Today I spent the morning engaging with my audience, something that I haven’t done for a while. I spent the morning with children in school, reading my book to them, talking to them and showing them original artwork. It was great fun.
When I am concentrating on my work, at my desk in our spare room, focussing on deadlines and which editor or author needs what cover or book interior next I often forget that there are actual children out in the world who are the true focus of my work.
Getting out into the world and talking about myself is not something I love to do. I am quite introverted like that, so I find an outfit that will make feel confident and warm, and get me out of Imposter mode. I also put on my amethyst necklace, which helps me to feel peaceful and protected. With these tools, I can go out and meet my audience.
Today, four classes of children listened beautifully as I read them Reynard the Fox. We talked about the story, and why I wrote it. We discussed how long it can take to make a book, and how long it can take to make the pictures and how I made them.
Children ask the most wonderful questions. Some of my favourites today were around whether my book made me happy, and which pictures made me most happy. Another child asked me which artist inspired me, Eric Ravilious – look him up – his artwork is beautiful.
One of the things that I really love to do when I meet classes of children, is get the original illustrations out for them to see. The illustrations in Reynard the Fox are all A2 monoprints – so they are large and they are colourful. Each illustration is in a protective plastic sleeve, and I get them out and pass them round or put them on tables to look at. You might think I am mad letting a whole class full of children free on a set of original artworks. I probably am, but I think the interaction for all of us with real, tangible objects is vital. This is an opportunity for children to hold and examine pieces of genuine art.
When I decided to make children’s books, one of the biggest draws for me, was that picture books are a child’s first step into the world of literature and fine art – works of art that they can keep and hold and love. I wanted to be a person who introduces that appreciation too – a world of colour and texture and rhythm – just as other authors and illustrators introduced that world to me.
As I get the illustrations out, I can see the children engaging with these great big papers filled with colours and shapes. The more they see, the more they wish to see. How amazing is that! A story that they have just listened to has come to life in their fingertips. They are asking me which ones they can look at and how many more there are.
It is a lovely feeling, and makes me very proud. Thank you children, today you reminded me why it is so good to take some time away from my desk, and to really look and appreciate the art in the world around us.