Exciting times! I’ve recently heard that I’m one of 10 illustrators selected to go through to the next round of the Penguin Random House Write Now 2018 mentoring programme.
The Write Now programme was set up to promote under-represented writers and illustrators in books and publishing. This includes, “illustrators and writers from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) or LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) communities, writers and illustrators with a disability, or who come from a socio-economically marginalised background”. *
It is worrying that in 2018 there still isn’t the equality or diversity there should be in children’s books. In this recent blog post, I talk about how my awareness was raised about ongoing issues regarding lack of diversity. See this research here and here.
My experience as a working class child, with a colloquial accent, growing up on a council estate in Norwich, was never reflected back at me in any of the books that I read. My access to books was limited, there weren’t many at home and the local library was off our radar.
The school library was my secret pleasure, where I read stories about characters and heroes that inhabited very different worlds to mine (think Enid Blyton or the Chronicles of Narnia). The escapism of these other worlds was of course enjoyable, but I remember gasping with delight when I came across a book that had a colloquial phrase in it that was used by my family. That experience of recognition and reflection happened only once in my whole childhood of reading, and I still remember the phrase to this day.
The Write Now entry requirements for illustrators was to illustrate the whole story of Jack and the Beanstalk – one finished full colour spread and 11 black and white rough spreads. That was quite a challenge as I came to the competition fairly late. I was also struggling with the whole moral aspect of the traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk, which to me seemed to be saying: if you’re poor it’s ok to steal…err… I don’t think so!
The story text was pre-determined by Penguin Randon House and couldn’t be changed, so I had to think of a way of using just the illustrations to change the moral slant of the story…which hopefully I did. I’ll get to that in a future post.
So now I’m through to the next round, which is a day’s workshop with Penguin Random House, learning all about the publishing industry and talking through my work. After the workshop a shortlist will be announced and another illustration challenge set. Ultimately a total of 10 writers and illustrators will be chosen (from an original 1700 entries) for the year’s mentoring scheme…*bites nails*…wish me luck!
*As quoted on this Penguin Random House Write Now web page [accessed online 17:10 07.09.2018]