NEWS OF PARTICULAR EXCITEMENT! It’s taken 3 and a bit years to finish (launch date Sept 2019), but proofs for my new young adult novel are out at last, and the response from bloggers and reviewers has been fantastic.
It feels a bit weird because as I write this, final edits are still happening on Chinglish so it’s not actually finished yet! I’m especially looking forward to seeing the final cover.
Cor! Just been tidying out the attic and found a bunch of visuals I did as an Art Director back in London in the 90s. I forgot how skilled I was at using magic markers – they’re not the easiest medium to handle. Looking back I can see I must have spent a majority of time knocking these slick pics up as the marks I’ve made are clearly quick and confident. Just look at Brett Andersen here.
My preferred brand was Pantone Tria which had 3 tip sizes per pen (the company paid for them thank god, as they were not cheap!). I’m not even sure if people still use magic markers these days as everything seems to be digital. I certainly don’t do marker visuals now, everything is straight to Mac. But when I’ve been asked to do the odd caricature now and then, I tend to do it using Procreate on my iPad.
It’s a shame this medium has died out. And that’s one of the reasons I’m going to start painting again this summer – I’ll soon find out if I’ve still ‘got it’!
I’ve added quite a few new pics to my novel in the last few months. This one shows a rare moment that me and my family had back in the 1970s, which I can just about remember.
The Chinese community in Nottingham used to put on Chinese films at the Odeon after all the restaurants and takeaways closed at night. This normally involved my parents waking me up from underneath the pile of dirty tablecloths from behind the bar at about 1am then driving us to watch Bruce Lee or a rotund lady comedian called Fei Fei. I was half asleep and didn’t understand most of it, but I didn’t care, because it was one of the only times we got to spend time together as a family – plus I used to get a whole box of Fruit Gums to myself!
As another year draws to a close I look back and realise I’ve measured the last few years based on how long it’s taken to write my book.
I can now understand why writers get so obsessed with their work. I am now one of those writers – eeek! Yes, I have been a hermit, yes, I’ve neglected my friends and indeed yes, I even turned into a deranged, tortured monster at times. But I’ve achieved something I thought a simpleton like me could never do – write a whole novel! (This is me popping out of a box to celebrate.)
So my Christmas message to all is this: Never give up, even when the road is littered with discarded traffic cones that break every single toe bone each step of the way. You WILL get there in the end – a bit battered, but extremely smug.
Ok, so writing my book was full on, but I also had to use up a load of annual leave in my day job – so what did I do? Plan my dream trip to Japan of course!
My sister and I had wanted to go for absolutely yonks and it was now or never. We had the dough, the time and just enough energy. Timings weren’t hot as I was trying to finish 125 illustrations for the book, but I was feeling burned out so a change of scene was needed.
And what a trip! The flight with ANA set the pace for the rest of the holiday. We boarded what turned out to be the Star Wars R2-D2 jet and took our seats with the theme tune playing and an announcement of ‘May the force be with you’- brilliant!
As soon as we landed everything was super exciting: getting on the train, walking down the street, buying stuff from the supermarket, even going to the loo! We spent the first week based in Tokyo experiencing the scramble crossings, arcades, bullet trains, food items on our list (Sushi, ramen, udon, takoyaki, yakitori…), food items not on our list, and 2 days in Kyoto to see old Japan: pagodas, zen gardens and geishas. It was so incredibly different to what I’m used to that everything was a massive wow.
But it’s the creativity of the Japanese that I was in awe of the most. Everywhere you turned something strikes you: cute anime characters on billboards, TV, metro ads, vehicles. Massive digital screens on the sides of buildings alongside coloured neons lighting up the main strips. And the food was a feast for the eyes, presented with thoughtful composition, colour, texture and form – Oishi! (Delicious!)
The second week was a welcome breather from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo (which is not for the faint hearted BTW!). We flew 3 hrs south to Ishigaki to sample laid back tropical island life and stayed in a traditional Japanese house by the beach. We scuba dived with manta rays and turtles and basically chilled the heck out.
That holiday hit the spot and I was refreshed and ready to finish the book when I got back home. So if you’re ever in doubt, give yourself a break and reboot!
3yrs, 63,931words, 2 massive eye bags and 0 friends later, I have finally FINISHED my first teen novel!
So, how do I feel?
Well there’s no fanfares or parties or even any whooping or air punching. The creative process of book writing is a slow burner. It doesn’t end here. The manuscript is now with a copy editor, who will look at the more technical (and tedious) aspects, so that it’s tidy and legible and makes enough sense to present to the public. It will then come back to me for final edits, before it’s laid out and marked up for illustrations. My next job will be to get those done – all 90 of them!
The illustration deadline has been set for January 2019, so I’m going to have to get my drawing hat on PDQ. Initial copies will go to print then to be honest, I’m not sure what happens after that as I only have enough headspace to focus on the next few months, and obviously want to enjoy that time without thinking about other stuff.
Right now I’m happy to say I’ve already completed front and back cover art and the first 5 illustrations. For the first time since starting this project, I can see it coming together – it’s looking excellent and I am VERY excited!
Loads of enthusiasm from the group at Parkstone – well done! Kids love the mindfulness effect – teaching them how to be in control of their emotions at a young age gives them a valuable tool for coping with stress throughout their entire lives.
This is me demonstrating how easy it is to ‘Chill with Lil’ at Broadstone library, which believe it or not is on Story Lane! How amazing is that? I asked if the library or lane came first – it was the lane.
The group I had followed the guided meditation really well and the grown-ups always join in, which is brilliant. My favourite part is when I ask everyone to slowly ‘come back’ into the room. They honestly look like they’ve just woken up from good night’s sleep, with lots of yawning and rubbing of eyes!
The book was written to help calm kids before bedtime, but it can be read whenever you feel like chilling out. People have asked if it can be used as a bedtime story and I say yes, because even if the child isn’t actually doing the exercise, at least they’re learning how it’s done by observing and learning the steps.
While I was up in Newcastle visiting my son, I squeezed in a cheeky visit to a place I’d always wanted to see: Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s books.
This former granary building has been converted into a museum and visitor centre completely dedicated to children’s books – whoopee! The founders wanted somewhere to house Britain’s collection of original manuscripts and illustrations, put on exhibitions and invite writers and artists to come and speak. Since it was opened in 2005 by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt, it has hosted lots of famous names and won numerous awards.
I was on my own, so had all the time in the world to explore all seven floors – what a treat! I especially loved the magical exhibition ‘Where your wings were’ by North-East author David Almond, and the interactive ‘Aliens Love Underpants!’ room.
If you’re ever in the area, take your kids for some fun – or if you’re a big kid like me, then just take yourself. There’s something for everyone!
This was the ultimate challenge – helping my friend’s son go from a state of frenzied hyperactivity to total tranquility!
I’m pleased to say that it happened in less than ten minutes, while reading Chill with Lil. As soon as you have the child lying supine with a blanket to aid stillness, they start relaxing straight away.
Read the book with a soothing voice and you’ll soon notice your calm energy transferring over to them. The breathing and body awareness exercise has been especially designed for kids, as they find the instructions fun and easy to follow.
I honestly can’t tell you how much it’s like magic happening before your eyes when you see the instant transformation. Please try it for yourself sometime, and enjoy the peace it brings!