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Last week my picture book co-creator Alan MacDonald and I visited Chestnuts Primary School in Tottenham, north London as part of the run-up to the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards ceremony. (It's always great to have an excuse to hang out with Alan!)

Two fab publicists from Scholastic UK, Bea Fitzgerald and Kate Graham came along with us and wrote up our event on their blog, which you can read here!


Big thanks to the school's excellent librarian, Tanya Efthymiou, who organised an enthusiastic welcome team for us!

Click here to see photos from the Lollies award ceremony!

laugh out loud book awards 2017

Yesterday's Laugh Out Loud Book Awards were a very glitzy affair! I thought it was just going to be the standard thing where Michael Rosen says a few words, they pass out the awards and maybe show a bit of video material. But no, it was a big amazing variety show! Here's my picture book writer Alan MacDonald with a giant version of our shortlisted book, The Prince of Pants.

the prince of pants

And check out the venue! I'd never even heard of the Troxy, a glorious old Art Deco theatre near Limehouse station. These awards are a big deal; the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards, or 'Lollies' took over when the Roald Dahl Funny Prize was discontinued, celebrating the funniest children's books. And while lots of grownups like to talk about books that make them cry, when surveyed, kids overwhelmingly have said that they want to read books that make them laugh.

troxy theatre

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It's fabulous seeing schools get on board and get creative with our Reeve & McIntyre book Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair! But we realised not everyone knows how the story origially came about...

jinks and o&apos;hare funfair repair

Even though we call ourselves 'co-authors', a lot of people assume Philip Reeve thought up the idea and wrote the story, and then I illustrated it. But that's not how we work! For each story, we've done it a bit differently, but we always like to think up ideas together, often starting with Philip asking me, 'What would you like to draw?' Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair was one of our earliest ideas, and started with a dare. Since Philip was mostly writing by then, and I was mostly drawing, I dared Philip to make a four-page comic strip with me for The Phoenix Comic: I would write the story and then he would draw the comic. So I wrote out a script about these funfair repair aliens, thinking it would be a great set-up for future stories if we wanted to create them: rides could endlessly go wrong on Funfair Moon, for various bizarre reasons, and need fixed.

In the end, Philip did some of the writing, too, because while he was drawing it, he thought of funny little details and we changed the script a bit to accommodate them. Then after he did the black ink lines, I went in and added the colour in Photoshop on my computer. And here it is, from Issue 44, all four pages! (Do check out The Phoenix Comic website for a fabulous weekly magazine and compiled books of their family-friendly comics!)

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One of the problems illustrators face in publishing careers is infantalisation. Illustrators often work on books aimed at children, so they're assumed somehow to be childish themselves. It doesn't help that many illustrators are too scared too speak up about ways the industry could be improved, for fear of being branded 'difficult' and losing future work; their voices and opinions as professional business people are lost in discussions swirling around the publishing industry, and perhaps some people read this silence as naivety, immaturity or lack of professionalism.

So I was very pleased when I got an e-mail from Nigel Roby, owner of The Bookseller, our influential trade magazine that helps sets the tone for how non-illustrators in the industry talk about illustrators. He wrote to say they were setting up a new Illustrator of the Year Award, as part of their annual British Book Awards ceremony (also known as 'The Nibbies'). It's not the same as other illustrator awards: all the other ones I know of are based on judges' subjective appreciation of an illustrator's artwork, or based on votes by children, while this one's a business-focused award based on the illustrator's selling power. This kind of evaluation is standard in most industries, but something I'm not aware illustrators have ever had.

Of course our jobs aren’t ONLY about making money. No one likes to think of illustrators as purely money-grubbing. But if no one in business is aware that illustrators make publishers any money, a lot of illustrators won’t be taken seriously, credited or paid appropriately. And we'll get less good UK talent, and fewer diverse voices, as illustrators who can't make it financially leave the profession, or never even start. We need to be held up in the same way as other business people in the industry if we expect to be treated as professionals. So this is a positive move; thank you, Nigel and The Bookseller team! This article's not behind a paywall, so you can read the whole article online here. And here's a link for the award's criteria.

In the article I mention illustrator sales data. Illustrators don’t talk much about data issues because we don’t subscribe to Nielsen; it’s tricky to gauge the impact of something we don’t use or see. But the information they give booksellers (and journalists and other people) has tremendous impact on which of our books will or won’t appear in shops. We need to be aware. You can read more about these issues in this #PicturesMeanBusiness update I gave in December to the Association of Illustrators for their website, but here are some key bullet points:

You can follow Nigel Roby on Twitter - @NigelRoby - The Bookseller - @thebookseller - and keep an eye on the awards on the #Nibbies hashtag. And big cheer to Tamsin Rosewell - @autumnrosewell - and Judy Brook from Kenilworth Books - @KenilworthBook - who sent Nigel a letter recommending the award. Thanks for your support for illustrators!

dartmoor christmas 2017

Once again, the Reeve family adopted Stuart and me (waif and stray) for Christmas, and Dartmoor looked pure magic. Here's an excited Frodo the poodle in a light snowfall we had on Boxing Day.

Philip and Sarah Reeve had discovered a new, shorter way to get to Watern Tor, and took us there, where for the first time I got to see the original Thurlestone, the name of which inspired the villainous rambling isle in our first book together, Oliver and the Seawigs. (The name's listed in 'the Perambulation of 1240', which you can read about here.)

One of the coolest things about Dartmoor are the tors, the grouping of enormous rocks at the top of hills, like some sort of giants' modern art gallery. The only thing is that up there it can be VERY WINDY.

We stayed for six days and went on a hike almost every day, so we got to see Dartmoor looking very different as the light shifted and clouds and fog did weird and wonderful things. I'm going to post lots of photos here, mostly for myself, so I can go back later and remember what we got up to. (But come along for the ride if you like!)

Here are our fabulous hosts Sarah and Philip Reeve, a big cheer for them. They're very good about knowing just when to break out flasks of coffee and mince pies. :)

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Sarah McIntyre

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