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.
This summer I went with three month old twins and their sister to a Swedish island for a week. It involved a great deal of preparation and packing and it needed a ratio of 5 adults to 3 three children to get everyone safely there and back again.
Tove Jansson's 'The Summer Book' captures the atmosphere of a similar island in the Archipelago Sea but there are no baby twins on that island, just one little girl and her grandmother.
Pam Royds on Grasmere, 1971
with Sally Christie, children’s author and daughter of Philippa Pearce.
I was just twenty two when I first met Pam Royds, a year
after this photo was taken. Pam was the children’s book editor at Andre Deutsch
and she was working with me on my first picture book, The Emperor’s Singing Bird. Not having
known any editor other than Pam, I took for granted the two decades that I
enjoyed her kind and intelligent guidance, believing all editors to be like her
– nurturing and patient; allowing an author/illustrator to make mistakes and
I accepted as normal, back in 1972, the invitation to come to her house
for a bath and breakfast when I stepped off the overnight bus from Edinburgh for our very first
editorial meeting at the Deutsch office in Great Russell Street. I didn’t argue, when my
first child was born and Pam wouldn’t allow me to take part in the wonderful Book Train
event, saying I should be at home feeding the baby. And at the various awards
ceremonies, over subsequent years, Pam was always by my side, giving advice on how to lose gracefully and pointing out the authors behaving badly when
they didn’t win.
It was a sad day when Andre Deutsch sold their children’s
list to Scholastic in the early 1990s but Pam made sure she was there helping
her authors and illustrators make the transition. At my first meeting with my
new Scholastic editor, Pam was hovering within earshot and when the meeting
took a turn for the worse and the Scholastic editor said that, after all, he would not be taking me out for lunch, I remember Pam emerging forcefully from her
office and saying, “Well if you won’t, I will,” and marching me off.
Oh dear, how naïve I’d been to believe all editors were like
Pam; that all publishing houses were like Andre Deutsch.
And now she's gone: a beloved friend and much missed
My new picture book Dog on Wheels, to be published by TroikaBooks in September 2016, has a landscape of pavements – rather dull I thought,
until I discovered the effect of dropping rock salt crystals into very wet
watercolour washes. At first there appears to be nothing happening. However, if you
leave the wash to dry naturally and then leave the salt to do its work over
many hours, the big salt crystals dissolve into much smaller crystals, picking
up pigment and giving a sparkly, grainy, stippled effect – just right for
It wasn’t without
its problems, though. I now had a strongly textured background which was
causing a messy outline when I came to paint the foreground objects. So to avoid
this and keep a clean edge, I masked all outlines before the salt wash.
I also discovered it was difficult to apply further washes
over the texture without lifting it, so I put the pigment on very
dry and then it would adhere and colour the crystal stipple.
The more I worked on this book, the more I discovered about pavements. Walking slowly and looking down at them as if from a dog’s or a very small child’s viewpoint, I suddenly started to see all the amazing drain cover patterns; circles, triangles and rectangles with elaborate geometric designs.
And as well as all these patterns there
was all the information in the form of lines, arrows, signs and even shadows.
Suddenly pavements were not dull at all!
Going through the list of School Library Services in the UK can be a
heart rending process as so many of them no longer exist. However, there is one
county defying all the cuts and austerity – Norfolk. This very rural county has a dynamic
School Library Service and, living in Cambridge where there is no longer one, I
was happy to be put onto the Norfolk list of authors who go into schools and
have them organise both bookings and payment, just like the good old days when the
Eastern Arts Association offered this service.
On 10 March I attended a Norfolk SLS ‘Language
is Power’ conference in Norwich
where the audience of primary school teachers, school librarians and authors
were challenged and inspired. Key note speaker, Tanya Landman, 2015 Carnegie
Winner, (Buffalo Soldier)set the tone for the day when she described the appalling library cuts in
this country as the equivalent to the burning of books by unsavoury regimes.
And, Martin Illingsworth, author of Creative Approaches toTeaching Grammar, did not let his audience sit back complacently either, but
shook everyone out of their comfort zone with his approach to teaching grammar. Education Secretary,Michael
Gove would have squirmed in his seat or left after these two sessions.
But it was the three pupils from LitchamSchool,
the 2014 Kids Lit Quiz champions and their presentation that really showed the
impact a forward-thinking School Library Service with a belief in the power of
language can have on rural state schools.