Upcoming! Workshops and lots of talking

Before I go on holiday, here's a quick heads up about some forthcoming appearances.

18, 19, 20 August 2014. I'm doing a three-day writing workshop for South Friern Library in Barnet for 11 to 15 year olds. Stories, characters, plot! We're gonna have fun! They have only a couple of places left and the booking form has been closed but you can ring the youth team on 020 8359 3100 to see if you can still bag a place. Details

13 September 2014 (tbc). I'll be speaking to writers and illustrators of SCBWI Hong Kong. I AM SO EXCITED!

18 September 2014. I'll be appearing at the Manila International Book Festival. I'll announce timings and locations later.

20 September 2014. Shine - the Philippine edition - launches at the Manila International Book Festival! Woo hoo! Remind me to contact all my old classmates so we can turn it into a grand reunion.

22 to 25 September 2014. Touring schools in the Metro Manila area.

27 September 2014. I will be the guest author of Where the Write Things Are's Write Away class at the Canadian American School in Manila.

8 October 2014. I will be speaking at Warblington School as part of the Havant Literary Festival programme.

There's more but I need to pack now. See you when I get back!

P.S. I've been blogging over on Notes from the Slushpile: What Writers Can Learn from Illustrators

Awesome Art by Children

Awe is just a little word - but it captures how I feel about the art made by children.

I'm not much for decorations and bric-a-brac but I do cover the walls of my house with art made by my children (and their friends) over the years. To me, these are more precious than anything I could buy in the shops. There's an incomparable energy to them -- and life is magic when seen through the eyes of children. Here are a few examples from my walls:

My two sons playing ping pong. The artist is disputed. Both sons claim they drew it.

Wonderful 3D art by my neighbour, Hugo, when he was four.



Recently, I visited Grafton Primary School near Holloway.

The minute I saw the giant snake winding its way along the length of the ceiling, I knew I was in for a treat. A lovely enthusiastic teacher showed me around (so sorry, I couldn't find the piece of paper where I scribbled down her name). I could tell from the members of staff I met and the children that there was a real passion for art at Grafton. Apparently the school even holds after school art sessions for parents and children.

Giant snake in Reception

More of the giant snake.

In one classroom, the ceiling was hung with sailing ships.

Art by the photocopier
I would love to have some of this art on my wall!

Art is such a feature of the school that one of the teachers
made this to introduce a new lesson

I think this might have been for RE

A map of London
One room was a rainforest of strange creatures

Is that a bird combined with a squirrel?
What about this Reindeer-Giraffe-Bird?
An Ostrich Zebra and an Eagle Lizard

A Tiger Snake and Giraffe Butterfly!
A Cat Fish.

There was even a Green Man in the corner of one corridor.

I love these framed self portraits. 

It reminded me of FRAMED by Frank Cottrell Boyce, in which during a flood, precious works from the National Gallery are temporarily moved to safety in a grey, grey Welsh town. When the townspeople inveigle the National Gallery to allow them to see the art, it has a magical effect on the whole town.

I felt privileged to have had a peek at the treasure trove on the walls of the school. I walk past Grafton almost everyday. Who knew?


Knowing my love for children's art, my son recently sent me this link to paintings by the artist Telmo Piper recreating his childhood drawings.

Mind blowing!

What Telmo's childhood rendition of a snail would look like in real life. See more
Afternote 2:

And it was really, really nice to meet such happy teachers. Like these guys:

Happy Maureen Day!

Today is a big birthday for my friend Maureen Lynas, founder of the Funeverse, the silly poetry site for children and author of the practically perfect Florence and the Meanies. We thought we'd surprise her with a #happymaureenday on social media!

Maureen is turning sixty
SIXTY???? No way!
Someone's gotta warn the others
She's heading out their way!

Is she gonna be a nuisance?
Refuse to mash her food?
Take off the compression tights?
Giggle when jokes are rude?

Can she sit still at tea time?
Or will she stand on her head?
Will she be the noisy one 
When it comes time for bed?

Maureen is turning sixty.
But does she know how to be old?
Will she give up silly stories?
Get her kicks from leaf mould? 

Maureen is turning SIXTY
Be still my beating heart.
Someone better tell the others

Happy Maureen Day!

An Affair to Sort of Remember: my comic about how I met my husband

A frame from my comic. Do
You recognise one of the
I've been attending a graphic novel course taught by Emily Haworth Booth, winner of the 2013 Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize (you can view her hilarious winning entry here).

When I was a child, a cartoonist was one of the things I wanted to become. In fact, I did have a weekly comic strip in a Philippine women's magazine for a while. But real life intervened and I became a writer.

I especially love Marjane Sartrapi's
simple black and white vibe. Tried
to copy it and realised it's harder
than it looks!
Today comics are having a resurgence with exciting publishers like Nobrow and beautifully produced graphic novels of all genres.

I have become addicted to the autobiographical work of artists such as Craig Thompson (Habibi), Alison Bechdel (Fun Home), Guy deLisle (Pyongyang), Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Marjane Sartrapi (Persepolis). I signed up for the course to see if I could do something similar.

Here is my final project. Click on the view full screen icon on the bottom right corner to see it in full view.

If you look closely, you can see that I'm learning as I go along. At first I tried to draw and lay it out directly on the page. But I discovered I couldn't do straight lines so I had to admit defeat and lay it out on Photoshop.

I tried doing a technique of pencilling then copying the images on a lightbox but I found the second time I drew an image, it lost all its energy. So these are a combination of pencilling things in and drawing straight on the page, then erasing my mistakes on Photoshop.

A lot of the techniques of developing a story are similar to building a novel. If I had the time, I could add a couple more pages to this story. I left out some interesting bits!

It was so liberating to get out of the writer's cave every Thursday night and do something other than writing a novel. And it was fun meeting other people with a love for comics. My classmates were such accomplished artists. And young.

I'm looking for another graphic novel class to attend in the autumn.