Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Over the past few weeks I have been playing with sketches to work with James’s text, while James and Tessa, the editor from Barefoot books, have been knocking the text backwards and forwards via email with changes here and there.
Small changes happen and I try to get an idea of how the book looks. One of the things I love about working with James is that he does not describe things in a way that ties an illustrator down, but leaves space for my imagination to hopefully take flight. However, this leaves endless possibilities
While working on other things small children have been running through my mind and into my sketchbook. I try to catch them but they tease and torment, hiding and showing themselves for a brief flash. My sketchbook begins to look a bit chaotic.
The book is to be a 24 page picture book, but another page has been freed up by not having a title page and a half title (one is enough!) and I am hoping that this can be a text free page.
Meanwhile James is locked in his studio shed in England trying to finish a new book for Orchard.
I asked him to write about where the idea for “Starlight…” came from. He said
“When I was co-tutoring at the Arvon Foundation I wanted to encourage the
students to try something for younger children. Mark Haddon (the other
tutor ) had done lots of brilliant workshops for older fiction, so I wanted
to look at the picture book area of the market.
I had discovered I'd really enjoyed my few dabbled with rhyme, and so
suggested the students had a go. I thought it would help to have a starting
point so I suggested using a traditional nursery rhyme as a sort of
blue-print. I'd seen this done successfully else where (for example
"Mockingbird" by Allan Ahlberg which develops "Hush little baby, don't say a
word"). I had also used this idea with children during writing residencies
in several schools and thought it was particularly successful.
I gave them several options. One was "Dance to your daddy". Another was "I
had a little nut tree". And another was "Star light, star bright".
I'd always had a fondness for starlight - reading it to Gabriel when was
just a tiny little scrap, through to when he could read it with me.
But it just got filed away like so many ideas. Then we did "Little Bear" and
I looked at it again. And it all just fell into place. Didn't submit it for
ages though - because I felt very self conscious about it and, to be honest,
also felt using a traditional rhyme was "cheating" in some way, as though I
was being derivative in some way. Which is nonsense of course, but that's
how my paranoid mind works.”