Tuesday, 18 March 2014

My 'Writing Process' - squeezed between World Book Week and Bologna Book Fair 2014


Thank you Andrew Weale for introducing me and Chitra Soundar into the blog tour called My Writing Process! Andrew is a presenter as well as a writer extraordinaire.  I'll never forget how he entranced a theatre full of schoolchildren and teachers with his antics and stories at our CWISL Shoutsouth festival 2013.

World Book events and deadlines last week had me stumbling  when I should have grabbed the blog baton.  Woke up early this morning thinking it's not too late to stagger into action.
So here are my answers to the Blog tour questions:

1. What am I working on?
I'm working on the endpapers (the inside cover pages, which are sometimes just plain paper) for my 'big' picture book story, Tiz and Ott's Big Draw, due out with Tate Publishing UK next year.  I hope to show the dummy for the book this coming Monday March 24th at my 4pm Showcase  in Bologna (at the SCBWI stand, Hall 26 stand A66 if you're going...)

Tiz, a high-energy scribbler of a cat, and Ott, a low-energy dabbler and donkey (who are both dozing at the top of this blog)  started life in 4 little dummy books I put together.
My first tiny Tiz & Ott dummy books -  7 spreads per book & no bigger than a child's hand
Tiz and Ott remind me as much of my own 'quick, quick, slow' way of working as of my two children.  And I love stories about partnerships. I was fascinated by Ant and Bee as a small child, and much later by  Frog and Toad and George and Martha
Now my two characters, Tiz and Ott, are put to bed for the moment, for the endpapers, I've been using crayons & brush to make all kinds of marks, splodges, splashes, zig zags, scumbles and scribbles  - the sort of things they make - and finding words to label them.   Here's part of one rough for the endpapers just to give you an idea.
rough sketch for endpapers for Tiz & Ott's Big Draw


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well I've two obsessions which both creep into my work.
My first obsession is drawing and painting...so that connects to Tiz and Ott's Big Draw. It might make my work a teeny bit different.  
The other obsession is about communication and foreign languages. Years back, I included a few foreign words in my very first books in a series, Toto's Travels, about a young boy's adventures in other countries.  My next book is a French book called, oddly enough, Bridget's Book of English. Now, that's a 'different' title, especially for a French picture book!

3. Why do I write what I do?
Art and language again.  All my life, I've lived among paintings, not all my own.  I wanted to go to art school but seemed to be good at passing exams so ended up studying at King's College, Cambridge.  There was no art option, though they had a studio we could use in our spare time, and later I discovered that Kate Greenaway medalist Jan Pienkowski went there too.   My two obsessions again.  I studied Chinese for part 1 of my degree and loved memorizing a written language with visual rather than phonetic roots.  I finished my degree studying art history - and connections between late 19th century French painting and poetry. 

Now I could push it and claim that Tiz's crayon and Ott's paintbrush could be traced back to the contest between line and colour in mid 19th century France.  Tiz would have followed Ingres's linear drawing, and Ott would have enjoyed Delacroix's painterliness if they'd been 19th century eccentrics.   And like Tiz and Ott, I  know all too well what it's like to get carried away, and draw or paint yourself into a hole...

Tiz in a hole
pretend 'finished' spread from my sketchbook  - not the final version.
As for language...I mentioned in my previous post, how as a child I once found myself in a French playground surrounded by kids staring at me and saying things I couldn't understand.  I felt like I had just landed from Mars. Besides, my mother was Catalan, from Barcelona and was always asking me and my father, who was an East Londoner, to speak more clearly.  I guess that's why I speak with a Linguaphone  standard accent and why I can relate to kids who are newcomers anywhere. My own children were born of us English parents and raised in France.  They are totally bilingual and in a sense, immigrants in both countries.
I hope kids will feel welcomed by the deliberately non-specific furry family  in Bridget's Book of English (see the cover on my previous post here), and enjoy spotting all the little stories going on in the pictures and under the flaps.  
Really I write with pictures.

4.  How does your writing process work?
I start in a a cheap A4 size sketchbook jotting down text and thumbnails and sometimes I'll pretend to myself it's the finished book, just to keep on track.   Pictures and/ or words emerge together or alternately...rarely entirely separately.
Here's an early spread from first thumbnails thoughts about Tiz & Ott.
detail of a rough plan for what turned out to be Tiz & Ott's Big Draw.


And here's a couple of early ideas for Bridget's Book...
Details of a page of text in my A4 sketchbook for Bridget's Book of English.

Two pages later into the Bridget's book sketches and I'm already pretending I'm doing the final book content...

Detail of the final artwork  - developed from the top left of previous sketch
for Bridget's Book of English, Bayard France September 2014.
Next week I'll pass the baton over to two dear, unique writer-illustrator friends.  
Or are they illustrator-writers?  Wait till next week to find out!

I've a duel with Sally Kindberg next Monday in Bologna at 2:30pm. Our weapons will be pens or charcoal and two easels and we'll draw instant illustrations to a  read-aloud, unknown picture book text.  Sally has written and illustrated many children's books as well as travel features which involved going to Elf School in Iceland among other things.  She has illustrated  a series of comic strip books for Bloomsbury, and is now working on her Draw it! series.  Draw It - London is due out in May.  See her blog here.  

Jane Porter's latest book This Rabbit That Rabbit is out now with Walker Books and she is currently preparing an exhibition of woodcut and collage inspired by the River Thames. See more of her work here.

Look forward to seeing their writing process next!

4 comments:

J'attends... said...

Oh how fascinating. I wish I could be there in Bologna for your friendly drawing duel!
Can't wait to have the Tate book on my bookshelves.

Heather Kilgour said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Kilgour said...

It is lovely to hear a wee bit about your history. See you in Bologna!

Bridget Strevens-Marzo said...

Thank you for your comments Heather and J'attends. J'attends is the word - can't wait to see Tiz & Ott's Big Draw in print. I want to use it as a springboard for lots of workshops with children, crayons and brushes in hand!