But of course, the costumes are always the most fun things to blog. Don't these people look fabulous?
I was very impressed to turn around from book sales to see Marie Antoinette designing a pirate at one of our activity tables.
My writer for You Can't Scare a Princess!, Gillian Rogerson, lives in Leeds, so it was a great chance to meet up with her and run our Pirate Cove drop-in workshop. We weren't actively teaching, but we had lots of pirate sheets and supplies spread out on three big tables with chairs, so anyone of any age could have a sit down and draw pirates or comics or whatever they felt like. If you've ever spent all day walking around a comics fair, you'll know that sometimes you just want to sit down. And you've been seeing all this creative stuff around you, so it's very tempting to pick up pencils and get doodling. You can read Gillian's blog post about the festival here and here's our blog report from last year, when we ran the alien-themed Space Station.
Here's 8-year-old Aeryn, winner of our Best Pirate Competition. Congratulations, Aeryn! I've seldom seen someone her age so focused, she spent well over an hour putting together this colourful pirate princess.
The competition spanned both days of the festival. Here you can see Gillian and her daughter Eve at home, where we came up with a first-day shortlist.
If you missed the festival, or want to draw more pirates, you can download and print out the activity sheets, free, from my website here. (I have activity sheets for all the books I've done, so feel free to have a browse. If you're giving someone any of my books for Christmas, you can include the sheets to give them something fun to do on Christmas and Boxing Day.)
Here's a father-daughter team who did just that! They arrived at the festival with their pirates already printed out and beautifully watercoloured. So cool!!
And, of course, not only were Gillian and I running the Pirate Cove, but I had a book launching, along with the 54-creator-strong team who created the Nelson graphic novel! (You'll have seen A LOT about Nelson in my previous blog posts, and there are still two more London events for Nelson Week, tonight and tomorrow night.) Here's the stall of our publisher, Blank Slate Books, with our fab publicist Martin Steenton and Panel Borders comics journalist Alex Fitch.
You can read a review of Nelson in The Observer by Rachel Cooke, which my fab friend Bridget Hannigan brought by our tables so we could have a peek. Yay! (Bridget was a HUGE help to me, helping me pack up at the end and helping me haul gear to the train station with Woodrow. Thank you, Bridge!!)
I spoke on a panel of Nelson artists on Saturday; here's our moderator Dan Berry rapturously gazing at one of our two editors, Rob Davis.
Our other editor, Woodrow Phoenix, got delayed on his flight back from events in Buenos Aires, but fortunately creator Suzy Varty was able to step in and speak on the panel with us.
Since there are so many Nelson creators, and loads of them were at Thought Bubble, a lot of people took up the challenge to undertake a sort of Nelson Signing Bingo. My studio mate Lauren O'Farrell had made badges for the creators and went on a mission to find each one, give them their badge, and get a signature. So here's her book, and you can read her amusing blog post about the whole experience here (and find out how you can bag her fabulous Knitted Nel).
Here's one of Lauren's badges and Dan's beautifully decorated name tag.
It was great chatting with lots of the creators I hadn't met before. Dave Shelton and I go way back with The DFC, and he'd presented me with the Leeds Graphic Novel Award the day before, which he won last year for his Good Dog, Bad Dog. But here's Paul Peart-Smith, who set the 1979 leg of Nel's story at the Notting Hill carnival, using lots of orange and broad brush strokes.
And here's the 1985 slot's Jonathan Edwards, who had come over from Wales. You'd recognise his work from The Guardian Guide, and I love watching him chat with his (also super-talented) partner, Felt Mistress, on Twitter (even if they're sitting together in the same room... They're Jontofski and FeltMistress.)
Gillian wasn't able to run the Pirate Cove on Sunday, and I was a bit nervous about how I was going to manage by myself. But I needn't have worried, the magic of Thought Bubble kicked in and comics journalist Matt Badham came by and offered to help out. And he was brilliant! I'd thought of Matt as kind of a quiet, reflective sort of guy, but he knows everyone, and he had this wonderful, warm way of talking to people and almost hypnotising them into buying my comics! I've never had such good sales; thanks, Matt! And he's just generally a lovely guy to hang out with, and since I was too busy running the table to run around finding people I wanted to talk with, it was great getting the chance to catch up a bit with him. (Although even then, we were working pretty hard - I'll have to buy him lunch next time I'm near Manchester.)
Matt helped me a lot in the morning, but the other person who came by and worked as my fabulous assistant was young comics reviewer Molly Bruton! (You may have read some of her thoughts about comics on the Forbidden Planet International blog.) Molly was brilliant, she helped with book sales and kept all the drawing supplies neatly organised on the Pirate Cove drawing tables... You rock, Molly! Thank you so much! Here she is with her comics journalist dad, Richard Bruton (who also writes for the FPI blog and has started up a comics library at the school where he teaches), holding Nelson and my new China travel comic, Please Be Moral, Do Not Spit.
I wish I could have printed up more copies, it sold out in the first few hours on Saturday (and I gave one to my comics hero Posy Simmonds, who stopped by our table). I got a lovely e-mail from illustrator and comics artist Elliot Baggott, who offered to help me put together some more copies, so hopefully that will happen.
Elliot bought a copy of Please Be Moral, Do Not Spit and wrote me such a lovely response to it that I begged him to let me post it here, and asked to rewrite it to make it more of a review:
Recently I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Sarah McIntyre's China Travel Diaries at the Thought Bubble comic convention in Leeds.
I'm not entirely sure what I expected, but it blew me away from the very start. Drawn whilst on the road, Sarah dutifully documents the travelling adventures and mishaps that are an essential part of any holiday, but also focuses on the broader themes of "family". After meeting with her parents in Beijing, Sarah and her husband embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that takes them from the peacefulness of Buddhist monasteries to the bustle of the Shanghai Promenade. Along the way, we get to know her tour group and they become something of a family themselves!
I found the actual story itself incredibly moving. It was as complicated and nuanced as China itself, and managed to give a very touching account of everyday life in the People's Republic. More than anything, it was the kind of story that I love, one that swings back and forth between jaunty comedy and more sombre topics, that manages to pull at the heartstrings with well-observed dialogue and warm relationships between the characters!
"Please be Moral: Do Not Spit" is also attractively hand-bound in a traditional Chinese style with a really fun cover design. Sarah McIntyre breathes new life into a tired TV cliche, transporting us on an "emotional journey" with an emotion and vigour that is refreshingly genuine. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to tear up slightly at the ending!
Overall, a brilliant minicomic, and it's one of my favorite things I got from Leeds!
Thank you so much, Elliot! Here he is on the left, with Gillian and me at the Leeds Graphic Novel Award ceremony:
And here's Molly with the hilarious drawing she made of me and Morris the Mankiest Monster. Let me give you a kiss! Ha ha...
A lot of people stopped by my table, or were sent there by other people at the festival, to ask about children's comics, and also how to get into making their own children's books. There were two links I found myself constantly writing down in notebooks and on scraps of paper for them.
The first was The Phoenix Comic, a weekly story comic that's launching in January. It's going to be aimed at people 8 years old and up and will be chock-full of both continuing stories and one-off comic strips, and will feature many of the creators who worked with me for The DFC, and also new ones. So if you're interested in finding a constant stream of new, well-made family-friendly comics, get on over to the Phoenix website and have a browse. And if you're interested in submitting comics you've made, it might be good to get hold of a few issues, to see what it's about and get a sense of its tone, and they've posted submission guidelines here.
The other link I gave out was for the British branch of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. If you want to get into children's books, it's an incredibly competitive market, and you really need to research what you're doing and talk to lots of people who are doing the same thing. SCBWI has chapters all over the country and for a small subscription fee, you can access their manuals about getting published, receive their quarterly magazine, and find out if there's a critique group near you. I've been part of a SCBWI critique group for about six years, and it's incredibly helpful to have other people in the field who can give me feedback on my work, and compare notes with the kinds of things they've been struggling with. If you want to ask me, 'How do I go about getting published?', I'd say join SCBWI, get to know it, read its publications and website material, and then we can talk more. Also browse your local bookshop to see what's already selling in the children's section; you'd be amazed at how many people haven't done this, particularly men. (Guys, it's okay to be seen in the children's section, particularly if you want to do that for a living!)
I was very sad to be missing their conference in Winchester, which was the same weekend as Thought Bubble, but I cheered myself up by thinking that I was being a bit of an ambassador for them to the comics world.
Back to our Pirate Cove... I loved seeing the array of people who came to draw!
This was one of my personal favourites, Pete the Finance Pirate.
It made me grin so much that I just had to tweet it (I was tweeting pirates all weekend).
And then I grinned even more widely when Pete's daughter sent me this tweet back. BEST THING EVER.
More cosplay and pirating...
I think this jolly pirate's expressing a general Thought Bubble sentiment:
Gillian and I were lucky to be based back-to-back with the Cinebook table, and lovely Aldous Russell who was working there found out I liked Roger Leloup's Yoko Tsuno comics and gave me two complimentary copies. So I drew him some Yoko fan art. Thanks, Aldous! (Here's the French Yoko Tsuno website.)
I'm a big fan of German comics artist Mawil (particularly his book We can still be friends) so I was chuffed to bits to find him at the Blank Slate table, next to my studio mate Ellen Lindner, who was selling copies of the brand-new Strumpet comic. (Visit Ellen's blog to find out about tonight's Strumpet party in London!) I first met Mawil two years ago at the huge international comics festival in Angoulême, southwest France. (If you want to see more European comics than you can possibly imagine, Angoulême in January is the place to go.)
No one runs a table better than the Etherington Brothers! Bob and Lorenzo (a writer-artist team, and yes, they are brothers!) sold every last copy of their DFC Library books, Monkey Nuts and their new book, Baggage. (Here's an FPI review of Baggage by Mia, Year 6.)
I made the kids at the Leeds Graphic Novel Award ceremony laugh when I showed them a picture of Lettuce the rabbit, and her now-not-so-secret crush:
Here's the fabulous David O'Connell, editor of new comics magazine ink+PAPER and creator of long-running webcomic (and lushly printed comic) TOZO.
Here's fab Scottish biker chick and science expert Mhairi Stewart, showing off a preview of her partner Gary Erskine's upcoming roller derby comic, Roller Grrrls, starring Anna Malady. Looking forward to this one!
And here are some shots from the Friday night reception party at the Marriott. Partners Rich Clements and Vicky Stonebridge are the amazing coordinators of another fine comics fest, Hi-Ex, which will take place this year in Inverness from 31 March - 1 April. Here's my blog post from my Hi-Ex visit! I'm a big fan. (It's also where I lost my pink space princess wig, when Gary Erskine pinched it to wear as a sporan.)
And I'm a big fan of the work of Warwick Johnson Cadwell, whose work appears in Nelson's 1976 slot!
Lovely comics people! Here are Luke Pearson (Nelson 1976!), Philippa Rice (2003!), Timothy Winchester and John Allison (1981!). Go visit all their websites, they do brilliant work.
Nicola Streeten, organiser of Laydeez Do Comics and creator of the new graphic novel Billy, Me & You, with Myriad Editions editor Corinne Pearlman.
I got to meet super-tall writer Maura McHugh. I'd hear of her from a list she made of British Women in Comics, in response to another festival's protest that they hadn't included any female guests because there, um, weren't really any female comics professionals in Britain... wha...? (You can read Maura's blog post about it here.)
Most excellent creators Dave Shelton and Emma Vieceli (wearing a Simon's Cat t-shirt).
Gillian and I want to say a huge thank you to the amazing team that ran Thought Bubble, you did a great job! Everything from providing above and beyond what we asked for (tables, comfortable space to hold the workshops, flip charts, backboard, chairs, stands, pens, even our craft supplies and photocopies), to having team members stop by to check everything was all right, to creating a friendly, open atmosphere. It was amazing. Here's the person in charge, the fabulous Lisa Wood. Thank you so much, Lisa, Matt, Bridget, Molly, Sarah A and everyone who made Thought Bubble happen! From my experience and all the feedback I got during the weekend and I've seen on people's blogs, it was a HUGE success.
Edit: Thanks, Stacey Whittle, for the nice mention on the SFX blog!