You may have spotted photos from our studio and guessed already that SOMETHING IS UP...
Yes, PHILIP ARDAGH and ELISSA ELWICK have a four-book picture book deal with Walker Books! They'll be called 'Little Adventurers' and they're already working on the first one, due to come out in June 2016.
Here's what Philip says about working together:
I'm really enjoying working with Elissa on Little Adventurers because it's such a collaborative process. Being a children's book author can be a lonely business. I began my professional writing career in an advertising agency, partnered with an art director. When I write for radio I work with producer, engineer and actors. The same for TV. You're one of a team. With my previous books, I've enjoyed working with my illustrators but they've joined the process late in the day. The words have been written, the story complete. With Little Adventurers - the basic premise of which was Elissa's in the first place - we're forever exploring ideas, reshaping, and playing around with text and pictures.
The line between writer and illustrater is blurred. We're both interested in pictures and words. And - with additional input from Deirdre and Maria in editorial and Jack in design at Walker Books - we're coming up with something none of us could have created on our own. And, on days I'm working in the Fleece Station, Elissa makes us nice lunches. What's NOT to love about our Little Adventurers collaboration?
Edit: Look! Just tweeted in from the Bologna Book Fair by lovely writer Lucy Coats! By Charlotte Eyre in the Bologna daily version of The Bookseller (with a mention of the then-secretly-titled RAILHEAD by Reeve). Oh, and here's a link to the Book Trade announcement!
My studio mates Elissa, Gary and I all have the same agent, Jodie Hodges at United Agents. I'm proud to say that I was there at Elissa and Philip's very first meeting, at the Discover Story Centre in Stratford, east London. Philip was in his usual fine form, photo-bombing his heart out. And yup, there's Elissa!
I asked Elissa how they kept in touch, and decided that working with this VERY SILLY MAN might be a good idea:
BECAUSE HE WAS SO ODD! His imagination comes spilling out! We kept in touch over Twitter and he'd occasionally throw out ideas for existing characters I had and our working collaboration kind of stemmed from there.
So what's your background, Elissa? I heard you were once a champion skateboarder!
ALL LIES! It wasn't very long, I managed to blag myself some sponsorship for a little while when I lived in Northampton. But when I went to uni, I got way more into drawing and now my skateboard collects dust. I studied BA Illustration at Bournemouth and my first picture book deal was with Macmillan, The Princess and the Sleep Stealer. I also worked as Resident Storyteller and bookseller at an indie bookshop in Clapham called Under the Greenwood Tree. That was a great experience because I got to learn about the children's book industry from the other side of the counter.
What medium you use to make your pictures?
I use a mixture of pencil, watercolours and my computer. It's been so much fun bringing the Little Adventurers to life. Here are some early sketches.
Ardagh & Elwick will be working with editor Maria Tunney and designer Jack Noel. In the run up to Bologna Children's Book Fair, she was on the phone with Jack, and I managed to get a few words with him, to ask what they liked so much about Elissa's work:
I love Elissa's work because she makes everything look adorable; she creates her own sweet world. She's created these four characters and it's really nice, the relationships between them.
Gary Northfield and I love having Elissa in the studio, she's always up for a laugh and a cup of tea (and doesn't get upset when I accidentally eat all her biscuits). Here we are at the launch of Gary's Garden, both wearing themed Chompy-the-caterpillar clothes:
Philip's already quite active with our studio: I worked together with him on the Discover Storycloud project and he wrote a nice quote for the front of Gary's new book, Julius Zebra (also with Walker Books).
Here's Elissa at her desk in the studio. When she's done a good run of work, she rewards herself by watching a short animation. (And here, with homemade pot noodles.)
It won't be so much of a secret, they've already been seen about town together and posting photos of themselves with SLEBS:
So Elissa, this seems like an amazing prospect! But what will be one of your greatest challenges, working together?
NOT TRIPPING OVER HIS BIG FEET.
You can follow Elissa on Instagram at @elissaelwick on Twitter, also as @ElissaElwick, and check out her website, elissaelwick.co.uk.
And Philip on Instagram - @philipardagh - and Twitter - @PhilipArdagh.
So keep an eye out, this team is set to pull off some pretty amazing stuff...
Be sure to check out their new joint blog!