Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Music we love - The Zac Brown Band

I'm having a great time visiting schools and libraries at the moment as people celebrate Book Weeks and the love of reading... I've got a few diary entries to write about that and I will get to that as soon as I have time - right now though I'm busy writing about Christopher Columbus.

It really is good visiting schools and libraries all around Great Britain but it's not much fun when I have to stay away from home when the schools are a long way from home. People think it's fun staying in a hotel for the night but it isn't when you're on your own. I'm quite lucky though as Boofle comes with me... Here he is watching the world whizz past the window of the train we were on to London.

Hotel rooms are quiet so I like to listen to a bit of music that reminds me of home when I'm away... Vicky and I have recently discovered The Zac Brown Band so I'm listening to them as I write - usually I like to write in silence but I'm finding that I can have music on quietly when I'm writing non-fiction - so that's good.

In schools and libraries, people often ask what sort of music I like so I thought it would be good to feature some of it in my diary... Here's two songs from the Zac Brown Band. Goodbye In Her Eyes is a quiet song that builds up as it goes on... I love the song and the video with it's circus imagery - quite dark and mysterious in its way...

And this one.... Jump Right In... we love it...

Friday, 18 October 2013

Lunar Eclipse

Tonight there will be a Lunar Eclipse... This happens when the Earth comes directly between the Sun and our Moon. This should block out the sun's light entirely, making the moon complexly dark,  but because of the Earth's atmosphere, the sun's rays are refracted (bent) causing them to hit the dark part of the moon and making it appear red. If you were on the moon it would look like the sun was rising or setting behind the earth.

Unlike a solar Eclipse that you can only view through special glasses, a Lunar Eclipse can be safely viewed with the naked eye from anywhere on the night side of the Earth. The Lunar eclipse lasts much longer than the Solar Eclipse so there's a good chance you will get see it. Unless it's cloudy of course.

I've been busy working on a new book which I'll be sending to my Publisher next week. Hopefully I'll be able to tell you about it soon - but until everything's been given the thumbs up I have to keep quite. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Liverpool Central Library

I'm doing a lot of travelling around at the moment (as well as writing of course) as schools and libraries everywhere are celebrating Book Week. Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day at the wonderful Central Library in Liverpool (recently refurbished).

The library is a huge and impressive building from the outside but since its refurbishment it has become even more impressive inside...

Throughout the day I met children from St Cleopas Primary School and from St Francis de Sales Primary School... it was an absolute pleasure meeting everyone that came along - we had a great time.

The sessions were all held in the huge Children's Library, or Discovery Room... a very airy and bright room with lots of space.

I had a little wander round Liverpool Centre at lunchtime but spent most of my free time just having a wander around the library itself... The Reading Room with its rows of books on different levels and spiral stairs is very impressive and atmospheric.

After the visit I set of for Peterborough as today I'm visiting Gunthorpe Primary School - so here's a Big Hello to everyone there. See you soon. Which reminds me... I'd better get going.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Interview with Marijke van Velhoven

Earlier this year I was asked to write a couple of funny stories for Oxford University Press for their Oxford Reading Tree - Treetops Chucklers, series. It was lots of fun writing the stories and it's been great seeing them being brought to life by the wonderful Dutch illustrator Marijke van Veldhoven, that the publisher chose to illustrate them.

When I visit schools and talk about the illustrations, children and adults are often surprised to hear that I don't choose the illustrator and I don't tell the illustrator what to do... In fact, most of the time, authors and illustrators don't actually talk very much about the book that is being created between them. Children ask me lots of questions about the illustrators but I can't always answer them... luckily, Marijke was happy to help with this and here she answers a lot of the questions that children have been asking me...

What is the best thing about being an illustrator?

The very best thing about being an illustrator is; doing what I love as a living. I have been drawing everything and on everything since I was little (it drove teachers crazy) and it was wonderful to make it to an art school. For the first time I could do art full time! After that I worked hard to make a living with my illustrations and I've been doing that ever since. It's great to create something for others to enjoy. And I like making jokes in pictures too (I do that with stand-up cartooning too, making funny cartoons during a meeting or training session).

How long would it take you to do all of the pictures for a book (like the Sock Eater and Nelly’s Nest) ?

All the pictures in a book! It can different for each book. But for 'The Sock Eater and Nelly's Nest' it took me 4 weeks for the sketches and 6 weeks for the colour art work. On a big picture book I would work for months!

Is it hard thinking of how people or creatures will look?
Sometimes it is hard to get them just right. With a little cheek, or very strict or just very lovable. And sometimes I get it right immediately. I have a special sketching strategy to design the characters.

Do you have to do lots of rough sketches of characters before you are happy with them?

Yes I do, most of the time. The characters always need fixing before they are right. And of course they need to look good from every angle.

What is the hardest thing to draw?

For me, the hardest things to draw are cars.

What are your favourite things to draw?

I love to draw people and animals.

What do you not like to draw?
Cars (no surprise there)

Do you use computers to help with your drawing?

The drawing is done by hand. Colouring I do by hand and with photoshop (or combined).

What do you like to draw and colour with? (Paint, pastels, pencils, chalk...)

Sketching with a good old pencil. I use pen and ink a lot. For colouring I use gouache and some water colours. 

Were you really good at drawing when you were at school?

Yes, I had some talent and I practiced a LOT.

Apart from yourself, who is your favourite illustrator?

I love several illustrators: The Tjong Khing, Annemarie van Haeringen, Quentin Blake, David Roberts, Peter van Straaten, Maaike Hartjes and many more.

How many books have you illustrated?

I've illustrated about 25 books.

And finally the answers to those questions that everyone gets asked...
Favourite food: a good lasagne.
Favourite animal: cat.
Favourite colour: green.

A big thank you to everyone that gave me questions to ask Marijke - and a special thank you to Marijke herself for taking the time to answer them... As soon as I see finished pictures (and the finished book itself, I will let you see it here.) You can see more of Marijke's work by visiting her website... the writing is in Dutch of course so you might have some difficulty reading the text but there are lots of pictures and video clips to look at...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Book Week

Another quick diary entry here just to say a big hello to everyone at Ysgol Bro Gwydir and Ysgol Capel Garmon in Llanrwst, Ysgol Betws y Coed, Ysgol Cerrigydudion and Ysgol Llangwm... I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone this week in the libraries... see you soon.

More big hellos for next week to everyone at Crackley Bank Primary School in Chesterton, St Margaret's CE Primary School, Gunthorpe Primary School in Peterborough and Holly Mount Primary in Bury... Also looking forward to visiting the new Central Library in Liverpool for sessions there next week... phew!!! a busy time.

Hoping to fit in quite a bit of writing too...

Keep your eyes open for tomorrow's diary entry as it will feature an interview with the wonderful illustrator Marijke van Veldhoven - who has been busy illustrating a little book that will be published early next year by Oxford University Press called Smelly Socks and Terrible Tangles...