Sunday, 14 June 2015

Character building at the Shoutsouth Festival 2015, sponsored by Derwent Pencils

Today was the last day of the Shoutsouth festival held at London Southbank University.
Over 3 amazing days over 15 of us children's book authors inspired over 100 children from schools all over South London to write and illustrate their own stories.  We all worked and played hard - the kids especially (so focused!), accompanying teachers and us Shoutsouth authors and illustrators and what wonderful stories and pictures came out of it!

In addition to an amazing team of writers, 
6 of us illustrator-authors participated in Shoutsouth this year:
Loretta Schauer, Amanda Lillywhite,  Deborah Allwright, Gillian McClure
Sally Kindberg

On Thursday I was asked to give a  30 minute warm-up illustration session. Starting by drawing simple circles,  over 100 children ages 8 - 12, plus their teachers, and other authors drew two characters.

Here's what everyone managed to do...
... in less than 20 minutes!

Afterwards a teacher told me she hadn't realized she could draw a 'relationship' between characters until she did this exercise. It works for adults who aren't used to drawing, as well as for kids who draw all the time.  As I see it

1. If you can write O, U, Y and V, big and small, and draw dots, you can also draw simple animal or human characters.

2. With basic shapes, anyone can get two characters to 'connect' enough to spark a story.  Add dots to their eye sockets - to direct their focus - and you can get a story jump started.

3. Even the simplest drawings have a distinctive 'stamp' or handwriting to them.  Every single person in that room, young and old drew different characters.

4. Bottom line,  illustration is about communicating ideas and stories. It is not all just about skill or talent.

There's a handout based on this drawing exercise on my new site.

even experts like Sally Kindberg (author of the brilliant Draw It books published by Bloomsbury) had a go, alongside writers Mo O'Hara and Sara Grant

Shoutsouth deliberately mixes different ages of kids and different kinds of schools, into teams - each with their own group of 4 authors to work with.  We gave them...
inspiration (here is writer Sara Grant sparking our Leopard team off!),

tips and lots of individual attention to their writing and drawing...

and plenty of good materials to work with - the  purple pencil cases here were packs of 'Flip' double-ended colour pencils donated by the generous Derwent pencil company.

Here are just a few samples of our Leopard team's pictures.
 On the ShoutAbout magazine for kids I cant't wait to see the brilliant stories the kids wrote with the help of Leopard writers, Sara Grant, Jamie Buxton and Sam Hepburn

Oh and a big thanks to the Shoutsouth bookseller Pea Green Books
for inviting me to sign their 
tablecloth with my own Tiz and Ott 

next to my books and those of Sally Kindberg's (left)

As a children's book creator, after days bent over deadlines in the studio,
spending time with kids is a reality check. I feel energized, with a renewed sense of commitment to what I am about!

(Love these characters from one of the kids in our first day character session!)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Tiz and Ott are out there at last - for real!

Been a bit busy with various things, not least a deadline for four little books!
I'm drawing my way out of the scribble, like in this early sketch for Tiz  & Ott's Big Draw.
Anyone who draws or writes may recognize the problem of getting carried away and ending up in a hole - which in Ott's case is incapacitating!

first colour 'rough' for Tiz's ladder  - which ended up  a lot higher!

Over two years ago that I did this sketch which ended up like this in the book...

page from Tiz and Ott's Big Draw © Bridget Marzo, Tate UK

It is on the top page of a vertical pull-out page.  I feel very lucky that  the Tate were ready to invest in that added 'gatefold' (as publishers call it) to take children up with  Tiz, up and up of the hole...
Spread and gatefold page from Tiz & Ott's Big Draw © Bridget Marzo Tate UK

so high that Tiz has to figure out how to get down, oh dear!
Like the boy who cried 'Wolf'', I feel like I've gone on a bit too much about Tiz and Ott already.  But now it is out there - for real - it takes time to publish a book.

American friends who've seen Tiz and Ott ask if I knew the US classic Harold and the Purple Crayon which was first published in the 1950s. I  I discovered it as an adult and recommend that wonderful book to anyone who has watched a line they have drawn turn into a kind of journey.
As I child I only knew  the Ant & Bee  books  which have recently been reprinted.  I have always loved stories with two characters responding to the world in different ways.  I think that's why Tiz and Ott  started out in these little mini books,  a bunch of short rhyming stories I am still writing more of, which are yet to be published.

When I started thinking about Tiz and Ott, I didn't know of any contemporary stories about ANY characters that draw or paint their way into another world. Doodle books, yes -  I illustrated two big doodle books myself. But though in my case, each page had its own story for kids to doodle into it wasn't like creating fully fledged picture book story with its own arc.
Now there is a spate of wonderful picture books about characters that create in different ways from books like Andrew Drew and Drew to the Days the Crayons Quit.  Spirit of the times!

Anyway Tiz and Ott's Big Draw is now out with Tate publishing in UK bookshops and museum shops.  And it will land on US bookshelves thanks to distribution by Abrams in November 2015.

SO - if by happy chance you are in London on June 4 please join me to raise a glass to cheer Tiz and Ott off into to the world at my launch at Tales on Moon Lane.   You will find the details (plus!) in this drawn-to-music one minute video.  Big thanks to Ella Finch for this video and her perfect timing of my scribbles to music!


Saturday, 4 April 2015

China part 2 Tiz & Ott Beijing! The Bookworm Festival, and more surprises and delights

In my previous post I showed photos of about my first two days of of kids workshops and talks in Beijing at the generous invitation of the China Bookworm Literary Festival.
More words this time - about timing and serendipity and the Festival and more photos of Beijing to end with -  and hey, I had time to do one sketch!

After my Beijing Bookworm kid's workshop I go back to my beautiful zen hotel room at the Beijing  Opposite House (a room I'd like to take home!) 

Wow! In my room are two advance copies of my new book. Juliette my designer at the Tate Publishing in London has organized a speedy delivery across China from the printers in Shanghai..

 I check the gatefold.  
The ladder works beautifully!  Tiz Ott's Big Draw is real at last - 
and ready to hit the shelves in May 2015 
Here I am in China - the  other end of the world from where I drew and endlessly grew those two little characters, gathering doubts then finally the courage to show it to the Tate. 
Now the long wait for publication is almost over.  
I have to hurry to my planned meeting with Niu Shuo, the picture book publisher whom I met in our panel talk the first evening.   She travels two hours across Beijing to show me her lovely books and catalogue. Now I can show her my latest too!

 Niu Shuo, general manage of the Mengxi Jindian
holding my book.  And I am holding the first book she shows me. Surprise! 
It is the Chinese co-edition of a book illustrated by none other than Layn Marlow
my dear friend who is a mainstay of our picture book critique group in London!

Here is the cover of the Mengxi Jindian Culture Communication Co. publisher's catalogue.  
Niu Shuo explained that although China is a huge market, distribution is a problem. They also organize workshops to encourage interest in their picture books and co-editions across  communities of interested parents and child specialists.  

Niu Shuo was due to leave the next day for the Bologna Bookfair.  
She loved Tiz and Ott and told me that this end page

reminded her of Chinese calligraphy.  I replied that as a student I had spent two intense years studying Classical and Modern Chinese and culture.  I have forgotten most of the Mandarin I learnt so rapidly at 20,  but I loved writing Chinese characters. Fingers crossed there will be a Chinese edition of the book - as I want to return to China, improve my Chinese and do more workshops there! 
Among other more serious books by fellow authors, the Beijing Bookworm had a good selection in their shop of my books from France, the UK/ US and Australia to sign after my workshops.

Friends have asked me to write more about the China Bookworm Festival itself.   
It takes place in the Bookworm bookshop-library-bar-restaurant-event spaces  in three centres, Beijing, Suzhou and Chengdu.

I'm full of admiration for Peter Goff the managing director of the Beijing Bookworm, and Daniel Clutton in Suzhou and all those working for it.
"We’ve created Bookworm Literary Festival to be a forum for thought and dialogue – fundamentals of a progressive society. Literature is an ongoing, live, global discussion, and Bookworm Literary Festival is proud to be part of it."
I was proud to be part of the China Bookworm this year too!
This year writers as diverse as Tahar Ben-Jalloun,  Victoria and Ian Hislop (whom I didn't meet) to the venerable poet and  translator of Jose Luis Borges, Willis Barnstone (whom I was lucky enough to meet) came from all corners of the world.  I was sorry to miss Stephen Mooser,  writer and SCBWI co-founder.

Still I was delighted to a couple of talks with friend and fellow children's author-illustrator Frane Lessac from Australia.  More about our time in Suzhou coming in next post!

I am so grateful to Peter Goff and his team for selecting me out of an amazing international list of authors and illustrators, and for making me feel so welcome. 

Thanks too to Olivia Liu SCBWI China regional advisor, Angela Cerrito and Kathleen Ahrens  International SCBWI (all authors too) for recommending me and to my dear friend and desk sharer, author-illustrator Sally Kindberg who had gone through 3 years ago, for encouraging me to take up the surprise invitation that I received back in November. 
You can find more about the festival here.  Also a huge thanks to the volunteers and the sponsors for  their generosity.  Beijing Bookworm volunteers Carol Zhang, Naina, and Jack were perfect guides around the city when my work was done.  
Here are some of the sights they showed me.  You'll see I even managed time for one sketch!

After my school workshop, Jack showed me around the park of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven.

There were families visiting from other parts of China 
 areas where  retired people gathered to sing or play board games,
as well as quiet areas where people read

or in this case play an ancient instrument - not for the tourists, just for pleasure.

My one free day in Beijing was spent with lovely Bookworm volunteer
Carol Zhang who showed me around....

the Forbidden Palace - La Cité Interdite.
What a huge place...full of tourists from all over China, but 

off the main drag, to the east and west

there were plenty of details to discover - I found the roofs fascinating 

and inside one building, people were trying on traditional palace costumes.

 They were tourists too - look at their shoes!
So many interesting contrasts of old and new!

I'm not a dedicated sightseer though.
I am happiest when I can find a table somewhere to sketch.

And I loved these yellow tables - even  the fake flowers in little baskets.  
It was the only snack bar we could see
in the Forbidden Palace -  somewhere to sit down at last!
Carol took photos while I went into meditative sketching mode... 
....painting a courtyard, above the tables on the east side of the Forbidden Palace.
Just wish I had had time to do more sketching!

Still I caught a few other moments on my Iphone before the battery ran out.

This garden courtyard at the north end of the Forbidden City, was particularly beautiful 

and I loved the square doors, and the colours...

And later, after I recharged my phone outside the Palace, 
Carol and I walked around a popular lakeside area.
Here's a cafe on the lake for Tintin fans...

Back near the hotel in Sanlitun, our hip area of Beijing, this father was playing a classical instrument.
They looked like they had travelled a long way.  Were they guest workers?

Another contrast,  close to the hotel entrance 
I found a fascinating key to some of these contrasts  thanks to a book I found at the Beijing Bookworm, China in Ten Words, by the writer Yu Hua,.

More to come about that and Chinese children's books, and the Suzhou Bookworm and wanderings.

Friday, 3 April 2015

China in pictures part 1 - first days at the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival

My 10 days in Beijing and Suzhou (and a day in Shanghai) blew me away.
Here's the first part mostly in pictures of my story I was lucky enough to live -  of the kids, the places and people, the workshops, talks and fellow authors.
Over Mongolia - on the way to China...
to our amazing hotel designed by a cool Japanese architect
the Opposite House in Beijing.
The hotel is one of the 
Bookworm Festival sponsors and...

after a long flight from London the food and calm is like therapy before

my first Bookworm panel talk that same evening with old friend, the 
author-illustrator Frané Lessac over from Australia and... 
Anette Oster, author publisher from Denmark, Olivia (Liu) Chang of SCBWI China and Niu Shou, children's publisher at Beijing Menxi Jindian.

Next morning up early for my workshop for kids at the Bookworm library...

about illustrating characters, focusing on eyes and expressions...

to inspire stories and 

...the youngest child there manages a whole story 
in less than 20 minutes - beats me!
The following day up early for a long taxi ride through polluted Beijing,
past the China TV centre which Beijingers nickname The Pants ...

to what looks pretty forbidding until

I go down the  path and hear birds calling in the spring sunshine

and hey, I am pinned up in the school entrance hall!

There's a lovely library and school to explore
and brilliant bilingual kid's self- portraits 

and pictures with illustrated text in Chinese

and work by kindergartners (year of the sheep here!) 
right up to posters by 11 year olds.  I love this one about recycling.

Though there's limited time for me get to work with two groups of 6-7s and 8-11 year olds,  both groups really drew, and before they knew it, they were creating characters in surprising relationships to each other - a cast for stories they can write later!
A big cheer for all the kids and teachers - and the lovely technician - for welcoming me to
the happy bilingual Daystar Academy 
where 90% of the children
are Chinese and all are clearly talented writers and illustrators in English and Chinese!

And my gratitude too to Tahirih Senne-Linton for organising the day with the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival 
and showing me around the school and its great Columbia reading and writing programme
Finally special applause to a 10 year old artist.
She handed me a folded paper after my session and told me to open it up after she left.
In it was this brilliant portrait of me she did during my session!