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SELFIE WITH CAMILLA! ^____^


Photo by Sarah Reeve

Yesterday the Summer Reading Challenge team took me and the Medusa fascinator to Exeter Library to talk and draw with children from St Leonard’s Primary School ...and the Duchess of Cornwall! (Camilla is no stranger to the Medusa hat; you can see hers on a Royal Hats blog here.) I talked with the kids about the Mythical Maze characters I'd drawn, then they helped me draw a four-panel comic about an yeti-Medusa adventure, showing them how easy it is to make a story. And we all drew Medusa. (One kid had something like 46 snakes on his Medusa - it looked like an explosion!)



I talked a bit about how we are still creating myths and legends; no one can second-guess which will be the stories remembered for thousands of years, but we can try our creative best and who knows, perhaps people will still remember our characters for generations to come. I introduced them to my Oliver and the Seawigs co-author Philip Reeve and we pointed out the little Sea Monkey on the poster, saying it was our contribution this year to myth making.



I invited Camilla to come help me draw a Sea Monkey, and she was such a good sport about it! I liked her monkey, it's quite ferocious! I asked her if she wanted to draw it smiling or roaring, and she said, 'ROARING!'.






From The British Monarchy channel

And we all sang the Sea Monkey song! Camilla said she wouldn't be able to get the chorus our of her head, and I apologised. (It does have an annoying catchiness to it.) The Duchess has a real heart for children and getting kids reading, and we were super-chuffed she could come along.


Photo by Sarah Reeve

By the time we got back to London, people were already sending us links to news reports! Camilla wasn't the only one giggling, after I'd read this Daily Mail article by Rebecca English:







(Actually, there are more than 800,000 children taking part, not 8000, but otherwise it's a good write-up of the day.)
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nine world geekfest events!


Hey, I've been hearing awesome things about London's Nine Worlds Convention, running from 8-10 Aug. And the guy who contacted me about doing events was Jared Shurin, who's one of my favourite people in book world. (And I've only met him at Kitschies events a few times; I mostly watch him and his partner Anne Perry getting up to antics online.) Anyway, check it out, there's loads going on. So much, in fact, that a lot of people are booking hotel rooms near Heathrow and staying all weekend.



While you're there, come along to my Cakes in Space event with my co-author Philip Reeve. (And it may be the first time a limited number of advance copies of the books will be available for sale.) I'm getting up to a few things:

Saturday: MONSTERCLASS: Comics 5.00pm - 6.15pm, Room 30
Explore comics with illustrators Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve, and get tips on making your own. Intimate masterclass, max 12 people.

Saturday: Working with Artists: drawing up professional relationships, 6.45pm - 8.00pm
County A
How can artists get the best from their writers, and vice versa? Advice about making great things.
Q&A, with Sarah McIntyre, Emma Vieceli, Gillian Redfearn, Djibril al-Ayad, Adam Christopher


Sunday: Food in Science Fiction, 1.30-2.45pm
How do aliens eat? What do they eat? Do they eat at all? Will they want to eat us? Food is essential to human survival and to the survival of most everything we normally think of as living, so in any journey to an alien world it can never be forgotten. Our panel discuss the different ways in which we might grow or construct food in the future, as well as the role food plays in science fiction of all kinds
Panel: Sarah McIntyre, Gareth L. Powell and Aliette de Bodard


Sunday: Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre: CAKES IN SPACE!, 11.45am - 1.00pm, Room 38
Robots! Spaceships! Killer Cupcakes! Batty Battenbergs! Explore the furthest reaches of storytelling and drawing with this space-suited dream team!
The bestselling authors of Oliver and the Seawigs turn their attention to outer space in their new book CAKES IN SPACE. Grab your pencil and get set for zany adventure, in this stage show / creative masterclass / collaborative singing / storytelling spectacular!
#CakesinSpace


Front endpapers for Cakes in Space, published this September by Oxford University Press

london YA lit con 2014


Hatted up, suited and booted: just another day heading into the office...



Ha ha! It's so much fun when other people dress up, not just me. Yesterday I went to YA Lit Con (that's Young Adult Literature Convention, or #YALC), held as part of the London Film and Comic Con at Earl's Court in London. On the pavement outside, this lady in her fine threads won my heart... until she shot an arrow straight through it. Aiee!



Seriously, where else but these sorts of conventions do you get tens of thousands of mostly-unaccompanied kids and teenagers together in one place - many with MASSIVE WEAPONS - and have such a well-behaved, literate group of people? These people LOVE stories, and they often don't just want to read them, but become actual characters in these new myths and legends. I love this so much. Here's Martin Chilton's coverage of YALC in The Telegraph:



When I got to the Green Room, I went a little crazy with taking selfies with lots of people there. Steve Cole was super-chuffed to get his photo taken with one of the Doctor Who characters, Paul McGann. (Steve had written BBC books starring Paul's Doctor from '97-'99.) To be honest, I had a bit of a crush on him in the film Withnail and I; there are even two pages in Morris the Mankiest Monster based on screen shots I took of that film.



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Snakes alive! This year's Summer Reading Challenge is off to a great start! Here are a bunch of us at the British Library launch, being our usual quiet, demure selves.



That's illustrator-animator Steve May on the left (who did a great job animating the Mythical Maze trailer), writer-illustrator Liz Pichon, some tall chick in a hat, writer (and former actor, I discovered) Guy Bass, and writer Helena Pielichaty. Oh, and here's Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman! (She's also been super-busy coordinating this weekend's London YA Lit Con.)



One of the things we were asked to do was to make a video saying which book we'd like to recommend to people doing the Summer Reading Challenge. I chose my studio mate Gary Northfield's book, The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs. It's a brilliant read: funny, and beautifully drawn.



Look out for the beautiful dark underwater scene that Gary carved out of a giant sheet of scratchboard! (Here's a peek at it from our studio.) Gary's the person who originally showed me how to do library events, he's ace.



Here you can see me talking about Teenytinysaurs. I think I might have been underwater, too, or just very tired, because I don't think I usually talk that slowly and deeply. Kind of weird sounding. But, hey... FLOURESCENT MEDUSA HAT.



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should you go to art college?


I get a lot of people asking me for advice about art college. Should they go? Will it help them get work in illustration, children’s books or comics?


Camberwell Alumni Day

I can’t answer for everyone; art college might be right for you, but wrong for someone else. But here are a few tips from my own experience and looking around at friends and fellow students who have gone to art college:

1. You don’t have to go straight from school to art college.

Everything you do goes into the pot of good experience. First, here’s my background: Illustration wasn’t my focus of study when I did my Bachelor’s Degree in the USA. I studied Russian language and literature at Bryn Mawr, and did what’s called a ‘minor degree’ in History of Art. The art faculty came to a private arrangement with me where they let me take a few more studio classes than was strictly part of the History of Art requirements, so I still got in quite a bit of painting and drawing. But this course of study was a great preparation for being an illustrator. When I took the study-abroad option for my third year, I found huge inspiration in the art galleries and museums of Moscow, and it gave me a unique focus to what would later inspire my own artwork. One of the international schools in Moscow didn’t have an art teacher, so I volunteered teaching art for half a day every Friday. This was rather frustrating, but SUCH good training for later, when I’d be leading workshops and standing on stage, presenting my book to crowds of up to a thousand kids. After my year of study in Moscow, I stayed for a second year, delaying my graduation, and worked at The Moscow Times newspaper as a full-time copy editor and occasional journalist. That experience taught me a lot about how the media works, how to catch mistakes in text, and how to write headlines and photo captions. (I often think of this blog as a series of photo captions.) I learned that I really didn’t want to be a journalist, but I love the freedom of blogging; I can write what I want, when I want, and if I make the occasional mistake, it’s unlikely anyone will care enough to sue me or fire me. I graduated with my BA in Russian in 1999 and didn't start art college until 2005. I had a career crisis, got depressed, couldn't draw properly, and starting college gave me just the boost I needed.


Some of my degree show artwork

Mature students rock. When I was on the MA Illustration course at Camberwell, the people who seemed to get the most out of the course were people who had already been working for some time in the field. They knew which questions to ask and how to set themselves challenging projects. People who had come straight from a BA course seemed slightly bewildered that no one was telling them what to do, and they didn’t know how to go out and supplement their training with outside courses, lectures and professional groups because they didn’t really know what they needed. It’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but with a few exceptions, I wouldn’t really recommend anyone go to art college before they’re 30. Study something else first, get work experience. And that way you’ll avoid being part of the young groups who are desperately worried about maintaining their artist image, wearing cool clothes, getting drunk, trying to learn how a washing machine works, etc. Mature students are almost always much more focused.

(I did tour two art college when I was 16 (Cornish in Seattle, and Emily Carr in Vancouver), vaguely thinking maybe I wanted to be a painter or a graphic designer. But I looked around at all the sneering students in their cool outfits and thought I would never fit in. And I cared about fitting in, I was 16. ...Ha ha, Bryn Mawr wasn't like that, it was wonderful Nerdville.)

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