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Wearing different hats!

October 24, 2017

​”Poet, anthologist AND author?!” someone recently commented, as if I couldn’t be all three. Well, yes, I am! Admittedly, some of my stories are very, very short – stories for early readers, aged just four or five. In many ways, though, they are the hardest to write. For these an author cannot use many words, which means that the pictures have to ‘carry’ some of the story. That means that the author has to write notes on what the artist should draw on each page. This is called an ‘illustration brief’. It applies to poetry books, too. For example, it isn’t enough to say, “drawing of a mother and child out for a walk”. It may be important to include extra details – What the characters are wearing, What are their facial expressions – surprise? contentment? grumpiness? What else is in the picture, What time of year it is. It might be that there’s an extra character – human or animal – who is important to the plot of the story, but who never appears in the text, only in the pictures.

I’m sharing these thoughts as I’ve just written an article for the Poetry Roundabout website. It is about editing poetry books – how I go about deciding which poems to choose and – harder – which to leave out. My article only touches briefly on illustration and yet, for children’s books in particular, this is an essential aspect of preparing a book. As an author, I can write illustration briefs. I can look at, and comment on, the artist’s ‘roughs’ – the early sketches they produce before embarking on the finished illustration, but it is the publisher who selects the illustrator, in consultation with the author. Some publishers even have ‘in-house’ illustrators, that is artists who do drawings to each book’s requirements especially for that publishing house. Others have favourite artists whose work they know well and whose style they feel will suit the book.

For those of you who didn’t realise that I was an author (of stories) as well as a poet and anthologist, below is a selection of some of my favourites. Have you read any of these books in school or at home? If so, which was your favourite? (Scroll to the bottom for more about these titles and a little puzzle.)

Meanwhile, If you’re interested in reading my article on editing anthologies, Click here!

Here are just a few of the more than one hundred books that I have written, together with a short quiz.

“Poles Apart” was translated into French, when it was called Aux Antipodes.
What tells you this is my favourite? (No, you’re not seeing double!)

Can you guess which other English title here was produced in a French language version?

I wonder if you can work out which of these stories was a retelling of one of Aesop’s fables?

One of these titles changed its title to Tim and the Toy Tooth when it was published in America.
Can you guess what its UK title is?

Which might be a good read for Hallowe’en?

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