Thursday, 31 July 2008
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Sunday, 27 July 2008
Will it be good for writers or not? I don't know. I certainly don't see why it should necessarily be bad. Owning an iPod has definitely rekindled my love of music, not diminished it. It has changed the way I listen and the way I buy, it's true, but so what?
I love books - the feel of them, the look of them, the smell of them. I can't see me giving them up for a lump of plastic, but there is something very appealing about having a machine that could house all the books I need for research or a few novels for long trips. As I say - it is going to happen, come what may. As a writer, the issue is how (and how much) will we be paid?
I suppose one result might be that it will be harder for reading crazes - like Harry Potter - to happen. That relies on everyone knowing what you are reading. It requires visibility. That needs book jackets.
And speaking of book jackets, of course - e-books aren't great news for graphic designers are they? I bought a brilliant book called Seven Hundred Penguins recently - a survey of Penguin book jackets. It saddens me to think that the book jacket might become a thing of the past.
Saturday, 26 July 2008
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
He also received his SATs results and despite refusing to accept any help from his parents and do any real work for them, he did very well - making my speech about the importance of preparation utterly redundant. Children are so annoying.
I went to the studio later and did a bit of painting. For once I actually liked what I did. I liked one painting so much I almost decided it was finished and was going to bring it home. But then I looked at it again and thought that maybe I had become a little giddy. Maybe it needed just a bit more work. . .
And today it was the last day of term and the last day of primary school for my son, a fact we celebrated with a trip to the movies to see Wall-E, which was OK (though not as amazing as reviews had suggested). The look of the film while they were on the rubbish strewn Earth was great, but it went rapidly downhill when it reached the spaceship full of inflatable humans.
Pixar can do rust and chrome and grass and fur and dust and smoke and laser beams, but they can't do flesh. Give me Jungle Book-era Disney any day.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
I have Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 on my laptop too. I have never invested in the full Photoshop program because I have never really needed it. But Photoshop Elements 6 seems designed to push me over the edge. Whereas Elements 4.0 was designed to look exactly like Photoshop, 6.0 is a horrible, confused, tacky looking thing. Why? Why oh why oh why?
I have a webcam too. I made the mistake of turning it on and seeing myself looking back from the screen. Eeww. I wo't make that mistake again.
Saturday, 19 July 2008
It is a right of passage for children and parents alike. Some have sibling further down the school and so the parents will retain their contact with the primary school. For the rest of us, it is the end of an era of parental involvement. No more standing in the playground chatting to other parents. We have only been in Cambridge for two years, but we have been very lucky making friends with other parents; friendships that will definitely survive the upheaval of changing schools. Some parents and children are leaving Cambridge, but likewise, I hope our friendships will survive regardless.
For me it is the end of teaching the Art Club I run. I won't miss the shouty person I so often became in my attempts to control things, but I will miss some very talented children. I have been a parent helper, been involved in the PTA, run a creative writing club, been a governor (and briefly chair of governors), visited his schools as an author and illustrator and run the art club. I've done my bit, I think. Time to move on.
So, just the music concert on Monday and the leaver's assembly on Tuesday and then that's it until September. . .
Friday, 18 July 2008
I saw John Clark the day before yesterday and he asked me if I'd sent the book off yet and I said I had. He was puzzled by my lack of enthusiasm. Was that not a huge relief? he asked. And I said it was in a way, but until you hear something back it is always a bit tense.
The UKLA Children's Book Award - for which Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror was shortlisted - was supposed to be announced last weekend, but there is no news. I'm guessing I haven't won as Bloomsbury have not heard anything, but on a Google search I discovered instead that Uncle Monty has been longlisted for the Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award, which was a nice surprise, and is also on a list of suggested titles for Staffordshire's Young Teen Fiction Award.
Thursday, 17 July 2008
The idea is that I will become a bit more mobile in terms of where I can write. I may even write at my studio sometimes. It is actually pretty quiet there. The second-hand furniture trade occupying much of the yard is not exactly booming.
I do have a kind of perfect writing environment in my head - a lovely office, lined with book and a view out onto. . .Well, I'm less sure of that. Unfortunately you tend to get the writing space you deserve - in that it inevitably becomes a reflection of your personality and creative process.
Mine is a mess.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
But at some point you have to let it go.
I sent it to Sarah because Helen Szirtes, my editor on the two previous books, has left Bloomsbury to enter the perilous world of freelancing. I'm hoping she might edit Tunnel's Mouth on a freelance basis, but these things are out of my control.
I also sent the book to my agent, Philippa Milnes-Smith at LAW Ltd.
Now I just have to wait and see what they all think. . .
Monday, 14 July 2008
Our very good friend Susan Harvey came to stay with us today. Susan is a very talented painter and has an exhibition at the Cambridge Contemporary Art Gallery in a couple of weeks time and we are storing (and delivering) her paintings to the gallery for her.
Susan works in oil, tempera and watercolour and I am a really big fan of her work. She is such a thoughtful painter. I often tie myself in knots with my own work, questioning what I'm doing and why, and Susan somehow is able to produce these seemingly effortless works of calmness and beauty.
Here is a lovely example. She is planning to do a website and I'll put a link to it when it happens.
Sunday, 13 July 2008
My books go through several stages once they have been assembled into a book-like entity. The very first stage is something that is in a constant state of flux, widening and contracting, bubbling up in one section and buttoning down in another. This is a kind of plate-spinning exercise - trying to keep all the component parts up and working and looking like a single creation.
This stage results in the first draft. Actually it is more like the pre-first draft, because it is a draft that will never leave my writing room. This draft is for me - a draft for me to see just how many problems I have shied away from resolving over the preceding months. It is a way of making those problems more tangible and that makes them easier to solve somehow.
I go through this draft making notes and then refer back to the copy on my hard drive and make another version. This draft is the real first draft, because it is the first I am willing to let anyone else see. This draft is read by my wife who is hopefully going to tell me if there is something that simply does not make sense and whilst she would feel awkward telling me something I had written was rubbish - she tells me a lot by what she chooses to pick out for praise. She is also very good at spotting spelling mistakes.
I then use these observations to go back and produce another draft - the first draft to leave the house. It is this draft - a draft that is hopefully true to the sense of what I want the book to be and as free from mistakes as I can make it - that will go to my publisher and agent. This draft is really the true start of the book as a book and not as a file on my computer.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
It is seen as such an objectively good thing to come up with lots of ideas - particularly by those who find it difficult - that no one really talks about the problems. And there are problems.
There is no point to have loads of ideas you are not in a position to act upon. Ideas can be incredibly distracting. I have loads racing round my head at any given time and a lot of the discipline of writing (or illustration or cartooning or painting) is to shut the extraneous ideas out.
Part of why I started writing was in order to fix some of the ideas I had buzzing round in my head. Why was I plotting stories and inventing characters and coming up with dialogue on the train and as I fell asleep at night? It was all a bit crazy. Calling myself a writer seemed to validate this behaviour.
The trick to working - and knowing this does not in any way mean that I have perfected the practice - is to grab every good idea and use it then and there. Only then do you find out whether it really was so good after all. If you don't they flap around in your head like bats in the attic.
Friday, 11 July 2008
I didn't actually do much. I am going to reorganise in the studio once I get my (overdue) book off to Bloomsbury.
And I realised today that the UKLA Children's Book Award is being announced at the weekend. I am guessing that as I have heard nothing, that it ain't going to be me.
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is being published by Rocco in Brazil and they have brought their schedule forward to accommodate my visit, so I am hoping to meet up with them and maybe do some work for the Portuguese edition while I'm over there. It is all very exciting. I have never been south of the equator before!
Monday, 7 July 2008
After the exam - when at least it had stopped raining - we cycled back into the centre of Cambridge to meet my wife and we all ate out before heading back to the school for the parents' bit of the induction where we were shown a video of children saying how much they liked the school and then we all got to ask questions. It was exhausting and must have been doubly so for my son who had also had the stress of being thrown into a new environment with lots of new people.
Inevitably it all brings back memories of starting secondary school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne many, many years ago (the same school, weirdly as Peter Kirkham, though not at the same time), and not many of those memories are happy ones. Having had a very good early school experience with very good teachers, I found school from eleven onward a bit of a shock to the system. I think I only ever felt really in control in the art room or when I was writing stories. Everything else was a bit of a blur.
Not much has changed actually.
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Saturday, 5 July 2008
The crowd was a bit small and seemed to consist almost exclusively of teenage girls (plus a couple of old-timers like myself). Liam is the son of very good friends of ours - Kate and Carl Parker - and it was great to see them too. Kate used to share a studio with my wife next door to one the one I rented in Shoreditch many years ago.
I had a conversation with Kate over the top of the earlier band, the sound so loud that I could here one in every fifteen words Kate said. I got an early idea of what it must be like to be ninety and deaf and just nodding with a stupid grin on your face to questions you haven't really heard properly. We escaped with their friend Mark for some relative peace and a chat. I really am officially too old for this kind of thing.