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If you know anything about me, it's that I LOVE drawing. I draw the pictures in my books with Philip Reeve. But here's an interesting thing: Philip has worked as an illustrator, too! We both love to draw and write, and it's great when you can switch over and do both.

If your kids are between the ages of four and ten, they can do just that, and take part in a story competition with us! Submit their story of up to 500 words, add an awesome picture, and you could win prizes, including a trip for four to Dubai! Visit the Emirates Flight Time Stories website for details and a gallery of some of the entries.

Emirates asked Philip for his Top Tips for writing a story (which you can read in my previous post) and they asked me about DRAWING a story.

My TOP TIPS for drawing a story!

1. Character: Focus on making your main character look awesome, but think about keeping it fairly simple because if you make a whole book, you'll be drawing that character over and over again.

2. Setting: Think about where you're going to draw your character. In a forest? At the beach? In space? On top of a wall in China? (Yes, that's me pretending to be a Chinese scribe.)

3. Extra details: Your character might have a plaster on its head, a moustache, attract a swarm of flies, or be holding a magazine. Often it's these little details that will make a picture funny or interesting.

4. Colours: The colours you choose can set a mood for your picture: a blue background can suggest night-time, sadness, or cold. A yellow or orange background might look joyful, hot or full of energy.

5. It's okay!: Don't worry about making things perfect: We all need to make lots of bad drawings before we learn to make better ones. Try your hardest, but then be kind to your artwork! We all make mistakes and need hugs, so if your artwork isn't how you want it, give it a little hug or a pat and tell it everything's all right. (This is totally true, I really do this!)

See 5-year-old Tony Gibson's story in the Emirates Flight Time Stories online gallery!
I’ve been running about on stage at various book festivals and wearing flamboyant costumes with my co-author Philip Reeve for several years now. We talk about our books together, but if we invite the audience to ask questions, there’s often one that pops up: ‘Is there any news about Peter Jackson turning Mortal Engines into a film?’

But ten years since the film was first discussed, Reeve has a new answer: YES. Peter Jackson IS going to make a Mortal Engines film!

Photo by Sarah Reeve

You can read Philip's new blog post about it here. Cue mega-excitement among long-time fans! And Scholastic UK’s decision to reissue David Frankland’s original covers for an anniversary edition really starts to make sense. From what I understand, it will be shot in New Zealand, with a script by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Christian Rivers will be directing, and it's first film but he was an assistant director on The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, so he'll know his stuff.

mortal engines
Covers by David Frankland

Some links to breaking news, starting with Peter Jackson's Facebook page, follewed by:


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I'd never visited the Midlands town of Loughborough before, so when my Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair co-author Philip Reeve and I visited for their Loogabarooga Festival, I was keen to explore. I think this was our highlight, a statue known as Sock Man:

I looked up Sock Man on Wikipedia, 'a bronze statue celebrating Loughborough's association with the hosiery industry'. Sock Man really does look terribly pleased with his sock, and I gave him a little massage.

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Thanks to everyone who took part in interpreting Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting for the Virtual Studio's Thursday #PortraitChallenge!

Feel free to jump in late with these challenges, it's just fun having paintings picked out to study. (Thanks to Philip Reeve for pointing me to this particular painting!)

There's a higher-resolution version of the painting over on Wikipedia, if you want to study it more closely.

The titles of these paintings we examine always make me wonder. I felt a bit sorry for 'The Ugly Duchess' we studied last time; I don't think we'd officially label a painting of an old woman 'ugly' these days. And I had no idea what 'Bashi-Bazouk' meant other than one of Captain Haddock's swear words in Tintin comics.

Image suppied by @Le_Woodman on Twitter.

The Met in New York interprets 'Bashi-barouk' as 'headless' and implies the artist dressed the soldier in textiles he had lying about the studio, not that the soldier would have owned such a fine silk outfit. I looked up the Wikipedia entry for 'Bashi-Bazouk' and it felt very one-sided. It says the word means, literally, 'damaged head' or 'crazy head' and was used to describe mercenaries of the Ottoman army. It notes these people were particularly known for their 'lack of discipline' and that 'their uncertain temper occasionally made it necessary for the Turkish regular troops to disarm them by force'. But it also says that they weren't paid, given any uniform or badges like the other soldiers and they just had to plunder what they could. Which doesn't make for the greatest morale, I'd say. Reading between the lines, I'd say the Bashi-bazouk had a pretty rough time.

Edit: And from what bunn pointed out, some of them gave a pretty rough time, too. Unpaid troops are a VERY BAD IDEA. (See the Batak massacre if you have a stout constitution.)

Edit: These two kids' entries came in late but they're too terrific not to include: 'Bashi as an insect' by Alec, age 7, and the second by Morris.
If you have a child between the ages of four and ten, have you thought about encouraging them to submit a travel-themed story and cover image for the Emirates Flight Time Stories competition? The deadline is midnight, 6 Nov, and you can check out the prizes and view some of the stories already submitted here on their new website! (One of them's about Colin the Crab, possibly inspired by the character in Oliver and the Seawigs!)

Emirates asked my co-author Philip Reeve and me to share some secrets to coming up with awesome tales. Here are some of Philip's Top Tips for writing a story!

1. Write about something that really interests you - a setting or an idea that you really love (or maybe really hate!) If you're interested in it, hopefully the readers will be, too.

2. Start with your main character wanting something - they need to go somewhere, or get something, or escape from something, or meet someone. Maybe they're just lonely and need to make a friend, or maybe they want to find some buried treasure. How they get what they want will be your story.

3. But they don't get what they want straight away! There are problems to overcome along the way. Perhaps they meet other characters who help them, or try to stop them. It's like a board game: there's a start point and an end point, and what makes it interesting is the obstacles along the way.

4. Don't worry too much about the words. Just tell the story. Then, when you've finished, go back and see if you can tell it better. Does it make sense? Could it be shorter? Can you make it funnier (if it's a funny story) or sadder (if it's a sad one)?

5. Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Surprise yourself! Writing a story should be a bit like reading a story - you'll want to find out what happens on the next page.

Check back soon for my top tips about drawing a story! And find out more about the competition at emiratesflighttimestories.com.

Read the rest of 10-year-old William Miller's story here