One of the highlights of the conference was getting to see Oxford-based writer and illustrator Mini Grey bring in a huge stack of original book artwork, dummy books, sketchbooks and tiny handmade books. I've been a fan of Mini's work for a long time; I love her textures, wonky perspectives, rough outlines and the clever way she manages to slip all sorts of comic-book design elements into picture books.
It was fabulous seeing the artwork all spread out, uncovered, so that we could examine in detail how she works. Illustrator Lynn Chapman and I were aghast at how much preparation time Mini must into her books, with multiple dummy books, full-colour detailed sketchbooks and more. She must create the book almost in full at least four times before the final version. Here's one of the dummy books for the cautionary tale Jim ('Cautionary tales are just a good excuse for a bloodbath', says Mini) and a book from Gulliver's Travels that she made as an art student.
Another excellent part of the weekend was going to a seminar with writer and illustrator Tim Hopgood. Tim started his career in magazines, first at i-D fashion magazine, then at Vogue (during the time Anna Wintour was over in Britain sorting it out). I'd admired some of his work before, but it was only when I saw it all together that I was really blown away by his terrific sense of design, typography and, well, just that we really like a lot of the same kinds of things. I got a real buzz from watching what he put on screen, then later when he brought out a bunch of books by other people from his collection and explained what he liked about them.
with Tim Hopgood
Even though they probably don't make a lot of sense to anyone other than me, you can still get a bit of a sense of Tim's talk from my notes:
Writer and illustrator Lynn Chapman gave a great talk about her work and the nuts and bolts of working in the picture book business. I loved these endpapers for her book with Jamie Rix, Giddy Goat, about a mountain goat. That made me remember how, possibly ten years ago, I wrote a book (never published) about urban mountain goats who live in Seattle, and recalled how much fun they were to draw.
Lynn was great fun, very energetic, with this spiky hair that I think makes her look so much like the actress Zoe Wanamaker playing Madame Hooch, the Quidditch coach in the Harry Potter films. Go have a look at some of the sketchbook drawings she's posted on her website, good stuff. Lynn's also part of the Urban Sketchers online group, well worth joining if you like to sketch while you're out and about in town. Lynn's taken part in Sheffield Sketch Crawls; SCBWI coordinator John Shelley also plugged a London Sketch Crawl event on Friday the 26th, meeting at 10am at the Natural History Museum. Basically, for a Sketch Crawl, lots of people with sketchbooks meet up in one place, draw for an hour or so, move on a bit, draw for another hour, and carry on like this all day until finishing at the pub.
I was very intrigued how the writer Marcus Sedgwick, during a summer trip to Sweden, took inspiration for his upcoming novel, Midwinterblood from a mural in Stockholm's National Museum by Swedish painter Carl Larsson:
Carl Larsson's 'Midvinterblot'
Growing up in Seattle, a lot of my parents' friends were middle-aged and elderly Swedish immigrants who always had a lot of Carl Larsson artwork around their houses, and I've always loved his paintings and other contributions to the Arts and Crafts Movement. But most of his paintings feature tranquil domestic scenes, whereas this mural shows the moment just before a Norse king is sacrificed for three years of crop failure. (Read more about Midvinterblot here.)
Here's another look at that fantastic cake at the book party:
My publisher David Fickling had all 17 of us who had just launched books line up while he enthused dramatically, in his fab David Fickling way. Congratulations, all of us!
From left: David Fickling, Lee Weatherly, Candy Gourlay, Donna Reid Vann, Lucy Coats, Sarah McIntyre, Ellen Renner and Sheena Wilkinson. (Photo nicked off Teri Terry's Facebook page.)
The last time I met writer Graham Marks was in Birmingham at that Librarian Speed Dating thing (blogged half-way down here), so it was nice to meet him in a slightly less bizarre context. He's interviewing me in January for Write Away, which is a rather far-in-advance lunch date, but I'll look forward to it.
Here's lovely writer Lucy Coats. We spoke together on a panel, How to Sell Your Book, along with writer Jon Mayhew and Orion publicist Nina Douglas. Perhaps I was trying to follow Marcus's advice of 'don't be boring', but I think perhaps I slipped a bit too far into the controversial, and got quite a bit of feedback afterward. I think I was slightly weirded out, pretending to be this expert in selling books among all these writing veterans.
The other panel I shared with writers Candy Gourlay and Keren David, Social Networking: a blessing or a curse?. Candy and Keren talked much more about the marketing power of Facebook and Twitter, whereas I focused more on fun projects I'd been able to participate in via social networking sites, such as my Airship comics jam with David O'Connell, the SCBWI 2007 Lunch with Hubert comics jam (which inspired some of the characters in Vern and Lettuce) and LiveJournal's amazing Draw Yourself as a Teenager meme.
At the party I got to meet lovely illustrator Jess Mikhail, who recently signed on with the same agency and who is also illustrating a book for the writer of Morris the Mankiest Monster, Giles Andreae. It was funny comparing our strikingly similar career paths.
Here's David Fickling on a panel, just about to go volcanic, next to Carousel magazine reviewer David Blanch.
Kayt Bochenski, senior picture book designer at Harper Collins and writers Candy Gourlay and Jon Mayhew
Writers Chris d'Lacey and Clare Bell
Candy Gourlay (author of amazing novel Tall Story... go read it now!) and I volunteered to room together, something which has happened several times since a very fun trip to the Bologna Book Fair a few years ago. Candy's one of my favourite people and we are both blogging geeks. Here's us attempting to blog in bed, except we couldn't because some rascal next door named Marcus was hogging all the hotel's bandwidth.
Thanks so much to the amazing team of people who made this conference so wonderful! And special thanks to writer Margaret Carey, who won this year's Outstanding Contribution Award for all the organisational work she's put in over the years. Great job, everyone!