On the plus side, I'm quite justified in thinking about Christmas now. We've reached that Christmas Danger Zone; the one when it first appears a nice, healthy, 'look-forward-to-able' distance away, then you blink and suddenly it's there, slapping you upside the head. I've noticed the odd Christmas song has sidled nonchalently past my lips, disguising itself as an advertising ditty (and let's face it, these days, they are pretty much one and the same...) The pitch of my yowling (yuleling, indeed) gradually increases in hysteria as the days until my deadline shrink away.
I think it worth noting, for the me of a few months ago's sake, that publishing deadlines are not to be considered too lightly. What I mean by this is, although my final deadline isn't until February, I failed to take into account the interim deadlines that would allow the hand-in in February to take place. For example, there is the minor matter of the biggest office holiday of the year right slap bang in the middle of my work time. From now on, I will consider any picture book deadline to be a full month before it actually is. I'm fairly certain that I'll finish in time, but I like the idea of having that last few weeks for feeling smug... or redoing the whole thing!
So, what's news? Well, firstly, I got my proofs back. It wasn't the Edvard Munch, finger-through-nearest-eye socket, horrific experience I'd prepared myself for. My art director, Claire, did sophisticated, understatedly chic stuff with the type and the paper made it all look snazzy. I think the main help of this interim proofing process was it allowed me to think of the project as a book for the first time. Previously, as much as I THOUGHT I was thinking of it as a book, I wasn't actually really even thinking of it as a sequence of images. I think this is quite a common problem for art graduates, going into publishing. It's easy to concentrate on getting one image right, only to forget you've got another 6 gazillion to do. Certainly, it is a common complaint from publishers, that an artist cannot carry off an entire book. Anyway, it was quite a revelation to finally get my head around what it might look like on the shelves.
Secondly, I got a chance to go to my first publishing party. I've been asked to work for Egmont a couple of times. Once on my own project and once on a fiction project. Sadly, due to timing of prior work engagements, neither actually happened, so I was really chuffed and surprised to be invited to their Christmas do. I did feel slightly like an imposter, having to explain to everyone I met that I wasn't actually currently working for them, but everyone was so lovely it didn't seem to matter- I was accepted with open arms and a vol-au-von or twelve.
The gig was held at the London Transport Museum and I have to confess it made for a very surreal night. I'm sure you can imagine the scene, but let me waffle on anyway. The thing about the London Transport Museum is it's filled with... London transport, right in the centre of London which is filled with... London transport. Effectively, the museum is like some sort of Escher/fractal-esque situation. It even has commuters... stuffed for realism! So, in the middle of this heavy traffic jam, traffic lights flashing and buses set ready to collide, there was this huddle of folk in posh frocks, eating truffles on sticks. Very odd indeed. Incredibly enjoyable, nonetheless. I have found that different publishers have different 'feels' to them. The Egmontians seem to have a very 'family' sort of a feel, which is very welcoming.
I got to meet the amazing Shirley Hughes aswell. She's the closest I think I'll ever come to meeting a real-life Agatha Christie character. I can quite imagine her deftly solving the odd, cosy, fireside murder in between drawing kids.
One of the best bits of the night though, was catching up with fellow illustrators, Lynne Chapman and Ellie Sandall. Lynne, I met for the first time just recently, but already feel I've known for years and Ellie was a course mate at Anglia... and quite the star of the night. Her book, 'Birdsong' went down a storm at Frankfurt. As with publishing in general, it's ridiculous for me to tell you to watch out for it when it comes out, as that won't be until 2010, but in a year or so when she's famous, I'll say, 'I told you so!'
My trip to London was topped off nicely by a sighting of local hero, Simon Pegg, walking his pooch, 10 mins away from my house. What a man! What a dog! I thought briefly about kidnapping him and taking him home to live in my cupboard. I know I'm home when I catch a glimpse of the great Mr Pegg.
Other than that, I'd like to put out a book recommedation. I feel this book deserves to be talked about, but I'd never heard of it before a random pick at the library.
I, Nigel Dorking- by Mary-Anne Fahey
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I haven't read a book for this age group in ages that I've enjoyed as much. It's got that perfect blend of painful and laugh out loud honesty and observation. About a young lad coming to terms with his parents break up and life around him... but far more subtle than that!
Right, I had better go get on with making my Christmas card. I thought I was doing well, but I have been told that the child I drew looks like it might just eat other children... not an appealing character trait in children's publishing, cannabalism... Hence, I may go back to re-work an old image... I shall attempt to post my efforts tomorrow.