If you saw a children’s book in the library with the title of “The Toucans That Always Got Fired”, would it entice you to pick it up and read it?
That was one of the titles arrived at by the attendees of the Saturday group, who have had the opportunity to create, and have published, their own illustrated children’s book. Here’s Writing Mentor Andrew Miles to tell us more…
“While a turnaround time from first concept to finished product of 12 weeks may strike fear into the heart of many writers, this was a project that the children embraced with gusto. Normally within a term we will work on a series of different but related activities with the group, but this was one activity split into components – outline story writing, character development, illustration ideas and editing. This meant sticking with and developing a single idea over several weeks, which some of the group found easier than others.
Some of the stories are set in school, some are set in space. Some have a slow narrative arc, some go off in a thousand directions. But throughout, it has been the children who have developed their characters and story according to their own vision.
As mentors, this meant helping to pace stories over the whole length of the book – at 16 pages there wasn’t room for pages of scene setting – and to try to move the text away from being too descriptive and instead to let the illustrations speak for themselves.
The professional illustrators only had two sessions with the children, but they all took the stories as they found them in order to start their work. When they came back with the draft sketches then it made it much more real as the group saw their words and the pictures come together for the first time, and the ability to have input into the layout put the finished product tantalisingly within reach.
For the mentors there has been a reward in seeing the original ideas evolve and stabilise, and the group have learned how you can continue to work on a single idea, expand it and then refine it to a final version that you are happy to commit to print.
At the end of the process there has been an air of impatience to see the books for themselves – it will only be a couple more months before they are ready, but that was described this week as being like “a hundred years”. The completed books will be issued out to their schools and local library, as well as copies going to the authors. They will be a great souvenirs for all of the writers to keep, and an opportunity for us all to see why those toucans were always in trouble.”
Thank you to Rachel Gimbert for the photographs.