Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Ian Beck at Just Imagine - with thanks to Nikki Gamble and Sue Eves!

No Facebook this morning, I said to myself, otherwise I'll never get started before midday.  So glad I didn't listen to my better self!   Turned out that fellow author-illustrator and SCBWI-er Sue Eves had passed on an invitation on FB to an event at Just Imagine - for TONIGHT!
I'm so glad I braved the wintry evening to Liverpool Street Station and the train (only 30 min. after all!) to a warm paradise for kids book lovers in Chelmsford.  I'm just back now and  very grateful to Nikki Gamble of Just Imagine for setting this up, and to Ian Beck for coming from Richmond, even further afield than me and Sue Eves.

records of the evening: the elegant and animated Ian Beck rapidly squeezed into my sketchbook and a signed copy of his latest chapter book
What fascinating work and stories Ian Beck had to share with a small circle of us lucky illustrators!
He began by showing us some of his earliest illustrations for The Radio Times and covers for Bowie and Elton John (alias Elsie) - including the famous album cover to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  We were given tantalizing glimpses of several rare private press books he had illustrated including The Summer House, inspired by an extraordinary Lutyens house in Varengeville, which in turned inspired Jeannette Winterson to write a novella, The Dreaming House.  Ian Beck's own blog shows the house, and many more goodies besides.
Ian shared some of his sources of inspiration - how the series of picture books starting with Home before Dark started from wheeling his child home one windy evening.
He talked about all kinds of collaborations,  including with a certain David Fickling when he was starting out as a young unknown editor, with Philip Pullman and his vision of a cover for Puss in Boots, and more recently Ian talked of how he had used Photoshop to create misty layers behind the silhouettes in Pullman's retelling of Aladdin and his Lamp.
Ian talked of dispiriting rejections too and going back to the drawing board and cutting out key characters, and having to restitch everything.
Applying his imagination to different media from illustration to novel writing and poetry, his persistance is inspiring.  He doesn't shirk the re-writes and refinements that come from working with editors and art directors as precious mediators.
A tremendous tonic - thank you again Ian Beck!

Monday, 3 December 2012

SCBWI Winchester conference to Salon du Livre Jeunesse, Montreuil, Paris

The buzz from SCBWI Winchester conference is still ringing in my head:  Debi Gliori's heartfelt keynote speech and workshop,  Eric Huang's enlightening explanation of Transmedia, hosted and reported on here by Nick Cross,  useful branding tips from author Justin Somper and PJ Norman of Author Profile, performance training from school visitor extraordinaire Steve Hartley, author-actor Mo O'Hara, and finally the best ever group book launch hosted by the inimitable  Lin Oliver co-founder of SCBWI.

Three days later I was on a (thankfully restful) train to Paris, preparing for more buzz at the Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse, the French national kids book fair.

Hilarious comic illustrator, author and cartoonist friend Sally Kindberg who is also published at Bloomsbury, came with me -  an ideal travel companion.
We lodged close to the fair thanks to another friend, the illustrious Doug Cushman, fellow author and illustrator at Hen & Ink.
When we arrived Doug was painting a watercolour of an owl in his Paris studio.

A couple of hours later Sally and I went to the grand opening of the French kids book fair.   

Sally took a pic of me in my spotty jacket.  I'm holding a pile of bumpf about the fair.  Imagine over 300 children's publishers showing their year's output and more, in stands across two huge floors.  Well over 150, 000 visitors brave the trip into Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris to look at books and attend events for kids and publishing pros. 
I'll confess I  blogged last year too, enthusing about this mecca for illustrators, authors, kids and book lovers.  I just can't resist going on about it!  What is it about this particular children's book fair that stands out from any other?    

One big difference is that kids can attend, not just the industry pros.  
They come with their parents or schools armed with a few euros.  They queue up to watch illustrators and authors sign their books.  There's a buzz around books which older kids notice.  Yes, it's cool to look at books.

Another feeling you get strongly here is real pride in the produce.  It speaks for itself. There's not so much glitzy corporate marketing and hard sell.   Yet it's a fair that seems to help even the smallest publishers survive.   From the huge variety of books and inventive formats it seems they can afford to take risks and publish the books they love.   This year it was great to see Nobrow come from London who also take pride in publishing stand-out books.  

Sally loved this beaked tight rope walker on the wall of a publisher's stand.
ish we had noted the book it was from - anyone know? 

The opening night is not all about bribery with food and drink..
Little girl and appetizers at one send of the Tourbillon stand

wine and tasty canapés at the Bayard stand -
where there was a real buzz this year...
Aside from incredible standard of art in French kids books, and the daring formats and subjects, there is more than enough to entice children, parents, librarians and booksellers into buying mounds of books before Christmas...

A book of historical maps to make kids love maps forever

one shelf in the BD (comic / graphic novel) section
Telling kids stories of  WW2
from publisher Rue du Monde 
for teens, a newspaper-like fantasy in pictures

"What are swear words?" asks this article in a Bayard kid's magazine
(Not sure such graphic visuals would be tolerated in some other countries I can think of!)

 The day after I took Sally to my French publishers, Bayard.  They've moved to a huge modern building south of Paris in the suburb of Montrouge.  It's a long walk from the book publishing end to the magazine end of the building.  As we got to the offices of Belles Histoires and Tralalire,  I noticed a couple of old posters I'd done a while ago were up on the walls.  

Notice the washing line of illustrations up in the Belles Histories / Tralalire offices!

And here is Sally again, with Marianne Vilcoq, an illustrator herself and the hard-working Belles Histoires art director - just before we took off.    

My only regret is I didn't have time to catch up with more friends in Paris.  Still Sally and I had a hilarious  meal at L'Atmosphère by the Canal St Martin, with some of the other Hen & Ink authors and illustrators,   Jeanne de Sainte Marie,  Sarah Towle,  Mina Witteman from Amsterdam,  and also a recent SCBWI member, Jion Shebani whose portfolio I had admired a few days before at the Winchester conference.