came the 2009 recession. Not only our book, but quite a few of the boutique books bit the dust. The Americans were no longer buying. There was a half hearted attempt to format it as a cute Mother's Day gift book, with sugar almond background colours and a smaller format. Jill was horrified. I thought it was better than nothing. Even so, 3 months before publication, compelled by market forces, Puffin pulled the plug completely.
    To their great credit, Jill's agent and mine sped round in a taxi together to protest, but to no avail. I showed it to Henry Layte, publisher and owner of our new independent Book shop, and he rewarded me with words of great praise. I didn't expect them to make a difference. But then, wonder of  wonders, within a few months, Frances Lincoln picked it up.
    Working with the first basic layouts they wrought a subtle transformation: Maurice Lyon, the editor, coaxed me into working on the punctuation, which ended up as supremely elegant as our cat, and Jill revisited some of the spreads, doing two complete new ones. The whole thing was watched over by Judith Escreet, the art editor. There was a bit of a fracas about an elusive vole, but finally the finished copies were in our tremulous, thankful hands.
    On Thursday 25th at the Book Hive, we had a wonderful launch. The shop was filled with well wishers and the book was a sell out. It also coincided perfectly with Hallowe'en, when 'good things of day begin to droop and drowse, and night's dark agents to their preys do rouse.' Spot on!
    So we are now feeling very chuffed and purry. It has been a long and difficult journey, but what a gloriously happy ending - so far.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


When Gillian kindly asked me to write about some of my experiences with illustrators, I was surprised to find that I'd never really written about this subject before. I've had some wonderful artists providing images for my work over the many years that I've been published. There was a super cover by Anthony Brown for my collection of spooky stories, Letters of Fire, and Emma Chichester Clark painted most beautiful images for the original three volumes of the Egerton Hall trilogy: The Tower Room, Watching the Roses and Pictures of the Night. My collection of stories from the opera (The Orchard Book of Opera Stories) had a different illustrator for each of the nine stories I was retelling and they were among the best in the land: Emma Chichester Clark again, Jane Ray, Sheila Moxley, Ian Beck, Sarah Field, Sophie Windham, Louise Brierley and Katya Mikhailovsky.

My latest picture book, It's Time for Bed, was published by Piccadilly Press yesterday. It has most delightful pictures by Sophy Williams. I suggested Sophie to my editor but I've never met her, and I've only met Emma Chichester Clark briefly at the launch of the Opera Stories book. I know Jane Ray slightly better but in most cases, I don't meet the person who illustrates my books. This goes right back to the very beginning of my career when almost the first thing I ever wrote, A Thousand Yards of Sea, was given wonderful pictures by Joanna Troughton. I've never met her either but she and I and Emma CC and I now follow one another on Twitter, where I've got to know them somewhat better.

In 2004, Emma Chichester Clark illustrated a whole book of mine, and that was the fulfillment of a long-held wish. She provided the pictures for My First Ballet Stories. and it's one of the loveliest productions you could wish for. There's a full page painting for each of the ballets, and other pages are decorated with pretty borders. There are also smaller vignettes scattered throughout. Here are two of the images, home-scanned, and therefore not doing the originals anything like justice but they will give you some idea of the work. The Swan Lake image I particularly like because it's not the normal cliche of the swans, but highlights instead the sinister Von Rothbart, whom Emma depicts as an owl whose 'wings obscure the moon.'
Those are my words of course, but she was the one who seized on them as being what she chose to illustrate. We had no correspondence about it whatsoever but I was thrilled to bits with the way the book turned out. The second image is from the Firebird, and I chose it for this piece because of the wonderful, vibrant green and gold in it. Again, it's not at its best in my scan, but in the book, that green sings from the page.

Sleeping Beauty,  illustrated by Christian Birmingham 'glows with light and magic.' So says one of the reviewers on Amazon and she is quite right. 
This book came about in a rather unusual way. Christian fell in love with a French château and wanted to do a version of the Sleeping Beauty story set there and specifically in the early seventeenth century. He looked about, through the publishers, for someone to write the story and chose me, for which I am very grateful. We did meet to discuss this venture but only once, and then I didn't see him again till the exhibition of his artwork just when the book was launched. Here are two images from the story: the moment when the Wicked Fairy, (who is called Skura in my version) curses the young princess Aurora in her cradle and the moment just before Prince Florian kisses her awake. Once again, the images you can see do not do justice to what you will find in the book.

I'd finish by saying that whether I know them or not, I'm immensely grateful for what so many wonderful artists have done for me and I would like to thank them all. If any of my books can be called beautiful, it's thanks to them. We have the best illustrators of children's books in the world, and they add immeasurably to the joy of the reading experience.