My new substack
A new platform, an update on my academic work and what's coming up next...
I’ve moved to Substack!
I have just moved my blog into substack. I’m not quite sure if it is a blog or a newsletter or a bit of both, but I’m aiming for a bit of both. Although you can access my older posts here now, I thought I would introduce myself to those who are new.
This newsletter follows me on my journey towards becoming a children’s author and illustrator. I am a mum of two young girls and have been a landscape artist for many many years. I lost my mojo a little just before lockdown, galleries are brutal and I found my interest waning having never quite been able to make full time wage from it. For my day job I work in improvement and change at a university so I’m pretty organised and methodical - skills which come in handy in any career really. There are lots of things I enjoy about my job but I’ve always wanted to work in a more creative environment.
During lockdown, like many others, I started focusing on activities that would keep me sane whilst dealing with homeschool and all the scary things going on in the world. Some took up exercise with Joe, others (including me) ate lots of cake, some bought hot tubs and paddling pools, others took up posting on YouTube. I started writing stories. Writing is something I loved at school but didn’t really continue after I focused on the art. It felt great to be writing again. I wrote about castles we visited, walks in the countryside, rockpooling, trampolines and many more things. With my artistic background I thought I must have a go at illustrating my stories. Being a landscape artist I only drew buildings and scenery, I have never drawn people. So my learning curve was a big one so I focused my mind and got started. And there my picture book journey began. Having read so many picture books to my girls I suddenly realised that writing and illustration is where I would like my life to go.
Since then, I have completed a number of courses through MATS, Curtis Brown, SCBWI, Golden Egg and then I started an MA in illustration. On this page I will be sharing a lot about my academic journey as well as my illustration journey because I’m finding the research just as fascinating as the art.
I’m currently working on several picture books and will fully produce two as part of my MA which I’m looking forward to. Holding a completed book in my hands will undoubtedly be a tremendous feeling of achievement.
I think pretty soon I will start sending out to agents (and publishers accepting submissions) but up to now I have been focused on improving my craft and keeping all the plates spinning with kids and a full time job.
This is one image from one of the books I’m hoping to publish. It is about a little girl who is bullied at school - a subject pretty close to me - but I’ll talk about that another time.
My Academic Focus
As part of my MA I needed to focus my studies on a particular theme which would complement, inform and improve my illustration practice. I chose gender representation in picture books as my theme and have been fascinated by the research. I needed to do some primary research as part of my course and I thought I could combine this with seeking feedback on one of my stories. I went to a local school and had the great pleasure of reading my story to a class of children and I got them to draw what they think the characters could look like. The results were enlightening. I will do another post about this once I have visited more schools and analysed the information. But for now, here is a picture of me reading my story Pedro and the Pigeon to the class. Seeing them smile back at me, eyebrows raised, was a delight.
Professionals Survey…can you help me with my research?
Last term I circulated a survey for parents to seek their views on gender representation in picture books. This term I have circulated a similar survey for industry professionals - authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, librarians, booksellers and more. There is still time to complete the survey if you fit the bill and would like to take part. You can find the survey here.
A big focus for me these past few weeks has been to prepare submissions and a portfolio for the SCBWI conference. Fellow Scoobie (as it’s affectionately known) members will understand that I have bags under my eyes the size of shopping trolleys from the late nights getting my submissions in order. I’ve booked two 1-1s with agents and have produced dummy books for two of my stories. I’ve also been preparing images to put in the fancy leather portfolio I bought for the portfolio table. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have some success or at least get some great feedback I can use. Overall, I’m looking forward to soaking up information like a sponge and see friends I haven’t seen for a while.
As well as my own books and my studies, the image below is one that I produced for the recent SCBWI Art Director’s Brief - an exercise where an art director (this year it was Libby Hamilton from Rocketbird Books) gives a sample project to work on. The artists produce roughs, the art director makes comments so that final work can be produced and submitted. She then gives feedback on the final drawings. I like this exercise as it gives you a topic you may not have chosen, a much-needed deadline and another way to get valuable feedback on your work.
Since following one or two illustrators I know on substack I have stumbled across many other writers and articles that I have enjoyed so I thought substack must be the place to be. I think it is important to highlight the great work of others so the other substacks I’m enjoying right now include, , , and. I will no doubt be recommending more pages as I find them.
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Yay! Happy to see you on here and thank you for recommending my substack! I look forwarding to reading your posts!