Monday, February 28, 2011


I want to draw your attention to a truly scrumptious new blog. It's by a rather cute, and hugely well-read, pug I know, called The Book Sniffer. You can't fail to be impressed, not only with this canine's knowledge of books, but also just how goshdarned well-connected she is!

The only downside being, that the Book Sniffer has had the thoroughly bad taste to interview me as well. Well, she is a dog afterall, and dogs do lick their own- er, well, never mind...

However, the puglicious one also interviewed my dog, Sheba The Bear. Let's face it, as far as dynamic duo's go, The Bear is definitely the brains of the operation, so do go and check out her barks of wisdom here.

In other news, it is a sad, sad week. The beautiful Emma O'D is leaving our fair Hachette. If you ask me, Emma is truly one of the rare gems of publishing. She has, as you know, looked after me at my events, and has gone above-and-beyond to sort everything needed, and to calm frayed nerves- often on a Saturday! She's also just a blimmin' lovely person. Every author/illustrator I know who's worked with her at Hodder or Orchard adores her, and will be gutted to see her go.

Before too many tears are shed mind, Emma is leaving to a brand, spanking new position at Templar- huzzah! I'm sure she'll be just as well-loved there. Emma, I wish you the very best of luck with it all, Lovely! Three *thoroughly over emotional* cheers for the marvellous Miss O'D!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More bleedin' bears...

Well, I *think* it's *hopefully* MAYBE safe to say, that I've finished with Goldenhair and the Three Bears.

It's been a great project for experimentation, and I think I've learnt a lot from it. As per usual, there are things I would do differently, but I think that's healthy, and it's given me a lot to move forward with. It was a tight deadline, (the tightest I've ever worked with) and I'm really pleased that it turned out well.

Since then, I've continued working a bit more mixed-media on this new image below, and it's been refreshing to steer clear from photoshop quite so much.

It's very much a love/hate relationship that I have with photoshop. I love that it allows me to try stuff without ruining my original image, but I think recently it's become a bit prison-like. Ironically it seems to have made me MORE precious about images; taking MORE time, not less over my work. Spending ages over one image is confidence-destroying if that one image still doesn't look right. And outside of photoshop, I might have been able to create 5 finished images in the same time frame, which means 5 times the learning, even if I STILL don't have something I'm pleased with.

Anyway, this image is only the start, as I'm hoping to take myself on a bit of a colour journey. I've become afraid of my work again recently, and I need to conquer some of those fears and go back to 'school'. By that, I mean methodically working through problems, rather than skipping about all over the place and not really solving anything.

I recently read an interview with Amanda Wood, of Templar, where she said,

'(it's) often more about trying to find the story that an artist wants to tell themselves and then coaxing it out of them!'

This really struck a long-forgotten chord with me. Of late, I've been concerned that I NEED to author to be able to illustrate what I want to illustrate. I've been so keen to find a story that works that I've forgotten the key issue about writing stories I actually want to tell!

I need to re-learn how to concentrate on the actual work, and not the pressures behind it, which let's face it, are pretty enormous and (if you let them be) totally overwhelming in this market.

Anyway, the word is 'methodically,' Cass. Let's approach these issues one at a time. Although, I can't help but think if I can sort out one problem, the rest might start to assemble themselves.

Hope you like these guys though. They're my new favourites. It's just a colour rough, but even so, I always feel far more free at the start of a project, and I think (hope) it shows!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Protect the Libraries.

I'm not going to write much. This speech by Philip Pullman gives you the wider picture in a far more knowledgeable and intelligent manner than I ever could.

However, I do want to share a memory.

It was one of those Summer days that measured out, as only a childhood Summer day could. i.e. it was YEARS long. The window was open and I distinctly remember thinking that there couldn't possibly be a better occasion, weatherwise. I felt like Goldilocks. The breeze and the sunshine warmth were 'jusssssssssst right.' Dust bunnies danced in the sheaves of rays, like they were at the best day-time disco. Can you describe sun rays as being 'sheaved'? I'm not sure, but they felt like they were, since they sort of fanned out evenly, as if they had a paperclip on top. I sunbathed in my room. I love sunbathing inside. Outside, the light always seems to hurt my eyes too much, and I can't stand how sunglasses alter colours.

We'd just decorated my room and laid a new carpet and the bare floor was as comfy as grass is always described (but never actually IS!) There was nothing in my room apart from me, the sun, a packet of Tutti-frutti's and a cassette player.

I'd just discovered Norton Juster's, 'The Phantom Tollbooth' and was completely in love. Not only with the characters and the story, but also with the audio narrator's rich, slow drawl.

It was the first time I remember appreciating that a non-illustrated story could be AS full and as encompassing. Juster's tale was perfectly bundled and matched by its' production and the world they'd conjured came completely alive for me. I still remember it came in one of those hardbacked, 2 cassette cases that always smelt of the place they'd be stored; in this case it was The Hornsey Library. It had a yellow cover, and a picture I thought highly uninteresting. I'd got it out because it'd been from the library. At the library you didn't have to spend your pocket money or beg to a parent. You could take risks. And some paid off SUPREMELY.

I've been searching for a copy of that audio book ever since. I don't think it exists anymore. I've only once, in all my life, seen any format of, 'The Phantom Tollbooth,' on a bookseller's shelf. I did finally concede defeat in my audio search and bought a copy in paperback a couple of years back. It was nerve-wracking opening up that first page. Would I ruin my perfect memory?

As luck would have it, unlike many of the things I remember from childhood, this stood the test of time. It's a BRILLIANT book. One that's inspired me along the way, first as a memory and then as a re-read. I've loaned out to many of my adult friends, who have loved it equally.

So, thank you, Mr Juster, and thank YOU, local library. You both served me well.

And incidentally, the only time I saw it on a bookseller's shelf was last year. I ordered it into Waterstones, whilst I worked there. Though not the same edition, this copy also had an old-fashioned cover and an author no one was familiar with. It didn't sell well. Some books are meant to be discovered, I think, and this was one. Too bad there won't be so many opportunities for this kind of serendipitous happenstance in years to come.

Wander down to your local library today and take out a few books. Dig out something new and shiny, but also something dark and dusty. You never know, you might find a gem or two.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lively Elizabeth and Bear-faced chic?

Off to catch myself some fish (frozen, bagged, and packaged with parsley sauce). I'm such a fantastic cook...
BTW, 2 pieces of good news. I think I forgot to say, Lively Elizabeth got a reprint in the States. Woohoo!!! And also, the feisty little minx is now available to buy from all good bookshops in paperback!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This bed's too hard.

Have been feeling a bit poo this week. Am a total wuss when I'm ill, and I have a tight deadline to stick to, so have been revelling in being a right whinge bucket. Of course there's only me here, so I've bored myself silly...!