I find making time to do more of anything is often a bit of a challenge, so the picture book retreat for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) British Isles branch came along at just the right time, i.e. one week into the school summer break. I’ve been stalling a bit on the writing front of late and in need of a shove to get motivated again, so I decided to jump in and see what it was all about.
As this is a British Isles affair people travelled from all over the country, in what could only be described as the worst weather of the summer. Yet the unrelenting rain just couldn’t diminish the loveliness of Holland house in Cropthorne. It has a warmly welcoming and calming atmosphere, just right for some reflection, learning and unlocking undiscovered abilities. It also has an imaginative brigade in the kitchen and a rather well stocked wine fridge which all adds to the sense of relaxed well-being that slowly dispels the worries of work, travel and other day-to-day irritations.
Over the course of the weekend I had a chance to meet and talk with just about everyone – all passionate writers and illustrators, some published but many not yet. It’s only a matter of time though; there are some amazing ideas out there, probably being written as you read this! I found the opportunities to discuss ideas with Alexis Deacon and Lynne Chapman particularly useful in analysing what is working and what is just plain wrong in some of my current ideas. The sharing of work around the whole group was a distinct challenge for me though – everyone else is just SO good!!
I’ve learned a lot in the course of a few days, not least that I can create some reasonably passable drawings. Please welcome the demon dog of Peckham, who has currently stolen his sister’s teddy bear.
Making more use of drawing will definitely be my way forward as I map out some of the ideas the weekend generated. A new box of watercolour pencils awaits.
Thinking big, bringing out the jeopardy characters face, not being too episodic with the story structure, not being be too “quiet” in the telling, bringing out the dishonesty in the characters and putting down the watercolour on the paper before adding the lines were all explored over the course of the weekend and have given me new insights which I hope will take my ideas further along the route to publication one day.
What else? The getting to know you game we played on the first night asked us to capture our partner’s responses to questions in writing or pictures. Question number 1: How did your first pet die?
For this round I was paired with Sue, who described in great detail the death of her pet spider. Don’t believe everything the writer tells you is also probably a good life lesson.
©Chez l’abeille 2015