Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some time later.

Still working on other things, mostly Singing to the Sun which was getting behind as I worked on things for Bologna Book fair, none of which were taken there.
Meanwhile have remembered the other wonderful book I saw in Bologna, The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is one of the most wonderful and original illustrators working at the moment, mostly for Lothian books in Australia. His website is to be found at

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bologna Bookfair

I have been home now for a few days, have updated my website, helped the cats with their blog, and tried to settle back to work, and all the while in the back of my mind the bookfair has lurked like a monster.
Difficult to shuffle my thoughts on the fair into order, but will try.
First, after twenty years in publishing I was glad I went. Thanks to Barefoot for inviting me, wining and dining both myself and Robin and introducing me to wonderful people, including Brigitte Leblanc, Iolander Batalle, Anne and Margaret. Jo and Tessa were wonderful company and Tessa has the key to the best restaurant in Bologna. I enjoyed sitting in the square watching life passing by, walking and trying to keep up with Tessa, eating and drinking and watching them pass on their enthusiasm for books.

The Bookfair was such an experience, and felt mostly like a huge giant waiting to consume people.
Walking around I realized that while I have worked for many many British publishers, Faber, Macmillan, Egmont, Oxford University Press, Frances Lincoln, Evans Brothers and many more, which made me feel like a bit of an illustrating tart, I was on the whole anonymous. This anonymity was not helped by the fact that the MD of Frances Lincoln failed, yet again to recognize me, despite having worked with them for 15 years. Thankfully every time I walked back onto the Barefoot stand they recognized me, so I did not completely loose myself there.

As well as many publishers from ll over the world all buying and selling there were would be illustrators and writers pitching projects and trying to get their work seen, some for advice, some hoping for book deals. Some were good, some better than others, but for all it was a bit of a thankless task. It was a wonderful place to see what the publishers had to offer, what books were being pushed and who did what. Not the best place to try and get interest in your own work. The picture above is one small part of the illustrators board with notices and pictures, people looking for work.
In such a tidal wave of hopefuls it could be so easy to get washed away, especially by a callous remark made by a tired and bored successful illustrator who felt they had seen one portfolio too many and who were looking forward to a large glass of something fizzing and alcoholic. What kept me going in the early years of touting my folder from one publisher to another was the knowledge that their was work out there, someone had to do it, so it might as well be me. There are always people better than you, and always people not so good, but if you really want to work you need to concentrate on your own game, your own work, technique, work hard and follow that dream.

But at the end of the day, I think the image above sums up the fair. Someone had obviously read him a good bedtime story.

Highlights of the fair for me were some stunning books from Iran, a totally different sense of design than the European books.
Also some books from a publisher called Lemniscaat, with dressed up animals. Sounds naff, but is beautiful.
More beautiful books, especially The Stone Lion, were at Heryin books.
But my favorite of all was Rebecca Dautremer. With wonderful colour and shape and design, huge books on thick paper, everything about these book said quality and made British publishing look penny pinching in many ways.
And what of Starlight? Well, despite the work I did it was considered to early to show it, though it was mentioned and Tessa did tease a few people with it.
So, time to pick myself up and dust of my traveling shoes and settle down to paint. But my head is full of stories, and a wolf with a cloak of stars. I do not want to paint. I want to write.