Monday, 8 December 2014

Wonders and 'dedications' at the French children's book fair (Salon du Livre Jeunesse, Montreuil, Paris)

I have enthused more than once before after signing my books at the inspiring treasure trove of books that is the French national children's book fair (the Salon du Livre Jeunesse).  What a paradise for lovers of children's books, old and young!  Surely it is one of the reasons why French children's publishing thrives. 
Is there an enterprising someone who could dig out a nice big exhibition space and rally British children's publishers here to create the equivalent - a national 'selling' fair for the UK children's book market? It would be such a big boost for the UK publishing industry, bookshops included.  
French publishers at the Montreuil work with different independent bookshops who run the sales tills at each of their stands at the book fair.  The point is that unlike at the London Book Fair, publishers could actually sell books (and apps and a few related products) directly to parents and children of all ages (babies too!) school groups (in France they come in their droves to visit the fair, sometimes with special book tokens to spend) as well as teachers, librarians, book lovers and art students, not to mention us authors and illustrators.

Here's my illustrator's eye view from the Bayard stand, as armed with coloured pencils and stickers I got ready to sign my new book,  Bridget's Book of English  (That's the title my French publishers chose).  It's a large board book full of flaps and details - and English words - showing a funny furry family going through their day. On the back is a QR code and link to a site where I pronounce every word online - and be warned - I even sing the few songs in the the book.  

How to sign a big shiny board book? Well I did a drawing on sticky-backed paper, stuck it onto the door on the right here alongside the name of the child and my signature.

 Regis Faller, the creator of Polo,  was signing just to my left.  Polo is the adventurous dog whose exploits feature in brilliant wordless comic books for pre-readers.  Polo is a big success in France and also won a prize in the US.  I told Regis that I was lucky enough to witness our Bayard editor Isabelle Bézard presenting it at our SCBWI Bologna conference some years back and as a result the great editor Neal Porter, of Roaring Brook bought the US rights for Polo.

At the 2011 Bayard stand at the fair, I signed my books alongside a very popular friend,  Hervé Tullet. Some of his books were on a table behind me.  Bayard sold coeditions to Tate UK/ Abrams US of my books and Herve's.  It was great to watch Hervé perform and interact with kids and adults of all ages at the Tate when I first moved back to London.  He is amazing - and he continues to create stunningly innovative books which are causing a stir in the US too.   Bayard published one of his first big doodle books in the same format as my Petites Mains Dessinent (The Big Book for Little Hands) which - hooray....
...has just been reprinted with a new cover in France. So I signed this book too. 

Oh - here is Hervé - in one of his books!  
Pity this is the only caught glimpse I caught of him at the fair.

Authors and illustrators were kept busy everywhere -  including comic artist Emile Bravo (I love his Trois Ours Nains series) in the middle here signing at the Seuil stand.
Art, doodles and drawing books were everywhere too this year - in books and on backcloths. Above is the Sarbacane stand which published one of my favourite books this year by Serge Bloch
It felt appropriate that the art and new kids book publishers Thames & Hudson had a stand at Montreuil.  (Wish I had had enough battery left to photograph their wares!)
Wow- was the fair busy!  Nice that the Paris libraries had a suitably quiet corner stand of their own for kids and adults to relax in and  browse.
Monday, the last day is the 'professional' day, when more adults attend than kids.
I wonder how many of the people here with their noses buried in books, are teachers and librarians buying their stock for the year.
Ouch! My Iphone battery went flat too soon and I missed taking a photo of my other friend Marc Boutavant who was signing all over the place. Queues for him were huge so I will have to wait to get my latest Marc Boutavant treasures signed when I see him for another fun dinner chez lui or hey - let's get him to London.
The day after I signed at Montreuil I had fun at my first fully fledged Bridget's Book 
workshop at Anglofun.  
But more about that next post!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Back on the blog!

Does anyone other than a fellow illustrator, have any idea how long it can take to be 'fresh and spontaneous' on paper?
Just SOME of the Tiz & Ott trial covers above my desk - obsessive moi? 
I did so many versions of the cover for my next book, TIZ AND OTT'S BIG DRAW  and there was always some (admittedly often tiny) thing that was just not quite right - a bit stiff, not fresh enough. Early this morning, in desperation, I totally redrew and re-painted the front cover, for the umpteenth time.  And this time it worked! The cover took less than an hour to finish. That said, days of struggle lay behind that short burst. By noon I was showing it to my lovely editor at the Tate and it worked for her too - oof!
Tate Publishing is right next door to Tate Britain so I popped in afterwards for another burst of the great Late Turnershow, Painting Set Free.  Talk about fresh!  Vortexes of light radiating out from storms and skies...

So here I am, back on the blog, to share some good news and some work done this year.
I was so surprised and honoured to find that this picture from TIZ AND OTT'S BIG DRAW
Tiz and Ott brushed and doodled (...) scrawled and splattered.....and together they made their own way....
TIZ AND OTT's BIG DRAW ©Bridget Marzo
was selected for the prestigious Association of Illustrators 2014 Shortlist in the children's book category.  Great company - including favourites like Katherina Manolessou, Nadia Shireen and my fellow SCBWI member Julia Woolf.
Chris Haughton was the category winner and deservedly so. By chance I had written about him not long before for Varoom - focusing on one of my favourite illustration topics, empathy.
This rainbow picture above has also been selected to tour with the juried Illustrator Showcase which opens at the SCBWI British Isles Conference in Winchester this Saturday November 1st.
A few prints will be on sale there for the charity War Child. It will then tour next summer to Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle.

The rainbow follows the storm which Tiz and Ott whip up as they fight over their crayon and brush and get carried away.  When I painted this picture months back, I hadn't looked at a Turner storm since I was a teenager.  But something must have sunk in - not that I am comparing myself to the master I should add!
Tiz and Ott are carried away.  TIZ AND OTT's BIG DRAW ©Bridget Marzo

Oh and Bridget's Book of English is out with Bayard Jeunesse France.  This Saturday I'll be showing it at the SCBWI Mass Book Launch party.  It's a book of 200 first English words following a furry family through the day with 30 lift-the flaps - AND on the back there is a QR code link on line to me pronouncing every single word - I kind of sing a couple of songs too.  I'll create a proper web site page for it as soon as I have a moment and before I sign it at the French Children's Bookfair in Montreuil, Paris on Saturday November 29, 2014 and do a workshop for the Anglofun schools in Paris the following day.

In September I was asked to blog on the Words and Pictures  about working for children's magazines, just as I was finishing  illustrations to  a picture book length story in record time for Belles Histoires, the French children's magazine published by Bayard.
Here's what my studio wall looked like in July...
Roughs for Belles Histoires story 'Princesse Alice perd son dent' -  ink, brush and wash scanned in with texts 
There are lots of cats in the story - that was the easy part - but I've never been asked to illustrate a spoilt princess  - a new challenge, let alone an indulgent king talking to a mouse - all in costume.

Last news but not least is I have broken my own record doing more creative workshops than ever before with children this year in schools, libraries in and out of the UK - and I love it workshopping.  But more about all that later!
My books ready for signing at the British Book in Paris - Bridget's Book of English and a reprint of Petites Mains Dessinent just out with a new blue cover

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 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!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Bridget's Book of English for the French and World Book Week

Proposed cover for my flap book of first English words for Bayard, France

Barely landed from a wonderfully inspiring and long-saved up for trip to New York than I was off doing workshops with budding authors and illustrators under 10 years old, at the Chelsea Young Writers Group.
Then to talks for World Book Week at the brand new Artizan Street Library in the City, back near my home ground of East London.  What wonderfully attentive kids!

So many children here, in East as well as West London, are recent immigrants.  I can relate to them.  I have an early memory of being in a French playground surrounded by children staring at me (at best looking concerned) because I couldn't understand them.  I think it's that feeling of being different, estranged, that made me want to come up with a book specfically about recognizing words through pictures. And a lift-the-flap book that's fun to play with, rather than a manual. I want the furry family of whatdyoucallems to be welcoming for any kid anywhere.  Can't wait to see the final maquette for this book when I go to the Bologna Book Fair in less than 2 weeks!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Judith Kerr & Shirley Hughes in conversation at the Society of Authors

So glad I braved wet, windy London (streets jam-packed last night due to a tube strike) to see Judith Kerr and Shirley Hughes in conversation at the Society of Authors. Feel I should share some nuggets for those that couldn't make it.  A big thanks to the Society of Authors for making it happen!
left to right Shirley Hughes, host Ann Sebba and Judith Kerr

Born in 1923 and 1927 respectively, with many classic picture books to their names,  these two world famous author-illustrators could be resting on their laurels but far from it.  They are still very much working, excited by future projects.  Such lively, lateral thinkers, such wit and emotional intelligence!  A true inspiration for us all.

I've been to so many talks by prize-winning picture book authors and illustrators at SCBWI conferences and such  Often, and perhaps surprisingly, picture book authors avoid any reference to their child audience in their speeches.  Some even assert that they don't think of kids at all, creating for themselves or for their own child selves. This talk stood out in that both Kerr and Hughes clearly related to their main readership - children - as well as to their own childhood.  

How did they come up with characters?    Shirley Hughes said it all came from sketchbooks. Alfie, the perennial pre-schooler just appeared fully formed in a sketch, and was very anxious to get into a story. She was conscious that Alfie's books are for an age group that can't yet read so a good deal of the story is in the pictures.  His friend Bernard,  she said, is the kind of kid, she said that only a mother could love, the kind who at 16 will get the girl.  They struggle with things that all young children struggle with, doing up laces, leaving their comfort blanket behind to go to a party... Less about her own children, Hughes would  lurk in parks watching and drawing kids move, "how they run and scatter like starlings..."

Judith Kerr
Kerr's characters were first inspired by cat.  She'd longed for a cat as a child and couldn't have one until she had grown up and settled down.  Mog was the first of nine cats she has had, including a truly weird cat who hated heights.
File:The Tiger who came to tea.jpg The Tiger who came to tea was her only book which started with the story.  She told it to her daughter every night long before she wrote it down.  And when she and her daughter went to London Zoo, they didn't think of tigers biting but just marvelled at their orange stripes.  It's good said Kerr to include things you like drawing in stories. Do avoid writing about things you don't enjoy drawing!   Kerr confessed she killed Mog off after 16 books, before she informed her publisher.

What of their experience of war time?  Judith Kerr's novel,  When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit is based on  her own childhood fleeing Germany to Switzerland then France and London during the Blitz. Her life-affirming child's perspective offsets the underlying gloom of her family's situation. When they fled to Paris, Judith told her father that she enjoyed being a refugee.

Shirley Hughes found childhood on Merseyside during the Blitz extremely boring if not frightening at times.  Barbed wire, not much to do.  She escaped into stories.  I look forward to reading Shirley Hughes's novel Hero on a Bicycle. Inspired by a true story, it's set in Florence during WW2.    Hughes is delighted what the internet can do thanks to a site that provides children and anyone interested with more historical background to the story.

What of the business, the process?  Both said they started by analyzing other picture books, copying out and counting out pages, though Judith confessed she counted wrong at first.  Both said how lucky they are to have great editors - how important the partnership is.  Judith Kerr confessed that she dropped her agent when she told her she was "using too much paper" to write a story, and since then has used the Society of Authors legal advisors to check over her contracts.

Kerr touched a familiar chord in me, talking of the worry when you finish a book - what next?  The casting about for to get it right?  It takes a long time.  And unless the story is right, it's hard to draw.  

Shirley Hughes appreciated the Society of Authors for the community it offered in what is an otherwise pretty solitary profession. And when she was on the S of A committee in the 1970s, she had defended illustrators' rights in getting equal payment for library loans from the Public Lending Right - thank you Shirley Hughes!

Back to children. Shirley Hughes read out some priceless letters from children and really appreciated teachers encouraging children to send them.  One boy wrote "Dear Shirley Huge (sic) - I think your books are great but my friend doesn't like them. Are you published wildly (sic) abroad?"
Shirley ended by turning the roomful of us authors into children. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the front row to see her draw to a rhyming ditty about Oswald and Jessie who were terribly messy...

I felt like a kid leaving a party.  And now I'll show off my going-away gifts to myself with signed plates in them by each author.
 Judith Kerr's Creatures starts
"There are drawings and there are illustrations.  I first discovered the difference aged four and a half at my German kindergarten".
Coming up to her 90th birthday  the book is a big treasure trove whic tells the full and amply illustrated story of her life and work from childhood to her 'last years': roughs, manuscripts, photos and illustrations, fabric designs, cat sketches, oils, thumbnails...

And I can't wait to read Shirley Hughes and daughter Clara Vuillaumy's  beautifully designed and illustrated chapter book, Dixie O'Day In the Fast Lane.
 How much fun it has been, Hughes said, to come up with ideas with her daughter Clara.  There are more books to come.
When the young Clara  came home from school, she would use up the discarded watercolour from her mum's palette.  In short she'd provide the tools but leave her to get on with her own thing. My own artist father did the same thing.   Clara's illustrations are very different from her mother's - plus she can draw cars which Shirley Hughes does not like drawing.
Their work and Judith Kerr's too is bursting with vitality, wit, generosity.  Their conversation was testament to that too. Precious ingredients for picture book creators!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Got to dance with Tate Publishing and Bologna and all.

Got to dance, Tiz and Ott!
New contract signed with Tate Publishing UK for Tiz & Ott's Big Draw due Spring 2015.
More to post later...meanwhile just got to dance despite the rain!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Rain, rain - time for a rhyme!

Rain in London, floods out west.  Here are a couple of illustrations I've just done for Storybox magazine for young kids.

A belated "Bonne année!" with a bit of Bridget's Book of English.

Worked hard over the holidays and finished a lift-the-flap word book for young children for Bayard France. Bridget's Book of English is the French title. (Bridget with a French accent sounds like Brid-Jette and I'm told, sounds sweeter to a French ear than Brigitte).
I used coloured pencils for the first time in years. Here's a bit of the classroom scene for anyone who lands here who missed my earlier wishes!