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New ideas that didn't set my hair on fire

Me (drawn by Alex during a school visit)
There are a handful of questions that, without fail, infiltrate almost every Q&A session at the end of my writing/drawing workshops. I've been assured by other authors/illustrators that I'm not alone in regularly fielding this handful. They are: 1. Are you rich? (no), 2. Can I have some free books, please? (though, sadly, not always with the 'please'), 3. Are those really your drawings? (yes), 4. Can you put me in your next book? (the villain?) and 5. Where do you get your ideas from?

NOT my inspiration
My replies to all five often disappoint, particularly the last one, because the answer is everywhere and everything. I'm sometimes a little more specific but that really is the most honest answer I can give. Sorry if it's not more romantic like nocturnal visits from a ghostly muse, or flashes of inspiration that set my hair on fire. Just, you know, standing at the Sainsbury's checkout and noticing a wobbly trolley wheel and thinking... car crash! (As you do. If you're a writer!)

Which brings me to my new novel. I've just started writing it and am barely past chapter two, but it's all there in my head (and scribbled chaotically in notebooks). This is my favourite bit of the job. It's when I'm full of excitement and enthusiasm and can't wait to get my new characters down on paper (er, screen) and send them hurtling into the jeopardy I've created for them. It's great because it will be weeks (sometimes months) before I show the first draft to anyone (my sister, my mum, my agent) and they start feeding back and I dissolve into a puddle of insecurity and self-hate (even if they've said nice, encouraging things - other authors will know what I mean).

Anyway, this book was inspired by something quite small, quite insignificant. Actually two small insignificant things. The first was a book of Keats poems from my school days and the second the pattern of shadows under a tree in (you guessed it) Sainsbury's car park! It wasn't the poems in the Keats book that provided the inspiration, but the notes in my rounded fourteen-year-old handwriting found in the margins that got my creative brain fizzing. And those leaf patterns on the Tarmac took me straight back to a particularly unusual meteorological event many years ago that completely freaked me out. I knew I had to make that day the setting for the climax of my book.

That's as much as I'm going to tell you for now. Perhaps I'll share a little more once I've got past chapter two. And I'm peckish and the fridge is empty, so I'm off to the supermarket for milk, tomatoes and... plot twists.


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Another Door Closes...

I completed a two-year MA this week (Illustration and Book Arts at UCA, Farnham). It's been hard work studying part-time while keeping illustration commissions ticking over, but it's been worth the effort. I never truly went away, but now feel I'm 'returning' to my career reinvigorated.

MA Project exploring my grandmother's memoir and photographic archive

I've already re-focussed my brain on a new book, so thoroughly in fact that, when asked at the private view to talk about the my final MA pieces, I actually couldn't remember what I had done! Here is some of it...

From the final project, WHAT IS HIDDEN - a part work inspired by Hitchcock's' Rear Window'
The new book, a graphic novel, is currently just an outline and a sketchbook of ideas. It has a slightly older target audience than my previous work - YA and adult cross-over - and will develop visual themes I've been playing with for the last two years. I can't wait to show it to you.

Rubber Stamping

We were only 4, because of the snow, but Saturday's rubber stamping workshop was a huge success. I invited friends to be my guinea pigs so I could test timings and smooth out technical details. The results were great.
Peter made his own logo stamps and printed them on a book bag, while Lisa and Dorothy created wonderful designs which we printed on kraft paper greetings cards.

I'll be running the smoothed-out version of the same workshop during Surrey Artist's Open Studios in June, so check back here for details in a month or two. More workshops are planned for the summer, too, including Cyanotype Printing on Fabric and Making Your Own Folding Hardcover Sketchbook.
Thank you Lisa Boyce for the photographs.

Laydeez Day

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If you are anywhere near London, do come over to the Free Word Centre tomorrow (24th March) where you will be able to read ALL the submitted comics as zines, and meet loads of amazing comics creators, male and female! It's free but you need to book.